Tonight Anthony and I went to the Qld State Library for the South Pacific Soiree- or in layman’s terms: The World Press Freedom Day 2010 Cocktail Event. There were no cocktails, but that was not a problem. There were no other JScholars, and that is not necessarily a problem, but was a pity.
The invitation said casual dress, but Anthony and I turned up in our Sunday best. There were no bouncers or registration booths. In fact the only booth visible was one where a table of frosty beverages waited for us. Gulp!
Scanning the room I saw small groups of people talking. “Hey Anthony, they must be journalists.” He didn’t disagree. Scanning the room again I saw some framed cartoons. “Let’s have a look at the cartoons first Anthony.” I’m glad we did. I spotted a beauty of Kevin Rudd drawn to resemble Max from Where the Wild Things Are. He was saying something funny. “Let the carefully-calibrated deliberations of the non-predetermined programmatic specifics commence.” If I wasn’t a mere student, I would have put a bid on that one. Bidding started at $90, but proceeds went to a good cause- a fund to help Pacific journalists in dire circumstances. I thought that this particular cartoon would fetch the highest bid. I promised myself I’d check back later.
I spotted some Melanesian people walk in the door and my senses were on heightened alert. I’ve spent a lot of time in Vanuatu so I’m always on the lookout for Ni-Vanuatu in Brisbane. Tonight I heard there was one journalist from Vanuatu at the conference. Unfortunately, she didn’t come tonight. Instead I met some guys from PNG. One guy, Seta, was also a (ahem) final year journalism student. “So what kind of stories have you been writing?” I asked him after debriefing him on my recent adventures calling various bureaucrats and industry officials. His stories involved mining companies secretly dumping waste in the ocean near fishing grounds and helicopter-loads of Asian investors being speared by angry locals. UNESCO flew Seta to Brisbane for the conference so he could perform his song “Media Freedom” in front of crowds tomorrow night.
Channel Nine political journalist Laurie Oakes was the draw card but due to developments in the Henry tax reform, he had to stay in Canberra. Instead we were treated to ABC South Pacific Correspondent Sean Dorney. He eloquently began his speech by asking the people at the back to “shut up”. They didn’t. He continued his talk and garnished it with sharp and witty gags as he lead us through his misadventures in the South Pacific islands. He’s been deported from PNG and Fiji- the main difference was that PNG officials phoned him in advance and asked when he’d like to be deported. The crowd at the back were missing a speech. Then some gunshots got their attention. Well, they were actually the sounds of the fireworks at the nearby Buddha Birthday celebrations at Southbank. Sean was quick on the mark to murmur something about “explosive revelations”. He continued his speech despite the rude people at the back and the even ruder fireworks.
As the night progressed I found myself walking up to more and more people and just introducing myself. It wasn’t long before I’d spoken to an editor who had worked with our good professor at The Sun. There was a war reporter from Guyana who is living in Australia in exile. He had spoke at the conference about his experience and touched many people. Everyone was really nice and didn’t mind being questioned by a final year journalism student. In fact, everybody had really good things to say about JSchool. Some advice I got was, do everything John asks plus 10 per cent.
I went back to see how the bids on my favourite cartoon was progressing. It was up to $180 and there was a large man standing in front of it. “I’ve already bid on this five times,” he told me confidently. He thought his 14-year-old son would love it. “Oh, he likes the Wild Thing book, does he?” I asked. “No, he loves politics.” This man ended up winning the bid and is taking his prized possession back to Western Australia.
So I left the State Library light on my feet with a pocket full of business cards (admittedly some of them were my own that I wasn’t able to give out) and a copy of the most recent Walkley Magazine.