In a sign of the times in ‘post-lockdown Melbourne’ Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has taken the press pack out of the the dreaded ‘purple room; the room now synonymous with one of the darkest chapters in Melbourne’s history. Since Lockdown restrictions were eased Premier Daniel Andrews has conducted his press briefings away from the purple backdrop and by design done so in places which project a more positive optic.
As part of that, we joined the premier as he visited the New State Library Metro Station as part of the wider Metro Tunnel project. Images taken on assignment for Getty Images
Asanka Brendon Ratnayake is a Melbourne based Photojournalist who works on regular assignment with The New York Times, Agence France-Presse, Getty Images, AP | http://instagram.com/abrfoto/
This year, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) will be unlike any other for the 50,000+ members of Melbourne’s Jewish community. In lieu of the closure of Synagogues and restrictions on wider family gatherings, the celebrations will continue albeit under a totally unprecedented set of rules. Normally over 1,500 Jews join Rabbi Yaakov Glasman at the St Kilda Synagogue, this year it will be closed. The Kallenbach family usually spend the 2-day celebration breaking bread with their wider family, this year they do so among themselves while gathered around the dinner table listening to Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann deliver the Rosh Hashanah Drosha (sermon) live via Zoom.
Melbourne residents are currently experiencing some of the strictest and longest coronavirus lockdown measures in the world as Victoria continues to work to contain a second wave of COVID-19 infections. Under stage 4 lockdown restrictions, which came into effect on 2 August 2020, people are only allowed to leave home to give or receive care, shopping for food and essential items, daily exercise and work while an overnight curfew from 8pm to 5am is also in place. Originally scheduled to end on September 13, Melbourne’s tough stage four lockdown has been extended for a further two weeks after the Victorian government announced COVID-19 case numbers remained too high for a safe return to a more normal way of life.
Among some of the worst-hit by this pandemic in Melbourne are International students and those on temporary, humanitarian or bridging visa’s.
During some much-needed respite from the usual joyless Covid-19 coverage, I spent some time with two volunteer charity organisations providing and distributing free meals for those who fall through the cracks of government assistance.
The first is @alexmakesmeals, an organisation started by 20-year-old university student @alexkdekker during Melbourne’s first lockdown when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in March.
Originally aimed at providing meals for healthcare workers, the charity has now expanded to provide meals for anyone in need following the return of lockdown restrictions due to a spike in community coronavirus transmissions. A team of volunteer chef’s and kitchen staff (most out of work) cook and pack hundreds of nutritious culturally appropriate meals a day.
The second group was the Kasih Project is a community organisation that has been distributing emergency food relief.
Angelina Sukiri project co-Ordinator of the Kasih Project has been assisting in the distribution of food to those on Humanitarian Visa’s illegible for government assistance, often working very low-paying jobs in the farming, warehouse or cleaning sector.
With work hours drastically reduced and some without work due to Covid-19, many have had to resort to initiatives such as The Kasih Project, which is a community organisation that has been distributing emergency food relief for international students and other temporary visa holders who are not able to access any government assistance.
If you wish to donate to either organisation you can do so via their links
The City of Melbourne is distributing retail vouchers to support international students impacted by COVID-19 and boost trade at Queen Victoria Market as part of its ‘Our Shout’ program. The $200,000 retail voucher program aims to support international students affected by job losses and housing insecurity with access to vouchers worth up to $200 each to spend at Queen Victoria Market. Lines extended around the block. The international student economy is worth $9.1 billion a year to the state of Victoria.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To those celebrating, Eid-Mubarak to you and your families.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My first major political summit, first of many I hope. I have always had a great interest in geo-politics so getting the ‘guernsey’ to cover G20 was certainly a privilege. In saying this I wouldn’t be lying if I said it was a bit anti-climatic from a photographers point of view as most sessions were highly restricted for accredited media. Photographing press conferences can be mundane at the best of times let alone in rooms where the light is even & the backgrounds the same from most angles, so whenever the chance to shoot something slightly different presented itself I made sure to jump on it. Nevertheless being in the presence of some of the world biggest movers & shakers, the various press corps & delegates made for an interesting experience.