Seniors writing competition
For the last two years, Council has held a writing competition for the local senior community to showcase their literary talents.
The competition invites residents aged 55 years and older to submit a piece of writing that tells a tale about Yarra.
Last year, Council received 17 entries that were judged by a panel comprising local resident Merle Thornton, Yarra Librarian Melissa Gilmore and Cr Jackie Fristacky.
My Home Yarra, submitted by Fitzroy resident Zi Ping, was the winning entry. Pam Wanless, with her story Not Just a Door won second prize.
Three writers were awarded prizes for being shortlisted. They were Jenny Chantry for Life in the Village, John Shilliday for Yarra City – An Arial View and Ann Willers for My Aunt Dot.
The winning entry from Zi Ping was originally submitted in Chinese. An English version of the story appears below:
My Home Yarra
A 70-year old lady’s tribute to Yarra. By Zi Ping
My home is Yarra, in the high-rise building in Fitzroy. In the morning, chirping birds wake me up from my sweet dream. I get up and go downstairs to have some morning exercise.
I know the green garden down under like my palms. Trees, big and small, high and low, old and new, greenie and flowery, all scatter around in the garden, like my friends, giving me support as I stretch out in the sunrise.
In the evening, moonlight filters through layers of leaves, forming different spots and mysterious patterns on the ground dancing with the wind; when you rub your eyes, the shadows in the background become alive, moving under your feet and making you feel like wandering in an animated world. During the day, the garden becomes a playground for legions of pigeons. To the west stand three sweet, full girlie roly-polies, smiling nicely at those passers-by in the estate. Behind their back there is a playground for the kids; further up amid waving treetops rise those imposing high-rise buildings, in the hazy light of sunset, appearing dignified and purposeful.
I often sit on the bench, watching children playing on the basketball court, children of different skin colours, white, dark and brown, having great fun in chasing a ball together. This is the epitome of our community life. We speak different languages; but we have no problem with communicating and getting along with each other. A child falls on the ground; other children help him get on his feet.
To the north, an Australian flag is blowing in the wind on top of the tower building. Fitzroy library is down under, adjacent to our estate. I’m a regular customer there. At the entrance behind the reception counter, library staffs of different skin colours, white, dark and brown, all greet incoming clients with their broad smiles. There is a large collection of books, magazines and newspapers in different languages and CDs and DVDs and the library also offers free computer service and Internet. Last month I signed up for computer class in Mandarin in the library and learnt a lot from this program. The couch is the usual spot I relax in, with my reading glasses, browsing Chinese books and magazines. The library serves as a multicultural school, a vehicle for promoting Australian culture and values and a window for learning about the world. I never feel tired of sitting there for two or three hours. Learning brings me content and I always enjoy doing this.
As an old member of Fitzroy Chinese Association, I attend the gathering every Thursday at the ground floor of 140 building, to catch up with other elderly Chinese. We all enjoy the intimacy among old friends. We can’t have enough of the chat and the laughter; it’s so relaxing and everybody feels comfortable being together. We become more and more attached to each other, as we grow older and have more white hair. 20 years of membership; 20 years in a blink of eyes. Memory of the past, when we were young and beautiful, wearing colourful dresses, always laughing, is so vivid and clear, like yesterday.
Knee to knee, face to face with my friends, I run my fingers over the wrinkles on my face – yes we’re getting older, but we’re as happy and merry as in the past. Why? Because Australia is a heaven for us; we’re all benefiting from the multicultural social life and the welfare system; everybody is living a happy and long life, as if we stopped at 50 forever.
I remember that at the day of the Dragon Boat Festival, we decorated the meeting room with colourful lanterns and couplets with poems and riddles; I took out my traditional dress and skirt I wore 20 years ago, applied a bit make-up, and started dancing with my mates in front of all the guests from different agencies, consulate representatives and other members. It seemed that I was 20 years younger; I was still quick in my steps; and I enjoyed and rejoiced amid loud hand-clapping, laughing, music and the flashes from cameras. Three days later I was given a framed photo of my dancing stance and a note reading – ‘You’re getting younger and lovelier with passage of time – you’re a model of our age.’ I thought in return, ‘this is what Australian multiculturalism did for me, thanks to Yarra City Council and Australian government.’
With the Chinese association we always have something on, such as knowledge lessons about history and history makers, briefing of current affairs from SBS guest speakers, medical health workshops, English lessons, arts group for songs and poems, cooking class, monthly birthday party for members, and numerous luncheons where members share food and thoughts together. The most exciting events are Dragon Boat Festival, Mother’s Day, Mid-autumn Festival and Spring Festival. Dancing! Singing! I quickly forget about my age, as if back to old times. It’s my greatest pleasure to mingle with new and old friends and have Yarra city council’s representatives around at these events, which serve to strengthen the solidarity of our Chinese community and promote the advantages and inclusiveness of Australian multiculturalism.
Yarra City Council’s excellent aged-care service is worth special mentioning. They often come to us enquiring about our needs and well-being and make us feel so warm at heart. At times Yarra City Council also invites us to attend their parties. I particularly enjoy the African dancing and always clap my hands, move my shoulders and feet, emerging myself in the beautiful rhythm.
We also organize some volunteer activities such as picking up rubbish in football ground in Richmond at the Environment Day. We lined up and moved from east to west, from south to north in a long straight line, blanket-searching for our ‘enemies’, until our bags were full of food wrappings, bottles and other rubbishes. Then we gathered together, showed off each other how much we’d picked up and hoorayed for our victory. A few days later, we went to another football ground in Carlton and won the same victory. We all believe that we should have this activity more often in the future, because it’s fun, it is good exercise and it’s good for the public. How exciting is that!
The association also organizes regular excursions and outings. I’m a huge fan of ten-pins and lawn bowling, as I always have the best shot and the loudest laugh, never feeling tired after a few hours of playing. Excursion to Yarra River is my favourite experience. Walking along the winding path near the river, breathing in the aroma of wild flowers and grass, listening to the symphony of birds singing, insects calling, water flowing, wind blowing, members’ talking and laughing, making different poses for the camera, cracking funny jokes, where is heaven? Yarra is the heaven on earth. I remember a poem by a famous ancient Chinese poet Wei Wang: ‘Spring comes into life as a peach flower petal drifts on the water; where to find its origin and where the heaven is.’
Feeling a bit tired from walking? Walk to the century-old church amid the forest and the flowers, pay a token of $1 and have a full meal, plus a cup of nice coffee. This is one of the welfare organizations in Yarra, serviced by volunteers of different backgrounds. I know there are quite a few similar organizations around in Yarra, supported by the city council; some give out food on regular basis.
However, the heaven of Yarra does not prevent people from aging. More and more members in our association are getting over 80 or nearly 90 and they are unable to come to our gatherings regularly. We have a special care team led by our director and we pay home visits to those homebound elderly people, bringing them letters from other members and our hand-made flowers. We sit by them, chatting with them over tea, singing for them and sharing with them some funny stories and news about our community. A few hours of visit makes them so happy. When it’s time to go, I can see the tears in their eyes and I know they want us to come back more often. We’ve all come of age and we all need support to each other.
At the time of celebrating the Senior Week, I would like to add the following to pay my tribute to Australia and Yarra:
I was born in China, but I thrive in Yarra.
Hooray multiculturalism; let’s embrace it together.
I’m an Australian and I have a patriotic heart.
Although approaching sunset age, I still want to rely on my own.
Xiaolin from Fitzroy Chinese Association
Aged and Disability Services
National Relay Service
TTY users phone 133 677 then ask for 03 9205 5555.
Speak & Listen users (speech-to-speech relay) phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 03 9205 5555.
Internet relay users connect to the National Relay Service via www.relayservice.com.au and then ask for 03 9205 5555.
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