July 2017 newsletter

Go to the formatted version for pictures and neat links.

In this edition: Feature on cladding fire in Brunswick; Census stats; lots of Art

** Census snapshots the new Brunswick
The release of 2016 census data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) provides an interesting snapshot of Brunswick. Compared to the median across the state or the nation, we’re younger, wealthier, less religious, more likely to be living in sin and renting an apartment!
* The median age of people in Brunswick (Statistical Area Level 2) was 33 years. Children aged 0 – 14 years made up 10.5% of the population and people aged 65 years and over made up 10.2% of the population. We’re in the top quartile for declining median age, off an already youthful base.
* Population density per square kilometre has risen from 4,664 (2011) to 5,102 (2016).
* The ABS says that a ‘typical’ Australian lives in a three-bedroom house. Not true for Brunswick, which has much higher numbers of smaller houses and nearly triple the Victorian rate of apartment living!
* We’re wealthier than your average Victorian. Indeed, the median family income for the electorate of Wills increased by 21.7% between the censuses in 2011 and 2016.
* In Brunswick (Statistical Area Level 2), 61.3% of people were born in Australia. The other most common countries of birth were Italy 3.3%, England 3.2%, New Zealand 3.1%, Greece 2.7% and China (excludes “SARs” – territories like Hong Kong – and Taiwan) 2.3%.
* In Brunswick, 66.0% of people only spoke English at home. Other languages spoken at home included Italian 5.4%, Greek 4.8%, Mandarin 2.6%, Arabic 2.3% and Nepali 1.4%. Despite this, the electorates of Batman and Wills in Melbourne (and Grayndler in Sydney) rate as three out of only four electorates in the country where the proportion of non-English speakers actually declined between 2012 and 2016.
* More than one in five households in Brunswick live without a car, which is nearly three times the state and national rate.
* A lot of us have never looked to church or state to ratify our relationships! Only 27.2% of Brunswickians are in registered marriages (compared to 47.8% of Australians and 47.7% of Victorians). 19.3% live in de facto relationships (nearly twice the rate for Victoria at 9.8% and Australia at 10.4%). 60% have never married (compared to 35.5% in Victoria and 35% in Australia)
* We’re proud of our lack of religion. One in two people in Brunswick say they have no religion (20 per cent higher than the national rate).

All of this confirms political trends that have been pretty obvious in recent council and state elections. With a growing cohort of young, irreligious, bike-riding hipsters renting apartments across the south ward of Moreland municipality, combined with socially progressive yuppies who can afford million dollar homes, the Greens have an electoral base for future assaults on the rusted-on Labour strongholds of the inner north.

The ABS will release further data in October, focussing on employment, wages and economy, which should make interesting reading.
* For further data and detail, check outCensus 2016 (http://www.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2016/quickstat/206011105?opendocument)

(You can see a table with key stats in the  formatted version 

** Feature article:
Cladding fire in Brunswick
With the media debating the disastrous Grenfell fire in London and the 2014 Lacrosse fire in the Docklands, a small cladding fire in Brunswick last March went unnoticed. But as more multi-storey towers are erected in the inner north, the Brunswick fire raises questions about the quality of building materials and the system of safety surveys.

In 2014, a fire at the 23-storey Lacrosse apartment tower in Melbourne’s Docklands spread rapidly up the side of the building. Fire authorities attributed the near disaster to the type of cladding used on the exterior of the building. This year, the issue of cladding and building safety has been rammed home by the Grenfell tower fire disaster in London. At least 80 people in Kensington are dead, or missing and presumed dead, with the number of casualties expected to rise.

Preliminary reports in the UK suggest the scale of the disaster in the Grenfell fire was related not just to the external cladding spreading the fire, but to other factors such as the lack of sprinklers, accessible stairwells and exits to the building. Australia certainly has stronger fire safety standards that post-Thatcher England. Despite this, The Age reported last month that the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) has identified 86 Melbourne buildings with suspected non-compliant cladding, including buildings previously deemed safe by the City of Melbourne building surveyor (The Age, 16 June 2017, p.11).

In some cases, there has been extensive delay in remediating problems already identified. In 2016, the Trilogi apartment building in Prahran posted a notice in communal areas warning residents against lighting barbecues or using lights and power points on their balconies over fears the building’s distinct flame-coloured cladding could catch fire. Beyond this, no remediation work has begun.

The issue of combustible cladding has hit closer to home. On 8 March, there was a small fire in the external cladding of the Anstey Square tower in Sydney Road, Brunswick. The 9-storey, 105-apartment is located on the former Whelan the Wrecker site between Breese Street and Sydney Road. According to a story on ABC TV’s 7.30 Report: “The fire didn’t rate a mention in the media, but 7.30 can reveal that investigators suspect combustible cladding not suited for big apartment blocks, is the blame.”

“Authorities dragging their feet on building cladding, experts say”, ABC TV 7.30 Report, 29 June 2017 (http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2017/s4694046.htm)

The Brunswick fire was reportedly started by a faulty air-conditioning unit that sparked a blaze that quickly spread upwards to the unit above. Residents said: “You could see all of the external cladding. It was on fire and bits of it were starting to burn off and then subsequently fell down afterwards.” (See image from program, above)

Mark Carter of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade stated: “I think this is a case where a product that is commonly used in a Class 1, your domestic homes, has been taken into the Class 2 apartment environment, with little thought about what we need to do to assess whether this product is safe.”

It’s a worrying sign that a cladding fire could occur in a relatively new Moreland apartment tower that was given building approval. The building had a sprinkler system installed, but this is not mandated for properties under 25 metres in height.

Victoria, like other jurisdictions, has outsourced its building approvals system to private surveyors and inspectors. But, as with other Brunswick sites, the Anstey Tower was not audited by the VBA when it looked at CBD buildings in the aftermath of the Lacrosse fire. According to the 7.30 Report, residents at the Anstey Square apartment tower have so little confidence in either Moreland Council or the whole building approval system that they have “taken matters into their own hands and hired a fire engineer” to conduct inspections.

Fire risks associated with cladding in high rise buildings are not confined to the type of material used (eg composite aluminium) but also to the fact that cladding (combustible or non-combustible) may create cavities that produce a chimney effect, with an updraft that spreads fire more rapidly. Proper safety standards must also be accompanied by installation of fire barriers and by the use of non-combustible cladding.

The Lacrosse fire has also highlighted the difficulty for Metropolitan Fire Brigade ladders to reach upper floor fires in building over 15 storeys. The monitoring of safety standards is all the more important as developers push for even higher towers in the inner north.

One example is the proposal from the developers Shayer Group, currently before Council, to build a 19-story hotel/apartment tower at the site of the former Pentridge jail in Coburg. The Shayher proposal is the first of five such 18-19 storey apartment towers to be built in the Pentridge Heritage Precinct under the current, unrevised, Pentridge Master Plan.

In the developer’s application, Shayher has specified that it intends to use “silver tinted double glazing, anodised metal cladding” for this building. As the literature on anodising indicates, anodised cladding almost always involves an aluminium base, which fire authorities regard as the primary material responsible for the deadly fire at Grenfell in London, and the near-miss for the 400 residents of the Lacrosse tower in Melbourne.

Residents involved in the Pentridge Action Group have called on Moreland Council to “ask for resubmission of any high-rise apartment tower proposal that does not explicitly (in writing) commit the developer to use non-combustible cladding and non-combustible insulation, fire barriers to prevent cavity updrafts in any installed cladding, install sprinklers, and have at least two exit staircases.”

They have also recommended that “the Council as a matter of policy and practice refuse to grant permits to any high rise apartment tower proposal with storeys that exceed the height at which Metropolitan Fire Brigade ladders can reach (13-15 storeys depending on the specific features of the fire location).”

At recent meetings with residents, Shayer indicated that they would seek to comply with any requirements for using non-combustible cladding as part of a building permit, as well as any requirements by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, and would be installing sprinklers within the building

With the building industry reluctant to add costs to a weakening apartment market, there should be more action by government regulators. However a Senate inquiry into non-conforming building products, established after the Lacrosse fire, has had six delays and is not expected to report until next year.

After Grenfell, the Victorian Government has now appointed a taskforce — co-chaired by former Liberal premier Ted Baillieu and former Labor deputy premier John Thwaites — to fast-track the investigation into flammable cladding on Victoria’s buildings. However it is important that Moreland Council not simply proceed with a “business as usual” approach, but be proactive in relation to high rise towers proposals and apply the “precautionary principle” to take every possible step to avoid a fire disaster.


** Transforming concrete with murals
As you head north along Lygon Street, just north of Blyth Street, you can’t miss the mural. With striking portraits of a man and woman, it dominates the whole wall of apartment tower opposite the Abruzzo Club. At a time that Lygon Street is filling with concrete monoliths, it’s great that some walls are being transformed.

Architect Dominic Ridolfi, whose parents migrated from L’Aquila in the Abruzzo, worked with Auckland born- artist Peter Seaton to create the massive mural. The resulting work “Whispers of 10,000 Generations” features two elaborate portraits with the landscape of Abruzzo.

It’s worth walking round to the back of the building as well, to visit the Good Room, which provides an art space and community facility. Katrina Lolicato, who co-founded the Good Room, has commissioned its own mural on the adjacent wall.

For more information on the mural, check out the latest edition of Garland magazine (with thanks to editor Kevin Murray): Playing tag with local identity: Art development in the inner city (http://garlandmag.com/article/playing-tag-with-local-identity-art-development-in-the-inner-city/)

Above: Domenic Rodolfi with two of his daughters in front of Peter Seaton’s mural “Whispers of Generations” in Lygon Street, Brunswick


** Library artwork launch
2017 is the 100-year anniversary of the second of two referendums on conscription. In 1917, in the midst of the war, Australian anti-conscription campaigners succeeded in defeating the introduction of conscription by a greater margin than the 1916 referendum.

Moreland Council commissioned a new artwork for the Brunswick Library foyer, to mark this occasion.

Commemoration of the anniversary will begin with the official opening of Matt Blackwood’s Yes No artwork by Cr Sue Bolton, and will be followed by refreshments and a talk by local historian Dr Val Noone who will discuss, Moreland and the Conscription Vote, 1916-17.

The 1916-1917 anti-conscription vote
6 – 8 pm, Wednesday 19 July
Brunswick Library
Register at morelandcitylibraries.eventbrite.com.au (http://morelandcitylibraries.eventbrite.com.au/) or phone 9389 860

Noel Counihan art prize: call for entries

The new Noel Counihan Commemorative Award will recognise an outstanding contemporary artwork by an artist who engages with social, political, cultural or environmental subjects. You need to live, work, study or base your art practice in Moreland municipality. The prize is a tailored Professional Development package to the value of $3000.

This year’s theme is PEOPLE – POLITICS – PROTEST

More details from the Counihan Gallery:
Email: counihangallery@moreland.vic.gov.au (mailto:counihangallery@moreland.vic.gov.au)
Web: moreland.vic.gov.au/counihan-gallery


** Solar power survey
#Repower Moreland is a Moreland Energy Foundation (MEFL) campaign, as part of a broader Environment Victoria initiative. MEFL are surveying locals to find out what you think of renewable energy, including solar panels and wind, and what actions should be taken in the local area.
* The online survey is short (around 5 minutes) , so check it out (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9Q78CF5)
* Get further information on Environment Victoria’s #Repower initiative (https://environmentvictoria.org.au/campaign/repower/)

AND . . . give your opinions on Brunswick to a student research project
Invitation to participate in a Research Project
Researchers from RMIT @ Centre for Urban Research are recruiting residents from inner, middle and outer suburbs of Melbourne to participate in a focus group and share their ideas about liveability of their neighbourhoods.

The focus group will be held at RMIT’s City Campus on 26th of July, 6:00 -8:00 pm. If you are interested to participate, please contact Leila Farahani (leila.farahani@rmit.edu.au) (mailto:leila.farahani@rmit.edu.au)) .


** BRN mean to sardines
In last month’s BRN newsletter, we suggested that if you found peak hour trams on Sydney Road too crowded, “you could always take an Upfield train instead, if you like sardines.”

One correspondent suggests that our image of the sardine can was unfair, given significant efforts by the State Government to address public transport overcrowding (anyone feel a state election coming on?).

For the defence, m’lud, could we advance some evidence from Metro Trains, who hold the contract to run trains along the Upfield line? A copy of Metro’s 2016 Strategic Operational Plan, recently leaked to The Age, reports: “The Northern Group [Sunbury, Craigieburn and Upfield lines] faces immediate challenges with a number of lines currently operating at capacity. There is an urgent need to develop a solution for the Northern Group to ensure that there is sufficient capacity on this group until the commissioning of Metro Tunnel in 2026” (our emphasis).

We submit that, for Brunswick residents, sardines remain on the menu alongside smashed avo!
* Metro warns of capacity crunch within two years on some train lines, The Age, 5 July 2017 (http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/metro-warns-of-capacity-crunch-within-two-years-on-some-train-lines-20170704-gx4giy.html)


** Next Moreland Council meetings
All Council meetings – held on the 2nd Wednesday of each month – and Urban Planning Committee meetings – held on the 4th Wednesday of each month – are now held at: Council Chamber, Moreland Civic Centre, 90 Bell Street, Coburg. Council meetings are on:
* Monday 24 July 2017 (Adopt the Council Council Plan, Strategic Resource Plan and Budget)
* Wednesday 9 August 2017
* Wednesday 13 September 2017
* Monday 25 September 2017 (Consider Draft Annual Report) – 6 pm

Check for all meeting details at the Council website (http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/about-council/council-and-committee-meetings.html) . Council meetings can now be watched online, either live, or later – you can find details here (http://www.moreland.vic.gov.au/about-council/council-and-committee-meetings/council-meetings/agenda-next-council-meeting.html) along with the agenda for this week’s Council meeting.
* Hint: If you go to an evening meeting at 90 Bell Street and find the doors locked, you can probably get in through the back door via Urquhart Street.


** Contacts for our three local councillors:
Deputy Mayor Samantha Ratnam
Mobile: 0433 275 434
Email: sratnam@moreland.org.au (mailto:sratnam@moreland.org.au)

Mark Riley
Mobile: 0499 807044
Email: mriley@moreland.org.au (mailto:mriley@moreland.org.au)

Lambros Tapinos
Mobile: 0433 419 075
Email: ltapinos@moreland.org.au (mailto:ltapinos@moreland.org.au)


Welcome to new readers! To contact organisers of the Brunswick Residents’ Network, or to offer help with future activities, please email albertstreet2020@gmail.com

Please forward this e-letter to other Moreland neighbours who’d like a say in the way their community is changing. It’s easy to sign on, or edit your details to include your interests – just go to http://eepurl.com/VX4a9.

For meeting details, survey and newsletter archives, go to: https://brunswickresidents.wordpress.com

Check out our Facebook page for a range of lively discussions: Brunswick Residents Network (https://www.facebook.com/Brunswick.Residents.Network) . Help us reach more people by liking our page, commenting, forwarding this newsletter, and tweeting it using the links below.


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