Racism in Australia

Stereotypical Aussie Koala

Stereotypical Aussie Koala


Cultural Insights on Life in Australia

Before I get to the meaty part I’d like to say a quick gidday to all my lovely Aussie readers. Please don’t take these notes about my perceptions on Australian culture and racism in Australia personally. Just think of me a whinging Pom and a backwards Kiwi reporting on cultural differences that I’ve noticed during the six months I’ve been living here in Australia.

I just want to give people who may be thinking of moving to, or visiting the lucky country a balanced view of what it’s like here, because some of them think life in Australia is all beach time, hunky lifesavers and sunny days. Then they get here and they don’t like it.

Is Australia a Racist Country?

Now for the juicy stuff, the cultural insights which I fear may incite the rage of my new, friendly and often funny Australian hosts. A month or two ago there was a big furore in Australia when the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said “adios” to the news that Sol Trujillo, a Mexican, and a bigwig in a major Australian telecommunications company, had been fired. You could call Rudd racist. Or you could call Trujillo humourless and a bad loser, because he then launched into a diatribe about how racist Australia is, and claimed that living here is “like stepping back in time.”

Some Australians were upset, even shocked, at being accused of racism, but none-the-less, the fact that Aboriginal people have a statistically lower life expectancy and literacy rate just looks bad. Of course, statistics can lie, but somehow the fact that there are loads of Aboriginals living here would have passed me by if I didn’t read about them suffering from alcoholism, child abuse and poor health care in the Australian newspapers. But then again, I live in Noosa, Queensland, a mostly middle-class enclave populated by lucky white folk, and there seem to be a few pre-conceptions about Noosa residents too, namely that we are all rich, stuck up ex-hippies. But I digress.

Racist Pre-conceptions About Australians

I’m sure that all Aussies aren’t racist any more than all Kiwis are sheep shaggers, or all Brits are football hooligans, and many of them may be racist sheep shaggers or hooligans too. However, I should mention that when I moved to Australia one British friend asked how I was liking it here in “the new land of apartheid.” Ouch.

I think I’ve been quite controversial enough now in my bid to expose a little bit about Australian culture, so rather than irritate my generous hosts any more, and risk being deported to the chilly shores I’ve escaped from, I’ll end here. I think I’ll save my thoughts on Queensland anti-hooning measures and street brawling until next time.

Thanks for having me Australia, I love you really, especially the hunky lifesavers, great beaches, sunny days and amazing Aboriginal culture.

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Good luck with all your plans!

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Daylight Robbery, Little Cove, Noosa

Watch Out Watch Out! There’s a Thief About In Noosa

I’ve been feeling a bit lonesome this week. I’m now six months into my new life in Australia and I think anyone who’s moved overseas will know this feeling: the newness of being in a foreign country has passed and it’s still too early to have made good friends so there’s a gap that needs to be filled.

A surf with my surfer chick buddies-in-the-making was just what the doctor ordered. So when the rain cleared up to reveal sunny blue skies, the famous Noosa surf points were pumping and the surfer chicks were up for it, life looked good.

I have to confess I was a bit out of kilter. For example, I thought it was Wednesday when it was Thursday, but there’s nothing too unusual about that is there? After racing through my work and finding an elusive parking spot close to Little Cove where we’d arranged to meet, I realised I’d forgotten my board shorts. But nothing was going to stop me from surfing. At this point I should clarify that I was wearing a bikini and had my wetsuit top with me but the bikini bottoms are absolutely tiny and normally I wouldn’t be seen out in them unless they were under my board shorts. Basically, they’re completely unsuitable for surfing and the two tiny triangles of material barely covered my ample writer’s bottom.

The Show Must Go On

Still, undeterred, I knotted them on as tightly as possible, grabbed my board and headed out into the surf at Little Cove. There was no sign of my friends but I thought they might already be out in the surf so I left my bag carefully on a rock well above the high tide mark. This is a bag I got free with a magazine. Inside it was a t-shirt, a rash top, a dweeby surf hat that buckles under the chin, a pair of super cheap sunglasses from Costa Rica and my keys. That’s right, my car keys and my house keys which are both those new-fangled remote control keys that are fiendishly expensive to replace, all coupled together with one of my most prized possessions: a gorgeous wooden key ring with a painted toucan and the inscription Costa Rica. A lot of happy memories are tied up in that keyring and I truly love it.

Now, I count myself as being fairly savvy and would never leave any valuables unattended on the beach. As proof of how streetwise I like to think I am I should add that I recently spent 18 months traveling round Central America with 11 bags and not a thing was stolen from me during that time. 11 bags? I know, it sounds ridiculous but it was minimalist traveling for a famly of five and included a complete homeschool kit for three children as well as enough books to keep them all on track with their reading goals for a year.

You Little Ripper

But back to the Noosa surf. Down at Little Cove there was an flood of surfers walking, running and sprinting up the beach to get into the sea further north.

“Gosh.” I thought.
“I wonder where they’re all going.”

But being a complete novice I didn’t study the conditions much, apart from checking that the waves weren’t too big, and I didn’t notice the fierce rip that was pulling surfers south around the rocks to Noosa Main Beach. Until I got waist deep into the sea that is.

Suddenly, the rip was so strong that I was unable to stand in one place so I hopped on my board and caught the first wave that came my way. My pop up was slow and clumsy but hey, I was standing up and surfing, rushing in towards the beach. When the wave petered out I started paddling back towards the breaking waves to try again. At first I noticed I was just paddling on the spot and no sooner had that dawned on me than I realised I was being pulled backwards and quickly towards some rocks where bigger waves were breaking, and then around the corner to First Point where approximately 200 surfers were all milling around. This all happened exceedingly fast and probably less than five minutes had passed since I got into the sea.

“I’m being swept away.” I shouted to a bearded surfer nearby. He just shrugged and ignored me, too busy trying to save his own bacon I suppose.
“I’m trying to get to the shore.” I said to another.
“You’ll be right.” he said. Australians always say this and it’s very reassuring. Sure enough, he was right.

If At First You Don’t Suceed Try, Try, Try Again

Although I thought I was about to die I put on a paddling spurt and got to the shore, overjoyed to be alive. Now I joined the surfers climbing back over the rocks and walking back up the beach for another go. Yes, I’ve been taught that if you fall off your horse the best thing to do is get back on it and have another go.

So I did and I had a few nice rides too despite the dodgy conditions. At some point I noticed I’d forgotten to take my earrings out and one was missing but nothing was going to get me down after my near-death experience. My friends turned up and we had a surf together before heading back to the beach.

It was then that I realised my bag was missing, along with one of my shoes which I’d placed on top of the bag on top of a rock. So annoying. Why would a thief steal one shoe? And, presuming the culprit was male, what would he want with a few well-used pieces of ladies clothing? Perhaps most annoying of all was that I was now stranded at the beach with no car keys and clad only, in the world’s most revealing bikini.

Super Sleuth

Despite this I’m proud to say that I kept my cool and drew on my knowledge gleaned from over 20 years of reading trashy crime thrillers. Yes, thanks to a love of literature of all kinds, I am well-versed in many aspects of criminal profiling and criminal psychology. My expert analysis told me that this was a crime of opportunity committed by a young, and possilby itinerant, person who was hoping to get their grubby mitts on some cash, credit cards, a decent camera, an ipod or at the very least a complete pair of shoes, not just one beaten up sandal that’s been roughed up all over Central America.

In view of the fact that the loot held limited value for the crim (unless s/he was a one-legged tootsie with size ten feet) my guess was that the robber would be feeling pretty annoyed with the pile of crap they’d risked their clean record for and would probably chuck the entire contents of the bag in the nearest rubbish bin or bush.

Another young lady had also had her bag stolen so I left her to look after my surf board and went on a bin trawl. Now, despite being a country bumpkin, I’ve lived in big cities before and I’ve seen people, mainly bearded and ragged men, rifling through bins for sustenance. The middle-class demograhic means there aren’t many people doing it in the Noosa area though, and either my strange behaviour coupled, my scanty attire or a combination of those things attracted a fair bit if attention.

To make things even more pitiful Noosa has these really posh bins with a roof on so in order to see what’s inside you have to poke your head under the roof and over to the middle to even get a peep inside. If you actually wanted to get something out you’d have a hard job. Hmmm, maybe that’s why people don’t bother doing it.

There’s a Moral Here Somewhere

I wish I could say that there was happy ending to this story and that my bag and its contents, or at least my keys, turned up in a bin or under a bush but sadly that’s not the case. I came away feeling slightly nauseaous from the fumes of cigarette butts and fish and chips wrappers but alas empty handed.

So if you ever see a strange semi-clad lady rifling through the bins in an upmarket location don’t avert your eyes and cross the street, take pity and offer her a lift home. It could be me.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

Shaggy Dog Story From the RSPCA, Noosa

Dogs Love Noosa Too

Controversial Dog in Booties

Controversial Dog in Booties

Australia has one of the highest levels of dog ownership in the world, and one Noosa resident told me that I wouldn’t be a local myself until I got a dog. So I was naturally interested in the ‘Champ Pooch of the Day’ event that was held last Sunday by the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). They tried to keep it a secret from me, but I noticed a stream of people and dogs of all shapes and sizes parading along the Noosa river and just had to find out what it was all about.

Dog in a Bag

Dog in a Bag

Thank heavens I didn’t miss out on the doggy fun. There were all kinds of competitions being held. The biggest dog contest was a sure win for the lone Great Dane entrant. The smallest dog contest was practically a support group for nominees for the Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves website. For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure, check it out. It’s most reassuring to find other people who think that a bull dog wearing a tight polo shirt is tragic, not cute.

I’m happy to say the RSPCA doesn’t condone dressing pets up in clothes either, and the canine winner for smallest dog took it down clad only in its natural fur coat. Good news, even if it was one of those trembling dogs with a really hard to spell name that fashionable girls like to keep in their handbags.

Pampered Costa Rican Cat

Pampered Costa Rican Cat

But my favourite contest, and the most fiercely contested category, was the “Owner and Dog Most Lookalike Contest”. The winner went to a Jack Russel and his short-haired, pointy-faced, wet-nosed owner. They were almost indistinguishable from each other so congratulations to the undisputed champs.

They didn’t have official contests for these categories but I also identified the hottest dog, the smelliest dog, the dog with the largest testicles and the owner who was most in denial that she looked like her dog. This sounds means but it was just the shaggy orange hair. Hey, maybe I could help with the judging next year or reinvent myself as a canine talent scout.

I hope you like these photos I took for the Pets That Want to Kill Themselves website. They’ve got loads of pics of desperate pets and it’s worth checking out if you need a laugh and don’t mind a teeny bit of cruelty to animals. We certainly don’t. Here’s a photo of one of our long suffering kittens in Costa Rica if you want the proof.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!
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Kangaroos: cute, cuddley, and tasty too

Kangaroo is good for you

How about you? Could you chew on a 'roo?

Kangaroos are versatile animals. While at Australia Zoo we spent many happy moments feeding the ‘roos, stroking their soft fur and laughing at how human they look when standing up on their hind legs. The fur behind their ears is especially soft and seeing a mother kangaroo with a joey peeping out of its pouch is enough to make your heart melt. In fact the mummy ‘roos at the zoo are so cute that, like Hollywood stars, they need a personal minder, to keep the hoarding masses away.

Once a threatened species, kangaroos and their smaller cousins, wallabies, now number over 20 million beasts. Today, there may even be as many as 40 million of them bouncing around Australia. In fact, the effort to conserve kangaroos has been so successful that they are now culled in order to reduce their numbers and maintain ample grazing for domestic animals like sheep.

The Eco-friendly Choice for Meat Lovers

Australian farmers have been culling kangaroos for years, often selling their hides but doing nothing with the meat. Now there is a campaign under way to change this and get people to eat kangaroo meat for reasons of both conservation and sustainability. The marketing campaign extols the virtues of the meat which is ecologically sounds when compared to other red meat sources since kangaroos eat only native grasses, and don’t need food supplements, medicine or chemicals.

A Tasty Treat for Foodies

What’s more, kangaroo meat is not only tasty but healthy too because it is low in cholesterol and fat but high in iron, zinc and omega three. Apparently kangaroo meat is more popular with Germans and Belgians than it is with Australians and it is becoming better known in the UK too. But wait, there’s more: it’s cheaper than beef and lamb too.

Sorry Skippy, it just makes sense

It sounds great doesn’t it? So good that tonight, in a selfless effort to save the planet I will be eating a kangaroo steak instead of my usual iron-boosting favourite, the lamb chop.

How about you? Could you chew on a ‘roo?

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!

Noosa Festival of Surfing 2009

Bad News: Skin Cancer, Oil Slicks, and Sick Trees

Good News: Hot, Hot, Hot Surfers, doing what they do best

First the bad news…

Some of the beautiful people, and Thomas Meyerhoffer, launching his radical longboard design

Some of the beautiful people, and Thomas Meyerhoffer, launching his radical longboard design

The people sitting on the beach must be hot, and ignorant of, or choosing to ignore, the dangers of the midday sun, whose ultra-violet rays are notoriously strong here in Australia. Under the shade of a pandanus tree, with its roots growing in a cone to support its trunk, it is cool, chilly even with the off-shore breeze.

Laguna Bay is spread in front of me, glittering as far as the eye can see, like a million tiny mirrors catching the sunlight. From the shoreline the white surf and gauzy green shallows darken gradually to deep velvety blue on the horizon. Noosa National Park is hidden around the leafy headland, but the white sands of the beaches and dunes of Cooloola National Park are clearly visible across the bay.

Sad then that this paradise on earth conceals many hidden dangers, and it’s not just the sun which is posing a serious health risk or only humans who are in peril. On land there is a mysterious insect infestation which is killing the iconic pandanus trees. At sea, an oil spill has blighted beaches only twenty kilometers from here, and along much to the coastline further south towards Brisbane, causing untold damage to plants and animals at sea and on land.

And the Good News…

But here in Noosa, the Festival of Surfing must go on and a good time is being had by all. The pro-women’s surf competition is underway and the only drawback visible to the naked eye are the waves, which are so small, it’s a wonder anyone can surf on them at all. Lucky that these people are professionals who can surf on any wave, big or small.

On Sunday pro-surfer, Julian Wilson, was surfing in the family competition with his dad. If the local press is to be believed, twenty year old Julian, is one of the best surfers in the world. Despite the obvious bias of the local press towards this Coolum surfer he has beaten Kelly Slater several times already so it may just be true.

Julian and I flew to Brisbane together from Los Angeles in November. I’d never heard of him then, but like me, he is a poor flier who prefers to roam the plane and loiter outside the toilets for hours at a time, while other people are sleeping soundly in their cramped seats. His carroty tan and woolen hat pulled down low over wild straw-like hair made a lasting impact on me and I had no trouble recognizing him a few weeks later when I read saw him featured in a magazine.

So you see, me and Julian go way back. Fortunately for him and the other pros I have decided to stick to surfing at an amateur level this year. But I can’t help noticing that Julian looks much better in his board shorts, with no beanie and with wet hair.

Thanks for reading, feel free to add your comments below.

Good luck with all your travel plans!