Friday, 8 June 2012

Beyond the Boundary

The launch of 'Beyond the Boundary - A Walk through West End's Aboriginal, Greek and Activist History',  went extremely well last Friday evening. Avid Reader Bookshop was packed. 

We began with a 'Welcome to Country' ceremony with didge by Robbie and words from local elder Sam Watson and ended with a song about West End rewritten around the Go Betweens 'Streets of Our Town'. Great stories. Great feedback. Great looking publication. And then.

We conducted a guided walk on the following Sunday - six guides (plus local Greek historian and architect George Kassos) almost outnumbered those on the walk. The guide is written as a story rather than simply a list of 'highlights' of architecture so the walk was lots of fun and allowed locals to chip in with stories of their own.

On the right Tim Quinn points out a quirky local icon, Zapeion, a purpose designed combination of a Greek frontage and a typical 'Queenslander' timber rear. Designed by the Greek owner by way of embracing his new cultural identity.

George Kassos knows a lot about West End and its history and even more about the Greeks in the area. Below, he is introducing us to the key Greek establishments and history as we exit Musgrave Park. Musgrave Park is a place with a history which begins well before white settlement and still regarded by the Aboriginal community as a spiritual place. The Greek Community Centre, Greek Church and significant amount of property owned by the Greek community overlooks the park. So two of the oldest cultures on the planet meet on this site.

It is the site of the annual Greek Panyiri Festival attended by 10s of thousands and of the annual NAIDOC Aboriginal Festival and currently, is also home to a tent embassy of Aboriginal activists demanding recognition of their prior ownership of this land and of this country. The Greek Festival happened only two weeks ago. The police were brought in to relocate the tent embassy. There was a standoff. And finally a compromise.

Our walking guide is nothing if not topical, and since it deals with the Activist history of West End this was a demonstration, in the flesh, of the ongoing willingness of the locals to make their voices heard.

The final element of the walk took us to Hellenic House (the subject of a story I wrote about a year ago), a Greek icon of Parthenon proportions. It was once the hub of the Brisbane Greek community. Initially purchased, in the 1920s, as the site for the new Greek Orthodox Church, then, failing this, it became the site of the first Greek child care centre and finally a kafeneio - the men's coffee club, one of which exists in every Greek village. It is still this to this day (with modifications to the men's only rules in this modern era).
For those not familiar with Brisbane and West End, the title 'Beyond the Boundary' refers to West End community's propensity to always push the envelope and demand to be heard on issues of local and broader importance, and also to the fact that in the 1800s a 3 square mile boundary was created around the newly established Brisbane Town from which the Aborigines were excluded after 4pm and on Sundays. The main cross roads of  West End are Boundary Street and Vulture Street (formerly Boundary Street South). This marks the south west border of the Town boundaries. Musgrave Park is within this boundary.

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