New England, Australia

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Armidale to settle 200 refugees - overview and discussion

In April (Bias against the bush in Australian refugee resettlement) I reported on the continuing difficulties that had been experienced in some New England areas including Armidale and Tamworth in gaining approval as refugee resettlement centres. Finally, a break through.
Armidale Panorama 
The Announcement

On 11 August 2017, the Turnbull/Joyce Government announced Armidale as a new community-driven regional settlement location for the settlement of refugees. Deputy Prime Minister and Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, was joined by Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter and Assistant Minister for Social Services, Zed Seselja in Armidale for the announcement.

Mr Joyce said the first of an estimated 200 refugees would settle in Armidale in February 2018. 

“Armidale is a good fit as a new regional settlement location for humanitarian entrants to Australia,” Mr Joyce said. “It has a strong, welcoming community demonstrated by the fact that this push for the city to be a settlement location for refugees was driven by the community itself.

“I have absolutely no doubt that Armidale will work closely with the refugees settling here to ensure they can take up all the opportunities available to those who choose to embrace the great lifestyle available in regional Australia.

“Some of the people who will settle here are fleeing unimaginable circumstances which have torn families apart.

“I’m sure that, with the necessary settlement services that will be provided and our welcoming community that refugees arriving in Armidale will be able to make a new start and build a safe, stable future which provides them with the same opportunities that all Australians enjoy.”

Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, said the addition of Armidale as a key regional settlement site was part of the Government’s commitment to encourage migrant and humanitarian settlement outside the major cities.

“This move reflects the Government’s aim to encourage settlement of humanitarian entrants across Australia, not just in our larger cities and I thank and congratulate the people of Armidale and the NSW Government for their support for this initiative,” Minister Porter said.
Armidale Panorama
Australia is a welcoming country to refugees. Our Humanitarian Program is growing from 16,250 to 18,750 in 2018-19 and beyond and it’s important that through our settlement services we encourage more settlement in regional areas.

Completing the trifecta of ministerial remarks, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, Zed Seselja, said the about 200 humanitarian entrants settling in Armidale would be primarily drawn from persecuted minorities from Syria and Iraq.

“The Government has focused on resettling women, children and families with the least prospect of ever returning safely to their homes,” Senator Seselja said. “Under the Government’s new Humanitarian Settlement Program, service delivery has been optimised to achieve better outcomes in employment, education and English language.

“We are committed to ensuring humanitarian entrants are able to overcome barriers, start a new life and integrate into Australian society as quickly as possible.

Settlement Services International, which is contracted through the Department of Social Services to provide settlement services, will provide on the ground settlement services to refugees in Armidale. “This will supplement existing services, providing a further boost to Armidale through SSI staff and resources in the region,” Senator Seselja.

“This settlement program in Armidale will build on the additional 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq who Australia committed to resettling. “The vast majority of these 12,000 refugees have arrived in Australia, with the remaining families expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

“Armidale provides a similar regional environment to the refugees’ source country,” he said. "The Australian Government carefully considers the establishment of new settlement locations.”  Factors considered in selecting settlement locations include:
  • availability of mainstream services such as health and education;
  • opportunities for employment;
  • the size, cultural and religious composition of potential settlement communities;
  • the availability of affordable rental housing;
  • the support of the local council and community in welcoming newsettlers;
  • the potential for the harmonious settlement of the specific group.

I have included links to media coverage at the end of the post.

University of New England International Hub
I assume that the majority of this refugee intake will be families, although it could included some individuals. I make this point because 200 sounds like a lot. If the average family size is four, we are talking about fifty families, 100 adults, 100 children. That is large enough to provide for self-support within the group but is small relative to Armidale’s size and existing international community in town, at the university and in the schools. 

In the media coverage, considerable emphasis was placed on the availability of jobs, including jobs in agriculture and at the big tomato growing facility at Guyra which has experienced some difficult in attracting workers. All this may be right, but it misses an important point. We should not assume that people will stay in Armidale.

I have been researching a little of the history of the big migrant camp at Greta in the Hunter Valley. Between 1949 and 1960 100,000 people passed through this camp. Some settled in the Hunter, most settled elsewhere. The camp was a transit point.

The critical thing for the refugees coming to Armidale is that they come to a stable and welcoming environment that can provide them with a base to recover and plan for their future. Hopefully that future will include Armidale, but it may not.

Civic welcome for International Students
While I know that there are some private reservations in Armidale, I have no doubt that the City will be welcoming, It’s had to work hard enough for the opportunity. Here I quote from the Express story:
"The federal government has finally recognised Armidale as a suitable refugee settlement location. It comes after years of lobbying by refugee advocacy groups and Armidale Regional Council.
“It’s not just Armidale who has been pushing for this either,” Sanctuary Humanitarian Settlement member Robin Jones said. 
“Multicultural NSW has promoted it, The Refugee Council of Australia has promoted it, Paul Power [its chief executive] has promoted it, it’s been a long time coming.” 
Dr Jones said this was excellent news for Armidale. 
“We’ve ready, willing and able, let me assure you,” she said. 
The city will also receive a boost in refugee services to assist the new arrivals according to Dr Jones. 
“We already have four services here - and the major one is Northern Settlement Services,” she said. 
“But we also have a refugee nurse - two refugee nurses in fact. “We have STARTTS, which is a councilling service that comes up from Coffs Harbor.“We have TAFE that has the language programs. 
“And we have a community that is very supportive too"
Armidale has already been a centre for some refugee resettlement. Makuach Maluach and his family arrived in Armidale in 2009 as refugees from South Sudan. Now Makuach is set to play college basketball in the US

The question of the availability of support services is a vexed one. I have made the point before that I think the approach adopted by the Federal Government is far too rigid and bureaucratic.

The Armidale announcement was preceded by an announcement on 27 July that Settlement Services International had been awarded a contract to provide settlement services to refugees and humanitarian entrants under the Commonwealth’s Government new Humanitarian SettlementProgram (HSP) in NSW Regional, which covers northern NSW. That contract followed a competitive tendering process that began in September 2016. This means that SSI will manage Newcastle, Coffs Harbour and now Armidale,

I wondered how Settlement Services International meshed with Northern Settlement Services. Digging a little, I found that Northern Settlement Services is a member of SSI and part of the the NSW Settlement Partnership (NSP). Led by SSI, the NSP is a consortium that delivers settlement services in agreed areas of NSW, as of July 1, 2015 until June 30, 2018, under the Department of Social Services’ Settlement Services Program (SSP). Presumably some form of collaboration will be involved in Armidale delivery. 

There has been a fair bit of criticism of NSW co-ordinator general for refugee resettlement Peter Shergold over the failure to resettle refugees in regional areas, as well as the lags that have occurred in Armidale’s case. Reading the Guardian report, I suspect he has been caught between a rock and a hard place. I quote in part::
"NSW co-ordinator general for refugee resettlement Peter Shergold told a resettlement conference in Sydney that efforts to help settle refugees in rural and regional areas would ease pressure on Fairfield and neighbouring Sydney councils. 
He said NSW and Australia’s refugee intakes were “eminently manageable”. NSW took more than half of the additional intake of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, in addition to its regular refugee resettlement program. 
Refugees made up a tiny percentage – 0.14% - of population growth in NSW, Shergold said.  
“But refugees don’t just distribute across NSW. In this last year, relatively few refugees have gone to Wagga, or Albury or Coffs Harbour, or even to Newcastle or Wollongong. To a very large extent these additional refugees have come to western Sydney… they’ve come to Fairfield. That’s the challenge.”  
Shergold said the issues facing Fairfield City Council were “acute”, and that a broader spread of resettlement would ease pressure in that area, and, critically, assist refugees in finding employment.  
“What refugees want is a job. And that has been the most challenging, helping refugees do what they want to do most, which is get employment. 
Armidale Campus, New England Institute of TAFE,  location of TAFE NSW's new digital hub
Shergold welcomed the Armidale announcement, saying the regional city had the necessary infrastructure and support services already in place to help refuges. 
“This decision has the potential to boost Armidale’s local economy, create new business and most of all, become a template for the kind of Australian mateship the world needs to see.”
Now that approval has been given for this group of refugees to come to Armidale, groups in both Tamworth and Glen Innes can be expected to redouble their efforts to achieve similar outcomes for their towns. 


Thursday, August 10, 2017

The remarkable Patersons

On 12 July, my post From Armidale to Bega: sharing the remarkable Hinton art collection included a reproduction of an Esther Paterson (1896-1971) painting, The Yellow Gloves, also known as Portrait of Betty Paterson.

I knew nothing about Esther or Betty Paterson so did some digging around. I found they were part of a rather remarkable Melbourne artistic family whose story I briefly outlined in my Armidale Express column subsequently re-posted on my New England History blog, The Patersons and their artistic legacy 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The story of New England's Anaiwan or Nganjaywana Aboriginal language

A lot of my writing at the moment is elsewhere and on the history side. I fear that this blog continues severely neglected as a result.

Regular readers may remember that I write the weekly history column for the Armidale Express. I have been writing a series on the mystery associated with New England's Anaiwan or Nganjaywana Aboriginal language I have now brought on-line the last column in teh series. You will find this here. It includes links to all the columns in the series so that you can follow the story through.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

From Armidale to Bega: sharing the remarkable Hinton art collection

Esther Paterson (1896-1971), The Yellow Gloves, also known as Portrait of Betty Paterson. Oil on board. Gift of Howard Hinton, 1939. This is but one of the Hinton paintings I remember from my childhood. 
Visitors to the exhibition Treasures of Australian art 1880-1940: the Howard Hinton Collection opening at 10am on Saturday 15 July at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery will discover one of the most significant art collections in regional New South Wales.

The exhibition will feature forty-four key works from the Howard Hinton Collection at the New England Art Museum (NERAM) in Armidale including paintings by Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Margaret Preston, Nora Heysen, Hans Heysen, Norman Lindsay, Elioth Gruner and Herbert Badham.

“Howard Hinton was an extraordinarily generous man who gave away these fabulous artworks during his own lifetime and this exhibition is just a small selection of what is to be found here in one of the most significant art collections in regional Australia,” said Robert Heather, Director of the New England Regional Art Museum. “We hope that the exhibition inspires visitors to come and see more of The Howard Hinton Collection in Armidale.”

“Howard Hinton donated over 1200 artworks to the Armidale Teacher’s College between his retirement in 1929 and his death in 1948,” said Mr Heather. “Every year zinc lined packing cases would arrive bearing artworks and be opened by the staff, than the collection was hung in lecture theatres, offices, hallways and the library of the College, where the artworks stayed for over fifty years.”

Tom Roberts (1856-1931), Mosman's Bay, 1894.Oil on canvas. Gift of Howard Hinton 1933. Those who know Mosman will recognise the building in the centre. Hinton was insistent that the collection not be broken up, that it be preserved in perpetuity and displayed for the benefits of students.
“Hinton collected with the express aim of providing student teachers with access to the history of Australian art from the 1880s until his own time with an emphasis upon genres such as landscape, still life and portraiture. It also provides a unique glimpse into the art scene in Sydney in the 1930s and 40s when Hinton was a significant benefactor and supporter of many artists.”

“We are privileged to be able to show these iconic works from this nationally important collection and partner with the New England Regional Art Museum to bring them to our community for the enjoyment of local audiences and visitors,” said Iain Dawson, Director, Bega Valley Regional Gallery. “The story behind Howard Hinton collection is one of the most intriguing in the history of benefaction and art philanthropy in Australia.”

Norman Carter (1875-1963), Portrait of Howard Hinton 1936. Oil on canvas.Gift of the Armidale Teachers' College staff and students of the 1935-36 session. For most students coming from across Northern NSW, the Hinton paintings were the first original art they had seen and opened a new world. In making the collection available to other galleries, NERAM is staying true to the intent behind Hinton's original bequest.     
Howard Hinton OBE (1867-1948) arrived in Sydney as a young man in the 1890s and lived with artists such as Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton in camps around Mosman and Cremorne. He soon found work as a clerk with the shipping agents W & A McArthur Ltd, rising to the position of Director in 1916, and retiring in 1928.

Described as a ‘modest and self-effacing gentleman’, he lived in ‘Hazelhurst’, a boarding house in Cremorne with a small selection of artworks and books. A lifelong lover of the arts who had aspired to be an artist when younger, he was a regular fixture as art exhibitions around Sydney and was a Trustee and donor to the (then National) Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Following his retirement he started donating hundreds of paintings, sculptures, books, prints, drawings and other artworks to the new Armidale Teacher’s College. The College opened in temporary premises in 1928 with the first painting, The Lock Gates by Sir Adrian Stokes. RA,.arriving in 1929 in advance of the opening of the College's new building. Hinton was warmly welcomed by students, staff and the wider community on his rare visits. He died of severe pneumonia and heart failure in 1948 and the final shipment to the college included the small selection of artworks that had been in his room at the boarding house.

Community concern about the collection following the closure of the Armidale College of Advanced Education led to it being relocated into the purpose built New England Regional Art Museum in 1983, where it now forms the basis of regular exhibitions, displays and other programs that are seen by thousands of visitors to the beautiful university town of Armidale.

The exhibition was originally developed as a partnership in 2016 between the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre and the New England Regional Art Museum.

Exhibition Venue:
15 July – 30 September 2017
Bega Valley Regional Gallery
Zingel Place
Open 10am-4pm Monday-Friday, Saturday 10am-12noon, Admission free

About Bega Valley Regional Gallery
The BVRG is a regional gallery in south eastern New South Wales, half way between Sydney and Melbourne. The gallery is an important resource for its artistically rich and diverse community and works collegiately with fellow professional arts organisations, fLiNG Physical Theatre, Four Winds Festival and South East Arts who collectively deliver engaging, challenging and innovative programs of both artistic and educational excellence. The Bega Valley Regional Gallery is funded by the Bega Valley Shire Council, and the NSW Government through Create NSW.

About New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM)
The New England Regional Art Museum opened in 1983 to house The Howard Hinton Collection and The Chandler Coventry Collection in the grounds of the former Armidale Teacher’s College. Today NERAM’s nationally significant collections of over 5000 works of art form the basis of the gallery’s programs. Visitors to NERAM can enjoy changing art exhibitions and other art activities, see the Museum of Printing, NERAM cafĂ© and the Museum Shop.

For more information:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Problems with ATMs

I see from the Moree Champion that Moree's Balo shopping centre has lost its only ATM. The National Australia Bank decided not to renew its lease on the spot.

Given the size of the shopping centre, the decision is a little surprising. One side effect has been a big increase in people asking for cash out from Coles to the point that Coles is no longer giving cash out from the cigarette counter as too many people were taking time away from customers who were buying something from the store.

The decline in ATMs is the latest in a series of changes that tend to affect country areas more than the city, although there are city problems too. We have seen how bank closures carried out in the name of efficiency and cost savings adversely affected country regions in particular. The spread of ATMs represented a partial compensation, giving country people continued access to cash. Now the spread of new payment mechanisms with consequent decline in use of cash is leading to a decline in ATMs.

This trend is already creating its own problems Again, the country is likely to be most affected. There are more older people, cash usage is higher, while fewer shops have the new payments mechanisms or provide them for free. .

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bias against the bush in Australian refugee resettlement

In November of last year I reported (From Africa's Great Lakes to Mingoola's Field of Dreams) on Mingoola's successful attempt to settle African refugee families. It had been a bit of a battle because of the belief among officials and refugee agencies that refugees had to close to support agencies and that mainly meant the city. I wrote at the time:
This business of need for adequate support services for refugees has become a major difficulty that actively impedes families moving to country areas . The need to provide adequate (ie modern) housing and support services can actually place refugees in situations where they have good housing and support services but are isolated from the surrounding community without access to work.
In February this year, Armidale was rejected as a location for Syrian refugees on the apparent grounds that the city lacked the necessary support services. I almost went ballistic on this one because the city has very good facilities and access to support.

Meantime down in Tamworth, the Syrian Refugee Project began work early in 2016 to create welcoming conditions and supports for Syrian refugees to allow them to settle in Tamworth.

By mid-April, Project representative and Multicultural Tamworth president Eddie Whitham was expressing acute frustration. Quoting from the Northern Daily Leader of 20 April, 
Mr Whitham and project chief Brian Lincoln have even been actively pursuing the issue through the available channels, but so far it has all been to no avail. 
“We have written letters and made phone calls asking what is happening and when we can expect to get some refugees to settle – so far there has been no answers coming back,” Mr Whitham said. 
“We want to see four families come to Tamworth because we are ready for them now. We could take a dozen families progressively.” 
So Tamworth is ready too, but simply can't get an answer. While all this has been going on, it appears that some 4,000 Syrian refugees have been settled in Sydney's Fairfield. This is partly a matter of refugee choices, but I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that we have a clear pattern of exclusion of non-metro options.  

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Australia's largest under 12 rugby competition about to kick off in Armidale

The next TAS (The Armidale School) Rugby Union Carnival, will be held on Saturday 8, Sunday 9 April. Now in its thirteenth year, the carnival has developed into Australia's largest under 12s rugby carnival.

The Armidale Express reports that this year there will be over 900 players from 45 school and club teams grouped into five divisions based on teams of similar ability. Over the two days, 110 games of rugby will be played on eight school ovals, proudly prepared by TAS grounds staff over recent weeks.

While carnival attracts teams from a very wide area including the metros, it especially important for country teams such as the Moree Junior Bulls who have participated in every carnival since its inception.

According to Moree Junior Bulls coordinator Cath Keen, the team loves heading to Armidale to take part in the massive competition.
“It is competition from bigger regional centres, they’re playing against kids from all over New South Wales and parts of Queensland,” she said. “It’s more competition and it’s great for them to see how other kids play and what the standards are.” 
There has been a lot of media coverage about the problems that smaller communities have faced in maintaining sporting competition in all codes because of diminishing numbers of young people. There has been less coverage of the problems that good country athletes face at both school and club level in accessing good coaching and proper competition.

At school level, the problem is compounded by the growing gap in pupil numbers between country and city schools. It is very hard, for example, in rugby union to compete against a city school which may have 2,000 boys if you only have 300 or even 600. The problem is further compounded by the growing professionalisation in school sport. Mind you, its not just a problem for country schools. The smaller city schools struggle as well, as evidenced by the problems over recent years in the NSW GPS (Greater Public Schools) rugby competition. .

I think TAS deserves commendation for the way that has been prepared to make its grounds and staff available to support not just regional sporting activities, but also academic and cultural activities.      .

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Munnmorah's falling stacks marks continuing end of an era

Sunday 26 March 2017 Munmorah Power Station chimney stacks falling (photo ABC) The Newcastle Herald piece by Scott Bevan has a good description of the technical difficulties involved in bringing the stacks down.  
 The demolition of the Munmorah chimney stacks was the symbol of an end of another era.

Vales Point (1963-64) was the first of the big Northern power stations followed by Munmorah (1967-69) then Lidell (1971-73), Eraring (1982-1984) and Bayswater (1985-86).

At the time of the new state plebiscite in 1967, Vales Point  was included in the southern end of the New England boundaries which included the Lake Macquarie catchment. One of the vexed issues at the time was the price to be placed on NSW assets in New England, how much debt the new state should have.This would have become a bigger issue with the construction of the other stations.

That is now all water under the bridge, of course. Still, it somehow seemed appropriate to record Munmorah's passing.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Japan's Nihon University may establish campus in Newcastle

According to the Newcastle Morning Herald, Japan's Nihon University has chosen Newcastle as its first bricks and mortar university in Australia.

If you read the tone of the editorial, you will see that the paper is playing it's role as Newcastle's booster. I have no complaints with that, and indeed it is a sign of Newcastle's progressive maturation.

Newcastle has always had its own character, but for too long its been under the shadow of Sydney, a lesser city often ignored and indeed subsumed into a strange entity called Greater Sydney. It's been interesting watching the changes in the city over the last few years, including the growing role of the University of Newcastle in supporting change.

As the editorial notes, Nihon will add to Newcastle's depth without distracting from Newcastle Uni.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Importance of Cundletown's new Coptic Church

 The singing of traditional Coptic hymns plays a big part in each mass. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)
I am constantly fascinated by the diversity of life across Northern NSW, the broader New England. A case in point is the opening of the St Mary and St Pope Kirolos the 6th Coptic Christian Orthodox Church in Cundletown as reported by Emma Siossian for ABC Mid North Coast.

The Copts are one of the oldest Christian groups in the Middle East and still constitute a significant minority of the Egyptian population.. The Coptic Orthodox Church  is one of  the orthodox churches that formed in what was then the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire during the schisms that marked the early Christian Church. I have read a little of Byzantine history, including the religious disputes, and find the whole thing remarkably complicated!

Photo: The old Cundletown dock yard
Cundletown near Taree in the Manning Valley lies a long way from Egypt. While young by Coptic standards, Cundletown is a historic village in its own right with its colonial remains.

The linkage between the Cundletown and Coptic Egypt is provided by Dr Moheb Ghaly, a long-time Manning Valley surgeon born in Egypt.

Over very many decades, the combination of political instability with religious persecution led to the emigration of many Egyptian Copts, some of whom settled on the North Coast. Like many other Copts, Dr Ghaly used to travel to Sydney for services. Now he worked to establish a church where local Copts could worship.
Local resident: "This will bring more people and families to the area. It's our community, it's us, it's our identity."  Dr Ghaly outside the new church. 
I have no doubt that the new church will assist in attracting new Egyptian Coptic residents. There is now a long history of such chain migration in New England including the Germans and Scots that came to New England from the 1840s-1850s and then, much later, the Indians who came to Woolgoolga

At a time when many parts of New England are struggling to attract people, when it's just so hard to get people to move from the metros, the creation of such community infrastructure, the welcoming of new people, is important in attracting new residents who, in turn, will attract new residents.The North gains from increased population and from added diversity to New England life.   .