Take the Bait

Fish Creek-style beer cooler - no bull!

By Jane Canaway

Published in Royal Auto magazine, June 2012

Fish Creek is to Gippsland what Brunswick is to Melbourne: creative, eclectic, colourful and happy to be a bit different.

Over the past decade or so, a series of pioneering artisans have made the township home, many attracted by the picture-perfect landcapes of rolling hills, morning mists and breathtaking beaches.

Scattered around the town is whimsical public art – fish-mosaic benches and bus stops and a corrugated fence painted as a coral reef; combined with many colourful shops, it feels like the town is smiling.

Fish-inspired artwork is scattered through the township.

Arriving by road from Inverloch or Meeniyan, you are greeted at the town’s main crossroads by two mermaids proclaiming One Fish Furnishings, and a cheerful display of ducks, wickerwork and timber goodies that demands a browse.

Celia Rosser's Banksia Gallery and Café

Drive up from Waratah Bay or the Prom and you are met by a row of giant timber sculptures that stand guard outside the Celia Rosser Gallery and Banksia Café. Botanic artist Rosser, famed for her remarkably detailed watercolours of Australia’s Banksia plants, painstakingly painted over 25 years for Monash University, shows much of her own work as well as complementary nature-inspired work by other local artists and is usually on hand to talk visitors around the gallery, which is run by her son, Andrew.

Rosser grew up nearby but remarks on the area’s proliferation of artists: are they drawn to a creative community or does the scenery inspire art?

The town was first settled in 1886 and a railway followed in 1892, carrying passengers and freight, including oil via the Barry Beach rail line servicing the Bass Strait oil fields.

Dairy cattle still graze the hills, but the Butter Factory is now closed, as is the rail line past Leongatha; in its place is a well-maintained bike, walking and riding trail, bringing the latest source of income – tourists who love slow travel.

Butter Factory

A welcoming sight for travellers is the joyfully blue Flying Cow Café, which offers simple, comforting fare – big breakfasts, creative cakes (including gluten-free options), hot soups and light lunches.

Food inspired by local produce is also found at the newly opened Café K, offering bar grill-style lunches and evening meals, and at the Fish Creek Hotel, or “Fishy Pub”, which also has an excellent bottle shop featuring a good range from local wineries (expect cool-climate whites, pinor noir, shiraz and sparkling).

While weekends and summer holidays are when the town bustles, its friendly nature shows through in the way both the cafes and galleries plan days off around each other, ensuring off-peak visitors will always find something open.

There are three galleries in this tiny town of fewer than 700 folk.

Ride the Wild Goat

As well as Celia Rosser’s there is Ride the Wild Goat, where furniture-maker-turned-artist Andrew McPherson displays a fascinating selection of aesthetic and functional pieces wrought from what salvaged and recycled farm junk – machinery parts, old cars and fridges, barbed wire and hand-worn timber bearing the patina of generations. Further up is the Gecko Studio Gallery, which offers an eclectic mix of art materials, gifts, cards, ceramics, jewellery, retro-inspired knick-knacks, and several walls displaying the latest exhibition. Owner-artists Kerry Spokes and Michael Lester also run one- and two-day art workshops.

Next door is a bibliophile’s delight, Fish Tales Bookshop, taken over about four years ago by city-escaping architects Bridget Crowe and Michael Chang. Slowly converting its shelves to their tastes, it now has a gorgeous collection of vintage books on show, as much for their cover art as the stories, and many adventure, travel and design titles.

Child-friendly distractions at Book Tales

Two hours from Melbourne, 30 minutes from Inverloch and 10 minutes from Foster, Fish Creek is a top lunch stop en route to the prom (40km away) or a day trip for holiday-makers needing a break from the beach.

Tear sheet: RACV_jun12_p42-43-fish creek

Hungry to help

Royal Auto magazine, September 2011

Hungry to help

FareShare  CEO
september 2011

When battlers are going hungry and big suppliers are dumping surplus food, something is wrong. Meet a man with an appetite for redressing the imbalance.

 

He shrugs his shoulders and tries to be philosophical, but FareShare CEO Marcus Godinho looks personally affronted as he relates how one food producer hires guards to escort trucks taking surplus food to the tip rather than tarnish its brand by giving it away.

Such waste seems criminal after witnessing FareShare’s kitchen full of volunteers, transforming boxes of donated food into hundreds of healthy meals, packed and frozen for distribution to homeless and hungry Victorians.

Last year 3000 volunteers – organised by a handful of paid staff – “rescued” 400 tonnes of food from landfill and created 450,000 meals, supplying 130 charities.  When they can afford a bigger kitchen, Marcus believes there’s enough demand for FareShare to double that.  “We’re aiming for a million meals a year.”

Up to 370,000 Victorians run out of food each year, and a survey of agencies feeding them reveals demand for at least 50% more meals, despite FareShare recently increasing its output to 10,000 meals a week.

“There’s far more food out there that’s surplus and good quality than there is need for food in the community from people struggling to make ends meet,” Marcus says. “Umpteen times more.” Young, motivated and buzzing with energy, he explains that the idea of saving food from landfill was what drew him to volunteering for the charity. At the time he was head of Environment Victoria and was focusing on climate change, water and waste.

“I knew of the resources involved with producing food and I thought it was a clever idea – when I learned people are going hungry in our society in the 21st century, it was a real shock.

“Learning about food security has opened my eyes but it’s the people and business involvement that I find so heartening, especially the small businesses. That spirit of generosity in our society is so strong. That’s something I get so excited about.”

Since his first shift as a kitchen hand in 2004, Marcus and the enterprise have come a long way.

FareShare was formed in 2001 from a merger between One Umbrella, which started cooking meals in RACV City Club’s kitchen, and Melbourne City Harvest.  RACV was one of the first organisations to see its potential and provided seed funding. FareShare bought its first van in 2002, moved into its own kitchen in 2008 and now run three shifts of volunteers a day.

After a stint on the board, Marcus became its first paid CEO in 2007, taking his life even further away from its early course as a commerce graduate working for Mobil and NAB.

At FareShare, Marcus’s role is to develop partnerships and raise money. Under his guidance both have flourished: Woolworths, Aldi and Thomas Dux supermarkets supply 1500kg of meat, fruit and vegetables a day, Linfox donated a truck (FareShare now has six), philanthropic groups have jumped on board and dozens of companies provide in-kind or material support.

“We help some companies meet their zero waste goals, but others like to join because they know staff can get involved.”

Volunteers also have fun, which is why there’s a four-month waiting list for the daily corporate shifts.

“How community-minded would you think a group of 40-something blokes who did commerce degrees are?  They are now working in high-flying careers and busy with young families but they do a nightshift every three months then go for a meal afterwards – and they’re one of our most productive shifts because they’re always so keen to get through their list of food to prepare and get down to the pub,” he says with a laugh.

Then there’s the singles nights that FareShare has run at Etihad stadium for the past two years. Both events have attracted 200 volunteers and produced 10,000 meals per shift.

While Marcus has increased FareShare’s efficiency by quantifying their supplies and demand, he knows he walks a fine line between saving waste and losing donations.

“Since we started reporting to companies how much we collect from them, (one donor’s) donations dropped by a third.”

Still he remains positive: “I’m curious to explore what we do with surplus quality food when we’re getting enough food to all the charities across Victoria.”

Marcus applies an interesting mix of business brain and social conscience to his role.  He targets large suppliers with the potential to provide premium returns, but he recently turned down funding from one foundation because he thought another charity was better suited to take advantage of the offer.

“You can’t be greedy,” he explains.  “And instead they made a donation towards our new kitchen, so we were happy.”

To know more about its work, go to www.fareshare.com.au

 

Waste and Want

True teamwork

FareShare works in close partnership with two other Melbourne-based groups involved in similar work: the state-sponsored VicRelief Foodbank, which since 1930 has supplied non-perishable food to relief agencies; and SecondBite, launched in 2005 to rescue fresh fruit and vegetables from being wasted.

The three groups share transport, storage and information, and recently collaborated on a survey of Victoria’s Community Food Programs (CFPs) to determine their need for food and infrastructure.

The survey found that in 2010 the three organisations donated more than 4.5 million kilograms of food to relief programs in Victoria.  The 108 CFPs surveyed – less than one-fifth of the state total – serve 25,000 meals and distribute 7300 food parcels a week.  Despite this, they cannot meet demand.

The CFPs distribute 30,638kg of food a week (about two-thirds is donated, the rest bought) but another 15,000kg is needed to meet demand.

Many agencies lack infrastructure, and Marcus Godinho is co-founder of Feed Melbourne, which seeks to provide fridges, freezers, microwaves and refrigerated vans to help agencies prepare, store and deliver more rescued food.

Big breakthrough

A major barrier to the flow of surplus food was removed in Victoria in 2002 with the introduction of the so-called Good Samaritan legislation, which indemnifies suppliers who donate safe food to charitable organisations.  This exemption has now been introduced to all Australian states and territories.  Strict food-handling timelines are in place at FareShare to ensure food is cooked and frozen judiciously.

 

Our throwaway society

  • Each year Victorians throw out 700,000 tonnes of food – about 28,000 supermarkets worth of food.  Australians throw out more than $7.8 billion worth of food annually.  Some waste is due to incorrect labelling or damaged packaging.
  • FareShare can cook, freeze and distribute a meal for about 50 cents.
  • A survey of 108 agencies in Victoria revealed a shortfall of more than 26,000kg of food a week.
  • FareShare aims to double its production to 20,000 meals a week.
  • On average, every kilogram of food that FareShare recovers results in a saving of 1.5kg CO2 emissions and 56 litres of water.
  • Putting food waste in landfill often results in the production of methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than CO2.  Food waste is also a major contributor to the formation of leachate, a liquid run-off common in landfills, which pollutes ground water.
  • 47% of municipal waste in landfill is food and green organic waste.
  • More than three million tonnes of food is driven to landfill in Australia each year.

Love, humour and schnitzels

Last night I sat down with comedian Rachel Berger and she spent a couple of hours telling me the whole amazing saga of her family’s escape from Nazi-held Poland – about love stronger than fear, about belonging, pain and survival.

We’d only just met but, along with a few hundred close strangers, she opened up her heart to me and shared the stories of her childhood – the ones of how her parents endured, evaded then escaped one of the most disciplined, highly trained military machines Europe has ever witnessed, and her equally angst-ridden flight from the bullying of two primary school-aged girls in Spotswood.

For her, schnitzels helped save the day, but love and a sense of humour were essential for both and it is these traits that shine through, forcing light into the darkest corners of her own personal history and lifting the weight that builds over the audience.

Reprising her first foray into serious theatre, Berger steps out from behind the microphone stand she has teamed up with for more than 25 years of comedy.

Using minimal props and starkly simple lighting, Berger dazzles her audience from the start, leading with the sheer strength of her parents’ story, then following through with sharp but sensitive mimicry skills, bringing scores of characters to life as she jumps between her parents, hardy Hungarian teachers, brassy Skip neighbours in the western ’burbs, then finally the broken, displaced people that make up her tribe in Acland Street. It is here that feels like home, as the family settles into running a delicatessen, comforting homesick refugees with sausages, potato salad, chopped liver and sandwiches that enjoyed a city-wide reputation.

While the story is intensely personal, the strong strands of Melbourne and universal humanity that are woven through it draw in the audience without seeming to try: “All I wanted was to fit in and be liked – that and to have the full 72-colour set of Derwent pencils,” she says and looks up in surprise as the audience as one moans with shared desire. “You too, huh?”

Berger first shared this harrowing, uplifting tale with Melbourne in 2008, first at La Mama then Chapel off Chapel, earning her Green Room Association nominations for both writing and performance. She was inspired to break from her usual comedy routines by the Tampa-led events of 2001, so the ongoing ‘turn back the boats’ debate makes it an interesting time to revive this heart-warming show.

“It’s not a comedy, it’s a play,” was how someone described the show to me beforehand, but as Berger adopts her mother’s accent and persona to retell the stories she heard as a child, she reveals the source of her dry wit and comic timing; only the remarkable Rosa could get a belly laugh from relating how she averted her beloved Marcus from committing suicide.

Take a supply of tissues and get there on time – there’s a whole-show lockout for latecomers – but go; there are few other ways of spending 75 minutes in a basement that will leave you feeling so content with your life.

 

HOLD THE PICKLE, written and performed by Rachel Berger, runs until Saturday 24 September at ?Fairfax Studio, The Arts Centre, 100 St. Kilda Rd, Melbourne. Wed-Sat 8pm, Sat 2pm.

Website: www.holdthepickle.com.au

Tickets: $40-$55?Arts Centre Box Office?1300 182 183?or Ticketmaster?136 100 or (for a discount) visit: www.rachelberger.com/

 

Hello world!

Welcome to Jane’s World. Like Wayne’s World without the music, catchphrases, big hair and funny bits.