City Discovery: Brisbane, Australia – A Cultural Melting Pot

Brisbane, Australia is truly an international city. Over 21% of the city’s population was born in another country. Chances are, if someone you meet in Brisbane was born in Australia, one of their parents wasn’t. It’s a true melting pot of cultures.

More than half of Queensland’s imports and exports are handled in Brisbane’s extensive port facilities. Interestingly, Stradbroke Island, one of the ISA excursions, used to be Brisbane’s quarantine area for things and people entering by ship, and later, prisoners were sent to the island to help harvest lumber. In 1838, the city officially stopped being a penal colony and opened up for external settlers and became an official municipality in 1859.



Intercultural experiences highlight exposure with the local culture, promoting a multilateral exchange of ideas, language and opinions.

Dating back to 1864 when the first club was formed, Rugby has been a large part of Australian culture. Today, it draws some of the largest crowds of any sport in Australia. From youngsters who are just learning to state and national championship matches, the sport is something that communities rally around. In addition to the numerous rugby teams based in Brisbane at Suncorp stadium—one of the two big stadiums in CBD (Central Business District)—students can check out the game schedule for the Australian National team – The Wallabies, who made the 2015 World Cup Quarterfinals. In addition to rugby, Cricket and the AFL (Australian Football League – aka “Footy”) are also large sports within Brisbane with games being held at “The Gabba,” the second largest sport venue in the city. The Gabba is located within easy walking distance of campus!

Students are encouraged to check out Brisbane’s Cultural Precinct, comprised of: the Queensland Performing Arts Center, the Queensland Museum South Bank, the Queensland Art Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art and the State Library of Queensland. Each of these venues have free-to-enter areas and host world class exhibits that are accessible by paying an entrance fee. As the capital city of Queensland, Brisbane is lucky enough to be home to many of the state owned and run collections.



ISA excursions and cultural activities highlight historical parts of the local culture to help students better understand their new environment.

On an included ISA excursion, students will visit Mount Tamborine and will receive a welcome ceremony from Mt. Tamborine’s traditional owners – the Yugambeh people. A typical ceremony includes traditional song and dance – which are their main methods of communicating information to one other from generation to generation. These ceremonies, and others like it, are the Yugambeh people’s version of books!

The city of Brisbane was named after former New South Wales Governor, Thomas Brisbane, and did not begin permanent settlement in until 1823. Early settlement surrounded the first convict jail, in 1824,  and used the Brisbane River as a barrier against escape. World War II saw Brisbane become the main headquarters for allied forces in the South Pacific, which was the impetus for the city’s population growth. Throughout the next century, the city hosted both the Commonweath Games of 1982 and Expo 88. Today, the city’s gorgeous weather paired with energetic cultural experiences, entertainment, shopping precincts and adventure outdoor activities makes it a desirable place to live, study or simply just visit. An average of 300 days of sunshine per year doesn’t hurt either.



Sociopolitical discovery highlights social and political activities or experiences.

As the capital city of the state of Queensland, Brisbane is home to many government buildings and organizations that students can visit. Some options include the current Brisbane Parliament, where students can go watch local representatives in live debates and discussions. Just down the road sits the historic Old Parliament House, which is now part of the Queensland University of Technology campus. The Old Parliament House is now a day trip for many local school children, with actors filling the role of classical politicians.

Queensland is currently a hotspot in the international realm due to its minerals exports – specifically coal. Queensland plays a huge role in international markets and its current shifts are being closely watched by megapowers such as China and India. Mining is one of Australia’s largest industries and is why Queensland is recognized as an international mega-site for jobs. Any shifts in these industries tends to be extremely rapid, which has caused many small cities through Queensland’s outback to become abandoned after production halts – much like old lumber cities from North America.



Professional experiences provide exposure to professional development opportunities during an ISA program.

Griffith University offers a credit-bearing course titled “Community Internship” where students are able to gain valuable professional experience in varied positions within non-profit organizations such as Special Olympics Queensland, City of Gold Coast Environmental Management Department, Brisbane Indigenous Media Association Inc. and many more. Throughout the semester, students will spend a minimum of 50 hours within these organizations interacting with the community and gaining valuable real-life experience to boost their professional resumes. In addition to their community involvement, students will reflect on their experiences throughout the semester and present their experiences to their peers at the conclusion of the semester.

Brisbane hosts Australia’s largest career fair – the Careers Employment Expo. This expo showcases international business, education, and service providers. Some of the world’s largest businesses attend, giving students a great introduction to employment opportunities globally. Given Brisbane’s relatively low population, high-level executives are frequently seen at events such as this! Coupled with amazing networking opportunities, each of our partner Universities in the city offer amazing career support and services – be it to students looking for information and guidance on their future career paths or to someone looking for part-time work to make their Australian experience possible.



Environmental experiences expose students to different environmental aspects of the host country.

Visit the “Epicurious Garden” located in the South Bank district of the city. This productive garden is all about discovery and features edible seasonal and organic plant life including fruits, vegetables and herbs meant for visitors to smell, touch and feel to experience. Expert horticulturists and garden volunteers are available to answer visitor questions and a harvest cart is also available for students and visitors to enjoy the harvest of the garden.

Along the Brisbane riverfront, adjacent to the Queensland University of Technology and within walking distance of downtown Brisbane, is the City Botanic Gardens. This garden was established in 1828 and is recognized on the Queensland Heritage Register. Featured in the garden are a Riverstage, host to many local, national and international concerts and events, trailing crops and plants from around the world, and a paved walkway conducive for a nice job in the park.

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The 2015 City Discovery Series aims to showcase one of ISA’s program locations each week. Facts about each location and several Discovery Compass activity examples are given, however they are not a comprehensive list. These activities highlight the areas of Intercultural, Historical, Sociopolitical, Professional and Environmental discovery. The Discovery Compass aims to help students have the best possible study abroad experience by helping them to gain a better understanding of the local environment, customs and people through a variety of experiences.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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