Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dispatch from Queensland

Bond University, Robina, Queensland
The blog posts are piling up like jets on a crowded runway, but I haven't been able to carve out the time to send them aloft. It’s been a busy week, lecturing to the criminology and psychology departments at Bond University on Australia's Gold Coast and then giving a training to the College of Forensic Psychologists of the Australian Psychological Society.

The wily kookaburra
Bond is a gorgeous place, designed by an eminent architect in Japan and opened 24 years ago as Australia’s first private university. It caters to a wide range of domestic and international students. The criminology master's program, for example, has students from as far away as Canada, the United States, Iceland and even Grenada.

A fellow tourist captures gorgeous Gold Coast shoreline
The faculty's interests are equally diverse. Raoul Mortley, the Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, who invited me over as a visiting research scholar, is a scholar of philosophy and the history of ideas. Criminologist Robyn Lincoln, my generous host, has done a slew of fascinating research, including on aboriginals in the criminal justice system, the naming and shaming of juvenile offenders, and wrongful convictions. Currently, she and her students are out riding public buses as part of a research project looking at risks faced by bus drivers. Rebekah Doley, the forensic psychologist who supervises the master’s level psychology students and who graciously organized my career talk to students, and her colleague Kate Fritzon, meanwhile, have launched a pioneering, international institute for the study of arson.

View from Elephant Rock, Carrumba (photo credit: R. Doley)
As during my first trip to Queensland, two years ago for a national forensic psychology conference, I find the country a breath of fresh air – both literally and figuratively. The staff and students at Bond are well informed on local and international issues, and are keen to discuss critical perspectives on the field. (After Americans, Australians form my next-largest subscriber base.)

The infrastructure is so much healthier than in my homeland, with its crippling debt, astronomical incarceration rates, tightening police state apparatus, and legions of homeless roaming the streets. Everything's not perfect; aboriginal incarceration rates are 15 times higher than those of other Australians. (One in every four prisoners here is aboriginal, although aboriginals are only about 2 percent of the population.) But in general, the social safety net is much more solid. Australians find it mind-boggling to hear of an advanced nation without universal health care. Service workers are paid a living wage, so they need not grovel for tips. And I've only seen two presumably homeless people so far, and I've been keeping my eyes peeled.

Lifeguards in training, Broadbeach
It hasn't been all work. As you can see from the photos, I’ve squeezed in a bit of sightseeing and nature viewing. I cycled from my hotel along the Gold Coast to Burleigh Heads one day; another day, Robyn took me into the Hinterlands, to explore a rainforest. (Hence, the kookaburra, who is a consummate thief; just minutes after I got close enough to take this photo, the bird snatched a sandwich from the hands of an unwary little girl.) Watching for migrating humpback whales from my apartment's balcony has also taken up a good deal of my down time.
Sunrise from my apartment

Next up: Honolulu. It’s a rough life.

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