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.”

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

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

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

Faces of Yarra

Juliane, Carlton

“I came to Australia from Germany for something different. I finished studying and I didn’t want to work straight away, and I thought, for something different I would come here. It’s a nice area [Carlton], and I’ve been here for one and a half years now. I feel different about going back home all the time, one day I want to stay and the next time I want to go home, because of the homesickness, you know. But the area is nice, we work around the corner, and so during our break there’s not enough time to go home. We laze around in the park while we wait for our next shift.”

Photo: Vanessa Orzlowski

Youthful perspectives: Capture Yarra Photography Competition

It’s remarkable just how much our perspective changes each year. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not, but it is forever changing, moving and growing.

The Yarra community we know and love is full of diversity; in race & religion, education, and age. How we see Yarra is unique to each and every one of us.

In conjunction with Yarra Youth Services, the Yarra Libraries held a ‘Capture Yarra Photo Competition’ for youth residing in the Yarra and library members.

Participants aged between 12 and 18 were encouraged to capture Yarra as they saw it.

Emma White, the youth services librarian at Yarra Libraries, told YR that the aim was to ‘provide an insight into the world of our young Yarra residents. Participants were given the brief to capture what they thought was the true essence of Yarra. This collection of images is a poignant and honest exploration of their experiences.’

The winners, chosen by a panel of judges, were Ella Cox, age 13, with her photograph titled ‘The Bus Stop Lounge Room’, Lillian Gutteridge, age 15, with her photograph ‘Evening Light’, and Poppy Ward, age 12, with her photograph ‘Tram Gateway’.

Ella Cox The Bus Stop Lounge Room
Photographer Ella Cox, The Bus Stop Lounge Room

 

Lillian Gutteridge Evening Light
Photographer Lillian Gutteridge ‘Evening Light’
Photographer Poppy Ward, ‘Tram Gateway’

‘I feel very excited [to be nominated]!’ Poppy ward told YR via email.

Twelve-year-old Poppy’s interest in the photography competition sparked after she participated in a photography workshop held in the Carlton Library, but she has always had a keen interest in the craft.

Understanding the perspective of youth while facilitating avenues of creative expression is just one aspect of community engagement we see here in the Yarra.

Most importantly it gives youth a chance to tell their stories, their way, and promote the confidence, independence and creativity of the future of Australia.

Political debates, portraits and hot topics. Refugees are in the Spotlight this weekend.

It’s been a big week for asylum seekers in the Australian media. After Dutton’s much talked about comments earlier this week, the timing for the opening night of the I Came By Boat exhibition couldn’t be better.

On display are 13 portraits of Australians who happened to have arrived here by boat.

Each portrait is accompanied by a story; a personal journey of uncertainty, poverty, war and detention. Each story told willingly in a bid to highlight the contribution of refugees in Australia.

Photographer Lucas Allen manages to capture distinctions in ethnicities and cultural diversity in the minimalist portraits. The one consistent feature being the ‘everyday Australian’ aspect of each photograph.

The unspeakable words ‘boat people’ hardly come to mind when walking through the gallery. In fact, it looks like they might have stepped off a plane much like the other one in four migrants who now call Australia home.

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Blanka Dudas & photographer, Lucas Allen

John Gulzari, an Afghani Hazara, was one of the participants in the campaign.

“I think that refugee and asylum seekers have been let down, by the minister [Peter Dutton] and by politicians [in general]. They have always been demonized.” Says John.

Left to Right: John Gulzari and Dr Munjed Al Muderis
Left to Right: John Gulzari and Dr Munjed Al Muderis

John Fled Afghanistan as a teenager in 1999. He first traveled to Pakistan, then on to Indonesia where he boarded a boat heading for Australia.

His story is all too familiar, one which combines the best and the worst of humanity. In 2007 John became a fully-fledged Australian citizen and active participant in Victorian politics.

“[The campaign] will raise the profile of asylum seekers and refugees, especially as it becomes a hot debate in politics.”

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Opening Night of the I Came By Boat Exhibition

And a hot debate it is indeed. Although the campaign serves to disprove Dutton’s statement that asylum seekers are all illiterate, it does highlight the fact that they are actually employable.

But let’s be honest, if you had choose between Dr.Munjed Al Muderis and myself to perform life-saving surgery on a loved one, you’d be pretty thankful he stole that job away from me.

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So let’s not delve too deep into the statement that illiterate beings, who speak no English, are stealing our jobs, whilst simultaneously sapping your tax dollars because they’re on the dole. The memes circulating Facebook are doing a rather good job of breaking down that argument on their own.

The exhibition will be open to the public from Friday the 20th of May to Sunday the 22nd of May from 11am-5pm.

It’s a highly regarded campaign Australia wide, with talks it may venture interstate.

Eva Orner, director of recently released documentary film Chasing Asylum attended the opening. In a joint event with I Came By Boat, Orner will take part in a Q&A session following the screening of her film next Sunday the 29th of May at Cinema Nova.

Thanks to Blanka Dudas, the driving force behind the campaign, you can expect to see the posters popping up around Melbourne sometime in June, just in time for the federal election.

If you can, get down to 9 Glasshouse Road in Collingwood over the weekend, it’s a great exhibit and an accurate reflection of how we need to view refugees and asylum seekers, just like anyone else.

To donate you can visit the I Came By Boat website here. Tickets are also still available to the Q&A screening of Chasing Asylum.