Sunday, 24 April 2011


“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” - Frederick Douglass

Easter Day today was spent relaxing and having fun. We had a late breakfast, during which we enjoyed Easter goodies (of course we are no longer fasting!) such as egg cookies and tsoureki (Greek Easter sweet bread), washed down with lots of steaming hot milk coffee. There was music and laughter, as well as the exchange of gifts. Then we decided to go out and make the most of the warm, fine autumn day. We decided to visit Birrarung Marr in the City.

Birrarung Marr is on the north bank of the Yarra River next to Federation Square. It is Melbourne’s newest major park, opened in 2002. Its name comes from the language of the Wurundjeri people who originally inhabited this area. “Birrarung” means “river of mists” while “Marr” means river bank. There are many interesting public spaces, beautiful walks and many art works that allow the visitor not only to relax and enjoy the pleasant views of the water and the city skyline, but also many artworks to stimulate and excite the senses. Birrarung Marr is also the home of ArtPlay.

The Birrarung Wilam (meaning “River Camp”) installation celebrates the diversity of Victoria’s indigenous culture by interpreting stories from local communities through public artworks. A winding, textured pathway acknowledges the significance of the eel as a traditional food source for groups camped by the river. Large rocks incised with animal drawings enclose a performance space, and closer to the river a semi-circle of metal shields represents each of the five groups of the Kulin Nation.

ArtPlay is a venue and a project that is housed in a distinct, free-standing red brick warehouse (the sole remaining building of the Melbourne rail yards). Its very prominent and public location ensures Melburnians have every opportunity to discover ArtPlay. It is more studio than classroom with the openness and scale of the building making people feel they can create on a large scale. The blank tables, open spaces and welcoming, natural light give the impression that anything is possible.

ArtPlay owes its existence to “The Ark”, located in Dublin, Ireland, which was the world’s first children’s art centre. The City of Melbourne embraced the idea of creating a similar centre for Melbourne’s children, and that is how ArtPlay was born. Through its support of ArtPlay, the City of Melbourne has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring its children have opportunities to participate in and contribute to the future direction of city life.

ArtPlay’s surrounding playground opened in late 2004. It features decorated walkways, slides, sand areas and a wheelchair swing. Regular workshops at ArtPlay enable children to decorate the playground. ArtPlay’s simple building belies the complexity of its being. The varied programs played out behind ArtPlay’s bright orange door place creativity at the heart of our future society, our children.

On the outside wall of the ArtPlay building are silver touch panels featuring audio recordings of indigenous people telling their personal stories. The artists who created these works were Vicki Couzens, Lee Darroch and Treahna Hamm. Other features of the park include Deborah Halpern’s Angel sculpture; Speakers’ Corner; and the Federation Bells, which ring three times each day with different compositions.

The park is regularly the host to many cultural activities and today was no exception, with the 2011 Christchurch Quake Relief Concert. The line-up included Mi-Sex (NZ), Mike Rudd (ex Spectrum), Angie Hart & Blood Red Bird, Julia Deans (ex Fur Patrol - NZ), Lotek, Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes, Vince Peach, Dave Larkin Band, Spencer P Jones (NZ), The Council (NZ), Side Show Brides, Radio Star, The Wellingtons, Cash Savage, Pets with Pets (NZ), Polar Disco, Engine Three Seven, Vaudeville Smash, Massive Hip Hop Choir, Cherrywood and MC Jon Von Goes (Triple R). The huge variety of genres and tunes mean there’s something for everyone to rock out to. Plus, there was great food and drink all around. Each ticket is $30 and booking fees. All proceeds for the event, including half of the booking fees, will be donated straight to the 2011 Red Cross New Zealand Earthquake Appeal.

See more of my photographs of Birrarung Marr here.


  1. Hello Nicholas:
    This all looks and sounds most exciting and so good to have on the doorstep, relatively speaking.

    Melbourne, from what you write, does seem to be a very go ahead city, acknowledging its past and yet projecting into the future. A good place to live, we imagine. Enjoy the rest of your Easter.

  2. What a wonderful place this is, Nicholas! You are making Melbourne a very attractive proposition for a vacation!

  3. What a great feature to have in the center of your City! It sounds great!