I've allocated a bit of my discretionary local budget to fund Aboriginal artists to paint murals on the two toilet blocks in Musgrave Park.
Work should start in the next few weeks on the toilet at the Russell Street end of the park. A First Nations artist named Dylan Bolger will be working with young Aboriginal kids from the Murri School to paint a mural centering on the theme of the Macaranga tree. Dylan writes: "The Macaranga is of old world genesis and is considered a re-coloniser or pioneer plant; meaning after devastation it will be one of the first plants to grow back and breathe new life into the space. The leaf is representing my people and culture being of ‘old world genesis’ as we grow back through the devastation of colonialism."
You can see an image of Dylan's concept design for the mural below. I'll post more details about the other toilet block mural once they're locked in.
BCC has initiated a reasonably broad-scope investigation into the 2022 floods, to be led by Mr Paul de Jersey. The following text is copied from the Terms of Reference circulated to councillors by Mr de Jersey on Friday, 18 March.
Review into the February 2022 Brisbane Floods ‐ Terms of reference
18 March 2022
1. The City of Brisbane has throughout its history been the subject of intense seasonal weather events. It is not uncommon for Brisbane to receive several weather warnings from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) throughout summer months. Of relevance, was the flooding event of 2011 which resulted in the findings of the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry being released in March 2012 (QFCI Report).
2. As a result of the 2011 flooding event Brisbane City Council (Council) established a board in late January 2011 and requested a report be produced by the middle of May 2011 (Brisbane Flood Report).
3. In response to the recent weather event described below, Council seeks to have an independent review undertaken to ensure that Council continues to improve its ability to protect lives and property from similar natural disasters in Brisbane in the future.
The Weather Event
4. Between 24 and 28 February 2022, South‐East Queensland and northern New South Wales experienced an unprecedented weather event (Weather Event).
5. The Weather Event was the largest rainfall event (for that period) to have occurred over the Brisbane catchment with 792.8mm falling 24 February 2022 to 9.00am 28 February 2022. To put this in perspective, this exceeded the 1974 rainfall record of 655.8 and represents about 80 per cent of Brisbane’s yearly average rainfall falling in this five‐day period.
6. The Brisbane River peaked Monday, 28 February at 3.85m (AHD city gauge) at 9.00am. whilst this is less than the 4.46m AHD recorded in 2011, the widespread intense rainfall also caused significant creek and overland flow flooding.
Appointment and Scope
7. On 1 March 2022 the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Councillor Adrian Schrinner announced that former Governor and former Chief Justice of Queensland the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC CVO QC would undertake an independent and comprehensive review with respect of the following matters:
(a) the extent to which Council has implemented the relevant recommendations from the
QFCI Report and the Brisbane Flood Report, as they related to the City of Brisbane, prior
to the Weather Event;
(b) the effectiveness of measures recommended by the QFCI Report, and the Brisbane Flood
Report taken by Council to improve the protection for flood prone properties from
inundation with a particular focus on backflow devices and the Flood Resilient Homes
(c) the effectiveness of Council’s disaster management framework in responding to the
Weather Event having regard to the combined means of other relevant entities, with a
i. Council’s disaster management organisational structures and policies;
ii. the establishment of Council’s evacuation centres;
iii. the adequacy of public information provided by Council on flood risk for individual
iv. the coordination with other government agencies, communications and utility providers; and
v. community response, including the organisation and management of community volunteers.
(d) the adequacy of the Council’s public warnings and advice, having regard to:
i. the requirements and responsibilities of the other relevant entities, such as the State Government, Commonwealth Government and BOM;
ii. the reliability and timeliness of the information provided to Council by other relevant entities;
iii. the capability of external systems relied upon by Council;
(e) the effectiveness of changes made to the Planning Regulations 2017 in mitigating loss and damage in respect of flood prone areas post 2011;
(f) the resilience of riverine and waterways infrastructure which has been upgraded or constructed following the 2011 flood event (a list of relevant infrastructure is provided in Attachment ‘A’).
8. Mr de Jersey will be calling for submissions from all Councillors, Council, and all others at Mr de Jersey's discretion, in respect of the matters subject of the review, with submissions to be provided to Mr de Jersey by close of business 8 April 2022
9. Mr de Jersey is required to produce a report addressing the above matters including any recommendations arising from the terms of reference which he considers as reasonable to improve the City's preparation and planning for any such future weather event.
10. The report is to be provided to the Lord Mayor on or before 1 July 2022. However, should Mr de Jersey require any further information on a particular matter that cannot be addressed in the above timeframe, this request should be made through the report and be addressed after the provision of the material. This timing will enable any recommendations to be addressed prior to the next summer’s wet season.
11. The report will be made public following its delivery to the Lord Mayor.
Originally published on social media on 8 March, 2022
Recent floods have shown very clearly that Brisbane’s key public infrastructure, services and systems are far less resilient to flooding and other climate change-related disasters than they need to be.
The Brisbane River flood peak in the CBD on 28/02/2022 was 3.85 metres. In contrast, the 2011 flood peak was around 4.5 metres, the 1974 flood peak was 5.45 metres, and back in February 1893, floodwaters peaked in Brisbane at a whopping 8.35 metres. (There are several other major floods in the historical record for anyone who cares to look)
Placed in this historical context, this latest flood was nowhere near as severe as it could’ve been (although I should note that the added combination of significant creek flooding meant that many areas were affected more seriously than in 2011).
While technically classed as a ‘major’ flood event, this was a relatively moderate flood compared to what the river is capable of (particularly considering the added uncertainty of global warming and the increased likelihood of severe weather). Despite this, a lot of significant public and private infrastructure was detrimentally affected.
We’ve seen a lot of commentary about the electricity infrastructure, and it’s now quite obvious that all levels of government have failed to ensure that key pieces of both public and private power infrastructure were raised above the flood level after 2011. More than a week since the floods, hundreds of Brisbane residents are still without power in a context where better planning and design of electricity infrastructure could have allowed power to be restored much faster in several areas.
But there are lots of other kinds of infrastructure and services that also proved to be very flood-vulnerable...
For example, Brisbane City Council contracts out its general household waste collection services to the private company SUEZ. While I haven’t personally visited the site, I'm told one of SUEZ’s main service centres, where garbage trucks are serviced, refuelled and stored overnight, is located in flood-prone Rocklea along a low-lying stretch of the Ipswich Motorway.
Last week, floodwaters cut off access to the site, meaning SUEZ workers couldn’t get into the site to get the garbage trucks. If the waters had risen much higher, all the trucks themselves could have been flooded too, which really would have stuffed up the recovery and clean-up.
For residents across the city who are wondering why your garbage collection was missed last Monday or Tuesday even though your own neighbourhood wasn’t affected by flooding, the answer seems to be that the garbage truck depot itself nearly went underwater.
In fact, lots of other important stuff tends to be located in our city’s lower-lying floodplains. Large parts of Rocklea, and other flood-prone areas like Albion and the low side of Woolloongabba, were historically developed as warehouse and industrial land uses rather than residential, in large part because of their flood vulnerability. This means a lot of the trades, services and heavy equipment that a city needs for recovery in the weeks immediately after a flood are themselves very heavily affected by flooding.
Even the Brisbane Markets (aka Rocklea Markets), the city’s largest distribution hub for fresh produce, is on low-lying land near Oxley Creek. This time around, the market site lost power around 10am on the Saturday (well before the city’s flood peak the following Monday morning) and was flooded and out of action for several days.
Thousands of pallets of fresh produce were lost either due to water damage or because the industrial refrigerators lost power. We’re talking tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of wasted food at this one site. The stock losses suffered by individual supermarkets due to power-cuts elsewhere in the city were tiny compared to this.
Brisbane’s stormwater system is supposed to be completely separate from the sewerage system (which, in theory, is fully enclosed), but as often as a couple of times per year, during heavy rain, heaps of stormwater gets into the sewerage network via a range of channels, flooding the whole system...
Sewer lid covers in low-lying areas pop open, spewing shit and toilet paper into the street. Residential sewer pipes back up and overflow, spilling watery poop across backyards and under houses. And of course the sewage treatment plants are completely overwhelmed by the volume of poo-contaminated water flowing through the pipes, and have to release hundreds of thousands of litres of poo water directly into local creeks, the river and Moreton Bay.
Even though it’s heavily diluted, the fact that floodwaters and mud deposits are partially contaminated with faecal matter then becomes a major potential health issue even after the rain stops.
I could go on with a much longer list…
There’s the really obvious stuff like the flooded bridges and bikeways, the damaged ferry terminals, and dozens of sets of traffic lights failing due to flooded power boxes (which was a contributing factor behind many of the 30 serious car crashes Brisbane saw during the flood).
And there’s the stuff that’s less obvious to most residents, like the fact that flood damage to bus drivers’ toilets and rest areas caused avoidable delays in restoring bus services, even well after the roads were cleared of water and mud (right now the drivers who take their breaks at Orleigh Park are using portaloos).
It’s worth mentioning that one of Brisbane City Council’s main bus depots, the Sherwood depot, was also cut off by flooding (residents previously objected to the depot being established at the Sherwood location in part due to concerns about flood vulnerability).
And let’s not forget one of the most frustratingly stupid and obvious issues: the council only has four sandbag depots for the entire city. One of these depots – Newmarket – is itself partially vulnerable to stormwater flooding, and was taken out of action by the storm on Sunday, 27 February.
Every time there’s a risk of severe storms and flooding, thousands of residents from both the eastern suburbs and the inner-south side drive for several kilometres and queue up in both directions along Wynnum Rd to pick up sandbags from the Redfern Street depot on Morningside.
Myself and a few other councillors have been raising concerns about this for years, but still haven’t seen a shift from the LNP. You’d think locating sandbag depots closer to areas that are known to be highly vulnerable to flooding (such as the Deshon Street side of Woolloongabba) would be a no-brainer, but apparently not.
The broad point to all this is that despite the relatively recent experience of the 2011 floods, our city still has a long, long way to go in ensuring that key infrastructure and services can continue functioning (or at least bounce back quickly) during floods.
We are certainly going to experience more floods in future, potentially including events where the water rises higher or flows faster, and where heavy rain is accompanied by high-speed destructive winds.
Our city is nowhere near ready for this.
We’ve just had a wake-up call that we urgently need to listen to. If a single, comparatively modest flood like this one can cause so much disruption, a bigger flood will really mess us up.
We need to build resilience, and we need to take further action to address catastrophic climate change (e.g. stop approving new coal mines) before things get even worse.
Hopefully we take away the right lessons this time around...
Originally published on social media on 8 March, 2022
Ok so this should be obvious to most people by now, but I wanted to say it really clearly for those up the back who aren't paying attention... Even within flood-prone suburbs, poorer/lower-income residents have (in general) been much more seriously affected by Brisbane's floods than wealthier residents.
After the 2011 floods, some big changes happened along low-lying residential streets in West End like Ryan Street and Orleigh Street. Lots of houses were absolutely trashed by that flood. Some owners had the money to rebuild (often because they had good insurance), while others who couldn't afford to rebuild just sold up to wealthier buyers who did have the money for major renovations.
One way or another, most (but not all) of the worst-affected West End homes were raised higher, with all habitable areas raised above the 1974 flood level, leaving only easy-to-hose-off concrete carports at ground level. So after the February 2022 flood, many of these properties lost a bit of old furniture that was stored in their garages, and had to cope without power for several days, but the impact was nowhere near as severe as ten years ago.
The same seems to have happened in many other parts of the city. Over the past decade, almost all wealthier owners have spent big money (sometimes taking advantage of various government grants) to build higher. This probably also reduced their insurance premiums.
In contrast, poorer residents who couldn't afford to raise their homes kept paying much higher insurance premiums, or were completely uninsured. In suburbs like West End, East Brisbane and Fairfield, a very high proportion of the properties that hadn't been raised (and thus flooded again) were older investment properties rented out to lower-income tenants.
We're gradually building a list of homes in our area that were so badly flooded this time around that the residents couldn't move back in (i.e. they became homeless). So far in the inner-city, it seems like they were all rentals.
The situation is even worse in suburbs like Rocklea, an extremely floodprone area alongside Oxley Creek and Stable Swamp Creek (and also further out in Goodna, Ipswich etc). Many low-income long-term owner-occupier residents gave up paying flood insurance here years ago. They would sell if they could, but property values are so comparatively low in this area that they wouldn't have enough money to buy elsewhere in Brisbane. They also don't have a couple hundred thousand dollars on hand to raise and renovate their home.
In practical terms, the floods create a situation where poor residents are either displaced, or have to take time off work (potentially losing more income) to clean up their homes, while wealthier residents in the same streets can hose off and return to 'normal' life pretty quickly.
Some wealthier residents may even get a windfall out of this... For example, we saw one riverfront home in West End where the owners threw out thousands of dollars' worth of vintage wine from a flooded underground wine cellar and put it on the footpath for kerbside collection. The wine itself wasn't damaged, and some neighbours who scavenged it reported that it tasted amazing. But I'll bet the people who threw it out will be claiming the full value back through their insurance and will barely end up out of pocket.
I know some wealthier residents decided to go stay in hotels as soon as the power was cut off in their street, confident in the knowledge that even if their insurance company ends up refusing to pay for the hotel, they have enough savings to cover it.
I know all this is a bit of a generalisation. And I'm sure there are a few wealthier residents who've been really hit hard by these floods too, but the impacts have fallen most heavily on the poor.
This disparity overlaps and intersects with other forms of marginalisation and oppression. For example, we know that many people with disabilities and people for whom English is a second language will have a particularly hard time surviving and recovering from the floods, especially if they also don't have a lot of money. The psychological impact of feeling left behind and overlooked will be doubly traumatising.
For many residents in suburbs like Rocklea, the best outcome would be a new non-compulsory flood buyback scheme, where the council buys flood-affected homes at a higher value, giving the residents enough money to buy another home elsewhere while reclaiming more of the floodplain for green space and native habitat.
We also need to make sure we stop further floodplain development, because each new building in a low-lying area tends to push more floodwater somewhere else.
All this is important to keep in mind, because I expect that over the coming months, politicians, property developers, tourism companies etc will be eager to promote a narrative of how quickly the city has bounced back from the February floods.
They'll talk about how resilient we are, how the changes made after 2011 paid off, and how quickly life is 'getting back to normal.'
With an Olympics on the horizon, the establishment's preferred framing will be about how we all helped each other and 'got back on our feet' - that climate change is something we can learn to live with (even though climate disasters can get a lot worse than this one).
This narrative of resilience and recovery will ring true for many middleclass residents whose main experience of the floods is a few days of transport disruptions or power cuts (noting of course that prolonged power cuts are pretty hard to live with, particularly when your apartment has been designed to be heavily dependent on aircon, powered elevators etc).
The voices of those most severely affected will be left out of mainstream conversations, or only fleetingly engaged with simply as disaster porn/poverty porn.
We know that a lot of lower-income people who were made homeless by the 2019/2020 bushfires still don't have stable housing over two years later; the same will likely be true for these floods. But how much coverage will that get in the media 6 months or a year from now?
Over the coming months, there will be a lot of media stories of infrastructure being repaired and political leaders cutting ribbons on newly-completed projects that reinforce the myth of endless growth and progress.
We will have to work hard to continually remind one another that future flooding could be a lot worse, and that for some of the poorest among us, even these relatively moderate floods (moderate compared to what else the river is capable of) have been a life-changing disaster that will take years - not months - to recover from.
Originally published on social media on 6 March, 2022
The past week of flood clean-up has revealed efficiencies and deficiencies of different models of volunteer coordination that we need to reflect on so we can improve for future climate disasters…
(I know the clean-up is still continuing, but I wanted to get these thoughts down while they’re fresh... and let’s be real, global warming means we don’t know how far away the next severe weather event will be, so we need to have these discussions now rather than waiting for some hypothetical ‘post-crisis’ calm that never comes)
After Brisbane’s 2011 floods, with comparatively little top-down coordination, thousands of people travelled into flood-affected communities to help with the clean-up. Many drove in private cars, causing serious congestion issues leading in and out of flooded suburbs. Organisation was mostly either very decentralised or non-existent. Some streets got heaps of timely and much-needed help from volunteers, while other areas were initially overlooked. Some volunteers engaged in risky behaviour, or rocked up without any protective gear or useful cleaning equipment. Some volunteers got a little carried away, throwing out muddy possessions that the owners would’ve preferred to clean and keep.
This time, Brisbane’s mayor got on the front foot and announced a formal signup process for volunteers, telling the general public not to rush straight into flooded neighbourhoods to clean up as soon as the waters receded.
There were arguably reasonable justifications behind this approach, but the centralised signup process managed by Brisbane City Council was also arguably quite politically advantageous for the mayor, because the ‘Mud Army’ is a positive symbol/phenomenon that politicians can get extra kudos for being associated with.
The highest flood peak was on Monday morning, 28 February, by which point thousands of Brisbane residents were already eager to help out. But none of the volunteers who signed up through the ‘official’ platform were mobilised by BCC until Saturday, 5 March, and by the end of Saturday, Brisbane City Council declared that: “Due to the Mud Army 2.0's incredible effort on Saturday 5 March, Brisbane City Council has confirmed that the Mud Army 2.0 can now put down their tools. Volunteers are no longer needed to clean-up Brisbane on Sunday 6 March.”
But as others have rightly pointed out, volunteers were actually needed for cleanup from Monday/Tuesday onwards, and were still needed in some areas even after the ‘official’ Mud Army was stood down.
BCC created a widely-promoted signup process to seize a large chunk of volunteer energy, then held off deploying it until most of the immediate flood clean-up work had already happened. This is a pretty counter-productive form of volunteer management – recruiting lots of people, then steering them away from taking action when it’s needed.
Meanwhile, during the first week of March, thousands of residents were already out on the ground helping clean up... From what I saw in my ward, perhaps 90% of the labour-intensive work of sweeping mud out of flooded properties and carrying damaged furniture to the footpath was undertaken by volunteers BEFORE BCC’s Mud Army 2.0 ever hit the streets.
In some cases, this work was done by immediate neighbours autonomously heading down the street or around the corner to see where they were needed, or by people travelling from slightly further away and just getting stuck in, much like in 2011.
In other cases, it was existing networks of relatives, friends, work colleagues or community groups mobilising to help specific residents or businesses that they were connected to.
And in some areas, including Brisbane’s inner-south side, we saw an ecosystem of community groups, elected representatives and political parties taking on partial coordination roles, recording requests for assistance and advising volunteers where they were most needed.
From what I saw, these less-centralised forms of volunteer organising were much quicker and more efficient than the top-down coordination approach taken by Brisbane City Council.
River mud is much easier to clean off while it’s still wet, and the sooner you get muddy, damp furniture out of a flooded property, the less likely it is that mould and damp will spread up to higher levels. So it was good that local groups essentially ignored the local and state government messaging and started the clean-up sooner.
In my ward, a LOT of volunteer work was directed by the Greens, who reassigned federal election campaign staff to work on supporting the flood recovery effort. I’d venture to suggest that vollies organised through Greens networks got a lot more done in suburbs like West End and East Brisbane than those who signed up through BCC and who then waited several days before being mobilised.
Some of the factors contributing to the delay in mobilising the ‘official Mud Army’ included predictions of more severe weather, and uncertainty about how high subsequent tides would rise through the week. There were also a bunch of other risks that government officials would have been worried about – electrical hazards, exposure to faecal matter etc.
But going into people’s flooded homes to clear out muddy furniture is still an inherently risky business (BCC seemed to understand this – the liability disclaimer on its Mud Army 2.0 webpage is VERY broad)... You can partially minimise the risk to the coordinating organisation (in this case, BCC) by delaying how soon after a disaster you send volunteers out, and taking a really bureaucratic approach in terms of keeping rolls and making people sign waivers etc, but the individuals who actually go into muddy homes are still risking their safety.
I was already on the ground cleaning up under houses when some of the ‘official’ Mud Army volunteers were finally deployed around East Brisbane on Saturday morning. They arrived in a bus, kitted out in protective gear, with brand new brooms and clipboard-wielding council staff briefing them and directing them. They were all really eager to get stuck in, and one of the volunteers complained to me that it had taken two hours of marshalling, transportation and briefing before they even got to any of the houses that needed help.
When I saw that there was a surplus of volunteers on the street, I asked one of the council workers if some of the volunteers could be directed to instead pick up a lot of the rubbish and detritus that had accumulated along the edge of Norman Creek. But the officer’s instructions were clear – volunteers were only to assist with carrying out muddy furniture and cleaning out homes. Picking up rubbish along the waterway would have to wait for some other group of volunteers.
The slow deployment and the narrow restrictions regarding what Mud Army volunteers were instructed to assist with obviously wasn’t the volunteers’ fault. Nor is it the fault of council officers. It’s a predictable feature of highly-centralised, top-down volunteer coordination by risk-averse bureaucratic entities.
Locally coordinated volunteers can mobilise more quickly, and can adjust their plans more flexibly around tidal peaks and predicted storms. Whereas if you’re organising thousands of volunteers to all gather at a central suburban meeting point, prepping them to participate in a very specific activity, then bussing them across the city to locations that were only roughly scouted in advance, you can’t easily delay the mobilisation while a storm passes, or redeploy people to different tasks.
I should add that I’ve heard from a couple of people who contacted Brisbane City Council to request help from the Mud Army 2.0, were told that they’d be assisted, but then never received assistance. I suspect this is because rather than assigning volunteers to specific households that had asked for help, BCC just bussed volunteers into general neighbourhoods depending on where they’d received requests from, and the council officers directing volunteers on the ground weren’t actually double-checking whether all the specific household requests had been met.
On the flipside, there were probably also a couple examples where a resident got in touch with an organisation to ask for help, but if that organisation was too busy and stretched, the request wasn’t passed on to other groups that had more volunteer capacity. In this respect, shared online documents came in handy. By recording needs online in one place that anyone could access, it was easier for different groups and individuals to proactively reach out to offer help without a central coordinating entity acting as a bottleneck.
In times of crisis, it’s ideal to have volunteers who’ve been collectively organised beforehand – people who already know and trust each other and are accustomed to working together – and who are directly connected to the communities requiring help. Such groups can be directed towards (or can proactively identify) areas of need, and autonomously assist in whatever ways they deem necessary. In the best case scenario, they are already organised and specially trained through channels like the State Emergency Service or Rural Fire Service.
The second-best option is probably for volunteers who aren’t already part of a community network or organisation to sign up to be directed by a local group that has a better sense of where people are needed on the ground.
One way that Brisbane City Council could have facilitated this would have been to collect volunteer contact details centrally, ask different local groups how many volunteers they needed, then pass on contact details.
Even when Brisbane experiences a severe flood, the majority of residents across the wider city aren’t directly affected by flooding of their home, which means there are plenty of potential volunteers available – you just have to get them where they’re most needed.
Other kinds of climate disasters – where a larger proportion of the city is directly impacted and fewer volunteers are available – would be quite another matter. So we definitely need to improve our systems for mobilising and coordinating volunteer energy.
I’m still working out what I think of all this, and looking forward to having further conversations over the coming weeks to understand the different experiences of people who volunteered or asked for help through different channels. I don’t think anyone has a complete picture of how the flood clean-up has progressed so far, or exactly what else still needs to be done.
But if you signed up to volunteer on the flood clean-up, didn’t get called up for some reason, and are now feeling like you wish you’d done more to help, remember there are plenty of other ways to support your neighbours and build more resilient communities...
Start a community garden. Join a bushcare group. Or rock up to the nearest community centre and ask them what they need help with. There’s still a heck of a lot to do.
Draft Article - One Ring to Rule Them All: Unpacking the centralisation of power within the Queensland Greens
Note: I'm kinda thinking of this article as a work-in-progress draft rather than a definitive statement of where I stand. I'd be interested in feedback on it and might make further changes.
No matter how noble its intentions, any political movement that seeks to win power through electioneering in a system of representative democracy is gradually going to be co-opted and corrupted by the process. Earnest young anarchists lecture me about this regularly, and while I find their presumption that I haven’t already reflected on this challenge annoyingly patronising, I can’t deny the truth of the general critique.
Engaging ‘effectively’ with the mainstream political system seems to necessitate a high degree of centralisation of power. When power is heavily concentrated, the power-holders are inevitably corrupted by it in one way or another (usually without even realising).
I’ve written previously about how across the Australian Greens as a national organisation, power is very heavily centralised in the hands of the federal leader, and about the broader tendency for electoral politics to change people who get deeply involved in it.
With the Queensland Greens now (gradually) winning more seats and increasing our influence at the state government level, I thought I’d describe and reflect upon a couple examples of creeping centralisation within the Queensland party, in the hope of strengthening party processes and helping us stay true to our core value of grassroots participatory democracy.Read more
In 2021, I published an article called "Fixing a Broken System - Practical Trajectories Beyond Representative Democracy" in the 2021 edition of the journal Pandora's Box (Vol 27), published by the Justice and the Law Society at the University of Queensland.
From the perspective of a serving local politician, this article looks at the flaws of hierarchical centralised decision-making within representative democracy and suggests that shifting towards participatory democracy systems would lead to better outcomes for the environment and the general public. I reflect on our various local trials of decentralised decision-making processes within the Gabba Ward of Brisbane City Council, including forms of online community voting, participatory budgeting to allocate funding to local infrastructure projects, and participatory design workshops for public park upgrades. I highlight key lessons from our trials over the past five years and unpack some of the tensions between maximising participation via online direct democracy versus encouraging deeper deliberation via face-to-face engagement.
20 December, 2021
Lately a few people have asked me what I think of the ‘vaccine mandate.’
The short answer is: I’m pretty concerned about it.
But I’m also very worried that some groups and political parties are exploiting concerns about the mandates for their own political gain.
So this is a two-part, long-form piece collating a lot of ideas that others have been sharing over the past 18 months, in an attempt to make sense of all this (please read the second part of the article too - don't just take this part in isolation).Read more
We were inspired by the spontaneous surge in people wanting to grow their own food as the COVID crisis emerged in March 2020. At the same time we were contacted by local residents with a similar vision to our own, wanting to empower the community to grow healthy locally-grown food in public spaces, that is not reliant on big corporations.
At short notice our office swung into action committing office resources and local grant budget to support a range of local community-led initiatives. We were able to support the creation of edible verge gardens, seedling hubs, urban farms and community orchards.
Check out the block links below for the award-winning Mycelium film and our Creating Food Resilient Neighbourhoods Zine, that beautifully tell the story of these projects and their shared vision.
The third link, Food Resilient Neighbourhood Projects, has lots of information, photos, videos and a map about the various projects.
Get involved in one of our local food resilient projects
- Community Orchards Volunteers FB Group
- Growing Forward Urban Farms - Brisbane / Meanjin FB Group
- Support or create a Seedling
- Be part of the ShareWaste neighbourhood composting system
- Get a kitchen caddy when you sign-up for the BCC community Composting system
- Jane St Community Garden FB Page, West End
- Gabba Hill Community Garden FB Page, Woolloogabba
- Paradise St Community Garden FB Page, Highgate Hill
- Dutton Park Butterfly & Bush Tucker Wetland, FB page