Digging in for Lorikeet Dreaming

My father moved into a run-down little Victorian terrace house in Brunswick in 1978. The brass plate out the front said Villapola, and thus it has been known to the many lovely people who have lived in this share house over the decades.  Dad moved overseas in 1999, so I took over the care of the share house, and built a tiny shed in the garden where I could stay when in the city.

Villapola is on a corner block, and back in the seventies my father dug holes in the asphalt and planted trees all along the long side of the house. The trees broke up the rest of the asphalt, so the council removed the lot, and ever since, it’s been trees and a soft gravel path, a green oasis in urban Brunswick. This unusual arrangement has continued for decades now.

Dad started the Brunswick Tree Group around then too, and lobbied with other locals for native plantings. And I have lived the changes – I dimly remember, back in the seventies, Edward Street with not a single tree in sight. I remember how horrified I was by the ugliness. Now this patch of Brunswick is famous for its trees, and the absolutely stunning mural above appeared at the start of the street last year. An image like a glorious deity of Edward Street; a heightened depiction of exactly what’s going on – I snapped this across the street from Villapola:

I visit every Monday, and on the day I was staying last week, my housemate Victoria and I were woken early by the sound of machinery, and many voices, just by the house. It was a crew hired by Council to concrete the entire nature strip. We came out and let them know of the special arrangement. They said, ‘we have instructions, we’re concreting now, gotta be done by midday.’

We stood our ground. ’Sorry, but there’s obviously been a mix-up. We’ll contact Council so they can confirm what we say with you.’

It was tense. Council offices weren’t yet open, and the workers were itchy to get their job done. Indeed, they’d already begun, and kept working as we explained the situation. They rang their boss. We rang the Council’s emergency line. Eventually we got through and got the work halted. But it was so close – so lucky that I was here to explain, and Victoria was here, resolute and clear. We could’ve backed down, let them do what they so clearly wanted to do. But it seemed important to preserve this tiny patch where so much greening began. To continue the work of making space for the green ones, and to make a stand for doing things differently.

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