Friday, December 31, 2010

A Multilingual Blog

When I created the Hobsons Bay Community Discussion Forum, I received a request from a reader who has vision difficulty to change the text to a darker colour and he said that Vision Australia will be able to advise me on an assessment of readability. Fortunately, the forum template allows the flexibility of changing the text colour so it does not take much of an effort to accede to his request.

When I presented the Altona Blog to the Altona City Rotary Club recently, a member of the audience had a suggestion that overwhelmed me. He said that Altona is a multicultural community so I should consider having the Blog in different languages for the benefit of the various ethnic groups. I replied that I only know English and Chinese and neither do I have the resources nor the expertise to do the translation. He suggested that I should seek assistance from the Hobsons Bay City Council as the council does have a team of linguistic experts. Instead of merely ignoring this suggestion, I did approach the Council. As most of you would have guessed the outcome, this suggestion did not work out.

But I am a person who does not easily give up. So I put on my thinking cap and recalled that Google does provide a translation service. Now, I have embedded this Google Translate gadget on the right side of the Blog and this service is able to provide translation from English to 33 other languages. I tried to translate the Blog to Chinese but the outcome is hilarious and I have a good laugh at the various absurd and comical translations. To be fair enough, it is very difficult to translate between English and Chinese as both languages have very different structure and syntax. English has a phonetic-based writing system while Chinese has a meaning or symbol-based writing system. My speculation is that it is easier to translate from one European language to another as they share common alphabets. Try this translation service and post comments whether the outcome is acceptable or not. Regardless of its efficacy, this is the best that I can provide to cater to audience not that literate with English.

I have also embedded below a Chinese version of Altona Map, with all the street names in Chinese. I do not know whether your computer must have East Asian fonts installed in order to view these chinese characters.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas in Altona Meadows

See also:

To the uninformed, a strange phenomenon is occurring in one particular residential district of Altona Meadows at this time of the year. A succession of cars is heading towards the same direction, in fact the same street – Markham Way. These people are neither local residents nor their guests. They are “tourists” from other parts of Melbourne, commuting here for a sole purpose, that is, to witness an extraordinary sight.

Every December, Markham Way is turned into a Christmas fairytale wonderland. This started about 7 years ago, when House No. 4 started decorating its house for Christmas. One by one, the neighbours followed suit and by now, about 10 houses have participated in this annual ritual. This street has gained a reputation among the locals and the fame has now spread further due to a report on the Herald Sun.

The most spectacular display is at the house of Percy Smith. Together with his wife and daughter, he started decorating on 1 November and switched on the lights on 1 December. The lights will be on display until 3 January 2011. The lights are on every night from 8.30 to 11.30 p.m., depending on the weather conditions and the response. He is a very friendly host, always outside his house, mingling and chatting with the crowd. He is prepared to extend the lighting hours if there are more late visitors on any particular night. He explained to me that the equipment to project the Santa Claus animation (see video above) onto the top window is the first of its kind to be imported into Australia from the United States. Nowhere else in Australia would you see use of this technology yet.

Christmas D

Many visitors would walk right up to his verandah to view the lavishly-decorated window displays.

Christmas HouseWindow Display A
Window Display BWindows Display - Furnace

The window displays include a burning furnace and Santa Claus climbing up and down a ladder, as shown in the video below.

Not only have the Christmas lightings provided an additional recreational sightseeing activity for residents, Percy has also turned into a honorable cause. He had been collecting donations from visitors for the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. There is a donation tin. When you drop coins into the tin or clap your hands, this will trigger the playing of a Christmas carol from a small Christmas tree besides it (see video above).

Below are photos of Percy Smith, the donation tin as well as the Certificate of Appreciation and letters from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. You can either use the vertical scrollbar, page up/down feature or the Tile icon (with 8 small squares) to view the photos.
Donation Appeal for Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Other houses have also very spectacular displays. This is worth a visit, otherwise you will have to wait for the next Christmas.

Christmas B
Christmas 08
Christmas C
Christmas 07Christmas 03
Christmas 01Christmas A
Windows Santa_psChristmas 04

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Seaholme Sustainability Street Christmas Party 2010

The most recent activity of the Seaholme Sustainability Street was an outdoor Christmas Party held at the Norah McIntyre Reserve on Noordenne Avenue on Saturday 11 Dec 2010. George had invited our family to attend this party. I was surprised to see the large number of parents and grandparents with small children. So who says that Altona/Seaholme is an aging suburb?

This was a fun-filled day with food, entertainment, presents and more importantly, a social function for neighbours and friends to catch up with each other and to cultivate their neighbourly relationships. I realized how small the world is when I found out someone also works at the University of Melbourne as a horticulturist, another person knows my scheduled-to-meet neighbour who is a Friend of the Altona Coastal Park and yet another person practises Tai Chi, the same hobby as my father-in-law.

It was noon and the perfect time to grab a sausage sandwich.
Sausage Sizzle 05

Members from the Hobsons Bay Novelty Band of the Altona Men's Shed, were invited to provide entertainment, singing Christmas carols and playing music. Graham Waghorne, a Seaholme resident, played the banjo while Richard played the guitar. This Band often performs at charities and community groups such as for elderly citizens, either as a complimentary social service or for a voluntary donation. George's daughter, Helen, who is living in Epping, sang the carols with the Band.

How can a Christmas Party full of kids go without a Santa Claus? So here comes Santa!

Santa Claus Leaving 01Santa Claus giving out present 10
Santa arriving in a carKids queuing up for Christmas gifts
Santa Claus giving out present 03Photo with Santa Claus 01
Santa giving out goodies bags
Photo opportunity with Santa

The Christmas bags for the kids contained novelty items such as popping eyeballs. My kids enjoyed the party greatly.

Angeline in GooglesSee-Saw - Linda & Aaron

It was time for George to pick the winners of the lucky draw. The second prize was a calendar with old photos of Altona from the Altona Laverton Historical Society while the first prize was a Christmas cake baked by George's wife, Maroula. She has been donating a cake as a prize every year.

Lucky Draw PresentsGeorge giving out Lucky Draw Present

Below is the video of the prize presentation ceremony - the finale before the party ended.

I was asking George how he manages to find the funds to hold this party and purchase the presents. He told me about the Noordenne family. Mr Noordenne was in the building trade and his wife was a qualified accountant. They started building houses after he had an accident that injured his leg. They helped a lot of people build their homes over the years and in later years developed the Noordenne estate and the Central Square in Altona Meadows. George was distributing fliers to homes in Seaholme about a Christmas Party he was planning to hold for the neighbourhood. Mrs Noordenne came over, gave him a sum of money for the expenses and did this every Christmas since. When she knew her health was failing, she wrote a letter and passed this to George, saying that if he shows this letter to her daughter, her daughter will continue to support his community work. She passed away last year and her daughter continues to fund this community group.

A possible future project is to landscape the Norah McIntyre Reserve on Noordenne Avenue and transform it into an attractive park to reflect the beautiful community and the place the neighbourhood loves to live in.

Seaholme Sustainability Street

Seaholme Sustainability Street

Seaholme Sustainabilty Street is a community program initiated by Seaholme residents in 2004 to promote interactions in the neighbourhood and better understanding of the environment. 527 homes in Seaholme, north of Civic Parade participate in this program and the group finance is managed by the Louis Joel Community Centre. The support group comprises George & Maroula Said, Diana Rice, Lil & Graham Gunthorp, Peter Horner, Charles Micallef, Diana Rice, John & Katrina Rose, Dan and Maureen Sullivan.
Newsletter Issue 29 - Nov 2010

The group publishes a community newsletter several times a year containing upcoming activities and tips on sustainable living. It is distributed by a group of volunteers which include Catarina Otter, Peter Horner, Mary Nunn, Diana Rice, John & Katrina Rose, George & Maroula Said, Lil Gunthorp, Angela Blake, Fay Hogan, Maureen & Danny Sullivan, Peter Laurence, Miriam Hicks and Carol Winfield.

Tree Planting Lane

On 9 October 2004, the group organized a Tree Planting Day, where the residents planted trees, shrubs and indigenous plants along a lane (indicated by the red rectangle in the satellite map above) that runs from Simmons Drive to the railway crossing opposite the Altona Sports Club, with the objectives of beautifying the environment and attracting butterflies and birds to the area. The Council subsequently installed a light which makes the lane safer for pedestrians on dark nights.

Planting 2Planting

On 21 November 2009, the group hosted the Hobsons Bay Eco Expo at Logan Reserve, showing the community how to save water and energy and giving workshops and demonstrations on organic gardening, composting and grey-water systems.Eco Expo Pic 2 The organizations that took part in this Expo, gave expert advice and set up booths. These included Environment Victoria, Beyond Zero Emissions, Transition Towns, Home Sustainability Assessments, Green Loans, Vegetarian Network Victoria, Laverton Community Garden, Western Region Environment Centre, Victorian Reptiles, Friends of Lower Kororoit Creek, Toyota Plant, Solar Shop Australia, etc. The Expo was sponsored by the Hobsons Bay City Council, Mobil, Altona Sports Club, Qenos and local businesses. The Expo included a Plastic Bag Exchange activity in which each person could swap 10 plastic bags for an environmentally-friend cloth bag. The prizes included a water tank & pump sponsored by Mobil, worm farms, low-energy light bulbs and Scienceworks passes. Below is a Powerpoint presentation of the Expo, in which you can choose to view slide by slide or all the slides in the Tile mode (click the icon with 9 small squares).
Eco Expo 2009

The Eco Expo organized in 2007 has won a Community Pride Award in the 3rd Annual Sustainable Cities Award.

Community Pride Award

The recent graffiti-removal project involves painting the wall along the railway track opposite the Altona Sports Club and the planting of shrubs to obscure the wall so as to deter further graffiti. The Altona Sports Club donated $1000 for the project. The Brotherhood of St Lawrence offered the manpower to paint the wall, with permission from the train operator Metro.

Graffiti BeforeGraffitti CleaningGraffiti After
Before - Graffiti-filled WallThe Graffiti Busters
After - Graffiti removed!

To build relationships between the residents, the group has been organizing a Christmas Party each year for the neighbourhood, which has always been an enjoyable occasion by both children and adults. The Christmas Party this year on Saturday 11 Dec 2010, was equally much anticipated and did not disappoint. I was fortunate to witness its success.

Acknowledgement - Thanks to George Said for supplying the materials and photos.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Newport Fruits & Vegetables Swap

This morning, we went to a Fruits and Vegetables Swap Meet at Newport Lakes Park (Mason Street entrance), organized by Transition Hobsons Bay, a community group driving initiatives that promote more liveable neighbourhoods. The swap meet takes place on the third Sunday of every month (10.30-11.30 a.m.) and there is a sister swap, Western Urban Harvest, on the first Saturday of every month (except Jan 2011 when it is on the 8th) from 10 to 11.30 a.m. at Pilgrim Street Park (Bristow Reserve) in Seddon. Everyone is welcome to participate.

Swap Meet 4Swap Meet 1
Swap Meet 2Swap Meet 3

There are about 30 persons, several are from Altona and one person comes from as far as Maidstone. The two long tables at the barbeque shelter are packed with produce from backyard gardens. I am impressed by the large range of vegetables and fruits that are being shared around, some of which I have seen for the first time.

Swap Meet A

My daughter kept asking my wife to break open the almonds for her to eat. There are also Cape Gooseberries, shown in the photo below, which are small orange-yellow berries encased in a delicate, papery husk, which I have tried for the first time.

Cape Gooseberry

My wife took a pot of dill (see photo below, left side), which she suspects is a spice used commonly in northern Chinese cooking. Indeed this is what she wanted, after we used Wikipedia to translate dill into the chinese equivalent term.

Coffee Ground 2

The brown stuff you see in the pot is not soil but Coffee Grounds. Instead of disposing ground coffee in landfills, this can be recycled as a very good fertilizer. The benefits are many, including soil loosening, water retention, reduction of soil-borne diseases and deterrent to snails, slugs, ants and cats. Shane Genziuk is an active advocate of recycling coffee grounds and has a comprehensive website called Coffee Grounds to Ground, solely on this topic. Jason, a founding member of Transition Hobsons Bay, told me that Shane is getting cafes to participate in a programme to display stickers indicating that their ground coffee are available for people who request them for recycling. Starbucks has an initiative known as "Grounds for your Garden" in which you can pick up 2 kg bags of ground coffee at the counter.

I will write more about the Transition Hobsons Bay group when I get more information from Jason and his wife, Kate.

Dr. Louis Joel (1902-1989)

Dr Louis Joel 1929Dr. Louis Joel grew up on a dairy farm in Altona adjacent to the current location of the Toyota Plant. He rode his horse, Dolly, to attend school in Williamstown every day. Prior to entering his teens, his family moved to Carlton. The young Louis attended Wesley College, followed by Melbourne High School. In 1926, after graduating from Melbourne University with a medical degree, he worked as a ship’s surgeon and arrived in England. He moved to Edinburgh where he furthered his studies in surgery at the University.

On his return to Australia, he married his sweetheart and settled in Williamstown, an industrial suburb where he felt people needed his skills whether he received payment or not. He was heavily involved with the Williamstown Hospital for many years.

Altona, an idyllic small fishing village with many little fibro houses owned by the local Maltese fishermen, was always close to his heart. Realizing that medical services were absent in Altona, he set up the first Altona District Hospital in an oldAltona Hospital Nurse 03 house in Pier Street North where the petrol station is now located. To staff the hospital, he appointed a Williamstown Nursing Sister, Irene Webber to the position of Matron. This little hospital soon became overwhelmed with patients.

Dr. Joel raised the funds to purchase this property by borrowing from one of Melbourne’s leading families who were in the confectionary industry. When he repaid the debt and interest within the agreed time frame, the financiers returned the interest as a gift to the hospital. He was very touched by this generousAltona Hospital 02 gesture.

To meet the needs of the growing population within Altona, he, together with a committee, set about funding the construction of a new larger, modern hospital at Sargood Street. Shortly after opening the hospital, Dr. Joel realized the need of consulting rooms for seeing the patients 2-3 times a week. As the practice grew, he brought in another doctor, John Lewin,Altona Hospital 03 who became the Resident Doctor.

Dr. Joel was known for his dedication to his patients who looked upon him not only as their physician but also as their confidant and mentor. He would drive from Williamstown to Altona at any time of the day or night to attend to emergencies such as acute operations, delivery of babies or any other need. He was admired for his dedication and the numerous babies he brought into the world, which helped to increase the population of Altona.

Driving to Altona was no easy task, particularly during the winter months when the old Blackshaws Road flooded and he had to detour through Seaholme. He, like others, was an expert at getting bogged and carried hessians bags in the boot of his car to help in these conditions.

There are many more stories about Dr. Louis Joel, his 50 years of service to the City of Williamston, his decoration by her Majesty the Queen and his involvement in the community affairs of Williamstown and Altona, where both the area and the people were close to his heart.

Acknowledgement - I wish to thank Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre for providing the materials and photographs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hobsons Bay Community Discussion Forum

I had spent two nights creating this online discussion forum, which I hope will help in promoting interactions and relationship building between different communities in the local area.

The URL is located at:

It covers a wide range of categories that I can possibly think of that will apply to the Hobsons Bay area. I welcome feedback and suggestions to improve the organization, layout and content.

I encourage everyone (living inside or outside Hobsons Bay) to visit this forum, register as a member and help to promote this forum by sharing it with your relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. I believe this forum will be very helpful in building an actively-engaging and bonding community, which will in turn make our environment a much better place to live in.

For those who are not familiar with online forums/bulletin boards, I wish to emphasize that they are meant to encourage members to participate in discussions and to benefit from these exchanges. It is unlike a blog/website which is primarily intended to convey information.

As this is a free site, this comes with advertisements unless I pay to remove these advertisements. Please do not let the advertisements bother you - they appear right at the top of the forum. There is one particular advertisement that says you have a new mail. If you click on the mail, you will be led to a new site displaying the advertisement. Just ignore it.

The forum gives me just 20 MB to store pictures in the gallery, unless I pay to increase the storage space. I simply turn off the Gallery feature. You still can post images and photos using the [IMG] tags but you need to host these images on other sites such as Flickr, Picassa, Imageshack, etc. which do give you free storage.

I am new to the creation and management of online forums and bulletin boards so I am still exploring and trying the various functionalities. As I gain the knowledge and expertise with time, the Forum will get better and better!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Altona Community Hospital (1932-1996)

Altona District Hospital

In the 1930s, Altona was well known as a holiday and fishing village. Following WW1, a steady influx of families moved into Altona and the population grew. In 1928, the Werribee ShireCertificate of Approval of Premises for Altona Hospital appointed Dr Louis Joel of Newport as the medical officer of Altona. At that time, with no trainedRaisefunding nurses or midwives, home births were the norm, and maternal deaths and puerperal fever were not uncommon.

Dr Joel strove to introduce modern healthcare and education to Altona, including the model of the bush nursing hospital, where local rather than state money was used to build and maintain a not-for-profit hospital with a resident community nurse. Many residents gave donations of a penny aOriginal Hospital week and with other local fundraising, the first hospital was opened on 3 Dec 1932 at an old house in Pier Street North where the petrol station is now located. You can find a commemorative stone memorial and plaque there.

Dr Joel had successfully encouraged Sister Ivy Weber to become the hospital’s first nurse. She was trained in medical, surgical and midwifery nursing and hadAltona Hospital 01 agreed to transfer her equipment and furniture from her own private hospital to the Altona Hospital.

The hospital steadily attracted more subscribers and Dr Joel had negotiated a low interest loan from the James Charitable Trust to build a new brick hospital on the current Sargood Street site. This hospital, which couldChildbirth accommodate outpatient areas, 10 inpatients, 2 staff members and facilities for providing maternity and infant services, opened in Feb 1938. Dr Joel was the president and remained associated with the hospital until probably the mid 1950s.

From the 1940s to 1950s, the hospital was managed by a community-based Board of Management. It expanded into a 25 bed maternityNewborn Babies hospital, with numerous extensions and a nurse's quarters to meet the demands of a booming population brought about by post war immigration and industrialization of Altona.

Due to changing requirements of government health funding, small community-owned hospitals became financially unviable. In the late 1950s, Altona Hospital gave up its autonomy and ownership to the Hospitals and Charities Commission, later the Department of Health and then the Western Health Network. In 1996 as part of the rationalisation occurring throughout the public health system, the Altona Hospital was closed after giving 64 years of service to this community.

Acknowledgement - I wish to thank Louis Joel Arts & Community Centre for providing the materials and photographs.