Shutdown increases long-term accessibility for vegan community

22 May 2020

Vegan NSW runs both the Sydney and Newcastle monthly vegan markets. Here, volunteer Mantshologane Maile explains how Vegan NSW adapted to the difficulties of the Covid-19 shutdown.

Two months ago the world locked its doors and huddled inside. In the face of such daunting times, everyone was challenged to adapt, and Vegan NSW found opportunity within the devastation.

In March, we were forced to announce the temporary closure of Sydney Vegan Market, followed swiftly by its little sister, Newcastle Vegan Market. With monthly crowds of over 10,000 and well over 100 vegan businesses relying on the markets, it was heartbreaking.

Vegan NSW’s mission is to inspire new vegans, sustain the vegan community, and support the vegan movement. During a time that's tested a lot of folks' access to income, usual lifestyle, and possibly their mental health, we have been passionate about ensuring that all who make up the vegan community feel safe, seen and supported, and can still find connection as we move through this new landscape together.

Michelle Gravolin, Vegan NSW CEO, is excited about the future: “The last two months has given us the opportunity to take awful circumstances, which are devastating in so many ways for so many people, and find the opportunity to expand and improve our services in ways we never expected.”

Less than three weeks after closing the markets we launched Vegan NSW Marketplace, our "marketplace outside a market space". This online market provides the best in vegan food, beverages, home wares, fashion, art, cosmetics, skincare, activism and education, from many of the same stall holders and small businesses you would usually find at the physical markets. Even better, now most things are available Australia wide!

Once Marketplace was launched, we moved onto creating VTV (Vegan NSW TV). The markets aren't just about buying food and other vegan goodies (though some may disagree!), it is also where the community connects, engages with vegan musicians and artists, learns new things, joins in with yoga or meditation, meets up and hangs out. We set out to create an online community engagement and education platform that combines TENT Talks, Main Stage, Art Space and Mindful Movement from the markets. On 19 April, a month after the Markets were cancelled, VTV was born!

VTV brings you a free interactive, fun and informative episode every Sunday, starting at 9am with Mindfulness yoga or meditation. From noon to 2pm you'll be treated to cooking demos, sanctuary tours, vegan celebrities, music from Sydney and Newcastle musicians, DJs, dogs, kids and engaging discussions with fellow members and makers within the vegan community, all free, interactive and inclusive.

From June, VTV will launch our educational series. The first webinar will be with Fiona Halar, a vegan Accredited Practising Dietitian, an Accredited Exercise Scientist and a PhD candidate. She will speak on the Essentials of Vegan Nutrition. Get your ticket here!

All of this has been an enormous effort (think 80 hour weeks, an income slump for staff and has involved dozens of amazing and dedicated volunteers), but the best outcome has been the time and opportunity to create services that are more accessible to those who are a distance away from our physical markets. We are always looking at opportunities to expand our market program and offer support to vegans further afield.

Kate Jones, Vegan NSW Market Program Manager, says, "Vegan NSW Marketplace is a whole new platform of accessibility for those who may not be able to get to the markets, those who want to snooze in and order from the comfort of their living room. There’s now another option, another avenue of accessibility, another platform to grow."

So jump online and head over to Vegan NSW Marketplace, pace yourself, browse and indulge yourself to support our vegan vendors. If your income is challenged, look out for our Marketplace on a Budget Collection with Under $5 and Under $10 search tags, created with you in mind. If you know someone struggling, send them a gift voucher. Share the love!

We love supporting emerging vegan businesses and established businesses who wish to expand. So, if you are an Australian based seller, who only ever sells vegan products (anywhere), apply for a store on Vegan NSW Marketplace.

And please join us on VTV at 12 noon. This Sunday our Sanctuary Tour is from Peanuts Wellbeing Sanctuary, we welcome Liz Miu from Mylk & Bun and Loud Noodle, Greg McFarlane from Vegan Australia chatting about vegan advocacy, vegan cooking with Gane (yep, vegan food, yay!), Layna's story, a dashing dachshund living with a disability, music from Jemima, an Aussie pop-folk artist living & working at an animal sanctuary in Byron, and Lisa de Angelis, a fast talking, city-slicking, guitar slinging firecracker making Americana music in Sydney. We can't wait!

A final request for support. We have some fantastic new programs, but these times are definitely challenging Vegan NSW financially. If you are lucky enough to have spare resources at this time (and only if you do), we'd welcome extra support to help meet the costs of these new programs and keep our staff employed. You can make a much appreciated donation here. Every bit will help.

As with most of the world, we are eagerly awaiting news that will inform our next steps, with a strong hope that resuming the physical markets isn't too far on the horizon. Hope to see you there soon, and in the meantime, and anytime, please enjoy Marketplace and VTV!


Vegan Australia is an animal rights organisation that campaigns nationally for veganism. 
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