Thursday, March 7, 2013

Research Presentations and Celebrations

By Ashley Ermann

Our stay in Brisbane is quickly coming to an end. At the end of this week we will be saying goodbye to our host families and heading off to Lamington Plateau for a five day camping trip. This past Friday we finally turned in our fifteen page research projects that we have been working on since last semester. Handing in a paper that is nearly half a centimeter thick really gives you a feeling of accomplishment. To add to the joy of being done with such a big milestone of our trip to Australia, this Saturday was India’s birthday and our host family planned a bit of a celebration for her.

They took us to the local bowling alley to play a few games of bowling, and it didn’t take long to realize that none of us have a future in pro bowling. Nonetheless, we had a lot of fun, and the kids had a good time teasing us about how many more strikes they had gotten than us (though I do think the fact that they had bumpers might have had something to do with that). After we finished at the bowling alley, we returned home to enjoy a delicious chocolate and passion fruit cake that our host mom had baked and decorated especially for India. India and I both had a great time celebrating her birthday with our hosts, and it was a nice break from studying for our Australian Area Study final exam.

The following day we got up early to take part in Clean Up Australia Day with our host family. We went to one of the parks in our suburb and spent a few hours picking up all of the trash with a small group of locals. It was a rainy morning, and we got very wet despite having packed our Portland raincoats. The experience was fun and rewarding even if we got a little wet, especially after the hot choc and left over birthday cake that was waiting back at home for morning tea. Unfortunately, after the wonderful morning we spent with our host family we had to get back to our coursework because we had a final on Monday and independent research presentations due on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The independent research portion of our classes down here in Australia had very open guidelines. We were each supposed to develop a research question within the theme of people and the environment. The theme was really open to our own interpretations, and that was very clear in the variety of presentations given on Tuesday. Rachit started off the presentation session with his project on the acculturation of Indian families to Australia. This project was of particular interest to Rachit because he is Indian himself. His project was centered in the Sydney suburb of Westmead, and it looked into multiple aspects of the lives of transplanted Indian families to determine how well they had adjusted to life in Australia.

Justin E. followed Rachit with a project that could not be more different. He looked into how bluegrass music got its roots in Australia. Justin made some amazing contacts in the Australian bluegrass scene, and he learned that the large mining industry in Australia played a major role in bluegrass gaining foothold in Australia. The Australian miners could easily relate to the themes of the hardships of the poor hard-working man that were present in the music that arose in the Appalachians. Justin was even lucky enough to have the opportunity to perform with a few of the bands that he interviewed.

Following Justin’s presentation on bluegrass music, I presented my project on traditional bush medicine. I researched what some traditional bush remedies were, what sort of empirical basis they might have, and how traditional medicine is used in modern Australia. I found that most traditional medical practices reported by Aboriginal elders do contain a chemical that could be the empirical reason for their effectiveness at treating disease. Many of the chemicals found in high quantities in the bush medicine plants are actually ingredients found in modern Western medicines.

Kyla’s presentation was really quite different from the previous presentations of the morning. She had done her research on the philanthropic bikers of the King’s Cross suburb of Sydney. She interviewed a few members of the King’s Cross Biker Social Welfare Club, which is devoted to conducting community charity events, how they are affected by stereotyping, and legislature that are centered around bikie culture in Australia.

The three final presentation of the day were Lucy’s project on the development of permaculture in Australia, Elijah’s presentation on the public transportation system in Melbourne, and Annabelle’s research on how legislation is—or is not—promoting the revitalization of Indigenous languages in Australia.  Everyone’s major seemed to have had a big influence on how they interpreted the theme. Lucy, for example, is an environmental studies major, and her project focused on making human activities in Australia more sustainable. On the other hand, Kyla is a sociology major, and her project focused more on how a group of people function in Australian society. Overall, everyone who presented did a great job on their research projects and their presentations. The presentations were very interesting and informative, and it was fun to see how everyone had interpreted the theme of the research project.

Here are a few photos of our weekend adventures!
India's 20th birthday wish!

Helping out.
India Bowling
Clean Up Australia Day!

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