Archive for May, 2009

Tamils Nightly Vigil Continues in Federation Square, Melbourne

Melbounes Tamil community continues a nightly vigil against the genocide. The vigil is now ending it's third week.

Melbounes Tamil community continues a nightly vigil against the genocide. The vigil is now ending it's third week.

Melbourne’s Tamil community continues to protest against the ongoing genocide in Sri Lanka, which has seen thousands of Tamils locked up in camps, subjected to terrifying conditions by the Sri Lankan military, and often killed outright, while the Sri Lankan government works to block foreign media from entering. Earlier in the week, I reported on the existence of a protest group at Federation Square. Now, after seeing them there for the third night and talking to some of those involved, I’ve learnt much more about it.

The protestors have been gathering at Federation Square, every single weeknight, beginning around 5 and lasting until 6 or 7, for the past three weeks. Previous protests have gathered around Parliament and the State Library, but at these places, they were failing to attract much notice. Now they’ve found that at Federation Square, far more people can see them. Not only that, but they’re near the police station here, and in full public view – both of which make them safer from attacks by Sri Lankan ex-pat supporters of the genocidal regime. Recently there was an incident in which a group of pro-government Sri Lankans had been out drinking, and Tamil protestors were driving through the city on a pre-planned route. The government-supporters mobbed the Tamil cars and broadcast the incident on YouTube to make fun of them. Racism is a real issue for ethnic Tamils in the Sri Lankan community.

So they stand chanting slogans relating to Tamil independance, to stopping the genocide, and to the controversial resistance group the Tamil Tigers. (more…)

Follow Friday: Melbourne Places

I’ve really warmed up to Twitter and one of the great events on the site is #followfriday, where users recommend interesting people to follow. Well, in the spirit of  “Follow Friday”,  how bout I recommend a great Melbourne site every Friday?  They will not necessarily be new sites but currently noteworthy to Melburnians.

This week’s cool site is Melbourne Places.


Quite literally it’s a blog about different random places in Melbourne. Most of the entries cover very unique locations that aren’t usually covered well by blogs, for example:  Fitzroy Nursery and Gelobar in Brunswick East. Each entry is accompanied by many photos depicting what you would see if you walked through the place.

Melbourne Places

Melbournians/Sri Lankans/Tamils protest at ongoing Sri Lankan Genocide

Banner for a protest in Melbourne over Sri Lanka's treatment of Tamils

Banner for a protest in Melbourne over Sri Lanka's treatment of Tamils

This evening across from Flinders Street Station, I heard the unmistakable sounds of a protest rally.

“Tamil Tigers – Freedom Fighters!”
“Sri Lanka Sri Lanka – Don’t kill Tamils!”

A large-ish group of people had gathered to protest the ongoing ill-treatment of Sri Lanka’s Tamil population. The Sri Lankan government, under the guise of cracking down on the rebel Tamil Tigers, continues to wage a war against it’s civilian population, and the Tamils are among those at the short end of the stick. We see the same problems in Colombia, where the government uses the FARC guerillas as an excuse to continue mistreating indigenous and poor Colombians, and in Isreal, where Muslim terrorists are the favourite excuse for the government to build up an apartheid state against the Palestinian population. All of this, of course, goes on with the tacit support – in fact, through most of history, with the actual monetary and diplomatic support – of our own Western leaders, who generally refrain from kicking up too much fuss.

I was given a pamphlet directing me to these links – haven’t visited them yet, so be warned that there may be disturbing images.

You can contact the organisers of the protest at: networktamils(at)

A gathering of protesters outside Federation Square in Melbourne.

A gathering of protesters outside Federation Square in Melbourne.

Melbourne Italian Festival

italianfestThe Melbourne Italian Festival began a few days ago and runs until June 7. According to their website, this is the 5th year running yet I can barely recall this being on in years past.  It seems to be a decentralised Italian recognition festival focussing on the arts.  Locations for the festival range from Epping to Lygon Street and include music, dinners, and even Sunday mass thrown in.

The epicentre of the festival, called Festa della Repubblica, is being held on the 31st of May at Piazza Italia, otherwise known as Argyle Square park before they decided to brick half of the park. There appears to be music, dancing, and of course an array of food from local restaurants and cafes.

Some other interesting events on the lineup:

Italian Beer and Food Experience
May 30, 3.30-5.00pm
Beer DeLuxe at Federation Square

When most people think of Italy, they probably think wine but I guess there must be beer beyond Peroni.

Spaghetti Western Festival
June 6/7
The Grande Boutique, Hepburn Springs

A couple of classic Eastwood films on display.


Melbourne Italian Festival

Now until June 7, Various Locations


University staff go on strike for a new contract

Redmond Barry's statue bearing an NTEU flag

Redmond Barry's statue bearing an NTEU flag

The picture is of the statue of Redmond Barry – the quintessential aristocratic buffoon, and the man who sent Ned Kelly to the gallows, forever standing outside our State Library. But the flag he’s holding? Apparently after death, Mr Barry has become involved in the union movement!

It’s an NTEU flag, and the National Tertiary Education Union has called a strike today after several Melbournian universities failed to sign new contracts for many of their staff.

University managements have been mis-managing Australian universities for some time – there’s no dearth of academic articles analysing various aspects of this mismanagement (that’s the problem when you mistreat wordy-types), and various issues came to a head as the NTEU called it’s strike. I spoke to one person who has been kept on casual contracts with no job security for the past five years; one speaker referenced a friend who had been in that position for the past twelve. And I know academics who work far more than eight-hour days to keep their work going, and yet are paid part-time. These sorts of stories have become commonplace in the modern Australian university, and there’s little sign that things are going to change.

Interestingly, NTEU members seemed far more radical than the union leadership supposedly representing them, and it seemed that the strike rally ended rather abruptly, with no general call for a Speak Out – something which would certainly have kept most of there for another couple of hours!

I helped out at the RMIT picket lines today, and found that many people where generally sympathetic. Those crossing the picket line did so apologetically and with some awkwardness, a minority tried to tear down our posters and generally make nuisances of themselves, but such people are always in the minority. What was most heartening was that quite a few people i spoke to decided to turn around and take the day off, and i convinced some to come along to the rally later on.

All in all, the support from the ground up was far more impressive than the support from the top-down. If this had been announced further in advance, if those in the various ALP-aligned student unions had been willing to support it more fully, if the NTEU leadership had encouraged a speak-out and allowed the membership to dictate what happened, it could have been huge.

TAC Ad – Pictures of You

picturesof-youThe TAC has run some pretty emotional and effective ads in its time.  “Pictures of you” has to be one of the saddest in my recent memory. The TAC has set up a website where you can find out more about each story featured in the advertisement. What’s really interesting is the choice of song for the ad and a little bit of Melbourne history behind it.

“Pictures of You” was originally sung by The Cure at a much faster tempo. Local artist, Angie Hart was commissioned by the TAC to do a remake of the song. According to her blog, when she first saw the video she cried (and that’s without the sad music).  Her bio on Wikipedia is an interesting read:

The family moved to Tasmania while Hart was still a baby where they lived in a Christian commune until she was 10 years old. They then moved to Melbourne to join another commune where they remained until Hart was 15 when, with the separation of her parents, the family left the church altogether.

It was this family disruption which led Hart to the Punters Club, a live music venue on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, one of Melbourne’s eclectic and bohemian inner suburbs. She frequented the venue to play pool and drink, though she was still under the legal drinking age. It often fell to bartender Simon Austin to eject her from the premises. Hart’s older sister was also bartending at the Punters Club in 1989 and when Austin, a guitarist and songwriter, mentioned he was starting a band and looking for a singer, Becky Hart suggested her little sister Angie.

The Punter’s club hosted many famous Australian bands in it’s time including Augie March, Jimmy Eat World, and Powderfinger. In 2002, it closed down and has been running as Bimbo Deluxe.  Most recently, the owner of Bimbo Deluxe, Cornerstone Hotels, has been put into receivership putting into question the future of Bimbos as well as a few other famous pubs around Melbourne.

By having my computer next to my television, I’ve learned a lot more about Melbourne today. Angie Hart is playing tonight at the Toff in Town.

Angie Hart

Youtube: The Cure-Pictures of You

Youtube: TAC Ad-Pictures of You

TAC: Pictures of You

Happy Birthday Buddha

BuddhaIf you are in Fed Square this week and want a bit more enlightenment than Carlton vs. Collingwood, stop by at Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival. I pose the question again to festival namers, why so long of a name? Was it necessary to put multicultural festival in there? I suppose they could have made it the Melbourne International Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival but I digress.

I accidentally attended this last year and it was quite a humbling festival.  I was given leaflets with information on the Buddha and the crisis with the Chinese earthquake as well as  a candle to participate in the light offering ceremony. According to their website:

“The offering of light extinguishes darkness, it symbolically represents the way in which wisdom dispels ignorance. “

But of course, what would a Melbourne festival be without it’s food.  Throughout the weekend, chefs will be preparing their best vegetarian dishes to demonstrate that vegetarian food can be tasty. Happy Birthday buddy!

Buddha’s Day and Multicultural Festival

May 16 & 17, Federation Square


ING Savings Week

freeApparently some financial services companies still have money to spend on promotions. All this week in Melbourne, ING will be offering freebies. Monday, they were serving free public transport and today they are offering free coffee.  Tomorrow they will be offering free shoe shines and massages, followed by Thursday where they are giving away free lunch (or $5 off) at certain cafes in the CBD. So if you are in the city this week or lucky (or unlucky) enough to work there, go get your freebies.

ING Savings Week [via Ozbargain]

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