Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

THAT great in­sti­tu­tion the Bur­dekin Agri­cul­ture Col­lege did a fan­tas­tic job train­ing fu­ture cane, beef and hor­ti­cul­tural farm­ers. It went into de­cline in the mid­dish ’ 90s and by the 2000s was stag­ger­ing along. The State Gov­ern­ment put it out of its mis­ery in 2009. And now the Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment, backed by Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Mark Furner, has dropped the axe on the Emer­ald and Lon­greach agri­cul­tural col­leges. The Gov­ern­ment claims the col­leges were liv­ing in the past and were not meet­ing modern de­mands. This is not what AgForce and other ru­ral lobby groups like Mar­tin Bella’s Green Shirts are say­ing. The state La­bor Gov­ern­ment prob­a­bly sees these col­leges as fer­tile breed­ing grounds for fu­ture LNP vot­ers. La­bor strate­gists take no pris­on­ers. They know they can shut down these farm­ing- aligned col­leges in the safely held in­land LNP seat of Gre­gory without los­ing a sin­gle vote at the bal­lot box. The only peo­ple hurt are teenagers want­ing to train for a ca­reer in pri­mary in­dus­tries. They’re the ones left in the lurch. DID you read the story this week about Ka­reem Bahlawan, the post- grad­u­ate stu­dent from Le­banon who lived off- grid as a Long Grass stu­dent at James Cook Uni­ver­sity while un­der­tak­ing his stud­ies?

Dar­win has its Long Grass peo­ple, the home­less fringe dwellers who live in the long grass on the edges of the city. Ka­reem was JCU’s own Long Grass per­son.

In the trade we call this a “cracker yarn”. Ka­reem lived rent- free at JCU, sleep­ing firstly in a ham­mock and then a swag in the scrub.

In the hot sum­mer months he al­lowed him­self the lux­ury of oc­ca­sion­ally bunk­ing down in an air­con­di­tioned lab. How awe­some is this bloke? He has fin­ished his course work and is now in Dubai fin­ish­ing off a Mas­ter of Science. His days as the Long Grass stu­dent are over.

I wanted to know what he ate. Did he turn up at morn­ing lec­tures with leaf lit­ter and stalks of grass in his hair? Did he light a fire and cook food? Did he have wire snares set for pos­sums and wal­la­bies? What did he say when peo­ple asked him where he lived?

The truth is it all sounds pretty civilised. He “snared” his food at the lo­cal IGA and did all of his cook­ing in mi­crowaves in stu­dent and staff rooms in uni­ver­sity build­ings. It had to be done by 10pm.

His day started early. He rose with the sun. “I’d get up at 6am be­cause of the sun. It would be so hot. I’d make break­fast ( in the staff or stu­dent room), ex­er­cise and then shower and get ready for class. And no, rather than com­ing to lec­tures with grass in his hair, he pre­sented like a clean- cut model.

“I had six T- shirts and four pairs of shorts. I didn’t need jack­ets. My clothes were al­ways clean. I washed them in the bath­rooms where I show­ered,” he said.

Why did he do it? “I just wanted to prove to my­self that I could do it.”

He is Le­banese- Cana­dian and is now stay­ing with his par­ents, who live in Dubai.

He broke it to his par­ents on Tues­day that he had been liv­ing rough on cam­pus in Townsville.

They didn’t take this rev­e­la­tion well. In fact I gather from what Ka­reem told me that they took it badly.

They told him they would have sup­ported him to stay in an apart­ment, but as far as Ka­reem was con­cerned that wasn’t what it was about. He just wanted to see if he could do it.

And he did.

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