Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why I am really falling in love with Melbourne/Australia - Part Two

Ok, so my first post on Melbourne didn't nearly do it justice. As I have spent more time here, the reasons why I am enamored with this city are growing and growing. Here goes:

- Universal health insurance: The population's health needs are just taken care of. Done and done. And when a woman has a child, they have this cool system here of all sorts of supports including "mother's groups" which are run by maternal health nurses. They provide a forum for new mothers to get together, get out of the house and talk to each other about issues/fears/problems they are having as new moms and usually these groups flourish into strong friendships that last a lifetime.

- Retirement (superannuation): It is mandatory for every employer to pay 9% of an employee's salary (this is in addition to their salary) into a retirement fund. This includes all employees, even waitresses, etc. There are some contentions with it because it cannot be accessed until the individual is 65 - and there are different life expectancies for non-Aboriginal vs. Aboriginal populations, but nevertheless, that all employers put this money aside for all working individuals seems pretty cool.

- Public housing: Public housing usually consists of tall towers of apartments. They are purposely placed all around the city to have one in almost every neighborhood to prevent the development of ghettos. This provides residents of public housing to have access to nice parks and other amenities that wealthier individuals do, and the diversification of neighborhoods.

-Voting: Voting is mandatory. You can choose to select "none of the above" in any election, but you must vote. It is supposed to help reduce apathy when it comes to national issues. I think this makes sense.

- This next point is hard to describe. Please understand my observations are entirely subjective, and are based on hanging out in specific regions of the city and interacting with a small sect of the population for one week. Regardless, I feel like there is a lack of a general neuroses in Australians. And by that I mean, I feel like they are quite comfortable with themselves/self-assured, accept others readily, judge others less, are less pretentious, and express themselves more open and freely because of this. I feel like there aren't often hidden agendas, or lots of defenses when you speak to them. They are warm and open and real. There is a sort of lack of fear... All of this combines to create this absence of the sort of American "neurosis" that I am used to, that I also possess ands that I would like to work to reduce.

I wonder if there is a sense of peace and acceptance in a society where financially everyone is taking care of each other (i.e. the higher taxes cover the needs of everyone). In this state, there is less fear of suffering (everyone can go to the doctor when sick, most everyone has food, shelter, etc.) and maybe that also translates to a comfort with one's self. If a culture is in essence "all in it together" maybe that creates less factions, less judgement, less greed, less hate.... Am I scaring you with my socialist speak? Hah! I have been thinking a lot about this, I wonder if I am on to something here.

-Culture: The arts are a fundamental part of this society. They are valued and respected and available to all. There are lots of free festivals and shows and opportunities to see a wealth of creative passions. The musicians I have seen already at open mics, festivals, shows, etc. have already blown me away with their immense talent. I know that that is a result of being in a large city, but still, I can't help but wonder if again this is a result of the society design.

Brian and I had to attend a training to receive our busking permit for Mebourne. the meeting was packed and we learned what regions were permitted and the rules of busking. It is actually a person's job to coordinate street performers. Um, that is cool. There are over 1400 licensed buskers in Melbourne alone. We have seen many very talented ones and are still trying to find our place in the city. Here is a lovely place we played the other day along the river.


  1. Great post, Katie. You see, IMHO, we in the US are too busy spending billions of dollars on war and patting ourselves on the back for being the best of everything in the world. Very sad indeed.

  2. Ditto (what Jerry said). Americans have their priorities ALL wrong. We should learn from the Australians but I'm afraid we never will...
    Thanks for posts Katie. I am enjoying your trip.