Saturday, October 30, 2010

Edmonton Markets ~ Sunday 31st.

So, what do you imagine is the best way possible to engage the community? Walk to each home and have a chat? Stand around in shopping centres handing out fliers? Hold public meetings? Invent a festival? Nope, nope, nope and nope.

The best way to engage a community is to give away free stuff! It's simple, it's tested, it works! The latest person to do this is Lou Piccone. This Sunday (31st October) Piccone's Shopping Centre at Edmonton will play host to the very first Edmonton Lions Community Markets. It will run from 8-1 and it will be in that spot every single week from now on.

Sounds great but how do you get people to come? Give them stuff! There will be 4 shopping vouchers up for grabs, several raffles, free face painting and balloons for the kids and unbelievable deals on alcoholic beverages from his brand new, huge, bottleshop. If that's not enough to get you there, nothing will.

The stalls will fill most of the carpark and be entirely undercover so no umbrellas required (although the weather looks pretty good anyway), there is an emphasis on fresh and locally made, so I can get my watermelon and pineapples while buying up big on handmade cards and fabulous jewels. There will be stalls selling specialised birthday invitation packs for busy mums to buy, a stall where you can line up to sign letters of support for a repeal of the Abortion Law and discuss it if you want information, raffles to fund-raise for local clubs, dance groups and whoever else needs our help. This is a local market, by local people, supporting the local community.

The ideology behind it is made abundantly clear when you discover where the cash goes from the sale of the stalls. At $20 a pop it's cheap to buy but also makes a nice sum of money, so where does it all go? The money gets divided amongst Bentley Park College, St Therese's Primary School, Hambledon Primary School and Isabella Primary School. If there is a fifth week in the month, that extra cash goes to the Lions Club. More winners from a fabulous initiative and all worthy of their reward.

In order for this great idea to work.....people have got to go! I will be there Sunday, I hope you will be too. What a great way to have some fun, grab some bargains and support our community. It doesn't get much better than that.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why nobody seems to care what happens in 30 years!

There was a Council meeting today beginning at 10 a.m in the Council chambers. I was there, so were two other people who didn't have to be. A little later two more arrived and it was almost a party in the gallery!! Upon arrival we were presented with the fattest wad of paperwork I have ever seen. I estimate it was 8 c.m tall and largely full of waffle. There were several slightly interesting parts to the whole proceedings but one in particular which I would like to share.

We are unfortunate not to have a trolley for loading the manuscript out of my car and my back will thank me for leaving it in there so I won't go into detail about which agenda item it was, who put forward the motion or seconded but can tell you that it passed. It was related to the community engagement process that encompasses the 30 year 'vision' locals have for this region. It was full of praise for the process, mentioned several 'fringe' festivals that officers attended with the paperwork and stated that the process is continuing and all was well in the world.

Then the fun began. Apparently the amount of locals who have been 'engaged' in this process is minimal at best. According to all reports the emphasis has been on marginal groups and ensuring that those who would not normally contribute, can and do. It was further stated that the online aspect of the mainstream marketing was not particularly engaging either and it was urgent that this be addressed.

It's pretty simple really. Give every school, sporting club, shopping centre and bank hard copies for every interested person to take home. This gives the recipients adequate time to read through the paperwork (which is quite complex) and discuss the issue with their family before writing a measured and educated response to the questions. Following that, all shopping centres should have large boxes (similar to ballot boxes) placed at all customer service desks for completed surveys to be dropped into.

The cost? It can't be more expensive than employing staff to stand around at Envirofiesta and other small festivals handing out this same paperwork. It can't cost much to get some large boxes with slots in the tops. Schools, sporting clubs and banks might be willing to be part of this community engagement process for free, it's part of what they represent anyway. All in all, the cost is minimal but the benefits would be much more substantial than those seen so far.

It is months into the process and the completed surveys number in the just over one hundred, the community is clearly not engaged and continuing along the path of irrelevance is not doing anyone any favours, least of all the Council.

I previously blogged on this urging the public to fill out the online survey and received quite a few responses from locals who had done as I suggested so apparently I am more successful than an entire group of staff at a festival. For goodness sakes people, there are ways of engaging the community that are much more effective.......but they require you to actually be part of your community.....maybe that's where it's failing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Petition ~ Sugarworld facility.

This week I have done very little walking but a heck of a lot of driving.

The Edmonton/Bentley Park area have a strong advocate for their children in Lisa Robbie and she has organised a petition for those she knows (myself included) to distribute to any local shops, groups etc....for signing. The petition has gained several hundred signatures in it's first week and when it ends on Friday, should have numbers well over one thousand, possibly closer to two.

Admittedly, this is not a tremendously large amount if you take the entire population of the region into account. However, if you take it for what it is....a localised initiative with only 10 days to's a more than reasonable effort.

This petition is focussed on getting the Council to continue negotiations and get the results for Sugarworld. Not the slides, that part of proceedings is travelling along on schedule, but the pools, the picnic area and the kiosk. What is really being asked for is not a whole lot really, opening up the working parts for the school holidays and only during the normal trading hours.

The large amount of children living here currently travel into the city for an almost identical experience in the Lagoon on the Esplanade. Opening Sugarworld would benefit the area, the road traffic, the kids, the parents and would utilise a facility that is already there, already being maintained and is very well known. There are actually no negative aspects in this idea.

Of course, it was immediately pointed out by the local Councillor that it was not conforming to the exacting standards for petitions as accepted by the Council. We don't care. The only thing not compliant is not going to interfere with people's ability to sign this. There are no facts missing, it is not hard to understand, it is available everywhere and it states the name and phone number of the person responsible. The object of it is to get the Council to fully understand the benefits to opening up the facility over the holidays and to inform them that people will go. They will spend a few dollars, they will pay the entry (it's cheaper than a bus to the city, or petrol) and they will do so in large numbers. That is the purpose of the petition and with the numbers seen so far, it's proved the point.

This is the reason for all of my driving. Dropping off and picking up petitions, all over the area. When the numbers are in and the forms all collated, they will be presented to Council as evidence that this option is a viable one and if they choose not to notice, or don't pay attention to the numbers, they simply aren't doing an effective job. The people want this to occur, the signatures say that. In an entire consultation process on the same facility about the slide options locals were in favour of, they received just over 700 responses. If that was enough for Council to notice then this one is unavoidable.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Polling the Neighbourhood........Meranti Street

Just past Miltonia Street, which I walked a few weeks ago, is another 'M' street only this one is much longer, much quieter, much more least it was from the outside.

I mentioned before that Miltonia Street was all locked up from the front and not inviting at all. Meranti Street is much the same. I wonder if it's the fact that it's a new area that makes it lack a little pizzazz? Perhaps it's the fact that the entire neighbourhood has 6 foot fences surrounding each home making them look even more closed off and isolated to the rest of the world. It may even be as simple as the fact that these houses are so alike, they almost blend into one another, not a good way to advertise the personalities and vibrant people hiding behind the beige walls.

And believe me, these residents were FULL of pizzazz!!

The number one topic was Sugarworld. Not because of the slide debacle, although that was mentioned often, but in reference to it being the only usable green space in the area. It was mentioned so often that it became abundantly clear that this was a really significant problem for those living in this area. I have looked at the maps thoroughly and can see for myself that they are absolutely spot-on in their claims. There are a few little areas dedicated to so called 'green spaces' but they have no swings, no park, no seating and no pathways. They are also so spread out that they are not really accessible to the majority of the population in the back of Edmonton.

There is a new large playground due to start shortly at the end of Slipper Street, adjacent to Blackfellow Creek on the western side of Walker Road, that will feature many and varied play equipment like swings, forts, slides, rope ladders and bobbles. That's fantastic, it will be good for nearby residents to have a destination to take small kids to, maybe a packed lunch, and enjoy the views and the lovely spot they are in. It is of no use to those I spoke to this morning though. They want small spaces, suitable for all ages, where kids can ride their bikes down the road, not have to cross any busy streets, and have a bit of fun. Perhaps a small half-pipe, or half of a basketball court? With house lots getting so small, yards shrinking fast, it's up to the developers and the Council to ensure that we don't end up with a whole community filled with bored kids aged 5-15. They are old enough to ride a bike, too young to go far alone. Large parks are great for the entire community but the little spots at the end of streets with trees, swings and a space to kick a ball are more beneficial to everyone in the long run.

I don't know if it's too late for this particular area, but the new houses popping up all around this street need to have plans to involve adequate and usable green space within their developments.

Plenty of people living in this street have complained about the cost of living, most specifically the cost of electricity. The houses have solar hot water but due to the lack of sunshine this year, have had to use electricity for most of the time. Those renting are struggling to get landlords to put them on a lower tariff, so they are also paying the highest rate available. It should be common sense to all those with investment properties to place the electricity costs onto the lowest tariff possible. I actually thought that the renter was responsible for all of that anyway, but I haven't rented for several years so I am very likely incorrect in that assumption.

These residents would all spend their $50 on bills or their kids. New shoes, new clothes, school uniforms and sports uniforms make up a large percentage of a family's household income. As a mother of three I am well aware of the costs of keeping my children clothed. There are always bargains to be had but for some reason, schools and sports clubs do not take bargain shopping into account when they design the uniforms. They are usually only available at one or two specialty stores and the costs are, on average, $70 per uniform and $50 for shoes. Without adding the cost of socks and (for girls) hair ties, this is around $120 per uniform. Each child would need about 3 uniforms each (minimum) and if you, like me, have three children, that leaves you over $1,000 out of pocket each time your children have a growth spurt and that happens far too often for most budgets. Some schools have excellent second-hand stores within the school that offer some items at very low cost for those who are struggling or just need a spare uniform at home but the sizes are limited, they are usually in pretty poor condition and they often don't stock sports uniforms.

The final concern for this street was the lack of funding for local sporting groups and the lack of adequate facilities. I was told that the southern rugby league team had over 30 members in it's under 13 side this year. That meant that they had to rotate players every week, they had to deal with angry parents and bored kids and this problem will only increase next year and all subsequent years. There are only a certain number of teams allowed in the competition in the Cairns Region. Because of the rules, the south side can only enter one team. This leaves lots of kids sitting on the sidelines when they should be out there playing the game they signed up for. They play in the facility at Peterson Road, which has been denounced many, many times over the past few years for it's lack of....well.....everything! There are two toilets, one mens, one womens. There are insufficient car parks and parents are getting booked for parking on the street outside the facility. There are inadequate lights, which results in some teams having to share one third of a field for practice. On weekends when a game is on, there are approximately 300 people at this facility. Did I mention before that there are two toilets? You do the math.

There are teams in other sports who run out of the south side area but are actually north side teams, simply because there are not enough kids on the north side to form teams, and there are too many on this side.

The baseball team has no diamond. It probably doesn't seem like that big a deal to most people, but if you love the sport, you have the numbers to form teams and you have parents who are dedicated to the sport, not having anywhere to play would be pretty horrendous. Not to mention frustrating, annoying, disheartening..........the list is endless.

These residents don't care about the city, they all avoid it. They don't have strong opinions either way about the Precinct, but they all want a new Civic Theatre. They want Sugarworld up and running as soon as possible and they would all be frugal with their spare cash.

Nobody knew the name of their Councillor but that no longer surprises me.

This street has a family focus. They want their kids to have access to local spaces for them to play, access to adequate sporting facilities and more understanding from Governments on the true costs of raising a family.

Nothing that any of the streets I have so far travelled to have asked for the impossible. They have all had realistic goals and their wants and needs are pretty simple really. For some reason this area appears to be lagging behind the rest of Cairns in regard to having those needs met. Perhaps they do have the same as most other areas have, but this area is not the same. There are more kids here, there are larger populations, more dense populations and this is growing rapidly. If Council are focussed on forming a 30 year plan for Cairns, they need to start now, they need to build what this area needs and they need to ensure that any future development in this area does not have the same concerns and problems as those only recently built.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Are you Okay?

I am sure that most of you are aware of this, but it's Children's Week next week and this week it was Mental Health Week. Someone suggested to me that the order is wrong as it's having children that often dives you crazy and they are probably right.

The serious side to mental health awareness is one that often crosses my mind when I am talking to others and listening to what concerns them, what they are going through and what they are trying to do, alone. I have conversations with plenty of people who tell me that some days are really hard to get through, that they often have moments where they feel violently ill for no apparent reason. Where they are feeling extremely sad, or worthless. Some suffer from panic attacks in the grocery store at the checkout, having to leave a full trolley behind to get outside for some fresh air. They struggle to breath, feel a tightness in their chest and their vision wavers.

A panic attack is not as rare as you may think. Plenty of people have them, some only once or twice in their entire lives, some struggle for months, even years with them, before getting control back and moving on with their lives. The thing that strikes me about this particular disorder, particularly in my everyday life, is the amount of people who have it and don't even recognise what it is. Some GP's will actually tell patients to 'go out and get a life, forget about how you feel and embrace the good things you have'. Not very useful really. In order to 'get over' Panic Disorder you need to see a professional psychologist, or psychiatrist. Even then, it's a long process and one which has ups and downs, sometimes medication, sometimes it feels impossible and always, it's a struggle. Eventually though, you reach a point where life gets bearable, panic attacks still occur but you can control them better. Some days you forget to be afraid and just live in the moment. For many, those days become the norm and they are truly 'cured'.

Depression is not something that only middle aged men suffer from. It's affecting teenagers in much higher numbers and it's affecting more women than ever before too. It also has a 'cure'. Again there are many suffering from this mental health disorder alone and unaware that there is help available. And the help they require really works. The methods are tried and tested, they are affordable with the right person directing you and they are absolutely brilliant.

It bothers me that there appears to be so many doctors, particularly GP's, who are not encouraging these people to get the help they desperately need. Why are they only encouraging a positive attitude and not any real solutions? It's not a problem that will just go away on it's own. Yes, some anxiety is short-lived and may be centred around a particularly traumatic or overwhelming event, but if you are at the doctor, asking the questions, the answers given should be much better. They always say that they only help people who are willing to help themselves, well these people are trying to do just that.

More needs to be done in the Mental Health field during training for GP's. Someone recently mentioned that out of the 7 odd years of training, only a few months are dedicated to Mental Health. That's pretty poor. Perhaps it's not the doctors who are at fault but the system which allows them to treat patients with mental health issues but leaves them wholly unprepared to do so. There is no access to mental health treatments if you are not referred by your doctor.

The main message of Mental Health Week was to talk. Talk to your neighbour, talk to your co-worker, talk to your boss, talk to your best friend. Ask them how they are feeling. Tell them how you are feeling. Essentially, just make sure that everyone around you is okay. It's not too much to ask, it only takes a minute. It may be the one minute that encourages someone to reach out and get the help they need. So, while I know that Mental Health Week is officially near it's end, keep asking the question. It doesn't have to last for just one week every year, because God knows, none of the issues I mentioned work on a schedule.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Results from an active community.......

I have been completely unsuccessful in getting the posting up this week in my 'Walk the Streets' initiative. I apologise for not being on time but have not had much luck getting anyone at home. I have a few responses but it's not really enough to make any quality resolutions from. As this is proving so difficult this week I have decided to give myself a bit of a break, continue to get more responses and get the information out to you all a week late. I know that those of you hanging on my every word (that's everyone right?) will be disappointed that it's not on time, but I promise to keep going with the project as it is as interesting to me as I hope it is to you.

In the meanwhile, I have been attending numerous community meetings and having conversations with all and sundry to try and keep up with what is happening on the South Side. It's been tricky because of the sheer scope of things and the high growth out here has meant that more and more projects in every size are under-way or being discussed, than ever before.

What I have learnt from attending these meetings, is that while there are many and varied groups needing assistance with getting a brilliant idea moving along, not many of them know where to look for that help, and are failing to realise it is often right in front of them.


There are small groups of dedicated people who tutor at-risk students outside of school hours but within the school grounds. These individuals are doing a service that not many would volunteer for, yet the results are proving to be quite astounding. Basic training of these volunteers is hard to come by, the Education Dept is of no help in this area and the courses available are priced beyond the reach of many volunteers. The answer? Contact the school P&F or P&C committee.

They work really hard all year to raise funds for the children in the school to have access to a better education so this project and ones like it, are the perfect avenue for some of that money. It may take some convincing, parting with cash is not easy for some, but if you can show the worth of the project and the need, there is no reason that some of the Committee funds could not be utilised to train volunteers. Hopefully those groups who are now approaching their P&C Committees will get the answers they seek.


The Edmonton/Hambledon RSL Sub-Branch has been searching for a space to erect a new hall for a little while now without success. Last week a breakthrough occurred that will see the process sped up and at the next Council meeting they will present their preferred option to all Councillors and a final okay should result shortly after. This would be fantastic for the group as they desperately require somewhere permanent to hold meetings, store memorabilia and run events such as ANZAC Day from.
My hope is that their new plan, which looks and sounds like a great idea, is acceptable to all Councillors and they are allowed to begin construction.

Here on the south side our population growth has not only resulted in much higher numbers of families, but also higher numbers of older men and women. This, coupled with the fact that the recent and current wars feature many Australians, means that the group is also growing much larger and with a recruitment drive about to begin they are expecting to assist huge numbers of former and current Diggers in numerous ways. Any organisation that supports members of our community needs to be supported by the entire community when there is a need. Whenever you see them out the front of Piccone's selling raffle tickets, buy a few. When the building goes up early next year you will know that you helped build it.


Today, Wednesday 13th, sees the results for the Sugarworld consultation being voted on by Council. This will hopefully see all Councillors vote for the preferred option which was fairly obviously going to be Option 2. A concern has been raised that the final paper presented on the consultation tells a few whoppers in regard to costing of the project and it is hoped that all Councillors will have done a bit of their own homework on this one so it is not lost in translation.

Without adjusting Option 2 in any way, the cost in total should come out at just under the $4 million allocated. This means that the time frame for tendering and construction should not need any alterations and it can all proceed as quickly as possible.

While it may feel to some like Sugarworld slides are progressing at a snails pace, it should be acknowledged that the community, with the help of several of it's most vocal members, have ensured that this issue stays a priority with Council and without their stance, this may well have stalled.


Road upgrades have occurred near Coles in Edmonton that initially seemed quite badly done, within a few days of completion and after much heavy rain, the section that was widened was full of potholes. One letter to the Council CEO from an outspoken resident and this morning, I drove down a (very) recently re-covered section of road that was nicely laid. Hopefully it stays that way.


The residents of Friendship Street are putting their foot down, figuratively speaking, and after my walk down their street where every resident had an issue with the bad 'hooning' problem in the street, they have decided to approach the Council via e-mail to see if something can be done about the problem. The small street is the best avenue for use by those wishing to avoid the lights at Roberts Road and cars scream down it every day. Most of the residents in this street have children and none will let them play outside, just because they fear they will be hit by an out of control car. At the corner of Friendship and McLaughlan, if you look closely you will see the house facing both streets has several new fence panels. This is the result of cars losing control and hitting the fence, knocking it down. Thankfully there have been no serious injuries as a result but there must be some way to alleviate the problem, for motorists and residents alike.


Further investigation by the second street in my walks has led to them discovering that part of the CEC asset sale they rushed through to stay afloat was to the State Government. This is the reason for the sudden rise in Public Housing in this area. The State Government needs to look more closely at how dense this population is, and perhaps sell some of the homes and buy more elsewhere.


All of the issues, resolutions, decisions, actions above are a direct result of Community involvement by residents who have a common goal. Some of these perhaps needed the help to get them started on the right path, others were lucky to know someone vocal in the area and some just took it upon themselves to get the job done. It doesn't matter how you become involved, how much time you give or how dedicated you are to the cause. Working together as a community is the best way to affect change and it's extremely heartening to know that there are plenty of people getting together and doing something positive for those around them. You just need to get out there, talk to your neighbours and get busy. Off you go, no time like the present.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The trial begins.

Today at the courthouse in Cairns there will be three very different groups of people, two vying for media attention, one hoping nobody will notice them. All of these groups believe they are justified in their stance and none will move until the trial is over.

The issue? Abortion.

The first group will be the accused and her family. She used a drug that her boyfriend imported for her and gave herself an abortion. She did not suffer any ill effects but was charged under Queensland law as here, in this state, procuring an abortion is illegal. She is the woman that has garnered attention world-wide as this pre-historic law (I should just say antiquated but it doesn't seem strong enough) is put to the test.

The second group will be the members and other interested persons representing Pro Choice. An organisation committed to raising awareness of the issue and getting the Queensland Government to remove the law from the criminal code. These people are holding a vigil at the courthouse until this trial is over. They believe very strongly that abortion should be a woman's right to choose.

Lastly, we will have a dedicated group of people representing Right to Life. These are just as passionate but for very different reasons. They are passionate about not just leaving the law as it stands, but ensuring no woman can procure an abortion anywhere in the world. They stand strongly by their conviction that abortion is killing an unborn child.

Amongst all of this chaos will be the media that will stand by just waiting for one of the Pro Choice supporters to attack a Right to Life representative, or vice versa. Their interest is not really in the trial, although I am sure it will be reported vigilantly, but in the fact that this issue is a polarising one and has always been shrouded in controversy.

I hope that through all of this, nobody forgets that there is a young lady at the centre of the whole proceeding who is facing charges, therefore possible jail time, or a very large fine. She is the one who is really making a stand, she did so many months ago when she asked her boyfriend for help. He has stood beside her in support all of this time and should be recognised for that.

Here is a prime example of why this law should be removed from our criminal code. Forget for a moment what you personally think of abortion. Forget about putting yourself in her position, or his, and think instead of what THEY did. Now imagine that the law was even stronger, as the Right to Life organisation would prefer. Do you imagine for even a moment that this couple would NOT have made this same decision anyway? They more than likely would have. As many couples and woman, always have.

Abortion is not a procedure that has only existed as long as the law has allowed it. It was illegal for many decades prior to that. In the days of truly illegal abortion, many women died, and countless others were injured permanently, procuring illegal abortions. Regressing the law will only take us back to that time in our past and women the world over deserve better than that.

Legalising it properly does not mean that the whole country agrees it is a morally acceptable choice, only that we all believe that women should be protected and as safe as we can possibly make them. That is the very least of what we should do and I still can't believe that our Government, here in the Smart State, is backing away from making this decision. This is not a decision about whether or not women should have the right to make this choice.....whatever is decided, women will continue to choose abortion anyway. This is about removing the potentially harmful side-effects of that choice.

Over the next few days or weeks, as this trial continues, please write a letter of support for this couple and send it to your local MP, e-mail them or give them a call. Let them know that we all want women to be safe and we all want women protected by the law. I have.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I have a dream - and it's a big one!

What is Culture?

Culture entails so many different aspects of our daily lives it is almost impossible to pigeon-hole or place into a box. Food, wine, conversation, interactions, music, art, performance, sport, fishing, Ancestors, blood lines, traditions, laws, speech......all of these things form part of our culture. To call a Precinct a cultural one without meeting the needs of all of these is perhaps stating an untruth. I have a large concern about the Cultural Precinct that is one I know others share and is not really being addressed, partly because it's in the early stages of conceptual design, and partly because most people are so caught up in the idea, they are not thinking about the small parts of the plan.

You all know that I am very much in favour of having a Cultural Precinct in Cairns. I feel it is necessary, and will continue to state that until it is completed.

My concern is not with cost either, as far as I can tell, no costing can truly occur until designs are produced and we are a little way off that at this point. It would also be stupid to consider building a facility on a smaller budget if it meant that the whole project would be second class and not sufficient to our needs.

My issue is not that rates will be far as I can tell, that is not the case. Val stated earlier in the week that 'there would be no significant rate rise as a result of the Cultural Precinct'. Not too sure if there will be an 'insignificant' one instead, but I am very happy with her statement, particularly after she also said she was regretful of her speech guaranteeing no rate rises before the last election. This indicates to me that she is now much more hesitant to guarantee, or state anything regarding rates unless she was almost positive it was truthful. There are always going to be occasions where circumstances are out of the control of the Council in these matters, but I think it's believable that rates will be largely unaffected by the Precinct.

My concern is centred around what will be included in the Precinct. The atmosphere of the place and the surrounding area. We all know that the main building will house adequate space for large scale conferences, performances and will have the capacity to be adjusted to suit the needs of small scale events. That's great news because this aspect is the most important and will be the most used part of the precinct. I have heard people say that this is a minority issue as most people do not go to the ballet or the theatre. Rubbish! Plenty of people go to the theatre but that is not the full scale of what this project will facilitate. Plenty of others will watch comedy shows, lots will see school productions and awards nights, still others will go to see their favourite band and when collated, this issue becomes one for the majority.

But what about the outer area? What about the proposed retail and restaurant outlets? This is the part of the plan that concerns me. We have so many empty shopfronts and boarded up restaurants in the city, do we really need to add to the problem? Will we end up with a bright, shiny Precinct with more gloss than personality? Where we have an entire area aesthetically more suitable to Palm Cove than our waterfront near the mangroves? Where people visit for the status that being seen there will provide, talk is centred around fashion and golf, it costs 6 dollars for a latte and the price of a meal is outrageous? God, I sincerely hope NOT!

I have a dream....and it will probably stay a dream....where we have a Cultural Precinct that has space for different cultures of our region to meet and share. Where we have four 'eateries', one that specialises in Australian food, one fabulous pie shop, one cafe with coffee from Mareeba and one cake shop/ deli supplied by Mungalli Creek, Gallo's cheese and chocolate factory and Vannela's. A place that has spaces for rent/hire for musicians to use as a studio, for workshops, for artist studios etc.... The garden 'ring' that I mentioned in a previous post, with seating in a round, that could be used for demonstrations, meetings, gatherings, an open air poets corner, whatever is required. When boats dock nearby from somewhere far away, we could let some of the local businesses know and places like Tjapukai could send someone to run a bush food demonstration from the site, while encouraging visitors to explore our region. Buskers throughout the area during festivals and celebrations and the occasional market with ONLY locally handcrafted products on sale.

This should be a Precinct for the whole of Cairns and all of it's differing 'cultures'. It should be a place that is unlike any other simply because it's ours and it's about us. People from all over the world who visit should come away from the area with a better understanding of what it is to be from Tropical North Queensland and should see the pride we have in who we are.

We could run documentaries from one space allowing all locals and visitors alike to learn more about our region, our country and our world. It should be a place for learning, interacting, sharing and most importantly, a showcase of our talent.

So, it remains a dream of mine. Maybe it will always be just a dream. Perhaps the choice of what this Precinct entails was made long before my dream began and it's even possible that it is not shared by the majority of the population. I really do hope though, that when my children are grown I can say to them, "See that Cultural Precinct we have in the city? I wanted that and I am so glad I voiced my opinion back then because it's one of the most wonderful things we have achieved in my lifetime."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Berrima Street - Wk 3 Polling the Neighbourhood.

Well, it's that time again folks (actually, that time was yesterday but I got distracted by the Commonwealth Games and couldn't look away!) and the results from this week are again surprising.

After looking again at the map to make sure I was headed in the right direction I realised that I was following an unusual pattern, completely by accident. I have chosen Friendship Street, which is in Bentley Park, followed by Miltonia Street, Which is in Edmonton and this week went to Berrima Street, which is in Mt Sheridan. Three streets, three different suburbs, all in the same Division. I suppose it just gives another example of how each Division in the Cairns Region covers plenty of space but also, a huge variety of wants and needs.

The Southern Corridor is the fastest growing one in the region and the population already out here has surpassed most other areas. This means that the demographics can't be pigeon-holed. Residents come from all manner of backgrounds, have young children, older children, no children, are single, married, elderly......making the old saying 'you can't please all the people all the time' even more appropriate here.

The residents of this street reiterated again that the cost of the Precinct is too high. All felt that more should be done on basic amenities, roads, footpaths etc...before it is entertained as a necessary project. The feeling here was that the city was not grubby, but stale, which again mirrors most other opinions. Having too many empty shops and restaurants which was another real concern. How can we expect to fill retail outlets and restaurant space at the Precinct if we have so many empty ones NOW?

Yesterday online, I went onto the chat with Val that The Cairns Post do every Monday in a varied form. Someone raised the point that the Precinct should have spaces for studios which artists and musicians could access. They could also have spaces available for hire if groups or individuals want to hold workshops. It seemed to me that this idea is a fantastic one and the small charge for using the spaces could generate close to the same amount of money that the Council are expecting from the leasing of the retail outlets, negating the need for them. I sincerely hope they actually look into it as a real alternative.

The sporting stadium was not wanted in this street. The residents mostly want Barlow Park upgraded, with better parking facilities, more toilets and a better run bar (apparently they run out of drinks fairly frequently.). They also hope that if the money is spent on Cazaly's instead, something is done about the poor parking there. They feel it should be mandatory for the venue to hire security for the carpark area during large sporting events to ensure that patrons do not use the Spotlight/Doctors carpark and there is less anger in the parking area. Perhaps buses could also be more adequately used as they are in larger cities when there is a big crowd expected.

Again, no one knew who the Councillor is for their area. What is surprising though, is that they all knew (and most from the other weeks do too) that Rob Pyne is the Councillor for the next Division. That kind of takes the theory that Councillors are not visible in general out of the picture doesn't it.

In this street, several of those questioned are Nurses. Some work on a casual basis, some full time. Many felt that the Council was letting them down by not providing better public transport options for shift workers. Starting at 6 am at the hospital means that there are no buses you could catch and if you are a casual worker, you often get called in only 1-2 hours before the start of a shift but because our buses out here only run every hour, they are not an option. Nursing is a fairly common occupation in the Southern Corridor and it concerns me that with the high reliance on tourism and hospitality we also have in Cairns, we are not helping to get the staff where they need to be, on time. They explained to me that these workers always travel alone, so if you would like to get those single person vehicles off the road, make public transport run every half hour and from 5 am.

Not one single resident had voted for any of the Sugarworld Options. These people live the furthest away from the facility and I think they just believe that all of the people living closer to it will be their voices. Interesting theory, but I am not sure how effective it will be. On October 13th, the Council will release an update on the slides so I guess we will find out then.

Well folks, another week, another street. This one with different issues but no less relevant. As for the $50 question? Half of this street would be using it for bills and the other half for favourite answer of the week came from one couple who loudly proclaimed they would buy Lamb Cutlets!! Anyone with a family who has entertained the thought of purchasing lamb in the past two years would know that it is outside the reach of most, much like local fish, and would understand their adamant response.

Thankyou to the residents of Berrima Street, again a friendly crowd, this one with doors open and some outside with beers in hand talking about the footy results with neighbours. This street had the highest percentage of boats per resident that I have ever seen which says to me that they all love to spend time fulfilling recreational pursuits, probably why most don't need the city and it's restaurants for some fun. I kid you not, there was one boat for every two houses. Not big boats, but well maintained and gleaming.

Next week I will find out what the residents of Meranti Street have to say about the area they live in and the wider community. Until then, watch some Games coverage, buy some lamb and find a good day, today looks great, and go fishing!!