Wollongong versus Everywhere Else In The World

On the very rare occasion that I meet someone new, we normally discuss how we are feeling, how good the weather is and, depending on how the conversation is going, where we live. They normally live in a big metropolis and they love it. I live in the ‘Gong.  From there the conversation goes two ways. Either I get awkwardly enthusiastic about how good Wollongong is and how they should move here or I wish them all the best in the big smoke and I go back to getting on the outside of a strong latte. The latter happened recently and as returned to my coffee, six outstanding reasons for being excited about living in Wollongong ambled through my brain.

1. UOW

Whether you believe that university is a place where you can expand your mind and reach your full creative and academic potential or just an excuse to get free cash to sit on the duck pond lawn and eat wedges. There is one undeniable truth about UOW; it has the fiercest concentration of good-looking people this side of Scandinavia. Period.


2. The cost of living

It has been a while since the author has been on the ‘link but when I was on Youth Allowance I was receiving somewhere in the order of $500 per fortnight including rent assistance. Not a fortune but definitely worth getting assaulted in the line at Burelli Street every now and again. Here are a few statistics for you courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Living in the postcode of 2500 will cost you an average of $195 per week. Now this includes a pretty broad area and we are talking the median price for a whole house or unit or granny flat. I reckon most of us are paying between around $150 for a slice of share house. Now compare this with say Newtown… they average $310 per week. From what I’ve heard around the traps, studying Newtonians are probably laying down something in the order of $250 a week for something better than a shoebox but certainly not a cat swinger.

Here is a hypothetical scenario to demonstrate the fiscal gulf between the cost of living of Sydney and Wollongong based on the stats above.

Jennifer 22, a hottie studying Media Comm/Law at UOW spends 60% of her Youth Allowance payment on rent which leaves her 100 big ones each week to get excited about retro night at the Izza.

Jane 20, lives in Newtown and after calculating her post rent finances she is left with precisely zero.

By my calculations, just living on Centrelink Jennifer could buy 1485.7 lattes, or 1040 schooners of Coopers Pale or 650 Smirnoff ices per year with the change left over after rent is deducted. She would be sick… but she could do it.

Jane on the other jewellery free hand would be left nothing. To put it simply Jennifer drinks coffees and Jane makes coffees.


3. The ocean

Ever jumped off the balcony of a certain restaurant into the harbour? (not recommended)

Ever made out with your crush in the ocean pools on the way home from town?

Ever been hung over with your crush and cured it with a swim?

Ever gone across a wave on a surfboard?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you know how boss the big blue is.  Luckily for us, The ‘Gong is as close to the ocean as Frank is.


Frank Ocean rapping about the sea


4. The free bus

Never have the letters A and C combined with the number 55 brought so much joy to such a diverse demographic. Everybody from Dwayne the ex-con, Britney the American exchange student, Mercedes and her three children; Jaydon, Raylene and Krystal and you and your landlord have benefitted from the green bus. With a complimentary bleep from the bus driver as you board to make you feel included, the green bus will take you precisely where you need to go within the hours of 7am to 10pm. I enjoy having weird conversations with people on ice, listened to other peoples’ music via their phones loudspeaker and observing people as they choose a seat as they board and then awkwardly move from their first seat as another becomes vacant. The free bus isn’t just a shining example of what public transport should be… it is a cure for boredom. Know why they choose the colour green? The free bus makes people from other towns jealous.

The big guy about to drop you off where all the good looking people hang out.


5. In a state of pre-gentrification

Gentrification is the change some towns or suburbs undergo over time.  To my mind it can be described as poor, creative, enthusiastic young people living where they can afford so they can do what they want to do. They do it so well that wealthier people who are bored pay big money to get a slice of the fun creative stuff going down and the fun creative people without any money have to move. The gritty share houses close to the beach, acquired by the resource rich get knocked flat and replaced by that white monstrosities on Cliff Road for example. The pioneer cafés/art spaces suddenly competing with slick venues, which pay big dollars for a industrial look.  Wollongong is by no means gentrified, grittiness can be found in bucket loads from Cliff to Robsons Roads. But in time, the tendrils of the wealthy will reach Wollongong as they have claimed Newtown, Marrickville and Co. For the moment, “You can’t stop progress” but you can probably bank on the ‘Gong giving us a few good gritty years yet.

Classic example of Cliff Road Architecture

6. Proximity to Sydney

Wollongong is a bit more than an hour from Sydney. Some people feel the need to get up there on an occasion to abuse alcohol in another town. Now I would not know what this feels like. But apparently some people get to feeling the need to get out of Wollongong. They describe a sense of claustrophobia, a cramped existence, a desire to walk down the street and not know anyone. To walk around and see the big buildings, be blinded by the city lights and feel like a small piece in the big puzzle that is life. If you are that way inclined you can jump on train and you’ll be up in the big smoke in a jiffy. Conveniently, Cityrail have provided a train to paradise for the bleary eyed at 4.44am from Central Station to get you back in time for a productive day.


And so there you have six reasons why Wollongong shits all over every other town or city in Australia.  We might have to save some topics for future rants but after a chat with a former Gonger Yacob Pegleg; here are the honourable mentions.

Plenty of space for vegie patches, chickens and home brew kits.

Lazy Crafternoons

Caarnnts on motorised push bikes

Glasshouse… psyche.

The North Gong Squid Jigging Association (NGJSA)

Indoor sports

The climate.


Over and out gongers and wannabe gongers x















Boss People Doing Boss Things

These days everyone thinks everyone is just Destroying The Joint. We here at Sifters believe this is not the case. We’d like to oust those who are doing cool things in Wollongong and give them a written pat on the back.

Behold Jess Bee.

A boss chick doing boss things in and around your Wollongong. She photographs. She blogs about her photographs and she wants to insert art into your everyday. She wants to put art deep into everyone’s day. So I say lay back and take that art:

Studies have shown that if you have nice, artful surroundings and you appreciate the finer things in your environment you are happier. Furthermore, my mum says ugly things and poor architecture make her feel depressed. Thus, the evidence is overwhelming: we need people like Jess Bee showing us the beauty in the everyday and taking Wollongong one step closer to being cultured. Do yourself a favour and visit www.jessica-ashley-unknown.blogspot.com.au for a dose of analogue, photographical goodness.

What drew you to photography?
I have always been drawn to things that provide me with a bit of a creative outlet but with analogue photography or more specifically, lomography, it was a rad little lady that introduced me to toy cameras about a year ago. Lil introduced me to her Diana and showed me what it was capable of, after that I was hooked.

I can hear you have an accent through the computer, what’s that all about?
You can hear that can you? Yes, I am American, not Canadian.

Why Wollongong?
I studied abroad in Wollongong in 2005 as part of my undergrad degree and in 2008 I decided to move back and study my masters and then just never left! Australia is a place you can’t stay away from for too long once you’ve lived here!

Who is Jessica Ashley Unknown?
She is someone who gets to live in a world that can’t really exist, in some sort of fantasy where skies are full of flowers, where people come in all shades of blue and red and where light can be played with to change the way we see things. Being a fan of multiple exposures, the juxtaposition of two images plays a big role in her life on film. She also likes to draw attention to ‘the little things’ that often go unnoticed in life, little things that can make a day that much brighter. She is a lomographer who embraces quirks, experiments with the unknown and takes chances believing that luck will be there when she least expects it.

Tell us about the latest project you’ve gotten involved with?
ADart is a platform that has been created for young local artists by a wondrous woman named Kate, she wanted to get art noticed by putting it in surprising but yet convenient places. She has recruited 16 of us artists to participate in her pilot project, a Free Art Drop, which is happening all this week (Nov 26th – Dec 2nd)! She has used our artworks and turned them into coffee cups, cards, bags, posters and canvas prints that can be found all throughout Wollongong! You can access her website, www.adartonline.com, to find out which local businesses are participating in her project and providing you with our art for free with that coffee you were already going to buy anyways!

What other creative movements would you like to see around Wollongong?
Kate was telling me about a city in The Netherlands that she lived in for a while, where there was a strong community of artists who supported each other, promoted each other and provided each other with platforms to showcase their work – that’s the direction I would like to see Wollongong move in. I know some of our local businesses are already starting this movement with places like Owls and Lee and Me exhibiting works of different artists, which is amazing! I would also love to see more street art. Owls had the right idea, and not to mention a great space, to try and start that – following in the footsteps of other great cities like Melbourne, it was sad to see that it [graffiti] had to go. I recognise that there is a need to consider the idea of graffiti carefully but I think having more art in a public setting fosters more creativity.

Where can we learn more about your work and potentially buy some?
Well firstly, my blog, www.jessica-ashley-unknown.blogspot.com.au is where I put up new photos, usually 3-4 times a week. You can also follow me on Facebook, Jessica Ashley Unknown, or on Instagram, jaunknown, for updates on what I am doing outside of my blog. I love to hear from fellow photographers, lomographers, photo lovers or anyone who can appreciate something subjective, so send me a message, post on my wall or email me!

Jess drinks a Big Apple so if you see her around town, buy her one. And remember that there are people out there Carrying The Joint and one might just be this woman.

Are You Participating in Movember or Are You Just a Creep?

We’re into the month of Movember and I’m excited. It’s obviously the best month of the year because:

a) It’s my birthday month
b) Men express themselves (for once). With facial hair.  For charity.

What an exciting prospect, ey? It’s my birthday! You’ve been waiting all year and here it is! Another fun prospect is raising money for charity- less so, I know, but thrilling nevertheless. And just for growing What-God-Intended on your face! Movember is a simple way of mixing charity and looking good. Charity never looked so good! See what I did there? You’re welcome.

Needless to say beards have been in vogue now for some time, most men are well acquainted with how to grow and maintain a beard. Even the less virile men try, it’s all part of it. On the downside, Movember is when paedophiles go under the radar and blend in amongst regular people. Aviators and handlebar moustaches are usually a tell-tale sign, but come Movember this is the look-du-jour. This is why you have to make it clear that you’re raising money to look like a creep. Let it be known that if you are growing facial hair in Movember without raising money, you’re a paedophile. No laughing matter- you’re obviously hiding something.
I see a few of you shout in anger at your computer screens:

“But I’m too lazy to raise money for growing facial hair!” or
“I’m not paedophile?!” and
“I can’t grow facial hair, how do I contribute?”

Sifters can help. We will be having a Movember/ Gradfest after party at Splashes so that you can party on after Gradfest AND contribute to the research and awareness of prostate cancer by donating all proceeds of the party! Two worthy birds to be hit by a stone, if you ask me. So if you don’t want to look suspect or you’re a girl and you’re worried about your prostate (I know I am), get down to Splashes on Friday the 16th of November after Gradfest. All the proceeds go to Movember and we’ll be open til 3am flaunting our facial hair. Keep an ear out for the line-up and an eye out for more info. Both of which will be saucy and covered in hair.

Like these guys…

You Should Consider Having Sex With a Bearded Man- The Beards

The Loveable Failures of Crown St Mall

So in attendance at a local council meeting the other day, it was brought to my attention that the mall is a bit of mess. The council are attempting to reform the wreckage. Hoorah! And of course another mall will being erected just up the hill (progress, obvs).

But before the eyesore that we all know and love is dismantled, let us celebrate the failures that be:

1. That overhead metal canopy thing.

What. The. Fuck. The structure that exists to provide shelter over the main walkway of the mall, has holes. It has holes. It doesn’t even keep the rain out. And it’s made of metal so it has become rusty. Every time I look up to cool my face with some sweet, sweet rain, I risk contracting tetanus. I’d like to meet the genius who came up with this perforated rain-and-sun-shield and give him an asshat medal.

2. Paving

The bricks that pave the way throughout Wollongong mall are the slipperiest motherlickers you ever set foot on. I don’t skate but if I did, that’s where I’d be grinding. It runs in a perfect slope, ideal for longboards but of course, there’s also plenty of water features throughout (see point 4) for you to do rails on. Because this setup has obviously been constructed for hooligans, I seriously question why little old ladies risk their lives getting groceries in this area. You will get hit by a skateboard, Lady, it’s only a matter of time. Kindly shop somewhere else, because the mall is, ironically, not consumer friendly right now.

3. Empty shops

Got nobody to blame but the market, baby. Times is tough.

4. The stage.

Am I nuts or does the idea of Justice crew performing on the Wollongong stage make you feel sad too? I once saw a talented rapper performing there and spent the next twenty minutes on hold to Lifeline. The stage plonked in the middle of a prime walkway is probably the most desolate, ill-fitting structure known to man. I’d rather watch bats screech in a dark cave than mosey on down to Crown st mall and watch a performance there.

5. Fountains

Are good for one thing, and one thing only: angering state officials by putting dye and/or bubbles in them. I’ve never done this, personally, but I quietly appreciate the vigilantes that do. Thanks guys, you make a difference out there.


Let it be known that I genuinely love the grittiness of the mall, it will always have a place in my heart. So the pressure really sits with council planning to recreate another disaster just as spectacular. However, I fear they may have got it right this time. Big shout out to all the landlords obstructing new and artful council initiatives popping up around the joint, you guys, stay classy.

* Sifters is genuinely frothing on council plans to refurb the mall, change is good for the Gong so keep it coming.


WHAT? WE’RE HAVING A PARTY AND YOU DIDN’T KNOW? You’re crazy, get out of here. But now you know, so. See you there, Sifters!

RAW: The Movie

Alright. So this post is a little late but what a night it was!
Raw was some serious next-level shit. A collection of surf footage artfully produced and edited, filmed at some of the most exotic breaks around the world and gently backed by some dub and thrash metal. Needless to say we loved every minute of it and shed a little tear for local boys, Mark Brightwell and Cohen Banfield, doing it good. The Brewery followed closely. A close and clean watering hole, more close than clean. Definitely close.

Raw at Town Hall

Mark Brightwell and Cohen Banfield


The Upside of a Failed (Small) Business

Everyone keeps saying that things are tough. Tough for retail, tough for small business, tough for mums and dads and super tough for miners. Clive and Gina are really just digging their own really big graves out there.  So with all these businesses up against it, your foray into the world of self-employment is over as fast as you drunk that schooner when you decided it was a goer.

Where to next? What is the next chapter? Not sure, probably dragging your feet in a public service position at the local council. But never fear you can drag your feet with your head held high and full of fine lessons. As long as you didn’t get your parents to mortgage their house again to invest in your ‘6 minute abs’ home exercise machine idea. So here are a few hot tips, which will get you through the tough times.

1)   Reuse your business cards- Hopefully you went for the minimalist design because obsolete BC’s make for an excellent note pads. Think jotting down phone numbers, tracking codes for express parcels etc. In addition they are an excellent reminder of what your contact details used to be. For the ultra-creative, count out 52 and make a cool deck of cards so your name is always associated with winning.

2)   Learn the guitar- Channel your depressive state via a bottle of wine into learning the guitar and expressing the blues. Everybody knows that depression equals good music (Cash, Cobain, Gotye etc.). Just as breaking up with your soul mate creates excellent material for a heart-wrenching ballad, a broken business creates an equally large amount of cynicism and angst… the perfect ingredients for song writing.

3)   Throw a party- getting all your friends around for a shin dig complete with a fire drum, bath tub full of beers (BYO of course, you are no position to shout all of your mates) and a DJ is a great idea at anytime of the year. But the motive for this party is a little more devious than a celebration of failure. South Australia was the first state to let women vote and get a bottle deposit scheme. The rest of Australia will be hot on their heels. Therefore, throw a huge party, collect all of the empties and start planning how to spend your soon to be enormous wealth.

Owls 2nd Birthday.

Unless you like to get bottled there aren’t many places to drink in Wollongong. So cheers to Owls for making this place a little classier and Happy 2nd birthday. Big props to The Walking Who and Alotta Presha, the only two bands I remember watching.


chicks II

Alotta Presha

The beautiful Jess

Summer is Coming

Sup Sum. How you been? We’ve missed you. Last year you didn’t really hang around what with La Ninja and all that. Now I see you hanging around in the mornings behind a cloud. Welcome. Stay til late March, we love you.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’d be noticing the odd 25 degree days we’ve been getting down here in the gong. Who doesn’t love it? All I see is Babes rolling around uni in short skirts and I feel oddly aroused. And I’m a chick. Start getting your kit off for another year, party people, summer is coming. Here’s a little bit of summer loving gong people to get you in the mood.


Rosie babin’ out at uni



Share House Etiquette

Unless you’re making the most of the first homebuyers grant, living with your life partner or leeching off your parents then you’re probably living in share-house squalor like the rest of us. The rental market is tight these days. If you want to be the ideal housemate get your shit in order: here are a few tips on how to make the most of your current “arrangement” and please your fellow home-dwellers.

  1. When you wash the dishes, dig the crap out of the plughole. Thanks.
    It’s the little things. Like when someone has cooked you a delicious meal and you vouch to do the post-cook clean-up. It’s the little things. Like finding appropriately sized Tupperware to house the leftovers. Like rinsing the cloth and gently hanging it over the tap so as not to attract rampant bacteria growth after wiping down bench tops. Like knowing that “soaking” doesn’t do shit and you should just wash that pot on the immediate.
  2. Have something baking. Always
    Doesn’t it just remind you of coming home after school and Mum would be in the kitchen, baking scones, pressing linens? I wouldn’t know because I was a latch-key kid and my Mum was never there when I got home.
  3. Vacuum sporadically
    Just when you can, no pressure.
  4. Sense when your housemate is feeling angry and leave for a few days.
  5. Try to put aside your rent money the instant you get paid
    This is a tough one. Mum might be able to spot you and it’s hard (but rewarding (lol)) to go without eating for weeks at a time but in the long run avoiding your housemates probing questions about transferring rent- and going out and spending more rent money to avoid them- is not worth it. Also being in your real estate agents’ pocket after you’ve overextended your payments before, means not complaining that they won’t do squat when your oven stops working for 6 months. Forgo luxury items like butter and pay your rent.
  6. If you can hear you having sex, I can hear you having sex
    Insulation is foreign to most share house infrastructure. In fact, the most basic effects such as curtains, exhaust fans and shelving are often deemed superfluous in rented dwellings. All those things that are important to a homebuyer, are not important to the savvy land-lord and his or her worthless tenants. So in your family home I’m sure you were slutting it up with everyone and your parents didn’t hear a peep. But in the real world, see to it that you have quiet, respectful sex on the nature strip so as not to disturb your fellow housemates.
  7. When you wash your hair, dig the crap out of the plughole. Thanks.
    I don’t really care for this rule but in the interest of symmetry, I feel it should remain.
  8. Only bring your friends around if they’re cool.
    Again, tough. In case you didn’t know, cool is subjective. And if you didn’t know that then you aren’t cool. I don’t know what subjective means so I don’t leave the house at all.
  9. If you’re a tight-arse, divide your food into separate shelves.
    This will ensure no misunderstandings about confusing terms such as “kitty”, “communal” and “mine”
  10. Be available but not too available.
    Avoid loitering around the apartment and practice scheduling in lots of daytime activities. This way your night-time table chat is much more interesting and your housemates will think you have heaps on. Furthermore they will not pressure you to cook and clean as much and you will be valued on primarily on your dinnertime conversation skills. But also take time away from the share-house environment every second or third night. This is not a hotel, you can’t jut sit in your room and eat pizza.

I think you’ll agree that to follow this nifty set of guidelines will not not prepare your other housemates for your attentive and housemately ways. Go forth and not prosper. Continue to rent and share, and move and do it all again.