Proud Ken Behrens: Canberrans embrace the lighter side of COVID lockdowns

Damien Larkins 16 August 2021 8
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr Ken Behrens tweet by Sean Lawson

The Chief Minister gives Ken Behrens a shout-out. Photo: Twitter.

“Ken Behrens” may have started as a mistranslation, but it’s fast become a shining example of Canberra’s indomitable spirit and humour as lockdowns wear on.

The ACT has been in lockdown since Thursday (August 12) after a local COVID-19 case was identified.

“I want to thank all Canberrans for doing the right thing,” ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said in his now-daily update press conference on Friday.

However, the automated captions on the social media video translated it as: “I want to thank Ken Behrens for doing the right thing.”


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Canberran and ABC Sports writer Sean Lawson was watching the stream on Facebook and saw the AI-generated gaffe.

“I thought that was really funny so I screen-grabbed and tweeted it,” he said.

“It just took on a life of its own.”

His phone was soon running hot with notifications.

“I ended up switching them off; I was getting too many notifications, so I muted the thread,” he says.

The term ‘Ken Behrens’ quickly started trending.

Soon others were taking screen-grabs of Sean’s tweet and posting them across other social media platforms.

A Twitter account was soon set up in Ken’s name which began tweeting COVID-related information.

Even former Immigration Department spokesperson Sandi Logan jumped on the Twitter hashtag bandwagon, taking it a step further with #JeSuisKenBehrens.

While the situation speaks to the Australian tradition of levity in tough times, Sean thinks the humour has triggered Canberra’s plucky spirit.

“[Also] it’s a novel spin on something very new to us, which is the daily COVID press conference,” he says.

“It was the first one; in other parts of the country, they’re pretty used to them.”

The name is already starting to become part of the vernacular – a symbol of the lockdown.

ACT Health’s media office has even got in on the trend, using the hashtag #kenbehrens.

ACT Health using the Ken Behrens hashtag in the Canberra lockdown covid

ACT Health is down with the hashtag internet-speak. Photo: ACT Health.

Internet-savvy Canberrans have even linked the mysterious Ken to another local legend – ACT Policing mascot Kenny Koala.

Local Zoe Rose has raised $300 (and counting) for OzHarvest selling Ken Behrens t-shirts. Hoodies, mugs, cushions and more are also available.

Ken Behren t-shirts

I am Ken Behren. Photo: Screenshot.

Although it’s had an immediate impact, Sean’s not sure ‘Ken Behrens’ will endure as a lasting memory of the lockdowns.

“[Let’s] see if we can get Andrew Barr to use it,” he says, “but then [ACT] police Twitter might grab it and ruin it.”

While the Chief Minister’s words may have been incorrectly transcribed, the sentiment remains.

It just goes to show Canberrans know how to keep their sense of humour, even when times get tough.


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8 Responses to Proud Ken Behrens: Canberrans embrace the lighter side of COVID lockdowns
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Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:12 pm 16 Aug 21

Back to the real world and how the lockdown is impacting on internet service disruptions, reported by Signal Co:
Identified – We are currently experiencing some backhaul congestion due to a higher than anticipated bandwidth requirements,
We have implemented some temporary bandwidth management and we are working on upgrades to accommodate this surge in bandwidth.

At this time we are using 130% more bandwidth than the lockdown in 2020.
Aug 16, 16:46 AEST

Nick Swain Nick Swain 3:03 pm 16 Aug 21

Ken Behrens joins other notable Canberra personalities such as Albert Hall, General Waste, Kayleen, Bruce and wildlife like Toad Hall. Who have I missed out?

Ken Behrens Ken Behrens 2:02 pm 16 Aug 21

Thank you Chief Minister for the kind words of endorsement. However I’d like to point out that I’m only human and anything but infallible. Like the Etruscan mimes, I wear many masks, have many personalities and play many roles. I, Ken Benhrans complied to the lockdown orders when they came into effect. However also, just in the nick of time, I, Ken Benhrans also decided to merrily sing sea shanties as I snaked down to Surfside. The Clyde does indeed cast a long shadow over our collective unconscious. O pooh!

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 3:22 pm 16 Aug 21

    Onya, Ken (the one who has complied, and is complying, with the the lockdown).

    Boo, Ken (the rat who slinked down to the coast without any thought for the potential impact)

    Madashell Madashell 6:14 pm 19 Aug 21

    If we beat COVID and Ken Behrens runs for the next local election he’ll be a shoe in and Andrew Barr will be regretting he ever placed him in the limelight. Rookie mistake!

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