New England, Australia

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Glen Innes tartan

Did you know Glen Innes has its very own tartan? I did not until the Glen Innes Highlands Facebook page told me so.

The five colours represent:
  • Light blue, the clear day time skies of the New England.
  • Royal blue, for our famous sapphires.
  • Dark blue, our clear night skies.
  • Red, the Celtic blood links to Glen Innes people. 
  • White, fidelity with Celtic pasts and traditions. 
Glen Innes is very proud of its Scottish heritage and has been turning it into a considerable attraction.

The tartan is available to buy in many forms at the Visitor Information Centre.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Maitland City Council's new museum plan and the city's historical significance

West Maitland 1890s

Very few people even perhaps in Maitland realise just how historic the city is. Maitland was established in 1820. Melbourne was established in 1835. By then, Maitland and its river port at Morpeth had begun to develop as entrepot for the European settlers now spreading north. It would be decades before the small settlement at Newcastle passed Maitland in population.

I mention this now because Maitland City Council has unanimously backed an action plan to establish a new and revolutionised model for museums in the city.  (Meg Francis, Maitland Council back report on revolutionising city's historical collections, Maitland Mercury, 28 October 2018).

While I have not read the report on which the decision is based, the idea of the creation of an over-arching museum structure that will link together all of Maitland's museums and historical collections strikes me as a good one.

I do get annoyed because so many people fail to recognise Maitland's historic role. not just as an entrepot but as a centre of professional and broader commercial services for New England over many decades. The Maitland Mercury itself was a key journal of record, while Maitland's professionals including lawyers and architects played an important role in the development of New England life including the built landscape.

I hope that the Maitland Council will recognise that and build it into its visitor promotion.  


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

New England architecture and architects feature in this year's NSW 2018 NSW Country Architecture Awards

Armidale - Refuge/Prospect, Armidale, by Virginia Wong-See architecture@altitude. Winner of the Award for Small Project Architecture. Photo by Brett Boardman.
This year's 2018 NSW Country Architecture Awards featured architecture and architects from across the broader New England.

Byron Bay architects Dominic Finlay Jones Architects took out no less than five awards and three commendations. These honours included the award for Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing presented for the Habitat Live Work project, which provides a new building prototype featuring basic, good-quality, lower-cost housing with articulated home-office workspaces and is set within a sustainable development encouraging collective creativity.

The jury said: ‘This is an excellent prototype development, which is imaginatively conceived and beautifully executed, and deserving of a multiple housing award.’

Kingscliff architects Aspect Architecture’s Elanora House, a flexible beach home suitable for multi-generational living, was crowned winner of the Residential Architecture – Houses (New) category, with the jury noting the project ‘does a number of small but significant things very well’.

Armidale's Virginia Wong-See of architecture@altitude took out the Small Project Award and Termimesh Timber Award for her ‘small and perfectly formed’ Armidale – Refuge/Prospect garden pavilion.

I really loved this one. Ms Wong-See describes it in this way: "The concept for Armidale Refuge/Prospect began as a simple place of refuge from strong westerly winds, transforming an ordinary place into one that continues to delight through foggy mornings, moonlit nights, fireside conversations and enjoyment of the surrounding trees and the birds that come to rest there."

The Armidale Express story on this particular award provides more details and a broader range of photos. Have a look and you will get a feel for why I really like this is a truly imaginative work.

The award for Urban Design went to Coffs Harbour’s Jetty4Shores Revitalisation project by Fisher Design and Architecture (Bellingen) with Mackenzie Pronk Architects (Sydney) and Coffs Harbour City Council. ‘The project effectively communicates the spirit of place and the genuine community affection for this site,’ the jury noted. ‘The cultural and environmental meanings of the site have been enshrined within the design.’

The final award in the program, the People’s Choice Award, was also announced at the Awards presentation night, held at the NSW Regional Architecture Conference on Thursday 4 October. This year the honour went to a project in the newly introduced Interior category: the Byron Shire Council Foyer, Mullumbimby, by Byron Bay architects SPACEstudio.

NSW Chapter President, Andrew Nimmo, congratulated all of this year’s award winners and noted the important contribution the profession as a whole was making to deliver more sustainable, cohesive communities.

‘Architects apply design thinking to everything they do in order to do more with less and help clients realise opportunities that they did not know existed,’ said Mr Nimmo. ‘This is just part of the value we describe when we speak of the design dividend, and each year we see the bar raised when it comes to the innovative design solutions and practices architects are implementing across regional NSW.’

If you would like to see photos of all the ward winners you can find them on the Australian Institute of Architects Facebook page.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Cultural Tourism: telling the story of New England's Aboriginal past

I have long been frustrated about what I see as neglect of the opportunities offered by Aboriginal cultural tourism in Northern NSW, the broader New England that I write about. 
A number of things contributed to that sense of frustration. One was the absence of material and supporting infrastructure to attract, interest and hold visitors, A second was the way that Aboriginal cultural and historical tourism in the broader New England was fragmented and submerged by tourism promotion that focused on the Sydney basin. Essentially, you had Sydney and a then series of small dot points scattered across the rest of the state. A third frustration lay in the way that disputes and disagreements in and between Aboriginal communities made it difficult to tell stories and to take action.
I accept that there has been great improvement since I first looked at the matter when I was chair of Tourism Armidale in the mid nineties. Historical research has provided more information. Aboriginal communities have begun to organise, collecting material and making that and their stories accessible to a broader audience. However, problems of fragmentation remain. 
Against this background, I was pleased to see a story by Steve Evans in the Glen Innes Examiner ( Tourists want to see Aboriginal cultural sites so more skilled people needed) that TAFE colleges in Armidale, Glen Innes and Inverell have launched a course on Aboriginal cultural tourism to upskill local Aboriginal people. I was also pleased to read this quote from Tom Briggs, CEO Armidale Local Aboriginal Land Council:  “There are many spectacular tourism sites and traditional walking trails across the Northern Tablelands that we as Aboriginals want to explore and make available for our Members and the broader community.”  
Problems of fragmentation remain. The remarkable story of Aboriginal New England is not just localities or even language groups, but of a complex pattern of cultural, economic and political interactions over space and time. This story has still to be properly told and integrated into tourism. Once this is done, both locals and visitors will then be able to properly appreciate and enjoy the story of Aboriginal New England. In the meantime, the new course is a small step forward.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A busy October 2018 at the NERAM - the New England Regional Art Museum

October is shaping up as a busy month at Armidale's New England Regional Art Museum.

NERAM's Lounge Room Collector Series

Behind the doors of private homes in New England you will find a variety of diverse and expansive private art collections.

These 'lounge room collectors' have differing interests and approaches in developing their collections. Some are motivated to collect to continue a family tradition, others for investment, or to provide ongoing support for practising artists. Some are driven purely by their love of art. Collections may have a dedicated and specific area of focus, while others are eclectic and influenced by changing tastes and whims. Each collection captures a unique view of our cultural heritage outside of the strict collecting policies of public art institutions.  

NERAM's Lounge Room Collection Series explores the extraordinary, eclectic and sometimes surprising private collections of the New England Region. This series begins with local collector Glenda Kupczyk-Romanczuk. The exhibition will present a selection of artworks from her collection focusing on her involvement with Packsaddle to show how attending and organising the annual Packsaddle Exhibition has inspired her exuberant collection.
Date: 12th October -  2nd December

Opening: Friday 12th October, 6.00pm  (opening will include the announcement of the 2018 Helen Dangar Memorial Bursary Recipient)
Venue: New England Regional Art Museum

My Terrain - Rita Winiger

Image: Rita Winiger Det äne am Bergli 2018

Armidale artist, Rita Winiger depicts landscape terrains in paintings interpreted through, and overlayed with, emotional resonance. The mountainous scenery and memories of trekking in Switzerland, where Winiger spent the first thirty years of her life, inform her work, and the landscapes that emerge capture her experiences of that time and place.      

Date: 12th October -  2nd December

Opening: Friday 12th October, 6.00pm (opening will include the announcement of the 2018 Helen Dangar Memorial Bursary Recipient)
Venue: New England Regional Art Museum

October School Holiday Workshops

Looking for something fun for the kids or grandkids these school holidays? Come to NERAM!

In this Working with Clay Workshop with Honey Greenwood (Armidale Pottery Club), children/teens will explore creating different forms and textures out of clay using a range of techniques such as pinching, rolling and coiling.  Children/Teens will have the opportunity to create their own pinched pot, small sculpture and hanging mobile.

The workshop will be held over two sessions.  The first session will focus on building the pieces which then need to be left to dry in readiness for painting and decorating.  The drying takes between one-two days. Children will then return for the second part of the workshop to paint, decorate and finish their pieces.

5-12 year old:

Date: Tuesday 9th October
Time: 10am – 12pm  Clay Working Session #1

Date:Thursday 11th October
Time: 10am – 11:30pm Painting your Creations Session #2
Book here: https:

12-16 year old:

Date: Tuesday 9th October
Time: 1:30pm – 3:30pm   Clay Working Session #1

Date: Thursday 11th October
Time: 1:30pm – 3:00pm   Painting your Creations Session #2

 Book here: Book now! Only 10 spaces per age group!

Cost: $40 Friends of NERAM/ $45 General
Venue: Packsaddle Studio – located downstairs behind NERAM

Concert: Goldheist & James Needham

Musician GOLDHEIST (aka Hester Fraser) and visual artist James Needham come together to present REALM, a collaborative performance project exploring the spirit of place.

Combining their respective artistic practices, Needham will paint landscape, as inspired by tour locations, whilst GOLDHEIST provides the soundtrack, fusing her narrative songs with electro-acoustic soundscape. Simultaneously curated and improvisational, this spatially motivated one hour performance will explore the spirit of place, and the different ways our surroundings can inspire and impact on us. read more.

Date: 20 October
Time: 1.00 - 3.00pm
Venue: New England regional Art Museum
Tickets: $35 Adult / $30 Concession / Under18 FREE

Concert (live art and music) + Q&A with the artists

Book Now!

This performance is part of a regional tour by the performers. New England venues:

  • BARRABA: The Playhouse Hotel Theatre - Fri. 12 Oct.
  • TAMWORTH: Tamworth Regional Gallery - Sat. 13 Oct.
  • MOREE: Bank Art Museum Moree - Fri. 19 Oct.
  • ARMIDALE: New England Regional Art Museum - Sat. 20 Oct.
  • WALCHA: Walcha Mountain Festival - Sun. 21 Oct.

Printmaking Workshop with Basil Hall

Basil Hall is returning once more to Armidale to run one of his popular workshops for experienced and beginner printmakers alike on 20th/21st October 2018.

This workshop is ideally suited to regulars at NERAM workshops, but enthusiastic beginners will be able to join in and make a plate themselves, whilst watching the more experienced work on theirs.

This year Basil is proposing to offer his expertise as a custom printer of 35 years standing. Participants are encouraged to bring existing etching plates they have been working on and Basil will offer suggestions as to how they might be resolved or further developed. He will demonstrate how to print them up in a variety of ways including a la poupee wiping, using large rollers, colour blends, stencils and applying colour to the back of rice paper prints.

Copper etching plates and printmaking papers will be available for sale at cost, if required, and lunch will be provided.

Date: Saturday & Sunday, 20th/21st October 2018
Time: 9am - 4pm
Venue: Packsaddle Studio, NERAM
Cost: $330 General/$300 Friends of NERAM/Black Gully Printmakers

BOOK NOW! Only 5 spots left

Packsaddle is coming soon!

It is that time of year again when NERAM gets ready for the annual Packsaddle Exhibition. The Packsaddlers have been visiting artists and galleries to select a diverse range of contemporary artworks to include in the exhibition, and have been spending time at NERAM framing prints for display. We have been spying and can say with certainty that there are some exceptional works to be presented this year.

The annual Packsaddle Exhibition provides local audiences an opportunity to see and purchase contemporary Australian art, and has for 33 years supported the development of local art collections while fundraising for new acquisitions and special projects at NERAM.

Save The Date: The Packsaddle Exhibition will open on Friday 19th October, viewing starting from 5pm, the bell will ring at 6.15pm!  

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Crash of ANA's Lutana 2 September 1948

On Thursday night, 2 September 1948, the Australian National Airways DC3 airliner Lutana clipped trees on top of Square Peak before crashing into rough country in the  Crawney Range about 16 miles from Nundle. The crash took the lives of 10 passengers and three crew members.Simon Bourke has the story.

Update 11 September 2018

Simon Bourke has a later podcast that provides much more detail on the crash. The dead were buried at the Tamworth cemetery but the location of the graves was lost. Now they have been rededicated. And here.    

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Could Newcastle trams have come back?

Nice piece by Mike Scanlon in the Newcastle Herald on the ending of Newcastle trams and the possibility but, for just one vote, they may have been returned.

At this point I am just recording the story for later reference.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Uralla Shire Council mayor Michael Pearce elected chair of the newly-formed New England Joint Organisation of Councils

Sophie Harris reported in the Moree Champion (25 June 2018) that Uralla Shire Council mayor Michael Pearce was elected chair of the newly-formed New England Joint Organisation of Councils at the group’s first meeting in Moree on Monday.

The New England JO comprises from Moree Plains Shire Council, Inverell Shire Council, Narrabri Shire Council, Armidale Regional Council, Uralla Shire Council, Glen Innes Severn Council and Tenterfield Shire Council

At Monday’s meeting, the JO established a charter which focuses on infrastructure development, economic development and social issues. The group will meet again in July to “nut out any kinks’ and then after that Cr Pearce said it’s full steam ahead. Cr Pearce said the major advantage of the JO is that the member councils are in a better position to lobby the state government for investment opportunities as a group, rather than as individual councils. One of the big ticket items the JO plans to investigate is a waste to energy project which has the potential to involve the whole region.

The formation of the JOs is a State Government initiative to encourage collaborative working among councils. The membership of the JOs is set out in the table below.

The latest measure is one of a long line of initiatives from either councils or Sydney dating back to, I think, 1919. That history makes me cautious, although I hope that the new arrangements will have some positive results.

Joint Council Organisations in Regional NSW
Joint organisation
Council areas forming joint organisation 
New England

Hunter Joint Organisation
Cessnock, Dungog, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Mid-Coast, Muswellbrook, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Singleton, Upper Hunter.
Namoi Joint Organisation
Gunnedah, Gwydir, Liverpool Plains, Tamworth, Walcha.
New England Joint Organisation
Armidale, Glen Innes Severn, Inverell, Uralla, Moree Plains, Tenterfield, Narrabri.
Northern Rivers Joint Organisation
Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley, Tweed.
Mid North Coast Joint Organisation
Port Macquarie-Hastings, Kempsey, Bellingen.

Canberra Region Joint Organisation
Bega Valley, Eurobodalla, Goulburn-Mulwaree, Hilltops, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Snowy Monaro, Upper Lachlan, Wingecarribee, Yass Valley.
Central NSW Joint Organisation
Bathurst, Blayney, Cabonne, Cowra, Forbes, Lachlan, Oberon, Orange, Parkes, Weddin.
Illawarra Shoalhaven Joint Organisation
Kiama, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Wollongong.
Orana Joint Organisation
Cobar, Gilgandra, Mid-Western, Narromine, Warrumbungle.
Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation
Albury, Berrigan, Edward River, Federation, Griffith, Hay, Leeton, Murray River, Murrumbidgee.
Riverina Joint Organisation
Bland, Coolamon, Cootamundra-Gundagai, Greater Hume, 
Junee, Lockhart, Temora.


There was some dispute about Narrabri joining the New England JO. This is covered in this Northern Daily Leader story.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

What does the Halsey report mean for New England?

Dr John Halsey's recently released Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education contains some useful material but is not a great deal of help when it comes to looking at the practical implications for the broader New England. You will find the report here, a quite useful summary here, a report into residential accommodation at university here, while the Government's response is here.

A major problem with translating the implications of the report to specific areas lies in its national focus and the use of statistical constructs including especially ARIA (the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia) as an analytical tool. This actually tells us very little about issues and problems at state let alone broader regional areas. Writing in 2011, I described the problem this way:
The decline in the use of the words New England was not the only semantic change affecting the North. Words are important because they affect and reflect changing perceptions. In 1950, the word country was commonly used to describe NSW outside Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. While the use of this term divided Newcastle from the rest of New England, a divide that at least reflected cultural and political differences, country was at least a broad, commonly understood, geographic term.  
By the 1970s, country was losing favour, in part because of the growth of urban centres whose residents did not identify with the term. In its place came the word regional. This fragmented in turn. By 2000, there was something of a crazy patchwork quilt of words – country, regional, rural, remote, coastal – that overlapped and were used in different combinations. This growing confusion in terms reflected in part the increasing use of ARIA. 
ARIA, the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia, was developed by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care and the National Key Centre for Social Applications of GIS. ARIA measures remoteness based on the physical road distance between a settlement and four classes of service centre . In 1999 a further revision of ARIA called ARIA+ was developed that incorporated more information on the location of service centres. 
While ARIA was a simple geographic descriptor intended to measure remoteness from services, its widespread use by the Commonwealth Government for statistical purposes and to guide service delivery affected the use of words. In 1950, the Australian states still retained a substantial degree of independence. By 2000, the Australian Government was involved in every aspect of policy once the preserve of the states. To the officials in Canberra seeking mechanisms to allow for national uniformity in service delivery while also taking geography into account, the ARIA classifications seemed a useful device; very remote, remote, outer regional, inner regional and major city were now firmly added to the semantic mix. 
The difficulty from a New England perspective lay in the way that these various terms cut across the area’s natural geography, further fragmenting the sense of New England or Northern identity, while creating problems for integrated service delivery based on geography. We can see this if we look at New England’s Kamilaroi or Gamilaraay Aboriginal language group who occupied the Western Slopes and Plains. Their traditional territory was variously classified from very remote to inner regional, a classification that affected the services provided. People with a common culture sharing common problems received different benefits depending on just where they lived. Social Change in Australia’s New England 1950-2000, paper delivered in the University of New England Humanities seminar series, 8 April 2011. 
To extend this point, this is the latest ARIA map for NSW that I have been able to find.If you look at it, you will see that the broader New England is a mix from major city round Newcastle, a patchwork quilt of inner regional, a broad sweep of outer regional, a narrower sweep of remote and then patches of very remote. Further comments follow the map.

In the end, effective service delivery depends upon geography. This is recognised in the NSW Health regional structure, although even here there are problems that I will refer to in a moment. I have used the Health  structure because this seems to have become the main state regional structure.

Three regions are included within New England's boundaries as defined by the Nicholas Royal Commission, Hunter New England, Mid North Coast and Northern NSW. The Nicholas boundaries also include a portion of Western NSW. From a historical viewpoint, the names and structures may seem a little odd, when did the Northern Rivers become Northern NSW?, but there is some regional coherence.

Dr Halsey's generalised analysis based on ARIA classifications supplemented by case studies has to be translated into specific approaches that reflect regional realities.Otherwise it has no meaning beyond the creation of another overlay, another set of principles, to complicate an already complicated scene. 

I said that there were problems with the NSW regional structure. These are twofold. 

The first is that the regions are administrative service delivery structures. They have no real policy role. Just as the Halsey inquiry dealt at a generalised national level, so NSW works with state-wide metrics. If you look at the NSW Education Department website, you will see that all the analysis and primary measures are state wide. It is not possible to use them to determine the position in the broader New England. Given Sydney's dominance in the statistics, NSW might achieve all the set targets and indicators even with total failure in New England. 

The second problem is that the administrative regions used can become barriers to cooperation between areas even where that cooperation might make sense. In this way, they become instruments of further centralisation, standardisation  and fragmentation. .

We will have to wait and see how all this pans out of course. But at the moment, I'm not sure that the Halsey recommendation will actually have much positive meaning so far as the North is concerned.       


Monday, June 04, 2018

Calling ex students of the Armidale Teacher's College and Armidale College of Advanced Education - can you support the New England Regional Art Museum?

Mary Edwards, The Orchid 1935, Hinton Collection, New England regional Art Museum. 
Many students who went to the Armidale Teacher's College or the Armidale College of Advanced Education will remember the paintings from the Howard Hinton Collection that graced the College walls. Those paintings now form part of the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) collection along with the Coventry Collection plus other bequests. 

NERAM now needs your help to maintain and extend both the collections and its extension activities through the region and beyond via a bequest program. Bequests can include donations of funds, artworks, property, assets or shares and can be made through wills, estates and deeds of gift..
Why you should give

“Many of the great art museums of the world have been built around the foresight of people who have made significant donations, bequests or endowments to ensure the artworks, programs and buildings that they love are looked after properly well into the future,” said Robert Heather, Art Museum Director.

“The New England Regional Art Museum was founded around one of the most significant acts of philanthropy in Australian art history, the generous gift of over 1000 artworks to the Armidale Teachers’ College by Howard Hinton.”

“Acts like this create a lasting legacy and are a tribute to the donor who gives them,” he said.  “The New England Regional Art Museum has been treasured by the many people in our community who have generously supported it over the years and we invite them to consider planning ahead to make a bequest to support the art museum after their lifetime.”

“The future sustainability of NERAM will depend upon the passion and commitment of those people who make a gift or bequest in their will,” he said. “We believe that anyone can make a bequest that makes a lasting difference for NERAM and the wider community.”

For those in the immediate region

Locally, NERAM is teaming up with local solicitors and accountants to assist people to plan ahead by attending an information seminar on Planning your Estate and Bequest at NERAM at 10.00am on the morning of Thursday 14 June 2018.T he seminar is open to anyone who wants to learn more about estate planning and bequests in general with some further information about how to specifically make a bequest to NERAM.

Tax expert Paul Williams from NERAM sponsor Roberts & Morrow Chartered Accountants will be making a presentation at the seminar about the potential tax issues involved in planning your estate.

“The taxation implications of gifts of this nature are complicated and often overlooked,” he said. “Understanding the taxation consequences of the various options can assist donors in maximizing the effectiveness of the gift for themselves and the beneficiaries of their estate.”

Solicitor Chris Serow, Principal at NERAM sponsor Legal Minds law firm in Armidale will be discussing some of the legal problems that can befall those who don’t plan properly.

“Many people aren’t aware of some of the legal pitfalls that have the potential to make it difficult for their wishes to be met,” said Mr Serow. “These can include challenges to the will, incorrect wording and other issues which can be addressed through proper planning and communication with all parties.”

“One of the key issues for anyone thinking about making a bequest is make sure that they talk to the proposed recipient and everyone else involved as early as possible ensure that their wishes are fully realised,” he said. “That includes the team here at NERAM who want to make this potentially difficult conversation as easy as possible for all concerned.”

For those beyond the immediate region

 If you would like to make a bequest or an immediate donation, you should contact NERAM via their website. NERAM will provide you with information and put you in touch with local experts who can assist you. Alternatively,. you can seek advice from your own professional advisers.