Democracy in action in Brisbane

Like a kangaroo I hopped around Australia taking planes left and right, and from Perth I flew to Adelaide. Adelaide is a wonderful if a bit sleepy city, the capital of South Australia province. It’s a nice place to spend a couple of days but there isn’t an awful lot to report about it. However the visit to Adelaide means I’ve been to each and every Australian state – woo-hoo!!! Next hop: Adelaide – Sydney. From Sydney it was on to New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, and then back to Australia – this time to Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, the last big city in Australia that I hadn’t visited.

On the map Brisbane appears to be located on the ocean shore. In reality – very much like Perth and Melbourne – it is located on the river which flows into the sea several kilometres downstream. The river creates a fantastic visual spectacle. I crossed it many times a day because its Southern shore – the opposite to the central business district – houses the cultural area. Museum of Queensland, State Library of Queensland, Gallery of Contemporary Art and a major concert hall are all compactly located in that area.

I spent a lot of time there, first studying the contents of all these institutions, then simply sitting in a museum café, spending time in the state library profiting from their unlimited wifi wifi with a speed of light. Somehow the atmosphere in that place is especially favourable for productive work. I think this kind of investment is a stroke of genius – to create in the centre of the city a place where anyone can quench their thirst for information at no cost whatsoever.

The Brisbane river. The business centre in on the left, the cultural centre is on the right.

The Kurilpa footbridge from the side of the cultural quarter. The name of the bridge is derived from the aboriginal name of the place.

Contemporary Art Gallery as seen from the river.

The cultural quarter from the inside.

One of the many memorable artworks of the local native artists in Contemporary Art Gallery.

The night view of the city centre from the cultural quarter. The café of Contemporary Art Gallery closes down at six in the evening, but no one removes the tables, and so numerous visitors stay there many hours after the closure. I would return to my hotel at this hour.

On a busy working day the business district would look thus. This is the main square – the George Square, the main artery of the city – Albert Street – is right in front of us.

On a random day in the city centre I suddenly found myself in this huge crowd.

This was a demonstration in favour of refugee rights. A neverending flow of refugees is streaming into Australia, its main sources being Tamils from Sri Lanka, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan. After reaching Indonesia, they board small boats to get to tiny coral reefs to the South of Java that belong to Australia. This represents an enormous headache for the Australian government as the Australian immigration regime is tightly controlled. Previous governments opted for a temporary solution which over time became permanent. The refugees gathered from reefs, islands and boats are moved to two refugee camps located in rented premises in Papua New Guinea (the so-called Manus camp) and in Nauru. Then they are held there indefinitely without much hope for any change in their situation. The two camps – essentially prisons – are manned by private contractors who are paid a big buck by the government. The conditions in the camps are rather harsh, to the point that sometimes rebellions and beatings occur. All kinds of left wing organisations were protesting against this situation on that day, and many passers by joined in. On that day such protests took place all over Australia.

The protesters first occupied George Square. Some speeches were given, but most of the time people spoke to each other.

I spoke to a number of activists manning the stands of several organisations.

This is what they were selling. I even bought a few materials.

As well as some of these badges – every badge seemed to be in favour of some idea I support.

Activitsts gave me this poster and invited to join the demonstration.

Which I did. At the set hour the crowd moved on an agreed itinerary through the centre of the city.

I found the most surprising the reaction of passers by. Many of them would just freeze on the spot as they would read the posters and start considering the issue which is obviously not straightforward. I thought this was democracy in action.

This post finishes the series about my visit of Australia on this trip. From Australia I flew on to Thailand and then to Brunei, Manila and Nepal – all of which has already been described on this blog. My next blog entry will therefore be about Mostar, which is where I headed after a July pause in Tallinn.

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