As Melbourne opens up a Corona Virus cleansing team have begun a blitz, but who are they?

My news beat covering the Corona Virus over the past few months has meant I’ve spent numerous days walking through the eerily quiet streets of Melbourne. In the last month or so, teams of Hi-Visibility vest clad cleaning teams would be dispatched throughout the city and into the suburbs. It was obvious to me that many of them didn’t seem like the sort of people you would generally associate with such work, it was evident that this was a new form of employment and in all likelihood the only form available for most. Curious to this, I felt compelled to learn more about who these people were, there was more to this story than just an increase in the number of cleaners on the street.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 28: Former tour guide Paul Guley holds a morning briefing with COVID-19 Cleansing Team on May 28, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Under an initiative funded by the Victorian Government titled ‘working for Victoria’ councils were giving funds to employ via their contractors displaced workers to conduct a sanitisation blitz.

On assignment for Getty Images, I spent a few days with the Covid-19 cleansing teams in the City of Port Phillip in Melbourne inner city south-east, to learn about the makeup of these unsung heroes of the Pandemic in Melbourne. Who are they, where do they come from, how are they in these roles and why have they chosen to do it?

Some have come from all over the world, among them are recent Law graduates, Architects, International Students and displaced local workers from the tourism and hospitality sectors. Most of have fallen through the cracks of being eligible for financial assistance during Covid-19, there are also some who have chosen not to get financial assistance and just want to get back to work.

For 5 days a week, they navigate their way through the street of Melbourne walking over 15 kilometres a day cleaning and sanitising railings, playgrounds, bins, lamp posts bicycle racks and every other council amenity we may not even notice. All done enthusiastically and with a sense of duty to the community.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 28: Helmut Prieto from Colombia sanitizes a public shower on the shore of Port Melbourne beach on May 28, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 29: Julien Battut sprays sanitizer on a railing in Port Melbourne on May 29, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Originally from France Julien formally a member of the French Army who came to Australia to work as a chef found himself unemployed and unable to access Jobseeker due to his immigration status, he took on the role to not only maintain an income but to help the community, he says “I love Australia and Melbourne, if I can help at this time I am to do so” . (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 28: Julien Battut (centre) and Adhar Bol (right) discuss the planned cleaning route their teams will be taking throughout the day on May 28, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 29: Suzanne Kerr poses for a portrait on May 29, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Suzanne Kerr aged 45 was unable to claim Jobseeker as she fell one month short of eligibility. She a resident in the country town of Mansfield, she commutes back home by bus on the weekend while she works five days a week as part of the Sanitization team while staying overnight at a hostel. She says “I don’t see it as a big deal, I have to do what I need to do to get by, there is no work in the country”. She feels that those unable to find work need to look at all options and maybe get out of there comfort zone “It’s not fantastic but sometimes it’s a good thing to be outside your comfort zone but don’t give up there is hope”. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 28: A cleansing team sanitize playground equipment in the suburb of Port Melbourneon May 28, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 28: Former tour guide Paul Guley cleans play sanitizes play equipment at a childrens playground on May 28, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Paul Guley was a former tour guide previously worked with a tour operator taking predominantly international tourist, as a result of International travel restrictions he was without work. He finds his new employment “enjoyable as it provides a community service and an opportunity to still stay fit”. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 29: A COVID-19 Cleansing Team cleans bike racks as they walk past a COVID-19 Clinic in Port Melbourne on May 29, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Words and Photos by Asanka Brendon Ratnayake taken while #onassignment for @gettyimages 

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake is a photojournalist and travel photographer based in Melbourne Australia covering Australia, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Follow him on instagram 

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Australian Muslims Observe Eid Al-Fitr Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic

Eid al-Fitr follows weeks of fasting and marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. I spent some time with the Abbas family in Melbourne as they broke fast and conducted their evening Taraweeh prayers.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 22: Father of three Afrizal (left) of the Abbas family leads Taraweeh prayers with his family on May 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Muslim communities across Australia are finding ways to celebrate Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan, in smaller groups due to restrictions on gathering sizes due to COVID-19. Many mosques remain closed with some providing limited access and streaming prayer services. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Due to Covid-19 and the restrictions on large gatherings, Ramadan this year meant prayers wouldn’t take place in Mosques and breaking of fast couldn’t be conducted in large groups. Eid al-Fitr celebrations to would be confined within family homes.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 22: The Abbas family break fast during Ramadan on May 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Muslim communities across Australia are finding ways to celebrate Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan, in smaller groups due to restrictions on gathering sizes due to COVID-19. Many mosques remain closed with some providing limited access and streaming prayer services. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Mother of three Dewi Andrina felt Ramadan this year felt more special and harmonious within the confines of their family home and allowed their family to be closer to their faith as a result allowing for more time to be dedicated to the teachings of their faith as a family. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 22: Dewi Andrina (left) Afrizal (centre) and their daughter Indy Abbas read the Quran following prayers on May 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Muslim communities across Australia are finding ways to celebrate Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan, in smaller groups due to restrictions on gathering sizes due to COVID-19. Many mosques remain closed with some providing limited access and streaming prayer services. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 22: Afrizal reads the Quran following prayers on May 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Muslim communities across Australia are finding ways to celebrate Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan, in smaller groups due to restrictions on gathering sizes due to COVID-19. Many mosques remain closed with some providing limited access and streaming prayer services. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

To those celebrating, Eid-Mubarak to you and your families. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 22: The Abbas family sit around a laptop where they watch short videos on teachings from the Quran on May 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Dewi Andrina the mother of the family encourages her daughters to sit together at the end of prayers during Ramadan to watch videos on elements of the Quran as part of an informal Islamic studies class during Ramadan. Muslim communities across Australia are finding ways to celebrate Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan, in smaller groups due to restrictions on gathering sizes due to COVID-19. Many mosques remain closed with some providing limited access and streaming prayer services. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – MAY 22: The daughters of the Abbas family pay their respects to their parents following prayers on May 22, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Muslim communities across Australia are finding ways to celebrate Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan, in smaller groups due to restrictions on gathering sizes due to COVID-19. Many mosques remain closed with some providing limited access and streaming prayer services. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Images taken while #onassignment for @gettyimages 

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake is a photojournalist and travel photographer based in Melbourne Australia covering Australia, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Follow him on instagram 

Covering Covid-19 in Melbourne Australia

Some of you may have come across my Photo Essay ‘Melbourne under Covid’

Since March 2019 I’ve been covering the Corona Virus crisis here in Melbourne Australia. If I look back the moment it felt like the impact of Covid-19 and its entrance into our lives started around the time of the Australian Grand Prix or more specifically the cancellation of it, any event I was covering up until it’s cancellation.

Melbourne, Australia - March 13 2020: A press conference from Chase Carey, Andrew Westacott, Michael Masi and Paul Little is held following the cancellation of due to Covid 19 the 2020 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix on the Friday 13th of March . Photo by Asanka Brendon Ratnayake www.abrfoto.com
Melbourne, Australia – March 13 2020: A press conference from Chase Carey, Andrew Westacott, Michael Masi and Paul Little is held following the cancellation of due to Covid 19 the 2020 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix on the Friday 13th of March . Photo by Asanka Brendon Ratnayake www.abrfoto.com

Since then I’ve documented the closure of businesses, empty streets that followed, innovations and people adapting to the new realities. With every new restriction added a new way of life needed to be introduced. Thankfully compared to the rest of the world the human toll and adverse health impact anticipated by Covid 19 never arrived. On the 15th of May, restrictions were eased in Melbourne.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 30: Medical practioners conducting tests for Covid-19 at a drive through testing facility in a undercover carpark as cars are lined up with drivers awaiting to be tested at the Chadstone Shopping Center on April 30, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. COVID-19 testing is set to expand across Australia as the government looks to ease current lockdown restrictions. Asymptomatic or those with mild symptoms will also be tested to ensure there are no cases missed as Australian health authorities hope to keep confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases on the decline.   (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 30: Medical practioners conducting tests for Covid-19 at a drive through testing facility in a undercover carpark as cars are lined up with drivers awaiting to be tested at the Chadstone Shopping Center on April 30, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. COVID-19 testing is set to expand across Australia as the government looks to ease current lockdown restrictions. Asymptomatic or those with mild symptoms will also be tested to ensure there are no cases missed as Australian health authorities hope to keep confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases on the decline. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

As the the impact of the Corona Virus hits Melbourne and our lives change I’ll continue to document and archive the changes and update this Photo Essay, so stayed tuned.

You can view the original photo essay here

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake is a photojournalist and travel photographer based in Melbourne Australia covering Australia, Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Follow him on instagram 

(C) Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

Photo Essay : The Castle Hotel calls last drinks

The big multinational swallowing up the local watering hole is a common story all over the modern world, on February 29 in 2016, it was Sri Lanka’s turn. 141 years after its opening, the iconic Castle Hotel and Bar in Colombo, served last drinks.

The colonial building is believed to be over 200 years old and started its life as a printing press. When interviewed by Groundviews.org Hotel manager H.D. Mervyn Wickremesinghe believed the building became the castle hotel in 1875 which catered to international guests. In recent decades, the Castle has become the community bar to the local working-class in the area of Slave Island.

Castle Hotel Slave Island
A customer walks into the castle hotel.  On the 28th of February 2016 the Castle Hotel called last drinks. While the building itself may survive with the likelihood of being turned in into offices the last arrack’s have been served and last songs sung. One of the Colombo’s most iconic drinking spots has been closed.
Street Cricket Colombo
Men playing street cricket outside the Castle Hotel on Slave Island. The Castle hotel which operates primarily as a pub, very basic hotel rooms are also available upstairs. Next door to the Castle Hotel is a large apartment development being conducted by the Tata Group. After the acquisition of land by the Indian multinational conglomerate,  the hotels future has been uncertain.
Castle Hotel Slave Island
A person sits at a table in the foyer as a drunk man lays down passed out inside the Castle hotel entrance.

Of all the bars and pubs in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo there are few that match the character, history and working class realities of the emerging Sri Lanka than this iconic venue.
The colonial grand façade, imposing a Y-Shaped staircase at its foyer entrance, gives insight to the Castle Hotel’s ‘hey day’ which would have catered to foreign guests and troops during the World Wars.

Since then, the upkeep of the hotel has been in a decline and its character and charm representative of its predominantly working-class clientele. Loyal customers from snake charmers, tuk tuk drivers, low level office clerks and ironically, even the labourers working on the site that would eventually see the end of the bar, would be found having a drink at the Castle on most nights.

Monkey tamer and snake charmer
A snake being held by its charmer looks at a Monkey which is sitting on its owners lap as their owners have a drink and socialise inside the Castle Hotel.
Castle Hotel bar counter
Men lining up for drinks at the bar counter drinking at the Castle Hotel.
Castle Hotel Slave Island
Men sitting at a table drinking inside the Castle hotel which operates primarily as a pub or local drinking den, hotel rooms are also available.

The future of the hotel has been uncertain after Indian multinational conglomerate ‘The Tata Group’ purchased the highly valuable land to develop modern offices and apartment complexes. There were talks the hotel would remain in its current form, however, it was always going to be a matter of time before the last drinks would be served.

Beers were cheap, arrack plentiful and short bites, spicy. The resident stray cat would hunt around for scraps on the floor. Like any good pub, stories were shared, grievances voiced and opinions were made known in the presence of complete strangers. Drunks, alcoholics and general louts would be ushered out with some decorum and respect, when they had one too many.

Castle Hotel Slave Island
A man smokes a cigarette as he drinks beer at a table with friends inside the Castle hotel.
The Castle Hotel
Two men share a having a drink inside the Castle Hotel
Castle Hotel Slave Island
A man orders an arrack (local drink) at the counter inside the Castle hotel which operates primarily as a pub but hotel rooms are also available upstairs. Slave Island is home to numerous small houses occupied by some of colombo’s working class, as gentrification & development encroaches land in the now highly valuable slave island is slowly pushing out locals from the area. Slave Island is a suburb in Colombo, Sri Lanka located directly south of the Fort area of Colombo
Castle Hotel Slave Island
A man skols or drinks down a large large bottle of beer as a drunk man wearing a sarong walks past inside the Castle hotel

It recent years, this humble venue gained a reputation online as a ‘dodgy pub’ – though in my experience, you are more likely to find dodgier clientele and shady customers (for lack of better words) in the bars and clubs of Colombo’s 5-star hotels.

The Castle didn’t pretend to be something it wasn’t and it was, by far, more representative of Sri Lanka than the Westernised hotels down the road. Its guests were treated with respect and without the judgement they may experience outside.

As modern Sri Lanka rides the economic wave of a post-war economy, the consequence of gentrification emerges.

At the Castle hotel, what you saw was what you got, it was real and it was gritty, but it was honest.

Castle Hotel Slave Island
An empty room with a disconnected old TV set sits on a table inside the Castle hotel which operates primarily as a pub, hotel rooms are also available.
Castle Hotel Slave Island
A man walks into the main entrance of the Colonial styled Castle Hotel

Words and photography by Asanka Brendon Ratnayake.

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake is a photojournalist and travel photographer based in Melbourne Australia covering Australia, Asia and the indian subcontinent. Follow him on instagram 

(C) Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

Clippings – Time : Burma’s Million-Strong Rohingya Population Faces ‘Final Stages of Genocide,’ Says Report

Rohingya Refugee Boy Sittwe
A young malnourished Rohingya boy inside the Sittwe IDP camp . An estimated 110,000 ethnic Rohingya live in an overcrowded IDP camp in the outskirts of Sittwe. The Rohingya continually make attempts to flee the camps by fishing boat and seek asylum in neighbouring Islamic countries however often fall victim to human traffickers. At current they are a stateless people believed to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. According to the UN the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. – Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

One of my photographs from the IDP camps in Sittwe was recently picked up for an article in Time.
Whilst getting a photo used by time is something i’m quite happy about, i’m glad that this story is starting to get a bit of traction.
What i witnessed in those camps i can only describe as state sponsored genocide.
This article and Al Jazeera’s expose proves this.

I’d strongly encourage you to read this article in Time

Al Jazeera Investigative Unit expose the inner workings of the Myanmar government, providing “strong evidence” of genocide against the Rohingya minority.

BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY CHALLENGE DAY 3 OF 5

Day 3 of the #fivedayblackandwhitechallenge A portrait of an elderly Aboriginal women at her home in the remote community of Warburton in Western Australia, just to the south of the Gibson Desert.

A portrait of an elderly Aboriginal women at her home in the remote community of Warburton in Western Australia, just to the south of the Gibson Desert. 20/05/2009
A portrait of an elderly Aboriginal women at her home in the remote community of Warburton in Western Australia, just to the south of the Gibson Desert. 20/05/2009

#australia #BlackandWhiteChallenge #reportage #photojournalism #australia #B&Wchallenge

BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY CHALLENGE DAY 2 OF 5

Day 2 of the #fivedayblackandwhitechallenge A group refugees from Helmand Province ration out fire wood amongst the families living the IDP Charahi Qambar refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul Afghanistan. 19/2/2010

#BLACKANDWHITECHALLENGE #reportage #photojournalism #Afghanistan #refugees #B&Wchallenge

A group refugees from Helmand Province ration out fire wood amoungst the families living the IDP Charahi Qambar refugee camp in the outskirts of Kabul Afghanistan. 19/2/2010
A group refugees from Helmand Province ration out fire wood amoungst the families living the IDP Charahi Qambar refugee camp in the outskirts of Kabul Afghanistan. 19/2/2010