Watchwords

Brisbane Grows Up!

MARRIAGE EQUALITY? Australia says YES! Wednesday, 15 November 2017. In Brisbane there was jubilation and our iconic Story Bridge lit up in rainbow colours. (Photo by L.J. May S/S)

Watchwords 

This is Brisbane! Queensland, Australia

 Where the heck is Brisbane?

Brisbane is the sub-tropical capital of the state of Queensland on the east coast of Australia and is Australia’s third largest city with a population of over 2.2 million.  

Queensland, of course, is a land of clear blue skies and waving palms – well it is near the coast, and it’s beautiful one day and perfect the next – most of the time.    

The Great Barrier Reef, the largest coral reef in the world, runs for 1,900 km (or 1,200 miles) along the coast of Queensland and if that’s not something to brag about, I don’t know what is.

There might, at one time, have been rumours going around that Brisbane was just a big country town with attitudes to suit and, in fairness, before 1982 you probably could have shot a cannon down the middle of Queen Street after six o’clock in the evening without hitting anyone.

That all changed when we hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1982, and after Expo 88 hit town, with the citizens of Brisbane and visitors partying day and night for a full six months, there was no going back. People demanded that the party continue and, from the ruins of the Expo site, the South Bank Parklands rose from the ashes of those who said it couldn’t be done.

In what other city could you lie back and relax in a sparkling lagoon set in lush gardens with a major river a few metres away and look across to the central business district? That’s Brisbane! That’s Queensland! I rest my case!

Why are there so many accomplished Queensland writers?

In the beginning there was the word, and the word was in Queensland. Clout a Queenslander and poetry, prose and divers manuscripts tumble out of them like goodies spilling from a piñata. Renowned Queensland writer, THEA ASTLEY, when attending a Writers’ Week in Adelaide during the early 1990s, peered through her cigarette smoke long enough to note that almost all of her dinner companions were authors from Queensland. She put it down to the hothouse climate.

DAVID MALOUF, an internationally acclaimed Brisbane-born author, ascribed it to the ubiquitous Queensland School Reader, a series of twelve readers, which were introduced sometime during World War I and formed the basis of the entire curriculum. Sadly, these invaluable readers were discontinued in 1974. 

It was not unusual in the early 1900s for youngsters for leave school at the age of 14 or younger and educators were determined to stuff as much culture as possible into their unwilling heads before they did. This shared heritage included excerpts from almost 60 novels, tales from the Arabian Nights, works by literary giants such Tolstoy, scads of Shakespeare, and even the Gettysburg Address.

The quality of these readers provided a solid basis for aspiring Queensland authors and resulted in such luminaries as THEA ASTLEY, RODNEY HALL, SUSAN JOHNSON, DAVID MALOUF, JUDITH RODRIGUEZ, and TOM SHAPCOTT, not to mention 3-time Walkley Award-winning reporter, war correspondent and beloved Brisbane memoirist, HUGH LUNN.

We exported many of our Queensland writers, as we did our actors, artists and musicians, mainly because various successive Australian governments considered the arts in general and writing in particular, to be a hobby with which people whiled away their spare time between real jobs. Some of the Queensland writers who blossomed in more supportive climes include JESSICA ANDERSON, MATT CONDON, GWEN HARWOOD, PETER PORTER and JANETTE TURNER HOSPITAL.  

You may think that we here in Queensland have rested on our laurels, but no. Succeeding generations have produced a healthy crop of established Queensland writers and a whole harvest of talented newcomers whose accessibility via new technology and the internet have abolished borders and made them household names across the world – even if their avid readers aren’t quite sure where Queensland is, let alone Brisbane.

Kate Morton

Brisbane crime/mystery novelist KATE MORTON is a case in point. Kate grew up in the mountains of southeast Queensland and acquired degrees in Dramatic Art and English Literature. Her debut novel The Shifting Fog (published as The House at Riverton in the UK and US) was published in 2006 and promptly became an international sensation and bestseller, with over one million copies sold worldwide. Kate followed up that success with The Forgotten Garden in 2008 and The Distant Hours in 2010, both of which were enthusiastically received.

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Kate is the eldest of three sisters and, although she was born in South Australia, she finally settled on beautiful Tamborine Mountain in Queensland, so we get to claim her. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it. Check out Kate’s journal to leave comments and ask her questions. Where will she travel to next? Spain looks nice... http://www.katemorton.com

Benjamin Law

BENJAMIN LAW is a young Brisbane-based freelance writer with a strong online presence. His quirky take on life quickly made him the darling of Generation Y as a senior contributor to frankie magazine. He has also written for Qweekend, Sunday Life, The Big Issue, New Matilda and The Courier-Mail and his essays have been widely anthologised. 

Benjamin’s debut book The Family Law, published by Black Inc. Books in 2010, was greeted with great glee by his fans and he quickly won over a whole new audience of readers. In this hilarious family account, Benjamin, the third of five children, ponders the big questions: Why won’t his Chinese dad wear made-in-China underpants? Why was most of his extended family deported in the 1980s? Will his childhood dreams of Home and Away stardom come to nothing? And, as a gay guy, what are his chances of finding love? Benjamin’s style has been compared to that of David Sedaris – and you can’t say fairer than that.  

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Benjamin’s debut book The Family Law was shortlisted for Book of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) – and deservedly so. His second book Gaysia was released in September 2012. Doco maker, performer and funny man John Safran had this to say: ‘Benjamin, friend and pervert, said he’d call me a racist and homophobe if I didn’t endorse his book. Fortunately, it’s a terrific read even without the threat. Benjamin combines gonzo-anthropology and great storytelling in Gaysia, cementing his place as one of Australia’s leading sick puppies.’ There are lots of Benjamin’s great articles to read on his website at http://www.benjamin-law.com

WATCHWORDS HOME

MARRIAGE EQUALITY? Australia says YES! Wednesday, 15 November 2017. Brisbane recorded the highest ‘yes’ vote in Queensland. It’s been a long time coming ladies, but wed well and prosper. (Photo by L.J. May S/S)