Saturday, November 27, 2010

State Polling Day

I live opposite Altona College. People flock to this place every 3-4 years to execute their citizen duties, as it is a polling venue. Cars will line up on both sides of Civic Parade and into the side streets. I do not know whether Polling Day is declared a public holiday in Australia but it is in Singapore. People hoping for an extra weekday public holiday will however be disappointed as Polling Day is always scheduled on a Saturday in Singapore, without exception.

State Polling Altona College A

There appears to be much fewer people today, compared to that for the Federal Election. This is a surprise as I would expect a higher turnout in the morning as heavy rains are forecasted to take place in the afternoon. The Age has reported that Victoria has a record-breaking number of early voters, with many people already casted their votes in inner city suburbs such as Melbourne and Brunswick prior to Polling Day. Could this explain the apparently trickling turnout at Altona College in the morning?

State Polling Altona College 2

People are enterprising. Altona College has organized a fund-raising sausage sizzle, targeting the people turning up at the College to cast their votes.

Sausage Sizzle

There is also a garage sales taking place right across the street, opposite Altona College. Like other curious passerbys, I had also stopped by to see what are on offer.

Garage Sales 01

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Backyard

The Louis Joel Arts Gallery is now showing an art exhibition called "My Backyard", featuring paintings from two Williamstown ladies, Margot Grant and Mandy McCarthy. This exhibition is scheduled from 12 to 21 November but has been extended to 29 November. It is a prelude to their larger exhibition to be held at the Hilton Hotel in Tullamarine in 2012.

Ladies  04Ladies  05Ladies  01

The artists noted that the western suburbs' landscape is often seen as flat and featureless with no mountains and just sky, water and suburbia. This inspired them to portray in their paintings both the natural and industrial aspects of Williamstown, including the large container ships often seen travelling under the West Gate Bridge.

My Backyard 05My Backyard 04
My Backyard 03My Backyard 02

The paintings are available for purchase.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dragonfly Swarm

Two weeks ago, the Age reported that the locusts had arrived in Melbourne, with sightings in suburbs such as Brunswick, Carlton, East Melbourne, Doncaster East, Brighton and Berwick.

Locust Activity in VictoriaLocust Activity in Greater Melbourne
Locust on keyboardLocust on car
Images from an article published on 12 Nov 2010 in The Age

I was telling my wife to look out for locusts in our garden. I have not witnessed the ravage caused by a locust plague but I can imagine that it will be appalling. Luckily the rains came which put a check on the advancement of these destructive creatures.

The Sunday Age suggested how you can help the nation: "Who can afford to put a shrimp on the barbie at $30 a kilo? There is, however, an abundance of shrimp-like creatures that are said to barbecue well. And you don't even have to go to the supermarket. They come to you. Locusts. You'll not only save money, you'll save the nation. Eat locusts before they eat everything else."

Two days ago, it was very warm and we decided to go to the Altona Beach at 7 pm. When my car reached Logan Reserve along the Esplanade, the front view was blocked by a swarm of flying insects - an amazing sight to a city bumpkin like me. I immediately exclaimed without thinking "Are these locusts?" My wife replied "No, they are dragonflies." The following evening, we again saw the swarming of dragonflies over the beach end of Pier Street, besides Logan Reserve.

I have never seen so many dragonflies before, similiar to what is shown in the youtube video below. This video is used in a very interesting Insect Blog called The Dragonfly Woman, which the author creates as part of her Ph.D. study and which she uses to collect data on dragonflies swarming.

Video by The Dragonfly Woman

Dragonflies belong to the order Odonata, an ancient insect group and one of the earliest flying creatures on Earth. It is characterized by large multifaceted eyes, an elongated body and two pairs of strong transparent wings. Dragonflies are big, strong fliers and hold their wings perpendicular to their bodies when resting.

2008-09-20- 356_1 Dragonfly on wing (London Wetland Centre)
Photo by Jim Thorne

Dragonflies are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, known as "nymphs" need an aquatic habitat. They are valuable predators that feed on small insects such as mosquitoes, flies, bees, ants and very rarely butterflies.

Dragonfly swarm
Photo by Steven Young

Dragonflies are active only on warm days, requiring an air temperature of at least 18 degrees Celsius to get them moving. The high temperature during the last 3 days had caused the dragonflies to swarm. This was clearly a static feeding swarm rather than a mass migratory swarm, as the swarm was localized to a specific area, occurred near dusk and before a cold front. There were also thousands of other small insects flying and swarming above the grass, stirred up by the winds. The dragonflies congregated to prey on this abundant food source, thereby producing the phenomenon of swarming. The swarming occurred near Logan Reserve, where the tall trees provided a shelter against strong winds.

Video showing a denser swarm

Video by Marion

Warm weather causes both dragonflies and locusts to swarm. While one is beneficial, the other wrecks immeasurable damage.

Ambulance No-Go Zones

The Sunday Herald Sun has recently reported a list of Victorian Ambulance No-Go Zones. Reservoir is the suburb with the largest number of addresses where paramedics routinely refuse to attend to unless escorted by police. This is followed by Frankston, Preston and Dandenong.

SuburbNumber of No-Go Zones

  • Article published on the Sunday Herald Sun on 24 November 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Altona Summer Safety Family Day

We and a group of friends take turn to host a gathering each Sunday. The last two gatherings were at the friends' homes in Deer Park and Hoppers Crossing. The last Sunday on 21 November was our turn. I realized that the Altona Summer Safety Family Day would also be held on this day. What a good coincidence! I will take advantage of this occasion and allow the Hobsons Bay City Council to provide the activities and entertainment. I only need to supply the food. We went to Logan Reserve early and fortunately, we were able to get a table and sit in comfort to enjoy the picnics food.


Staff from the Victoria State Emergency Services (SES) came to our table to distribute bags of goodies and asked us to visit their booth where they are providing a service of tightening car number plates.

Soon my friends started drifting away from the table to various locations in Logan Reserve. One moment, they were getting balloons for their kids. Another moment, they were taking photos of the kids in the miniature police cars. Yet another moment, a photo shoot with the roving "teddy bear" and "bunny". I thought I have taken photos of the bunny but apparently, I did not. My friend from Deer Park had brought along a little girl, his next-door neighhbour. This girl too enjoyed the outing - she had her face painted like a cat!

There are some activities for the adults too. My wife and her friends were preoccupied with assembling wooden money boxes at the Bunnings booth. Meanwhile, I was coaxing my daughter to move forwards inside the jumping castle. I think everyone is having a good time. When it was time to adjourn to my house for a cake and beer, my friends from Hoppers Crossing did not follow my car but stayed back a little longer at Logan Reserve to listen to the band.

Miniature Police Car 1Police & Thief
Angie & TeddyLinda, Aaron & Teddy

When I had the time to go through the SES goodies bag, I found a colouring book for kids and some pamphlets teaching people how to plan and prepare for floods and storms. The pamphlet says "Don't let recent droughts fool you, Victoria is still prone to major flooding. Australia has a variable climate dominated by droughts and flooding rains....If you live or work close to a creek, river, major stormwater drain, you may be at risk from floods even if you have never experienced flooding before, as every flood is different..."

Altona has 3 creeks, a sea and a large lake. No wonder it needs to be prepared for floods this summer!

Monday, November 22, 2010


There is a type of trees that bear uniquely-shaped bright red flowers and can be found in great abundance on both sides of the railway tracks as well as along many streets in Altona. I was wondering what these trees are called and was not able to find the answer from Google search. When I asked my next-door neighbour last Saturday, she told me the tree is called bottebrush. Indeed, the cylindrical flowers with their bristle-like stamens closely resemble a bottle brush.

Bottlebrush 05

The genus is Callistemon, which means "beautiful stamens". It comes under the family Myrtaceae and has 34 species, most which are endemic to Australia, along the east coast and south-west and with 4 species also found in New Caledonia. Callistemon was recently placed into the genus Melaleuca.

Bottlebrush 02
Callistemon viminalis or the Weeping Bottlebrush

The tree normally flowers from October to December during Spring and early Summer but may also flower at other times of the year under the right conditions. The flowering seems to have passed its peak in Altona, with many of the stamens being shed and the red taking on a duller colour.

The flower spikes are made up of many individual flowers and each stamen consists of a long coloured stalk called the filament which holds the pollen on its tip. It is these filaments which give the flower spike its colour and distinctive "bottlebrush" shape. In most species, the filaments are red but can be yellow, green, orange or white in other species.

Each flower produces a small, woody fruit containing hundreds of tiny seeds. These fruits form in clusters along the stem, and are usually held on the plant for many years before being released. But in some species, the fruits open after about a year. Fire also stimulates the opening of the fruits in some bottlebrushes.

The plant is relatively slow-growing though the larger species can grow up to 15 metres tall. The new leaves of many bottlebrushes are very ornamental - they are often coloured, linear to lanceolate, covered with fine, soft hairs in some species and not shed during winter.

Bottlebrush 06

Bottlebrushes are sometimes used as food by the larvae of hepialid moths of the genus Aenetus including A. ligniveren. These larvae burrow horizontally into the trunk then vertically down.

I love my street in Altona, its serenity and wide open spaces, and this is the third post showing this street (Post 2 and Post 1).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Backyard Sunset

Have you ever experienced this? One late afternoon, while you are busy in your kitchen, a golden-orange light shines into your house and casts a warm glow on the walls, fittings and furniture. You are tempted to put aside your chores and step outside the house to take a look. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the sky horizon beyond your back fence. The twilight sun has painted the clouds salmon-red against a darkening canvas. The sight is beholding and you feel that time has stand still, at least for now.

Red Cloud A

My most memorable sunset occurred on 19 January 1998. On that day, a public mass memorial service was held by the Singapore government in memory of the 104 victims who had perished in the SilkAir (a Singapore Airline's subsidiary) MI 185 plane crash in Palembang, Indonesia on 19 December 1997. The service was telecasted live on TV and the ceremony was conducted by the chiefs of the nine major religions in Singapore. After the service had ended, I noticed from my windows that the whole sky had turned gold (not red), as though the gateway to heaven had opened. I was spellbound by the phenomenon, which took place around 5 pm (not when the sunset was supposed to take place), there was no prior rain or pollution and was unusual in Singapore. I have only seen such a sunset once and not again. Perhaps, the heaven had answered.

PS. I searched on the internet for a photo of the Singapore sunset on 19/01/98 but could not find any.

How has moving to Altona changed me?

After coming to Melbourne in 2003, I had confined myself within the eastern suburbs and the CBD for the next 4 years. I stepped outside my cocoon with the move to Altona in 2007. The shift from east to west had opened my eyes to a much larger world that I was previously oblivious of. This prompted me to know more about Melbourne and I had since visited most parts of Melbourne including the western, eastern and northern suburbs. I believe that knowledge is power and a better understanding of Melbourne may come in useful in the future.

I was renting first in Glen Huntly, followed by Carnegie in the east prior to settling in Altona. Perhaps because I felt that I was a transient guest as a renter, I did not take an interest in finding out more about the local area. When I bought my own house in Altona, I no longer felt it right to live a hermit existence. Removed is the uncertainty of where I would lay my roots. I find it imperative that I should explore the suburb and environs thoroughly. For the first time, I became connected to the area that I live in. My fondness of Altona grew day by day and from this came the sense of identity and belonging to this beautiful suburb.

Postcode3018 Altona/Seaholme3163 Carnegie/Glenhuntly3056 Brunswick
Fully Owned45.9%29.1%26.4%
Data obtained from

The above table shows the percentage of renters and owner-occupiers in 3 postcodes in the western (postcode 3018), eastern (3163) and northern (3056) suburb. Melbourne suburbs with a higher percentage of renters are usually nearer the City or universities. They also tend to differ in demographics compared to those suburbs with more owner-occupiers. The renters are usually young people, who have not yet established families. The mobility rate is high, with frequent movements of people in and out of the suburb. The suburbs are usually characterized by a higher proportion of students/city workers, a more multicultural character and a proliferation of bars and lounges to cater to the young people.

Altona is relatively low in renters compared to other Melbourne suburbs. I would say it is a more family-oriented suburb. This is reflected by many local activities being targeted towards families and children. In line with this family emphasis, Pier Street is designated an alcohol-free zone. In fact, many families in neighbouring suburbs such as Altona North, Altona Meadows and Point Cook are attracted to the beach, playgrounds and shops in Altona.

I feel that the high owner-occupier ratio is a plus for Altona. Only when you call a place your permanent abode, then will you feel that you are a part of that place and you will then invest time, effort and money, in making the suburb a better place for you and everyone to live in. I feel warmed by the knowledge that many Altona residents have strong pride for their suburb. Many residents would spend a lot of time tending their gardens, which will in turn beautify the streets and help to raise the overall quality of environment in Altona. I was too transformed from someone with absolutely no knowledge of gardening to someone who would visit Bunnings frequently to shop for plants, seeds, fertilizers and gardening tools.

When I moved to Altona, I discovered there is the so called east-west divide, not only of the better infrastructure and facilities in the eastern suburbs, but also of the myopic mentality that some segments of the population hold. A substantial number of people living in the eastern suburbs still harbour deep-seated prejudices towards the western suburbs. They would categorically pronounce western suburbs as undesirable places to live in, although they may not have even set their feet upon the western suburbs. What little they know of the region comes not through their personal experiences but from what they have heard from other people. Ignorance breeds ignorance. I feel that I could make use of my abilities and skills to do something for the local community. This leads to the birth of this blog, in which I will do my best in highlighting the positive aspects of Altona and showing interesting facets of life in Altona.

An unintended consequence of moving to Altona is the awakening of my interest in following Australian politics. When I was living in the eastern suburbs, I practically knew very little about the Federal and State politics. I only know that the Australian Prime Minister is John Howard at that time. I know of no other Australian politicians. It was by a stroke of fate that I purchased a house in the same street as Julia Gillard. It was several months later that I learnt that a politician lives a few houses away. From opposition, she became the Deputy Prime Minister and then the Prime Minister. This ignited my interest in Australian politics. I can say that now I probably know about Australian politicians more than most native-born people do.

To sum up, I believe that I have changed for the better since moving to Altona.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


In the post "An Imagined Future of Altona", I suggested the establishment of a Biotechnology Industry in Altona. I did not realize that there is already one biotechnology company that has made it big on the international scene. Plantic Technologies, a world-leading innovator in bioplastics, is based in Altona where its headquarter, R & D and manufacturing facilities are located. The company also has sales offices in Germany, U.K. and the U.S., employing about 50 people worldwide.

Plantic Technologies was founded in 2003, based on a technology developed from federally-funded research into plastics carried out at the Co-operative Research Centre for International Food Manufacture and Packaging Science, involving scientists from Swinburne University, University of Queensland and CSIRO.

Photo published in Sydney Morning Herald on 15 Nov 2010

Its cutting-edge bioplastic is called Plantic and is made from a renewable, abundant and economical organic source - starch derived from high-amylose, non-genetically-modified corn. It is 40% more cost-competitive than petrochemical-based plastics, while delivering the same performance, protection and presentation capabilities. The unique chemical properties of the amylose molecule enable Plantic to be customised in a variety of colours and thicknesses, to suit a wider range of applications than other bioplastics.

Being totally biodegradable, compostable and water-soluble, Plantic is very environmentally-friendly. It decomposes safely, effectively and completely after its useful shell life and does not remain in landfills. This is unlike petrochemically-derived plastics which take a long time to break down, thereby incurring significant waste management and environmental costs. Petrochemical raw materials are also non-renewable, potentially polluting and have fluctuating prices.

Plantic-based products are anti-static, sealable, printable, laser-etchable, safe and easy to work with. They provide an excellent gas, taint and odour barrier, and can be hybridized to conventional plastics for creating a potentially limitless range of uses.

Plantic material, produced as extruded sheets or resin granules, is sold worldwide for use across the complete spectrum of conventional plastics applications, including thermoforming, injection moulding, film extrusion, blow moulding, rigid and flexible packaging. From food and beverage packaging to medical, automotive and aerospace applications, there is virtually no industry that will not soon benefit from this new technology. One of Plantic Technology's specialties is trays used in the packaging of foods like fine chocolates, which help to keep the food dry, provide protective cushion and separate food pieces from each other.

Plantic appeals to environmentally-conscious consumers who want to reduce plastic wastes. Major multinational corporations have been quick to adopt this bioresponsible technology. Plantic customers include significant Australian and international users of packaging such as Marks & Spencer, Nestlé, Sainsbury's and Cadbury Schweppes while Plantic material is distributed even more widely to other industries around the world via global leaders such as DuPont Packaging, Industrial Polymers, Visy Industries and Klockner Pentaplast.

Leading British retailer Marks & Spencer has announced that it will sell its entire Swiss chocolate range this Christmas in Plantic plastic trays. Chocolate lovers will now have no guilt of what do with the leftover trays - they can just throw the trays on their compost heap and they will be turned into natural fertilizers in no time!

Reference Source

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Ranunculus Extravaganza

I first knew of this beautiful flower called Ranunculus when I visited Gardenworld on Springvale Road - a really cool place with its own cafe! I bought a pot of Tecolote Ranunculus Sunset, after being mesmerized by its brilliant golden-orange colour.

Orange Ranunculus
Photo by Luigi

The genus Ranunculus has about 600 species, of which Ranunculus asiaticus (also known as Persian Buttercup) has large, brightly-coloured flowers and is popular as an ornamental garden plant and in floristry. In Spring, the flowers burst with lustrous petals that take on a thin, crepe-like appearance and have vivid colours, varying from red to pink, orange, yellow and white.

Ranunculus 4

The name Ranunculus comes from Late Latin, meaning "little frog", probably because many species are found near water, like frogs. Ranunculus is known by several local names, each with an interesting story.

This flower is called Coyote’s Eyes by native Sahaptin tribes living along Columbia River in the United States. The name comes from a legend of a coyote popping his eyes from his head and tossing them to heaven for self-amusement. Before he could catch his eyes on their return to Earth, a flying vulture snatched the eyes away. Confused and sightless, the coyote decided to create new eyes from the heads of ranunculus flowers.

One Asian mythology describes a prince with a lovely voice who enjoyed taking long walks in the open country and singing to the nymphs that roamed these regions. He fell madly in love with one such nymph but failed to express his love and eventually died from disappointment. Upon his death, his body began to transform into the shape of small, delicately-petaled flowers which were then given his name.

Ranunculus flowers are frequently given as gifts due to their dazzling appearance. However, they have come to symbolize how much the giver is physically attracted to the recipient and hence, are becoming a favorite flower during weddings and other romantic occasions.

Ranunculus A

My next door neighbour taught me how to grow Ranunculus. After the flowers have withered, the bulbs should be dug out from the ground, separated (one bulb gives rise to several) and stored in a cool, dry place for replanting in the next growing season. With this method, my neighbour is able to multiply his number of plants each year.

Last year, my neighbour planted the Ranunculus too late so the flowers did not manage to blossom before the weather got too hot. This time round, the conditions (rain and temperature) were perfect, resulting in a stunning spectacle of colours!

Ranunculus Anthony

Below is a youtube video on Ranunculus.

Video by luigi48fdv

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Seaholme Reef

While the Altona Foreshore near the Pier is more sandy and has a beach, the Seaholme Foreshore is very rocky. In particular, the stretch with a good view of the Melbourne CBD, has many big boulders on the seabed, which are exposed at low tides.

In the above photo, you can zoom in to have a closer look at the Melbourne CBD and the Dandenong Mountain Range to the right.

Seaholme Boat1

According to Altona Yacht Club's document, the Seaholme Reef is also known as Wise's Reef. The Seaholme Foreshore is a favorite spot with boaters and for fishing.

Seaholme Coast A

You can see people unloading boats from their cars besides the Seaholme Foreshore.

Seaholme Beach A

Below is a spectacular video taken by Darren. From Millers Road, he turned his car left into the Esplanade and stopped at the same location shown in the photo above, where there is a ramp to the beach. In this video, you can really sense the roundness of the Earth and the ubiquitousness of water.

Video by Darren

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Road Less Travelled

One day when I was walking around Cherry Lake, I discovered a mud footpath up a mound north of Cherry Lake, where the summit commands a bird-eyed view of the lake. You will also be able to see the Cherry Sedgeland, which is otherwise not visible at ground level from the Cherry Trail.

I was not alone at the summit. There were already other people around. A car appeared from nowhere, made a U-turn and drove away in the direction where it came from. I went to ask a man how the car managed to get up this mound and he told me it is via Kororoit Creek Road. It was very late so I decided to be adventurous on another day.

A few weeks passed by and I had not forgotten the desire to satisfy my curiosity. The day came when I finally made the trip. From Kororoit Creek Road (in the direction towards Laverton), I turned my car left into Augusta Boulevard which continues into Drake Boulevard and Aylesbury Drive, as shown in the map below.

View The Road Less Travelled in Altona in a larger map

From the bitumen road, the car entered grassland before it followed a mud path up the mound. This path is wide enough only for a single car to pass through.

Road Less Travelled C

Along the way, you can see a pond, which I name it the "Oasis" due to the surrounding scrubby terrain. In an earlier post, I had called this region the "Northern Territory of Altona" as it is located in the northern part and it also has a rocky formation that bears uncanny resemblance to the Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory

Oasis A

There is a separate footpath at a higher elevation, where you can see some huge rocks. I recalled a newspapers article published in The Age that says Julia Gillard has put Altona on the world map, just like what Bill Clinton did to Little Rock, his hometown in Arkansas. I will hence call these rocks "The Little Rock of Australia". They are in fact no less impressive than "La Petite Roche" that gives Little Rock of Arkansas, its name.

Hanging Rocks A

Finally, the car reached the highest part of the mound where you can take in panoramic views of the Cherry Creek, the Cherry Sedgeland and of course, the Cherry Lake.

Road Less Travelled B

On the descent journey, drive your car slowly for you will never know whether there will be another car heading up the mound on this narrow path.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Everyday when I take train home or to work, I will marvel at the pink carpets of pigface as the train passes by the Altona Coastal Park. Now is the best time to have a close look as the pigface is in full bloom. However, it has been raining. When the sky cleared last Saturday, we immediately paid a visit to the Altona Coastal Park.

Pigface F

Carpobrotus is a genus of ground-creeping plants, with large daisy-like flowers, succulent leaves and long stems. The name refers to its edible fruits, “karpos” meaning fruit and “brota” meaning edible in Greek. Common names include ice plant and pigface, so called because the flower resembles a pig's face – an association that will require a high level of imagination!

There are about 25 species within the genus, with a worldwide distribution. Most species are found in South Africa, one in South America, one in California and Oregon, and four in southern Australia. One species, Carpobrotus glaucescens, is noted for bearing salty fruits - a rare property in fruits. In Victoria, this species grows only in coastal far-east Gippsland.

The species found in Altona Coastal Park is Carpobrotus rossii. This is a native groundcover, common on sand dunes and rocky cliffs along the Victorian, Tasmanian, South Australian and Western Australian coastlines. Its common name is Native Pigface while its aboriginal name is Karkalla. It is named after William Ross, a botanical collector.

Pigface & Flying Birds

Karkalla is drought and somewhat frost resistant. It will withstand strong winds, salt spray and sand blasting. This tough plant will grow through sand drifts, even if completely covered. They can be useful to hold drifting sand and to colonize rapidly disturbed areas where water is of limited availability. Hence, it is useful in preventing dune erosion. Carpobrotus acinaciformis, an American species, is also fire-resistant and used as a ground cover.

Pigface G

Karkalla is a perennial plant with prostrate stems of 2 metres long or more, which often root at the nodes. Its leaves are succulent, 3.5–10 cm long and 6-11 mm thick, often incurved, green to bluish-green, smooth, triangular in cross-sections with slightly concave faces and pointed tips. The leaves act as water storage organs enabling the plant to survive hot, dry summers on coastal cliffs and sand.

The flowers are daisy-like, 4-6 cm in diameter, with numerous linear petals (actually sterile stamens) which are light purple, merging to white at their bases. Karkalla flowers in spring and summer. The fruit is fig-like, fleshy and indehiscent, slightly flattened and globular to ellipsoid in shape, 1.5-2.5 cm long, 1.5 cm wide and dull red in colour. It has small seeds.

Pigface - Anthony & Angeline 01

Both the fruit and leaves were used as a food source by the aboriginal people. The fruits were eaten fresh or dried while the salty leaves were eaten with meat.

Like Aloe Vera, the leaf juice can be used externally for mosquito bites, burns, abrasions, open cuts, grazes and sunburn. It can be used to treat skin conditions and allergies such as ringworm, eczema, dermatitis, herpes, thrush, cold sores, cracked lips and chafing. The leaf juice can be used as a mild astringent. When mixed with water, the juice can be used to treat diarrhoea, dysentery and stomach cramps. It can also be used as a gargle for sore throat and laryngitis, and mild bacterial infections of the mouth.

An ancient remedy for constipation is to eat the fruit with brackish water. Syrup made from the fruit is said to have laxative properties. A mixture of leaf juice, honey and olive oil in water is an old remedy for tuberculosis.

Pigface - Linda, Angeline & Aaron 05


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Melbourne Train Network

Below is a map of all the train stations in Melbourne. You can zoom in and out or use your mouse to drag the map around to look at other regions in Melbourne. Note that the St Kilda Line, Port Melbourne Line and North Loop no longer operate. To travel to Altona via train, take the Werribee Line Train (the one that goes through the Altona Loop) or the new Laverton Line Train.

View Larger Map

Friday, November 5, 2010

Business Listings in Altona

All Businesses

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View Larger Map

Cherry Creek

Cherry Creek is the lesser known of the three creeks in Altona, the other two creeks being Lower Kororoit Creek and Laverton Creek. As shown in the map below, it begins in Laverton North and empties into Cherry Lake.

Cherry Creek Map A

The Cherry Creek was once an ill-defined drainage line on basalt plains grasslands joined by a series of shallow wetlands and ponds. It has since been modified to improve drainage and reduce flooding on nearby, mostly industrial land (Ref 1). Its water quality is poor as it flows mostly through industrial and urban areas.

Cherry Creek A

You can see the Qenos Plant in close proximity to Cherry Creek and signs of eutrophication in the waterway. There is a railway bridge (see photo below) over Cherry Creek that was built in 1857, which is part of the heritage-listed Hobsons Bay Railways Heritage Precinct (Ref 2).

Cherry Creek C

The portion just before it enters Cherry Lake is greatly enlarged and occupies a substantial area (see map). I do not think there is a name for this portion so I will call it Cherry Wetland or Cherry Sedgeland as it is swamped with Chaffy Saw Sedge, cumbungi, tangled lignum, sea club-rush and rounded noon flower. The Chaffy Saw Sedge (Gahnia filum), is the only food source for the larvae of the endangered Altona Skipper Butterfly.

Cherry Wetland D

The Sedgeland, encompassing a huge area, is a spectacular sight and well worth a visit.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Festival that must go on

There are two festivals in Melbourne with the word "Bayside" in their names. The Bayside Festival was last held at Sandringham Foreshore on 28 March 2004 (Ref 1). The Altona Bayside Festival is the only remaining metropolitan Bayside Festival, if we exclude the St Kilda Festival and Williamstown Festival. Since March 1977, the Altona Bayside Festival has run for 33 years. You can read its history in an earlier post.

I am shocked to learn from Hobsons Bay Weekly that Operation Recreation Inc., the incorporated body responsible for organizing the Altona Bayside Festival, was put into administration last week and will not run a Festival in 2011 (Ref 2, 3, 4, 5). However, Tony Briffa, the Deputy Mayor of Hobsons Bay City and the Councillor for Altona/Seaholme, has reassured that the Festival continues to be funded by the Council and will go ahead next year. He is asking local community groups, schools and businesses to contact him if they would like to be involved in the 2011 Festival.

The 2011 Altona Bayside Festival with the theme "Century of Flight - Altona 1911 - 2011" are already being advertised in various websites such as those of Victoria Government, Tourism Victoria, ABC Online, Flight Centre and so on (Ref 6). I really hope that despite the problems, the Altona Bayside Festival will be successfully hosted next year and not suffer the same fate as the Bayside Festival in Sandringham. It has become an icon of Altona and an important event to Altona and the western suburbs. It has the elements and potential to achieve greater success and eminence. It is my great wish that it will flourish and become as equally celebrated as the St Kilda Festival.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Williamstown Cup

Today is Melbourne Cup Day. Billed as the race that stops two nations, it is watched by the majority of people in Australia and New Zealand, and gazetted as a public holiday in metropolitan Melbourne, some parts of regional Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory where it is known as the Family and Community Day since 2007 (Ref 1). It is a colourful sight to see men and women, dressed to kill, boarding trains bound for Flemington Racecourse. I was told that the ladies would spend a fortune on their dresses and hats/fascinators, just for this day. I also learnt from my colleagues that for many people, betting is not the main reason for attending the Cup. They go there to socialize, date, drink and impress.

Altona Coastal Park is the site for the former Williamstown Racecourse, which was home to the Williamstown Racing Club and its Cup. The Williamstown Cup, first held in 1888 and annually in November, was ranked third in importance behind the Melbourne Cup and the Caulfield Cup (Ref 2). Winning this cup was considered a consolation if the horse failed to perform at the Melbourne Cup. The Racecourse was serviced by the now demolished Williamstown Racecourse Train Station, which was located between Kororoit Creek and Kororoit Creek Road level crossing (Ref 3).

Requiem of the Champion 1

In 1940, the Williamstown Racecourse was converted to an army camp during World War II. It did not reopen and in 1948, the Williamstown Racing Club merged with the Victorian Trotting and Racing Association to form the Melbourne Racing Club. The Williamstown Cup continued to be held at other metropolitan racecourses - at Flemington in the 1940s, at Caulfield in the 1950s, at Moonee Valley in 1956 and finally at Sandown (Ref 4). In 1962, it was renamed the Sandown Cup, which was again renamed to Sandown Classic in 1999 (Ref 5). The Sandown Classic will be held on Saturday 13 November this year (Ref 6).

It is a coincidence that I put in an offer for a house not too far away from the Sandown Racecourse in 2007. When this offer failed, I ended up buying in Altona which used to have a racecourse. I think I will prefer the present Altona Coastal Park rather than the past Williamstown Racecourse. I have seen horses riding through the sea water at Altona Beach and also along Belmar Avenue, one street away from where I live. I had also seen horse dungs on the pedestrian crossing at Westona Train Station. I am puzzled what these horses were doing in Altona.

Youtube video by the Altona Village Traders Association

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Bulgarian Story

The following story is contributed by George Said, who has been living in Altona since 1962. I met him at the Altona Homestead when he was presenting his personal video of Altona in the 60s. I hope he will continue to share with us his stories which I believe are both entertaining and inspirational for they offer an insight of what Altona and Melbourne were like in the older days.

My name is George Said. I was born in Egypt to Greek parents and have a Maltese surname through my father’s ancestors. When I was young, my parents spoke to me in Greek. As I lived in Egypt, I learnt to speak Arabic. I went to an English school and also learnt French because it was the commercial/international language at that time. When I completed my studies at the English school, I wanted to study engineering. The only engineering college available was in Italian and that is how I learnt my fifth language.

I was 29 years old when I arrived in Altona in 1962 and have been here ever since. At one stage of my life, I worked for the Footscray Council as a Community Development Officer and was very involved in establishing the Footscray Migrant Resource Centre (MRC). When I moved on to another job, I remained involved and became President for a few years.

Although there are hundreds of stories to tell about my experiences with the MRC, there is one which stuck in my mind. I received a call from the Royal Park Psychiatric Hospital and I was asked to visit a psychiatric patient. He had been picked up from a gutter somewhere in the city and kept overnight in jail for being drunk and disorderly. When he did not sober up in the morning and was uncooperative, the police took him to Royal Park as being “out of control”. The man had in fact had a few drinks, suffered a heart attack and collapsed in the street and did not speak English.

Someone heard about my ability to speak languages and thought that I would be able to talk to this man who perhaps did not understand English. My visit was brief as I tried all my languages and had no success whatsoever. I could have given up but instead I tried something else. I went home, got an atlas of the world and went back for a second visit. The poor man on seeing the atlas immediately pointed his finger to Bulgaria and was making excited noises.

Greek and Bulgarians
Photo by Nabi Yücel

It did not take me long to track down a Bulgarian lady who also happened to be a qualified social worker. She was pleased to assist and I took her to see this man. Needless to say, there were tears flowing when she spoke to him in Bulgarian.

I moved on knowing that I had done my part and that he was going to be looked after; he was in good hands.