SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Save Public Housing Rally Northcote


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Today I joined the community rally at Walker Housing Estate, on the corner of High and Walker Streets Northcote. This action was organized by the Public Housing Defense Network in association with the Victorian Socialists.

Estate residents were joined by protestors from all over Melbourne concerned about their plight.

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We need more public housing not less, was the point made powerfully by the first speaker William Gwynne, a long term resident of the estate. William admires the workmanship and durability of the estate buildings. In his view they were made to last, as is the community that has developed over time within them.

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 Clare Foley, who has lived for 8 years on the Ascot Vale Estate, another of the 9 Victorian estates slated for renewal, attended the protest out of solidarity with the Northcote residents. Clare read her speech because she said she was inexperienced. But she proved an impressive speaker, and I kept thinking about her ideas all the way home. I will paraphrase some of them for you. Here goes:


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Clare made the point that as far as secure housing goes there is no 'us' and 'them'. Especially given the uncertain times in which we live, 'everyone is only three steps away from homelessness.' Although for some people, public housing can be seen as 'the bottom rung of the ladder' for Clare it has quite simply been a 'lifeline'. 

She admitted that she was a nervous when she first moved into her estate, as she had heard so much previously about how estates were riddled with drugs and violence and residents constantly caused trouble. But she has come to understand these claims as misconceptions: 'Many people help each other a lot. And we have no more or no less trouble that anywhere else.'  

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Common land needs to stay in the hands of citizens, not greedy individuals/corporations. So said Stephen Jolly, Yarra City Councillor and Victorian Socialists member. He also made the point that there is already a precedent for people winning battles in Yarra - 3 years ago people power defeated an unholy alliance of State Government/Big Business and plans to build the dud East-West Link were dropped. That victory required tactics such as 5am picket lines and in Stephen's view it is time for the Save Public Housing campaign to do likewise - to shift from a 'G-rated to an X-rated campaign'.


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The stakes are certainly high enough. Sue Bolton, Moreland City Councillor and Victorian Socialists member argues that the government's renewal plans hit the poorest and people of colour hardest. And even if they are offered new homes back in their old estates after renewal, many residents will be unable to afford them.

 Fiona Ross (seen below with fellow advocate) is from Friends of Public Housing.


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Fiona stressed how important it is for public housing to be under public control. Once this land passes into private hands it will be lost forever. Read more from Fiona via her blog: savepublichousing.blogspot.com.au

The scandal of increasing numbers of Victorians being forced to sleep rough and former low-cost temporary options like boarding houses, hostels and backpackers' accommodation being squeezed beyond capacity are further evidence of the the public housing crisis that currently faces us. There are already 40,000 applicants waiting for public housing and that number is growing steadily.

As William Gwynne concluded, in some ways he is less concerned about current residents. At least they will be found some alternative place to live. His worry is more for those on waiting lists. Particularly as public housing dries up even further, what will happen to them?


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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Stop Adani! - Paint Melbourne Ports



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This afternoon I met with a group of Stop Adani protestors beneath those giant jaws beloved by generations of  Melbournians.

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This choice of meeting place had a pleasing synchronicity. Just as the heritage fun park's aim is to preserve Luna Park for future generations - Just for Fun for years to come, protestors against Adani's land grab are determined to protect the Reef and the Galilee Basin for future Australians. And with a bit of luck (and a mighty fight) hopefully the last laugh will be ours!

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You might well be wondering: What has Melbourne Ports electorate got to do with Adani? Why stage an action there? Apart from the fact that protestors got to spend an afternoon in one of the most beautiful, hippest parts of town, there is another compelling reason.


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 Melbourne Ports, which covers the suburbs of Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, Middle Park, South Yarra, St Kilda, Balaclava, Elwood and parts of Elsternwick and Caulfield is a key electorate in the upcoming Federal election. The seat is the most marginal in the country, won by Labor in 2016 with a miniscule 1.3% and on the basis of Greens preferences. And as candidates are already desperately vying for votes in the run up to the next election, they are hopefully at their most receptive to voter influence.  So Melbourne Ports seemed particularly fertile ground over which to strew Stop Adani posters, while talking to as many locals as possible along the way.


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One challenge for anti-Adani strategists is that the actual site of the struggle - western Queensland - can feel like a world away from home for the majority of Australians. And although most people are distressed about the Reef, it can feel like there is little you can do from a distance. That is why to win this battle Australians everywhere need to see the future of the reef as their business. And the battle to save it as winnable.

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Electorally, this means that politicians in Albany or Davenport, in Robe or Broome, just like those in Melbourne Ports, need to be getting a strong message from voters that opposing Adani's hubris is of critical importance. It is on a par or even outstrips local issues, and citizens need to demand that their politicians take a stand that reflects this.

It might warm the heart momentarily to hear that, personally, increasing numbers of politicians feel opposed to the Adani mine. But we need more from them than weasel words, and the time for equivocation is well and truly past. Politicians need to commit to fighting for their convictions - just like we are.

#StopAdani  #BlockadeAdani  #FossilFree

 

Friday, May 04, 2018

Accelerate Climate Action - Bill McKibben at Collingwood Town Hall


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Bill McKibben is a climate hero, in recognition of which in 2014 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, aka the 'alternative Nobel'. In 2006 Bill founded 350.org, the world's first grassroots climate change movement. It has now staged 20,000 demonstrations around the world - everywhere except North Korea (and thanks President Trump! - that might be changing soon?!).
The Australian branch, 350 Australia, organised the tour and are powerful environmental defenders, staging a range of actions including the highly successful divestment event in Melbourne on Valentine's Day 2015 (photo above)
Bill's 2012 article, 'Global Warming's Terrifying New Math' for Rolling Stone magazine, was one of the magazines' most read articles, and had a huge impact globally on changing the way people think about investment in fossil fuels.
Bill tours the world arguing that the future is already upon us and we need to accelerate our response to climate change. And last night was I in luck! He landed just around the corner - at the glorious Collingwood Town Hall, proudly flying its Aboriginal flag in welcome.

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More than a thousand people from all around Australia joined the packed town hall audience last night via live broadcast.  Sadly they missed out on our arrival present - free ice creams from Ben and Jerry - who originate from Vermont just like the guest of honour.
I didn't know what to expect from the event, having never heard Bill McKibben speak live before. Nor was I prepared for the richness imparted by the other speakers. I found myself scribbling frantically in the darkness in an attempt to capture some of their insights for you, so here goes (and any mistakes are failures of my shorthand, nothing to do with them):

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Brynn O'Brien, who is an international social justice lawyer - business and human rights her areas of expertise - described herself as a 'newby' on climate change action. She underwent a rapid conversion and is now a powerful force in ACCR (Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility). She spends lots of time speaking to big fossil fuel investors. In September 2017 this bore fruit when an amazing 10% of the vote at the BHP shareholders meeting went ACCR's way, with the result that BHP said it would quit coal.
Rio Tinto was next to fall, as a result of a shareholder's revolt. They have now also just exited coal. And in the last 6 months ACCR has doubled its support within the financial sector, which is a tremendous result.
Brynn emphasized that superannuation is key; it has a huge impact on the financial sector and could change the financial landscape utterly. So we know what we need to do!

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Joe Dodds is a writer and Councillor in Tathra and a survivor of the hellish bushfires which ravaged her area on March 18. Joe describes herself as someone 'bringing news from the front line of climate change'. Joe, courageously, publicly challenged Malcolm Turnbull for his assertion that it is inappropriate to raise the issue of climate change when there is a crisis.
As she concluded: ' (From now on) I want to bury fossil fuels, not friends.'

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The guest of honour, Bill McKibben, described how last month in Pakistan the temperature reached 50 degrees, which is the highest ever recorded in April on our planet. It is alarming facts like this that fuel his determination that we need to act now, not tomorrow, on climate change.
He said that he hoped for a long time that his writing alone would make an impact, but in 2006 he changed his mind.
Nowadays he believes that we have had 25 years of phoney debate as to whether climate change is real or not - phoney because the big polluters have known all along that it was a reality. He suggests that we are now no longer in an argument with Big Business/Government, but rather in a fight. The fight is all about those age-old preoccupations: money and power. And its objectives are 3-fold. In his view there needs to be: 

1. Fast just transition to renewables, which is attainable as the cost of solar panels is falling rapidly.  It was heartening to learn that by 2020 Canberra will be powered exclusively by renewables.

2. No new fossil fuel projects. Keep carbon in the ground where it belongs.
This is why the fight against the Adani coal mine is so crucial, and it was encouraging to hear that Bill is confident we will prevail. Certainly all around Australia people are doing their best!


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3. Not a penny more for dirty energy.
The way we send that message is to divest from companies that fund dirty energy. It is great to hear that the City of Melbourne has now divested.  And that even with Trump at the helm, on 18 January the Mayor of New York announced the city's divestment to the tune of $200 billion and that New York was suing the five biggest oil companies for destruction caused by global warming. To mark that auspicious day the Empire State building glowed with green lighting!
Bill said that sometimes the fight feels a bit like the Rebel Alliance against The Death Star. But one thing he is sure about is that we will do it together. Another is that we will have to move super fast, just like the Kay-aktivists who blockaded the giant Shell drill en route to the Arctic. (Shell finally conceded because the fight was in danger of destroying its reputation.)
 Bill concluded: 'Some days it feels really dark to me. But whatever the future holds, there will be one helluva fight along the way!'

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Fittingly the last word was left to Joseph Zane Sikulu, from neighbouring Tonga. Joseph is Pacific Project Coordinator for 350.org
Joseph opened by reading a poignant poem he had written entitled 'I fight for my islands because...'
He described the recent resilience of his people as they faced the 3 most powerful cyclones ever in as many years. He believes that Australia is responsible for transporting a great deal of destruction to the Pacific.  He said: 'We are people who stand up when called to action. We are Pacific Island Warriors. It is Australian's turn now to stand up to your government and financial institutions.' As Joseph put it:

We are not drowning. We are fighting. 

#FossilFree #BlockadeAdani
 




 

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Stop Adani! - Blockade AECOM


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 AECOM, which stands for 'architecture, engineering, construction, operations and management' is a mega American-based company. It is also an ally of Adani. One of its major current projects is designing a 389-kilometre rail line to Adani's Carmichael coal mine. In February protests were staged against the company outside its Brisbane offices. And on the very same day activists attended the company's annual general meeting in Los Angeles to demand it cease work with Adani. Today was Melbourne's turn.

As it was school holidays we were graced by the presence of a group of junior activists keen to express their opposition to Adani via the age-old method of chalk on pavement.


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It felt great to take concrete (!) action, organised by Galilee Blockade Melbourne Crew, Stop Adani Melbourne and Front Line Action on Coal,  against a company which is so integral to Adani's nefarious plans.


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I was heartened to learn some good tidings from one of the leaders of the Galilee Blockade, Bronwyn Plarre:


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Bronwyn explained that there is a precedent for a Melbourne-based company, in cahoots with Adani, backing down in the face of persistent people power. The Downer Group, located in the CBD, had entered into a contract to provide a range of products for the mine. One of those products was asphalt, whose trucks Galilee Blockade members regularly stopped at their Victorian plants. The company has now pulled out of the Adani contract, to the delight of the blockaders.


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With opposition to Adani mounting and especially when Australia's big four banks bowed to pressure and refused it loans, opponents of the killer mine were naturally exultant. But that was before we realised that while the Adani company might be finding it hard to raise finance, Mr Adani himself has now built such a huge personal fortune that he could easily finance the mine himself - if he so desires. So that is why the next logical step was to challenge companies like AECOM and Downer Group whose activities support his ambitions.


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Queensland can feel so far away. And the tyranny of distance sometimes makes it hard to believe that Victorians can have any impact on the crucial fight being waged up north.

So it was great to hear that at least two of the key infrastructure companies supporting Adani  have offices right in the middle of Melbourne. It couldn't be more convenient really. AECOM is just a short tram and train ride away from the Green Heartland. So watch out AECOM. Like Downer Group before you, you are on notice.  #BlockadeAdani

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Zelda D'Aprano: Local Hero



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'Don't be too polite, girls. Don't be too polite!' That was the advice of Zelda D'Aprano, women's rights warrior, on receiving what proved to be one of her final awards - an Honorary Degree from La Trobe University last year.

Zelda died in February at 90 and today was the occasion of the celebration of her life in the packed town hall of the 'People's Republic of Brunswick'.

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At the town hall I learned that this modest working class woman, who had been full of fear in 1977 about publishing her autobiography (above), had been nothing short of a dynamo. She had been a communist and foundation member of the Women's Liberation movement here in Melbourne. She was an impassioned Unionist, and as such the subject of the iconic image, in the tradition of the British Suffragettes, of a woman chained to the railings of the Commonwealth Building. Zelda was the recipient of numerous awards for her achievements over her lifetime and had mentored and inspired generations of young female activists. All this and I had known so little about her!

I came to Brunswick to honour her because we had briefly crossed paths three years ago, and she had always stayed in my mind.

The occasion of our meeting was the 'Inspirational Women of Yarra Awards' for International Women's Day 2015 held in another town hall - this time Collingwood. I was there to support my friend and fellow activist against the dud East-West Link, Rosie Elliott. But the East-West Link turned out to be not the only dud that day. At this point I am going to heed Zelda's advice and not be too polite:

For one thing, the MC of the Awards was the Yarra mayor, who was male, which seemed a most inappropriate choice for an IWD event.

Also even though the list of nominees read like a Who's Who of exceptional local women, none of them was given the opportunity to speak. As I put it back then in my post (and in my complaint letter later to the Yarra Council): 

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The nominees, handpicked as they were by their communities, and embodying the richness of multi-cultural Yarra, remained an utterly untapped resource. I was intrigued to read about the variety of their preoccupations and contributions in the programme, but as they or their delegates were never given the opportunity to speak,  I went away from the event none the wiser.

 Zelda D'Aprano, pictured above with Rosie, was one of the nominees. She was a leader in the Women's Liberation Movement and played a central role in the fight for equal pay in the 60s and 70s. We were only treated to a brief taste of Zelda's wise and feisty observations when she spoke from the floor. What a missed opportunity!


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It was because of that missed opportunity back then that I was thrilled to hear all about Zelda's astonishing life from people who admired and loved her today. But there was another reason too that brought me to Brunswick.

Zelda reminded me of my mother, Pat Perry, who was only 3 years older and died last May. Mum was also a highly intelligent woman from working class Carlton, who had to leave school early to go to work. She was a Communist in her youth and volunteered as the first female Air Raid Warden during WW2. She too always worked hard on behalf of women, including a long stint as Treasurer for the Women's Electoral Lobby.  

With my mother's anniversary imminent, I was very comforted today to learn more about Zelda, another woman I greatly admire. Both of those 'ordinary' women lived extraordinary lives. 


Tuesday, March 06, 2018

PEN Melbourne International Women's Day card writing event


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On Monday evening forty women (and one man) met to compose messages of encouragement and solidarity for women writers around the world who are imprisoned or under house arrest for their views. The event was organised by PEN Melbourne. It was in honour of International Women's Day. And, fittingly, the venue was Carlton's stunning Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre, named after the ground-breaking journalist and women's editor of the Age:

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PEN Melbourne regularly hosts evenings such as this. I must admit, sometimes it can feel like you are tossing a note in a bottle into the sea. But other times we receive heartening responses, when it is apparent that our cards have made a real impact on some prisoner's life.

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Monday was unusual for me because it was the first time I had attended a writing event specifically focused on women prisoners.  The stories we heard of peoples' lives, their courage and resilience in the face of adversity and injustice were extraordinary. And having their poetry and articles read to us  was very moving. Judith Morrison, Committee member, was one of the readers:

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It was great to be able to reach out to the prisoners, to send them cards generously donated by the beloved cartoonist, Judy Horacek, or by PEN Melbourne President Chris McKenzie.


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Of course it is not only overseas that people are being silenced. There are increasing threats to democracy here at home.

For example the Federal Government's proposed changes to the official secrecy laws mean that whistleblowers and journalists who report on leaked information could face 20 years in prison. 

And as the renowned poet Judith Rodriguez (below), who has had personal experience of the key role of translators in disseminating writers' work suggested, it is why it is so important for PEN to support translators. And to create projects in which PEN members work with Indigenous writers to promote their work.

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PEN is a great organization, with a wonderful tradition and laudable aims of promoting literature and defending freedom of expression world-wide. It was founded nearly 100 years ago by a group of literary heavyweights including Joseph Conrad and George Bernard Shaw. And therein has sometimes lain its problem. Because it can feel as if PEN is not for everyone. It is a closed shop, and only eminent, published or 'real' writers need apply. But that is not the case.

We are all readers. Also, as we know, print has become only one of many platforms for writing.  And sadly, the explosion of social media has provided a field day for repressive governments, so that these days many of the writers championed by PEN are bloggers or tweeters or citizen journalists. Even if you are not currently writing a novel, if you use instagram, or tweet, use Facebook or blog you are likely to have a real affinity with them.


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So, if you are despondent about the world, consider joining Pen Melbourne (www.penmelbourne.org) There is nothing quite like taking action to ward off depression. And I can guarantee: at Pen events the food, the wine and the sense of community are always great.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

'A Mighty Force' Nation-wide Premiere

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Yesterday, from Alice Springs to Adelaide, from Yarragon to the Whitsundays, in small country halls, people's homes and grand city centres there was a film premiere. 'A Mighty Force' is a celebration of people power. It features a range of activists determined to stop Adani's grab of our precious countryside and decimation of the Great Barrier Reef.  I was lucky enough to attend a premiere, hosted by Stop Adani Melbourne, at the glorious Fitzroy Town Hall, which was packed to the rafters for the occasion.

Settling in
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Setting up
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The film was great. Coincidentally several of the activists featured had also spoken at the Fitzroy Town Hall as part of the 'Stop Adani Summit' last October. Here are some pictures I took of them at that event:

Aunty Carol Prior, Juru traditional owner from Queensland, with Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, interfaith Adani opponent (right)

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Bruce and Annette Currie, Central Queensland farmers and reluctant activists, who live mere metres from the mine.

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Jageer Singh, high school student with first-hand experience of Adani's rapacity in India, who has catalyzed protests within his Hopper's Crossing school. 

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The Q & A after the film proved enlightening and inspiring:

I learned that last year 160 new community groups were formed across Australia to oppose Adani, and there are high hopes that the number will be even greater this year. One of the groups that I really enjoyed hearing about was Crochet for Coral Not Coal. This Eltham-based group crochet a range of pieces of 'coral'. They distribute them free of charge to opponents of the mine along with a list of addresses of Federal MPs to whom the recipients can appeal. I'll be sorry to part with mine!:

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Queensland sometimes feels so far away. And the tyranny of distance makes it hard to believe that Victorians can have any impact on the crucial fight being waged up north. But I was most encouraged last night to realize there is lots that we can do:

Start planning to join the blockade.  People from all over Australia are taking time off work and out of busy lives to travel to the Galilea Basin for longer or shorter stays to support local protestors. One audience member announced last night that he was heading off next week with five other senior Victorians - Grey Power in the Galilea - to join Front Line Action on Coal (FLAC). And another older person, Audrey, shown in the film blithely locked on via her neck to a mining vehicle, was also at last night's film. Her assertion that she was no hero, just an 'ordinary grandma', was very moving.

Join local StopAdani group. 

Attend with friends and family, or even host, a showing of 'A Mighty Force'.  Although we had a chandelier at our screening, be reassured, it is not de rigueur!

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Join other local residents who have made a pact to knock on 8,000 doors in Batman.  With Bill Shorten saying this week that Adani is 'just another project', that there is 'a role for coal' in Australia, it is apparent that Federal Labor is no ally.  A win for Alex Bhathal in Batman would send a strong message to Labor and ensure that there is another champion for the environment in a position of power. It is crucial that we elect more MPs who are prepared to work to tighten up our weak environmental protection laws. And to Stop Adani.


 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Great Local Lunch Sustainable Living Festival


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The Great Local Lunch today at the Sustainable Living Festival was fantastic. It was my first time. And I had to enter a ballot to be selected to attend this unique 4-course crowd-farmed free banquet on the banks of the Yarra. Obviously my contribution of lemon verbena, lemon myrtle, rosemary, rose geranium and spearmint had appealed to the selectors. So I joined 249 other lucky gardeners and gleaners to taste the magic the Kinfolk Cafe chefs managed to contrive from the gardens and public byways of Melbourne.

Costa Georgiadis was terrific as MC, although the faltering sound system was frustrating for other speakers at times. Costa's enthusiasm is legendary and we all basked in it.

 The hord'oevres as we entered were gorgeous, all served by members of the team of enthusiastic volunteers who made the event possible.


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Today I have learned to love Kombucha.  I had never heard of it before, but now know it is a drink of delicious ingredients whose fermentation is enabled by pedal power. Grab it when you can.


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The queue of lucky participants waiting to be seated.

Before:

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After:

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Starter: Frittata with parmesan rind and kale stems with gorgeous Zero olive oil:

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 Lentils and a variety of yummy heirloom tomatoes: (All the dressings were unusual and I'm sure I caught a whiff of lemon myrtle or lemon verbena along the way.)

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 Pumpkin with onion and greens garnish: (& I learned today from my fellow diners how to waste not a scrap of pumpkin, to eat the skin and roast the pips!)


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 The finale: cake with wild berries, johnny jump ups (or maybe that should be johnnys jump up?), honey and rosemary (mine I'm sure).

The Great Local Lunch was a winner. Fabulous food and great conversation with like-minded people - what more could you want?  I'm certainly going in the draw next year. Why don't you?


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