Summer of soul

Well we did it Melbourne! While lockdown has ended with a whimper rather than a bang in our household – I’m very happy for everyone especially our young people who have missed out on two crucial years in their lives. Some of my lasting experiences and strongest memories are those from my early twenties when it felt like the world was at my feet and anything was possible. It is going to take time to re-group and I am feeling for our stretched health workers who are still doing the hard yards for all of us. They are the unsung heroes of this pandemic continuing to treat the sick or injured without fear or favour.

Soul singer Emma Donovan & The Putbacks with Paul Kelly @ Heide earlier this year

As kids go back to school, travel returns, businesses open up and live events come back – it’s an exciting summer ahead and it’s been interesting to see the news and media narrative switch gear to issues other than COVID-19 including climate change once again, and diversity and equity. On the latter, I’ve really enjoyed watching both Summer of Soul (Disney+) on the 3rd annual Harlem Cultural Festival held in 1969 (with previously unseen footage) featuring luminaries such as Nina Simone and Stevie Wonder as well as Hitsville: The making of Motown (on ABC ivew) narrated by Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson who were instrumental in the success and machine that was Motown music.

I’ve also really enjoyed watching the fascinating documentary Step into Paradise (also on ABC iview) on fashion designers Jenny Kee (more on her below) and Linda Jackson – definitely one for the fashionistas and art lovers out there, which captures the heady times of the 1960s, 70s and 80s in particular in Australia and the UK. I’ve missed watching New Gold Mountain (SBS On Demand) set in Ballarat during the gold rush era which is when my forebears started to arrive in Australia from See Yup in China. My Dad’s been watching it and was a bit disappointed the actors spoke in Cantonese rather than our See Yup dialect.

Yum cha bamboo steamer

I am yet to visit the See Yup Temple in South Melbourne but have been to the Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo. The Chinese Museum in Melbourne also held a Chinese Australian Achievers 2021 launch and online talk last Thursday night featuring people such as Tony Ayres, Elizabeth Chong AM, Jenny Margaret Kee AO, Lee Lin Chin, Li Cun-Xin AO, Benjamin Law and Alice Pung (to name but a few) to accompany the One Million Stories: Chinese Australians 200 years permanent exhibition. It’s inspiring to not only see but hear my fellow Chinese Australians and their voices. Despite these more progressive times that we live in, I am still often the only Asian in the room at an event, at the table (or on screen these past two years!) although I think this is rapidly changing and I hope to see more of my contemporaries in leading roles and positions in modern Australian society.



It means ‘jewel’ or ‘gem’ as well as ‘joy’ and I hope you are feeling it today with the news that Melbourne’s lockdown will be ending this Thursday night. It’s also the name of the new pizza and Italian restaurant in Ivanhoe that opened a few months ago and which I only noticed driving past the other day.

Arbory Afloat on the Yarra – Melbourne

It’s been a very long haul and my fellow Melburnians I salute you for getting through this time – all 262 days – you are fierce! Some of you may be nervous about returning to socialising and being amongst crowds so I think it’s wise to just take things at your own pace. For me as I’ve previously mentioned – I’ll be very happy to see my hairdresser, go out to dinner, visit friends and family and have my children return to school – the simple things we took for granted pre-COVID and things which we will appreciate all the more having endured the longest lockdown of any city in the world.

While it’s not a record we may be proud of – I think Melbourne City Council’s plan to pitch CBD property to young people is a great idea if there are bargains to be found in both the rental and home ownership markets and will re-invigorate the CBD with new energy in a new era. It was also good to read about a new design panel to provide more stringent architectural guidelines for new city buildings and to hear that my office building Melbourne Connect is a good example of ‘strong architecture’. I am looking forward to returning in due course after realising I’ve only worked 7 weeks in the office this year…

ANZSOG was also in the paper last week as I can reveal CHO Brett Sutton has returned to complete his Executive Fellows Program with us. This has traditionally been run as a three week residential/experiential leadership course covering Sydney, Wellington and Singapore in previous times but now pivoted to online over the global pandemic. My team has been incredibly busy the past few weeks and months marketing a proliferation of different courses for senior public sector leaders (at an all-time high) and being one staff member down. We’ve also been trying to progress photographic shoots for our marketing campaign in different jurisdictions, which has been tricky organising and interviewing alumni remotely from our headquarters here in Melbourne.

As challenging as that’s been I feel very fortunate to have had a job when so many people have lost theirs or been furloughed and I am hopeful if this is you, that the coming weeks and months signal better times – a summer like no other. I am tired and plan to take some time off soon as much as a holiday up north is no longer on the cards this year. It will be good just to re-group before we go into the final weeks after Melbourne Cup leading to Christmas. While many of us may be glad to farewell this year (and put up our Christmas trees early once again!) – hopefully Halloween will be just the start of many celebrations ahead of us.

Holier than thou

The spring housing market is picking up and this converted church at 801 – 809 Heidelberg Road in Alphington has caught my eye as I often drive past when I’m in the area on the way back to Rosanna. While 13 Carn Ave in Ivanhoe looks spectacular (look at me!), I love the quieter charm of 18 Rose Street and all its beautiful original period features, which have been left intact.

801-809 Heidelberg Road Alphington (above & below) images via

If you’re lucky enough to live in a period home, you may be interested in Goldie & Bee‘s drawings of heritage houses (or commission them to draw your own house). I was also amused reading about Scarecrow Season 2021 taking place in Rossmoyne Street Thornbury and the various different themed scarecrows being created – there’s a tutorial on how to make your own scarecrow if you’re so inclined.

From scarecrows to Spooktaculars – the Ivanhoe Traders Association is again this year running its Halloween Spooktacular @ home event – registrations have closed for gift packs to be mailed although there is a waiting list available. If you like a good scare you might also enjoy reading about ghostly experiences in Victoria.

18 Rose Street Ivanhoe (above & below) images via

While it’s a bit gloomy today, it was good to see people picnicking outside with the warmer weekend weather. There have also been a few recent Good Food articles on restaurant quality platters, dips and pies for your picnic basket and how to make your Melbourne picnic pop. In this second extended lockdown, I’ve not done much ‘learning a new skill’ activity (motivation hasn’t exactly been high) except for practising my French on the duolingo app most lunchtimes.

While Angie Chong from the Humble Dumpling in Fairfield has closed her dumpling making business as she pursues a sea change – she had pivoted to the WeTeachMe platform for online workshops and classes. One of my school friends has also gifted me a make your own Kokedama lesson via ClassBento – fun workshops in real life (!) once Victoria’s population reaches 80% vaccinated. Something to look forward to as the beginning of the end draws near.

Stay the course

Wow – a week can be a long time in politics and what a week it was. I’ve found it really interesting now working in the public sector remaining apolitical given I deal with people like myself who are there to serve the public, no matter the government of the day. Whether you swing left of right (or neither) in terms of politics, it’s not easy being a leader and in the case of NSW this week, the woman in the arena.

1 Rockbeare Grove Ivanhoe (and below)

It’s been obvious here in Victoria that people’s resolve has been sorely tested with home visits now a factor in a third of cases and other LGAs outside of the north and west being hotspots. It is a great pity -while I understand it has been desperately lonely for many not to have social contact with others – we are so close to the end and I just hope we can all hang on for that little bit longer and know the sacrifices we make today, will make all the difference tomorrow. Greater freedoms are only a matter of a few weeks away if we can hold our nerve and stay the course.

I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors again this weekend and the walking trails around here have been like Bourke Street – I’ve bumped into a number of local friends walking the Yarra trail along the old Boulevard from East Ivanhoe to the Warringal parklands in Heidelberg watching out for slithery friends now that it’s October.

1 Rockbeare Grove studio apartment

The spring real estate market is back in action and this 1920s house at 1 Rockbeare Grove in Ivanhoe sold yesterday. I love its period features with modern extension at the back but the extra wow factor is the studio apartment with its own separate entrance built on top of the garage – way cool. It was also Love Your Bookshop Day yesterday and I will have to visit Fairfield Books now that Andrews Books in Ivanhoe is no longer. I’m pleased that Eltham Bookshop too is still open as is Robinson’s Bookshop in Greensborough. I did finish The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey and have moved on to Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos. While I no longer have a room of my own, I also love the look of this coffee table book (below) ‘A room of her own’ – inside the homes and lives of creative women.

The Melbourne Fringe Festival is currently on in digital format until 17 October and I’m excited about Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto exhibition at the NGV opening on 5 December. She is my all-time fashion hero and I can’t wait to visit – we all need something to look forward to.