Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Queensland - Where are you going?

Following on from the Daylight Saving Time debate, the Labor MP for Cairns in North Queensland, Desley Boyle, has suggested this week that, if the southern part of Queensland adopts DST, then they might as well separate the state in two and bring into reality a (supposedly) much desired new state of North Queensland, with its capital at Cairns.  As I've been following the Queensland news this month (a welcome respite from Icelandic volcanoes), I've been very aware of the 'second capital' debate, with Townsville being touted as a suggested second capital for the state of Queensland.  It's been suggested that a new state in Northern Queensland should have its capital at Townsville.  Some people have even suggested a capital at Cloncurry, wherever the gunya that is!

The separation debate is by no means a new one.  Even before the Australian states federated in 1901, the Central Queensland Territorial Separation League had been founded, based in Rockhampton, again with the intention of separating from the southern part of Queensland, namely Brisbane.  The book I'm reading right now, A Kindness Cup by Thea Astley deals with members of this league and it was a movement that was revived again in the 1950's. 

From an outsider's perspective, it's hard to see what all the fuss is about.  It sounds as though there are some regional economic issues that need to be sorted out and perhaps more funding for local government.  In Europe, we're trying to federate nations that are historically diverse and were generally murdering each other a mere sixty years ago.  The idea of breaking any of the Australian states into smaller segments doesn't seem economically viable.  I'm sure there is a good deal of political career making involved (as always).  Still, the mayor of Townsville, Les Tyrell, thinks it's not a matter of 'if' but 'when'. 

On a completely different subject, I've also been reading about famous Queenslanders and I want to grab this precious hour of blogging to highlight one woman whose life I've found really inspiring.  The name she is best known by is her native one, Oodgeroo Noonuccal and she was a poet, political activist and campaigner for the rights of indigenous Australians.  She was born on Straddie (that's Stradbrook Island to the unfamiliar!) in 1920 and led an amazing life that involved working for the Australian Women's Army service in WW2, joining the Communist Party and being awarded an MBE for her services to the indigenous community.

She was also the first published poet from an indigenous Australian background, publishing a book of poetry called We are going in 1964.  The main poem in this collection, with the same title, is quite poignant and describes White Australia, as seen through the eyes of a 'semi-naked band' who have come back to their old bora ground (used in tribal initiation ceremonies) 'where now the many white men hurry about like ants'.  She returned her MBE in protest at the Australian Bicentenary celebrations, pointing out that the arrival of Europeans hadn't exactly benefitted Australia's indigenous populations.  I can't think of a better reason for accepting an MBE than being able to hand it back some day in protest :-)

I'm going to leave you with a short poem by Oodgeroo called Understand Old One that captures the conflicting worlds of outback Australia and the roaring cities of the Europeans. 

Understand Old One by Oodgeroo Noonuccal

What if you came back now
To our new world, the city roaring
There on the old peaceful camping place
Of your red fires along the quiet water,
How you would wonder
At towering stone gunyas high in air
Immense, incredible;
Planes in the sky over, swarms of cars
Like things frantic in flight.

Image credits

The photo is an image of the sun setting over Townsville, Queensland - taken by flickuser Douglas O'Neill, thanks Douglas for sharing this with us, using the Creative Commons License.
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