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Would you get up early on a Sunday to see a house you couldn’t buy?

Image: Elgin Stree Residence, Sonelo Design

Elgin Street Residence – Sonelo Design Studio, photograph by Peter Bennetts

Like many real estate obsessed Australians, I’m fascinated by other people’s property, but I’m also passionate about good design. So while the opportunity for a lie in on the weekend is always appealing, I’ve been waiting some time for a spot to join modern and contemporary design expert Stephen Crafti, on one of his popular Melbourne architecture tours.

It’s an uncharacteristically sunny winter morning, the clear blue sky is enticing and while somewhere between five and ten degrees depending on your distance from the city, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. From the conversations around me at the meeting point cafe, off Toorak Road in South Yarra, our ‘small’ tour group (about 50 strong) is a quirky mix of architects, students, arty types and industry professionals. They’re at various stages of their careers or retired and the fashions as we board the tour bus, range from low brow to South-of-the-Yarra glamour, reflecting the diversity of those drawn to Crafti’s events.

Crafti himself, a successful author and regular contributor to The Age, as well as other newspapers, local and international design magazines, is as much a draw card as the open houses we are going to be seeing. His personal style (he’s sporting signature thick rim black glasses and a fedora today), enthusiasm for the subject matter and witty running commentary are also part of the experience.

Our first house at 15 St Helen’s Road, Hawthorn East, was built by Davey Architecture Studio in 1982, and John Davey lived and worked here for 25 years. Featured in the August 2017 edition of the The Boroondara Bulletin, Crafti describes it as 80s brutalist. Testament to Crafti’s literal ability to open doors, we’re met at the property by Davey, as well as current owners Phillip Schluter and Liz Wu. While the exposed concrete blocks, dark yellow corrugated columns and black steel framed windows (likened to the Pompidou modern art museum in Paris) no doubt appeared radical set amongst the neighbouring heritage homes at the time , ironically the whole back garden including the pool is now overshadowed by a two storey faux Georgian monstrosity. We’re told the original colour scheme had a fuchsia palette. Inside over split levels you can still find bright blue benches, but the pink carpet is gone and accent colours are now olive green. Some later additions are also eye catching: there’s two giant calligraphy prints hanging in the living room and a red peg board coat rack that work for me. Crafti has offered to redecorate with 80s furnishings. He’s both good natured and deadly serious.

We cross town to Kensington to see Tim Hill of TANDEM Studio’s own True North house at the corner of Eastwood and Parsons Street. Built in 2016, it has a just finished quality enhanced by the shiny corrugated façade and the deliberate absence of window coverings (still a point of contention between Hill and his partner). Privacy has nonetheless been considered in the siting of the building. Set on a triangular block that tapers from double front to a single room, it references the boomerang shape popular in 1950s design. Built-in seating and dare I say an almost caravan style dining table were made necessary by the rounded walls. With its bright inner courtyard, pin spot LEDs, light timber panelling walls and ceiling and exposed wardrobes, it has a contemporary Scandi feel. Hill has rescued a historic cottage and stables (heritage listing pending) at the rear, adding to the holiday feel. And yes, it’s occasionally rented out on AirBnB. TANDEM won a Commendation for the project in the 2017 Victorian Architecture Awards.

Back on the bus, Crafti says while some notable property owners are prepared to give him personal access to their houses, he’s only interested in those who feel benevolent to share their homes with the public. All of the places we visit are well lived in, certainly not display homes. Our hosts greet us with their partners, children, housemates and dogs. They’re wearing their weekend clothes, carrying their groceries or doing whatever they happen to be doing when we call on them, like visiting relatives. Although the mood is casual, months of planning goes into these tours. After lunch back in Toorak Road, we head Northside again.

Next is a tiny Victorian terrace on Elgin Street, Carlton, normally entered via a discreet doorway from a laneway behind Canning Street. Its façade blends with the period from the front; it’s disguised amongst a series of commercial use conversions at the rear. Architect Wilson Tang from Sonelo Design Studio has contrasted dark (dark timber window slats and black mirrored walls) and light (a bright loft bedroom and internal lightwell courtyard) in this small space. There are some clever modern touches, including folded steel stairs and folded metal shelves, perforated acoustic panels and a dining table on wheels that slides away for greater floor space. Contemporary light fittings also contrast with the older style front rooms, while wide timber floors and flush horizontal lines on the brick feature walls serve to anchor the high ceilings. Owner Arya Triadi is from Indonesia, bringing aspects of Bali style to create a shady space that anticipates the summer heat. The project is a strong example of Crafti’s argument that good design can make small spaces richer and more meaningful.

Our last stop is a real showstopper. From the street, 26 Hampden Road is a private enclosed bunker, a cross between fortress and art gallery, not quite what you might expect to find in the quiet streets of Armadale.  Designed by BE Architecture and featured in Australia by Design’s Top 10 Australian Homes, the build took 60 tonnes of granite. The tough exterior gives way to a luxurious interior where no detail has been spared. Hard surfaces extend to stainless steel kitchen benches and cupboards (repeated in a butler kitchen bigger that’s almost bigger than my apartment), which are softened by exquisitely crafted curved tiles in the laundry and bathrooms. Even the granite basins are textured from smooth to coarse. There’s a feast of contemporary artwork, including a MONA-esque LED screen installation (a video of fluorescent tubes). A brass balustrade leads up to an oculus skylight and a Japanese inspired garden off the master bathroom, complete with freestanding granite bath and a cute outdoor shower. Of course there’s a beautifully integrated swimming pool, overlooked by a Julliette balcony from the living room. The automatically controlled upper storey window shutters and underground car parking (accessed by a lift) could be triumphs of engineering. Owners Russell and Ros are unobtrusively present while architect Andrew Piva takes final questions from our group.

We finish the tour with a drive by of some extraordinary Holgar & Holgar Toorak mansions from last century (vulgar and vulgar to some, Crafti points out), each suitably OTT. While he’s carefully avoided making his architecture tours into Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and the experience has been both authentic and entertaining, the one thing missing has been a beautiful garden – none of the properties we’ve seen has really had one. As the day concludes I’m hankering for what Crafti will have to show us on the next tour… perhaps a stunning home with landscaping to match or an inner city pad with a carefully curated balcony that’s overflowing with greenery, like my place.

Are you a subject matter expert on a creative industry with a unique Point of View? How have you turned your creative passion into a successful career in the world @work?

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A milestone year for Indigenous education

Slade Group is proud to support the Cathy Freeman Foundation in their 10 year anniversary celebrations this year. Last week we hosted an art show to mark ten years of making a difference to Indigenous students, which coincides with our own 50 year anniversary celebrations. Kath Markov provides some insights on the Foundation’s achievements.

This year the Cathy Freeman Foundation will celebrate 10 years of providing educational opportunities and support to children and families of Palm Island in north Queensland.

“I never imagined that we would have the privilege to work with the beautiful and talented children of Palm Island for 10 years! I am grateful to the Palm Island community who have embraced the Foundation and its programs and I look forward to celebrating this incredible milestone,” said Cathy Freeman, Co-founder and Director of the Cathy Freeman Foundation.

The long term partnership between the Cathy Freeman Foundation and the Palm Island community is undoubtedly one of the Foundation’s greatest successes. Ruth Gorringe, Palm Island local and Community Liaison Officer for the Foundation, says “The Cathy Freeman Foundation is special because people from all over Australia donate and they want to see Indigenous education succeed. People in our community know the Foundation is here for our children’s education. We’re here for the long run and for as long as the community want us here.” Ruth has been a part of the Cathy Freeman Foundation team since 2014 and is currently studying a Bachelor of Education.

Celebrating Year 12 Achievement

More Indigenous children are completing Year 12 than ever before and whilst there is still a long way to go in closing the education gap, the Foundation is proud to celebrate and share in the achievements of students from our community partners.

Last year for the first time in Palm Island history 100% of all senior students graduated from Year 12 with a QCE. “We strongly believe that it takes a whole community to educate a child and this year we celebrated the unprecedented outcomes from working together. We recognise the significant support these students received from the Cathy Freeman Foundation on their journey towards completing Year 12,” said David O’Shea, Deputy Principal, Bwgcolman Community School (2016).

All students who graduate from Year 12 receive a personal letter from Cathy Freeman. “We want their education to go beyond school so it is very empowering for the students to receive a letter from Cathy upon completion of school. I feel really proud and emotional knowing the struggles some of them had throughout school including peer pressure and all of the other things that go with it, but they stuck it out.” said Ruth Gorringe.

If you would like to purchase artworks from the recent Slade Group – Cathy Freeman Foundation Art Show, including Wayne Quilliam’s photographs and unique paintings by Tiwi Designs, click here to view the catalogue or contact us for further information. Click here to find out more about the Foundation or to make a donation.

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Our active lunch break

When a shiny new gym opened at the New York end of Collins Street (that’s near Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station), Angelika Langer-Zindel was one of the first members to join-up. It took another six months for her to recruit a work gym buddy, Diana Tanvis Loi. While there are a few fitness junkies amongst us in the workplace, these two colleagues who both work in our Shared Services team (Accounts Receivable and Payroll respectively), are often seen heading off to exercise together at lunchtimes. I asked what motivates them beyond the Healthy Me, Healthy You program we instigated at Slade Group last year.

Why do you choose to work out in-between work?

Angelika: At my local gym I was missing all the fitness classes – there were only one or two classes I could do. If I was late home from work, I missed them altogether. So it’s much more convenient for me to go at lunchtime.

Diana: Same as Angelika, I used to go to 6am classes at my local gym, but it’s just too hard and I started missing my trains to work.

Why go to the gym together?

Diana: At this gym, they have a rock climbing wall facility and it is definitely more fun to climb with a buddy and also safer, as we make sure that each other’s harnesses are secure.

How do you manage to change into your gym gear, then get back into work clothes, as well as fit in a 45 minute class within your lunch hour?

Angelika: There is no time for showers, so we don’t do classes that are too high intensity. A spin class is a definite no. I have short hair, so I don’t have any problems. If you have a complicated haircut, it just doesn’t work!

Diana: Definitely no body combat for me, or I’d sweat. Athleisure is a new trend in fashion – you can wear a hybrid tank top to work out and put a blazer over it to dress it back up for the office. We also have nice change rooms with free towels and showers in our building, but I generally use the facilities at the gym.

Do you miss doing other things at lunchtime? When do you actually eat your lunch?

Angelika: Not really. Doing a lunchtime class is good break; sitting all day is definitely not healthy.

Diana: Most of us only walk a few steps from our desk each day.

Angelika: It means eating at your desk, which is not the best habit, but you have to compromise. I always eat after exercising – if I eat too much before, I feel sick, so it’s good for weight management.

I see a lot people carrying gym bags on their commute. Is fitness amongst corporate types becoming more popular?

Angelika:  I think so. A lot of the classes where we go are fully booked, so it seems that others are sharing the same habits as us.

Diana:  I think more and more deskbound professionals are finding it really unhealthy to be sitting up to 8-10 hours a day. Employers are also becoming more aware of this and allowing flexible work arrangements.

What are some of the less obvious benefits to including exercise in your work schedule?

Diana: I spend a lot less money on shopping since I started going to the gym!

Angelika: That’s right, when you work in the city, you go shopping at lunchtime.

Diana: It’s also a great way to release your pent-up frustration. I don’t think about work at all while I’m exercising and by the time I’m finished I’ve forgotten whatever I was worried about.

Both: We are still recruiting if anyone is interested to join our lunchtime habits!

 

Have you been taking active lunch breaks? What are some of the healthy practices you have incorporated into your work schedule?

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Why corporates should take leadership on social issues

One of the top international accounting firms hosts a networking event to facilitate a graduate mentoring program that supports aspiring LGBTI business professionals. The world’s strongest global law firm brand facilitates a panel discussion on how to progress marriage equality in Australia. A big four bank runs a major advertising campaign to address the gender salary gap and advocates equal pay for women. A major telco (along with another two major banks) introduces a hijab in company colours as part of their corporate uniform.

Why should the likes of EY, Baker & McKenzie, ANZ and Optus care about social issues? Plenty has been written about why a social conscience makes good business sense. You only have to look at the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Diversity and Inclusion policies of any these leading organisations to see they’ve taken a strong proactive stance. EY, for example, says, “Our focus on diversity and inclusiveness is integral to how we serve our clients, develop our people and play a leadership role in our communities. When we act on our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness, we maximise the power of our differences to achieve better business results, for ourselves and for our clients.”

It’s not just clever marketing. While there’s some risk for brands associating with politically sensitive subjects, the risk is far greater for organisations who shy away from taking the initiative on important issues. It is proven that organisations who show leadership on social issues:

  • Improve their public perception and increase their public profile
  • Attract, engage and retain the best employees
  • Appeal to a wider customer base and enjoy better relationships with customers

Professionals in private employment make up a significant proportion of the workforce. Our products and services have the potential to reach customers across the entire population. While arguably our views are represented at various levels of government by those representatives we’ve elected, I firmly believe there is an onus in the corporate sector to lead conversations that will shape the kind of world we’d like to work in, and live in.

What evidence have you seen of the commercial and social benefits of your organisation’s approach to corporate social responsibility? How has your organisation demonstrated leadership on a social issue or positively represented your Point of View?

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Breaking good with RJ Mitte, Alan Joyce and Andrew Parker

RJ Mitte and I have a few things in common, but I think he’d say we’re both genetically blessed. While I’m certainly not bold enough to compare looks with someone who has modelled for Vivienne Westwood, like many otherwise ordinary people, we both fit into groups characterised by our diversity. The most obvious one is like RJ, I haven’t seen many episodes of Breaking Bad, the drama series he’s best known for as an actor.

When RJ Mitte shared his experience of Overcoming Adversity for the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne late last year, he credited living with cerebral palsy as a catalyst for his successful career. Speaking confidently about yourself in front of an unknown audience, unscripted, for close to an hour is an achievement for anyone. For someone with mobility and language difficulties, it’s a major accomplishment.

Growing up, RJ had to learn to walk, endure years of physiotherapy, deal with bullying and discrimination, and fight to live independently. He channeled the energy required to do the things most of us take for granted, to do more. While a successful acting career is a pipe dream for many able bodied people, being pigeonholed amongst a minority group of disabled actors only made him more determined. RJ says, “A disability is knowledge and power. It’s an opportunity to see things through a different light.”

Now a powerful voice for equality and diversity in the workplace and broader community, RJ seeks to empower others through his involvement as a union advocate for actors with disabilities in Hollywood and as a celebrity ambassador for United Cerebral Palsy. RJ is also is passionate about raising awareness about bullying and victimisation in schools, a subject close to heart. “You never get out of high school,” he says, “people are always trying to push you in another direction.”

Locally it’s encouraging to see high profile organisations showing leadership on diversity and inclusion. Speaking at a CEO breakfast on marriage equality last year, QANTAS CEO Alan Joyce summed up The Spirit of Australia: “We see ourselves as representing the Australian community. We have over 250 different nationalities working for us, 50 languages spoken. We’ve got a huge, diverse workplace of 28,000 people and we have a huge gay community in our workforce. We want all of our people who come to work every day to feel equal, to feel like they can contribute equally in the organisation and in the country.”

In an article by Human Capital, MI5 head Andrew Parker recently agreed: “Diversity is vital… not just because it’s right that we represent the communities we serve, but because we rely on the skills of the most talented people whoever they are, and wherever they may be.” In the 2015 Australian Workplace Equality Index (AWEI), published by Pride in Diversity, sponsor Goldman Sachs states: “Our greatest asset is what makes us different.” For those of us involved in making hiring decisions that will affect future wins for our businesses or recruiting for others, it should be a core value to strive for.

If you’re wondering what you can do to make your workplace a better place, here are 5 tips based on RJ Mitte’s talk that you can apply within a professional context.

  • Language matters – think about the words you use to describe people, especially those that you may perceive as different, and consider how you would like to be referred to by others
  • Listen to and share the experiences of others – sharing stories with colleagues, rather talking about them, helps break down communication barriers
  • Promote networking opportunities that support diversity – RJ laments few disabled actors have the opportunity to play disabled characters, but workplaces (particularly large organisations) have scope to support employee diversity though professional networks
  • People from diverse groups make up a significant part of the workforce – We did a team building exercise on diversity in our office and there wasn’t one person who didn’t identify with at least one diversity demographic
  • Challenge your perception – Instead of approaching diversity as something other, take the initiative to get involved and be inclusive by showing leadership
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The noble heart of a hard-headed leader

Seeing Jeff Kennett up close and personal headlining the 2015 Deakin University David Parkin Oration for Sport and Social Change, is an opportunity to see a leader in action. He’s animated, engaging and at times a little embarrassing.

Speaking on professionalism in sport and its effect on workplace health, Kennett’s words are prophetic, delivered just hours ahead of the tragic events at Adelaide FC.

Kennett says we’re not well equipped to deal with the pressures of everyday life in modern society. Stress, change and anxiety can get the better of us because we haven’t been taught to deal with these issues. Despite being more connected than ever before in the digital age, social media can have the opposite effect, causing social isolation.

He talks about elite sports people living in a cocoon, out of touch with the real world, empathising with the likes of Ian Thorpe, unable to come out and reveal his true self until well into retirement.

Passing under the red and yellow beams on the Citylink freeway into Melbourne CBD, or attending a conference at the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre (colloquially known as Jeff’s Shed), you cannot help be reminded of some of the legacy infrastructure from former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett.

In government Kennett was a polarising figure, and to get ‘Jeffed’ didn’t always have positive connotations. His vision for a Greater South East State remains understandably unpopular, and in my local community we’re still hopeful for a new high school to replace Richmond Secondary College, closed by the Kennett Government in the 1990s.

I lived in Sydney for the most part of that decade and I don’t know a lot about AFL, so while Kennett’s achievements as President of the Hawthorn Football Club (including a Premiership) may qualify him to talk about sport, it’s his work as founding Chairman of beyondblue, an organisation raising awareness of mental health, which is a real crowd-puller these days.

Over the course of the David Parkin Oration, Kennett offers personal advice from the perspective of a learned professional with many years of experience at the top of his game. His universal wisdoms, in the form of parental guidance and family stories, are also put forward, which makes him authentic and even endearing. He’s certainly charming and knows how to work an audience.

Deakin University awarded Kennett an honorary Doctor of Laws for distinguished services to business and the community, so it’s fitting that he’s a strong advocate for education as one strategy to meet life’s challenges. In fact he’s equally passionate about education and sport, suggesting ongoing learning as a pathway to equip young people for life after professional sport.

But what Kennett said that really hit home with me was this: “Professionalism does not yet recognise the human frailty of those in a profession.”

In our pursuit of professionalism, to excel in our career and to be the best that we can in our field of expertise, too often we lose sight of our humanity. There’s a body, without which there’s no brain. Athletes are reminded by injury. In the corporate sector, often we’ll wait until it’s too late to take care of our physical and mental health.

To be capable of great things, we need to play fair with ourselves too. Kennett says the second most important function of any leadership group, after good governance, is health and wellbeing of its members. This month beyondblue launches a series of projects aimed to reduce stigma around mental health conditions in men. It’s a timely reminder for professionals to check in with our team mates on and off the field.

What lessons can business leaders learn from professional sport? What’s your game plan for a healthy body and mind?

Featured image: Jeff Kennett by Craig Sillitoe Photography, Creative Commons Attribution

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A walk on the mild side: Melbourne’s marvellous mid-century multi-storeys

Modern architecture is a lot like modern art – you either love it or hate it. Working in a rapidly growing CBD with a relatively new built-up environment is a bit like wandering through an art gallery of ever-changing exhibitions. While Melbourne has preserved many of its old masters, modern building design has always been contentious. Mid-century design (circa 1945-1965) is currently enjoying a renaissance in interiors, but our landmark skyscrapers from the 1960s building boom haven’t enjoyed the same patronage.

A prime example sits right opposite my office: the former Suncorp building at 435-455 Collins Street (corner of William Street). Built in 1965 for National Mutual, it was considered pioneering at the time for incorporating a public plaza on private land. Now, the once sparkling marble facade is curtained-off in shame while the tower is being demolished. Unfortunately the experimental building techniques it employed haven’t stood the test of time and the building literally started falling down.

In an article in The Age City Office Tower Faces Demolition a year ago, Melbourne City Council’s Planning Chairman, Councillor Ken Ong said, “he believed the local heritage significance of the building was outweighed by its current state”. I don’t disagree with the critics on this one. Not only is the building an ugly eyesore in its present form, it’s also a painfully long demolition process for those that have to look at it every working day. Later additions to the Market Street tower would have horrified the original architects. Similarly, it’s karma for the loss of the 1841 Western Market on the same site – a tragedy for early Victorian heritage enthusiasts.

Late last year The National Trust published Melbourne’s Marvellous Modernism: A Comparative Analysis of Post-War Modern Architecture in Melbourne’s CBD 1955 -1975. It’s a fascinating look at the history of the city though the buildings of the mid-century period. From curtain walls to exposed structures, brutalist and international styles, those still standing make an interesting walking tour if you are outside in the city at lunchtime. ICI House (now Orica, at 4 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne) is Wallpaper City Guide worthy and the former BHP House (140 William Street), which echoes the famous John Hancock Center in Chicago, is one of my favourites.

Removing the much loathed Gas and Fuel building on Flinders Street was an emotional triumph for the Kennett Government in the late 1990s. It made way for the infinitely more popular Federation Square we enjoy today. I would love to swing a wrecking ball at the 1960s era Victorian Government buildings at 1 Treasury Place too, thereby restoring the open space around the Old Treasury where it meets Fitzroy Gardens.

As Melbourne grows upwards and our skyline becomes increasingly dense, we’ll soon be deciding the fate of other buildings that were conceived to house office workers in the 1960s, some of which are still in use today. As attention turns to the 70s, 80s and 90s, languishing skyscrapers from later architectural periods could even be back on the cool list. Of course a superficial look at aesthetics  from the ground says nothing about what it’s actually like to work in a building that’s 50 years old… you’ll have to tell me.

Next time you’re rushing through your city, take a moment to look up. Depending on your point of view, you may be delighted or horrified by what towers above you.

What are some of your favourite office buildings in your city? Which ones would you love to revamp?

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Mornington’s agile mumpreneur

Slade Group Account Manager Liz Fleming was profiled this month in Mornington Life Magazine Mumpreneurs: Recruitment & Career Professional Now Working from her Peninsula Home and Business Times magazine’s Bizzquiz in October 2014. Moving to the Mornington Peninsula with her family earlier this year was not only a welcome sea change, but has proven to be a successful professional move.

Liz writes, “Working for an industry leader who had the vision to move to an agile workplace means I can have a fantastic work-life balance. I manage my time so that I can be involved in my children’s lives when they need me and I can focus on my clients and candidates when they need me. It is with this flexibility that I am able to achieve the level of excellence I strive for in all areas of my life.”

“I work from home on the Peninsula for much of my week, which allows me to deliver high quality staff for roles throughout the Peninsula and the southeast region of Melbourne. My consulting role is all about developing creative solutions to ensure my business partners achieve and exceed their HR objectives and my candidates achieve and exceed their career goals,” Liz says.

Slade Group recently embarked on agile working arrangements for our Melbourne recruitment and consulting business, as highlighted by The Slade Report articles Work is a thing we do, not a place we go and We’re curious: What’s your experience with Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and Hot Desking? published earlier this year.

Describing herself as someone who has always dreamed of being inspirational and exceeding other people’s expectations, Liz has come a long way from her first job at The Chocolate Box as a 16 year old during the school holidays. She offers some simple advice to those inspired by her success story: “For me listening is the key. So many people are busy talking about themselves or their businesses that they forget to listen to what others are saying and just as importantly, what they are not saying. Only with astute listening are we in a position to ask the right questions, and then decipher the important issues.”

What are your career dreams? What about your ideal world @work?

Featured image: View from Arthurs Seat by cafuego, Creative Commons licence and copyright

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