Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - It may be over but it will never be forgotten.

Well, the time is almost here when we say goodbye to another year. How will 2011 be remembered?

As the year of disaster for Australia? With bushfires, floods and Yasi? Where people lost everything in a catastrophic turn of events that had the world enthralled and the nation on edge. Perfect strangers became friends and helping hands came from the most unlikely places. Where Anna Bligh became the symbol of Queensland, and for once we liked it, and pictures of Kevin Rudd lugging furniture through floodwaters remain indelibly etched in our minds.

Toowoomba faced a wall of water or ‘inland tsunami’ head-on and the horror we witnessed still makes for powerful memories. Entire communities underwater for weeks, food and supplies needing to be flown in and livelihoods ruined. Vision of Tully Heads, Cardwell, Dunk Island and Mission Beach minus roads, trees and buildings. Homes without furniture as it all washed out the back door in the storm surges. Boats piled high in the inlet at Cardwell. The fear that gripped us all as Yasi neared the Coast, a massive spiralling ball of chaos.

The entire country dug deep and helped ease the way forward for those who lost property but the loss of life in the floods and the life lost in Yasi was something that will never be forgotten, nor could it be compensated for.

Will this be the year remembered for its world news? The uprising of the oppressed the world over saw leaders toppled, throngs of protesters dancing in the streets and hope renew itself. It began with tear gas, bullets fired into crowds, family homes and businesses set alight and still they kept coming, an endless stream of protest and anger, until there were no options but to give the people what they wanted. Social media came to the fore, being credited with creating unity and organisation which allowed for a streamlined, relentless attack.

For the Occupy Movement, this has also been the gauge by which they are running their own campaigns. Beginning in a country which has unemployment as high as 20% in some areas and has suffered more than most from the affects of the GFC, the Movement has spread. It is fading from view somewhat, as the goal is not as defined, but I have no doubt that 2012 will bring about a renewed vigour in the cause. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

New Zealand and Japan suffered as the ground shook under their feet and lives and property were swallowed up. New Zealand lost historical buildings, entire suburbs and still continues to hold its breath each day as the ground continues to rumble. 181 men, women and children lost their lives in February, the largest disaster in human terms in New Zealand’s history. Australian’s, still feeling fragile and right in the middle of it’s own disaster ridden summer, still managed to dig a little deeper and contribute to funds allocated for the re-build of the city. It wasn’t enough, but it never is.

In Japan the earthquake itself affected only a small number of buildings. It was the resulting tsunami which caused us all to hang on to the edge of our seats at home as we watched the skyscraper of water approach, then swallow, huge swathes of landscape. The buildings can be re-built, the businesses can be reinvigorated in time. 15’844 people lost their lives. They cannot be replaced. The effect on the nuclear power stations along that section of coastline was also catastrophic. Renewing debate the world over on the safety of nuclear energy, this event has been linked to Russia’s decision to scale back it’s reliance on nuclear power.

Speaking of power, all over the world countries began the process of putting a price on carbon, taxing big polluters and investing heavily in renewable energy. As the world began to understand the full implications of global warming (or if you are a non-believer; the need to release ourselves from our reliance on coal based power) it became apparent that big changes were needed for future generations to enjoy liveable conditions on our planet.

A young girl and her right to privacy after she had lost her life became big news in the UK, with the phone hacking scandal making front page headlines in every developed country. The new age of technology has created a need to revisit and clean up existing laws so that news services can not be allowed to do this again. It started with one small child, and ended with an embarrassing few weeks for the Murdoch family, the end of an era with the News Of The World closing down and several celebrities joining the call to put a halt to the practice.

In Africa a famine was declared. The international community was slow to react, many believing it was a continuation of previous famines and unsure whether help could make any difference. It soon became clear that this was a whole new type of emergency. Somali's lining up in their thousands for shelter and scraps of food. Of proportions hard to fathom, finally we started to respond to the cries for help and money and aid trickled in. More is desperately needed though and this will continue into next year and possibly another few years after that.

Closer to home, ‘boat people’ continued to remain a hot topic. An SBS documentary on the subject ‘Go back to where you came from…’ received accolades and criticism, our politicians tried to outdo each other in finding a ‘solution’ to what is seen as a very big problem and online forums and newspaper opinion pieces kept the debate alive. Meanwhile, it was revealed that while less than 4’000 people arrived in Australia by boat this year, more than 55’000 have overstayed their Visas after arriving by plane. Next year we may be processing asylum seekers in Nauru, or Malaysia, or East Timor…..but it is almost guaranteed that it will not be on our shores.

Same sex marriage became a huge topic for discussion all over the country. Religious groups began organising protests and picketing politicians as it became clearer that support for a change had grown. Recently, Queensland made available Civil Unions to those wishing to utilise them and the ALP has passed a recommendation that Same Sex Marriage become part of Party Platform. They also chose not to stand behind this new policy as a party and have decided instead to allow a conscience vote when the Bill is tabled early in the new year. This means it is highly unlikely to pass.

In Cairns, we enjoyed robust debate and community events centred around the need for a replacement for our aging theatre. The proposal for a CEP was met with distaste and joy in equal measure and it was only through the ongoing support of several Councillors and huge allocations of funding from other tiers of Government that it finally got the ok. Work will commence in 2012 on what will be the biggest piece of infrastructure this region has seen.

While our city was focussed on this, not many noticed that the flood mitigation work was completed in the city area, making Lake Street in particular better able to cope with our wet season. The hillslopes of our region were further protected over several Council meetings and developers will now have limited options when going ‘up’. As our mountains are iconic and the perfect frame for the city, this has been acknowledged as a very important step for Cairns.

In the South Side, K-Mart had a win and building began on the redevelopment and expansion of Mt Sheridan Plaza, much to the delight of sitting Councillor Rob Pyne and the many residents of the immediate area. Fretwell Park was successful in its application to increase its poker machine allocation, paving the way for an expansion that will feature a number of sporting and eating options.

The Edmonton Town Centre went back to the drawing board as the State Government impinged on its plans by compulsorily acquiring land for its future health facility. By the end of the year, it has been re-worked and recently passed its changes through Council Chambers. This means that Logomier Road can finally be completed.

The GP SuperClinic site sat idle all year with residents still clueless as to what will happen next. Sugarworld got it’s much needed re-fit. New slides for all to enjoy, opening just in time for Christmas. A lack of proper shade is still a problem and the car park requires some to walk a few extra metres but the crowds are enjoying themselves and those other tweaks can be easily fixed.

Curtis Pitt nagged his Government and managed to get funding to widen Wrights Creek Bridge, a much maligned section of road which has taken lives and injured many over the past decade. Work will begin on this in 2012. Work also began on the new highway upgrade, starting at the beginning of Ray Jones Drive. It’s a long way off but at least it’s begun.

Lastly, the Edmonton Leisure Centre. It was on again, off again and thanks to a significant donation from Dubai, it’s on again. Ian Lowth from Cairns Regional Council has promised consultation with all sporting groups (including baseball) and the final design should be ready in the first half of 2012.

Well, there you have it. 2011 in essay form. This year has been a tumultuous year. The ups and downs….and ups and downs, have made it a year for change. It was the year where people began to look outside their homes, toward their neighbours, and realise that there was more to life than what happened within their own 4 walls. It was the year we were tested, found to be strong, then tested again. It shook us up, flipped us on our heads and left us wondering whether we have any control over our lives at all. It was the year that we learnt not to sweat the small stuff, as the big stuff is much more important and needs our attention now.

It will go down (for me at least) as the year I began to realise that the best way to affect change is to be part of the solution.

In 2012 my life will be altered significantly as I am running for Council. I have no crystal ball so I don’t know what the outcome will be in March. What I do know is that my community is ready for things to kick up a gear and really start happening and I want to be part of that. Win, lose or draw…..(well, there is no draw option actually) it’s sure to be one hell of a ride.

To my readers, loyal and occasional, I wish you all the best for 2012. I’ve enjoyed the wild ride that was 2011 but I’m sure, like me, you are all ready and eager for a new year to begin. Bring it on!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, a comprehensive summary. Will link to my blog post once my wireless sorted. And great, your running for council, Reuse and Recycle, Cairns will be emailing you to ask for support on projects ~:-). Happy new year!