My Visit to Australia
From August 17 to September 5 2011, I visited Australia. I was invited by the the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Australian Skeptics to deliver the Canberra Lecture and to do a speaking tour of the country. It was my first visit to the country and continent. Late in 2010, I was contacted by Kevin Davies to know if I could visit Australia and deliver a lecture as part of events marking the National Science Week. I readily accepted.
What started as an invitation to deliver a lecture gradually ‘evolved’ to become a grand tour that would take me to all states in Australia. It was only the Northern Territory that has Darwin as its capital that I did not visit. I had known and worked with many Australian humanists, atheists and skeptics over the years. I contributed articles to the Australian Skeptic journal and followed with interest the activities of the vibrant skeptic and freethinking community, so I was excited by this opportunity to visit and meet with friends.
I arrived Sydney airport on September 17 from Norway where I attended the World Humanist Congress. I was recieved at the airport by Tim Mendlam, and after a few hours of transit I left for Canberra where I delivered the lecture on Witch hunts and Superstition in Africa, and met with Canberra skeptics. It was in Canberra that I saw and ate the Kangaroo for the first time in my life. I returned to Sydney(August 19) and delivered a talk at a dinner with North South Wales Skeptics. It was at the talk I met with Barry Williams. Barry is a former editor of the Australian Skeptic Journal. He was actually the one who introduced me to the skeptical community in Australia. It was during his tenure as the editor that I started writing for the journal. Most of the articles I first published in the journal were on Nigerian scams which he gave me to understand was then of interest to the readers. While in Sydney I had a lunch with atheists who also took me on a sightseeing trip. On August 22, I left for Brisbane. I delivered a talk to the Queensland Skeptics, dined with the humanists, spoke to the Gold Coast Skeptics and then left for Melbourne.
I arrived in Melbourne August 25. I gave a talk to skeptics at La Notte Italian Resturant. I gave a lecture at another event organized by the skeptics, humanists and atheists. Australian skeptic Mel Vikers and his friend Gracie Marcucci took me to the Healesville Sanctuary for sightseeing. Before coming to Australia, I thought that Australia would have a different wildlife, and I asked friends to arrange so that I could see a bit of the wildlife during my tour. I looked forwarded to seeing some animals or birds I had not seen before or seen only in photos in books or television. I was so happy to visit the Healesville sanctuary, and the animals, birds and the entire wild life I saw there left me with very deep impressions. From Melbourne, I left for the Island of Tansmania where I spoke to skeptics in Hobart. While in Hobart, my host Leyon Parker took me to the top of Mount Wellington. It was my first time to go up a mountain, and right there the temperature was around 7 degrees, from around 30 degrees I was used to in Nigeria
I also visited Adelaide where I delivered three talks to humanists and skeptics. One of my long-time friends and supporters, Dick Clifford, is from Adelaide. We have been corresponding since 1998 and had never met in person. Also from Adelaide is Mary Gallnor, former president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies. I met Ms Gallnor in India in 1999. So it was a great pleasure meeting these friends. Mary and her friend, a former parliamentarian, took me on a tour of the South Australian state parliament and introduced me to the speaker. Perth was the last leg of my tour. While in Perth I gave a talk to skeptics and presented an award to a student who won a contest organized by skeptics. During my tour, I was interviewed by ABC radio in Canberra, Sydney, Hobart etc. A journalist from a local newspaper in Gold Coast also interviewed me.
I would like to thank CSIRO and all my skeptic, humanist, atheist and freethinking friends from Australia for the successful organisation of this trip. As the IHEU representative in Africa, I have traveled a lot in Africa and overseas, but there was no trip like this.
My visit to Australia will ever remain special to me. I will always remember and treasure it. I was truly blown away by the care, warmth and friendship and hospitality I received in all the states. It was encouraging to know that many Australian friends followed my work and were interested in my writing and activism in Africa. Even as I am writing this piece I have yet to come down intellectually and emotionally from that trip. I felt at home, spoke freely, cracked jokes, met, lived and dined with people whom I could truly call friends.
Thanks to this visit I, today, feel more connected to the community of reason in Australia than before.