About two weeks ago, I went to Australia for the first time. The trip was for the World Congress for Psychotherapy. I was in Sydney the whole time and I really enjoyed seeing another major city in this region. It was a 3.5 hour flight from Auckland and is the closest city larger than Auckland. Sydney has a population of about 4.5 million (which is around the population for the whole country of New Zealand) and it is in the Australian state of New South Wales. The whole population of Australia is around 22.5 million (roughly equal to the populations of the four US states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska).
It is hard to draw too many conclusions from one week in the largest city of a country. Sydney was very ethnically diverse. It definitely had a larger city feel than Auckland as well as having a different culture. Again, these are just first impressions, but Sydney felt more relaxed (in the sense of not seeming to have as many social rules about colour and loudness of voice), people were louder and more open, but not as friendly. Businesses were more business-like, but with the down-side of being less friendly, more rushed. The food was good, but the quality of the food didn’t seem as spectacular as in New Zealand.
I went to the Chinese Friendship Garden and walked around Darling Harbour, where the convention centre was located. Mary Pat and I took a water taxi (which was a great idea) from Darling Harbour to the Opera House and walked around in the Botanical Gardens, which had a huge number of Flying Foxes in the trees. It was definitely a great trip and we’ll go back for a little longer look at some point.
The conference was wonderful and had daily themes on indigenous culture, spirituality, and also ethics & philosophy. I met some great people and learned and experienced a lot. The overall theme of the conference was World Dreaming, based on the Australian Aboriginal practice of studying dreams and Dream Time. I did have a lot of dreams at the conference and made it to two of the morning dream sharing sessions that were really interesting group processes stemming from the dreams that people brought in. One of my favourite lectures was by Helen Milroy who presented on Aboriginal experience from pre-colonial era, through colonization and genocide, and then a kind of trauma and healing model. What was really amazing is that she had paintings she had made that illustrated each step along the presentation and the paintings seemed to embody the complexity of the step in a non-verbal way, plus they were amazing paintings! Here is a link to a newsletter I found that has an image of one of her paintings: