Melbourne’s west is best

MELBOURNE’S western suburbs region has long been considered a diverse place where LGBTI people are active members of the community.

Centred around Brimbank, Maribyrnong, Melton, Moonee Valley, Wyndham and Hobsons Bay councils, there’s much to do and see in the region whether you’re a local resident or a visitor (see list).

Along with the City of Melbourne itself, these councils are also members of the GLBTIQ Western Region Councils Working Group, which aims to identify issues and barriers affecting people in LGBTI communities in Melbourne’s west, as well as foster joint activities that promote social inclusion, community pride, a sense of belonging and improve health and wellbeing.

In 2010, the City of Hobsons Bay hosted an LGBTI community forum — the first of its kind for a local government in Victoria. Out of this came Victoria’s first GLBTIQ Advisory Committee and a new Diversity Officer position dedicated to resourcing the LGBTI portfolio. An action plan was also developed and since completed.

Spearheaded by Hobsons Bay, the GLBTIQ Western Region Councils Working Group held a second community forum in February this year to consult with LGBTI people as part of GoWest — the mini-festival based in Melbourne’s western suburbs held during Midsumma.

With a focus on “where to next?” the forum was a massive success and a report will contain recommendations for councils and is expected to be published in July.

Since its inception, the GLBTIQ Western Region Councils Working Group has also partaken in International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia events and commemorations, advocated for relevant federal and state legislations, as well as contributed to projects such as Monash University’s LGBTI research paper.

GoWest became part of the Midsumma program in 2010 as an initiative of Hobsons Bay, and at the time was the council’s first event specifically for the LGBTI community. Since then, the unprecedented involvement and coalition of other councils in Melbourne’s western suburbs has continued to grow the program — it has gone from two events in 2010 to 24 events across the west in 2015 — which has run annually alongside the main Midsumma festival.

Another annual event that takes pride and centre in the west is the annual West and Proud film festival — the region’s equivalent to Melbourne Queer Film Festival.

There are also a variety of youth groups for local youth to get involved in, such as Wyndham’s Q Program and the Moonee Valley LGBTIQ Youth Group.

Things to do, places to see:

HOBSONS BAY

The Substation

The Substation is Melbourne’s newest contemporary arts space. Housed in the historic Substation in Newport, it operates as a not-for-profit, and presents the best in contemporary arts, including music, theatre, dance, circus, hybrid and visual arts. It also nurtures the arts in the local community through workshops, classes, and public programs.

Louis Joel Arts and Community Centre

The Louis Joel Arts and Community Centre opened its doors in November 2005 and since then has become a vibrant community facility. The purpose-built Joel Gallery has housed many wonderful exhibitions showcasing local talent and artists’ work from across Melbourne and Victoria. The centre is owned and managed by the Hobsons Bay Community Advancement Cooperative.

Scienceworks

A massive attraction for families from all across Victoria. The pumping show and lightning show are hits.

Seaworks

The Sea Shepherd is moored in Williamstown. Take a tour.

Ghost Tours

Williamstown is the place to go if you’re interested in ghost tours.

Markets

Markets are a real drawcard in Hobsons Bay; including farmers markets, craft markets, bluestone church market.

Free activitis

Visitors can also take part in self-guided walking tours, visit Altona Beach, or stroll along Hobson Bay’s stunning 24km of coastal walks. For information and details on more things to see and do, visit visithobsonsbay.com.au

WYNDHAM CITY

Weribee Zoo

Why travel thousands of kilometres when a taste of African adventure is available just 30 minutes from Melbourne’s city centre, at Werribee Open Range Zoo? You will find an array of animals living on 225 hectares of wide, open savannah. On the Pula Reserve Walking Trail, come face-to-face with gorillas, lions, sea monkeys and cheetahs and feel the sand between your toes at the new Hippo Beach. All of the above, including the 40-minute safari tour, is included in the Zoo admission price.

Shadowfax Winery

Visitors are invited to taste the wines, purchase from the cellar door, indulge at the gourmet food store or take a leisurely stroll through the picturesque vineyard. Shadowfax is popular for its live Accoustic Jazz Sessions which are on every Saturday and Sunday.

Cultural centres

Visitors can also stop by Wyndham’s Art Gallery, Cultural Centre and Mansion.

For information and details on more things to see and do, visit experiencewyndham.com.au

MOONEY VALLEY

Clocktower Centre

Built in 1880, the beautiful Clocktower Centre boasts seasonal performances ranging from drama, dance, performance art, children’s entertainment, movies and much more. clocktowercentre.com.au

Incinerator Gallery

The Incinerator Gallery is the centre for visual arts, hosting a variety of exhibitions throughout the year, as well as art courses for those wanting to tap into their creative side.  incineratorgallery.com

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Parramatta: Gateway to the west

PARRAMATTA is often regarded as the “gateway” to Sydney’s western suburbs — a city-within-a-city, a diverse, multicultural hub, and a major business and government centre.

While the region is also home to the oldest inland European settlement in Australia, having been founded by the British in 1788, in recent years it has become home to a new, emerging community: LGBTI residents.

In 2009 the Parramatta Queer Forum (PQF) was established in response to a survey of western Sydney LGBTI residents who felt there was a need for such a group.

Since then, the PQF has become a coalition of organisations that put on events, advocates for rights, provides safe spaces and make the LGBTI community visible not just in Parramatta, but western Sydney as a whole.

The highlight event in PQF’s social calendar is the Parramatta Pride Picnic. The Riverside Theatre also hosts a slew of LGBTI-films thanks to Queer Screen, while Mars Hill Cafe — an institution on Parramatta’s Church St dining precinct — is regarded as a safe space for LGBTI youth.

Located about 23 km west of the Sydney CBD on the banks of the Parramatta River, Parramatta also hosts many festivals and events, as well as a number of heritage-listed buildings and a rich Aboriginal history.

Things to do, places to see:

Parramatta Pride Picnic

Held each September, the Parramatta Pride Picnic has grown to become a mini-Mardi Gras Fair Day of sorts, complete with market stalls, drag queen performances and a “Doggywood” pageant.

Riverside Theatres

The arts hub of not just Parramatta but all of western Sydney. The venue hosts national-scale film festivals, as well as stage productions from local groups to major theatre or dancing companies.

riversideparramatta.com.au

Riverbeats

The annual celebration of Parramatta River in November which includes the Loy Krathong (Thai Water Festival).

Parramasala

A major festival celebrating Parramatta’s multiculturalism, in particular, South Asian culture. Held each October, the event draws thousands of visitors and has become a fixture on Sydney’s cultural calendar.

Eat Street

A section of Parramatta’s Church St is colloquially known as “Eat Street”, thanks to the number of restaurants and busy al fresco areas. From the fancy to the budget, and food from all corners of the world, there’s something for everyone.

Heritage buildings

Being one of the oldest European settlements in Australia, Parramatta has a number of heritage-listed buildings on the Register of the National Estate, including Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta Town Hall, Parramatta Gaol, the former King’s School, St John’s Cathedral, Parramatta Park, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Lennox Bridge, and more. Most sites are within easy walking distance from each other.

Rosehill Racecourse

Located just outside Parramatt’s centre, this is one of Sydney’s major race tracks and home to the famous and multi million-dollar Golden Slipper.

For information and details on more things to see and do, visit discoverparramatta.com

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Geelong: Not a suburb per se, but…

GEELONG is more than just a country town — it is a sophisticated and cosmopolitan city.

Located 75km south-west of Melbourne, the City of Greater Geelong is home to over 200,000 residents — known as Geelongites — making it the second-largest urban area of Victoria.

The city is home to a diverse range of activities, sights and historic landmarks (see list), from the National Wool Museum to an antique carousel for the kids of the magnificent waterfront.

Its close proximity and good transport links to nearby wineries, the Great Ocean Road and the Twelve Apostles also make Geelong an ideal city to spend a few days.

The city is also home to an active and diverse LGBTI community. In May, over 150 people attended Geelong Town Hall to watch the rainbow flag raising ceremony to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

With many young Geelongites increasingly coming out of the closet, the city’s GASP project was set up to work with young people aged 12-25 who identify as LGBTI and questioning,

The group runs a weekly social and support group, provides individual support and counselling, works with young people and staff in schools to help create safe school environments, and with mainstream service providers to ensure they have LGBTI-inclusive protocols.

Things to do, places to see:

Potato Shed

A thriving hub of arts activity on the beautiful Bellarine, just 20 minutes from the Geelong CBD. “The Shed” boasts a range of professional and local theatre, dance, music and art activities for residents and visitors alike. The rest of 2015 has an extensive offering, including Winter Solstice, Melbourne Fringe Tour, Caravan Burlesque, Carmen — the ballet, Barry Morgan and more. geelongaustralia.com.au/potatoshed

National Wool Museum

This award winning museum is the home of the Australian Heritage Centre for Wool and serves as the regional host for exhibitions in fashion and textiles to dinosaurs and sporting history. nwm.vic.gov.au

Wine and dine

Geelong’s Pakington St is the place to go for some great dining and cafe experiences, but it’s the greater Geelong area where visitors (and residents) can immerse themselves in fantastic regional offerings. The Bellarine Taste Trail is quite popular, as are the wineries of Jack Rabbit Vineyard, Leura Park Estate, Flying Brick Cider, Oakdene Vineyards, and of course, Little Creatures Brewery. For a winter escape from the city, head to Geelong Wine’s Winter Shiraz Weekend on July 4-5. winegeelong.com.au

For information and details on more things to see and do, visit visitgeelongbellarine.com.au

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