Kindness revolution sweeps Sydney Reply

by Antonio Sergi

Pole of Kindness: Newtown resident, Rosie Waterland, finds inspiration in the little things. Photo: Antonio Sergi

Pole of Kindness: Newtown resident, Rosie Waterland, finds inspiration in the little things. Photo: Antonio Sergi

Sydney’s latest trend, acts of kindness, is sweeping through the inner west, and it’s making the streets of Sydney a little sweeter one deed at a time.

Formed two months ago, the Two Kites Project is the latest not-for-profit organisation trying to spread joy through inner west suburbs with their posters, saying ‘Take What You Need’ or ‘Take A Smile, It’s Free’.

Two Kites Project volunteers are regularly seen doing good deeds like handing out origami hearts or giving socks filled with toiletries to the homeless, and if you live in the inner west, chances are you have already ripped a ‘smile’ tab off one of their posters.

Gloria Lo, 19, president of Two Kites Project, says her new company is unique.

“The main aim of Two Kites Project is to inspire other people to do random acts of kindness and to have that ripple effect,” she says.

Two Kites volunteers are committed to bringing people together by providing opportunities to those less fortunate and brightening the day of the individuals with the simplest of gestures.

“We serve as a vehicle for the people who donate money or goods and the less fortunate people who receive it, because sometimes when you donate you don’t know where exactly that money goes to,” Gloria says.

Wake Up Project is another example of the kindness revolution that became known to Sydneysiders after the release of its free Kindness Cards, which are used in exchange of a good deed, encouraging receivers “to pay-it-forward with an anonymous act of kindness”.

The project has now had more than 110,000 cards ordered from its website and distributed throughout Australia, and it is fast becoming its own kindness movement.

However, not everyone is convinced by the new movement.

Glebe resident Cheyne Fynn, 26, says random acts of kindness could be a violation of privacy. “To be honest, the majority of the time those things are an inconvenience, I don’t need people coming up to me uninvited,” he says.

Dr Antony Kidman, Director of the UTS Health Psychology Unit, believes the kindness revolution has a positive influence on society and is an example of altruistic human behaviour.

“I believe a lot of media reports currently emphasise negative events and the egocentricity of individuals,” he says. “Random acts of kindness show that these slanted perceptions are not true, but unfortunately, like many other good things that people do, they go unreported.”

Free mentoring program helps Indigenous students dream big Reply

by Sarah Chlala

Recipients of the mentorship program established between SBS and National Indigenous Television (NITV) in August: Justin, Bianca, Hayden and Karina Marlow. Photograph courtesy Karina Marlow

Recipients of the mentorship program established between SBS and National Indigenous Television (NITV) in August: Justin, Bianca, Hayden and Karina Marlow. Photograph courtesy Karina Marlow

Indigenous students who dream of working in the media will have the opportunity to realise their dreams through a mentorship program established between SBS and National Indigenous Television (NITV) in August.

The new three-year program has been designed to assist Indigenous media students gain hands-on experience in television, online and radio. Students are also given the chance to expand their network and improve their employment potential.

“I think it’s powerful because it adds another layer to the student’s experiences overtime and the beauty of the program re-affirms their dreams are possible,” says Anna King, Project Manager, Social Inclusion, at Macquarie University.

The program is based on a similar one set up between SBS and the Ethnic Communities’ Council and Macquarie University last year aimed at students from a refugee or migrant background.

Media student Karina Marlow, who has been chosen for the new mentor program for Indigenous students, says, “I was super lucky they opened it up this year for indigenous students. They obviously really care about us as people.”

Although Karina believes the mentorship program has increased her chances of getting a job in television, she acknowledges the industry is very competitive for all media students.

Dr Folker Hanusch, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at University of the Sunshine Coast, initiated a study, ‘Who’s views skew the news?’, that found journalists who identify themselves as Indigenous represent just 1.8 per cent of Australian journalists.  The number is disproportionately lower than the 2.5 per cent of Australians with an Indigenous background.

Mr Michael Dunstone, Employment Advisor at Yarn’n Aboriginal Employment Services, says Indigenous unemployment is the highest of all unemployment rates for any ethnic background in Australia. He thinks a the new mentor program  should benefit Indigenous students.

Karina Marlow hopes the program will encourage Indigenous students to tell their stories.

Looking back on idiotic times Reply

by Antonio Sergi

Tour guide and comedian Xavier Toby on a walk through Newtown for the Sydney Fringe Festival. Photo: Antonio Sergi

Tour guide and comedian Xavier Toby on a walk through Newtown for the Sydney Fringe Festival. Photo: Antonio Sergi

“You’re going to get very few chances in your life to follow around an Arch Penguin with a megaphone who shouts at strangers,” says writer and comedian Xavier Toby, who plays tour guide in his fictional, but possible, Sydney Fringe Festival show 2013- when we were idiots. The tour takes “participants” on a journey around Newtown in the year 2113, with Xavier, dressed as a penguin, reflecting on the consumerism and ignorance of society as it was in 2013.

The year is 2113 and participants are gathered outside a shop formerly known as “the Pin Tin” waiting to follow a penguin with a megaphone. This walking tour looks back over the past 100 years during which time society crumbled and this inner west suburb was buried under a ton of coffee cups and hipsters.

Walking through the suburb’s ruins, it is hard to believe that this place, “back in the 1700s”, was a farming community for Indigenous Australians.

“Newtown was an Aboriginal farming community where they used to brew Kangaroo grass and farm Kangaroos,” Xavier says.

Things have drastically changed since then, and it is not until this tour of the “buried suburb” that one sees how far Australia has come over the last century. Found underneath the rubble was an At The Moment (ATM) machine; such machines have become obsolete over the last 100 years.

“What an ATM does is take a snapshot of your life at that moment and then print it out on coloured pieces of paper that you carry around with you,” Xavier says.

It is hard to believe that a century ago the role of an artist was not as respected as it is today. Instead, artists were forced to paint on walls and on the sides of buildings, such as the Martin Luther King mural on King Street, because of a lack of funding for the arts.

“If you look back in history, you remember the artists; no-one talks about the accountants or lawyers, which is why in 2113 artists are the most revered people,” Xavier says.

The walking tour also exposed the mystery behind Australia’s “downfall” and the reason why even uttering the word “Abbott” can strike fear into any Australian.

According to Xavier Toby, “Abbott’s name has now taken on a Voldemort-type persona of he-who-shall-not-be-named; children are afraid of the Abbott underneath their beds and are scared the lizard man in speedos is going to hunt and eat them.”

He says the political state in Australia went into a decline after the Abbott election of 2013 with people becoming even more influenced by the media, resulting in the election of Prime Minister Shane Warne in 2017, followed by the election of Prime Minister Bindi Irwin in 2022.

“People then weren’t electing intellectuals, they were too focused on sports and celebrity, paying attention to the wrong things,” Xavier says.

It was a time where same-sex marriage was illegal and people of the opposite sex were forced to marry each other and live “miserably”.

“In 2113, marriage is strictly between a man and a man or a woman and a woman; statistically it has lowered the divorce rate, relationships last much longer, and people are a lot happier,” Xavier says “A lot of marriages are still sexless, but back in 2013 a lot of those marriages were sexless as well, so not much difference there.”

While coming up with the concept of the walking tour, Xavier Toby wanted to create a world where participants would feel comfortable about laughing at themselves instead of being confronted, which is why he chose to set the tour in the year 2113.

“By setting the tour 100 years in the future, after we have survived all of society’s problems, people feel a bit safer to laugh at them,” he says.

Having previously enjoyed participating in walking tours in cities around the world, Xavier wanted to incorporate that experience into his stand-up shows.

“I wanted to take comedy outside the venue, so I could show people the jokes and be on the same level as them and engage with them,” he says.

A celebration of the dead at the Hungry Ghost Festival 1

By Melody Teh  

Prayers are chanted, elaborate meals are offered and wads of fake money are burned to honour the dead during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

Prayers are chanted, elaborate meals are offered and wads of fake money are burned to honour the dead during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

The gates of hell are open, unleashing hungry ghosts into our world.  According to Chinese tradition, the seventh lunar month, which began on August 7, is when restless souls of the dead roam the earth. To appease these spirits, a Hungry Ghost Festival is celebrated, where prayers are chanted, elaborate meals are offered and wads of fake money are burned.

It’s not a festival widely celebrated in Sydney, but Roseville residents Simon and Sara Tong felt so strongly about continuing this tradition that honours the dead, they opened their home to the community on Sunday 17th August for a Hungry Ghost Festival.

“The festival is a time to honour memories of lost loved ones and to pay respect to all who have passed away, especially those who died in difficult circumstances,” Sara Tong says.  “Those are the hungry ghosts, who are restless and hungry because they have no family to return to and nobody to remember them.”

A diverse mix of people from a range of ethnicities and religious backgrounds met at the Tong’s home to share in the ancient tradition.

“What it’s really all about is respect and compassion,” said participant Andrew Halliday. “I try not to think of just one person because for me, it’s about honouring all those who have been here before us.”

Resident Mona Saouma was particularly drawn to the tradition of honouring the dead. “We all have people who have passed away and I think we need to respect them,” she says.

However, one visitor had a different reason to attend the festival.

“It’s a bit selfish, really,” Tony Koroman says, with a  smile. “One day I will be dead, so I want to know that someday someone will be thinking of me.”

The Hungry Ghost Festival ended with a vegetarian feast, which saw everybody come together to enjoy a meal, but also reflect as a group on all those who have passed on.

“Hopefully now the hungry ghosts are satisfied and happy,” says Sara Tong.

Sydney’s homeless numbers down, but more housing needed Reply

by Jessie Davies

Another world behind the red door

Another world behind the red door

The number of people sleeping rough in the city has decreased, according to the latest bi-annual count conducted by Sydney City Council.

The count found 255 people sleeping outdoors on the evening of 5 August, down from 274 in February’s count.   According to the Council, these figures are in line with the downward trend that has seen a 25 per cent reduction in homelessness in the inner city area since 2008.

But Councillor Irene Doutney says that while the Council is doing all it can to house people, gloomy economic forecasts for the coming years pose a threat to its continued progress.

“For us to be able to continue to make a dent in the numbers, we need more public, affordable and supported housing, but getting any type of affordable housing in the inner city area is like pulling teeth,” she says.

“On the economic level, things aren’t looking great.  We really need to secure funding for housing projects and services if we are to stabilise the numbers.”

Councillor Doutney credits much of the city’s recent success in reducing homelessness to its Way2Home initiative, an outreach program that helps homeless people move into long-term housing and re-engage with the community.

Jan Cleveringa’s painting of a First Fleet ship with the words, ‘the first boat people’.

Jan Cleveringa’s painting of a First Fleet ship with the words, ‘the first boat people’.

Cat Goodwin, Service Manager at Way2Home, is proud of the achievements it has made in only three years.

“Since the start of the program, we have housed 85 people from Woolloomooloo alone, and we have achieved a tenancy sustainability rate of 97 per cent,” she says.

At the heart of the program is its ‘housing first’ philosophy, which sees the provision of housing to those who need it most, despite their ongoing problems, which often includes drug or alcohol addiction.

“Once people have a roof over their heads, we then provide them the support they need to maintain their tenancies, whether this be helping them to overcome their addictions or teaching them life skills,” Cat says.

Ashfield-based charity The Exodus Foundation, produces 5,000 meals each week for the disadvantaged right across the city. Suzanne Baran, Social Health and Wellbeing Officer, says that there is no shortage of food available for Sydney’s homeless, just housing.

However, the provision of additional housing won’t necessarily help achieve long-term targets to reduce homelessness, Suzanne adds, pointing to the importance of supported housing programs like Way2Home.

“Housing arrangements such as private boarding houses can become hubs of unwanted activity. They are not supportive environments and often people find themselves back out on the streets,” she says.

Hidden in plain sight Reply

By Tory Crabtree

Skin illustrator Emma Hack was inspired by a Florence Broadhurst wallpaper, Cockatoos, when she painted model from head to toe in a work she entitled Wallpaper Cockatoos.

Skin illustrator Emma Hack was inspired by a Florence Broadhurst wallpaper, Cockatoos, when she painted model from head to toe in a work she entitled Wallpaper Cockatoos.

Camouflage is not just about Army issue cargo pants, polychromatic octopuses, or covering yourself with leaves and claiming to be a tree. Combine the dark arts of deception and concealment and you start to delve into an elusive world.

“Camouflage is a concept that is very adaptable,” says Associate Professor Ann Elias, co-curator of the Camouflage Cultures exhibition. “It is about concealing and revealing. When you reveal something, it is often concealing something else; an endless play on the concept of knowing but not knowing.”

Dr Elias, together with colleague Nicholas Tsoutas, of the Sydney College of the Arts, has worked with 11 local and international artists to put together the exhibition.  Inspired by research for her book, Camouflage Australia, the exhibition explores the many types of camouflage in the world around us.

Sydney-based artist Maria Cardoso has created sculptures that illustrate camouflage in the animal world. On closer inspection, a barren branch is a collection of stick insects. A tree with orange leaves reveals itself to be covered in butterflies.

“I like the works where the viewers are involved, where they are drawn in and surprised,” said Tom Sawkins, 19, a student at the Sydney College of the Arts.

Camouflage in the human world is most often seen as military disguise, and this is a theme in several exhibits. Double Field / Viewfinder (Tarin Kowt) 2010 is a video by Shaun Gladwell, an Australian contemporary artist who works in video, painting and photographs. Filmed in the desert by two serving soldiers, it shows the effectiveness of their camouflaged outfits, as well as the arid bleakness of the desert war environment.

The exhibition also explores the non-military aspect of camouflage. In Wallpaper Cockatoos, Emma Hack, a skin illustrator, painted a model from head to toe to perfectly match a black and white example of a Florence Broadhurst wallpaper.  Emma’s work suggests the human instinct to blend in with the surrounding, and not be out of place.

Similarly the painting Sorry by Debra Dawson hints at the camouflage that can be found in spoken words. Her painting shows the word ‘sorry,’ but only from certain angles.  Step to the side and the word disappears into the blue grey background surrounding it, as if it was never there.

The Camouflage Cultures exhibition took two years to put together, and explores the subtle art of camouflage and its role in the modern world.  It is on at the Rozelle campus of the Sydney College of Art until 31 August 2013.

Planned childcare centre near unfiltered ventilation stack concerns community Reply

By Lauren Mackenzie

Air pollution near busy transport routes like Epping Road is a health hazard. Photograph: express000

Air pollution near busy transport routes like Epping Road is a health hazard. Photograph: express000

Lane Cove residents have called on the Department of Planning to reconsider its concept plan for a high-rise development complex. They claim the area is unfit for residential occupancy due to its close proximity to one of two unfiltered ventilation stacks only a few hundred metres away.

Meriton, Australia’s largest property developer, bought the former Shell service station site on Epping Road in May after the Planning Assessment Commission permitted a development application for the site for six buildings from six to 20 storeys in August last year.

Meriton has requested 12 changes to the initial Voluntary Planning Agreement, including the requirement for a childcare centre catering for 85 children. The planned childcare centre is to be built about 250 metres away from the unfiltered western stack of the Lane Cove Tunnel, which releases volatile toxic compounds such as benzene, toluene and xylenes. It also discharges diesel fumes, which in July last year the World Health Organisation declared to be a level 1 human carcinogen.

In approving the Lane Cove Tunnel, the NSW Department of Planning allowed for 14 tonnes a year of volatile toxic compounds to be released from both stacks.

Some of the major impacts on health include inflammatory lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and alveolitis, adverse effects on lung development for ages 10 to 18 years, significant risk of ovarian and lung cancer and, in some cases, can lead to premature death.

Long-time resident Ray Kearney, former Associate Professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, University of Sydney, is one of the many locals concerned about the serious health impact the complex will have on the community and environment.

“The current air-pollution standards do not relate to health risks. The various regulatory authorities know this is the case, and in my opinion have exploited it to avoid installing filtration,” he says.

The Federal Senate Committee’s report of its inquiry into the health effects of air pollution in Australia, released on August 16, 2013, said that many communities close to industrial sites, major transport routes and infrastructure were being exposed to air quality that did not meet the National Environmental Protection Measure standard’s object of protecting health.

“It would be a dereliction of bureaucratic duty to approve a childcare centre whilst proven carcinogenic and toxic emissions are left uncontained. Buildings will cause downwash and enshroud the children with toxic fumes depending on wind direction”, Dr Kearney says.

The Senate report also revealed that the current monitoring of pollution and health impacts locally was unsatisfactory and a cause for concern among the local community, with data from monitoring stations deemed inaccurate and difficult to obtain.

Local resident Rebeccah Elley, who suffers from asthma, says development should not go ahead unless appropriate measures were undertaken to ensure the safety of residents.

“I worry about the long term effects this will have on our community. I cannot understand how this development could gain approval without addressing serious health concerns,” she says.

Dr Kearney believes the answer lies with filtration. “Filter the stack and then consider a childcare centre,” he says.

The proposed amendments are currently on display at Lane Cove Council and will be assessed and determined by the Planning Advisory Committee by the end of the month.

Childcare centre wins grant to repaint ceiling Reply

By Joseph Ratcliffe


Grant to repaint the ceiling at Centipede means no more
paint flakes in the food.

Centipede, an after-school childcare service in Glebe, has paint on the roof so old that it flakes off and lands in food

Jamie Parker, the State Member for Balmain, recently approved a Community Building Partnership grant application for the repainting of Centipede. Last year, Mr Parker approved another CBP grant for the installation of flooring that replaced the worn and hazardous carpeting.

“It’s important because paint peeling from the ceiling was obviously a health issue. It’s always difficult to raise funds for these types of projects, especially in a community that is struggling financially. It’s always hard to raise money,” he says, adding that it is important to create places where children can enjoy themselves, play and learn.

Kim Payne, Coordinator of Centipede, is responsible for writing the grants to improve the safety of the centre that serves to a wide cultural and socio-economic community.

“A lot of these children have it tough outside these walls,” he says. “As a coordinator for the service, I feel you do your thing while you are here and you leave it in a better state than you found it.”

The children at Centipede are from many cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander children account for 30 per cent, while a further 40 per cent are from non-English speaking backgrounds. The service also has eight children with disabilities who attend on a regular basis.

Many of the children are from the lower end of the socio-economic demographic in Glebe. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 Census data for the suburb shows 13.2 per cent of family households have unemployed parents and 26.2 per cent of households earn under $600 per week.

“Our funds go primarily to staffing and food for the children, so it’s nice to be able to tap into a grant specifically to keep the room at a standard that we need for a child-care service,” says Mr Payne.

He estimates that the repainting of the room should be completed by the beginning of the next school term.

Nostalgia reigns at gangsters’ ball Reply

Guests at the Gangsters’ Ball guests enjoy performances by the Velvet Set.
Photograph by Bridget Kramer

by Bridget Kramer

A thousand flappers, mobsters and molls braved a rainy Sydney evening to attend the 5thAnnual Gangster’s Ball at the Metro Theatre. Costumes were reminiscent of 1920s-1950s mobster dress.  Guests were entertained by burlesque performances, circus acts, swing dancers and the Velvet Set, a swing band featuring the event’s creator, Graham Coupland.

Mr Coupland, a self-confessed “stickler for detail” created the Gangsters’ Ball in 2008 in response to the growing burlesque movement in Sydney. He said he wasn’t satisfied with what was available, and so began featuring burlesque performances in his band’s shows. This eventually developed into what Mr Coupland refers to as his “baby”, the Gangsters’ Ball.


The Google theme: distorted reproduction Reply

Works in the 6th Google Exhibition, Distorted Reproduction, on display at the Seymour Centre.

by Bridget Kramer 

Each year, interested artists go to the Internet and ‘google’ the same phrase at the same time and create works inspired by the search engine’s results. The theme of this year’s Google Exhibition at the Sydney Fringe Festival is ‘Distorted Reproduction’.

The exhibition is a creation of Enmore’s Hardware Gallery. In June, Hardware Gallery posted the following notice on its website, “Artists: we want you. Sign up for our annual [Google] show.” Artists were given a month to apply, and then another month between viewing the set Google results and submitting their artwork for the exhibition.