Shoestring Melbourne: Federation Square

One of the problems with exploring a new city with limited funds is the limited range that can be available, week to week. Take this past fortnight, for instance. After bills, rent, and making sure I had enough emergency food to last me until I would be paid next (instant ramen seems to be a running theme to this blog so far), I found myself with little more than the money necessary to get in to the CBD for the orientation session and the first few days of uni. So, this week I took a trip south, but still on the north side of the Yarra.

To get to today’s place of note, get yourself to Swanston St, underneath the green brains (so I’m informed, but I don’t see it) of RMIT, and head south away from RMIT and alongside Melbourne Central. Just keep on going right to the other end of the road until you end up across the road from Flinders St Station. You’ll know the spot when you see it, it kind of sticks out.

Federation Square is widely recognised for a few reasons. Some people know it for the cultural landmark it is, some people see it primarily as where the SBS offices are, some know it from Regurgitator’s 2004 ‘Band in a Bubble’ recording sessions, and others still are only really aware of its unique … architecture.

The wider structure itself is actually much larger than you’d think, it extends under the square and a lot of the buildings interconnect. Not all of the substructure is open to the public, since much of it is undoubtedly given over to storage, but it’s interesting to note.

Now there are a number of cafes and gift shops among the buildings, particularly along the Flinders St side of it, but they’re of the kind I call ‘food court’ stores. The food may be good, I wouldn’t know, but you pay for it. Not quite Lygon St prices, but well above my ‘zero dollars to spare’ budget for the time being. However, if you can spare the money, there’s no reason not to give one a try.

The biggest things to note within Federation Square for someone just looking around are The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (or ACMI) and the National Gallery of Victoria’s Ian Potter Centre, both of which are free to enter and have a look around the bulk of their exhibits.

The NGV has two levels of free entry galleries, plus a third which is currently housing an exhibition of Jeff Wall photographs that costs $12 for concession holders to enter. Now, here my ability to guide you falls on its face a little. I can appreciate art perfectly well, but there’s a point beyond which I see nothing. That’s not to say that all of it is abstract, there’s a good number of more ‘classical’ pieces and there’s a wide variety of media on display alongside the paintings, including jewelry, glass, pottery, and metalwork. All I meant was that some of it flies above my head.

Light Fitting

At first, I thought this was just a light fitting. I kid you not.

Now, ACMI is more my speed. It’s a centre devoted to everything audio/visual with a particularly Australian slant. It covers film, TV, video games, and even a little Internet culture. What it definitely does well is it’s exploration of the business of film making. There area series of booths exploring Australians in a variety of important roles in the industry; directing, writing, editing, acting, even production design and wardrobe.

There are a number of other exhibitions on within the centre and there are more to come in the year ahead, so best to have a look at their website to get a good grasp of it. I will point out, though, that the centre also houses a cinema which screens a somewhat more eclectic selection of films than the Cinema Nova, but for a higher cost, and they’ll be hosting the 3rd Queer Film Festival on March 14th to 24th, so again, get a look at the website if you’re interested.

Next week, I’ll taking a look at iPhone apps that are available and which ones have a good range of venues and attractions to get a look at. If you know of any and want me to have a look at them, drop a line in the comments, and don’t forget to also drop any suggestions for places to look at in future articles down there, too.

Alastair Collins


Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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