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Brisbane Legal

Sam Farrell on a horrible conference in a horrible city.

A few months ago, in a moment of amoebic idiocy when I can only assume I was either asleep or under the influence of a powerful sedative, I agreed to fly to Brisbane to attend a legal skills competition. I know. It was attached to the annual conference of the Australian Law Students’ Association (ALSA), appropriately pronounced ‘ulcer’, because it really is a pus-laden growth in the gooch of the Australian student body. This article should serve as a stern and severe warning to anyone who makes the grievous error of either going to Brisbane, or socialising with more than zero law students at any given time.

I hoped the conference would be for me what colonies of rare kooky ants are to David Attenborough, and that I could simply spend the week observing this herd of the most socially ungifted students Australia has to offer and attempt to find something to talk about other than yachting, or murmuring racial slurs. I hoped in vain. The examination was interesting for about ten minutes, after which I was doused with regret and tempted to set myself alight just to break the monotony. It was a regret not dissimilar to ordering an adventurous new dish featuring something in a language you don’t speak but that’s okay because it’s new and exciting but it’s not okay because it comes to the table and it’s actually just a whole boiled cabbage. And then you just have
to sit alone and eat a cabbage.

Brisbane cannot reasonably be called a city. With just under half a building and a smattering of singleted and unshoed locals wandering the streets desperately searching for something to do, Brisbane might just be the destination for you if you have none of the five senses. The hotel in which all conference attendees were staying was smack bang in the middle of the “CBD”. It consisted of the hotel, and apparently nothing else except for a 24-hour pancake house that also did steaks but nobody knew why.

The only redeeming feature of this shantytown was a place called Southbank. (Redeeming in same sense that Cory Bernardi’s impressively kempt quiff is redeeming in the face of his otherwise squalid and contemptible everything-else.) Southbank’s main attraction is an oversized ferris wheel modeled on the London Eye, if the London Eye had cataracts and macular degeneration. From the top of the Brisbane Eye, you can observe kids pissing to their hearts’ content into the man-made lagoon as you survey the rest of the city, solemnly contemplating the series of life choices that led you to this moment, and searching desperately for the unlocking mechanism that will release you from your ferris wheel bubble of doom and allow you to happily plummet to the death you have been thinking about since you stepped off the plane. Having said this, on one of the days I had a quite good egg. So it wasn’t all bad.

Except it was, because the conference had organised socials nights. I got knocked out of the competition early on, so the only things I had to look forward to were the enormous bar tabs that were laid on at various bars around the slums. The highlight of each of these nights was the bit with wine and the bit where I went home. Most creatures I met were so paralysingly devoid of intrigue, their all-time favourite personal anecdotes centre around this one time they almost burnt toast. All the best stories are ‘almost’ stories.

The competition itself taught me only two things. First, there is no way to not sound like an overwhelming twat when you utter “I’m from Sydney University,” even if you are asked specifically what university you are from, which is the only time you should ever volunteer that information. On the second day I adopted a crude Kiwi accent and was henceforth simply from Auckland. Second, all barristers have enormous, pillowy, Alan Jones-sized jowels.

I should mention that two of our teams actually won their respective competitions, but I won’t. It is not my purpose to congratulate. It is my duty to warn all readers of this ulcerous unwanted pickle of cities. To anyone from Brisbane who is reading this article, I am sorry. That you are from Brisbane. Next time I visit your hometown, I will make sure not to.