Smelling the roses

The La Trobe University Distinguished Alumni Awards were held on Monday evening and it was a long day and night for me. They are an annual event which were held in the city at Metropolis Events at Southgate which offered glittering night-time views of Melbourne and it was spectacular to get there late afternoon where we could see Arbory Afloat on the Yarra opposite us.


I got to mingle at the start of the evening talking to a number of high profile people I’d previously worked with when I managed the Bold Thinking Series including Virginia Trioli (who was one of the winners) and her partner Russell Skelton, Tony Walker, Geoff Walsh and Professor Jenny Graves AO plus a number of other leading academics and industry professionals with ties to La Trobe. Prior to the Awards, guests were also treated to a surprise performance by the Australian Ballet School – one of the University’s partners.


Writer and academic Dr (now Professor) Clare Wright was MC with Chancellor John Brumby AO making presentations along with Vice-Chancellor John Dewar to the stellar lineup of winners, which included Young Achiever Awards to Melbourne AFLW player Daisy Pearce and surgical resident Dr Batool Albatat; rural women’s pioneer Alana Johnson, epidemiologist Dr John Hopper AM, SecondBite co-founder Simone Carson AM and ABC Melbourne Mornings host Virginia Trioli completing the field.



My wider team and La Trobe staff were given the beautiful floral table decorations at the end of the night and so I have stopped to smell the roses and enjoy the beauty of life this week, knowing that lift itself is a gift.


Speaking of flowers, the Bee Shed Launch Party is being held on Sunday at the Alphington Farmers Market and my friend and Bundoora Homestead Art Centre Director Ella Hinkley is involved with the Pollinator Alliance while tomorrow the Rosanna Primary Old School Fair, the Paella Sangria Churros night (fun!) at The Pioneer Cafe, the annual Watsonia craft fair and the Melbourne Ceramics Market in Collingwood (which local ceramic artist Lene Kuhl Jakobsen is part of) are all on – it’s a big day.

If the weather holds, the Malahang Festival is also on this Sunday in Heidelberg West as well as the Public Run Day at the Box Hill Miniature Railway. Strange to think our Spring weather has been so mild this year and my thoughts have been with our NSW neighbours up north battling those horrific bushfires this week. Stay cool…

We can’t eat money

I was in the city for training on Friday (note to self: remember not to let your Myki card go into negative) getting there just on time only because I’d allowed enough time to catch the earlier train, which was the smart move as twice now I’ve been caught out either due to the just on time train being cancelled or in my case on Friday, having an invalid Myki card and needing to top up thus missing the earlier train. Aargh! At least I got there early enough to (just) get myself a coffee…

Image via That’s Amore Cheese

La Trobe University actually allowed staff and students to attend the global climate strike on Friday given sustainability feeds into our cultural qualities: connected, innovative, accountable and care – all of which are included in our 2018 – 2022 Strategic Plan. Interesting too in that one of the Bold Thinking Series ideas which we never progressed but had a meeting with academic Lawrie Zion about (who wrote The Weather Obsession) was how people will believe meteorologists (scientists) when they talk about the weather but not when they talk about climate change. It never got up but is food for thought.

Image via Augustus Gelatery

I had meant to post earlier today as the Alphington Farmers Market (where you can find the La Trobe Wildlife Sanctuary) was on from 9am until 1pm in Wingrove Street Alphington (where you’ll also find relatively new Greek cake shop Nikos Fairfield) and the Melbourne Farmers Market had also allowed its staff to attend the climate strike given this year’s farm production is forecast to be at its lowest in four years with drought a serious contributing factor.

Image via That’s Amore Cheese

I’ve been reminded of cakes and sweets as one of my Italian work colleagues has let me know about the cannoli carts available for hire from That’s Amore Cheese in Thomastown and the opening of the Pascoe Vale outpost of Augustus Gelatery. I think cannoli and mini gelati both make great wedding and other party desserts. A reminder too that the Italian Film Festival is currently on at Palace Cinemas until 16 October.


Finally, I got to check out Longridge Camp (photos above and below) in Warrandyte today as per my previous post on local/weekend camping and it is definitely a hidden secret in Melbourne’s north-east set amongst the rolling hills off a dirt road (and across the river from the other hidden secret that is the Laughing Waters swimming hole) which can be hired for exclusive use for around $175 per night ie. no other campers onsite! There’s a BBQ, toilet and shower facilities and fire wood is also supplied but it is unpowered. If you’re not wanting to pitch a tent you can also hire a campervan for around $110 so it makes for a great introduction to first time campers and groups of up to 40 people who want their own space. It is a nature lover’s paradise and in light of the climate strike, I’ll leave you with the famous American Indian quote to ponder on.


When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realise, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.


Fantastic Mr Fox

Wild foxes lives in the local area and I’ve seen a number at dusk and late night when driving around. However, I’d never seen one during the day up until a few weeks ago which we caught on camera (below). Our neighbours keep free-range chickens and while it’s a lovely idea, when you don’t live on a farm with cattle dogs and other animals to keep predators at bay, they can attract rats, mice, snakes and yes, a pretty hungry looking fox in our case.


Mr Fox waited until our dog was inside and then leapt over another neighbour’s fence before making its way across our back yard then scaling the fence to next door in a blink of an eye. My youngest caught sight of its big bushy tail and I only got there just in time, I think, to bring one lucky chicken to the safety of its coop at around 10am in the morning!

Speaking of farmers and food, the self-sustaining Melbourne Food Hub opens at the Alphington Farmers Market tomorrow while the Darebin Homemade Food and Wine Festival started today – the first official day of Winter as much as most of this week has already felt like it with snow already on the mountains.

I’ve also been doing online grocery shopping for a while now given I’m so time poor and just wanted to mention Your Grocer who have taken over from Aussie Farmers Direct. I gave them a trial not so long ago and while it’s a bit more pricey – the quality is higher than your average supermarket plus it’s all sourced locally. They also provide food in fruit and vegetable cardboard boxes and transportable branded Your Grocer ‘eskies’ which are returned the following week so a lot nicer and more sustainable than plastic bags. I’m starting to get hungry…


Power and privilege

It’s been an interesting election weekend – a lot of people voted early so it was pretty subdued at the local primary school compared with previous elections. I wonder if it reflects the state of the Australian psyche regarding all things political and I wonder too if Bob Hawke’s passing may clinch the deal for the Labor party.


I attended my first graduation ceremony at La Trobe University during the week – something I’d not previously done despite working at the University for three years now. While Olivia Newton-John received her honorary doctorate last year, this year’s recipient was Kon Karapanagiotidis (above) from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, twice a La Trobe alumnus, whom I was lucky enough to work with in 2017 for the Bold Thinking Series lecture on Social Cohesion in the Goulburn Valley held in Shepparton. My colleagues and I said a short hello to him before official proceedings and have been very proud to call him one of our own.

L-R: Kon Karapanagiotidis and La Trobe Chancellor John Brumby AO

So while I had seen him previously speak in a public forum, his keynote speech to students was a rousing and impassioned one, if not a little evangelical in nature, where he asked graduands “what are you going to do with your power and your privilege?”. You can watch the full speech here. Kon had also brought his mum with him who was sitting in the row behind me and his speech was also very moving with him tearing up while talking about his parents’ sacrifices in his early days as the child of immigrants who could not speak the language but had a great love of this country. He spoke of love, of hope, of culture and community and the things that bind us together as people and his message regarding the fact that your integrity and your values are things that no-one can take away from you regardless of your circumstances.

On another note, I did want to mention that the next Bold Thinking Series lecture is on Can dogs heal hearts and minds? and there will be two therapy dogs present at the event being held at the State Library Theatrette on 13 June. I read with interest about a recent National Australia Bank study that found that owning a dog, cat or other animal was an overwhelming factor for improving our sense of satisfaction, life worth and happiness as the top influence adding to our wellbeing as recorded by economists.


Also on tomorrow is World Bee Day Celebration at the Alphington Farmer’s Market from 9am  – 1pm and I must admit I’m always happy to see the bees happily buzzing around in my backyard which are one of the signs of healthy local ecology and environment. If you are a fan of bees, you might also love the handmade necklaces by UK designer Alex Monroe (above) available locally from The Fairfax Store. My current boss, who is British, has one in rose gold and it’s a lovely symbol to have around your neck!