May 22

Today our group went on a journey across Canberra, the Nation’s capital. We had a late start compared to the usual, heading to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) at 9 am. In brief, AIS is where all Australia’s elite athletes come to train. The idea for AIS came about after a poor showing at the 1976 Olympics. Australia realized it needed to do something to get their athletes into peek physical fitness, so they came up with the idea to build a place where all top athletes, male and female, could go to train with state of the art equipment, physical fitness experts, nutritionists and sports scientists.

When we got to AIS we met up with our tour guide Bronnie, an 18 year old soccer player who trained there. She seemed much older then 18 though, which is not surprising considering how much responsibility they are all given at such a young age. For instance, the gymnasts begin training at 9 years of age, which we saw first hand. It was pretty amazing seeing the gymnasts doing handstands on a balance beam for a minute straight, especially considering the fact they were all children. An interesting fact Bronnie told us is that women gymnasts perform at the highest level from ages 10-20 and men from ages 20-30. I was very surprised to find out that the athletes live in dorms across the street from the facilities, and generally their families move into the area, especially if they are very young. I just thought how hard it is for some college students to integrate into being away from your family for such long periods of time, I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be for children of 14 or 15 years of age. Most of the athletes there have 30 hours of training a week which would compare to the average school week, but then on top of that they have school themselves.

In Australia the country cares greatly about their sports, whether it be soccer, tennis, or cricket. This is why the institute offers scholarships to all athletes on all teams. They also offer scholarships to researchers in the field of sports science. The sports science is crucial part of training for the athletes for many reasons. When the athletes are training their every movement is monitored, and along with the scientist and their coaches they watch the tapes of themselves to learn how to improve every aspect of their game. One of my favorite parts of the Sports science part is the altitude house which is used to help athletes boost their endurance so they can perform at higher levels for longer.

At the very end to visiting AIS we went into a virtual reality sports room that had rock climbing, biking simulation, basketball, penalty kicks, and even a pull up bar, which I definitely hung onto for 53 seconds. The virtual reality brought out the competitiveness in some of the people including myself on the pull-up bar. It was definitely a lot of fun.

Now to tie AIS to the theme of the trip, sustainability. One of the main things I noticed that ties to our trip is the sustainability of the dorm rooms. Having the athletes live directly across the street saves so much money from not having to commute to get there everyday, because between the 26 teams that train there, that would be a lot of money and energy and is ultimately more sustainable. Another important part of AIS is the social equity, not only between men and women, but between the handicapped athletes that train there and the non-handicapped. There are many handicapped sports that train there such as the paraplegic basketball team. The handicapped athletes receive all the state of the art training and opportunities that the non-handicap receive. Another part of AIS that I noticed was sustainable was the fact that they reuse the original AIS stadium for concerts, wedding ceremonies, graduations and dinners.

After going to AIS our day had just begun, we were then on our way to the Australian National Museum which is just an extraordinary building with many bright colors and it also happens to be located right on the water. The Museum focused on the Australian continent’s environment, the indigenous aborigines that originally inhabited Australia, and the settlers. Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world which is why we are here studying sustainability to begin with, but Australia’s problems over the years have not just been the water problem. Australia has a history that is strikingly similar to our own. The aborigines could easily be compared to our Native Americans. The English came in on their boats and basically decided the country was theirs for the taking and basically pushed the aborigines inland on their way in, whether they moved willingly or not they were going to move.

One of the problems with the Europeans coming was the effect of the native species of the . “As Europeans colonized Australia, native species began to vanish. While the extinction of the Tasmanian tiger became legend, many smaller animals and plants vanished unnoticed.” For instance the paradise parrot. In the 19th century, parrots were used as ornaments and cages, and eventually the parrots ran out and before anyone even noticed they were extinct. It just amazed me how little care for the land the Europeans had for the land when they came here. With the Europeans came rats. weeds and rabbits which were not native to the country. These are not necessarily always bad though, the rabbits made for a great catch for starving people who were not able to get food.

Australians, quite like Americans began to gain a sense of identity and were beginning to get sick of seeing England everywhere coming toward the end of the 19th century, and in 1988 they had their own national flowers the wattle and waratah. Since I have been in Australia, it has amazed me how consciences the country as a whole is about saving water. We have all seen many examples in the everyday life of how the Australians save water, but one I have one example I would have never known if it was not for the museum. There was an exhibit that just showed wheat and I was thinking wow that looks pointless and was not even going to look at it, then one of the girls was talking about it to someone else so I thought I would go look myself. Over the years the wheat has been changed from the original wheat to a wheat that uses less water to grow and you are still getting just as good of a product, the only problem with it is farmers have to pay more to buy it.

When we left the Museum we headed to Regatta Point which was beautiful outside and inside was a scale model of the city of Canberra. The model showed us how the city was built and something I found interesting is there were no houses on the lake. The reason for that, Jim told us, was because the lake is for the public to enjoy, which is much different then America since we put plenty of houses on every lake because it is a huge money-maker. From Regatta Point we moved on up to Mount Ainslie where I saw one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen, we could see the entire city from there it was extraordinarily beautiful.

One of the quotes I took out of the museum was similar to what the farmer had said the day before. “As we walk across this country we each leave our mark in various ways.” When I read that it just made me think about the mark I am going to leave on our country and just the so many little things I can do to be more sustainable.

That was all for today but the trip has only just begun still which is crazy to me since it seems like in this last week I have done more then I have ever done in one weeks time. That could for sure have something to do with the fact that we get up at or before 7 practically every morning. All in all I had a terrific birthday.

Sean

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Responses

  1. I am learning so much about Australia and it’s history from all of your blogs. Great job and what a great way to spend your birthday

  2. Wow, this day sounded amazing and I wish would have been able to do this when we went. I really like the connection made between the Aborigines and Native Americans which I think is a topic that is always swept under the rug in America. Did you guys learn or talk at all about how the Australian government is acting towards the Aborigines today and how that might be different than how our government is treating the Native Americans?

    • Austin-
      We didn’t specifically talk about the comparison between Australian Aboriginals and Native Americans but there were a few comments made amoungst ourselves. I think that the Government here has done a lot more to acknowledge their natives and include them in modern day culture. Everywhere you go, you see aboriginal art and symbolism in their building design and decoration, as well as on the sides of buses. For example, in front of the New Parliment Building, there is decorated tile and a water feature to represent a meeting place around a water hole, like the aboriginals used to do. They also include a lot of aboriginal education in their school systems. America could do a lot better job of recognizing our past and the history between modern and native culture. One of the most obvious differences is the apology. Recently, the Australian Prime Minister made a formal apology to the indiginous people. It is just the first step but they seem to be trying to follow through.

  3. Sounds like you had a great time. And a wonderful Birthday. We learn alot just reading the blogs. Brian & Beverly

    • Sounds like you are having a great time. Learning and seeing so much,you guys are packing so much in to such a short time,that it seems you have been gone much longer then you have.The pictures look good.

  4. Hope you had a happy birthday! It really is amazing how water conscious Aussies are! Have you noticed any big differences in landscaping (residential or commercial) as opposed to what you see in the US? Think about how many meticulously cared-for lawns you see here-are Aussies as addicted to their lawns? What differences do they make in terms of landscaping?

    Great post!

  5. What do you guys think of Canberra being a planned city? Was the design effective, is it easy to get around by public transportation or bicycle?

  6. I thought the layout of Canberra was not only BEAUTIFUL but effective in regards to some examples of mixed land use design and our personal enjoyment. The lake runs through almost all of Canberra and has a sidewalk path surrounding the entire like, which is great for biking, walking, and running… which of course, reduces our carbon footprints! Canberra was much less congested than Sydney but did, however, have less convenient transportation systems… BUT we were within walking distance from grocery stores, restaurants, and shops. Canberra is a wonderful town and an excellent place to put Australia’s capital.

  7. I do agree with Anna that it is a beautiful city, however when I was looking at the model of the city I noticed they only had two bridges going across the lake and I felt they could have used one more because if one of the bridges was under construction it would cause a major traffic back up on the other bridge. Jim also pointed out how there were no houses on the water, and although that seemed great for the public I feel that putting a couple houses on the lake would be a good way to generate some money for the city.

  8. I do agree that Canberra is a beautiful city, and it’s great that they were able to plan it such that it organizes and spreads it all out such that it’s not to busy like Sydney or Adelaide. However unlike these cities, Canberra is much harder city to get around without using your car. If you were to live and work in the same area then it probably is easy to get around. But if you live in one area and work in another, then it becomes difficult and necessary to have a car to get around. Even still, there didn’t seem to much traffic. This would because they were able to plan the city in such a way to make it easy to drive and thus efficient.

  9. Canberra is a wonderful planned city but differs a lot from Washington, D.C. and I can honestly think of no other city to compare it to. Everyone is right in saying that car transportation is necessary since the city is spread out. Canberra is full of “trade offs” where the designers favored environmental friendliness and green space over economical motives. The parks have no lighting for citizens to use at night which adds an element of danger, even though it saves electricity. Also, like Sean said, untold revenue is lost by prohibiting water front development. It’s hard to decide at what point a trade off is beneficial or harmful. That being said, Canberra is still a young city being developed for the future.

  10. Adding to Andy’s and Sean’s comments I would like to say that I think that the city was planned wonderfully other than the transportation. Keeping from building houses on the water creates a sense of equality and also keeps a wonderful park that everyone can enjoy, not just a select few. The transportation on the other hand was lacking. Everything was spread over a large distant making walking and biking a hassle. I think an on road tram or better bus system would suit there needs and maybe some day a whole new subway system that would travel under the man made lake to the capital building.


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