A Few Days In Bustling Big Brisbane/Meeanjin

For the March 2023 Teutenbergs’ reunion in Sydney, Jenny had driven from her home in Gladstone down to Brisbane where her daughter (and one of her sons) lives, and left her car there. She flew to Sydney for a long weekend, and then we both flew to The Red Centre. On Sunday 19th March we flew from Alice Springs to Brisbane. Barry and I had pre-booked an apartment a short walk from the city centre, as Lauren’s apartment near Kangaroo Point wasn’t able to accommodate all three of us.

My First Sights Of Bustling Brisbane

For much of the journey from Alice Springs to Brisbane, the scenery continued deserted and stunningly beautiful. Approaching the east coast of Australia’s Queensland though, buildings began appearing in abundance until they were a mass of white and red boxes with never ending criss-crossed roads below. It was pretty overwhelming to see such sprawling urbanisation again. I far prefer remoteness.

What I hadn’t appreciated when taking the photos below of the Brisbane River, was that we’d be walking along it later that day, and seeing what looked like an outdoor pool. We’d also be cruising down (or up?) the river by boat a couple of days later …

The West End

Our accommodation was at Parkview Apartments, and Lauren kindly dropped me off there after collecting us from the airport. Meanwhile, Barry had stayed in Sydney with his brother Peter and was now travelling up the coast by train and bus. The room we booked wasn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but was central and within walking distance to South Bank. After settling in, I walked ten minutes to the nearest supermarket for some food shopping to reduce unnecessary expenses while we were there. I loved the murals spotted nearby, along with bilingual quotes.

That evening we went for a meal at a place called Gala Thai, in Brisbane’s ‘West End‘. I’d chosen it from Google Maps – only once I forgot that once I stepped out of the apartment I had no internet signal and got a bit lost. Sadly, since that dreadful Brexit debacle (which I voted against and have been horrified by ever since), global roaming to Australia and New Zealand now costs £5 a day with my UK phone provider Three. And my NZ phone would’ve been NZ$9 a day! Which for us is totally unaffordable. Thankfully Jenny found me despite the lack of contact. I’d walked in the wrong direction out of the apartment and unknowingly taken the longer route …

Ah well, I needed the exercise! This delightful restaurant had an outstanding ordering system – you get given your own iPad mini with the menu on it. Lauren, Jenny’s daughter, and her son Rik came too. “Is it a big city?“, I asked Lauren, feeling quite overwhelmed by the towering buildings surrounding us. “Not really”, said Lauren. I asked Siri who shared a completely different view, comparing it to the UK’s second-largest city Birmingham. Brisbane’s population in 2023 is estimated to be 2,504,505 in 2023 (by area the third largest city in the world it seems), while Birmingham in the UK is, 2,665,100 in 2023. It’s undoubtedly a humongous city!

“With an area of less than 3000 square miles (6000 square kilometers) the town has a population density of 896.1 people per square mile (346 people per square kilometer) making it quite congested.”


I certainly felt congested during our four days. Some people, like Lauren, love the vibrancy and buzz of city living I guess so it doesn’t feel ‘big’.

A Sultry South Bank Stroll

After our meal, Lauren found a parking place near South Bank and we walked along the Brisbane River. I was surprised and delighted to discover the free-to-use Streets Beach in the centre of town. It was unbelievably busy with families at around 8 pm on an autumnal Sunday evening. Admittedly a delightfully balmy one.

Many of the surrounding trees were lit up like Christmas all along the river. As I said previously, I hadn’t realised when taking photos from the plane, that we’d be walking along the same scene that evening …

Here I relished my inaugural Australian water dragon sighting which filled me with joyfulness – at least something in Brisbane felt ‘natural’ – albeit definitely not in its natural habitat which had long ago been decimated by the invaders.

Barry’s train and bus journey that day from Sydney was lengthy and tiring, but thankfully he arrived safely in the city at about 5 am the following morning and found his way to our apartment.

Perspectives Of Brisbane

On Monday 20th March, we all visited the Museum of Brisbane which was amazing. I loved their stories of the real history of the city, and the amazing protest posters exhibition by the artist in residence, Gordon Hookey, He’s an Australian aboriginal artist from the Waanyi people, but sadly wasn’t in residence the day we were there.

“The poster collection – over 40 years – started in 1983 when I was a student at The University of Queensland. Unbeknownst to me, I collected a lot. It is only recently that I noticed the expanse of my collection. And all it is, is a representation that there is witness to my life.”


Do take some time to read the messages on the posters; their meanings are powerful. It intrigues me how, once you discover something, you start seeing it more. After our museum visit, I noticed posters in abundance around the city. I’m not sure we do that type of thing in the UK. Maybe we do and I just haven’t had ‘tourist eyes’.

Barry shared a brilliant podcast with me recently, that highlights the outrageously racist history of the drive for ‘Australian The White Man’s Land‘ over decades. And I mean recent decades, endemic in politics and population, where the focus was to only allow white British people into the country. I was marginally reassured to hear that politicians in Britain over time (this is only last century) were appalled by the racism and tried (unsuccessfully) to stop it. Listen to it if you’re interested. I love how apologetic, horrified and honest the narrator is –

“In this episode of Half-Arsed History, learn about an often (and perhaps readily) overlooked part of Australia’s history – the racist immigration laws it upheld for much of its history that became known as the White Australia Policy.”


It’s horrific to me that this type of inherent racism was allowed, enabled and actively encouraged from the top down. Absolutely abhorrent.

On a more positive note, another wonderful exhibit was weaving art, which Jenny’s artistic skills enjoyed. I made a vague attempt and gave up! Additionally, there was a superb sensory room, where Jenny enjoyed relaxing in the ‘bath’ listening to positive affirmations, and squeezing a few creatures gently.

Roaming Roma Street Parkland

Opened in 2001, Roma Street Parkland is purportedly one of the world’s largest sub-tropical gardens in a city centre. It’s located adjacent to the railway station that Barry had alighted at earlier in the day. Here we got up close to many Eastern Water Dragons, which made this my favourite part of Brisbane.

The lake above is home to a number of native fish including something called an Australian Lungfish. It’s basically a ‘living fossil’, that can live for at least 20-25 years.

Wandering around the Spectacle Garden in Colin Cambell Place, I was mesmerised by the abundance of different shapes, sizes and colours of plants and flowers.

As we found in Sydney, there were Ibises aplenty hanging out foraging for food. In the lake, we saw what looked like a mix between a UK Moorhen and a NZ Pukeko. It is, in fact, the same as a Pukeko but here it’s called an Australasian Swamphen!

We had lunch at the café where we saw the sad sight of Eastern Water Dragons hanging out for food. One got ‘lucky’ when a toddler dropped a rice cake and was in there like a shot. I guess it’s just a fact of 21st-century life and survival for these beautiful creatures, just like the ibis. Their natural habitat has been mostly built upon so they’ve adapted and thrived despite white man’s selfishness and instatiable greed.

A Dinner Date On Fish Lane

In November 2022, we welcomed Barry’s godson Dylan and his partner Miranda on board Areandare. Miranda had to leave the UK in January 2023, to return to university in Australia. She was studying, and working, in Brisbane while we were there and managed to connect briefly for a dinner date. She chose Julius in South Bank, on Fish Lane. Luckily she got there early enough to secure a table as it wasn’t possible to book. They will allow 20 seats only to be booked online, the remaining 60 are on a first come first served basis which seems fair and gives everyone a chance. It must be a very popular place to eat as it was absolutely packed!

Fish Lane is named after George Fish who owned the Fish Steam Laundry on the site in the 1940s.

A Brisbane River Cruise

We booked a Brisbane River cruise with River City Cruises, hoping to discover more about the area. Which we kind of did, just not in the way we’d expected. Though why we expected anything other than recent ‘history’ is laughable. The ‘Captain’s entertaining commentary‘ consisted of informing us of the tiny part of the area’s history from the invasion in 1770 only! European ‘settlement’ began in the 1820s with the Moreton Bay Penal Colony

“The Moreton Bay penal colony, on traditional Turrbal and Yuggera land, operated from 1824 to 1842 as a place of secondary punishment for convicts who committed serious offences. In 1842 it was declared open for free settlement. It became the city of Brisbane.


Meeanjin had been located here for tens of thousands of years. The fact that they committed to mention this really left a bad taste in my mouth.

The traditional name of Brisbane is Meeanjin – the place of the blue water lilies. It is the story of near-extinction of the Turrbal Tribe, the original inhabitants of Brisbane, that has enticed some neighbouring tribal groups (such as Jagera/Yaggera) to attempt to falsely claim Brisbane as their ancestral homelands. The Turrbal people are not all dead and gone – we are alive and well, and our compelling story goes back to the heroic and inspiring survival of Maroochy Barambah’s great, great grandmother named Kulkarawa.


I didn’t take many photos from the cruise, though Barry made up for it (see his slide show at the end). There are bridges and buildings galore – even a few ‘old’ buildings. Just not really old. I think the oldest was Parliament House which dates from 1879.

The REAL history/timeline of the construction of Brisbane looks rather different, from the perspective of a member of the Turrbal Tribe:

Post-British Contact

  • 1799 – Arrival of Flinders into Moreton Bay.
  • 1823 – Three British castaways get lost off the coast of Sydney, one of which ends up living with the Ningy Ningy clan on the Redcliffe Peninsula (Ningy Ningy is one of the clans making up the Turrbal Tribe).
  • 1824 – John Oxley arrives in the Moreton Bay district. It was the castaway living with the Ningy Ningy clan who showed Oxley the Brisbane River.
  • 1824 – The first convict settlement in Queensland is established in what is today called Redcliffe.
  • 1825 – The convict settlement is relocated south from Redcliffe due to mosquitos, bad moorings, and the Aboriginals (the Ningy Ningy clan had a reputation of being kind but also wild).
  • Post-1825 – The settlement of the British in Meeanjin (Brisbane) leads to interracial tensions between the Turrbal Tribe, who are known as the “old Brisbane tribe”, and the British. These tensions ultimately result in the genocide of the Turrbal people, leaving few survivors.
  • 1860s – Historical records state that the Turrbal Tribe is on the verge of extinction.
  • 1860s – The British drive out the survivors of the Turrbal Tribe who are then forced to seek refuge on the fringes of Brisbane.
  • 1890s – Laws are passed in Queensland that serve the purpose of protecting the Aboriginal population from further extinction. Consequently, all Aboriginals are rounded up and placed on reserves. The Turrbal people end up on Barambah Aboriginal Reserve (later renamed to Cherbourg) and Taroom.
  • Since the 1890s – We have been keeping our cultural identity alive within our ancestral homelands.

It’s insightful to compare the above history with the perspective of the ‘invaders’ from the souvenir brochure. Notably absent is the 1860s when the Turrubal Tribe was on the verge of extinction – instead, they talk of the ‘Separation Day’ of 1859, which is now known as Queensland Day and is a celebration of Queensland’s birthday marking the state’s official separation from New South Wales as an independent colony. They then skip to the great fire, as they were simultaneously driving out any Turrbal survivors.

A Panoramic View Of Brisbane From Mount Coot-tha

After the river cruise, we met up with Lauren and headed up Mount Coot-tha to see the panoramic view of Brisbane’s vastness. The conurbation stretches as far as the eye can see.

More Abhorrent History

We returned to our apartment to pack and Barry had a rest while I walked to the shops. We hadn’t realised there was a pool at the apartments we could’ve used! Ah well, I doubt we’d have had time.

I was mesmerised to read further information about pre-colonial life in the Brisbane Valley, located near a gathering of Aboriginal people hanging out and chatting amiably.

A Last Night Al Fresco Buffet By The River

Our final evening in the big city was spent hanging out at Lauren’s house near Kangaroo Point and then enjoying a pleasant put-together buffet by the river together. This was another highlight of our stay. Nice and simple. The lit-up fairytale trees at Mowbray Park felt magical. Even the ominous city skyline of skyscrapers looked quite lovely – from a distance!

We’re glad we experienced Brisbane but definitely would never choose to live there …

Barry’s Brisbane/Meeanjin Slideshow

Barry’s slideshow includes some stunning photos of colourful cute Eastern Water Dragons. There’s also a spectacular close-up of a red dragonfly, some intelligent ibises, plus the Australian Swamphen and chicks. Oh yes! And lots of those big buildings!

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