Somehow the gods smiled upon me last week, because I got sent to Australia (!!) for a conference by Desire2Learn for 12 days. Coles notes: conference was a hit, everything is expensive, Australians in general don’t go to Tasmania but think it’s beautiful and charming (which it is!), Brisbane is like Miami on a river, and in broad strokes Australians are … intense. As a people. Needless to say, awesome experience.
Desire2Learn hosted a successful Asia-Pac Teaching and Learning Conference in Melbourne. The conference itself was a hit (Jill said enrolment was about 50% higher than expected), and the Marriott was a great venue. The majority of attendees were either D2L clients, prospects, or participants in our ecosystem. D2L sent about a dozen people from North America, but primarily it was great meeting the Australia-based team (growing to 30 by year’s end?!).
The Conference Crew
From what I saw the quality of the presentations and conversation was very high – clients were excited about the platform and what they’re doing with it, so the energy in the crowd was natural. I didn’t experience a Mini-Fusion - the focus was on new opportunities and potential projects, more so than the established usage patterns that dominate my attention at Fusion.
Tasmania the Beautiful
We spent a few days in Tasmania on the request of the good people at UTAS, and that was my trip highlight. Tasmania is nature at its finest, especially that bit around Port Arthur. We saw the tessalated rocks, giant arches, and that silent coastline that reminds you there’s nothing between you and Antarctica.
Tessalated Rocks, Tasmania
Hobart was a surprising city. It was very hip and modern, much like the rest of the Aussie cities I visited, but with a distinct East Coast feel. Take Halifax, inject a museum of modern art, ”buy local” dining, and you get Hobart. We ended up spending most of the second day there at a wildlife sanctuary feeding kangaroos and watching Tasmanian Devils be crazy.
The City Life
I split my urban time in Australia between Melbourne and Brisbane. Both cities were modern (80′s pants), trendy (hair in top bun), expensive ($4.50 “coffee”) .. whatever you want to call it, definitely inspiring places to be. The cities were more approachable than Toronto or New York. Good food, good art, and well dressed working people seem normal there, not confined to King West or wherever is cool in Manhattan now.
Architecture isn’t something that really draws my attention but holy shit, Melbourne just smashes you over the head with it. The mix between modern and Victorian is in your face and hard to miss. Especially on the RMIT campus, which is worth spending an afternoon just walking around in.
RMIT Building 8
Brisbane was different. The city is about an hour from the gorgeous Sunshine Coast, with a dominant river snaking through it. The city scape is impressive. It sprawls in ever direction from this river, albeit urban planning is a mess. Main roads just … end, after winding and turning between these really distinct neighbourhoods. The CBD is littered with trendy rooftop patio restaurants and beautiful people from a distinctly private school crowd. The Valley, about a 10 minute walk away, comes to life with night clubs, dive bars, drug addicts, hip hop joints … and had me in a death grip of partying from 1-4am.
Brisbane Skyline from the River
Intense is Normal
And it was in Brisbane I really picked up on the intensity that Australians put out there. Backpacking through Europe you hear the warnings of staying away from the Aussies unless you want to end up in a drunken yelling match with some guy who doesn’t see a sucker-punch as anything worth ruining a friendship over.
How Ya Goin’
But that’s the social character: boisterous and in each others face, especially if you’re mates. The side product is lots of swearing, machismo, and a “be mean to keep ‘em keen” attitude after midnight. I didn’t appreciate how much shit-talk Aussies hurl at each other. Michael, one of my gracious hosts, explained that being too nice to your buds is generally loser-talk, and it’s your job to reign in your best mate from getting an ego.
Though the expectation then is that people get egos because they are generally awesome, in shape, go-getters who are doing something with themselves. And that’s the impression I left Australia with.
Canadians could learn a thing or two from the Aussies – do a better job of making things happen, and embracing this world as your oyster. Their opportunism is contagious.