Accessibility in Urban Planning

When I first arrived in Brisbane for a work trip, I was impressed to see braille on every major street sign. Sydney has many such signs; Melbourne and other cities have fewer or none.

On my second day in Brisbane, I came across an elderly woman who said the lift to cross this major bridge was broken and she was braving up the stairs to get to her bus stop. I asked if she wanted help but she said “I can do this. I’ll just go slow.” She said she couldn’t believe the lift had not been looked into. Many other people were struggling without the lift.

Brisbane is not alone here;

I travel a lot around Australia and few major cities are planned around accessibility, despite our diverse needs as a society, and in spite of the fact that our population is ageing rapidly. This is as much an issue of urban planning as it is about equity and social inclusion. A ripe area for applied sociology to make a useful contribution.

[Photo 1: street sign at night with braille reads “George Street to Brisbane Square. Photo 2: Aerial view of busy Brisbane road.]

Kamilaroi Ancestors Repatriated

Ancestors have to go back and be placed in the land, their mother, the earth, and that’s all Aboriginal people want.

– Head of the Kamilaroi Land Trust and veteran repatriation campaigner Bob Weatherall.

The remains of 26 Kamilaroi ancestors have been returned to their descendants in Brisbane. It’s estimated that thousands of remains of Indigenous Australians are held by institutions in Australia and around the world. Indigenous activists work tirelessly to recover their bodies.

Source: SBS News.

Sociology of Class and Australian Politics

I’ve been reflecting on some of Australia’s political uproars from last year. This one comes to mind because it makes explicit Australia’s enduring class struggle for power. The Palmer United Party became embroiled in a derogatory exchange about Australian voters who are supposedly “bogans.” An email was leaked where Dr Alex Douglas (former MD), a Queensland MP in the Palmer United Party, calls Australian voters “bogans” who live “empty lives” and survive on a “diet of grease.” He also says of bogans: this is a “world we see daily and quietly hope will disappear.” These words exemplify class derision. Bogan is a colloquial term used on working class and rural Australians who are seen to be uncouth or poorly educated. Continue reading Sociology of Class and Australian Politics

Dehumanising LGBTQIA Marriage Rights

A protester yells “We’re not fucking animals,” reacting to the news that civil unions between gay and lesbian Australians in the state of Queensland will now be known as “registered relationships,” and same sex couples have lost the right to surrogacy laws. Moments before this protester’s outburst in the Parliament session, Queensland Minister Michael Crandon said:

“The opportunity [has] now to come to a court and to register, if you like, their interest in one another…” [my emphasis].

The language is dehumanising – gay and lesbian Australians can “register their interest in one another” but the state will not recognise this “interest” as a full partnership worthy of the same legal rights and status as heterosexual couples.

The recently elected Liberal National Party Government is changing the law introduced last year by the former Labor government, which had finally allowed gay and lesbian relationships to be legally recognised as a civil union. This was seen as a positive step towards the legal recognition of marriages between homosexual and queer Australians. In a further legal blow to gay and lesbian citizens, their “registered partnerships” will not be allowed legal access to altruistic surrogacy (along with short-term de facto couples and single people). These are very dangerous times when Christian lobbying forces the Queensland government to withdraw the legal rights of Australians. To top it all off, it is still legal in Queensland to kill a gay or lesbian person and use the “gay panic” defence. That is, a murderer can argue that they reacted in violence because they were overwhelmed that a homosexual person flirted with them. Disgusting!

If you are in Queensland, go here to sign the e-petition to urge the Queensland government to end discrimination in surrogacy laws. Go here to sign the e-petition to urge the Queensland government to protect civil marriages and equal rights of gay and lesbian Australians.