Category Archives: writing

Research: Aboriginal Melbourne

In both my contemporary and historical fiction set in Melbourne, I aim to include, where possible and appropriate, more details of Melbourne before white settlement. 

Sometimes this involves a bit of googling – most recently I’ve used a language map to check what language groups existed in and around Ballarat, for a story being submitted to a new anthology.

For that same story I also wanted the Indigenous character to speak a few words in his own language – Wadawarrung. I was thrilled to discover in my searches an app! The Wadawurrung Language app   is beautifully laid out. So much of the language has been lost, but this is an elegant and helpful introduction.

However, for a more comprehensive overview of Melbourne and its importance to the Kulin nations, I have The Melbourne Dreaming: A Guide to the Aboriginal Places of Melbourne by Meyer Eidelson. I have an old edition, but a new one was published in 2014.

The Melbourne Dreaming tells the story of Aboriginal Melbourne around the Yarra River, Merri Creek, Port Phillip Bay, Maribyrnong River, Melbourne city and some places around, including Sunbury, Corinella and some locations hard to get to. Most entries are accompanied with a Melways map and reference so you can visit these places yourself.

If you want to learn more about Australia’s pre-colonial heritage, and about the traditional custodians of this land, it’s a fantastic guide.

Melbourne Research: Brother Baba Budan

This cafe, at 359 Little Bourke St, Melbourne , is named for the man who reputedly first smuggled coffee beans out of Yemen (and consequently brought joy to the world).

A version of BBB appears in the first chapter of Number One Fan. The cafe isn’t identified by name in the story, but the cosy, industrial ‘distressed’ look of the walls, the metal scoop that is a door handle and, of course, the inverted forest of chairs hanging from the ceiling are reflected in the look of the story version.

In 2009, BBB was run by the owner of North Melbourne’s St Ali, another great Melbourne cafe. (In 2019 it gets its house roast from Seven Seeds, another Melbourne coffee superstar.) 

It’s tiny, with one communal table and a few stools scattered around periphery benches. The only food it serves are a few pastries, which are also excellent. I rarely have to queue for coffee, but there can occasionally be a short wait while visitors armed with guide books come to take pictures of the ceiling’s bristling chair legs and of course the coffee.

I prefer other people to make my coffee – an espresso-machine cafe latte is da bomb! – but we get their house blend and their decaf for making plunger coffee at home, for those hours when *gasp* BBB is closed! 

I suppose it’s cheating to call it research to drink here, but I’ll do that anyway, because that makes me happy, and you should do the things that make you happy, right?

Because it’s tiny, there’s not always somewhere to sit and enjoy watching the staff being so professional and the Melbourne coffee crowd being so very appreciative of their excellent brew. 

Instead, bring a Keep Cup or equivalent, get your coffee to take away, and sit on the steps of the Melbourne GPO (though not at its own excellent cafe on its terrace, obviously). Contemplate your delicious sins while watching the trams, and decide if you’ve done enough of them.