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Stephanie Collier

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Toto’s | Icons Of Melbourne

Toto's Website header

Pizza, Pasta and a Vision for a New Australian Life

When the sun sets over Carlton

And the moonlight floods the streets

All those pizza places and spaced out places

They all get on the beat

Carlton (Lygon Street Limbo)

Okay, okay, they were writing about cruising for drugs, but Skyhooks, the seminal 70’s Aussie glam rock band who wrote these lyrics, still captured the feel of a street that has become larger than life in the history of Melbourne – Carlton’s Lygon Street.

A street bursting to overflowing with history, Lygon Street started life as a Jewish ghetto, then morphed into a hub for Italian migrants: the first port of call when they got off the boat from war torn Italy post WWII, looking for a better life.

These immigrants created a cultural and food legacy – “Little Italy”.  And this is where the first Australian pizzeria, Toto’s Pizza House, was born on 7th July 1961 at 101 Lygon Street, and where it has remained ever since.

It’s hard to imagine an Australia, particularly a Melbourne, without pizza.  Melbourne is considered the pizza capital of the world, and mega-corporations such as Pizza Hut and Dominos have saturated the market. But prior to 1961, if you wanted to dine out or take away, well…. you kind of didn’t.  The Aussie staple was meat and three veg, and there was not a zucchini or even the smallest of garlic cloves hiding in any greengrocers. Our love affair with olive oil, pasta and the dreamiest of espressos was not even a twinkling in the eye of any Aussie brought up to revere the humble potato and lamb chop as the height of culinary excellence.

Yes, we have a lot to thank those Italian immigrants for.  Spaghetti Bolognese (spag bol in Aussie-ese) is probably close to our national dish today and seriously –  could you imagine a life without coffee? Strange to think now that they were subjected to racial vilification relentlessly, being labelled “wogs”, “dagos”, and “eyeties”. Their contribution to the culture and cuisine of Australia is enormous (perhaps something to remember next time you hear or think that migrants couldn’t possibly contribute anything to Australian life, and in fact actively destroy it.  We could all still be a nation of tea drinkers chowing down on a pile of mashed spuds).

But back to pizza.

When Salvatore Della Bruna established Toto’s in 1961 with Franco Fera, he also invented the classic ‘Aussie Pizza’ – yes, you know the one: pineapple and ham.  Salvatore came from a long line of pizza makers near Naples, and admitted that his own father probably would have killed him if he had have known.  You didn’t mess with traditional pizza back in Italy. Salvatore said in an interview with Melbourne newspaper The Age back in 1982: “Did I come here to make pizza? No, I would have stayed in Italy if I wanted to make pizza and spaghetti, because my family had the business from my great grandfather. My father told me: ‘You can go to Australia. You can go to America. You will end up with pizza in your hand because that’s the only thing you can do!’”

As the evolution of pizza in Australia travelled further and further from the Italian models, Salvatore’s father probably wore out the wood turning over in his grave, despairing of the overloaded, soggy varieties that have become our staples.  With traditional Italian pizza, less is definitely more: think the classic Margherita combo of tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and basil as a prime example.

In 2007, Toto’s was the second member inducted into the World Pizza Hall of Fame.

Back in 1961, Toto’s catered mainly to students from the nearby Melbourne University. Today, walking along Lygon St involves ducking and dodging aggressive touts, determined to make you eat at their establishment. Pizza is everywhere, just like Skyhooks sang. The evolution continues: from European speciality street to tourist mecca, Lygon St was in danger of becoming – in the words of Shannon Swan, co- director of the urban history short film Lygon St – Si Parla Italiano -a “caricature of itself”. This, coupled with the street’s descent into murky gangland territory in the 1990’s (Mick Gatto, anyone?)  tarnished its reputation a fair amount.  People who always loved “Little Italy” have stayed away, in spite of Carlton’s reputation as a counterculture hot spot in the 1970’s and 80’s.  But there seems to be a re-emergence of spirit in more recent times.

Approaching Toto’s from across the street, it advertises its heritage loudly and proudly, with a large sign post above the front entrance: “Toto’s Pizza House First in Australia”.  It features al fresco dining at the front, tables and chairs underneath large umbrellas, like most trattorias on Lygon St.  The interior is traditional trattoria as well: wooden tables and chairs, with the large pizza oven at the front.

It has since expanded to two more stores, one in Richmond and one in South Melbourne.  The current owner is Sami Mazloum, who has operated the store since 1982.  It has only changed hands once in its long history, and Sami bought the original recipes off Salvatore as well.

Family and tradition are the big drawcards for Toto’s – something that Mazloum, speaking in 2008, recognised, and which corresponded with his own values.

“It is a family restaurant,” he said. “I try to keep building the name in this industry.  The family is the main thing; it is the foundation of the society.”

He wanted the restaurant to be about food and family; the customer to feel like they are eating at home. The restaurant’s focus on fresh produce and excellent service is a part of that as well – Mazloum’s vision is that the restaurant is like a stage, and the customers are the audience to the performance.

The menu has changed since 1982 – expanded from purely pizza and pasta to incorporate other foods such as steak and seafood.  But the pizza continues to be the staple: those Italio- Aussie hybrid classics that are now found in every small town pizza shop in Australia. Ironically, those hybrids that were invented to suit the palettes of Australians are now under threat from a new wave of ‘gourmet’ pizza varieties and traditional Italian wood fired.

Mazloum, who hails originally from Lebanon, believed it is hard work and inspiration which begets success, following on from opportunity.

“Australia is a great nation,” he stated. “We are a multi-cultural society; the people come from all over the world.  They bring their best.  This country opened their door and their heart to me and to thousands and thousands like me.”

So next time you tuck into your classic ham and pineapple pizza on a Friday night, think about how it all could have been a dream if not for some enterprising, hardworking Italian migrants who came off a boat with pizza in their blood and a vision for a new life in their eyes.

By Any Other Name: Sluts, Stats, and Stereotypes. An Interview with SlutWalk Melbourne’s Lisa Dib

SlutWalk Melbourne

You know this woman.

She catches the tram and sits beside you every morning on your way to work.  You’ve seen her face briefly when she drops her children at childcare.  She always sits in the front row at your Monday afternoon lecture.  You chat with her at the water cooler in the corridor at work.  She laughs at conversation when you catch up with her over dinner every week.  You’ve passed her in the street. You’ve read her sad story in the newspaper and trembled with impotent anger.  Perhaps she gave birth to you, or she grew up alongside you.

Perhaps the woman is you.

How many times have you heard “she deserved it”, “she always dresses like that – she was asking for it”, “she could have left any time but she stayed”, “what could she expect when she walks alone at night and has had a few drinks?

Attitude is everything.  And unfortunately, victim blaming women for rape, sexual assault, and violence against them is one attitude that starts very, very early.  We practically imbibe it with our mother’s milk.

The statistics bear the awful truth. According to the Reducing Violence Against Women and their Children Report (2015), one in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence since they were fifteen.  Women are significantly more likely to experience violence perpetrated by a male, than men are to experience violence perpetrated by a female. Two in five Australian women have experienced violence perpetrated by a male.

One Australian woman is killed by their current or former partner each week.

Lisa Dib SlutWalk Melbourne

At the State Library on Swanston Street in Melbourne’s CBD I met up with Lisa Dib, a freelance writer and editor who is also one of the central organising members of SlutWalk Melbourne.  It was a sunny, laidback afternoon, with people lolling about on the lawns and the background hum of buskers.  A very different atmosphere to when SlutWalk convenes for its annual March at this very spot.

“It’s struck a chord with a lot of people,” Dib says. “Weirdly, it is a fun day. It is distressing, but there is also a great feeling of community and support. It is a good feeling, in terms of positivity when you are on a March and you feel like you are making a statement. All we want to do is be loud about it…the more often that women are blamed for their own assault, the more often women are slut shamed, the more we feel we have to remind people that that’s not the case.”

Dib also believes the normalisation, or socialisation, of victim blaming starts from the cradle and takes root from there. “It’s about unlearning sexism,” she states. “It’s about unpacking everything you’ve been taught since literally the day you were born.  You’ve been taught that girls wear pink and boys wear blue, girls become wives and boys are allowed to hit girls because they like them.”

SlutWalk Melbourne is part of an organic, grassroots transnational movement that mushroomed to life in Toronto, Canada in 2007, after a policeman was recorded saying “women should avoid dressing like sluts” in order to minimise the chances of sexual assault.

Part of SlutWalk’s message is about reclaiming the slut word and putting an end to rape culture and victim blaming.

The name SlutWalk “does divide people,” Dib says. “Which is funny because one of the tag lines is it’s a controversial name, not a controversial message. If we had a completely different name, people would have no problem with it; the name is really the only sticking point for people.”

Having acknowledged that, Dib says she does empathise with people who feel uncomfortable with the word and any associations it may have for them.

“I understand if people don’t want to reclaim the word, that’s their decision,”

“I have no emotional connection with the word, a lot of people don’t want to reclaim the word because they’ve had trauma associated with it and that’s fine, we would never actively force people to come to the March if they are not comfortable with the word.”

She pauses. “Sometimes just seeing it is awful for people. I’m not actively trying to reclaim the word because I don’t have a personal negative relationship with it.  I understand it’s role in patriarchy which is to punish women for having sex, so in that sense I like that women are reclaiming it.”

SlutWalk Melbourne

Dib believes that the word is linked to society having a strange and twisted concept of women’s sexuality, which is why women are shamed for being ‘sluts’.

“The word is tied in a lot with self-respect,” she says. “People think that if you have casual sex you are disrespecting yourself or you have no respect for your body. That question in itself is pretty interesting.  Why is sex tied in with self-respect? Or how I feel about myself?  And that’s the thing – there are just such arbitrary standards set on women that aren’t set on men at all.  That old thing that if a man has a lot of sex he’s a player, but that if a woman has a lot she’s a whore. That is one of the many things that SlutWalk stands for.”

According to Dib, judgement about women’s sexuality happens all the time – but really shouldn’t.

“Your behaviour or your clothing or your attitudes are not tied in with the respect you supposedly have for yourself,” she states.

“And no one else should be telling you if you have respect for yourself.”

“That is someone else shaping your standards for how you feel about yourself – someone else ascribing societal standards for you, even though they are pretty archaic. There are a lot of people who don’t like the name just because it’s a ‘naughty’ word.”

 *****

In the United States, Brock Turner was recently sentenced to six months in county jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at Stanford University.

Outrage at the leniency of the sentence, in addition to the trial’s insistence on trying to put responsibility for the attack on the victim, has society questioning victim blaming and male entitlement anew. The victim’s powerfully eloquent victim statement to the court has also illuminated the extent of ongoing trauma and anger at how she was treated.  She states: “I was pummelled with narrowed, pointed questions that dissected my personal life, love life, family life, inane questions, accumulating trivial details to try and find excuse for this guy who had me half naked before even bothering to ask for my name.”

The recent media circus surrounding the domestic violence case involving actor Johnny Depp and actress Amber Heard saw it happen again.

Straight away there was instant denial and finger pointing at Heard on social media, with accusations of her being a “gold digger” and disbelief that an eminent actor such as Depp could be capable of such a thing. The overarching message being loud and clear, once more:  the man is always given the benefit of the doubt, and the woman – her life, appearance and behaviour – hauled over the coals to prove she somehow deserved it, or at the very least, is fabricating it.

RESPECT Campaign SlutWalk Article

In our country, violence against women has become so endemic and ingrained that the Federal Government has recently attempted to tackle it head on with the ‘Respect’ campaign. In the television advertisement, a boy trips a girl and the girl is told it’s “only because he likes you.” A boy takes a photo of a girl’s cleavage and he is applauded by his mates.  A man stands shouting abuse at a woman cowering on the ground – but when next we look, it is the same little boy. The issue of respect for women is also central to SlutWalk’s message.

As such, it is proud of its vision of inclusiveness for women of all backgrounds and orientations, including trans gender and sex workers.  The movement also attempts not to be ‘classist’.

“I think that’s what is so good about SlutWalk,” says Dib. “We try to be absolutely inclusive, trans inclusive, totally non gender binary, and sex worker positive as well.”

Another reason this inclusiveness is so important is to continually chip away at attitudes about what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour in women – usually linked to their sexuality.  The extreme end of this is to demystify sex work and pornography: to humanise women working in these industries. This is especially important for sexual assault, as sex workers are particularly vulnerable to it. According to the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, attitudes range from beliefs that it is not as bad to rape a sex worker as a woman who is not, to the extreme that “sex workers are always consenting to sex and thus incapable of being raped.”

“There are women who choose to be sex workers,” Dib says. “I would never defend sex work if it was against women’s wishes – obviously human trafficking is abhorrent – but that’s not the same because there is no consent there. If women consent to engage in those industries, it’s up to the industries to be safe for them.”

Breaking down stigma associated with sex working and attitudes to female sexuality are part of the bigger solution of eradicating victim blaming completely – in particular, the constant references to women’s appearance and behaviour in sexual assault cases, which, according to the Australian National Institute of Crime, have among the highest rates of acquittal and lowest rates of proven guilt compared to other offences.

“Inherently rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power,”

Dib states; “so once you learn that, it doesn’t matter what they (women) are wearing or doing or where they are. Like marital rape – it doesn’t matter what she’s wearing, it’s not about that.  There’s a lot of women who come to the March wearing the same outfit they were wearing at the time that they were attacked.  And they’ll say, ‘well, this is what I was wearing – did I deserve it?’ And they might be wearing jeans and a t-shirt. There’s no such thing as a perfect rape victim.”

SlutWalk Melbourne

Dib believes that wrong ideas about rapists and rape victims have to be expunged before honest dialogues about rape can emerge.  “In society’s mind this is the woman who will be attacked: ‘short skirt walking down an alley way listening to music, attacked by the monster in the shadows’.  That’s not accurate.”

Dib continues: “We try to unpack people’s ideas about who gets assaulted,” she says. “It happens to old women, children, Muslim women, Indigenous women, trans women, sex workers…it happens to every type of woman.  The overwhelming scenario is that it is done by men. So maybe society needs to look at what is common about these scenarios, rather than what is different.”

SlutWalk has marched in Melbourne since 2011.  What does Dib see for the future of the March? Will it be needed forever?

“We will keep doing it,”

She replies “The numbers go up and down. It does take a lot out of people, especially survivors…and it’s not even necessarily about ‘getting big numbers’, because you can make as much of a statement with one person as you can with five thousand. It’s more about the strength of the message. That said, it is good to have a lot of people there, because it is fun to lead a really massive crowd.  It makes you feel good about how many people you have on your team and really positive for the future. We will keep doing them until there’s less of an obvious overarching societal problem of victim blaming and slut shaming.”

She pauses. “The end result would be that it’s an individual problem, as opposed to something which society just accepts and happens all the time and no-one thinks it’s weird that people say ‘what were you wearing? Or how much had you had to drink?’ That should be the kind of thing that if anyone said it to you everyone else would find it abhorrent.”

With Melbourne behind her, Dib and her fellow comrades at SlutWalk will continue to keep chipping away at the stereotypes and attitudes.

“There’s a million and one different types of survivors, but there really is only one type of rapist – and that is someone who rapes.”

To keep current on what is happening regarding the March for 2016 ,go to www.slutwalkmelbourne.com.au or SlutWalk Melbourne’s Facebook page for more information.

Finding Her Place | Women’s Museum Pop Up Exhibition

Her Place Promo Image

The calliper and brace sit passively in the glass case, a reminder of a different time – when polio epidemics swept the world.

Tricia Malowney was one of the victims of those epidemics, and the calliper and brace were hers, worn when polio devastated her body. But Tricia overcome her illness and is now a well-known disability advocate, trailblazing for disabled women. Malowney is just one of the nine amazing women featured in Her Place: Women’s Museum Pop Up Exhibition at the Melbourne Town Hall. The exhibition was conceived because little is known of these pioneering women, or indeed most women, and these silences work to de-value women’s lives.

Her Place Promo Image

But Her Place needs a real home.

Upon entering volunteers spring to action, explaining the vision of the project and its aim to secure funding for a permanent museum. The pop up exhibition hopes to lure enough visitors through its doors and generate enough interest to make this happen.

Her Place has accomplished much in a small space. The first room has a chalk board where visitors are encouraged to write the name of a woman who has inspired them. There is also a suggestion board, where you can stick a post-it note with ideas on what a permanent Her Place exhibit might look like and who might feature within it.

The main room has nine monitors with headphones attached to a wooden frame, each playing the story and background of a noteworthy woman. The selection is carefully considered: historical as well as current.  One of the first women electrical engineers, Florence McKenzie, features alongside Alma Thorpe, an Aboriginal activist. Further along you can view the life story of Mary de Goris, a pioneering maternity doctor from a time when there were few women doctors.  There is the story of a WWII nurse and an aviation pilot.  This wealth of women’s experiences and successes has been explored well, and each woman’s story goes further to fill those silences.

Among others, you will find Malowney’s calliper and brace, along with first female AFL goal umpire Chelsea Roffey’s trophies and one of film editor Jill Bilcock’s dog eared scripts on display.  A projection screen flashes worrying statistics about women in Australia and reinforces the need for a permanent home for Her Place.

As a pop up, Her Place has achieved much.  It works as a taster for what may come: an entrée of ideas. You can see the home that could be built with the right funding, and ultimately the more people who walk through to make suggestions and comment, the more likely this will happen.

Her Place also held talks over the course of the pop up exhibition, including ‘What Feminism means to Young Women’ and ‘Where are the Women in Sport?’ as an adjunct to the displays.

If Her Place were to exist on a map, what would it look like?  Where would her home be, and who would furnish her rooms?

I could imagine that she would always welcome women of all ages, cultures and backgrounds to sit down with a cuppa, listen, learn, and in turn tell their own tales. Rebecca Scott, STREAT’s founder and one of the women featured, says in her display “women’s stories are everyone’s stories.”

Her Place: Women’s Museum Pop Up Exhibition. You can find more information here www.herplacemuseum.com/about/popup/ 

This Month In Film | May Edition

This Month In Film - May

A Month of Mothers: Matriarchs, Mathematics, and what happened this May in Movies

We all know May is Mum’s month. And this May, film makers seem to have taken it particularly to heart.

Mother's Day Film Title

Mother’s Day

A Hollywood blockbuster turkey starring Jennifer Anniston and Julia Roberts. It has consistently atrocious reviews online and one star ratings. The New York Times quite hilariously calls it a “goopy, glossy mess”. This franchise seems to have completely derailed, if it was ever on the tracks. Remember New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day? Really what should we expect next – St Patrick’s Day, perhaps? But the mother themed movies just keep blooming like rampant chrysanthemums.

A Month Of Sundays Film Title

A Month of Sundays

Quirky Aussie film starring Anthony La Paglia and Julia Blake. This film explores a man’s unresolved grief over the death of his mother, and how an unexpected relationship can bloom between the most unlikely of people.  Touching but still with its dry comic moments (courtesy, on the whole, to John Clarke), A Month of Sundays is not the film to go and see if you want action.  It is as slow-moving as a snail on Valium. But still good to excellent reviews mostly – Variety being the exception

Mia Madre Film Title

Mia Madre

Spanish for My Mother, Mia Madre follows the life of Margherita (Margherita Buy) as she struggles with directing a film, conducting an affair with an actor and – most importantly – dealing with the hospitalisation and decline of her mother, Ada (Guilia Lazzarini).  Winner of many prestigious European awards, Mia Madre has had generally superlative reviews online.  The only exception seems to be the UK Telegraph, which dubbed it a “saggy melodrama.”. This one is definitely for lovers of foreign language films.

The Silences Film Title

The Silences

A creative memoir documentary, The Silences is about growing up in a home with mental illness.  Filmmaker Margot Nash explores the volatile dynamics in her childhood home, from her father’s battle with post-traumatic stress disorder following WWII, to her fractured relationship with her mother, who battled depression but stoically refused to acknowledge it – hence the title of the film. Excellent reviews with a limited release. Check out The Sydney Morning Herald‘s  comprehensive overview .

And so we say goodbye to our mums and hello to the rest of the month

The Huntsman Winters War Film Title

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

This is a prequel and sequel, rolled into one, to Snow White & the Huntsman.  Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron reprise their roles as the Huntsman and the Evil Queen respectively.  No Snow White (Kristen Stewart), but plenty of new characters – including Emily Blunt as Freya the Ice Queen and Jessica Chastain as a fellow huntsman. General consensus seems to be it is far inferior to the original, suffering from a mishmash plot and inconsistent acting. Screenrant puts it in a nutshell.

The Man Who Knew Infinity Film Title

The Man Who Knew Infinity

A period bio-pic, in the vein of A Beautiful Mind, about an unconventional mathematical genius who struggles to fit in to life at Cambridge.  This one has had mainly fair reviews, with most praising its worthy storyline and character driven plot. A.V. Club calls it a “brainy snack in popcorn season”.

Florence Foster Jenkins Film Title

Florence Foster Jenkins

Starring Meryl Streep in the title role as a character based on a real life society diva who believed she could sing – but couldn’t. Interestingly, this lady is also the fictionalised subject of another film recently released, the French Marguerite. This film has generally good reviews, with most praising Streep’s characterisation, as always. Variety does call it “marshmallowy” though. Also starring Hugh Grant.

Alice Through The Looking Glass Film Title

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Yet another sort-of sequel, this time to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.  However, the director hasn’t returned in this one, which seems to have contributed to its nose dive in opinion compared to the original.  Most of the actors have returned, including Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen and Matt Lucas as Twiddledum and Twiddledee.  Check out The Guardian‘s spin on this follow-up.

Bad Neighbours 2 Sorority Rising Film Title

Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising

A definite sequel to the original, the word on the screen seems to be that there are definite laugh out loud moments but it suffers in comparison to the first.  This hasn’t been box office gold either. Empire will give you the full overview.