Monthly Archives: February 2016

VIDEO: Soul kitchen

WARRANDYTE not-for-profit café Now and Not Yet are known for providing great coffee, service and atmosphere for their local community to enjoy. But now its branching out with compassion by supporting Victoria’s refugee community.

In 2015, Now and Not Yet employed two young refugee men from Sri Lanka, Nigethan and Selvam, recently released from Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, a detention centre in Broadmeadows.

One of these men is Nigethan, a skilled chef from Sri Lanka, currently living in Warrandyte and working in Now and Not Yet’s kitchen.

“I spent the last six years in a detention centre, and was released four months ago,” Nigethan told the Diary.

“Now, I am very lucky to be here and to have a job in this restaurant. I am very happy and very thankful for the opportunity.”

Derek Bradshaw, founder and general manager of Now and Not Yet, knew there was something he could do to help asylum seekers find their feet in Australia.

“We got really passionate about the refugee issue and the way 
our government is treating these beautiful and amazing people. We thought why don’t we start utilising our amazing little café to be able to help with training and employment opportunities,” Derek told the Diary.

“Part of our goal is to help people get some longevity and housing. A lot of them can’t get
 a job because they don’t have
 a fixed address, and they can’t 
get a fixed address because they haven’t got a job. These people too, they’ve got amazing skills but they don’t have the opportunity to use them or the chance to get some training under their belt. And long term employment helps them to be able to feel good about themselves and feel like they’re actually contributing to Australian society.”

Nigethan’s contribution to the Warrandyte community has been stellar. An incredible chef with
a heart of gold, Nige has been cooking up delicious food for locals and visitors for the past few months, bringing his own unique touch to each and every dish.

“My favourite dish to cook is the coconut butter chicken. It’s not too spicy. In my country, we cook with lots of spice, but here I cook so that anyone can have it, even children,” he says.

“I’m just working in the kitchen at the moment, so that I can get experience. But then I want to learn to do coffee.”

Now and Not Yet has provided support, housing, employment and friendly guidance to help Nigethan and Selvam find their feet outside the detention centre walls. But the Warrandyte community has also been a force to be reckoned with, donating food, money, bedding and household items to give these men a head start.

“One of the things I love about the Warrandyte community is that they’re really passionate about the things we’re passionate about. They’ve given us everything you can possibly think of. Even one lady who’d done her research
on Sri Lankan food went out and bought us all these Sri Lankan spices and a picnic basket so that they could make food and go down to the river to enjoy beautiful Warrandyte,” Derek says.

Nigethan is especially thankful for Derek and his family, who have taken him in and provided him with a positive start in his life outside of detention. The wider Warrandyte community has also ensured that Nigethan feels welcome everywhere he goes.

“I like going to the river. I also like the coffee and the nice people – it’s nice to see new faces all the time. When I was in the detention centre, it was the same people all the time. But now I really enjoy every day. I really love this place,” he says.

Derek hopes Nigethan and Selvam are the first of many to benefit from Now and Not Yet’s program, helping them not only with housing and employment but also with developing their interview and CV skills and improving their English.

“The long-term goal is to continue the program and get people on the road. But we’ve made a commitment to this and they’re part of the family now, so we will continue to support them, encourage them and make sure they’ve got stability moving forward,” Derek says.

The café manager couldn’t be more proud of the way the Warrandyte community has rallied their support for Nigethan and Selvam, and hopes we can all lend a hand in making a difference for refugees and asylum seekers not only in our community, but in all of Australia.

“It’s not an asylum seeker issue that we’re talking about – we’re talking about real people. People who love and are passionate. I hate the way that it’s become this political issue and it’s completely dehumanised.”

“There is joy that comes from engaging with somebody and stopping the dehumanising of it. It’s great. It’s a really good thing for Warrandyte to be part of. Making a difference and standing up to our government and saying ‘this is not the way that we want to treat people’.”

“They bring a lot to our community so it’s a privilege to be a part of it.”

Grand Gift is all set

RUN Warrandyte’s 2016 event is going to even greater lengths to include and entertain the entire community, premiering the Grand Hotel Warrandyte Gift, a handicapped sprint race which joins other existing events to further bolster the day.

Offering a cash prize, the Gift will be run on the main oval as runners from longer distance events finish their races, allowing spectators to witness an exciting quick sprint event not previously offered on the day.

Sponsored by the Grand Hotel, the Gift is offering a prize of $600 dollars to be split between the three podium places, to give runners a little incentive before taking off. The day (Sunday March 6) kicks off with the 15km run at 8am sharp, followed by the 10km, 5km, and two point 2km events shortly after. The U8s have centre stage next, before heats start for the inaugural gift at 9am.

The day can’t be run without volunteers and those who are interested need only register online. This year the road events have been altered, with a section of rough added to the now famous Run by the River. The familiar 2.2km run/walk event now only contains one lap of the Second Avenue loop, but has runners doing more on the main oval. All other tracks have been changed slightly, and include the Pound Bend Tank, all starting and finishing on the main oval. All participants who register online will receive a Run Warrandyte running singlet as part of their entry fee and money raised will aid local sporting clubs – Warrandyte Junior Football Club, Warrandyte Football Club, Warrandyte Netball Club and Warrandyte Cricket Club. Visit warrandytesports.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire & rain

THE drama of fire and rain featured in Chris Scott’s young life. She was born in Warrandyte in 1934, the year of the great flood, when the Yarra River overflowed its banks and spread as a single lake from Richmond to Warrandyte.

The heavy rain throughout the state caused the river to rise above Yarra Street and the locals had to wade across the river at the football ground to get to the township.

“I was only a couple of months old at the time,” Chris said. “So I have no memory of the flood, but I remember well the Black Friday bushfires of 1939.

“My mum Phyllis, sister Robin and I were sitting in the river opposite the cliffs when the fire roared across the top of us as we huddled under wet blankets. I wasn’t scared and thought it was exciting. I was only five at the time.

“Our house in Castle Rd survived, but the ferns growing alongside the house were all scorched. Unfortunately the family car was burnt. The next week when we passed some burnt out stumps in Everard Drive, I told my little sister that there were witches living in them.”

Chris was born into one of Warrandyte’s oldest families and can trace her ancestry back to the gold rush days of 1853, when her great-great Uncle John Hutchinson arrived here. John held the position of pound keeper from 1855 until 1872. Her great-great grandfather William Hutchinson arrived in 1855 and eventually owned all the land from the top of Melbourne Hill down to the tunnel.

Her father Richard Spetts married Phyllis Hutchinson and they both worked in the local butcher shop. They set up their home and started to raise their family in Castle Road.

“It was great living near the river and us kids spent all summer swimming there, but we had to scurry home for tea when we heard our father’s whistle,” Chris said with a smile.

When Chris was eight years old, her parents split up and both she and her sister were sent to live in a boarding school in Killara.

“We both hated it, some of the sisters were very strict.”

Two years later their dad came and rescued the girls from Killara and took them to live with him and their grandmother in Croydon.

“They were good years and dad tutored me in mathematics and algebra. After his tutoring I received top marks,” she said with pride.

Eventually Chris and Robin returned to live in Warrandyte when their father took them back to the family home in Castle Road.

“I loved being back in Warrandyte and it felt like I had come home,” said Chris. “We were much more independent and free living here. I loved it so much that after I married, I imported my husband Jack to Warrandyte.

Chris remembers walking to Warrandyte Primary School in the mornings.

“I mostly enjoyed school but wasn’t too happy when one of the teachers picked me up by the fringe of my hair,” she said.

“At school during WWII we used to train in case of air raid attack. The boys dug trenches and we had to crouch in the trenches with our erasers clamped between our teeth. The teachers made us do that in case a bomb went off and we damaged our teeth.

“We were also trained not to look up in case the Japanese fighter pilots could look down and see the whites of our eyes,” she added with an incredulous grin. “During the war when the men were away fighting, my mum drove Walsh’s bakers van and Babe Stewart drove the Ringwood bus.”

Chris was 17 when she met her husband Jack (then 22) for the first time outside the Melbourne Town Hall. They were friendly at a party three months later and married within two and a half years at the historic Christ Church in South Yarra.

“It was a year after the Queen visited that same church,” said Chris. “You couldn’t get down Chapel Street the day the Queen was there.”

After that the couple bought a house in Houghton’s Road.

“We worked hard and had the house paid for in two years,” said Chris. “It was a good start.”

They started a family of four children. Michael now is 61, Susan 59, Linda 58 and Macgregor 54.

Next March, Chris and Jack will have been married for 62 years.

“When I first met Chris, I asked her where she lived,” chimed in Jack. “She replied Warrandyte and I said where the hell is that? But there has never been a dull moment and we complement each other.”

Chris agreed. “We are both Libras and balance each other out. It’s funny though, all our kids have married Libras too.”

“Jack spent 10 years as a councilor on Manningham City Council and served for a year as mayor in 1977. He is very civic-minded and wanted to represent our town with a voice in council to keep from excessive development of Warrandyte. Not to stop development, but to make sure it was appropriate.”

The couple has four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren and keep busy tending their garden in Knees Road. But life is not all roses and about five years ago the Scotts were given a new challenge.

“Jack was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and that has slowed him up a bit,” said Chris.

Recently she was asked to share her experience with Alzheimer’s by being a guest speaker with Alzheimer’s Australia.

“I’m not used to making speeches but I think I did OK,” she said.

Jack immediately smiles and offers his heartfelt support.

“You did it well Chris, you did it well!”

What contamination?

AN Environment Protection Authority Victoria investigation has revealed there has been no contamination of the Yarra River and surrounds at Pound Bend Reserve.

A leaked incident and hazard report detailing a poorly maintained wash down facility in the Warrandyte State Park has caused much controversy since it surfaced recently and also ignited some wild speculation and guesswork on Warrandyte social media pages.

The report revealed an apparent chemical contamination of the Yarra River and surrounding vegetation within the Pound Bend workcentre.

While the validity of the report’s claims have been questioned by Friends of the Warrandyte State Park (FOWSP), the matter has seemingly been put to rest by the results of an EPA investigation which proved there was no contamination of the river or surrounds.

According to the original report, which was written on April 29 last year, the wash down facility was “used to pressure wash vehicles, to triple rinse chemical containers and to mix/fill herbicides for use in the park”.

The report revealed the facility led to chemical drainage into the Yarra River and consequent nearby tree death. It also claimed “the wash bay doesn’t meet any legal requirements and if the EPA was informed, PV would face serious fines”.

The report surfaced in early January and was published by major news outlets. The allegations caused uproar from the media and general public as many were led to believe the issue was ongoing.

“These are shocking revelations of the Yarra being poisoned in a secret government report which Daniel Andrews has tried to bury,” said shadow environment minister Brad Battin.

“Daniel Andrews needs to order a full investigation into what’s been done to stop this environmental vandalism,” he added.

In response to the abundance of reports and articles, Friends of the Warrandyte State Park (FOWSP) committee of management addressed the accusations for the Diary in an official statement.

“We are not aware of any negative impact to the environment as detailed in the report – there is no out-of-the-ordinary dead vegetation downhill of the ‘wash-down’ facility. We would, of course, be greatly concerned, if this were the case.

“FOWSP enjoys a close working relationship with the rangers who operate from the Pound Bend workcentre. Their concern for safety and the environment is not only paramount, but it’s their job. As such, we do not believe that any of their staff would knowingly be a party to the actions in the aforementioned report.”

Committee member of the FOWSP Jason Patton elaborated on this with a list of his own personal observations after attaining a copy of the infamous report.

“There is NO tree death downhill from the site – well, actually there is one dead tree among a stand of healthy trees,” he told the Diary.

“The Yarra River is some 200m downhill from the site, including crossing an 80m alluvial plain. Is anyone aware of any water quality checks that prove that the Yarra has been contaminated from this site?

“I am not versed in the operation of the containment facility (pits, etc), but I CAN say that from my many visits there, it is designed as a retention basin to prevent release of poisons to the surrounding environment.”

The report certainly raises questions as there is no sign of river contamination or dead vegetation at the time of its public release.

However, local MP Ryan Smith said the report would have been filled in by the Warrandyte State Park rangers themselves.

“In this case, Parks Vic rangers themselves would have filled in the report as they noticed the effects of the waste water on surrounding vegetation. So, in short, this is a self-acknowledged incident, not a report done by an external party,” he said.

“The Warrandyte State Park rangers would have noted it for their bosses. What happens then was a decision for those higher up the chain.”

On January 20, Parks Victoria released a statement with the results of the EPA’s recent investigation into Warrandyte State Park’s waste management practices.

The EPA confirmed there was “no current contamination of the Yarra from these herbicides” and “minor herbicide contamination of soil near the wash bay” at the Warrandyte Depot.

Parks Victoria chief executive Bradley Fauteux revealed that resolution of the incident commenced in June of 2015.

“I am pleased that there is no current evidence of herbicides being washed into the Yarra. Herbicide washing in the facility ceased in June last year after the issue was flagged by staff in an internal occupational, health and safety report,” Mr Fauteux said.

“Trucks now come in to remove sediment. We have commenced an investigation and an immediate and ongoing state-wide review of our facilities, including wash bay facilities and reporting procedures.”

While the issue appears to be somewhat resolved, Mr Smith said he did not find that explanation conclusive enough.

“There has been no feedback about why practices allowed it to happen or what has actually been done to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” he said. “The response seems to have been ‘OK, it was wrong, it’s fixed, please move on’. I think that locals need more reassurance than this.”

Mr Patton, on the other hand, remains sceptical about the accuracy of the report in the first place.

“I do not believe that there ever was any contamination, from the lack of dead vegetation. The ‘report’, which is merely five bullet-points, would appear to be written by someone who does not have an understanding of the area, for example, a temp worker, or visitor.

“Unfortunately, the public and media have jumped on the report, and taken it verbatim – no investigation of the site.”

Brackenbury blaze

A MAKESHIFT ashtray was the cause of a fire that gutted a house in Brackenbury Street, according to Warrandyte CFA, as emergency vehicles from Warrandyte, South Warrandyte, North Warrandyte and Eltham CFAs attended the blaze and quickly brought it under control.

Warrandyte CFA captain Adrian Mullens said: “It started at the back at the house – an old, small tomato tin used as an ashtray.”

The house was only a few hundred metres away from Yarra Street, Warrandyte’s busiest part of town, and fortunately no person or animal was injured in the blaze thanks to the excellent response by a combination of seven tankers and pumpers, police, ambulance and rehabilitation unit. A fire investigator and regional officers also attended.

Neighbours called 000 after smelling smoke about 1.30pm on Thursday January 28. Resident Cassie Jones told the Diary she could smell smoke for about half an hour before taking a look around the area to see where it was coming from.

“The CFA trucks were here within minutes,” she said.

“That same house only had a fire that did some damage just a few years ago as well.” Something the Warrandyte CFA confirmed this week, informing the Diary of a chimney fire at the property in recent years.

It is believed the house was left with extensive damage after fire came through the back wall near where the ashtray was situated and through the rooftop with large amounts of smoke billowing out and across nearby streets.

As one local pointed out, the fire is an ominous reminder that had the fire happened only a few weeks earlier on a low humidity, high temperature windy day, containment would have been very difficult.

The house is very close to the old goldmines and bushland protected as part of the Warrandyte State Forest, as well as several nearby houses and commercial buildings in the main street.

Smoke and embers emitted on a severe or catastrophic risk day would have created problematic spot fires in a challenging residential and commercial area.

While our CFA crews and emergency services clearly did a fantastic job, it’s also worth noting the strong community spirit shown on the Warrandyte Business and Commu- nity Group page when several locals immediately committed to offering all sorts of assistance and help for the owner of the property, including somewhere to stay.

“The owner was only gone for an hour and it happened in that time,” Warrandyte CFA captain Adrian Mullens told the Diary. “A pet dog was in the house and the minute the boys opened the door, the dog scooted so fortunately no people or animals were hurt.

The fire initially was in the roof space (the bulk of the fire) and where the ashtray burnt – the point of origin at the back wall.”

A Manningham building inspector arrived at the house, removed the certificate of occupancy, and power and gas was immediately disconnected while asbestos was also identified in the building.

“It certainly wasn’t habitable afterwards,” Capt Mullens said.

“We salvaged what we could get from the house but there’s extensive damage.”