It was Australia Day on 26th January 2012. It was also the 40th anniversary when the Aboriginal protestors first setup their “tent embassy” outside the Parliament House at Canberra to represent the political rights of Australian Aborigines. To the majority of Australians, it is a day of celebrating who we are as an “Australian”. A day of celebration across all cities and towns with music, parades, award ceremonies, fireworks. A day for picnic, barbeque and beer. It was a day of celebration. But, to a minority group, it was the day to commemorate “Invasion Day” or “Survival Day” of the indigenous people.
I didn’t know about the signficance of 26th January for the indigenours people rights until I was at the “Share the Spriti Festival” at Treasury Garden for an afternoon of music and cultural experience. There were a few tents set up at the garden. Someone handed me a flyer which chronicles “The Aboriginal Embassy”.
It was not until I got back to my apartment, logged on to my internet and saw on a Breaking News on our PM, Julia Gilard, and the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, being rushed away by the PM bodyguards from a group of aborigine right protestors at nearby “tent embassy”. It was appaling and ugly. I could not believed reading the breaking news and saw the picture of our distressed PM being dragged away, stumbled and lost one of her shoe, which was later picked up by one of the protestor and put on eBay to try and sell it! It was later removed and returned to the PM. I still cannot believe this actually happened here on Australian soil, and to our PM, which was internationally broadcast. It was a shame such unfortunate event had taken place, and made a mob out of our PM across the world scene.
Back to the festival, I was looking forward to an indigenous experience with traditional and cultural performances, but it turned out to be a festival of modern live music, hip hop and break dancing performances, with a few interesting aborigines art and craft stalls and a couple of food stalls. I bought a small hand crafted bracelet made from tiny fish bones and woods for $4.
An opening act – The Kangaroo Dance
There was an Argentinian Barbeque stall with mouth watering ribs and sausages.
The crowds, performers and garden at the festival. Melbourne is truly a garden city. Public spaces and parklands are plenty around the city. Even the CBD is green with trees lining the streets.
The faces of the children were my favourites.
I was at Chinatown before I went to the festival. I went there for food. I got off the train at Parliment Station and started walking from the Spring Street end of Chinatown. I have never walked around the northeast end of the CBD, which has some stunning buildings.
The State Parliament House.
Historic Hotel Windsor.
The Old Treasury Building.
Saint Patrick Cathedral.
Chinatown is located on Little Bourke Street, which stretches from Spring Street (northeast end of CBD) to Swanston Street (southwest end of CBD). It is busier towards the Swanston Street end. I started my walk from the Spring Street end, at the corner of Princess Theatre, looking for a place to eat in Chinatown. Little Bouke Street is interesting with little lanes and street arts, good restaurants and a Chinese Museum. Like any Chinatown in a western city, there is the Chinese archway as the demarcation of where it starts and ends. But, that is not always the case, as Chinatown precinct grows onto the next streets and adjacent streets. Everyone knows when they are in Chinatown when they see Asian shop signs and lot of Asians on the streets, or an Asian symbolic structures like the guardian lions.
Parliament Station is an underground station below this garden and public space.
Northeast End of Chinatown on Spring Street is a small Tianjin Gardens public space.
Princess Theatre at the corner of Little Bourke Street and Spring Street. Directly across from the theatre is the State Parliament House.
In the Chinatown area – walk slower and you will discover a lot of fascinating things aside from restaurants after restaurants.
I found my place for lunch when I spotted the big sign, “Straits of Malacca”. I had to check it out. It has to be Malaysian to use that name. But, it was a buffet style restaurant. I browsed through the buffet – roast duck , roast pork, peking duck pancake, curry laksa, variety of Asian salad including kimchi, Japanese corner with sushi, nasi lemak, nonya kuih, sago, beef rendang, sambal prawns and the list goes on. I was more interested to eat the nasi lemak and beef rendang. For under $20 on a public holiday, it was very reasonable and cheap. The food was actually not too bad – the Malaysian style dishes were good. Some of the dishes were just okay. This place was opened only less than two months. It was quite busy when I was there. They even have “ice kacang” which was shaved ice with a mixture of very sweet syrups on top. Inside the shaved ice were some red beans, corns, black grass jelly and “atap chee” translucent palm nuts.
I ended my Australia Day by watching the fireworks from Yarra River, twenty minutes walk from my place. It was a nice cool evening. There were hundreds of bats flying from one side of the river to the Botanical Garden, which added a fascinating roundup to a very long and memorable Australia Day.