We’ve been using office resources and our grants budget to support a range of local community projects as a response to climate change, the pandemic shutdown, and other crises that undermine secure access to nutritious food.
We have supported 3 seedling hubs around the Gabba Ward where residents can swap locally-germinated seedlings and seeds without having to go through big commercial plant suppliers. These seedling hubs have been set up by residents in West End and Highgate Hill.
Community seedling hubs are spaces where residents can source and swap seedlings, seeds & cuttings.
Germinating and swapping heirloom plant varieties helps preserve genetic diversity and prevents the homogenisation and monopolisation of seed stock by big companies that patent seed species for profit.
In times of crisis, it's important to network with other people who live nearby and also foster a connection to plants and growing our own food.
There are three publicly accessible hubs in the Gabba Ward so far:
- Corner of Crowther & Victoria St, West End
- 15 Gertrude St, Highgate Hill
- Rosebery St, Highgate Hill
Seedling hubs are spaces for sharing and connecting. Seedlings are free, but everyone is encouraged to bring their excess to share with those around them!
Label any plants you bring along and please return pots and labels so we can minimise costs and keep putting plants out!
Everyone's welcome to come and participate! (Facebook page available at this link: Community Seedling Hubs - Brisbane)
We’ve also partnered with Jane St Community Garden to plant dozens of free fruit trees and edible plants along local streets.
We'll be updating this page soon with photos from our successful verge planting day on 30 May.
New urban farming projects have been established on Boundary St (southern end) and the Dutton Park hilltop (near the basketball court). If you'd like to volunteer with either of these projects but you're having trouble tracking down the organisers, send my office an email and we'll put you in touch!
West End organisation boosting food security in the pandemic
A West End organisation is working to boost food security during the pandemic. Ruby Thorburn and Alice Wicks are planting vegetables on unused state government land to give to those in need. Find out more: https://7news.link/3c3ddC0 www.7NEWS.com.au #7NEWSPosted by 7NEWS Brisbane on Saturday, May 2, 2020
We’re supporting residents to set up new communal compost hubs to divert more waste from landfill. We’re also lobbying council to introduce a citywide rebate scheme for compost bins and worm farms.
We already have about 16 households in the Gabba Ward open to receiving food scraps. We have just surveyed them all and they are really happy with the ShareWaste system, but they need more people delivering their food scraps. So get on the website and register.
Our office is now supporting more households willing to have a compost listed on the Sharewaste website. Your food scraps collector should be easily accessible in a front yard so neighbours can easily drop off their scraps whenever they want.
To set up a compost hub, we can support you with vouchers for free compost bins. Simply email our office on email@example.com.
Once your compost system is set up, you can register with ShareWaste. Your address is only given out by you individually to neighbours who message you directly through the site - so you can control how many people are delivering food scraps.
If you don't have space to compost at home but you have food waste that you don't want to sent to landfill, just go to the Sharewaste website to register and send a message to your closest composter. They'll give you their address and info.
BCC are also providing free kitchen compost tubs to collect your food scraps at home. We have them available in The Gabba Ward office now. Just jump online and register for one via this link. (The council registration system is only set up for larger composting hubs, but we only have one in our Ward - West End - Jane St Community Garden - so when you register via the website, just indicate that Jane St is where you will be dropping off your scraps. You'll be right to use it as part of the ShareWaste program at any of the other small compost hubs.)
Right now, many of us are forced to lead lives that are economically precarious and environmentally and socially unsustainable. We work long hours to pay the bills, while not having enough time to volunteer on meaningful community projects or enjoy the company of friends and family. Care labour is distributed unfairly and unevenly, and the reproductive work necessary to keep our communities strong is overlooked and undervalued.
Many of us feel overworked, while more and more of us are unemployed or under-employed.
This is a strange contradiction for our society to grapple with. Thousands of people are craving paid work opportunities, while many of those who are fortunate enough to have paid jobs are constantly stressed and dream of having more free time. It suggests there is something more fundamentally flawed with our dominant culture and way of life.
As Australia enters recession, we need to consider a broader range of options for reimagining work and how we structure our lives.
Many workplaces here on Brisbane’s inner-south side, both small and large, are shifting away from a 40-hour week. A 4-day ‘standard’ work week is becoming increasingly common. Depending on the field of work, this might mean going home earlier and only working from 9am to 3pm, 5 days per week. Or it could simply mean working from Monday to Thursday with a 3-day weekend. Or both!
As a local councillor, I am allocated two full-time ward office staff to assist me in my work. We’ve split these two full-time roles into multiple part-time roles (some staff work 2 or 3 days per week while others work 4 days per week). This means my staff are better rested and less stressed, and have more time for care labour, recreation, study and even volunteering on various community projects.
Many full-time employees find they prefer a slightly shorter work week, and experience a wide range of flow-on benefits (as long as they retain long-term job security). When large organisations shift away from a 5-day work week, this can also free up more job opportunities for unemployed residents.
If we have well-supported and affordable housing, healthcare and education systems that meet everyone’s basic needs, it becomes possible to imagine a society where working 5 days/week in paid roles is no longer necessary. This in turn would free up so much time among residents that a lot of other community projects would be more viable.
Not so long ago, it was considered normal for most people to work very long hours 6 days/week, with Sunday being the only day off. Strong advocacy, particularly from trade unions, led to the introduction of a standardised 8-hour work day and 5-day work week (at least in most wealthier nations). As we adapt to a new world beyond the shutdown, we need to go further and talk seriously about whether it’s time to shift towards a standardised 4-day work week.
But to get to that point, all of us who currently have paid work need to be more diligent and disciplined about finishing on time each day, and not working overtime for free.
Lately I’ve spoken to quite a few people who were working from home during the shutdown, and found that outside their traditional office workplace, they felt less pressure to work past 5pm. Of course, others (myself included) found that without a clear ‘home time’ we lapsed into working later into the evenings.
I think as the shutdown eases, and many of us return to office environments, workers need to insist on finishing for the day at the time their contracts say they should, and resist the pressure to work overtime on a regular basis. We won’t be able to initiate a shift towards a 4-day work week if we can’t even maintain the current 5-day work week.
Many Brisbane workplaces valorise and aspire towards a culture of working too long and too hard, which might serve to maximise profits for mega-wealthy rent-seekers, but isn’t necessarily in society’s broader long-term interests. So let’s start some in-depth conversations in our community and with our coworkers about workplace culture, workplace hours, and what would need to happen to shift our city towards a 4-day work week.
Is it better for everyone to have the same three days of the week off? Or should the working week be staggered to spread around transport impacts and other demands on infrastructure?
What kinds of government services and private services would still need to remain open and available at least 5 days per week, and what services could feasibly drop down to 4 days per week?
If big employers like Brisbane City Council were to shift towards a 4-day work week (with a 3-day weekend from Friday to Sunday), would this prompt other private workplaces to also make the shift?
What are the main barriers preventing smaller businesses from making this kind of shift?
There are lots of questions to think through, so please talk about them with your friends and family!
If you’re interested in further reading on this topic, this discussion paper is a good place to start.
We’re producing a Gabba Ward shutdown album to support the local music scene and celebrate some of the amazing musicians who make our community so special.
We want to record new songs (ideally tracks that have been written during the shutdown) from 10 bands or solo artists that have a strong connection to Brissie's inner-south side (i.e. the suburbs of West End, South Brisbane, Dutton Park, Highgate Hill, Kangaroo Point and Woolloongabba).
To make it easier for low-income artists to get involved, each act will be paid $400 for their participation in the project. Each soloist/band will also retain copyright and full ownership of their songs, and will be free to release the recorded tracks again in other formats/albums.
The shutdown album will eventually be released for sale online on a pay-what-you-can-afford basis. 50% of any sales profits will go back to the participating acts (split evenly) and the other 50% will be set aside to pay bands to play at community concerts and non-profit events after the shutdown is over.
We’re also open to applications from solo poets, comedians and storytellers who might like to record short skits or spoken word pieces (maximum length of 2 min 30 sec) that can be slotted in between tracks on the album.
How to Apply
AS OF MONDAY, 8 JUNE, APPLICATIONS HAVE NOW CLOSED
1. A 100-word bio (please mention a few genres/styles that you align most closely with
2. Up to 150 words about the song you’re recording, why you’d like to be part of this project, and why your act is an important part of the local music ecosystem on Brisbane’s inner-south side (no need to write a full 150 words if you don’t want to)
3. Two or three sentences or dot points touching on your connection to the Gabba Ward (e.g. “Two of our members live in Woolloongabba and one lives in West End. We perform regularly at local venues like The Bearded Lady and the Milk Factory.”)
4. Any relevant links to social media pages, websites or music videos (don’t overdo it)
5. If you have it, a link to a rough demo of the song you’d like to record (not mandatory) or at least a copy of the lyrics
6. Any suggestions you have for an album title (optional)
7. Email and a phone number that you will answer during business hours
Applications must be received by 9am on Monday, 8 June. If you have any issues with the online form, send questions or email your application to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Gabba Ward Shutdown Album' in the subject line.
What the selection panel is looking for...
Rather than picking ‘the ten best local bands,’ this project is about amalgamating a collection of tracks that reflect and represent the current state of local music in the Gabba Ward, and speak to the uncertain period we’re living through.
We will be curating an album that features and celebrates a wide range of genres and musical subcultures, with the hope of representing the breadth and depth (and talent) of the amazingly varied musical ecosystem on Brisbane’s inner-south side. This means, for example, that we are unlikely to include three or four bands that all fit within the same narrow genre/scene.
We're hoping to mostly feature songs that have been written recently or finished off during the shutdown, but we definitely aren't aiming for an entire album of songs that are necessarily directly about the pandemic.
We’ll be trying to strike a balance between very new/young acts and slightly more established local bands. The album will hopefully serve as a snapshot of our music scene at the time of the COVID-19 shutdown, and help to celebrate and promote all the amazing music and performing arts projects that are bubbling out of Brisbane’s inner-south side.
Diversity Targets for the Album as a Whole (similar to 4ZZZ Community Radio's Targets)
- At least 50% of acts on the album should include at least one member who identifies as a woman or non-binary
- At least 5% of the acts on the album should include at least one member who identifies as First Nations
- At least 20% of the acts on the album should include at least one member who identifies as a person of colour/not white
Eligibility Criteria for Participating Groups
- Majority (more than half) of members currently live or have mostly lived in the Gabba Ward suburbs of West End, Highgate Hill, South Brisbane, Kangaroo Point, Dutton Park, Woolloongabba; and/or
- Group/soloist can demonstrate a strong local connection to the Gabba Ward
Recording and mixing will be handled by the Tanuki Lounge at 207 Boundary St, West End. We’re aiming to record in late June/early July so bands will need to make themselves available during this period.
This project has a limited budget and time-frame, which means each group will only have a couple of hours in the studio for recording. Bands are expected to have a finalised, well-rehearsed track that’s ready to record, as we won’t have time for lots of experimentation and chopping and changing once inside the studio.
Other Important Conditions
The selection panel reserves the right to leave out a track from the final published album if the recording doesn’t match the standard of the other songs, but the act will still be paid $400 for their time in the studio and will still receive a copy of their recorded track to use as they wish.
Acts can withdraw from the project at any time, and will be given an opportunity to hear all the other songs on the album before it is published and released.
50% of any profits from sales will be split among artists. The other 50% will be set aside to pay local performers at future community events and concerts, and will be allocated at the discretion of the Gabba Ward Office and the Tanuki Lounge. All acts included on the album will receive an equal share of any future proceeds from album sales, regardless of track length or complexity of the work.
Tracks will be released online on a pay-what-you-can-afford basis, which means some residents will download them for free. Councillor Sri and the Tanuki Lounge will consult with all participating acts about the best online platforms for distributing the music, and before making any decisions to release the album in a physical format (e.g. CD).
Selection panel members (all volunteering their time)
- Nell Forster
- Shannon Logan
- Trina Massey
- Morgyn Quinn
- Jonathan Sri
Other questions and answers
I can record myself and don’t want to get paid. Can you squeeze me onto the album?
We don’t want this project to become a random grab-bag of dozens of local acts. It’s intended as a curated compilation of high-quality musicians who will fit well together in a cohesive product.
If we receive some really strong applications who just miss out on making the cut for the final 10, we reserve the right to offer them an unfunded place on the album at the selection panel’s discretion. Please just submit a standard application and make the case for why you want to be part of the project like everyone else.
How and when will the album be released?
We’re hoping to release the album online by late July/August, but we won’t rush the process. If there’s enough interest, we’ll also look at producing a physical album on CD or another medium.
How are you guarding against favouritism?
The volunteer selection panel has been chosen by democratically elected City Councillor Jonathan Sri.
We’ve pulled together a pretty broad and diverse selection panel from within the local music scene. Inevitably, panel members will know and have worked with many of the bands who apply to be part of the project, but the whole group will have to agree on a final list of acts for the album. Just as with any festival or event lineup, we have to trust the people on the panel to make good decisions.
Panellists won’t be entitled to any share of revenue from the album.
Where’s the money coming from?
This project has a total budget of $10 000, which is coming from the Gabba Ward local grants budget. Roughly half of that will go towards production costs including recording, mixing, mastering and studio hire, and the rest will go towards paying participating groups. This is money that would otherwise be spent supporting community events and festivals (most of which have been cancelled due to the shutdown).
Why didn’t you just put the choice of bands to a vote?
Because it’s not a popularity contest. Nor is it a talent contest. The goal is to produce a cohesive but diverse album that encapsulates the varied subcultures of our local community and the mood of our times.
Isn’t the suburb eligibility criteria unfairly exclusionary of bands from other parts of Brisbane?
Nope. The money for this project is coming out of the local Gabba Ward grants budget. Any of the other 25 city councillors around Brissie have their own grants budget and could run a similar project for their electorate. So if bands from other suburbs feel left out, they are strongly encouraged to approach their own Brisbane City Councillor for similar grant funding.
Will there be other similar projects in the future?
Yes, hopefully. Depending on how popular this is, we might take the idea further and record more bands in future if we have enough funding.
More generally, non-profit community groups are always welcome to apply for grant funding through the Gabba Ward Community Fund so if you have an idea for a project with a broad community benefit that you’d like to run, don’t be afraid to reach out.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a few people have taken issue with my suggestion that Labor Senator Kristina Keneally’s opinion piece about immigration was advancing racist arguments.
I shouldn’t need to start with this disclaimer, but: No, just because I’m accusing someone of advocating racist ideas or arguments doesn’t mean I’m saying that person is racist and horrible and ought to be ‘cancelled.’ All I’m saying is that in this case, the arguments Kristina is advancing are based on racist premises, tend towards racist outcomes, and will have the effect of legitimising and emboldening racism in Australian public discourse.
The article is a good example of dog-whistling. When you drill into the detail, Keneally’s main points are more subtle than those of someone like Pauline Hanson. To suggest that the two politicians are advancing identical arguments would be disingenuous and intellectually lazy. But I do think she’s using language which is calculated to resemble Hanson’s rhetoric and win back One Nation voters.
Kristina Keneally is not necessarily saying all migration is bad. And unlike Hanson, she doesn’t explicitly draw distinctions between people of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.
She is correctly suggesting that our current immigration and employment policy settings sometimes encourage employers to pay temporary migrant workers less than they would pay Australian citizens to do the same job.
Depending on how you frame the issue, I also don’t think there’s anything wrong, in and of itself, with saying that offering migrants residency pathways and greater long-term stability is preferable to relying on such high numbers of temporary migrant workers.
So why is it dog-whistling?
In politics, how you frame and talk about a controversial issue matters just as much as the technical details of the policy position you’re actually advocating.
Politicians often use vocabulary that’s layered with hidden meanings depending on the context (e.g. using ‘expat’ to refer to settlers from Anglosphere countries and ‘immigrant’ to refer to settlers from other parts of the world). Or they over-simplify complex concepts so their statements are vague enough to mean completely different things to different people.
Dog-whistling is where you focus on a certain issue or use a particular phrase, knowing that some in your audience will infer a very different meaning.
What you don’t make room to say matters too. Failing to acknowledge our recent history of invasion, attempted genocide of First Nations peoples, and White Australia immigration policies also obliterates relevant context that shapes contemporary migration policy debates whether we admit it or not.
When Senator Keneally published an article with the heading “Do we want migrants to return in the same numbers? The answer is no” she knew a lot of people weren’t going to remember anything about the article beyond the headline. Such a phrase is clearly calculated to draw the attention and sympathy of xenophobes who are opposed to all migration.
Similarly, writing that we “need a migration program that puts Australian workers first” carries a lot of hidden meaning for racists, and for new migrants. Many people of colour and First Nations peoples have learned the hard way that the term ‘Australian workers’ is frequently used as coded language for ‘white Australian workers.’
When Keneally calls for cuts to specific migration programs while saying Aussie workers need ‘a fair go,’ she knows many people will interpret her comments as suggesting that migrants themselves are a major factor behind the mistreatment and exploitation of Australian workers.
This language deliberately taps into the racist and divisive strategies of certain labour movements in Australian history, where instead of arguing for better pay and conditions for all workers, some campaigns simply called for stronger restrictions to cap non-white workforces in order to benefit white Australians.
Her choices of phrase invoke the same clichéd xenophobic mythologies that erroneously blame immigration for car-centric transport planning or unsustainable suburban sprawl. (Remember: cities with similar populations to Australian ones have smaller geographic footprints, more public green space and less intense traffic congestion, so blaming population growth is just letting the real culprits off the hook)
It was possible for Kristina Keneally to write a very different kind of article while still making similar points. She could have written a piece titled “Let’s give temporary migrants permanent residency” or "Fair go for migrants" or “Start welcoming permanent migrants from Africa, Asia and South America - stop exploiting temporary ones” (ok so that third title is a probably a tad too long and cumbersome).
She could have talked about the real factors behind why so many Australian workers are struggling – privatisation and outsourcing, neoliberalism, the financialisation of housing as a speculative commodity, Bob Hawke’s ‘Prices and Incomes Accord’ (which smashed the power of organised labour) etc. She could have highlighted that migrants and citizens all have a common interest in strengthening rules to protect temporary workers’ rights and prevent exploitation.
Instead, she used a divisive framing to grab attention and appeal to the hard-right, thus creating political pressure for the LNP to adopt even stronger and harsher anti-immigrant rhetoric. When leaders dog-whistle like that, they normalise and embolden racism (and by the way, following this path still doesn’t help Labor win elections).
Keneally was smart enough to know what she was doing. Anyone who defends her strategy and choice of framing is actually making it a lot harder to have the evidence-based discussions we really need to have about systemic racism, unfair employment conditions, temporary worker exploitation and migration settlement strategies.
No matter how you say it, ripping off colonised regions is still racist
Putting aside the dog-whistling, even the underlying substance of Kristina Keneally’s argument is based upon a racist and imperialist philosophical worldview.
Australia has benefited from 250+ years of colonisation, British imperialism, American imperialism, and globalisation. We bully and rip off near neighbours like East Timor and Papua New Guinea to profit from stolen natural resources. We benefit from unjust global trade deals and military interventions (how many wars for oil have there been in the Middle East now?), and from the overcharging of international students who study here.
We’ve exploited Aboriginal land and labour here on this continent, as well as workers from overseas. Our economy has grown thanks in large part to outsourcing and exploitation of overseas workforces and consumers.
On top of all that, both the fossil fuels we burn and export, and the political pressure we apply internationally against stronger action to address climate change, are huge contributors to global warming and economic instability, which of course pushes more people to seek employment far from home.
So in that context, for Keneally to argue that we don’t want young, unskilled workers from other countries, but we do want the richer, better-educated ones, is also extremely unjust and selfish.
She wants the benefits of globalisation in terms of wealthy tourists, free-flowing capital, cheap manufactured products and lucrative resource markets.
She wants the doctors and engineers that other nations have spent time and money rearing and educating.
But she doesn’t want any of the lower-skilled migrant workers who are struggling to find work at home due to the same unjust global economic system that we are benefitting from. And she supports harsher, militarised border policing to keep them out.
De facto White Australia?
In practical terms, a range of factors including visa criteria, high application fees, sponsorship requirements, English language tests and embassy locations mean that on average, it’s (generally) much easier for white immigrants to enter Australia on pathways to permanent residency. Some experts have suggested that our humanitarian intakes also discriminate based on race, culture and religion.
In that context, it’s problematic to argue for reprioritisation away from migration pathways that currently allow more people of colour into the country, while neglecting to also advocate for restructuring the systemic barriers that exclude non-whites from permanent migration pathways.
Keneally’s motivations aren’t necessarily racist. I’m not suggesting she’s intentionally proposing to discriminate against people of non-European ancestry.
But when we ask whether a certain policy or system is racist, it’s important we don’t get caught up focusing narrowly on whether individual decision-makers and advocates actually have racist motives. We must consider whether the overall system they’re supporting tends to yield differing results depending on a person’s culture or ethnic background.
The policy changes Keneally is advocating for will have racially discriminatory outcomes unless they are accompanied by other changes that she has chosen not to advocate for.
That doesn’t mean she’s racist. But the practical results of what she is calling for certainly would be.
The difficult challenge of talking about migration policy in Australia is that it can’t be conveniently separated from discussions about colonisation, extractivism and imperialist globalisation.
A lot of well-meaning Australians get frustrated when any attempt to start a conversation about migration immediately attracts accusations of racism. This is particularly so for many Greens, whose white fragility prevents them from recognising how sustainability arguments for limiting immigration can be inherently racist.
The hard truth is that in settler-colonial countries like Australia, you simply can’t talk sensibly about migration without talking about racism. The two topics are inextricably linked, and leaving race out of the conversation – like you’re some kind of ‘objective’ scientist neutrally discussing populations and carrying capacities without acknowledging past and ongoing systemic racism – just tacitly reinforces racist norms.
Yes, we do need to build alliances between Australians and migrant workers. We do need to reinforce common interests and fight against the corporate bosses who benefit by dividing and exploiting us.
And if a Labor senator writes a shallow, divisive, harmful article that normalises and reinforces racism, we do have to call it out.
This article has also been published on Green Agenda, an independent online publishing project that promotes discussion and debate of critical and contemporary green politics and philosophy...
More and more residents have been asking for the stretch of Riverside Drive Parkland north of Jane St to become car-free. Riverside Drive is designated as public parkland, and it's unusual for so much space in a public park to be used for free car parking.
Based on previous consultation, we have already asked council to remove all street parking to the north of the boat ramp, and are now exploring whether to remove the rest of the parking between Jane St and the boat ramp. Further consultation about the long-term future of the boat-ramp is also required, as the need for vehicles to access the boat ramp is in direct conflict with pedestrian safety.
For now, we're asking whether residents support removing all parking (including boat ramp parking) or if you only support removing street parking on Riverside Drive but would like the boat ramp parking retained for now.
If parking on Riverside Drive itself is removed, residents with limited mobility would still be able park at the end of Jane St or Hockings St in order to access the park. We can explore converting some of the parking on Jane and Hockings Streets into priority parking for people with a disability if necessary. If boat ramp parking is retained, this could also remain available for people with impaired mobility.
The results of this survey will be published via Councillor Sri's website, email list and social media accounts. This survey is not a binding community vote, but will be heavily influential to the decision-making of the Gabba Ward Office (the more people who respond, the more weight the survey results will carry).
For more info on our broader vision and strategy for transport in the inner-south side, check out this page.
Data Use: We are collecting your name and contact details to help guard against duplicate responses and to inform you of the results of the survey. Collecting address details also helps us understand trends regarding whether people living in different neighbourhoods have different views about the survey question. Your data is stored in the dedicated database of Greens Councillor for the Gabba Ward, Jonathan Sri. Your name and contact details will not be shared with Brisbane City Council directly or with other third parties without your express permission.
During this unprecedented time of multiple overlapping crises, solidarity is more important than ever.
While we continue to push for the government to provide greater support to people at risk of homelessness, all levels of government have been too slow to act, and some people still aren't receiving any support.
Most government support services and payments will not take effect immediately. Unfortunately many residents of our city, including international students, migrant workers and many New Zealand citizens who've lived here long-term, are not eligible for government support payments from Centrelink, or any form of government housing.
We are asking residents who are lucky enough to have stable housing with spare bedrooms to consider making a room available to someone who can no longer afford their rent, and is in severe housing stress or at risk of homelessness. Some of these people will be Australian citizens who are waiting for government supports to kick in, others will be non-citizens who are waiting until they can return home or find a new source of income.
We're seeking offers from households who can accommodate someone for free (no rent, no other bills) for a period of eight weeks. In light of the pandemic, we want to minimise the need for people to move from one house to another, so we are not seeking accommodation offers of less than 8 weeks through our office. Once we find housing for someone, we want to encourage them to stay home and not move around unnecessarily during the shutdown.
As we are mindful of the importance of minimising contact between people during the pandemic, we are only seeking separate bedrooms, as opposed to offers of couches or offers to accommodate people in common areas.
Our office will coordinate the matching service, conducting private phone interviews with people seeking accommodation and people offering accommodation, and then introducing people to negotiate further details regarding the conditions of the short-term housing arrangement.
We will not be matching a person seeking accommodation through this particular system if we consider that the individual requires more intensive support and ought to be in a supported accommodation situation with wraparound care, access to social workers etc. If we deem someone to be in need of intensive support, our office will work with them to find supported accommodation through existing government departments, non-government organisations and homelessness support services.
We ask that if you do choose to offer one or more rooms through this service, you agree to the following conditions:
- The room must be provided rent-free
- The room must be furnished, and not shared with anyone else (we might be able to help link you in with free or cheap furniture to furnish your room)
- The room must be made available for a period of at least 8 weeks
We have included a series of checkboxes in this form. Please tick as many as are relevant to your situation, to help us identify who would be a good match for your household.
We are aware that the information collected by this form is limited, so we expect that most people offering rooms will wish to provide additional information about the suitability of your home. If you have any information that we need to know in trying to match you with someone seeking housing, please sign up and then send us an email at email@example.com.
We will not contact you right away, and we might not contact you at all unless we find someone seeking accommodation who's a good match for you.
We're conscious that opening your home to someone in need is not a decision to be taken lightly, and we're available to chat through any questions or concerns you might have.
Thanks for doing what you can!Sign up
Here’s another innovative yet common-sense solution to create more public green space in the inner-city…
Let’s cover over the stretch of train line near Gloucester St and Frith St in Highgate Hill to create a new public park!
There are many inner-city neighbourhoods where a train line runs through a suburb at slightly below ground level. We now have the technology, the resources and the engineering skills to cover over these stretches of train line with precast tunnels to create more public space.
The presence of very shallow tunnels would make it difficult to use these sites for buildings that require deep foundations, but they’re a great opportunity to create public green spaces.
The broad area of exposed train line next to Gloucester St was once a train station. It was closed decades ago, mainly because its close proximity to the newer South Bank train station made it a little redundant. But as a result, there's a much wider stretch of public land in this area than along most other train lines.
Some of the major benefits of covering over this stretch of track and converting it to public parkland include:
- Reduced noise pollution for surrounding residents
- Reduced air pollution for surrounding residents
- Turns a major barrier to wildlife movement into a wildlife corridor
- Provides a more direct pedestrian and bikeway link that reduces the need to climb up and down hills
- Depending on where they’re travelling, gives some local pedestrians an alternative route to avoid the difficult crossing at the intersection of Gloucester St and Stephens Rd
- And most importantly: creates over 11 500m2 of new public green space in an area where local parkland is in short supply
The precinct around Stephens Rd and Gloucester St doesn’t have any local parks that you can easily walk to without crossing a main road. Covering over the train line would create a 1.1-hectare public park, with sections that are flat enough to kick a ball or play some cricket. 1.1 hectares is roughly the same size as the main football field at Davies Park, West End. The park could feature a massive all-ages playground with different elements targeted at different age groups.
Creating a green spine through this neighbourhood on the edge of Highgate Hill and South Brisbane could be the first step in a series of linked parks and pathways following the alignment of the train line through to South Brisbane, to dramatically improve pedestrian connectivity.
This idea has been suggested by local resident and environmental engineer, Associate Professor Peter Pollard, who has also proposed that some of the material used to fill up the space above the new tunnels could come from the nearby Cross River Rail excavation. This would potentially reduce the cost and environmental impact of trucking out and disposing of all that excavated fill material.
Of course, you would also want a few metres' depth of decent-quality soil over the top, so that some of the land could be used for fruit trees and a community garden.
This is an amazing opportunity to turn a noisy barrier within the urban landscape into a green community hub. This space would be twice the size of the park at the top of Highgate Hill, and would have room for a whole range of activities and facilities.
I imagine it primarily serving as a well-vegetated quieter park for local residents to walk the dog, hold a picnic, or hang out with friends to escape the hustle and bustle down along the main roads.
It could also serve as a quiet green retreat for patients, family members and staff from the nearby hospital precinct who want to avoid the higher-intensity vibe down at South Bank and the riverside parklands.
Everyone I’ve shared this idea with so far has said something along the lines of: “That’s brilliant! And it seems so logical. Why hasn’t this happened already?”
The main reason is that even if you use precast tunnel segments that you drop in and connect up, it would still probably cost at least $3 million dollars, and the train line is actually State Government land. So it would require a bit of collaboration between State Government and Brisbane City Council. But although $3 million sounds like a lot of money, it’s actually very good value considering that it would create roughly $20 million worth of public parkland.
If we can successfully implement this approach of cut-and-cover train tunnels with parkland above, there are many other neighbourhoods where we could roll out this model. There are other stretches of low-lying train line running through many inner-city suburbs where green space is in short supply.
Obviously we also need council and the State Government to buy back more land to create new public green spaces, but covering over train lines also offers the extra benefits mentioned above. Reducing noise pollution and air pollution from these busy train lines would dramatically improve the quality of life for thousands of residents living within several hundred metres of the train tracks, and direct pedestrian pathways avoids residents having to walk the long way around to get across the tracks.
If you support this idea, please share it around, and tell your friends to vote for the Greens!
I’ve spent the past four years listening to the community to better understand what kinds of improvements local residents and small businesses want to see happen around the suburbs of South Brisbane, Highgate Hill, West End, Woolloongabba, Dutton Park and Kangaroo Point.
My vision for the Gabba Ward is continually evolving in response to community feedback, so please let me know what you think of it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s difficult to comprehensively list all the changes I’d like to see happen in our neighbourhood, particularly the community projects and social and cultural transformations that should happen alongside the delivery of physical infrastructure and government services. Alongside the so-called 'hard infrastructure,' I believe there should be far more council funding and support for community services, sporting groups, and the arts.
The priorities featured below tend to focus on the projects that I think Brisbane City Council and the State Government can realistically deliver in the next few years, but with an appreciation of the need to also plan ahead for long-term challenges.
Rather than vague statements, I've done my best to clearly outline my current position on a range of local issues so residents know exactly where I stand. It won’t be possible to deliver all of this in just a few years, but this is what we’re working towards... If there’s anything you’d like clarified, please get in touch.
Rethinking Development in the Inner-City
We support heavy restrictions on for-profit development within the low-lying flood-prone parts of the Gabba Ward. We support well-designed mixed-used, medium-density development that’s accompanied by adequate infrastructure and services. We support more trees and green space being delivered within new developments. Currently, developers are only required to allocate 10% of site area for deep planting. The LNP publicly committed over a year ago to increase the requirement to 15% but haven’t yet implemented this. We believe all new high-density developments should set aside a minimum 20% of the site area for deep-planted trees.
Streets for People – Reimagining Transport in Brisbane
Our citywide philosophy for reimagining transport in Brisbane can be found at this link. Broadly speaking, we want more pedestrian crossings, wider, shadier footpaths, lower speed limits on residential streets (with more traffic calming where necessary) and separated bike lanes on main transport corridors. Check out the link, and view more details about specific transport commitments below.
Free Off-Peak Public Transport for Everyone
To reduce congestion and improve accessibility and connectivity, we’re calling for free off-peak public transport. We can make buses and CityCats free during weekdays and weeknights in the off-peak period, as well as free all weekend. More details available at this link.
Free Cross-River Ferries and Kangaroo Point CityCat
In addition to calling for all bus, CityCat and ferry services to become free for everyone during off-peak periods, we support making all existing cross-river ferry services free, 24/7. We also support reviewing the CityCat timetable and network to introduce a CityCat service to the Holman Street ferry terminal at Kangaroo Point.
Two New CityGlider Routes
We are calling for two new CityGlider routes, one running east-west from West End to Bulimba, and the other running north-south from Annerley to Fortitude Valley (through Kangaroo Point and Woolloongabba). More details at this link.
Full Bus Network Review
We are calling for a full network review of Brisbane bus routes, with a strong focus on increasing the frequency and reliability of services running through the inner-south side, particularly the 192, 196, 198 and 234 bus routes.
We’re calling for new footbridges from West End to Toowong and Kangaroo Point to the CBD. Other parties have expressed cautious support for these projects, but have not committed to allocating funding for them. We believe these bridges should carry pedestrians, cyclists and escooters, but not buses.
We are also open to supporting the proposal for a footbridge between West End and UQ St Lucia, but believe further detailed research, transport modelling and a cost benefit analysis should be conducted (in addition to more robust community consultation) before any project funding is allocated. A detailed write-up about my position on the footbridges is available at this link.
As part of the Kangaroo Point footbridge project, we believe council needs to deliver a wheelchair accessible Story Bridge underpass. The current underpass between Thornton St and Deakin St has multiple sets of steps and so is not wheelchair accessible. Depending on detailed design and engineering investigations, it may be more cost-effective and less disruptive to create a second, new underpass connecting from slightly further north along Deakin St directly to Scott St.
New ‘Kurilpa West’ Citycat Terminal
Recent and anticipated population growth for the western side of the Kurilpa Peninsula (particularly along Montague Rd) means that new high-capacity public transport services will be needed to move people in and out of West End.
We support a new CityCat terminal being delivered along Riverside Drive. The South Brisbane Riverside Neighbourhood Plan identifies Victoria St as a possible location for a new terminal, however it may be more appropriate to locate the terminal slightly further north near Beesley St to facilitate better access to and from Davies Park.
I do not believe that proposals for a new footbridge and CityCat terminal are mutually exclusive. The two projects meet different transport needs and are complementary. Both will be necessary in order to help inner-city residents transition away from car-dependency.
Convert Flood-Prone Industrial Sites to Public Parkland in 4101
We support acquiring the large blocks of land along the northern end of Montague Rd which are currently used for industrial purposes, and converting these into public parkland and sporting facilities. Sites including Hanson Concrete, Parmalat and I-O Glass are all highly vulnerable to flooding, and are not appropriate for high-density residential or commercial development.
To cater for the green space needs of West End’s rapidly growing population, and to mitigate the negative impacts of flooding, these sites should be restored as public parkland.
This large new riverside park could include dog off-leash areas, a full-size skate park and BMX track, a sports field, a large children’s playground, vegetated nature reserves and outdoor event spaces.
Completing the Kangaroo Point Riverwalk
Completing the missing links of the riverside footpath between Dockside and Mowbray Park is essential to reduce traffic congestion and improve connectivity for the Kangaroo Point Peninsula. There are only a few missing links between existing pathways that have already been completed, and we believe council should allocate the funding to build these sections immediately, rather than waiting years for private developers to do it. The riverwalk should be designed with extra-wide footpaths and clearly delineated separation between pedestrians, slower-moving cyclists, and faster-moving bikes and escooter riders. You can read more about the riverwalk via this link at the section titled ‘Completing the Riverwalk’.
Restore Boggo Road Gaol as a Visual and Performing Arts Hub
Boggo Road Gaol is ideally located along the busway and train lines, and in close proximity to UQ St Lucia, Dutton Park State School and the future Dutton Park State High. This historic site should not be privatised and sold off to developers, but should be restored as a publicly funded music and arts hub, with workshop spaces, studios, rehearsal rooms, exhibition spaces and theatres. Boggo Road could become the south-side sister of the New Farm Powerhouse, celebrating history while providing affordable spaces for artists, innovators and hackers. A heritage museum component and a strong emphasis on history tours and storytelling would allow this precinct to serve as a hub for local history groups and knowledge-keeping.
Separated Bike Lanes along Vulture Street
Vulture St is a key east-west connector across the Gabba Ward, but riding between West End and Woolloongabba is currently quite dangerous. Existing narrow footpaths can no longer safely accommodate rising numbers of cyclists and escooter riders, so it is imperative that council creates safe, separated bike lanes running along Vulture St from Montague Rd, West End to Christie St, South Brisbane. This would provide a direct connection to the Goodwill Bridge and to the new Woolloongabba Bikeway along Stanley Street.
Safer separated bike lanes are also needed along other main roads such as Montague Rd and Gladstone Rd, however we currently consider Vulture St to be the highest priority.
Convert roadway into parkland at southern end of Boundary St
Regardless of whether a new footbridge is delivered between St Lucia and West End, we have an amazing opportunity to create more useable public green space at the southern end of Boundary St by combining under-utilised roadway with the neighbouring block of State-owned land at the corner of Dudley Street. Boundary St could end at the intersection with Glenfield St, and the roadway could be ripped up to create a riverside public park with an area of over 3300m2.
Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Musgrave Park
Local Aboriginal community groups have been advocating for decades to establish a purpose-built cultural centre in Musgrave Park. This project should be designed, led and controlled by First Nations peoples, with funding from all levels of government. Council should play a supporting role in delivering this project, facilitating conversations and providing access to resources and support staff to empower Aboriginal community leaders to deliver this project.
Redevelop Kurilpa Hall and Library as a Multipurpose Community Facility
We support converting the carpark of Kurilpa Library and the adjoining Kurilpa Hall site into a multistorey multipurpose community hub that caters for the community’s changing needs. We believe a redevelopment of this site should respect the heritage and integrity of the historic Kurilpa Library building. A redeveloped community facility would include space for the Australian Pensioners and Superannuants League organisation that currently manages the existing Kurilpa Hall, as well as a wide range of other community groups and projects.
An expanded library would include dedicated meeting rooms, fully accessible toilets and a wider range of resources. Depending on further community consultation, it could be possible to design a dedicated theatre space or concert hall within the facility, but such elements would require careful design and extensive sound-proofing to avoid negative impacts on neighbours. We are calling for multiple rounds of detailed community consultation and an inclusive participatory design process before any changes are made to the existing facility.
Composting and Sustainable Waste Management
The Greens are calling for free green bins for every household, in order to divert organic waste from general landfill. We are also calling for the green bin service to be adapted so it can accept food waste too. Organic waste can be composted and reused for gardens. The gases from composting organic matter can be captured as a source of energy.
We also support establishing more community composting hubs particularly within the inner-city, and are calling for more council funding and support to train apartment block residents how to manage community composting hubs on their own apartment block sites, while also establishing more hubs in public parks alongside community gardens.
We are calling for a vacancy levy on all homes, shops and vacant lots that are left empty for more than six months without a valid reason. A vacancy levy would reduce homelessness, place downward pressure on residential and commercial rents, and help bring life back to struggling shopping precincts. More details about this policy can be found at this link.
Default 40km/h Speed Limit
We support a default speed limit of 40km/h on all streets in the Gabba Ward, with the exception of some sections of Ipswich Rd, Main St, and Shaftson Avenue. I believe that even busy roads like Dornoch Terrace, Montague Rd, Gladstone Rd, River Terrace, Cordelia St, Merivale St, Vulture St and Stanley St should all eventually be reduced to a limit of 40km/h, but that this transition should happen gradually alongside other changes to road design and transport services.
New Pedestrian Crossings
The Greens have called for council to create 250 new pedestrian crossings around the city each year. We have recently secured funding for new traffic lights at the intersection of Victoria St and Montague Rd (near the West End Aldi) and work will be starting soon.
Traffic lights will also be installed along Gladstone Rd near TJ Doyle Memorial Drive to connect the new Dutton Park State High School to the Dutton Park green space.
Looking ahead, we believe that within the Gabba Ward, the highest priority locations for new crossings are:
- Boundary St near Brighton Rd
- Dornoch Terrace-Hampstead Rd intersection – possibly lights, depending on detailed investigation)
- Gloucester St-Stephens Rd intersection
- Leopard St, Kangaroo Point – zebra crossing near Lockerbie St
- Montague Rd – traffic lights near Donkin St
- Montague Rd – traffic lights at/near Ferry Rd
- Multiple locations along Dornoch Terrace - unsignalised zebra crossings
- River Terrace, Kangaroo Point – traffic lights near Bell St, and a new zebra crossing north of Paton St
- Vulture St near Exeter St, West End
- Vulture St near Thomas St and Bunyapa Park
- Wellington Rd – traffic lights near Mowbray Terrace and Toohey St
Safety Upgrades for Existing Pedestrian Crossings
Many pedestrian crossings throughout our city need major safety improvements. We believe the highest priorities for safety upgrades to existing crossing points are:
- Converting the intersection of Hardgrave Rd and Vulture St into a four-way scramble crossing (like the Boundary St-Vulture St intersection)
- Redesigning the zebra crossing on Gladstone Rd near Park Rd West as traffic lights
- Zebra crossing on Park Rd near Merton Rd
- Intersection of Dornoch Terrace, Hardgrave Rd and Ganges St
- Zebra crossing on Hawthorne St near Gibbon St
- Orleigh St near the West End ferry terminal
- Zebra crossing on Montague near Brereton St
If the community is opposed to installing traffic signals, often the best way to improve pedestrian safety at a zebra crossing is to lower speed limits and narrow the road width on the approaches to the crossing by building out the footpaths and/or installing separated bike lanes.
New Public Parks at Gabba Station and Boggo Road
Woolloongabba is under-served by public parkland, but inner-city land is extremely expensive. In the short-term, the most cost-effective and practical pathway to creating new public green space catering for rapid population growth in the 4102 postcode is to ensure that large public parks are included on the publicly owned sites which are being redeveloped for train stations as part of the Cross River Rail project.
Rather than selling off the land above the train station for private highrise development, the State Government should retain ownership and control over these sites and deliver large new green spaces and community facilities. You can read a more detailed vision for the redevelopment of the Gabba Cross River Rail station site at this link.
New Public Park for Highgate Hill/South Brisbane
We support covering over the exposed train line immediately to the north of Gloucester St to create a new public park with an area of 1.1 hectares. This would provide much-needed additional recreational green space for residents living between Annerley Road and Gladstone Rd while also providing additional wildlife habitat and reducing noise pollution and air pollution from the train line. More details at this link.
New Park for Kangaroo Point Peninsula
A new park should be created for the northern end of Kangaroo Point in the vicinity of Lambert St to cater for the rapid population growth in this vicinity. A new riverside park could include a dog off-leash area and other recreational facilities, and could connect to the completed riverwalk leading north to Dockside.
Finding land for this park would involve acquiring privately owned land that would otherwise be redeveloped as highrise, while also narrowing the bitumen roadway and reclaiming road reserve as green space.
Hampstead Common and Implementing the West End Green Space Strategy
The West End Green Space Strategy identifies a long list of opportunities to create additional green spaces throughout the Kurilpa Peninsula, predominantly by converting existing road reserve back into shaded boulevards and pocket parks. We support this strategy, including narrowing Hampstead Road and extending the existing community orchard along the footpaths leading down from the top of Highgate Hill.
Although some of these projects sound costly, they are essential if we are to preserve a high quality of life for current and future Gabba Ward residents. We can afford to deliver all of this if we make property developers pay their share, generate additional revenue from a vacancy levy, stop outsourcing core council services to private contractors who add in fat profit margins, and reduce spending on ineffective and sustainable road-widening projects.
Repurpose Space Under the Story Bridge for Community Purposes
There's a lot of under-utilised space beneath the Story Bridge at Kangaroo Point that can be converted for other uses. Some of this space which is currently used for council carparking could double-up as space for weekend farmers' markets and artisan markets. Some space could also be used for community concerts and movie nights, exercise equipment and perhaps even sporting facilities like cricket nets or basketball hoops. Obviously any redesign of this space should be subject to detailed community consultation, and should remain mindful of the need for off-street parking in the area. I believe council should put funding into a detailed community planning process to give residents and local small businesses control and decision-making power over the long-term future of this space.
Close Grey St to Through-Traffic and Create a New Public Park in South Brisbane
As part of the Brisbane Metro project, BCC and the State Government will be working together to redevelop the Cultural Centre Station and the adjoining Melbourne St-Grey St intersection. I'm calling for serious consideration of the possibility of closing off Grey St to through-traffic, so we can create 5000m2 of additional public green space between QPAC and the South Brisbane train station. This would have a range of positive flow-on impacts, including:
- improved traffic flow at the Peel St-Grey St and Grey St-Vulture St intersections
- giving higher-speed commuter cyclists a safer alternative to riding along the South Bank riverfront
- helping Grey St flourish as a low-speed active transport-focussed environment
You can find out a lot more detail about this proposal at this link.
As mentioned above, our vision for the Gabba Ward is based upon the feedback we receive from residents. If you disagree with some of it, let us know! If there are other projects or ideas that you think should be included in this vision, please write to us! This is an ever-evolving list that will change in response to the needs and priorities of local residents.
At the end of the day, it's not just up to me to articulate what I think should be the future of our community. All of us should get a say and all of us should meaningful control over how our city changes and evolves.
Here’s an important local issue that potentially impacts a lot of apartments in Brisbane in terms of safety, sense of community, insurance premiums and body corporate fees. It’s a bit technical, but hopefully I can keep the explanation straightforward...
1. There are different rules for how apartments should be designed if they are being used as short-term accommodation as opposed to long-term residential. For example, you need more emergency signage and clearer fire exit routes for short-term accom. uses, because short-term tenants won’t know the building as well.
A building that has been designed as standard residential accommodation shouldn’t really be used for short-term rentals. Maintaining this distinction is important in terms of issues like fire safety, security, property wear-and-tear etc.
2. Increasingly in Queensland, we’re seeing more and more apartments (and free standing houses) that have been assessed and approved by council as normal residential homes, and were not designed as hotels/short-term accommodation, which are now being rented out by investors through platforms like Airbnb.
This leads to a wide range of issues for neighbouring apartment residents because, for example, higher-intensity hotel-style usage tends to create more wear and tear on common property like elevators, pools etc, and those maintenance costs are borne by the body corporate (and ultimately the residents).
We’re also seeing situations where apartments in places like South Bank and Kangaroo Point are rented out for disruptive parties every single night of the week, and neighbours can’t do anything about it.
3. It also creates a broader economic problem, because apartments which were approved to house local residents are instead rented out to visitors and tourists, which means local families find it harder to afford a home in the inner-city. So even though the supply of apartments increases, that doesn’t improve affordability for locals because those apartments are all Airbnb-style short-term accommodation.
(A flow-on social impact is that we can’t create the well-connected high-density local communities and break down social isolation, because such a large proportion of homes are just short-term visitors.)
The underlying problem here is that in our economic system, homes are being treated as a commodity to make a profit from, rather than protecting housing as a basic human right.
Investors who rent out entire homes as hotel rooms don’t always care about the impact on neighbours – they just want to make money.
4. But when residents complain to council, and say “Hey, this building was approved as residential but now it’s being rented out as short-term accommodation” it seems Brisbane City Council isn’t taking appropriate action.
In some cases, council takes no action at all. In other cases, BCC investigates and then says “Well even though this building wasn’t designed as short-term accommodation, it was built on land where you are technically allowed to build short-term accommodation, so we’re going to look the other way.” Basically, council knows that some unit owners, developers and property managers are breaking council regulations, but isn’t doing anything about it.
5. What makes this even messier is that most building insurance cover can be voided if a body corporate hasn’t been complying with council rules.
So for example, if a body corporate hasn’t been keeping an area free of flammable debris, and that leads to fire damage, the insurance company might refuse to pay out. Similarly, if a residential building is being illegally rented out as short-term accommodation, and the guests accidentally leave a tap on that leads to other apartments being flooded, the insurance company could have strong legal grounds for refusing to pay out.
So all this adds up to a pretty big issue, where building insurance cover for hundreds of buildings around the state is under question.The action that council needs to take is two-pronged:
- BCC needs to stop issuing development approvals that allow a building to be used for short-term accommodation unless the building has been properly designed to safely accommodate high numbers of short-term visitors.
- BCC needs to fully investigate complaints of unapproved short-term uses, and take enforcement action where investors are running hotel operations in buildings that don’t have any approval as short-term accommodation.
We also need to have a broader community conversation about how much of our neighbourhoods we are happy to see turn into short-term hotel-style accommodation...
Do we want entire suburbs like South Brisbane and Kangaroo Point to be majority short-term visitors where no-one knows one another? Or do we want to strike a better balance where we have enough options for tourists and visitors, but there are still enough longer-term residents to maintain a stronger sense of local community?
I don’t have any concerns about residents who rent out a spare room via Airbnb to subsidise their rent, or about people who temporarily sublease their home while they go on holiday for a few weeks or months.
But that’s very different to a situation where no-one on a low income can afford to live in inner-city suburbs, because all the new investor-owned apartments have been rented out on Airbnb on an ongoing basis.
I kicked off 2020 by giving a morning talk at Woodford Folk Festival called ‘A Rough Work-in-Progress Blueprint for Revolution.’ Despite half the festival still being asleep or hungover from NYE celebrations, it was exciting to see how much energy and interest there was in the discussion. People stuck around for a solid hour after my talk to keep unpacking the ideas and sharing their own perspectives (I’ll try to post a recording of the presentation sometime soon). A lot of people are hungry for change, and searching for a way forward.
As we enter this new decade, our news headlines are dominated by environmental disasters. Mega-fires are raging across multiple Australian states and half the continent is drought-stricken. Meanwhile just a couple hours’ flight to the north of us, Indonesia is experiencing catastrophic rainfall, with widespread flooding leading to around 50 confirmed deaths, and an estimated 500 000 people made homeless so far (the death toll from flow-on impacts like disease and malnutrition will be much higher, but won’t be covered by western media).
The Jakarta Metropolitan Area has a population of over 30 million people, living in an area half the size of Brisbane. Much of Jakarta has been inundated, and the city may never fully recover. The Indonesian government is already planning to abandon Jakarta as the nation’s administrative capital and establish a new capital city in Borneo.
Australia is one of Indonesia’s closest neighbours. Jakarta is closer to Darwin than Brisbane is. If not for our racism and selfishness, Australia would probably be the most logical destination to resettle southeast Asian climate refugees. We’re certainly in a better economic position to do so than other nearby countries, but I doubt anyone’s going to be talking about that idea in a hurry.
Perpetual Crisis and Denial
I find it hard to get my head around the details in the news reports - millions of hectares of forest incinerated, millions of people suddenly deprived of access to power or clean water. Numbers and statistics don’t really tell the full story, but it’s bleak.
Many of us have started talking about how the long-predicted ‘climate apocalypse’ is finally here.
But in fact, many parts of the world, and many people in our own city, have been experiencing crisis for a long time now. A lot of First Nations communities would argue that the apocalypse actually began over two hundred years ago. The changing climate is definitely a crisis, but it’s also compounding existing ongoing crises that we’ve ignored for too long.
The lens through which we view these events is important. Are the Australian droughts and bushfires a ‘disaster’ that we have to recover and rebuild from? Or are they simply the latest and most significant reminder that almost every aspect of our way of life must change in ways that most of us rarely contemplate?
Australians are vacillating between two different universes this week. People are still swimming at the beach and cheering at the cricket, while elsewhere people are running out of water or fleeing 10-storey flames. My work inbox is still receiving complaints about inadequate street parking and the lack of grass at the local dog off-leash area. In contrast, I don’t get many emails about the fact that Brisbane’s homeless population is hovering around 10 000 and still rising (and unfortunately the politicians who run our government don’t get enough emails about this either).
We’re in the midst of multiple overlapping crises, yet half the continent seems hell-bent on looking the other way and acting as though we can carry on with business as usual. Perhaps denial is an understandable response to feeling disempowered and overwhelmed, but it’s pretty bizarre…
Hypothetical weekend BBQ conversation:
“The Aussie batsmen are doing pretty well aren’t they?”
“Yeah that Marnus bloke just keeps scoring centuries hey?”
“By the way, did you hear the bushfire death toll is up to 16 now?”
Paths to action?
I’ve heard several people over the last few weeks lament the fact that there isn’t another federal election due for three years, and that PM Smoko is so unpopular right now that the Liberals would struggle to hold on to power. While that might be true, I don’t think Albanese would be much better at responding to any of the crises we’re currently facing. He spent part of December touring regional Queensland promising continued support for coal exports, when what he should have done instead was outline a transition plan to retrain workers and support communities to shift away from dependence on an economically unviable and environmentally destructive industry.
The Queensland Labor government seems to have completely ignored the Greens’ constructive suggestion to make mining companies contribute funding towards rural firefighting services, while supporting new coal mines and strengthening police powers to criminalise peaceful protest about issues like climate change. Simply replacing Scomo with another corporate sector puppet won't fix our broken system.
But even though the next federal election is still at least two summers away, there are several important elections coming up this year that will shape the national political landscape. In just 12 weeks, residents across Queensland will vote in local government elections. Here in Brisbane, the Greens have a strong chance of winning three or even four council seats off the LNP. As I’ve written about here, a swing towards the Greens at the Brisbane City Council election would dramatically shift Queensland politics.
The Australian Capital Territory elections, the Northern Territory elections and the NSW local government elections are also all coming up in 2020, as is the crucial Queensland State Election. If the Greens win state seats off Labor or the Liberals in Queensland, this will have a far bigger direct impact on government policy than a hundred protest marches.
So those of you who are feeling a sense of urgency and a desire to take action might want to start by volunteering for the election campaign.
A divided nation?
Lately I’ve been hearing more people complaining about how divided our society and our political system has become. They say things like “If only we could stop attacking each other and focus on solutions!” which certainly resonates with me to a point. I think it’s fair to say that the tone of debate, particularly in some online spaces, is unnecessarily hostile.
But a lot of this so-called ‘division’ isn’t new. What’s actually going on is that marginalised voices and downtrodden groups finally have platforms (particularly on social media) where they can challenge establishment power holders and argue against the status quo. (Some of us are even getting organised enough to win seats in elections)
Australians have been saying and doing racist things for decades. The difference is that now anti-racist activists actually have paths to get their own messages out there without being censored by the conservative mainstream media. The same is true for debates about sexism, extractivism and a whole bunch of other issues.
In some cases, the people complaining that “Everyone is so disrespectful these days! I wish people could stop attacking each other!” are actually just yearning for a past era when more privileged members of society could say and do incredibly unjust and disrespectful things without being criticised publicly, because the rest of us were too scared to speak out.
For those of us who understand the need for major systemic change, I think one of the big challenges for 2020 and the coming decade will be to understand and define the lines between those who are complacent/misinformed/apathetic/disengaged, and those who are actively hostile to change and have strong vested interests in defending the status quo.
The biggest division in our society will be between those who'll fight to keep things more-or-less as they are, and those who are realistic about the need for a rapid transition towards a more equitable and sustainable way of life.
Personally, I’m looking forward to the coming year. I’m apprehensive about the council election campaign, because I anticipate a lot of negative attacks from the mainstream media and conservative commentators, but also excited about the opportunities for change. I’m channelling the grief and anger I’ve been feeling into activism and community capacity-building, because it feels nourishing and valuable and empowering.
We mustn’t be naïve about the opponents we’re up against or the nefariously effective tactics they’ll employ.
But we need to hold on to hope, and seize joy wherever we can find it. Sinking into despair won’t stop the world burning.
Happy(?) new year fellow change-makers!