That haunting combination of brutal concrete and subtle Australian bush: that was Griffith University but now it’s just Nathan Campus. In 1979 it was close to home but a million miles from that moribund suburban gaol. I could tell, from just a few hints, some images, films, songs, that the architecture was an expression of a new Australian identity. The landscape was natural. That was a strong statement right there.
My friend’s sister was studying and we went to a Student Union dance. She knew all the radicals. She knew their names. They were full of bad attitude and lairy good looks. I was impressed and intimidated. A couple of years later one of them was my lover for a bit. Well, for more than one night – so that was a first – almost a relationship as was. He was a beautiful young man, but we didn’t have any chemistry really. It was a puzzle I solved by wandering off with someone else. I am still sorry. I had a lot to learn.
Forward a couple of years and I was dabbling in political cabaret. There was this chap that we all followed for a bit. He had a lot of ideas about theatre and revolution. We performed something hideously undercooked at the Griffith Refectory. I nearly got hit by a flying beer can. I suggested we were doing something wrong. He thought we were doing it right. Yeah…Nah.
A year of two on from there, I was performing quite a lot now, but something was still missing. So I was doing external Humanities subjects at Griffith, modern, cultural, Australian. I could smell the eucalypts. At the time I was out touring with a couple of other non-conformists to hospitals around the state, doing a decent impersonation of a nurse in a rather good piece of workplace theatre. We’d persuaded the manager of the Eimeo Hotel that we wouldn’t need our sheets changed daily and we were entrenched for a long weekend. My essay writing kept me at least partly sober. But it couldn’t last. A University that only corresponds by mail didn’t work for me.
And it didn’t work for my Dad either. He had to retire early for health reasons. So he took external subjects from Griffith. He was so excited. He was an armchair intellectual of long standing. But something didn’t gel. Maybe he was too fond of his own opinions. Maybe his cultural Marxism was of an earlier generation. He packed it in. It changed my view of him and of the University. He seemed so vulnerable. It seemed so uncaring.
After that it was ten years before I went back to study and when I did it wasn’t Humanities, it was music: sensual, emotional, theoretical and sometimes painfully aural, music. Still I couldn’t help myself. I mainlined Cultural Studies on campus at Nathan. And now today another twenty years on, the slide is complete. I’m a Doctoral Candidate, a researcher and just I got inducted! In a brutal concrete box, in a natural Australian landscape, five hundred yards and 37 years away from that punk dance when I was 18.
It’s been an education.