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Saturday, 16 August 2008


There's a most beautiful play gym, all colours and climbs and slippery slides and ropes, platforms and hidey holes, alongside Coolangatta Beach, not far from the Pandanus Palms.
It's populated by excited youngsters every day of the year.
This little magic wonderland is in Queensland, just across the border from my home state, New South Wales.
I pass it on one of my favourite walks.
But this is just one side of the coin at Cooly ...

Here Mums tend their flock and kids blast off into adventureland.

Little girls practise being mummies.
And others slide into their own different little world ...
Sometimes not even a big yellow slippery slide can make things seem right.
It's hard to believe that just across the way from this land of children there is a picnic shed where happiness is altogether more fleeting.
Here on most evenings, just as the cold creeps into your bones, homeless people gather for a handout of food from a small army of generous volunteers.
In this place of seeming plenty there is an increasing number of people - men women and children - who are without a safe place to lie their heads at night.
The new government says it will redress this wrong, but in the mean time the suffering continues.
Here, this has been the coldest winter for many years.
Tonight, as shadows lengthen and I walk my walk there is a man arrived early at the picnic shed, bagging his spot.
This homeless man wears sad track pants and hoody with warm newish-looking lambskin boots, and wheels a battered suitcase on a luggage trolley.
He carries a large teddy bear - his only companion.
Remarkably, the picnic shed is less than one hundred metres from the children's slippery slide.


  1. June, How sad this must be. So much happiness and warmth during the day and sadness and cold at night. I know that has to bother you as a witness to it. Too many times we look at the good times and happy places and don't see what is just over the hill. I hope the government helps these people.The children are so cute in the pictures. My grandson would love that place!

  2. When you come for your Australian holiday Judy we'll take that walk. You'd really love it!

  3. OMG how tragic is that, a man bagging his sleeping spot hanging on to a big teddy bear - poor beggar! I never realized that in the 'New World' there were such people, I mistakenly thought that it was a country of plenty where if you worked (and there was plenty of it) you 'got on'. I understood that these things only happened here and in other so-called civilized countries - hehe.. more fool me huh ? how awful, and what an indictment of our world... I noticed too that the have's and have nots are living cheek by jowel there too!

  4. Hi Kate
    Thanks for the post.
    Yes, even Oz is far from perfect! Just as with every country in the world Australia obviously has unemployed, homeless and dispossessed. They're that way for many reasons of course.
    Right now the problem is badly effected by a severe shortage of housing - we had a huge boom in prices of building and buying homes - for many years.
    Now though prices are going down but people can't borrow money for mortgages. We are being affected by the American phenomenon of such lending companies as Freddy and Fanny because our banks invested in them. Now our banks are watching their backs.
    This all means that the least powerful in our society are having the biggest struggle, as usual.
    Of course, among the least powerful of all are the mentally ill who indeed have very little clout.
    There is a huge lack of services and housing for the mentally ill here - and so that's how we get such people as the man with the teddy bear.
    The very nature of illness often bring about alienation between the mentally ill and their families and that leaves the ill people to fend for themselves. It must be so hard to keep up with the bureaucratic demands of today - filling in forms, keeping appointments for pensions et al.
    And so these people often drift to the bottom of the social pile - no blame to themselves - and there's no-one to pick them up.
    I must stop now - empathy can get you down.
    Hugs Kate


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