I'm a marketer, writer, blogger and creative type interested in all things arts and culture in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia ranging from inner city to outer suburbia and beyond.
Speaking of writers, I’m looking forward to reading Australian writer Pip Williams’ second book The Bookbinder of Jericho which follows on the footsteps of The Dictionary of Lost Words. As a word nerd I’ve also been playing the New York Times Wordle, which is both my guilty pleasure and daily challenge!
Money is tight at the moment for our family and while it’s only a temporary situation, I can only imagine how difficult it must be to live without financial security on an ongoing basis and how much it can wear people down. What it has brought into focus are the important things in life – the love of my friends and family and spending time with them, and in nature. It’s pretty simple stuff and if you’re a creative person, there are all sorts of ways you can continue to enjoy life and make time for joy.
And just like that two dreams were realised with Michelle Yeoh and He Kuy Quan (the child actor better known as ‘Short Round’ from the Indiana Jones movies) winning Oscars on Monday. For Asians around the world, it was a win for us as much as them. Representation has meant a lot in a world that is predominantly white Anglo-Saxon in so many ways – from business to politics to government and the arts and media.
Autumn heralds the start of the footy season and the clash of the titans between Carlton and Richmond this week ended in a thrilling draw. I love that Asian food options are now available at Marvel Stadium with Cantonese fine diner Lee Ho Fook and at the MCC with the Lucy Liu Lounge (how’s that for alliteration!)
As for me, I still have a Middle Eastern itch to scratch and had a long overdue catch up with some ex-La Trobe colleagues last night at Nazar wine bar in Kew. I hadn’t realised it’s part of Cotham Dining where I’ve had lunch in the same location that used to be Hellenic Republic Kew.
While the meal was superb and great value (if you’re splashing out on the $90 chef’s selection like we did), the dining experience was not as cohesive as it could be. I think staff were stretched between both dining rooms and service, which when it was provided, was professional and dedicated. It was quiet (we were only one of two tables there) so it made the ‘easy listening’ music playlist interspersed with what sounded like a private function doing speeches stand out.
Speaking of Kew, I’ve been reading about the updated Studley Park Boathouse re-opening soon and found out that you can do kids kayaking lessons via the Fairfield Canoe Club at Fairfield Boathouse if you have children in your life. Do watch out for the snakes – as a cyclist Mr Rosanna has seen three over the summer and some of them were big ones.
I’ve been doing swimming lessons since the start of the term and it’s been both challenging and relaxing. I think I failed to appreciate as a parent watching my kids learn to swim just how technical it is, but now as an adult progress is a lot faster because of that understanding. While I wasn’t an absolute beginner, I’ve now been put up, along with my new swim buddy Amanda, to Intermediate level with the goal being able to swim 400 metres. Let’s see how the rest of the year goes!
I’ve relished the Labour Day weekend because I think I’ve definitely been doing hard labour work-wise since the start of the year. An extra day of rest is something to be savoured.
I had booked in for a massage at Endota Spa Kew a number of weeks ago to use a Christmas gift voucher and had a pretty heavenly Surrender experience on Friday. I miss the Endota Spa Eaglement as parking is a nightmare in Kew. After driving around the local streets off High Street looking for a park, I finally looked up and drove up the ramp off Walton Street to the 2 hour supermarket rooftop car parking – a tip if you ever do the same and the whole treatment was a luxury in these times.
It was International Women’s Day during the week and while there is still so much work to be done, I did want to highlight the Women of Colour Executive Leadership Program recently launched by my friend Brenda Gaddi and her organisation. They also have a mentoring program – a number of my close friends have mentors and women supporting other women is just a good thing to do as we aspire to close the gender pay gap, reduce domestic violence against women and place higher levels of value and income to those in traditional female-centric occupations.
The A1 Darebin Art Salon at the Bundoora Homestead Arts Centre starts on the 18 March and our public art galleries are doing it pretty tough at the moment with reduced opening hours and delaying of conservation work. Over 60 public galleries and art museums in Victoria welcome more than 5 million visitors each year, deliver 1500 education programs annually and provide art therapy to communities after natural disasters. I hope the Public Galleries Association of Victoria is successful in its bid to have a new funding model introduced known as the ‘minimum art gallery service guarantee’. Art is for everyone, not just a chosen few.
Besides having a massage, I’ve mainly caught up with family this long weekend and had yum cha with my side at Secret Kitchen Chinatown in the city yesterday afternoon – a fairly dark and cavernous space unless you’re seated near the Little Bourke Street windows or upstairs. I’ve had dinner previously at Secret Kitchen Doncaster (which has lovely views). Meanwhile Mr Rosanna has been playing the traps, this time at The Thornbury Local the other week while I was mid-air flying home to Melbourne, followed by a night out with his mates at The Keys in Preston (see all pics in this post) which looks super cool.
People were lined up to see Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap at The Princess Theatre and my highlight this week was overhearing a conversation between a Venezuelan man and Indian man on the train- both of them not from Melbourne but talking about what a great city Melbourne is (despite the weather!) for its culture and its soul. A city with a soul – we’re very lucky to live here – enjoy the holiday today if you’re in Victoria.
ANZSOG’s 2023 First Nations Public Administration Conference last week was a resounding success and I flew home from Meanjin Brisbane on Friday night exhausted but exhilarated. There’s nothing like working three or four 12-hour days in a row to get the adrenalin pumping and it does make it hard to fall asleep when you eventually make it back to your hotel room to flop.
My team and I arrived late Tuesday afternoon joining other colleagues who’d flown in earlier or who are based in our Brisbane office. We did a quick reccy of the ginormous Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre at South Bank footsteps away from our hotel before going out to dinner in nearby streets all lit up. Brisbane is an hour behind Melbourne so I found myself up early on Wednesday and went for a walk by the river past the man made lagoon (where my boss Emma went for a swim one morning!) joining the many walkers, runners and cyclists enjoying the best part of the day.
After two years of running online meetings, it was fantastic to bring the Alumni Advisory Council together for the first time in person – eight of the 12 current members were there from different jurisdictions (states and territories) including Aotearoa New Zealand and it was delightful for them and us to finally meet in real life. Official proceedings in the Great Hall kicked off after lunch although my colleague Nataly and I were also responsible for the ANZSOG stall in the open Marketplace area where catering was held (and yes we will be selling our ANZSOG First Nations T-shirts so stay tuned). It was good to have a presence amongst the various First Nations organisations and retailers.
There were some beautiful wares for sale by First Nations artists including Blakbird Designs (who I bought some earrings from), Little Butten, Delvene Cockatoo-Collins (the partner of Indigenous ex-AFL player Che Cockatoo-Collins) and briefly the Aboriginal Art Co. (from whom I bought a couple of small things for my sisters as gifts). It was good to meet the co-founder Amanda Hayman who was also taking ANZSOG delegates on a First Nations public artwork morning tour finishing at her gallery and retail space.
Our conference itself was ably hosted by ABC journalist Dan Conifer who spoke (often getting briefed just before walking back onto stage) to over 800 people gathered in the hall (later breaking out into smaller rooms for ‘yarning’ sessions where delegates could ask questions of speakers and panelists) and over 200 people who attended virtually. There was a palpable buzz in the air and I think many people were just very grateful to be able to come together after so long apart.
Networking drinks and nibbles the first night were a big hit with people staying right until the end, which was emulated the following night with our gala dinner hosted by Aboriginal comedian Steph Tisdell (who was hilariously funny) and featuring Indigenous Australian second year dance students from nearby QPAC and a fierce and powerful performance from Kapa Haka entertainers. I stayed until the end hosting a table of alumni guests and some of the Maori crowd went on to party further into the night in Fortitude Valley.
With work events, there’s never much time left over to do anything personal unless you extend your time and take leave (which some of my colleagues have done) so I had to look longingly at the outdoor pool from my hotel balcony but did take my team out for dinner to ChuThePhat (pun fully intended) in the Fish Lane Arts Precinct (highly recommended). If you do visit the Brisbane Exhibition & Convention Centre, it’s worth a look at the Plaza Terrace gallery full of large scale Indigenous artworks where we held drinks just prior to the gala dinner and heard from Dame Naida Glavish DNZM JP. For anyone who saw her speak on the last day, she is wearing my scarf after feeling the cold in the Great Hall. She came and thanked the whole ANZSOG team after the conference on our efforts. There is nothing like a Dame! We are a lucky bunch but I’m very glad to be home in Narm Melbourne. There is no place like it.
I’ve not posted recently about some of the intricacies of my current role. It is a big portfolio – ranging from being directly responsible for marketing communications for four of our key executive leadership programs but also maintaining strategic oversight of ANZSOG’s Alumni Program and managing the Alumni Advisory Council – one of our three key alumni cohorts. I also assist my Director with whole-of-school promotion and act in her role in her absence managing four staff members.
Our First Nations Conference next week in Brisbane happens every two years – the last one being held online due to COVID. This time around, it’s all hands on deck as much as some of our speakers and attendees from Aotearoa New Zealand have been affected by their state of emergency there. We are expecting over 800 people, which is the biggest event I’ve ever worked on and I am expecting to be pulling in some long hours helping manage attendees over the three days, hosting an Alumni Advisory Council in-person meeting (the first in two years), hosting the alumni tables at the gala dinner and being responsible for the ANZSOG stall at the Marketplace area where people will congregate for catering at break times from Great Hall and ‘yarning’ sessions with keynote speakers and facilitators. The event itself is being hosted by ABC journalist Dan Conifer. It is an ambitious undertaking for an organisation of our size but I think one which will continue to define us in the First Nations space.
With the help of our creative graphic designer, I managed to pull a whole-of-school brochure together in the space of one week – not an easy task given the amount of internal stakeholders we have. I thought you might be interested in seeing the whole menu of programs and areas ANZSOG works in. For attendees in Brisbane, you’ll see me and my colleagues on the Marketplace floor wearing our ANZSOG black T-shirts with our First Nations original Maori and Aboriginal artwork emblazoned on them.
Speaking of which, other retailers and sponsors will also have tables at the Marketplace including the Aboriginal Art Co. After reading about the founders on the Design Files a few years ago, I’m very excited to see what they’ll have on offer at their stall. If you like Aboriginal Art, I’ve not visited but often drive past Mandel Aboriginal Art Gallery at 673 Heidelberg Road in Alphington, which should do well there as the Yarra Bend development continues.
Lastly, I’ve been amusing my colleagues and other friends with my gala dinner outfit story. After leaving things very last minute last Friday, I ended up going through my existing wardrobe and discovering I no longer fit not one, not two, not three… but four of my little black dresses and other evening gowns. With lockdowns and middle age spread – I’ve gone up a whole dress size – yowsers! So I found myself at David Jones last Sunday looking for a dress that actually fits me for next week’s gala dinner (which is more smart casual) and in future, I intend to hire a Glam Corner gown and be more organised. Still, this absolutely beautiful Toni Maticevski instrumental gown at David Jones caught my eye – it’s a showstopper if you have a special occasion and can afford the eye-watering price tag! My dress next week is a far more modest affair. Wish us luck.
The Lunar New Year festival is coming to an end although I’ve been very much reminded of it this past weekend.
On Friday night I attended a gala fundraising dinner for the inaugural Vietnamese Museum of Australia (to be located in Footscray) at the Melbourne Town Hall hosted by actor/performer/speaker/comedian Diana Nguyen and with special guest speaker Tamie Fraser AO, widow of ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser who was instrumental in bringing out so many of the Vietnamese diaspora in the 1970s.
My uni friend Mylinh is a volunteer and had organised two tables of friends as guests. We were treated to a number of spectacular lion dance performances during the night including lions all lit up in LED lights, a Welcome to Country by Reconciliation Victoria’s Co-Chair Shane Charles, martial arts, singing and dancing along with the usual suspects of a silent auction and car raffle. It was lovely to see Mylinh’s non-Vietnamese guests fully get into the spirit of the night taking selfies with the lions and the Minister of Multicultural Affairs.
I don’t see my uni friends as often as I’d like but we go back a long way and continue to share a lot of good times as our selfie photos will attest! The end of the Lunar New Year is bookmarked by dragon boat racing today at the Docklands and Melbourne has turned on the weather for the races. Melbourne’s Sea Dragons are competing in the ‘extreme canoeing’ event so may the best team win.
Closer to home the Malahang Lantern Festival is being held in Heidelberg West on Friday 17 March from 5 – 10pm and looks like it will be just as spectacular for all things illuminated and floating or ground-based. If you’re a cyclist it coincides with Route 2@Lantern Festival being held by Reels on Wheels curated night-time bike ride (you will need bike lights to participate and be a competent cyclist).
Things are also hotting up in Alphington with the Alphington Primary School Fair being held next Sunday 26 February from 11am – 5pm in Yarralea Street and the Alphington Show on Saturday 25 March from 11am – 2pm for ‘a little bit of country in the city’ at the Alphington Community Centre at 2 Kelvin Road.
The extended 5-day Moomba Festival is being held on the March Labour Day long weekend in our capital city kicking off the many festivals to come in March and April. I was in the city briefly yesterday and there were lots of people around – it has become the place to both live and be entertained in and two of my current work colleagues who grew up in Singapore and Vietnam now reside right in the heart of town walking distance to our office – no excuses to be late for work!
Indeed there were last night at Heidelberg Park. Mr Rosanna and I missed the start of the night but caught PBS DJ MzRizk and The Meltdown‘s lead singer Simon on keys with Indigenous musician Benny Walker and his band. The park looked like a wonderland with the backdrop of purple lights against the trees when Mahalia Barnes took to the stage as the headline act.
I hadn’t been to Twilight Sounds since it was last staged at Sills Bend by Banyule City Council. While it was more dispersed, and possibly more subdued, than in previous years last night, I felt waves of nostalgia hitting me when I remember all the previous concerts and kids Arty Farty festivals held in the same location throughout my children’s kinder and primary school years. I felt like I was being embraced in the local parklands last night and feel so lucky to have been part of the local community. It was wonderful to see all the little kids running around, teenagers, younger parents and older couples dancing! We’re lucky to still have this flagship music event held in our local community.
It has felt different moving to Ivanhoe where peace and privacy are highly valued, but where we are still feeling our way regarding the local community, which can feel more exclusive. We’re lucky to have family in the area and two or three groups of friends from Heidelberg also move into the area but I expect it to take just as many years as we were in Rosanna to feel the same about Ivanhoe. I feel grateful to have great neighbours – one who surprised us on Christmas Eve morning with a hamper full of food and drink and the other who leaves vegetables from her garden at our front door on a regular basis. The local baker now recognises me in the street and given I see most of my friends from our old ‘hood, I now have the best of both worlds with the merging of the old and the new.
Life has felt better this week but I’ve also made a concerted effort to change my mindset and focus on the positive and what I can do in terms of changing my neural pathways – ruminating on the negative is only going to make me very unhappy. The buddhist saying, With our thoughts, we create the world is so true. Your world will be as you see it. It hasn’t stopped me feeling a level of grief about some of the things I cannot change, but it’s important to feel what you feel and then let it go.
Work has been very busy and ANZSOG is holding our almost completely sold out First Nations Conference 2023 next month for over 750 people at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. My whole team is flying up north to work at the event along with our Dean and CEO, First Nations and Thought Leadership colleagues. I will be looking after our Alumni Advisory Council, members of whom have never met face-to-face in the past two years, as well as alumni attending the gala dinner so it promises to be a big week, in more ways than one.
The year has largely begun for most of us unless you’re studying at university and the roads and pace are busy once again. I’ve had a pretty tough start to my year with the demands of my job and I’m not immune from the universal issues that face middle-aged families like mine – cost of living pressures, ageing parents and dealing with teenagers who’ve not necessarily fared well these past few years. It can be pretty unrelenting and feel a bit bleak at times.
I’m trying my best to action the things that contribute to a happy life well lived – a positive mindset, movement and flow states, nurturing relationships with the people around me and being grateful for what I do have. I returned to in-person yoga classes this week and have also started swimming lessons (which were more advanced than I was expecting!) as well as been having long baths and walking outdoors in my self-care efforts this week, when I did hit a low point.
We’re very lucky to have our own dog but also dog-sat my friend Mel’s golden retriever Snoopy last weekend and had a double dose of pet-therapy. I thought you might also find this pic (above) amusing – she obviously played a bit too hard in the heat conking out with her head on the water bowl. Ah dogs – they are such funny creatures! Hopefully a better week lies ahead.
While I’ve worked through January, I have to say I’ve enjoyed the slower days, the quiet streets and the luxury of time not having to rush from place to place. When you live a busy life full of work, family and other commitments, the time to think and simply be can’t be overstated. It’s been great to potter around, go thrifting at Savers in Greensborough and Preston and spend time in the garden.
The politics of Australia Day has come to a head this year and we were given the choice to work and take a day in lieu, which some colleagues chose to do. If you have an interest in First Nations, I’ve both bought and received gifts from the Koorie Heritage Trust as well as Torres Strait Islander restaurant Mabu Mabu and Big Esso bar at Fed Square. Indigenous cafe and bar Pawa has also just opened at Hamer Hall in the Arts Centre Melbourne and has offered catering for a while now.
Locally, I’ve not yet visited but the third instalment of the aptly-named All Are Welcome bakery has opened in Ivanhoe East and there is also the new Watsonia Wine Bar in a great corner location at the Watsonia Village shops.
Happy Lunar New Year! While for most people of Asian backgrounds it is the Year of the Rabbit, in Vietnam it is actually the Year of the Cat. Either way, I’m hoping for a more peaceful year than the turbulent Tiger.
The new year is when people often call time on relationships and jobs that are no longer working for them and it’s been an interesting time in the world of media, sport and politics in that respect with announcements from high-profile women including The Project’s former host Carrie Bickmore, AFLW football player Daisy Pearce and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Whatever your thoughts on them, they deserve some privacy and respect for their decision to step away from their previous roles.
The nature of life is change and I expect the new year will continue to ring in further change. While I didn’t make it in to Chinatown this year to celebrate the new year, my brother Matt braved the heat and took these pictures on my blog post today. It’s been great to see people not only attending Chinese New Year celebrations in Melbourne but also the Australian Open (AO) tennis and Midsumma Festival this past weekend.
In true East meets West fashion, I ended up having a good old fashioned Aussie BBQ with my mum’s side of the family at Yarra Bend Park staying until the sun set on the first day of the Rabbit year. Speaking of which, you may be interested in Lucky Rabbit: a celebration of Chinese New Year at the Chinese Museum by artist Chris Chun depicting each of the Chinese Zodiac animals combining Asian and western motifs. Better hop to it…