Thursday, January 27, 2005

Datapoints Perth 06.

Subject: Curtin and Freo. Perth log Day 04.

Calamariforthought was joking about not having any Krispy Kreme or many donut shops in Perth over dinner. (Nearest Krispy Kreme is about 3000km away in Sydney.) That comment was like dropping a grain of sand into a supercooled liquid - crystallizing an nebulous concept floating in the back of my head.

[ There are photos on Calamariforthought's blog, by the way. ]

I noticed what was missing in Perth. I have been here for 4 days. Where are the sleazy clubs and "no go" trouble zones? Where are the beggers, homeless and destitute? Where are the scam artists out to pick off the odd tourist straying off the beaten path of the big city? Where are the slums? Where is the stuff that any veteran traveller automatically notices and steers clear off without much conscious thought?

Have been wandering around the Perth city centre, Carrington, Fremantle, Bentley and I have not seen the dark side of Perth yet. I am convinced Perth has a dark side. Every city has. Even in a population centre of 1.2 million people. There are certain areas in Sydney you would not want to have young impressionable children wandering around unsupervised (for example King's Cross). And there are certain areas in Sydney where you would not want to be wandering around in the middle of the night looking like some lost tourist (for example Redfern). But where are the equivalent trouble areas in Perth? Reading the news gives no indication of a drug problems, no mention of gang activity, or discussion of issues regarding poverty and the destitute class of society.

Am I looking in the wrong places? It seems unlikely that Perth (aspiring to be a major city) and hosting huge number of immigrants would be devoid of crime problem, drug addicts or triad gang areas.


First order of business today was to swap the car. We have two more people arriving on Saturday. No way are we going to pack 5 adults (even adults of smaller Asian build) into a tiny subcompact Suzuki Swift with no airconditioning.

The car we are using now is full-sized Ford Falcon GLi station wagon with a modified dual-fuel system to run on LPG (liquefied petroleum gas - also known as propane) as well as your regular unleaded petrol. The taxis and buses in Australia run on LPG for a reduced impact on the environment. Economically it is also cheaper to run a LPG versus a petrol heavy vehicle. (We plan to head out of Perth later.)

It is my first experience driving an LPG-run vehicle and I am amazed at how quietly the engine runs. Being used to gauging the speed of vehicle by listening to the engine, I found myself unintentionally speeding more than once because the engine sounds too quiet.The Ford Falcon drives like a bloody tank. After handling small responsive subcompacts, I found myself constantly understeering on the Ford or having the large rear end going over kerbs. But the airconditioning and the power steering is a very nice comfort to have.

So I take the tank and drop my travel mates off at Fremantle to explore the city, markets and beaches. I had an appointment to keep...


Curtin University. It looks like any other university campus. Unfortunately the staff treat the students (and potential students) like the other universities I am familar with. In other words, like dirt. More politely than in the Singapore universities of course, but stonewalling is stonewalling - no matter how politely you do it.

Picked up the some of the information I needed. The staff there are friendly and answer questions to the the best of their ability in a polite fashion. The problem I found was that they do not volunteer information. You ask a question, and they answer it if they know. Period. If you need additional unsolicited information, or information outside of their scope of responsibility, or trying to get subjective opinions - it can be very annoying. I need to do more independent homework and just use the student services for confirmation/denial of my plans.

Or perhaps it is because Canberra has changed the legislation surrounding the education policies, subsidies and costs for permanent residents effective 1 Jan 2005. The universities' office staff are probably grappling with the impact of the legislation changes themselves.

Note of interest: There is an extremely high density of Asian Chinese students in Curtin. Wandering around the campus, I hear a lot of PRC ching-chong Mandarin, Hong Kong rapid-fire Cantonese, melodic Bahasa and even Singlish.

One of the office staff I was chatting up also let leak that they are getting a lot of mature older international students (especially in the postgraduate courses) who are not so much interested in education, as they are in a Curtin postgraduate degree as a route to obtain an Australian PR and eventually citizenship. These potential students are Curtin's cash cows as they are willing (and able) to pay ridiculous amounts of money for the certification to persuade DIMIA to give them a PR visa.

So what I am doing sneaking around Curtin? The Singapore government may be trying to promote Singapore as an education hub and building more universities as fast as money can buy. The truth is that my Singapore-specific certifications are worth slightly more than toilet paper in Australia. If I wish to have a fair go at the professional skilled marketplace in Australia, I will have to retool. Staying in the marketplace as a white-collar professional is not a necessity but still an nice option worth exploring.


Headed back to Freo to pick up my sunburned travelmates.

Checked out the beaches around Fremantle, working our way slowly north as we watch the sunset. The amount of beach here is impressive. And the quality is astounding. Yellow sand which is fine enough to be picked up by the wind. Unpolluted clear cold water turning into crashing surfs coming in directly from the Indian Ocean.

It may be harsh desert inland but the beach looks beautiful in the setting sun.


Blogger sari said...

The dark side yr looking for will be Northbridge on Friday and Sat night!!

Curtin has the most asian students in Perth among the other universities in WA. Last year, Curtin's sch fees did not increase while the other universities increased.. because the international asian students paid more than enough! There is also the one nation campaign for Curtin. They dont want too many asians in Curtin. One Nation is a racist group. We saw a while car with the campaign posters pasted all over it. Hmmph~

January 28, 2005 5:44 AM  
Blogger C said...

The dodgy areas in Perth aren't in the city itself, though i suppose it has its fair share of troublemakers on weekend nights. Suburbs like Armadale, Girrawheen, and Bayswater are more where you will find disengaged youths wandering around (though really, it's nothing compared to normal cities). Housing is cheaper (well, rent anyway) and crime is higher in these areas. By crime i suppose i mean break-ins and that... i don't think a whole lot of violent crime goes on around here, that's why every instance of it makes the front page of The West.

I've never seen the homeless wandering around, though by reports there are quite a few of them.

Curtin *grin* Yep, the most international students and hence the richest of the universities (or so they say, anyway)

I'm seriously enjoying your Perth log. It's wonderful to see the same place through the eyes of another.

January 28, 2005 10:47 AM  

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