My new love affair with Port Phillip Bay

I grew up in Brighton, a bayside suburb. I would like to say that the beach was a big part of my life, but I can’t. We lived about 3 miles away, almost as far away as you can get and still be in Brighton. I was never much of a swimmer, and am even less of one now.

It was a part of my childhood. We would head down to the beach after a hot day at school. My memory is that we would arrive about the same time as the cool change would blow in! Often we would swim in the Brighton Beach Baths, a stretch of sand and water enclosed by iron railings. Like a swimming pool, but with sea water and waves. There’s a smell that always takes me back to the changing rooms. I guess many people were happy to pay for the diving board at the deep end. For me, I was, and still am, happy to meander along the shore line, paddling, looking, picking up shells.

Brighton Beach is one of the long sandy beaches that circle Port Phillip Bay. The Bay is wide and flat, the waves gentle. It has always been one of the backdrops to my life, but never something I really thought much about.

Until I came down here to Portsea. Now I have fallen in love. As I have said many times, I am fascinated with the play of light across the stretch of water I can see from my studio. The water can be pure silver or a series of sparkles or deep blue as the wind whips up the white caps. The clouds throw shadows onto it. At sunset it turns pink and grey. Sometimes I can see clearly right across to Queenscliff, but when the rain comes in, I can’t see very far at all.

I am captivated by its moods.

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Beauty is a great beginning for a love affair, but intrigue is important too. I am intrigued by the Bay’s geological history.

Wikipedia says this about its formation

Port Phillip formed between the end of the last Ice Age around 8000 BCE and around 6000 BCE,[2] when the sea-level rose to drown what was then the lower reaches of the Yarra River, vast river plains, wetlands and lakes. The Yarra and other tributaries flowed down what is now the middle of the bay, formed a lake in the southern reaches of the bay, dammed by The Heads, subsequently pouring out into Bass Strait.[3]

Indigenous people were living here then. They have been here for at least 20,000 years, and probably twice or even three times that long. Before it filled, the Boonwurrung would have hunted kangaroo and cultivated the yam daisy on the plains. It is quite mind-blowing to know that people witnessed the formation of Nairm, as the Boonwurrung people knew the bay.

In fact they have seen the water dry up too. About 2,800 years ago the Heads, the small opening at the southern end of the Bay, closed. The basin, which is fairly shallow, dried up. Good hunting ground again. However, about 1,000 years ago the ocean broke through and water cascaded in. It is thought that water levels would have risen quickly.

The Boonwurrung remember the event through their story, and have passed it down to the current generation. You can read Aunty Carolyn Brigg’s telling here. If you are interested in reading more about the Boonwurrung, jump over to their website.

Before I move on, let me acknowledge that I live on Aboriginal land, of the Boonwurrung people of the Kulin Nation. As I walk this land I pay my respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging, and hope that I walk with an open heart and an open mind.

Even now there are many sand bars and shallow channels at the entrance to the Bay. Ships require a pilot to guide them in and out of the Heads, and to set them onto the shipping channel that will give them safe passage to Melbourne. The channel runs close to Portsea, and seeing the big ships glide by enthrals me.

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I love to watch the ferries ply between Sorrento and Queenscliff. They leave on the hour, and usually come into my view after about 25 minutes. So who needs a clock when you have the ferries?

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This body of water, that seemed so mundane in my childhood, has a rich history. It has sculpted the rocks that I am fascinated with, and is home to the weedy sea dragon, one of my all time favourite creatures. To see one in the wild is up there on my list of Things That Would Make Me Very Happy.  This one is cruising under the Portsea pier. I always look when I walk the pier.

I am not sure that I want to see the mass migration of spider crabs, but it is the biggest migration in the marine world, and it happens in the Bay. As it occurs in early winter,  it might be happening right now, by the light of the full moon.

Often we need to see the ordinary from a different point. Once we see the extraordinary we are more likely to treasure it. What do you see from a different point of view?

[Don’t forget you can see my daily doings on Instagram or Facebook. It’s more than my daily latte, I promise!]

 

Democracy + sausage

It’s election day in Victoria. We are voting to elect representatives for our Legislative Council (Upper House) and Legislative Assembly (Lower House) of Parliament.

We have compulsory voting in Australia and I think that’s a good thing. Voting is an important democratic activity. Compulsory voting means that everyone has to take some notice of what is going on, politically, around them, even if it’s only for the three minutes that they are in the booth filling in the numbers. Everyone has to think about it, even if it is only to vote informally or do a donkey vote (straight down the ballot paper).

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Many people have fought hard over centuries to get us ‘one vote, one value’. We know about the fight for the vote for women and for indigenous people to be able to vote. But struggles go back further. The Chartist Movement in Britain in the mid 1800s was a large working class movement that demanded many things we now take for granted.

The People’s Charter called for six reforms to make the political system more democratic:

  1. A vote for every man twenty-one years of age, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime.

  2. The secret ballot to protect the elector in the exercise of his vote.

  3. No property qualification for Members of Parliament in order to allow the constituencies to return the man of their choice.

  4. Payment of Members, enabling tradesmen, working men, or other persons of modest means to leave or interrupt their livelihood to attend to the interests of the nation.

  5. Equal constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing less populous constituencies to have as much or more weight than larger ones.

  6. Annual Parliamentary elections, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since no purse could buy a constituency under a system of universal manhood suffrage in each twelve-month period.(From Wikipedia)

Okay, so the fight for votes for women was still a way off, but secret ballots, no property qualifications, payment fo Members of Parliament and equal electorates were major steps forward for democracy.

The right to vote has been a hard won right, and a right that not everyone around the world has. So I cherish my chance to have my vote.

The other aspect I am grateful for is that we have a nation wide Electoral Commission, which oversees all our elections. It was something I took for granted until I read things about the mid-term elections in the USA. Correct me if I am wrong about this, but it seems that in the Sates there is no national body covering all states, instead leaving it up to individual jurisdictions to determine electoral rolls, polling booths etc. To have our overarching Commission means consistency across the nation as well as removing the possibility of it becoming politicised.

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And I enjoy the Democracy Sausage after!

I am not sure if Democracy Sausages, as they have become known, are a feature in in elections in other countries, so let me explain……Many polling booths are in local community centres, schools etc. So they take the opportunity to have a sausage sizzle fund raiser. So, two civic actions at once ~ voting and supporting the local school by buying a sausage!

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So civic duty done….until the Federal elections sometime next year.

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Do you have compulsory voting? Electoral commissions or the like?……Democracy sausages? Love to know what you think about your voting systems.

My Library turns 50

Writing about books seems to be on my mind at the moment. I was inspired to write this post after reading Tierney’s from Tierney Creates. She posted about the stack of books she had just borrowed from her public library, and how wonderful libraries are. As she says: “So libraries are good places all over the world and librarians are some of the best people on earth (smile).” I soooo agree.

My local library is almost at the end of my street and it’s part of the fabric of the shopping strip and the neighbourhood. It’s only small ~ the building was originally a bank ~ but it fits in many activities. The busiest is probably Storytime, where mums and some dads and babies and toddlers all join in songs and stories. The noise is infectious and the prams lined up like a parking lot.

Lots of people use the library ~ to use the computers and the printer, the wifi, to read the papers, borrow books or just sit in a safe place. And it’s connected to the main library up the hill and along a little bit. You can order books using the online catalogue and pick them up. For people that don’t read hard copies any more (that’s certainly not me!) there are libraries of digital books, comics, audio books and films that are available too, to be accessed at the swish of a library card.

I think public libraries are one of the markers of a civilised society. A society that says that books, knowledge, entertainment are important and should be free to everyone, and is prepared to commit money to making that happen.

So what did I borrow this week? As usual I went in for one and came out with a few…..

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My library system is turning 50. So Happy Birthday!!! 🎉 My little library almost didn’t get to join in the celebrations, because in the early 1990’s the council wanted to close the library down. The time was an era of economic rationalism (when isn’t?) and the little shopping centre library just didn’t fit the model. But the residents didn’t want to loose their little library. We got together and demanded that it stay open. We won, thanks to a resident who was in a wheelchair and took the council to the equal opportunity board (or some such place).

The next move for the little library-almost-at-the-end-of-my-street is to have an outside make-over. At the moment it is a construction site, but it will be interesting to see how the library is brought to the outside, so more people can enjoy the space.

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A trip into town

I live about 10 kms from the centre of Melbourne. Today I had to go into town to change a ballet ticket, and I thought I would ask you along for the ride. [When I came home there was a blog post from Margaret, describing a walk with her dogs, through lovely lush English countryside. Isn’t serendipity a wonderful thing!]

Our first steps take us up to the tram stop, about 5 minutes away from the house, past the Little Free Library

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to the shopping strip and the tram stop.

We will travel on the #57 tram, which wanders its way through Flemington and then North Melbourne. Ascot Vale is 10 kms from the city as the crow flies, not as the tram travels, so sit back and enjoy the half hour ride. Actually the tram is very full today, as we pick up the RMIT students who have just poured out of their exams at the Showgrounds. We also rumble past the Flemington Racecourse, where the Melbourne Cup is held, and later, the Victoria Market, home to great fresh produce.

Eventually we get to the end of Elizabeth Street, at Flinders St, right at Flinders Street Station. The station is not looking its best, as it is covered up while some work is done on it. So out we get and cross the road. (Sorry the second photo is blurry ~ I was in danger of getting run over!)

[BTW, a little piece of esoterica…..the streets in Melbourne are built on a grid layout. I still remember how delighted I was to realise that the streets that ran north/south were named King, William, Queen, Elizabeth. That pleased me no end!]

There is a walking tunnel under the tracks. It is rather grungy and in need of a good clean, but this sign made me smile, as there are not many options, only forward or back the way you have come!

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Out into the sunshine, right on the bank of the Yarra River.

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We are going to walk across that bridge, and stop in the middle to look down stream. That bridge you can see used to be for trains. I remember travelling across it in the old red rattlers, as the old trains were called. Those silver things are sculptures that now adorn the bridge.

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And then look upstream to Princes Bridge, which links Swanston St and St Kilda Road. If you look closely you can see the mighty MCG in the background. The Melbourne Cricket Ground is not only where cricket games are held, but is the heartland of Australian rules Football…..now there’s a good game! At the foot of the MCG is Melbourne Park, a tennis complex where the Australian Open in played each January.

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You have probably noticed the rowers on the river, but if you look on the other side you will see a group of canoeists as well. I wonder if the pair of ducks in the fore ground are have a little laugh at the antics of the humans on water!

Let’s walk on, to Southbank, the promenade that runs beside the river. It is full of cafes and restaurants and food courts, and if you can’t get something you like here, you are not trying!

Up the steps alongside Princes Bridge

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and stop to admire the fancy lettering on the foundation stone.

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Then take a breather at the top of the steps….Hamer Hall, a recital centre, is on our left. I must take you on a tour inside one day. The Arts Centre is straight ahead, with the National Gallery of Victoria further along St. Kilda Road.

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To get to the ballet box office we need to go around the back of the Arts Centre, and we get some great angles of the spire. In the original design the spire was meant to be coated in bronze; it turned out that the budget didn’t stretch that far.

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Past some interesting ballet sculptures, just to let us know we are on the right path

and then to the box office. No photos of that, as it wasn’t very interesting!

To make the return journey a little different we are going back to St Kilda Rd between the Arts Centre and the Gallery, then back to the river.

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Now, we deserve some lunch. Let’s walk back along Southbank

to the Blue Train, where we can sit in the Winter sunshine and admire the view.

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Then it is back on the tram, which, fortunately, is a lot less crowded on the home journey!

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Thanks for taking this walk with me. Perhaps you would like to tell us about a favourite walk around your home town.

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A newsletter update:

I have given up on trying to get a button on the side bar. However, I can insert a link to the sign up form on the post itself. So that is what I am going to do. At the end of each post you will see the link. I hope it will be prominent enough for new people click on, but not so prominent that it annoys those of you who have made the decision about the newsletter. It has got to be better than one of those wretched pop-up screens that appear whenever you open up a page.

So, if you are interested in keeping up with my art doings, click on this link.

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Little Free Library

I first came across the idea of the Little Free Library on Alys’ blog. When I read her post Little Free Library Debut I was smitten, just like she was when she saw her first one. (Alys is renovating her Library at the moment, which you can read about, as well as the fairy garden that sits next to it, and her peaceful Buddha gardens.) I thought the idea of having a neighbourhood book swap was the most wonderful thing. However, I never quite got to creating one outside our home. So imagine my delight when I saw this, only a street away.

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The Little Free Library in Ascot Vale

Yes, a Little Free Library of our own! We have much loved and well used public library just up the street, but this is a bonus.

It was begun by a group of young girls. You can read their full story in this article in the local paper.

A GROUP of Ascot Vale girls have set up a community street library to encourage more people to get to know their neighbours.

Group founder Sophia, 10, felt the need to reach out to neighbours after hearing stories of her Dad’s childhood spent with friends.

And that story makes my smile just a little broader.

With the Little Free Library they have created a little neighbourhood oasis. It has three library boxes ~ for Grown Ups, Young People and Little Ones ~ each at the right height. There’s a sign post and a notice board, and a night light! As well there is a little seating area under the shade of the tree. All this hosted by the Church of Christ.

I visited today, taking a book and leaving one. It’s a simple idea with deep roots, helping to build community and connections.

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Now, which book will I choose? Which one would you take home?

ANZAC Day

Today is ANZAC Day, and my daily walk took me back to the Women’s Peace Garden. I am reblogging the post I wrote last year, when I wrote about my feelings about the day, and why I visited the Gardens.

Anne Lawson Art

Last Saturday was ANZAC Day, the day in which we remember the men and women who have fought for Australia, and New Zealand, in many overseas wars; remembering too the many who are still serving. This year was a big event because it was the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli in the First World War. In fact it was such a Big Event that there was debate about the amount of commercialisation of Gallipoli and the ANZAC Legend.

However, I had a different view of the day. Let me assure you that I am quite respectful to those who fought in wars, and also of those who treasure the day. My grandfather went to WW1 and fought on the Western Front. My father was involved in WW2. Fortunately both returned. I have visited the War Memorials in Normandy and been brought to tears by the acres of graves. So many…

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I went to three exhibitions in three days last week.

The first was the Archibald  Prize Exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat.

The Archibald Prize, first awarded in 1921, is Australia’s favourite art award, and one of its most prestigious. Awarded to the best portrait painting, it’s a who’s who of Australian culture – from politicians to fashion designers, sporting heroes to artists.

This is my photo of Michael Mc Williams’ stunning painting ‘The usurper (self portrait)’, which is an amalgam of feral animals that are such a problem in many parts of Australia. However, there are other portraits on the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s website.

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Michael McWilliams ‘The usurper (self portrait’ (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson,2016)

The next day I headed off to the Bayside Arts and Cultural Centre to look at the works in ‘From the studio: Bayside Artists in Residence’, which is

a biannual exhibition which celebrates the artistic yield of writers, artists and composers, who have completed a yearlong residency as part of the Bayside Artist in Residence program…….The program places participants within the stately environs of Billilla Mansion ~ a heritage listed property incorporating a public garden and magnificent historic house.

For more about the residency look at the website.  There was a range of genre too, from my nephew, Evan Lawson, who is a composer, through novelists like Gillian Barnett, to Kate Just, a fibre artist. The following are my photos, showing a smattering of the high quality work that has been produced.

The third exhibition was Verdant Garden at Bundoora Homestead Art Centre. It is a gracious old house, a perfect exhibition space.

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Again a range of high quality works, created by artists who drew

inspiration from the role of the garden on contemporary life, this exhibition celebrates the long, intimate and symbolic relationship between artist and garden. Featuring contemporary artists using a variety of mediums, this exhibition explores ideas of germination and the ways urbanisation has impacted on Australia’s love affair with the garden.

So, I have seen thought-provoking art, of a high quality. Then it struck me that each of these exhibitions were in spaces that relied heavily on the public purse. I don’t know their funding models, but they are galleries that are part of arts programmes of local and other forms of  governments. Without this funding these galleries, and these exhibitions and, therefore, these artists would have no support. *

The Arts are about exploration of our culture, environment, values and philosophies. Artists, in which ever creative form they work, explore and interpret, encouraging us to look at the world in a different way. Of course they also delight and entertain. Art can also be very inclusive. Anyone can pick up a paint brush or a pen, they can dance or compose music. In fact the more voices we hear the more we are challenged and engaged, we are more likely to begin to see the world from someone else’s point of view. In our battered world the more ways we have to show diversity and inclusion the better.

If we take away funding from any level of artistic work we are making our place a poorer and more bland, less inclusive place. In fact our level of Arts funding should be increased.

It is glorious to see these galleries in our midst, and there are many around our towns and cities. They need our support, if only by visiting  the exhibitions they show. That shows the governing funding bodies that we value them and want the funding to continue.

[*I understand that the Archibald Prize Exhibition is different. It is such a formidable part of the Australian art scene that, like Mt Everest, has its own micro-climate. That said, I only paid $15 entrance. Most of the exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ballarat are free.]

And while I am on the Public Funding Bandwagon, let me do a shout out for local libraries. Mine turned 40 this week. It is a little branch in an old bank building. About 20 years ago the council wanted to shut it down. It was saved by locals protesting and a court challenge. It’s an important hub in our community, as it really does include everyone, from my Fella and me to the Somali mums who bring their toddlers to story time. Yay for libraries!