When Amelia Aidone opened Lenny's Coffee & Co in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD in October 2019, she never imagined foot traffic would evaporate five months later.

Photo of Tayla Broekman's large 18 metre mural on Bourke Place. The mural is colourful and shows a woman and her cat.

Artist Tayla Broekman's mural in Bourke Place in Melbourne's CBD.

A youth hostel over the road poured a steady stream of backpackers into her café and the neighbouring restaurant and bar, LaDiDa. It was a welcome top-up to the regular income provided by city shoppers and commuters.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Amelia was forced to shut up shop. A lot has changed since then.

Now opposite Amelia’s café is an 18-metre mural, one of 40 makeovers planned for iconic Melbourne laneways to provide jobs for local creatives.

Jobs Victoria supports people looking for work and connects employers with the staff they need.

The Flash Forward project, funded by Jobs Victoria and the City of Melbourne, has created more than 155 jobs for people in the creative industry.

Local business owners love it.

Amelia believes the mural in Bourke Place will help entice people back to her café near the corner of King Street and Little Bourke Street.

“It’s really brightened up the laneway,” Amelia says.

“It makes it more appealing and attractive for people coming back into the city, and hopefully, the foot traffic starts increasing as well. It’s wonderful to be part of the city’s reactivation.”

Local landmarks creating a buzz 

The mural was painted by artist Tayla Broekman, who describes it as a surreal, emotionally charged tribute to love, loss, and her pet cat, who passed away last year.

“When the curator of this project called me last year, he mentioned that it could be to do with COVID, so it’s basically about my time in lockdown,” Tayla says.

She was elated to be selected for the Flash Forward project and says she appreciates the support and funding she’s received, which has allowed her to pursue her passion and reignite her career.

Tayla says many people have visited the CBD to see her mural already and believes businesses will benefit as culture enthusiasts descend on these new local landmarks.

“It’s creating a buzz and more of an exciting vibe in Melbourne,” she says. “And it’s really in the style and personality of Melbourne to have this sort of creative energy in the city.”