AG COLLEGES GET AXED
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.