Putting Canberra Back on the Map

If you’ve ever scrolled through GLP events, seen the Canberra Symposium advertised (thought to yourself “nah, not this time”) and kept scrolling – stop doing that because it is an amazing opportunity you will not regret.

We started on a Thursday at 7am (don’t let that throw you, it’s not so bad) and we, nineteen students and one GLP staff member, piled onto a bus and headed off to what most people would describe as “the boring-est place in Australia”, the nation’s capital: Canberra.

GLP Students at the Australian War Memorial on the GLP Symposium.

GLP Students at the Australian War Memorial on the GLP Symposium.

We spent our first day slowly getting to know one another; we toured Parliament House, attended Question Time and got to see the back of Tony Abbott’s head. We visited the Sri Lankan High Commission, where we received a briefing and some tea and then made our way to our accommodation where we finally got to take our shoes off.

On Friday, we had a briefing from Gugan Gulwan, an Aboriginal Youth Corporation youth centre and Companion House, a community based organization that cares for survivors of torture and trauma seeking refuge in Australia. Both briefings were a reminder that despite all the bad press surrounding these groups, there were people who fought on their behalf.

After lunch on Friday (Mexican food, it was delicious), we were briefed at the Brazilian Embassy and visited the National Film and Sound Archive, where I spent much too long playing with an display called ‘Fractured Heart’ which was used during a Gotye/Kimbra performance a few years ago.

Saturday was a slightly more chilled day; we visited the National Museum and the National Zoo (Canberra does indeed haves a zoo!) where I fed a lion named Mishka (not going to lie, this was probably the highlight of the trip for me) and some other students got to feed a giraffe named Hummer.

Lion feeding at the National Zoo.

Lion feeding at the National Zoo.

At the beginning of the trip, we were placed into groups and were given a group and a project on which to work on during our few days in Canberra, each with a different topic based around some of the places we had visited. At first I dreaded this project, I was unsure of my group members and had no idea how I would be able to present anything without a laptop. However,  but we came together on Saturday afternoon and got our project together. This was probably one of the best projects I’ve ever done throughout my entire University career.

At dinner that night, all the groups presented their projects and had a lot of fun being silly and having fun. My group won the prize (there is a prize, even more reason to attend this symposium) and we spent the night eating and celebrating with amazing, new friends.

On Sunday, we had a lovely breakfast of pancakes, took a group selfie then departed for the National Art Gallery. I’ve always wanted to have a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off moment where I stand staring at a piece of artwork and I managed to achieve this many times while visiting the Gallery. I also accidentally set of alarms and got told off by security a few times because I stood too close to a Monet but it was totally worth it.

We then headed for the War Memorial, where we were humbled by the sacrifices made by brave men and women for our freedom. We took a group photo to commemorate our amazing four days in Canberra and headed to the Old Bus Depot Markets (a must-do if you happen to be in Canberra!) where we ate and had a bit of time to explore the markets before we headed back home to our assignments and responsibilities in Sydney.

I had always thought of Canberra as an incredibly dull place to be and to live but those four days have changed my mind completely. If you ever get the opportunity to experience Canberra as I have – take it because you absolutely will not regret it.

Izzie Weerasooriya is a second year, Bachelor of Arts student, majoring in French. This is her first University-related blog post and she hopes it’s not her last. She enjoys long walks down Wally’s Walk, lying in the grass after exams and drinking coffees made at Presse Cafe. She hopes to one day live in the French Riviera or become a mermaid at Disneyworld.

 

 

The Colours of Auburn

Kevin and Clare recently attended the Global Leadership Cultural Series – Auburn trip with a group of keen GLP students – read on to find out what they got up to…

On Monday 3 November we (Kevin and Clare) and the rest of our GLP group, began our day-long journey at the Auburn City Library, where we were welcomed by Julie, a Community Development Officer from the Auburn City Council. She revealed to us some surprising demographics and statistics about the suburbs within the Auburn Council area – did you know that it holds the highest percentage of refugees per capita in the whole of NSW? The Auburn Council area lives and breathes multiculturalism!

We were introduced to an active member of the Auburn community, Ghassan, who is also a refugee from Iraq. Hearing stories of refugee camps is one thing, but meeting someone who had endured a Saudi Arabian Desert Refugee Camp for 6 years was truly remarkable. He shared heart-wrenching experiences that led to his settlement in Auburn: the place he calls home. Words can’t describe how overwhelmed with inspiration we felt. “There is no future, because the future is today” … we’ve heard this quote dozens of times, but hearing it from Ghassan, someone who had made strides towards actualizing his dream despite having faced major adversity, gave it more meaning.  Our dreams are not vague dreams out of reach, but within our grasp; it is up to us to make it happen.

We left the library inspired for our next adventure at the Auburn Botanic Gardens, which featured beautiful wildlife and Japanese gardens. As soon as we entered the gardens, we saw a peahen, tip-toing around the garden. Seeing the magnificent green feathers of the peacocks spread up close really is something else! The gardens themselves were lush and green with Japanese landscaping, and mini waterfalls of sparkling blue water. There was a lovely bridge over which schools of large koi fish gathered. We came across a barn filled with some Aussie animals. Those kangaroos and wallabies were so carefree, chilling out in the morning sun; there was an albino kangaroo that was just gorgeous! After walking around the gardens, we were starting to get peckish …

Peacock at Auburn Botanic Gardens

Peacock at Auburn Botanic Gardens

Luckily it was time for food! We were warmly welcomed by the staff of Mado Café, a Turkish restaurant decorated with authentic cultural items. Walking to our tables, we couldn’t help feeling as though we had stepped into a restaurant in downtown Istanbul. We started off with dips with bread, and moved onto some salad, meat, chicken, more meat, rice, a bit more meat and then some scrumptious baked vegetables. Then the drinks came around – who knew there was such a thing as Turkish lemonade? We tried the yogurt drink which tasted like, wait for it … yoghurt! Clare found it “delicious and refreshing”, but Kevin found it … well he skulled it and had a bit of Turkish lemonade to mask the taste! After our feast we were given Turkish tea before heading off to the next destination.

Next, we were off to the Gallipoli Mosque, the largest Mosque in Australia, for a tour of the Mosque and a briefing on the religion of Islam. The Mosque, or the ‘House of God’, is considered a place of cleansing and purification as well as education and knowledge. The sheer infrastructure of this sacred building and its history is simply amazing; funded by $6 million of donations from the local community, it took a full 13 years to build this work of art! Yusuf, our tour guide, shared with us some insight into Islam and the process of praying – what Islamic people believe in and why, as well as why Islamic people pray the way they do. Every action or movement in the Muslim religion has significant meaning behind it, whether it be to uphold the core values of Islam, or to maintain the mutual non-discriminatory respect within the community. Then we got Turkish Delight!

Auburn Mosque

Auburn Gallipoli Mosque

To cap off the day, we split up into groups for an Amazing Race. We were given tasks that required working together to navigate the Auburn area and engage with the local community. This was an on-the-spot practice in leadership, since we barely knew our group members! Neither of our groups won, but it was a lot of fun, and a great test of leadership and observation! We ended up in a room, where we had a short debriefing session. One of the questions we discussed that will always be at the back of my mind was – ‘Is there a geographical line where multiculturalism starts/ends? … What do you think?’

Our GLP day trip to Auburn was a truly Australian multicultural experience, filled with tasty exotic foods, natural scenery and a buzzing community spirit. It was a memorable and enriching experience that I recommend for anyone interested in seeing the diversity this city has to offer. How many times in your life do you get the opportunity to experience a guided tour of a Sydney community melting pot such as Auburn? Get out there and get involved!

Kevin and Clare

Clare Diamond is currently studying a Bachelor of Social Science and recently attended the GLP Canberra Symposium and Kevin Chu is studying a Bachelor of Arts – Psychology with the Degree of Education (Primary) and is a Mentors@Macquarie team leader.

RIO 2016: OPPORTUNITY OR OPPORTUNISTIC?

Like previous host cities to the Olympic Games, such as Beijing in 2008, Rio de Janeiro may be considered the next big player in the global arena. Brazil has brought a trifecta of international exposure to South America after being the host city to the 2007 Pan American Games, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and now the 2016 Olympic games. However, after meeting with Rio’s City Hall as well as Professor Christopher Gaffney of Federal Fluminese University during a leadership symposium series throughout Brazil in September 2014, the mayhem behind the camera lens tells a disparate story to the one that will be projected for the entire world to see over the three-week period known as the Olympic Games.

Briefings with Rio’s City Hall and author of the Hunting White Elephants Blog, Christopher Gaffney, took place amidst the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) seventh visit to the game sites. Critics of the Games have highlighted major issues in relation to displacing thousands of local Brazilians, as well as an inability to support infrastructure and failure to promote environmental sustainability. Yet the IOC has applauded the work of President Dilma Roussef and her government in maintaining timely architectural developments in regards to the construction of 68 new hotels for the Games. The Olympic Committee based in Rio have repeatedly shown gratitude toward the sponsors and government amidst the progression of preparations and, like the IOC, has failed to consider the most important aspect of Rio: its people.

The benefits associated with being a host city are most typically in relation to tourism, job creation, community outreach, improved lines of communication and the ability to renovate central infrastructure. However, the horrendous negligence a city may suffer is never considered when bids are taken for the job of host city. A confirmed 13,000 locals are to be displaced as a result of the Olympic Games and a rumored total of 170,000 locals as a result of both the World Cup and Olympics. With the removal of an entire favela* to take place, Brazil’s infrastructure schemes have begun to come under scrutiny. The trifecta has exposed government initiatives as over budget and underperforming.

Upon exploring Brazil and specifically Rio de Janeiro, the people are an exemplary culmination of excited and anxious. This is to be expected, particularly as unlike the recently completed World Cup, a bid for the 2016 Games was out of character for Brazil, a state which won a mere 17 medals in total at London, 2012. Therefore, when considering the agenda behind 2016 one may typically assume the Games were an opportunistic ploy by the former government, and a “driver for political agenda”. Rio’s success in being dubbed the host city is solely a result of the affirmations and pledges made within the highly sought after ‘Bid Book’. Critics of international sporting events such as Gaffney suggest that the document is a pretext for corruption and privatization due to failure to take into consideration the people of Brazil and the city as a whole.

Rio being the host city is undoubtedly a political ploy, however, whether the Games will serve as a mere marketing tool will be a question to be considered as the sun sets on the Closing Ceremony. The history of the Pan American Games and FIFA World Cup do not suggest any extreme improvements on the standards of living in Rio or the surrounding cities. The expectation of improvements for the people of Brazil is almost laughable when considering the Olympic Committee is the same panel of individuals responsible for the 2007 Pan American Games, a series which opened with extreme violence in the streets, failed to address issues relating to health, education and homelessness (despite the perfect opportunity) and furthermore failed to clean up the mess following the destruction of thousands of homes in order to make room for new arenas and hotels.

The city has been promised a full transformation by 5 August 2016, which will have an impact on the population and entire country. However, history suggests much to the contrary. Many of the nation’s plans during the World Cup have failed to come to fruition. This includes new metro lines, renovation of city Highways and placement of the state’s mass proportion of homeless citizens. The funding from the Olympics would have been more beneficial in addressing issues of health care and the education system as opposed to the construction of a Ping Pong stadium.

The reality is, the city is not ready to host an event of such proportions. Events such as the Pan American games and the World Cup required the city to come to a complete stop in order for the development of infrastructure to support the mass influx of tourists. Schooling institutions and work places took leave in order for the public to have access to transport and other resources required for the games.

The criticism behind the speculated benefits to being a host city will continue to be unanswered until the curtains of the arena draw to a close. Once the games pass, the athletes depart and the locals are left with the faded memory of “Rio, 2016”, what will Brazil be left with? Aside from the medals acquired at the games, what will Brazil be known for?

Perhaps the state will seize the opportunity, or to the contrary, they may be engraved in history as the host of a landmark event, but an event that failed in constituting any revolutionary change to its society.

Sonika Kalra, 20 October 2014


*A Brazilian slum area