All posts tagged: Australia

Werribee Gorge

After living in the city for a while, it’s easy to forget how therapeutic nature can be. Surrounded by the bell-like sounds of Australian birdsong and the gorgeous range and depths of nature’s colours, you begin to feel a peace rarely found in cities. On the weekend I spent a day at Werribee Gorge. About an hour’s drive (65 kilometres) from Melbourne, this state park is a lovely place to go picnicking, hiking or even rock-climbing. There are several walks you can do, ranging from a leisurely river walk along the bottom of the gorge to the 4.5-hour (10 kilometre) hike up and down the hills surrounding the valley. There are some beautiful views here, and if you keep your eyes sharp there’s every chance you might get lucky and spot some local wildlife. Unfortunately there is no way to reach Werribee Gorge by public transport — car is the only option. If you’re planning a trip here, make sure you bring supplies as of course there are no shops anywhere nearby. There are toilet facilities and …

Anzac — a documentary

As many of you will know, tomorrow is Anzac Day, an annual memorial day held in Australia and New Zealand on 25 April to remember victims of war. A while ago I came across this 55-minute BBC audio documentary about the Anzac legend produced in December 2012 by Sharon Mascall and introduced by Australian author Thomas Keneally (best known for his book Schindler’s Ark). While it may seem strange turning to a Brit to tell us about the Anzacs, this doco — which includes many interviews with veterans and experts — is worth a listen. The piece explores not only the history of the Anzac story, but also the significant effect that it has had on Australia’s national identity.   BBC Audio Documentary: Anzac   For more information on the 2014 Anzac Day ceremony, visit the Shrine of Remembrance website.  

Classical concerts and White Nights

No excuses to stay in this Saturday night, folks, with two great free events happening over the weekend. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl will showcase the last of three free summer concerts performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra on Saturday 22 Feburary (the second of these will take place tonight). Take a picnic blanket and some nibbles and stretch out under the stars — this is one of my favourite events of the summer. Both tonight’s and Saturday’s concerts begin at 7pm, but it’s best to arrive early to stake out a decent spot on the grass. Also kicking off this Saturday evening is White Night Melbourne, an event that will see Melbourne’s CBD transformed with light installations, street performances, film screenings, music, food, fashion and much more from 7pm until 7am on Sunday. There will be over 100 free events happening over the 12 hours, with many of Melbourne’s major cultural institutions taking part. Last year’s inaugural White Night event attracted over 300,000 visitors, so this year will surely be a busy one. To …

Exhibition: Shaun Tan’s ‘The Lost Thing’

Shaun Tan is one of Australia’s most talented visual storytellers. His illustrated storybooks and graphic novels are nuanced, intriguing and moving, and often explore complex and challenging themes (even those created for children). To describe Tan as a children’s storyteller is limiting — his books go well beyond any age barriers. In fact, his 2006 wordless graphic novel The Arrival was named both ‘Book of the Year’ at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards as well as ‘Picture Book of the Year’ by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. In 2010, Tan was asked to direct a short animated film based on his 2000 book The Lost Thing. The film went on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Short. Here’s the trailer: Recently I stumbled across a small exhibition about The Lost Thing and its cinema adaptation at ACMI. The exhibition features original drawings by the author as well as interviews with the filmmakers describing the production process. The film is also showing here in a small nook next to the main exhibits. The exhibition is really worth …

Events: Indian today, Italian tomorrow

A quick last-minute heads up for you all: two multicultural festivals will be happening in Melbourne this weekend — the Indian Diwali Festival of Light today, and the Carlton Italian Festa tomorrow. The Diwali Festival kicks off at noon in Federation Square and will finish up at 9.30pm. The festivities will include dance performances by an Indian folk dance troupe, food and craft stalls, and fireworks over the Yarra River this evening. Tomorrow, the Italian Festa starts at 11am and includes music performances (including a headline act by a suitably shiny-haired Italian import called Patrizio Buanne), food, pasta-making workshops and the inevitable line-up of gleaming cars and motorcycles. It all wraps up at 8pm. So, no excuses. Get out and get cultured, Melbourne!   Diwali Festival of Light 2013 Date: 26 October 2013 Time: 12pm–9.30pm Where: Federation Square, Melbourne   Carlton Italian Festa 2013 Date: 27 October 2013 Time: 11am–8pm Where: Piazza Italian, Lygon St, Carlton    

Why do books cost so much in Australia?

Books are expensive in Australia — too expensive for many people to afford to buy them regularly. There are complex reasons for this, which, for an economics dummy like me, are difficult to understand. In a nutshell, it seems publishers’ production costs in Australia are higher than in, say, the USA, and local copyright laws prohibit Australian booksellers from ‘parallel importing’ — importing the same books at cheaper prices. A few years ago, the government considered scrapping these restrictions, but finally decided against it. There was much debate about the pros and cons of parallel importing — see these articles by Jeremy Fisher, Michael Wilding and Matthia Dempsey. Having worked as a book editor in a local publishing company, I understand the need to support this industry that nurtures local writers, but on the other hand it’s difficult to do this if you can’t afford to buy its products. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way around this. If you want a locally produced book by your favourite author, you will need to save your pennies and pay for it — usually between $25 …

Event: Tanderrum and Creation

    It’s rare that we city dwellers are exposed to the ancient Aboriginal cultures of this land. Indigenous Australians have inhabited the country for at least 50,000 years, and many scholars consider their culture to be the oldest continuing culture on the planet. Tomorrow evening, Melburnians will be reminded of this extraordinary heritage as the Melbourne Festival kicks off with ‘Tanderrum and Creation’, a free event to be held in Federation Square. First, the Ilbijerri Theatre Company will stage Tanderrum, a Welcome to Country ceremony performed by Elders from the five Kulin Nations of central Victoria. Next, acclaimed Aboriginal singer Archie Roach will perform his new show Creation in an open-air concert (listen to Archie’s new track ‘Song to Sing’ above). Backed by a ten-piece ensemble featuring a string quartet, this promises to be a great gig. This event — all of it — is completely free, so get down to Fed Square tomorrow at 6pm and enjoy.   Tanderrum and Creation Date: 11 October 2013 Time: 6pm (1.5 hours duration) Venue: Federation Square, Melbourne  

Böreks at Queen Vic Market

    Mmm. Böreks. Just thinking about those tasty treats is making my mouth water… If you find yourself in Vic Market and needing a snack, head straight to the börek stall in the delicatessen section of the market. It’s easy to miss — it’s just a single, simple shop front — but you can usually spot it for the crowd. Here you can buy a freshly baked börek with various fillings (cheese and spinach, spicy potato, or spicy lamb — my personal favourite) for only $3. The börek shop also sells wraps for $3, as well as a few other snacks, but everybody comes here for the famous böreks. During peak hour you’ll need to battle your way to the front of the crowd to get your order heard, but it’s all worth it.   The Borek Shop Address: Shop 95, Deli Hall, Queen Victoria Market Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 6am–2pm, Friday 6am–5pm, Saturday 6am–3pm, Sunday 9am–4pm Damage: $3   Read more reviews at

Australian art at the Ian Potter Centre

If you only have time to visit one art gallery in Melbourne, make it the NGV’s Ian Potter Centre. Located in the large buildings at the back of Federation Square, this is the first major gallery in the world to be dedicated exclusively to Australian art. There’s a gorgeous collection of Indigenous art here, as well as some brilliant works from artists such as Sidney Nolan, Fred Williams, Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton, Albert Tucker and Arthur Boyd.     The permanent exhibition is free to enter, so come back as many times as you like.   The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia Address: Federation Square, Melbourne Open: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–5pm (closed Mondays) Tel: 8620 2222 Email: Damage: Free  

foreign language bookshop

    If you’re new to Australia and craving some entertainment in your own language (or you’re trying to learn a new language), head to the Foreign Language Bookshop in Collins Street in the CBD. This place sells books and films in over 125 languages. They stock fiction and non-fiction books, language learning courses, foreign-language board games and gifts, dictionaries, foreign-language travel guides and ESL products. The store is located below street level near the corner of Collins and Elizabeth Streets. It’s easy to miss — keep an eye on street numbers and look for the neon red sign pointing down a flight of stairs.   Foreign Language Bookshop Address: 259 Collins St, Melbourne Open: Monday–Friday 9am–5.30pm, Saturday 10am–5.30pm Tel. 9654 2883 Email: