My work has been published in The Age, The Herald-Sun, The Australian, The Big Issue, Australian Birdlife, The Bark (USA), Eureka Street, Overland and The Australian Jewish News.
Published June 19th 2012
Flinders Street Station is the heart of Melbourne's public transport system, but it's a lot more than that. It's one of the city's most recognisable buildings and favourite meeting places. Completed in 1910, it's constantly evolving, with the most recent alterations completed in 2008. It's claimed over 100,000 commuters use it daily. It certainly looks like that at peak hour.
Here are five things you may not know about Flinders Street Station.
1. You can get anywhere from it
This is pretty obvious but it's worth remembering. Unlike any other station in the Central Business District, from here, you can take a train to any station on Melbourne's suburban train lines.
Here, you'll find help with train and tram timetables, tourist information, and an interactive Public Transport of Victoria 'Journey Planner'. Using this, you can plan your trips all over Victoria at the touch of a few buttons.
The Customer Information Centre is in the centre of the station concourse. Open Monday to Friday 7am-7pm, Saturdays 9-5 and Sundays 8-5.
3. It has plenty of flowers
The flower stall at the top of the main steps, inside the dome, is open seven days a week and offers single bunches, mixed bouquets and plenty of bargains.
Cafe Baguette, right in the middle of the concourse, has fresh flowers all year round. Sitting atop the glass counter, two vases of lilies always brighten my day. The coffee and cakes aren't too bad, either.
4. Travellers Aid Australia
Between platforms 9 and 10 on the south side of the concourse, this small lounge offers respite from the busy world. But there's much more.
You'll find travel information, wheelchair hire, luggage storage, an all-access shower/toilet, internet access and baby-change facilities. You don't have to be disabled to use it.
Open 8am-7.45pm Sun-Thurs, 8am-9.45pm Fri & Sat.
5. It's safe
On the steps of the station, there are always kids. Here, they hang out because there's nowhere else for them to go. You need not fear the kids; there's rarely real trouble here.
If anyone tells me how dangerous it is travelling on trains in Melbourne at night, I point out the police booth at Flinders Street Station, branded with the distinctive blue-and-white checks.
It houses Transit Police (uniformed members of Victoria Police) and Protective Services Officers (PSOs), the new, security guards on the train system after 6 pm.
According to Victoria Police, the booth is open 'for public enquiries most of the time' though not 24 hours a day. But then, Flinders Street Station isn't, either.
6. The birds
Many people take a special delight in expressing their hatred of pigeons and some measures against them are truly barbaric.
If you've ever wondered why some city birds lack toes, it's because building owners put up glue traps that they stick to. The only escape is to pull free, leaving body parts behind.
Happily, at Flinders Street Station, the pigeons and sparrows roost unmolested in the rafters and beg for scraps on the ground near the communal tables. Try not to feed them; they don't need your bread.
Instead, enjoy watching their antics. Worldwide, sparrows are on the decline, so this is a good place to see them close up.