Letters from Rockhampton

22 Buckle St

Park Avenue


Hi folks, I’m at my temporary activist spot in Rockhampton.  I think of it as Franz Jaegerstaetter House.  Franz Jaegerstaetter refused the Nazi draft in Austria in 1943 and was executed for doing so.  He has been beatified by the Catholic Church.

For me the name is also part of the “Jaegerstaetter 3”, an affinity group I was part of during Talisman Sabre 09.  Jim Dowling, Culley Palmer, and I trespassed into the military training area.  After three days I briefly interrupted an armoured column on the East West road and was removed, while Jim and Culley went on to explore and enter the live-firing area that was our intended target.

I drove to Rockhampton from Cairns last Friday morning with my misanthrope mate Mad Mike from the mountains.  We took our time, arrived just after dark Saturday, and unpacked the trailer load of stuff I brought with me.  A bed, some computers, some display items and some campaign tools.

I really enjoyed the road trip. 1200 kilometres through various bits of coastal Queensland, and everywhere the sign of Big Weather.  Around Tully the rainforest battered by cyclone Yasi. The Marlborough stretch was lush green after extensive flooding through Queensland in January.  I’ve seen the forest battered before, but I’ve never seen that dusty brown country looking so good.

I thought about Sean O’Reilly and the Pine Gap action, and his take on the significance of long journeys through the Australian landscape.  Sean thinks it’s a fundamental part of the Australian spiritual/activist experience.  I’ve crossed the Marlborough stretch many times over 50 years, and I’ve never seen it look so good as it does now.

To Rockhampton.  City of Lions.  (An old-fashioned human town, with a corporate consumerist presence)

Rockhampton’s a funny place.  Familiar to my childhood, it’s a heavy dose of country white Australia.  Laconic Anglos roam the streets of an old-fashioned CBD, complete with heritage buildings.  In the older parts of town the working class suburbs are genteelly run-down, yet the people have pride.  My house is near the railway line, near what once was the “main street” of Park Avenue (at its seedier end) on the north side of the river.

The corporate consumer world exists here, but it’s differently distributed from Cairns.  There’s more room to spread out in, so the organs of corporate consumption are concentrated a few kilometres north of town in a “Stocklands” shopping mall of truly horrendous proportions.  I’m a kilometre from Stockland, and maybe two from the old CBD which lies on the river.  There’s a Sunbus service, and a train line that doesn’t carry local passengers anymore but seems very busy with freight.

There are two bridges over the Fitzroy River.  The newer one is the Bruce Highway, and it’s possible to drive right through Rockhampton seeing little else but the corporate logos of travel and consumption.  The other bridge is the old highway, and you can still travels north for a kilometre or so, along Musgrave Street, through the hardware and post-office district before it merges with the Bruce, at Stockland, and you go on to the University suburbs or to Yeppoon and the Keppell  Islands.

I’ve been settling in, finding my way around.  I’m reliant on the red tricycle for transport, and have been enjoying daily rides of around five kilometres as I get a sense of life in this regional centre, like and unlike Cairns.  It’s a bit colder here.