Melburnians have always been known as foodies, but now they have a new reason to eat out.
The city's reputation has taken a battering in the last 12 months amid reports surfacing of racially-motivated attacks targeting Indian students.
Fed up with violence and the bad wrap her city was receiving, Mia Northrop decided to embrace Melbourne's love of food in a show of support for the Indian and migrant community.
On February 24, she is encouraging people all over Australia to take part in Vindaloo Against Violence.
Ms Northrop, who works as a digital media designer, says the idea is simple.
"The idea is that you just go to your local Indian restaurant and just dine on Indian food as a way of embracing the Indian community," she said.
"[My husband and I] wanted something that the maximum number of people could get behind, so it just kind of popped into my head.
"You can have this show of force that thousands of people are doing this same thing at the same time."
Ms Northrop, who lived in New York for several years, says she first heard about the attacks when she was overseas.
"Some of it had circulated overseas and was in the media there and I was kind of getting more and more appalled with what was happening," she said.
"Since the 2000 Olympics the overseas love affair with Australia seems to have soured. We've had a couple of incidents where there's been perceptions where we're perhaps racist.
"Things had been circulating [overseas] about [Australia's] immigration stance and boat people and then these attacks and then people were asking 'What's happening in Melbourne? What does the everyday person think about all of this? What's it like to actually live there?"
Ms Northrop says she is amazed at the response Vindaloo Against Violence has received.
She says the event has even attracted the attention of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has started following the Vindaloo Against Violence Twitter stream.
"I've actually been floored. There's been comments from all over Australia. We've had people from Sydney and Adelaide and Brisbane and Perth and Canberra, Hobart, saying 'Make this event national, I'm organising a thing in Canberra', 'I'm organising a thing in Sydney'," she said.
"We've got people from Tennessee and Vancouver and Singapore and Hong Kong saying 'We're going to do it here'.
"I don't know how they found out about it, but certainly people from across Australia, it's resonating with them."
The Victorian Police have been accused of down playing the motive for the attacks, but Ms Northrop says that is not the point.
"I think we've been getting mixed messages. So it is confusing to work out what is the media hype and what is really happening," she said.
"But either way I think that people don't want this to be happening in their city.
"It's almost besides the point [whether the attacks are racially motivated or not]. The perception is out there ... either way, Indians are feeling unsafe on the street."
But there is no doubt the perception in India is that its nationals have being targeted in violent attacks perpetrated by Australians.
And Ms Northrop says she hopes word of Vindaloo Against Violence reaches India.
"My main aim now is making sure I can get it to the people that the message is supposed to go to, both here and overseas," she said.
"I'm hoping the Indian media will pick up on this."
She also hopes publicity surrounding the event will lead to a re-evaluation of behaviour in Australia.
"Everyday Australians don't accept racially-motivated violence. I think we want to shift the focus from what Indians need to be doing to protect themselves in terms of their safety, to finding out why is this happening in our society," she said.
"Who are the people who are doing this? Let's try and diffuse this criminal behaviour and get to the core of it. Flush out the reasons or the issues behind it."
Ms Northrop says Vindaloo Against Violence - an idea initially thrown around with family and friends - is now taking up all of her spare time.
"I initially sent it out to 100 friends on Facebook and then I put the Twitter account together and did the website and I really had no idea how it was going to be. It could have been me and 30 friends having some Indian food on a Wednesday night," she said.
She says all Australians can support Vindaloo Against Violence by registering online and going to their local Indian restaurant on February 24.
And she says if the traditional vindaloo is too hot for your tastebuds, tucking into a butter chicken, korma or rogan josh are all acceptable ways of showing your support for the Indian community.
"You can have whatever Indian food you like, there's certainly plenty to choose from," she said.
29 January 2010
Vindaloo against violence
A grass roots response to the ongoing concerns of assaults targeted at Indian students in Melbourne (though with no racial intent) is quite novel. Reported by ABC (Brigid Andersen)