Australia’s 3rd Best City – and loving it!

It took me a while but eventually I found it.

I’d been trawling through lists of the world’s most livable cities, searching, very hard, as it turned out, for one that listed my city – Brisbane – Australia.

By way of background, allow me to share with you the knowledge that as of 2019, our world now plays host to 551 cities. Here ‘City’ is defined as a place populated by at least one million residents.

Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s’s more recognized, more favored and more glam city cousins reliably feature somewhere in lists of this type. But Brisbane? What were the chances of a city (population 2.3 million) that less than a decade ago was famously described as a no-frills ‘Wednesday Waitress’ of a travel destination getting a gong alongside the likes of ‘fabulous on stilts’ powerhouses like New York, London, Tokyo and Dubai?

Well, like I say, it took some trawling but eventually I did find a list that had the good sense or generosity of spirit – depending on which way you want to look at it – to list my home city. Indexes that stretched to a mere 20 or 30 listings were definitely not the sort of rarefied-air-territory to go looking for a more modest, more functional, less… how to put it… ‘glittering’ city experience the likes of Brisbane.

That list is HERE

It counts all the way to 100. Brisbane comes in 51st position.

I was born in this city. And apart from three years living in Tokyo – Japan and two years residing on a small island in the Torres Strait, I’ve lived my life in this city. I won’t bore you with tales of how I’ve watched the place grow. But I will say I own two great books that brilliantly chronicle that growth.

Taking their cue from an archive project called LOST LONDON (HERE) these two impressive volumes, put together by the The Royal Historical Society of Queensland (HERE) boast over a thousand classic photos of old vintage Brisbane.

Yet my favorite photo doesn’t come from either of these books. A number of years back I saved a clipping from the local newspaper. It shows a young boy (Lionel Bevis) guiding his wooden goat-cart along a Brisbane street. Corner shops can be seen in the background and an old-style jalopy is about to pass the boy at a bend in the wide road. The photo was taken in 1947. I’ve never seen it published or appear anywhere again, in any format including the internet. I love everything about this photo. For me it is a bona-fide classic!

In addition to works of non-fiction, Brisbane has also been the inspiration for substantive works of fiction over the years, these novels among them –

And now comes another…

Former Brisbane-based author Tony Cavanaugh(HERE) – who now resides in Sydney – has penned BLOOD RIVER. The book is being described as the most distinctly Brisbane novel published for some time.

Replete with iconic locales such as the Breakfast Creek Hotel, Brisbane private schools, gracious suburbs such as Ascot and old Queenslanders (houses), the author has described his literary creation in interviews as ‘a love letter to Brisbane’.

Considering the story is about a serial killer, it is a love letter that includes blood, profanity and murder.

And if by some small miracle, no-frills, bells or whistles local council websites happen to be your thing, you’re in huge luck HERE.

Ps. And while we’re off the topic of cities and back onto the topic of books and writing… I’ve been wanting to share this cartoon now for some time, ever since I stumbled across it browsing creative writing teacher Bridget Whelan’s site (HERE) It really is so spot on…

16 thoughts on “Australia’s 3rd Best City – and loving it!

  1. Glen- you might like to try Ashley Hay’s novel A Hundred Small Lessons. An old lady meandering through the 60 years of her life in Brisbane, from meeting her future husband in 1942 as she steps off a tram, the old house in West End beside the river, the floods of 1974, until now with a new young family living in her house and discovering some of the treasures of the past. The cover features a streetscape of Jacarandas in bloom.

    A Hundred Small Lessons
    Ashley Hay

    A lyrical novel of two mothers from different generations and how their lives converge in one hot, wet summer. From the bestselling author of The Railwayman’s Wife.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for the brilliant tip Helen.
    If there’s anyone that knows their books it’s you!
    I see in addition to her author credits Ashley Hay also holds an adjunct Senior Research Fellow position in the School of English, Media Studies and Art History at the University of Queensland.


  3. I do sometimes wonder why cities like Sydney and Melbourne get so much praise over Brisbane. Both are hard places to live unless you are quite wealthy and have somehow found ones way into the housing market when prices were 30% lower.

    I grew up in Sydney and can only say it is a good place to be from. Yes, for a tourist it can be quite pleasant, but the daily grind is something else, particularly for those trying to make a start in life. Melbourne is much the same, but perhaps with more traffic cameras, far more of a police state. Brisbane is definitely trying to catch up. Now you can be fined for sipping water while driving, or fined for paying for a drive-through purchase with your phone.


  4. On a visit to Melbourne four years ago I was tempted to add to my black t-shirt collection and buy one that had the words I LOVE MELBOURNE emblazoned on the front. Then I thought “You traitor! Brisbane is your home city.”

    If I did go ahead and buy that I LOVE MELBOURNE t-shirt I would have been tempted to use a big ugly marking pen to write in the words underneath ” – to visit”.


  5. It’s rainy and warm there most of the time, isn’t it ? A friend of mine worked as an architect and made some building in a place called Rockhampton, which I see now is rather close to Brisbane. I’ve lost his trail now, but he could be still about there.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You’re welcome, Glen 🙂 I hope you are fine there, and at least better than me here (hey, i don’t say this for mercy, just to explain why I’m usually offline and not blogging or reading much)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Glen, just reading your post regaling your beautiful, vibrant city prompted me to check out my own. Indianapolis, Indiana may never hit the millions, but it’s a far cry from past years. 2019 boasts of the population being 838,000.

    No longer can the largest city in Indiana be referred to as “Naptown,’ a sleepy boring nothing [“Indianoplace”] of a city. Thanks to a visionary Mayor and a number of investors putting their money where there mouths were, we a BIG city now!👏🏾😜👍🏾

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have Indianapolis as the 17th most populous city in the U.S.
    I see it plays hosts to a number of noteworthy cultural assets including the world’s largest children’s museum, one of America’s largest privately funded zoos as well as the largest collection of monuments dedicated to veterans and war casualties in the U.S. outside of Washington, D.C.

    I see the city is also connected to some famous writers including science fiction author Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007). Apparently The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library opened in the city in 2010. The penner of the classic anti-war novel SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE (1969) is famously quoted as saying –

    “All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.”

    As well, Indianapolis is home to bestselling young adult fiction writer John Green. His 2012 novel THE FAULT IN OUR STARS is set in the city (I’m fairly positive you already knew that!)

    Thanks for sparking my interest.


  9. As someone from the wild west of Queensland whose first experience of the word ‘city’ was Brisbane (these were Expo ’88 days and I was all of five), I have to agree with you, Glen, that Brisbane has its charm and has come a long way to deserve its rep as Australia’s third world-class city.

    But what on earth has happened to the Valley?! It’s now so sanitized and Hoovered of vice that the only place you can get into even a thimbleful of trouble is directly outside Fortitude Valley station (or ‘Brunswick Street station’, as some of us with long memories insist on calling it).

    Even in the naughty noughties, when the shades of Joh and Russ and ‘Sir’ Terry had been largely chased from the fair face of Brisbane, as a young man, I still doubled my pace if I had to walk through the Brunswick street mall after six p.m.

    And as for the mall, into what dustbin have the bourgeoisie deposited the weekend markets? I bought my prized, maroon-bound copy of the Fitzgerald Report for forty semolians from the lady who used to sell secondhand books there. And gone is the English guy who used to sell records, and who once almost persuaded me to buy a vicuña coat from him for a sum as handsome as the coat itself. You could sit on the terrace of the Royal George on a Saturday afternoon in those days with a schooner and hear Stellar One Eleven playing gratis on the bandstand a few steps away.

    (Excuse me while I shave my white beard away.)

    Yes, Brisbane is more liveable than it used to be, but a certain gentrifying element has made parts of it so ‘liveable’ that they’ve pressure-hosed all the rough edges off it. And don’t get me started on West End!

    Anyway, thanks for posting, Glen. Brisbane needs no apologia, but it was nice all the same to hear someone step gallantly to her defence.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Holy cow Dean!
    It’s not every day – even every year – SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK attracts a 5 star standard written comment such as yours. The pleasure is all mine.
    I too remember the days of quickening one’s pace passing thru Fortitude Valley after (and before!) 6 pm.


  11. Yes, those were the days, Glen, and although I’m sure no Queenslander would not like to go back to Moonlight State days, still, that is a significant part of Brisbane’s ‘character’, an underbelly of sultry, tawdry corruption which gave the city part of its charm.

    I love the world-class Brisbane, but we should not be too hasty to forget our bizarre, tyrannical, rather embarrassing and corrupt past. It would be like Chicago trying to erase the fact that once there were gangsters who walked these mean streets!

    Liked by 1 person

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