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Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Anzac Day, 4 am - Maroochydore - “more than 700” gather in Cotton Tree to rememberance a global century of theatre participation. The old may name them all.

Kids love pomp and lap up the ceremony like frisky kittens at a bowl of full-cream milk. They see mum and dad happy. They act for an event.

Mum and dad take photos of daughters positioned before the black monument (like a pen's nib, though uncloven) embedded in sand at the park's west (town centre) end. Soldiers in their thirties and forties chat with friends of relatives with ribbons on their chests. An old sailor talks to boys in blue-and-white.

It’s different in the bush. “That Rudd,” ejaculated the old Hunter Valley cocky off whose tray we picked a watermelon driving back to Sydney. “The banks! They raised interest rates on Anzac Day. How do you like that!”

Anzac Day is more than merely ‘important’ out here in the bush. It’s personal.

No point trying to shop on 25 April - even Sunshine Plaza is closed and bolted. This being Queensland, several off-duty police are assaulted asking a trio of revellers to leave the Redcliffe RSL, where their welcome had worn out.

One of them “refused and was restrained”. He “started to kick the side window” of the “police vehicle”, “tried to climb out the window” and “head butted” a copper. He then punched an officer.

This is the state where failure to say ‘thank you’ when taking change at the bottle shop inspires counter clerks to rebel. Expect a sharp comment in this situation and - whatever you do - don’t answer back!

Community is strong and feelings of entitlement are not altogether out of place, here, beneath the casuarinas. You sense that you’re just as good as the next man (or woman).

A sense of belonging. The fierce independence of the pioneer.

I'm about to leave the park when the middle-aged woman in the folding chair catches my eye. Quite alone and quite unconcerned. We chat. The subject of the weather covered, I mention the new mayor - Big Bob - voicing concerns on-air about development in his enlarged constituency.

“Absolutely,” she cries. But what about land value? “It’s happening too fast,” she counters (not to be outdone by a southerner). Having lived in Diddillibah from birth - her family moved here in 1912 - this woman resents gains made from exploiting a scenic coastal area she loves.

Developers are not popular in Maroochydore and the Sunshine Coast Daily often runs stories about their sins. But the flow of retirees (like mum and dad) will not stop.

Bad planning - Big Bob’s bugbear - is evident as you watch families and servicemen and -women mooch around Cotton Tree, unwilling to leave straight away.

Behind the trees loom towers - million-dollar, three-bedroom apartments - locals can seldom afford. Restraint is needed. Prior exemplars - similar structures built in the 70s and 80s - led to destroying common property: westerly views up the Maroochy river, its mangroves and pelicans.

While the paperbarks thrive on Cotton Tree, media smell ‘free blood’. A corporate collapse (“the biggest in Queensland history”) led a local “who had just paid a $25,000 deposit” recently to drive her Mazda 121 “twice through the plate glass window” of Residential Property and Development’s office in Warana (map).

For Anzac Day a bang of a slightly different nature is “ordered” (says dad, who knows local politics better than he remembers my name) when a jet fighter shatters the calm that follows the dawn ceremony.

Streaking off the Pacific, the single-man craft crashes over the heads of the laggards and many duck for shock. I finish the shoot and meander back to lunch with the parents - two bedrooms, two balconies, ensuite bathroom, ducted heating, undercover parking - over the estuary.

I don't see a single pelican the whole time we are there.











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