Early ‘90’s memories

Photograph supplied by Andrew Claus (1993)

Photograph supplied by Andrew Claus (1993)

UQ for me, from 1991-1994, started with enlisting in the Queensland University Regiment, straight out of high school. Unavoidably grinning as a plump sergeant shouted my first ever “A-ten-SHUN”. The smell of old canvas, Dubbin leather dressing, rifle oil, camouflage cream and grass, at Tin Can Bay. Looking over the sight at 4am, silently and motionlessly waiting for sunrise.

From an all-male school and a mostly male army reserve, both with strict uniforms, to the freedom of Uni, in a class that was 2/3 females. The first Physiotherapy lecture featured Prof Gwen Jull, describing the fantastic range of experiences that could be had in fields such as paediatrics, orthopaedics and musculoskeletal physiotherapy practice. Prue Galley, nurturing fascination in the study of how humans move and the emergence of physiotherapy as a profession, but modestly omitting to mention the pivotal role that she played in sparking this emergence at a global level. Robyn Cupit training military-style attention to detail in massage classes, and application of electrotherapy devices such as UV light exposure for ulcers, and short wave diathermy (induced flow of electrical current in the body) for heat. Assoc Prof Yvonne Burns’ eyes lighting up as she described the neurodevelopment of movement in children. Each of our educators had been leaders in physiotherapy at all levels, from the national association through to international bodies for specific disciplines.

Information was starting to transition from analogue to digital. Library cards to identify the location of books had been replaced by green-screen computers to search the catalogue. To search for journals, one computer could be booked for a 30 min session, where it would load a series of CD-ROMs, long before PubMed existed. The research lab had the first computers with colour screens and a mouse. Netscape Navigator was the main search engine for the small number of websites that existed. An Apple Macintosh computer, with floppy discs to load a word processing programme, was the newest thing for typing up a thesis. Lectures slides were individual plastic 35 mm slides, with a carousel projector to switch between them, a chalk board, or an overhead projector and texta to write notes.

The student union cost a lot, and did a lot. On the floor of the Union Building Refectory on UQ Open Day, ZenZenZo theatre troupe was represented by Jason Klarwein, Chris Beckey and Lynne Bradley performing excerpts from Macbeth. In broad daylight and fluorescent lighting, with only a throne and some sound effects, their dramatic energy transfixed the whole audience and transported them to ancient Scotland. At night time gigs, the same building played host to performers like Tiddas sharing Koori soul, or the Doug Anthony Allstars spitting on conventional society. A toga party was held in the Great Court. Thousands attended. I’m guessing the mess had something to do with that never happening again.

Semper magazine was a broadsheet paper, deliberately messy, with handy advice like how to make a meal from road kill. Grafitti on all study carols (walled desks in the library) and all desks in lecture theatres. The Biological library had one carol that was covered in graffiti about wombats. Abel Smith theatre had a lecture chair that featured Pearl Jam. Sadly 4zzz radio station had been removed from the Student Union building, but their ideas like the Hottest 100 songs were launched to a wider audience with Triple J transmitting nationally for the first time. People thought I was a bit weird for wearing a Triple J shirt.

Uni Cycle Club wasn’t technically permitted to ‘race’ around a loop of the lake, colleges and Dutton Park cross-river ferry service (now built out with the lakes bus station and the Schonell bridge), so at 6am every Saturday morning we held 2 or 3 grades of ‘race-simulations’. It was Greg Lemond instead of Lance Armstrong, that inspired a faithful and obsessive subculture to take up bike racing in Brisbane. The beehive buzz of bike clusters in the cool early morning, the colour and whoosh of air as the bunch rode past. To dress in European cycling clothes was novel and expensive in Brisbane, long before the internet or SBS made it possible to actually watch the Tour de France or Spring Classics. The hill at St Johns College was the break-away mountain in our criteriums. In 1993 UQ hosted the inaugural Australian University Games, with much fanfare. The Physio department and students were all mobilised to provide sports trainer and first aid support. Robbie McEwan cleaned up the road cycling criterium on a shortened version of our lakes loop at UQ.

Cycling was followed by coffee and muffins, which could finally shift onto campus once Wordsmiths café was opened. On a weekday lunchtime I could stop by Wordies to hear Peter Carey do a reading from his latest UQ Press book release. Now, a lecturer, I do hope that my students will take equally fond memories from their time at UQ.

Andrew Claus PhD, Brisbane.

Andrew Claus is a lecturer with the UQ School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, teaching musculoskeletal physiotherapy, with special interests in pain sciences and research on neuromuscular control of the spine.