Archive for the ‘The 90s…’ Category

James Cook University (JCU) is in a constant state of cultural and technological change. That is my observation after attempting a degree there in 1998 and then returning again in 2008 when I felt the time was right.

After leaving JCU back in 1999 I never even thought I would end up at JCU again as life had taken me so far away from the place that coming back never crossed my mind.  JCU never forgets though and has a memory like an elephant keeping just about every little detail about you.  Former phone numbers addresses and academic records that have been all long forgotten brought back memories from a lifetime ago. I got a glimpse at what career paths were important to me at 18.  I had selected a major in Archaeology and wanted to be a high school teacher.  Something I would never want to do now!  One other embarrassing thing JCU kept was my old student picture from 1998 which was rather funny as I had hair back then and looked like a fresh faced 18 year old who had no idea what he was doing at uni.  I can really relate to that now when I watch all the school leavers fresh from school file into the lecture theatre in a perplexed state.

How things have changed over 10 years.  A few reflections of Then and Now….

In 1998/1999….

No PowerPoint presentations; Lecturers had to be good speakers to capture the audience.

No mass handouts of information, we had to write everything down.

Tutorial sign up was done with just a pen and paper at the end of the lecture.

The internet was relatively new and just used for email.

Journal articles and sources had to be obtained by physically going to the library.

Returning in 2008…..

The internet dominates learning; just about everything is done online.

Students have more disposable income (or debt) I say this because I notice a lot of students driving near new model cars and many wearing designer branded clothing.

Life is faster with less time available to socialise on campus.

Girls wear more revealing clothing compared to girls 10 years ago.

Guys are more image conscious taking greater care of their appearance.

Students use laptops, smart phones and social networking sites.

One of the biggest changes is support services for students; there is a huge emphasis in assisting them to complete their degrees and giving them direction towards possible career paths.  In the late 90s support services were not very well organised at JCU, it was every student for themselves and those not focused or needing support did not cross the finish line.

Was it a good idea leaving JCU in 1999 and returning in 2008? Absolutely!  I was someone that needed to work in the real world and achieved what I wanted to do without the need for a university education. Having achieved what I wanted to do going back to uni at 28 gave me some perspective on the value of university education.

My only regret was missing out on the uni social scene and the resulting uni friendships forged by many young students.  When you are in your late 20s or early 30s it is harder to make friends at uni as everyone seems to already have their groups of friends that are important to them.  I think it would bother me if I was younger but now that I am a bit older I am my own person and just take things as they come.    JCU is an excellent place to study and there are so many interesting people; you never know who you are going to meet at the next tutorial or lecture.  The best thing to do is have an open mind to everyone you meet which will make your university experience enriching.


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What were you doing on Friday the 31st of December 1999? The last night of the 20th century with the year 2000 and biggest party in living history about to start, this is one memorable night most people remember!  I wish I could say that I was partying hard however having only started a new job  a few month earlier I was at work.   This is my story of what it is like to work in a  5 Star Hotel as the world welcomed in the 21st century.

In 1999, The Cairns International Hotel was simply the finest luxury hotel in Cairns.  From the moment you walk into the ritzy lobby the sky high ceilings and large French style windows with plenty of natural light take many peoples breath away.  Anybody that is anyone important chooses to stay at this hotel when visiting Cairns.   Friday and Saturday nights is when this hotel really comes alive with  guests and locals enjoying the many restaurants, bars and great live music.

After a couple of years doing the hard yards working in hotel bars and restaurants I had finally secured a nice front office job at one of the best hotels in Cairns.  My new job involved working graveyard shifts as a Night Auditor at the front desk.  Being only 19 working between 11pm and 7am did not really worry me.  Besides anybody that has worked for years in Food & Beverage knows that working in an office environment is a welcome change from being on your feet  8 hours a day.

This particular Friday night was very different from any other. Friday nights have always been busy but this Friday it was just crazy. People were everywhere; the lobby, the bar, function rooms and it was so noisy!  Back in 1999 everyone was freaking out by the big bad Y2K bug that was going to cripple all computers when the clock struck midnight sending us back to the stone age.  The hotel was not taking any chances and had a person from IT on standby and required us to print out a mountain of paperwork in the event the computers crashed.  As we all know now nothing happened!   Surprisingly if you are working on the front desk of a 5 star hotel on New Year’s Eve there is not much to do.  There are no arriving or departing guests. There are very few accounts to audit. The hotel is running at 100% occupancy so apart from looking good and handling the switchboard with the greeting  “Welcome to the Cairns International Hotel this is Martyn.”  There is not much to do apart from chatting to guests mingling near the front desk or just talking to my co-workers.   Everyone I was working with were so Jovial it did not feel like I was working.  In fact the hotel was so happy we came to work they let us have a glass of champagne and some tasty savoury treats to celebrate everything working out.  After all this was one New Years that would not happen again for 100 years!

Thinking about the people I used to work with a lifetime ago really stretched my memory, however I do remember my immediate working team.  Working at night there can be times hours pass by where there is not much to do so you can have some really interesting conversations with the people you work with or it can be a nightmare with awkward silences if you do not get along.

Alex Fabbri  (Night Manager)  One of the best bosses I have had in my working life. Alex was a nice man in his forties of Italian decent and was really good at what he did, he kept the staff happy and was really good at dealing with problem guests.   He personally interviewed me for this job which is big considering most times it is left up to Human Resources or the Front Office Manager to do the interviewing considering the odd hours the Night Manager works.

Peter (Supervisor and Night Auditor) We  all eventually encounter someone that is hard to get along with in our working life and this guy was a challenge. You see Peter in his forties was a white South African and while he was tolerant of me I could sense he would have preferred to work with someone who was of Caucasian decent.  Thankfully he was not working on New Year’s Eve!

Quyeen (Night Auditor ) a girl of Vietnamese decent who would have been  only 21 or 22. She was the typical sort of attractive girl that you would find at any luxury hotel front desk.  She left soon after I arrived and was replaced by Tom.

Tom (Night Auditor) One the interesting characters I have met in my working life, he would have been in his late fifties or early sixties and was new to the hospitality industry; in fact I had more experience than him in hotels. Tom was rather young for his age, a charismatic man with a mane of silver hair and a girlfriend that was young enough to be his daughter that he used to like talking about!

It sure was interesting working with these people amongst so many others at the hotel.  Too many to mention in this story…

Welcoming in the New Year with my co-workers I could have never imagined the things I would have experienced in the 10 years to come.  I would have never thought I would end up leaving Cairns and living in the cities of Vancouver, Melbourne and Hobart.  Not to mention leaving the hotel business altogether to pursue two totally different career paths.  As I reflect back over the last 10 years I sometimes think about what my life would have been like if I kept on working at the Cairns International Hotel over the last decade. If I stayed I probably would have worked my way up to being the Front Office Manager  by now and would be reaping many financial and professional social benefits in the local community that such a job brings.  Sometimes I regret leaving such a nice job but if I did not leave I would not have experienced so many amazing things in life. If I was to sum up the my Millennium New Years experience I would say it was extraordinary, well worth going into work that night.



The Cairns International Hotel has been rebranded and is now known as The Sebel Cairns.

This is a historical personal story and should not be relied upon as a review of the hotel.

Photo References

Cairns International Hotel Lobby,  Retrieved 1st July 2010 from Google Images.

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