Meet a Southbank neighbour, Lev Lafayette
There is a life force and resiliency that radiates from Lev Lafayette. His wasn’t an easy childhood, one that brought him to Australia with an adoptive parent as an infant and eventually led to him being raised as a ward of the state. It’s a story that Lev shares with his characteristic up-beat attitude and good nature.
Though he doesn’t keep in touch with people from that part of his past, he’s grateful for the private education he received and a social worker that fought for him, enabling him to become self-reliant at the age of 17.
Lev’s early years of private education laid a groundwork for what has become a lifetime of learning six degrees (including four Masters) and work towards a seventh degree in climate science and policy. It’s a journey that has led to his current role as a supercomputing engineer at the University of Melbourne.
“I’ve always been interested in computers since I was a kid,” he said.
His interest in information technology (IT) has found him throughout many careers regardless of his role. In the 1990s, while serving as an electorate officer for the Victorian Parliament, he was assigned to oversee the computer database. While serving as an election observer to the United Nations in 2002, he met officials from East Timor who needed an IT person, a position Lev filled for more than a year. His role overlapped the country’s fight for independence from Indonesia.
“I found myself in some very precarious situations working in the government house that, at one point, was overrun,” he said.
These days he’s combining his passion for computing with that of the environment.
“I’m at a point in my life where I’m more concerned about giving back than making money,” he said.
He and a business partner have started a company, Avatar Mountain, with the goal of providing technology to assist Pacific Islands with climate change mitigation and renewable energy.
“There are thousands of islands that are less than a metre above rising sea levels and they also need to cut their dependence upon fossil fuels,” he said.
The two issues may have combined solutions, such as a sea wall that both protects shorelines and generates hydro/wind power.
Lev moved to Southbank two years ago after living in Kew for years, saying he “loved having the city at my doorstep and being in the centre of all the action.”
He’s participated in Southbank3006 events and appreciates both the opportunities and challenges Southbank presents …
“The demographics are really unique here – I think there are a lot of people who are independent by nature and may not be drawn to joining community activities, and yet would really benefit from them.”
He said there was also a need for many voices getting behind local issues.
“We need much, much more green. Look at Lygon St, for example, just adding green strips down streets, next to footpaths, between traffic and people would make such a difference in making Southbank more welcoming.” •
MaryKay Rauma is a founder of Southbank3006 a not-for-profit community and advocacy group focused on connecting residents and improving the liveability of Southbank. All Southbank residents are encouraged to join for free by scanning the QR code.