February 25 – 27, 2014
By Jess Valeta
Now that we have all been living in Brisbane for almost 2 weeks with our host families, I am starting to get the hang of our new location. On Tuesday, the 25th, we had a political science lecture on the Australian government. It was interesting to compare the Australian prime minister to the American president. The Australian prime minister is not directly elected by the Australian people, but is instead a member of parliament and the leader of the political party with majority support in the House of Representatives. The PM can be removed from office at any point; he or she serves only as long as she is recognized as party leader. There are no fixed terms or term limits, but elections for government do happen at least once every 3 years, no matter what. If the PM’s party loses the majority of seats in the House of Representatives, the opposition leader becomes prime minister. Furthermore, the Australian prime minister is the head of government, but unlike in the United States, the executive is not the head of state. That role still belongs to the Queen of England and the governor-general whom she appoints to serve in her place. Like the United States, Australia has two main political parties: the Liberal Party is similar to our Republican Party, and the Labor Party is comparable to the Democratic Party.
After our lectures on government in Australia, we took a tour of Queensland’s Parliament House. Interestingly, it turned out that our tour guide studied abroad in Portland when he was younger, which was a nice coincidence. Our extremely friendly and talkative tour guide took us to some of the more important and historical rooms of the Parliament House. Despite having learned a little about the Australian government in class, the workings of the Australian government are still a bit of a confusing subject for me, not having grown up with it, so I have decided that it might be best to leave the Aussie politics to the locals.
|In the Chambers of the Upper House|
Tuesday was Sierra’s birthday, so we all met up in West End for some much-craved Mexican food. It was $3 taco night, which resulted in happiness and full bellies all around. Good Mexican food seems to be the one thing that I am constantly missing from back home. Unfortunately Australia is not the best destination for Mexican food, but I guess Australia has plenty of other things to offer that make up for this one downfall. We then made our way over to the Three Monkeys café, probably one of my favorite places in Brisbane, due to their amazingly scrumptious cakes. We then did a little bar hopping, and made our respective ways back to our homes.
Wednesday, the 26th, was a free/study day. Our project outlines were due, so I spent most of my day at the library. I’ve grown quite fond of the State Library of Queensland after the many hours I have been spending there. Our stay in Sydney seemed to have more time for exploring and going out, but here in Brisbane, the academics have picked up, and long days in the library have become a necessity. After I turned in my assignment, I went home for dinner, or “tea,” as my host dad calls it. My host parents then drove me up to Mt. Coot-tha, the highest point in Brisbane, with a beautiful view of the entire city.
|Brisbane City Lights from Mt. Coot-tha|
Our lectures on Thursday were super interesting; they focused on the youth of Australia, especially the homeless youth, and on gender. The gender lecture started with a video of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s speech on sexism and misogyny she delivered to the House of Representatives. We discussed Julia Gillard’s leadership and legacy, and the struggles she faced as the first female Prime Minister in Australia. I found Gillard to be an extremely eloquent and powerful speaker. She wasn’t afraid to address issues that weren’t usually brought up in parliament due to its history as a male dominated institution.
After lectures, I went over to the Streets Beach at South Bank. The “beach” is really a swimming pool in the middle of the city, but they import sand from the Gold Coast, and put it all around and in the pool to make it seem more beachy.
|Streets Beach at South Bank (Photo Courtesy of Lex Corwin)|
Overall I am enjoying my time in Brisbane, and can’t wait for even more adventures in these coming weeks. Cheers!