memoir

Explosives on the Maribyrnong

Pushing across eastwards from the residential areas of Avondale Heights, I came to a small reserve, Canning Reserve, which leads to Steele Creek Reserve, revegetated with native species by the local friends of the creek. I walked through it on a hot day in November, with few other people around. At one point the reserve is quite elevated, and you have a good view across the Maribyrnong river to an area of abandoned, fenced off land, dotted with deserted brick buildings. To the east there’s a view of the city, some 10km distant. Nothing’s going on in the fenced off area, which is bordered by the Maribyrnong (formerly known as the Saltwater) to the north, east and west, and Cordite Street to the south.

That area of fenced-off land has been owned by the Department of Defence since 1908. Prior to that, it was known for horses – the Maribyrnong racecourse was there, and Fisher’s famous racing stables. Before that, for thousands of years it was the Wurrung country of the Woi Wurrung people. But within more recent memory it’s known as the location of an explosives factory. Continue reading

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Yarra Coffee Palace, Yarraville

Guest post: Growing up in the Yarra Coffee Palace

by Lucia Nardo

The first time I entered the Yarra Coffee Palace was late 1961. Our family had been forced to move from our rented home in Williamstown with its large productive garden. The Palace, with its faded name painted high on the front façade, was altogether different. The dark interior of the building smelled of mould and was layered in dust. Instead of a garden, the land behind the property sported a dilapidated stable, complete with rusted tools and a horse cart. I’d never seen wheels that big on anything. To a small child, used to a compact home, it was confusing and intriguing. This abandoned incarnation of the Yarra Coffee Palace was dense with untold stories. Even at the age of six, I wondered about the people who’d stayed there when it had been a temperance hotel. Continue reading