Saturday, December 29, 2007

Anthrax outbreak near Scone, Upper Hunter

I was struck by a report (and here) that there had been an anthrax outbreak in the Upper Hunter, killing a number of cattle. I did not know that anthrax is a relatively common occurrence, with an anthrax belt from Victoria along the Western Slope to about Moree.

The outbreak in the Upper Hunter is unusual since this is not a known anthrax area, with the last reported outbreak in the 1940s. However, anthrax can survive dormant in soil for very long periods.

In the latest case, it seems possible that the recent drought breaking rains exposed the bacteria.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Season's greetings to all the New England diaspora

I still have some part completed posts to bring up, but it is now Christmas eve. If I wait until all the back posts are complete it will be past Christmas. So I will run this post now and bring the others up over the break.

This blog began back in April 2006. Since then I have written some 224 posts on New England issues. I hope that I have played a small part in raising awareness on New England issues and in helping to keep the million or so - no one knows exactly how many there are - New England expats in touch with home.

I am looking forward to 2008. My feeling is that the blog is finally starting to play a useful role.

I wish all New Englanders everywhere the best for Christmas and the new year. May 2008 be a great year for all of us.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Life and Circuses

Photo: Gordon Smith, grave of Mary Ashton, Hanging Rock.

To quote Gordon's post:

I hadn't realised that the hamlet of Hanging Rock holds a link to a well known Australian Circus. Ashton's Circus still tours the country, but here at Hanging Rock, lies the grave of Mary Ashton, the young wife of circus founder James Ashton. She died in 1852, just days after giving birth to a daughter - the baby died a few months later. At that time Hanging Rock was a hive of activity due to its gold mining activities. It must have been a sizeable place as the circus performed over a period of 14 nights.

As a child I used to dream of running away to join a circus. It was one of those silly dreams, my hand-eye coordination is dreadful and I have no feel for heights. Still, it shows the the romance of the circus.

Circuses such as Wirth's and Ashton's toured on a regular basis, playing in big towns and small. This was a world of excitement and romance. Small kids would gather around as the tent went up, thinking how to persuade their parents to take them.

There is so much more entertainment today, but the romance lingers.

Friday, December 21, 2007

New England's Universities - Academic Standards, Admission Marks and Competitive Strategies

I see from the Newcastle Herald (21 December) that the University of Newcastle's academic senate has expressed concern about the impact of lowering 2007 academic entrance requirements.

By way of background, at the start of 2007 the University reduced the UAI entry point cut-offs for entry by an average of 5.78 per cent in order to increase student numbers. This led to an 22.8 per cent increase in the number of offers made to students.

Without being fully aware of all the dynamics, I am inclined to share the senate's concern.

Each of New England's universities faces a different market problem. In my view, each has to aim for quality rather than quantity.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New England Australia Film - entry page

Photo: Christopher Horsey, Adam Garcia, Matt Lee and Lee McDonald in Fox Searchlight's Bootmen (and here, here), a New England film released in Australia October 2000.

Updated 22 July 2017

One of the difficulties we face in not having our own New England Government is that there is no mechanism to promote the film industry in New England.

In saying this, I am not saying that New England can have its own unique film industry. That would be just plain silly at a time when the Australian film industry as a whole is still struggling to establish a viable commercial identity. However, a New England Government could do two things.

First, it could facilitate film making, including the use of New England locations. That way, we get at least a small slice of the pie.

Secondly, it could ensure that New England people at least have some access to visual material set in or about their own area. This is totally lacking at the present time. New Englanders have no idea as to what films have in fact been made in their own backyard.

As a first step in addressing this gap, I am establishing this page as an entry page for posts about New England films.

The Films

1921. The Guyra Ghost Mystery, one of a number of films produced by writer and director John Cosgrove in the early 1920s. The film centres on the apparent haunting of William Bowen's house in Guyra.

1933. Most of the exterior shots (but not the spectacular bush fire scene) in Ken Hall’s epic The Squatter’s Daughter were shot on Goonoo Goonoo Station near Tamworth.

1937. Lovers and Luggers. While set in the Torres Strait, some shooting took place at Port Stephens.

1949. Sons of Mathew. This Charles Chauvel film was filmed mainly in South East Queensland but combines the history of two adjacent areas. Entry point to the posts here.

1953. Captain Thunderbolt. The Cecill Holmes film Captain Thunderbolt is about the life of the legendary bushranger. It was shot in and around Armidale and Uralla with a cast including Grant Taylor and Bud Tingwell. Post here.

1957. Smiley. Filmed at Gundy in the Hunter Valley, Smiley is a classic Australian children's film about a mischievous boy living in the small Australian country town of Murrumbilla. Always getting into pranks, Smiley wants a bike. This he finally gets, but with many misadventures along the way. The film's cast includes Ralph Richardson, John McCallum, Chips Rafferty and Bud Tingwell, with Colin Petersen as Smiley.

1957. The Shiralee. Filmed at Gundy in the Hunter Valley and based on the novel by D'Arcy Niland, The Shiralee tells the story of a man and his daughter. When Jim Macauley (Peter Finch) finds his wife with another man, he takes their young daughter (Dana Wilson) and hits the road. With a young child as his responsibility, he finds he can't be quite the fancy-free wanderer that he had been. Nominated for two BAFTA awards, the film has become another Australian classic.

1958. Smiley Gets a Gun. Again filmed at Gundy in the Hunter Valley, sequel to Smiley (1957).

1968. Koya No Toseinin (The Drifting Avenger). Filmed on location at Nundle, this Japanese western starred Ken Takakura, the Clint Eastwood of Japanese film., in search of revenge for his murdered family. The movie was apparently never released in Australia.

1977. The successful  The Picture Show Man, was not only based in part on a Tamworth story, but was also shot on the Liverpool Plains and the Clarence.

!977. Based on the novel by Thomas Keneally, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith was filmed in part on the Tablelands and had its premier at the Capitol Theatre in Armidale.

 1977. Based on the novel by Peter Carey, the story of Oscar and Lucinda finishes at Bellingen. Modern Bellingen was seen as too modern so the New England scenes were filmed on the Mann River at Jackdagery not far from Grafton. Carey conceived the idea of the novel while living at Bellingen.  

1978. Little Boy Lost was based on the story of Stephen Walls, filmed at Guyra and premiered at the Capitol Theatre in Armidale.

1978. Newsfront. While a Sydney film, Newsfront includes footage of the 1955 Hunter Valley floods, while the script was written in part by the Lismore born writer and playwright Bob Ellis.

1978. The Umbrella Woman (also know as the Good Wife) directed by Tenterfield born Ken Cameron was shot in and around Bowraville.

1983. Based on a Mills and Boon novel, The House in the Timberwoods by Joyce Dingwell, The Winds of Jarrah was set in WA but filmed around Dorrigo. Wikipedia states that it never achieved cinema release, but Neil Rattigan suggests that there was limited release to country cinemas in NSW.

1994. Muriel's Wedding. Australian comedy-drama film written and directed by P. J. Hogan drawn from his life growing up in the Tweed Valley.

1997 Blackrock. Drama based on the play by Hunter Valley playwright Nick Enright inspired by the murder Leigh Leigh. Enright wrote the script for the film.

1998. A Little Bit of Soul was shot around Glen Innes but has nothing to do with New England beyond the location.

2000. Bootman. Newcastle connections. Links above.

2002. Beneath the Clouds. New England film maker Ivan Sen's first feature film. Lena has an absent Irish father she longs to see and an Aboriginal mother she finds disgusting. When she breaks away, she meets up with petty criminal Vaughn who's just escaped from low security prison to reluctantly visit his dying mother. Blonde and light-skinned, Lena remains in denial about her Aboriginal heritage; Vaughn is an angry young man with a grudge against all whites. An uneasy relationship begins to form as they hit the road heading to Sydney, taking them on a journey that's as emotional as it is physical, as revealing as it is desperate. The film reflects Ivan Sen's own experiences growing up in Inverell with an Aboriginal mother and a European father who was not around.

2003, Danny Deckchair was to be set in the Clarence Valley but filming was moved to Bellingen because the Clarence locations did not look sufficiently idyllic.

2007. Streetsweeper. Set in Newcastle and directed by Neil Mansfield, this film explores the beauty and ugliness of city street streets through the eyes of a "a loner who finds poetry in the ordinary", played by actor and co-writer Marin Mimica. Mimica is the only actor. All others are pedestrians who become unwittingly involved in the streetsweeper's journey.

2008. Newcastle is a surfing drama set, as the name says, in Newcastle.

2009. Charlie & Boots is a road show film Shane Jacobson plays Boots who takes his father (Paul Hogan) on a trip to fish on the northernmost tip of Australia because of something his father told him when he was a kid. They travel from Victoria to the Cape York Peninsula in a Holden Kingswood, visiting different towns, hang-outs in different restaurants, and visiting famous attractions. On their way, they start to reconcile and express their emotions about the recent death of Gracie, Charlie's wife and Boots's mother, and the drama unfolding around the death of Ben, Boots' son, by drowning. They even help a young 16-year-old girl named Jess by allowing her to escape her boyfriend Tristan and aid her in her dream to go to the famous country city of Tamworth. New England locations are Tamworth and Tenterfield..

2010. Lou. Set in Murwillumbah  and made by Murwillumba born director Belinda Chayko, Lou is a tender story about the relationship between 11-year-old Lou and her grandfather. Not long after Lou's father walks out of her life, her irascible and befuddled grandfather crashes in. But when Doyle comes to stay, Lou discovers, against all her expectations, the healing power of love.

2010. Tomorrow, When the War Began was shot in Maitland, Raymond Terrace and Dungog as well as the Blue Mountains.

2011 Toomelah. Made by New England film maker Ivan Sen, the film tells the story of Daniel, a 9 year-old aboriginal boy living in the community where Sen’s mother was born and grew up in. After being suspended from school for threatening to stab a classmate with a pencil and finding there is little to do in his town, he decides he wants to be a part of the gang controlling the drug trade in his township, so he decides to help Linden, a well known local drug dealer. Bruce, one of Linden's rivals, is released from prison and a turf war erupts.This hybrid of documentary and fiction follows Daniel as he roams around the “mish” trying to make sense of expectations of his family, his friends, and of he himself. Much of the script was based on notes Sen took of the inhabitants’ own words, expressions, ideas and emotions, trying to translate the immobility from which Toomelah suffers.

2012 Mental  Another Australian comedy-drama film written and directed by P. J. Hogan drawn from his life growing up in the Tweed Valley

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why I remain a New England New Stater 8 - the electricity asset grab

Note to readers: This post is one in a series using personal examples to illustrate why I continue to support both agitation for New England self-government and self-government itself. Agitation, because its very existence forces forces the Sydney Government to consider New England interests. Self-government, because there are some things that we cannot achieve without this.

The Sydney media has been full of the Sydney Government's plans to privatise the NSW electricity system. I have very mixed feelings on this one. I suspect that it is both inevitable and desirable. But it also rubs raw a past wound.

Back in the nineteen nineties, electricity distribution was controlled by country councils, some of whom also had generation capacity. The Sydney Government put forward a reform program for the electricity sector.

At the time I was running a consulting business out of Armidale. I was also chair of Tourism Armidale. In the first role, I was interested in the electricity sector as a possible consulting marketplace. In the second, I was interested in the New England County Council as a source of tourism funding.

As part of market scoping I looked at the official Government material on the proposed reforms. Essentially these involved folding the distributors into larger corporatised entities. Two justifications were advanced.

The first lay in the national restructuring of the sector, including introduction of competition and the creation of a national electricity marketplace. This, it was argued, required larger entities. Smaller entities could not compete.

The second justification lay in enhanced efficiency. According to the NSW Treasury, the existing country councils were not subject to proper disciplines to earn returns on the assets they held. So consolidation and corporatisation would increase revenues while benefiting consumers.

Now I had problems with these arguments at the time. The New England County Council was owned by local councils and was formed through the acquisition of Council assets. Its growth had been funded by surpluses plus borrowings. The State had controlled and guaranteed those borrowings, but to my knowledge had never contributed a dollar of funding.

As part of its development, the NECC had built its own small hydro power station. This had been funded by its consumers through higher electricity prices, significantly higher than the state average. This investment had reached pay-back time. The NECC was quite profitable, generating funds for local projects, while its electricity prices were some of the cheapest in NSW.

Local concerns across NSW about the plans, about the Sydney Government's grab for assets, were ignored. So what happened?

The first thing that the Sydney Government did was to increase borrowing against the assets, thus generating cash for its own purposes. The second thing was to strip money out through dividends, creating more cash for its own purposes.

In the drive for efficiency, many jobs were cut, in cases such as linemen over cut, creating later shortages that impeded efficiency. There was also underinvestment.

Did consumers benefit? This is hard work out accurately. Certainly bigger industrial users did.

Did the original local owners of the assets benefit? Almost certainly not in the case of NECC. The area lost higher level jobs, plus access to the surplus that had been available to fund local activities. I also suspect that local electricity prices have increased more than the state average simply because they were low to begin with.

Would self-government have prevented this asset grab? Perhaps not, because the Sydney Government's approach was in part part of a broader trend in public administration. But we would have had a much higher certainty of local benefit since funds would have been spent within New England, not sucked away to help fund the inefficiencies of the broader NSW system.

Return to introductory post

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Federal Election 2007 - Final results for New England's seats

I am now in the process of uploading the final election results for the various New England seats on my election post. This will take a little while.

Once I have completed the task, I will prepare some consolidated tables to provide an overview.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Congratulations to UNE's (and Kempsey's) Phil Schubert

I see from the Macleay Argus (11 December) that Phil Schubert has graduated from UNE with a combined bachelor's degree in arts and law.

Phil studied at the now defunct Collombatti Rail Primary school and then Kempsey High. He gained early admission to UNE through the Principal's admission scheme.

I mention Phil because he combined study with extra-curricula life, something that I as a UNE alumnus value highly. Phil was President of the Students' Association in 2004, a member of the University Council 2004-2206, and recipient of the New England Award for services to the university community.

My congratulation to Phil and his family including dad Graeme and grand mum Nettie.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Newcastle's Vibrant Cultural Life - entry page

Photo: Central Newcastle viewed from Stockton across the Hunter River.

Newcastle, New England's biggest city with a population of 289,000, lies towards the southern edge of New England, 153k (2 hours) north of Sydney, 394k (4 hours 50 minutes) south of Armidale.

Newcastle is often seen just as an industrial city - Australia's original steel city - and increasingly as simply an outer part of the ever expanding Greater Sydney metro conglomeration.

Newcastle is indeed an industrial city. This is an integral part of its culture, one that distinguishes the city from other parts of New England. But part of Sydney it is not. Newcastle always has been and remains its own very distinct entity.

It is hard for those living in Sydney to see and recognise Newcastle's distinguishing features.

Sydney and Newcastle have little in common in terms of history or culture. The Sydney media carries few Newcastle stories. Few in Sydney think of Newcastle as having a distinct cultural life of its own. Yet the city does, one arguably different from any other part of Australia.

I say this with a degree of frustration because, living in Sydney as I now do as part of the New England diaspora, I find it difficult to keep across Newcastle activities.

To fully understand a place like Newcastle you need to live there, or at least visit regularly. I do not and presently cannot. Still, accepting that I will make errors, I am establishing this page to provide an entry point for future posts about Newcastle cultural life.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Clarence Valley Protest, North Coast Voices, and the election results

I think that Judith Melville (A Clarence Valley Protest) is entitled to a degree of satisfaction from the Federal election results, as is the Labor team from North Coast Voices.

Dealing with Judith first, the ALP has promised not to dam the Clarence, so now with three North Coast ALP members the river appears safe. A warning to Judith, though, from a seasoned campaigner.

This issue won't go away. New England remains the wettest part of NSW. If the climate change projections are even in part right, expect further water fights within the next ten years, possibly within five or less years.

North Coast Voices campaigned hard for the ALP. Here I have been impressed by the way since the election that the blog has been prepared to take a critical view of specific actions of the new Government.

I have written a lot on New England problems. Many parts of coastal New England are caught in a poverty trap. I look forward to NCV campaigning on their behalf.

Monday, December 03, 2007

New England Tablelands, Western Slopes and Plains - events calendar January 2008

For the benefit of those thinking about visiting New England's Big Sky Country - the Tablelands, Western Slopes and Plains - in January, a list of local events follows.

1 January – Wallabadah New Year’s Day Races

A traditional bush racing experience, held every year since 1852. Wallabadah Racecourse Phone Gerard Smith 0428 924 880.

1 January – Inverell Cup Race Meeting.

Inverell Race Course. Phone 02 6722 1139.

6 January – Jellicoe Park Markets, Moree

There’s something for everyone at the markets with indoor & outdoor plants & seedlings, fresh fruit & vegetable produce, home baked goods, clothing, handcrafted furniture, poultry, a selection of food stalls, craft & novelty items, beading supplies, jewellery & crystals and much more. Phone Tourism Moree 02 6757 3350.

13 January – National Tomato Day Festival, Gunnedah

The Bowling Club, Conadilly Street. This annual celebration of the tomato is an institution for backyard growers, who compete for the glory of such titles as biggest, reddest, tastiest and oddest–shaped tomato. The contest, held annually since 1978, developed from an argument between two locals over who had grown the biggest tomatoes in their backyard. Phone John Campbell on 02 6742 0400.

13 January – Tamworth Rotary Cup Race Meeting

Eight race program at the Tamworth Racecourse, with funds donated to charity. Phone Bruce Kneipp 02 67661666.

13 January – Quota Monthly Markets, Quirindi

Roselea Park. Phone 02 6747 1490.

12 January – Glen Innes Horse Racing

Glen Innes Racecourse. Six program meet, live band, BBQ and bar. Phone Brendan Campbell 02 6732 4503.

18 January – Somerton Cup, Gunnedah

11am at Riverside Racecourse, Oxley Highway. Family friendly with all you could need for a great day at the races. Contact Debbie Watson or Rod Dugan 02 6742 0093.

18 to 29 January – Lamb and Potato Festival, Guyra

This annual festival celebrates the local produce and serves up lamb and potatoes in as many ways as you can imagine. There’s also craft and variety stalls, great food, non–stop entertainment, wine tasting, antique machinery displays, talent search and sheep shearing demos. Phone Guyra Council 02 6779 1577.

17 to 19 January – Walcha Campdraft and Rodeo

Contact Karen O’Brien 0428 840 425.

19 January – Gunnedah Country Markets

From 8.30am at Wolseley Park, Conadilly Street, Gunnedah. Entry is Free. There will be a wonderful choice of goods to be purchased, from delicious cakes/jams, pottery and craft to second hand goods/books/clothes. All are welcome. Stall fee is $15.00. Contact 02 6742 2565.

19 to 28 January – Telstra Country Music Festival, Tamworth

A ten day celebration through one of the broadest and most exciting musical styles around. Visitors can expect to select from around 2,500 events representing Country Music. 70% of events are free, admission prices for other events vary, Check ahead for prices. Phone Tourism Tamworth 02 6767 5300.

19 January – Deepwater Horse Racing

Deepwater Racecourse, New England Highway. Contact Simone Sloman 02 6734 5076.

20 January – Sapphire City Markets

Campbell Park, Inverell Contact: 02 6722 2067.

20 January – Toyota Star Maker Tamworth

Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre. Australia's premier and most prestigious country music talent search. See the nation's top twenty best new talent perform. Phone 02 6762 2399.

22 January – Australian Bush Laureate Awards, Tamworth

These awards recognise excellence in published and recorded Australian bush poetry. Phone 02 6755 4300 or visit

21 to 23 January – ABCRA Junior National Finals Rodeo, Tamworth

Tamworth Showgrounds Indoor Arena. The best junior cowboys and cowgirls take centre stage at the ABCRA's Junior National Finals Rodeo, vying for National Title honours, competing in Campdrafting (Australia's only truly unique horse sport) Bull Riding, Steer Riding Barrel Racing and Breakaway Roping.

24 to 26 January – ABCRA National Finals Rodeo

Tamworth Showground Indoor Arena – Showground Road, Tamworth. Australia's premier rodeo event. Watch the top 15 competitors in each event – Bull Riding, Saddle Bronc, Bareback, Team Roping, Rope and Tie, Steer Wrestling and the three Ladies events, Barrel Racing, Breakaway Roping and Steer Undecorating battle it out over three nights of action packed entertainment. Great live country music artists perform each night following the rodeo performance. Phone Diane Hallam 02 6766 5863 or visit

26 to 27 January – New England Sheep Dog Trials, Tenterfield

For more information, contact Patti Ainsworth, Tourism Manager at the Tenterfield Visitors Centre on 02 6736 1082.

26 January – Annual Duck Race, Tamworth

Peel River, Tamworth. See more than 1500 ducks race down the Peel River. Phone Tourism Tamworth 02 6767 5300.

26 January – Australia Day Celebrations, Gunnedah

Events include annual a raft race, pet parade, triathlon event, trivia night and Australia Day Gala. Phone Gunnedah Visitor Information 02 6740 2230.

26 January – Australia Day Celebrations, Tenterfield

Phone Karen Stewart 02 6736 1744.

26 January – Australia Day Celebrations, Gwydir Shire

Phone Gwydir Shire Council 02 6724 2000.

26 January – Australia Day Celebrations, Glen Innes

At the historic Glen Innes Showground. Phone Lisa Reed 02 6732 5967.

26 January – Australia Day Celebrations, Moree

Family fun day held in Kirkby Park, Moree. Phone Tourism Moree 02 6757 3350.

26 January – Australia Day Celebrations, Narrabri, Wee Waa and Boggabri

Phone Narrabri Tourism 02 6799 6760.

26 January – Australia Day Celebrations, Armidale

Phone Armidale Tourism 1800 627 736.

26 January – Australia Day Celebrations, Inverell Pioneer Village.

Old Time Sports, Musical Entertainment, Bush Poetry, Citizen of the Year Announcements, Displays, Food and Drink Stalls. Commencing at 4pm. Phone 02 6722 1717.

26 January – Wallabadah Aussie Bush Fair

This festival began in 2006 and due to its success is now an annual event. Browse the stalls, join in the fun and games, stroll the First Fleet Memorial Gardens or simply sit back and relax to the live bands. A great day for the family! Contact Tania Hartigan 02 6746 5606.

27 January – 35th Toyota Golden Guitar Awards

Tamworth Regional Entertainment Centre – Greg Norman Drive. The Australian Country Music Industry's night of nights, with the annual presentation of Golden Guitars recognising recording excellence. A gala concert featuring the cream of country music artists. Tickets from Tourism Tamworth 02 6767 5300.

28 January – World Youth Day, Bingara

World Youth Day is a world–wide gathering of Catholic youth from all over the globe. Although it is a gathering of Catholic youth, all youth are most welcome. Up to 2,000 people are expected in Bingara to attend the celebrations. Phone Bingara Visitor Information 02 6724 0066.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Githabul people win land title recognition

Back in January 2007 I reported on the agreement between the Githabul people and the NSW Government about a large native title land claim over a large portion of New England. Now the claim has moved another step forward. I was going to give you a link, but the story seems to have vanished into Fairfax's digital store, so I will just report the key facts.

In the first claim in ten years settled under the Commonwealth's Native Title Legislation and the first time that the Sydney Government and an indigenous community have jointly sought a decision, the Githabul people have won rights over an area of 112,000 hectares including nine national parks and thirteen state forests in the Kyogle and Tenterfield Shires.

The decision will afford traditional owners the right of access to the area for spiritual purposes; to camp, fish, hunt and gather animals, plants and water there for non-commercial needs and to lawfully protect places of importance to them.

One thing that made me sad, though, was a comment from Trevor Close, the successful applicant of the claim. He said:

You will never see this again in NSW. Too many elders have passed away who
hold the information and language necessary to pass the evidence test.

In the midst of all the macro Australian argument about things like reconciliation and saying sorry, my concern has been much more local. Recording and preserving what we have now, while meeting the needs of New England's indigenous peoples as they are today.

Monday, November 26, 2007

From the vaults - the first UNE Bulletin

Browsing around, I found the first ever University of New England Bulletin issued in March 1957.

In that year, the University expected to have 400 internal students with over 300 students in residence, still mainly in town houses. The College building program was just getting underway. In addition, external enrollments were 750, bringing the total number of undergraduate students to 1,150.

Those who know the University will recognise many names from the past.

Friday, November 23, 2007

New England - Federal Election Eve 2007: and the next day

Note to readers: I am now uploading final numbers for each seat. This may take a little while, so those with feeds are likely to get multiple feeds. Final results added for:

  • Charlton
  • Cowper
  • Shortland

Australia votes tomorrow. At this stage based on opinion poll averages, the most likely outcome is a Rudd Labor Government with a majority in the range 10-20. However, there is now some confusion in the polls, suggesting that the Howard Government may be clawing back some ground.

I will provide reports on the counting in New England seats. However, because electoral boundaries keep changing I thought that it might be helpful especially for New England expats if I provided a short seat by seat description. The material that follows is drawn from the ABC's Antony Green election guide.

Charlton. Safe Labor - present margin 8.4%

A Hunter Valley based seat covering 578 on the western side of Lake Macquarie. It includes the outer suburbs of Newcastle around Wallsend and Cardiff, as well as Toronto, Wangi Wangi, Morisset and Wyee further south. While the electorate contains some agricultural industries, the district's wealth is created by coal mining, electricity generation and heavy industry.

At the last redistribution, lost areas around Warners Bay to Shortland while gaining Wallsend and Maryland from Newcastle. The Labor margin rose from 7.9% to 8.4% as a consequence.

Adjusting for boundary changes, the 2004 primary votes were:

  • Labor 46.6%
  • Liberal 35.2%
  • Greens 8.8%
  • Family First 3.7%
  • One Nation 2.8%
  • Australian Democrats 1.9%
  • Others 1.0%

After distribution of preferences, Labor won with 58.4% to the Liberals 41.6%.

Since the, sitting Labor MP Kelly Hoare, the daughter of the previous member, lost Labor Party endorsement after representing the seat since 1998. Her place was taken by Trade Union boss Greg Combet. The whole process caused local resentment, but is unlikely to affect the outcome.

Candidates this time are:

  • Ulrich, Stuart Independent
  • Pritchard, Suzanne Green
  • Stow, David Citizens Electoral Council
  • Cook, Terry Socialist Equality Party
  • Combet, Greg Labor
  • Paterson, Lindsay Liberal
  • Barry, Patrick Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group).

Forecast: Labor to retain with increased margin.

Update: as at 8.17 pm:

  • Greg Combet, ALP, 20,998, 54.6%, up 6.6%
  • Lindsay Paterson, LIB, 11,669, 30.4%, down -3.2%
  • Suzanne Pritchard, GRN, 3,131, 8.1% down -0.8%

Final Results

Enrolment 91,129, turnout 95.74%

Results by candidate:

  • Ulrich, Stuart: Independent - 2,008 votes, 2.41%, swing +2.41%
  • Pritchard, Suzanne: Greens - 6,708 votes, 8.06%, swing -o.71%
  • Stow, David: Citizens Electoral Council - 294 votes, 0.35%, swing -0.23%
  • Cook, Terry: Socialist Equality Party - 404 votes, 0.49%, swing +0.49%
  • Combet, Greg: Labor (elected) - 44,156 votes, 53.08%, swing +6.47%
  • Paterson, Lindsay: Liberal - 26,353 votes, 31.68%, swing -3.49%
  • Barry, Patrick: Independent - 1,253 votes, 1.51%, swing +1.51%
  • Kendall, Jim: Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) - 2,007 votes, 2.41%, swing +2.41%

Two Candidate Preferred Vote:

  • Combet, Greg, Labor, 52,298, 62.87%, swing +4.47%
  • Paterson, Lindsay, Liberal, 30,885, 37.13%, swing -4.47%

Cowper. Notionally safe National - present margin 6.7%

Once a Clarence Valley electorate centered on Grafton and held by Earle Page for 42 years, progressive boundary changes have moved the electorate's focus south. Today the seat covers 7,911 between the Macleay and Clarence Rivers.

In the north, the seat covers a relatively small proportion of the Clarence Valley on the south side of the river including Maclean. Moving south, the first main centres are the coastal resorts of Woolgoolga and then Coffs Harbour, the biggest centre in the electorate with a population of over 60,000.

This is followed by a number of river valleys: the Bellinger (Urunga, Bellingen), the Nambucca (Nambucca Heads, Macksville) and the majority of the Macleay (Kempsey, South West Rocks).

At the Bellinger, the electorate bulges inland to include the Tablelands around Dorrigo, once part of the New England electorate.

Adjusting for boundary changes (loss of Yamba, addition of Kempsey), the 2004 primary votes were:

  • National 50.5%
  • Labor 31.7%
  • Greens 8.9%
  • One Nation 4.2%
  • Lower Excise Party 2.3%
  • Australian Democrats 1.9%
  • Others 0.6%

So the Nats won on the primary vote.

There are slightly fewer candidates this time:

  • Hartsuykey, Luke, sitting member, Nationals
  • Sekfy, Paul, Labor
  • Carty, John, Greens
  • Arapi-Nunez, Flavia, Family First
  • Belgrave, Leon, LDP
  • Lions, Deborah, Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)

On 2004 results, Luke Hartsuykey should hold the seat. However, there were signs that the National position was weaker than appeared.

As a consequence, Labor dumped its originally chosen candidate John Fitzroy in September. The reported reason in newspaper stories was that Labor internal polling indicated that Cowper could fall, and Labor wanted a more experienced and better known candidate in the seat.

This is a seat where the indigenous vote is important. At 5 per cent, Cowper has the twelfth highest indigenous proportion of the population of all Australian electorates. The indigenous proportion is especially high in Kempsey and the Macleay Valley, also areas of limited employment opportunities, especially for the unskilled.

Forecast: Based on the very latest opinion polls - these do not include specific figures for this seat, however - the Nats should hold. I classify it is a possible Nationals loss.

Update as at 8.26pm

  • Luke Hartsuyker, NAT, 22,378, 46.0%, -4.6%
  • Paul Sekfy, ALP, 18,976, 39.0%, +6.%
  • John Carty, GRN, 5,322, 10.9%, +2.5%

Final Results

Enrolment 92,767, turnout 95.15%

Results by candidate:

  • Hartsuykey, Luke: sitting member, Nationals, elected - 39,444 votes, 46.54%, swing -3.92%
  • Sekfy, Paul:Labor - 32,276 votes, 38.08%, swing +6.43%
  • Carty, John: Greens - 9,359 votes, 11.04%, swing +2.15%
  • Arapi-Nunez, Flavia: Family First - 759 votes, 0.9%, swing +0.70%
  • Belgrave, Leon: LDP - 491 votes, 0.58%, swing +0.58%
  • Lions, Deborah: Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) - 2,428 votes, 2.86%, swing +2.86%

Two Candidate Preferred Vote:

  • Hartsukyer, Luke, Nationals 43,423 votes, 51.23%, swing -5.52%
  • Sefky, Paul, Labor 41,334 votes, 48.77, swing +5%

Hunter. Safe Labor - margin 11.1%

Starting in the Hunter Valley around Cessnock, Maitland and Kurri Kurri, Hunter covers 10,593 sq km and extends west and north up the New England Highway to include Singleton and Muswellbrook. The electorate's economic base is a mix of agriculture and heavy industry, being dominated by coal mining, aluminium smelting and electricity generation, but also possessing some of the country's best vineyards and richest beef cattle grazing areas.

This is Labor heartland country, with Joel Fitzgibbon holding the seat since 1996. On the adjusted boundaries, the 2004 vote was:

  • Greens 6.3%
  • One Nation 3.3%
  • Fox, Independent 3.3%
  • Citizens Electoral Council 2.9%
  • Chrstian Democrats 1.7%
  • Family First 1.3%.

Candidates this time are:

  • Albury, Daniel, Citizens Electoral Council
  • Davis, Jan, Greens
  • Black, Beth, nationals
  • Harvey, John Climate Change Coalition
  • Fitzgibbon, Joel, Labor
  • Neville, Bernie Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group).

Forecast: Labor to win with increased majority.

Update 8.34 pm

  • Joel Fitzgibbon, ALP, 30,043, 59.9%, up 8.8%
  • Beth Black, NAT, 13,490, 26.9%, down 3.5%
  • Jan Davis, GRN, 3,277, 6.5%, up 0.1%

Lyne. Safe National - margin 13.4%

This seat is held by Mark Vaile, Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Nationals.

The seat covers 9,039 on the Mid North Coast and includes Taree and Port Macquarie. Taree in the Manning River valley is a traditional rural service town that has been re-inventing itself since the Pacific Highway by-pass was built, while Port Macquarie has seen huge growth as a retirement haven and holiday resort.

At the last redistribution, Lyne lost Kempsey to Cowper, causing the National Party margin to rise slightly from 13.0% to 13.4%.

Based on the adjusted boundaries, the 2004 vote was:

  • National 56.7%
  • Labor 26.6%
  • Greens 4.8%
  • New Country Party 3.6%
  • One Nation 3.4%
  • Australian Democrats 1.6%
  • Family First 1.4%
  • Others 2.0%

The candidates this time are:

  • Wright, Barry, Independent
  • Russell, Susie, Greens
  • Vaile, Mark, Nationals
  • Langley, James, Labor
  • Scott-Irving, Stewart, Independent
  • Harrison, James, Independent
  • Riach, Rodger, Independent.
  • Muldoon, Graeme, Citizens Electoral Council,
  • Waldron, Robert Christina Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)

Forecast: Nats to retain with a slightly reduced majority.

Update 8.50pm

  • Mark Vaile, NAT, 29,349, 51.9%, swing -4.4%
  • James Langley, ALP, 18,543, 32.8%, swing +5.9%
  • Susie Russell, GRN, 4,009, 7.1%, swing +2.4%

New England. Safe Independent - margin 13.6%

My own home seat, a traditional National Party seat that was held by my grandfather (David Drummond) from 1949 to 1963. Now a safe independent seat held by Tony Windsor.

Covering an area of 58,463 the seat covers much of the New England Tablelands and Western Slopes. Main towns from south to north include Quirindi, Tamworth, Armidale, Glen Innes, Inverell and Tenterfield. At the last redistribution, gained Quirindi, Werris Creek and the Liverpool Plains Council area from the abolished seat of Gwydir.

Based on the redistributed boundaries, the 2004 vote was:

  • Independent 55%
  • National 20.8%
  • Liberal 9.6%
  • Labor 9.2%
  • Greens 3.3%
  • One Nation 1.5%
  • Citizens Electoral Council 0.6%.

The candidates this time are:

  • Detman, Brian, One Nation
  • Windsor, Tony, Independent
  • Witten, Richard Innes, Citizens Electoral Council
  • Betts, Phil, Nationals
  • Brand, Luke, Country Labor
  • Taylor, Bruce, Greens

Forecast: Tony to retain with a very comfortable majority.

Update 9.01 pm

  • Tony Windsor, IND, 40,943, 62.2% swing + 7.%
  • Phil Betts, NAT, 15,201, 23.1% swing +2.3%
  • Bruce Taylor, GRN, 2,122, 3.2% swing -0.1%

Newcastle. Safe labor - margin 9.1%

Newcastle covers 335 and lies at the mouth of the Hunter River, taking in the port district and Newcastle CBD, as well as surrounding suburbs including Merewether, Adamstown, Lambton and Waratah on the southern side of the Hunter Rover, and Stockton and Williamstown on the northern side.

Following the redistribution, the electorate lost areas around Wallsend to Charlton and now extends west towards Maitland, taking in Thornton, Woodberry, Beresfield and Tarro. Even with the closure several years ago of the BHP steel plant, the electorate retains a substantial heavy industry base, including the major coal export facility for the Hunter Valley's mines.

On the adjusted boundaries, the primary votes in 2004 were:

  • Labor 45.6%
  • Liberal 36.3%
  • Greens 11.3%
  • Australian Democrats 2.3%
  • Progressive Labor Party 2.1%
  • Citziens Electoral Council 1.0%
  • Socialist 0.5%
  • Other 1.0%.

The candidates this time are:

  • East, Malcolm, Family First
  • Johnson, Aaron, Democrats
  • Payne, Geoff, Socialist Alliance
  • Buman, Aaron, Independent
  • Grierson, Sharon, Labor
  • Holt, Neil, Socialist Equality Party
  • Eckersley, Charmian, Greens
  • Curry, Joel, Independent
  • Caine, Milton, Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile group)
  • Walker, Krysia, Liberal

Forecast: Labor to retain with increased margin.

Update 9.08 pm

  • Sharon Grierson, ALP, 30,067, 51.6%, swing +4%
  • Krysia Walker, LIB, 14,116, 24.2%, swing -10.1%
  • Charmian Eckersley, GRN, 6,132, 10.5%, swing -1.4%

Page. Moderately safe National - margin 5.5%

Covering 16,091, Page includes Grafton and those parts of the Clarence River valley on the northern side of the river, as well as Casino, Lismore and Ballina in the Richmond River valley. For those who know New England well, this is actually a very strange electorate, for it includes Grafton, one the heart of Cowper, and Lismore, the heart of Richmond. Now both Cowper and Richmond lie elsewhere.

At the last redistribution, Page gained Wollongbar and Alstonville from Richmond in exchange for the loss of Nimbin and rural northern parts of Lismore City Council. Also gained Yamba from Cowper.

On the adjusted boundaries, the 2004 primary votes were:

  • National 49.7%
  • Labor 33.1%
  • Greens 9.6%
  • Liberals for Forests 2.6%
  • Outdoor Recreation Party 1.4%
  • Behn 1.4%
  • Citizens Electoral Council 0.9%
  • Others 1.4%.

The candidates this time are:

  • Behn, Doug, Independent
  • Vega, Mirio, Family First
  • Culverwell, John, Citizens Electoral Council
  • Melland, Julia, Democrats
  • Jongen, Theo, Greens
  • Saffin, Janelle Labor
  • Kane, Tony, Independent
  • Avasalu, Rhonda, Christian Democratic Party (Fred nile Group)
  • Beatty, Ben LDP
  • Gulaptis, Chis, Nationals.

According to the ALP blog, North Coast Voices, this is very much a seat to watch. With the retirement of Ian Causley, the National Party has selected 52 year-old Chris Gulaptis who has lived in the Clarence Valley for the past 27 years. He is a qualified surveyor, has run his own small business, is a former Mayor of Maclean and currently serves as a Clarence Valley Councillor.

His Labor opponent is 52 year-old Janelle Saffin who comes from the opposite end of the elctorate. Janelle was a member of the NSW Legislative Council from 1995 to 2003. She was a lawyer before entering parliament, and has worked actively in the past on human rights issues. She was involved in East Timor's transition to self government, and has worked as an advisor to new President Jose Ramos Horta. She is a long-time resident of Lismore, and contested that seat at the 1991 state election.

So in the two main candidates we have the north and south of it.

Forecast: Chancing my arm, a Labor win.

Update 9.13 pm

  • Janelle Saffin, ALP, 27,691, 42.3%, swing +8.8%
  • Chris Gulapti. NAT, 27,94, 42.7%, swing -7.3%
  • Theo Jonge, GRN, 5,185, 7.9%, swing -1.2%

Parkes. Very safe National - margin 17.5%

Parkes is really the old and now abolished Gwydir. The locals were up in arms about the abolition of Gwydir, and so was I.

Parkes now covers 107,108 along a north-south axis covering the agricultural districts of the north western and central western slopes. From north to south it includes the major centres of Moree, Walgett, Narrabri, Gunnedah, Coonabarabran, Coonamble, Gilgandra, Dubbo, Wellington and Mudgee.

This means that the majority of the seat is in New England, but with a major southern extension.

On the new boundaries, the 2004 vote was:

  • National 61.8%
  • Labor 24.6%
  • Independent 4.8%
  • Greens 4.3%
  • One Nation 3.3%
  • Citizens Electoral Council 1.1%

The candidates this time are:

  • Horan, Tim Independent
  • Keily, Michael, Climate Change Coalition. I suspect that this is the same Michael Keily whose blog is on my regular read list.
  • Haigh, Bruce, Independent
  • Coulton, Mark, Nationals
  • Stringer Richard, Citizens Electoral Council
  • Patriarca, Margaret, Country labor
  • Parmeter, Matt, Greens

Nationals candidate Mark Coulton was raised in Warialda before attending Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School in Tamworth as a boarding student. Coulton has been Mayor of Gwydir Shire Council since 2004 and has been a member of a wide variety of community organisations.

His Labor opponent is Dubbo businesswoman, Margaret Patriarca. After starting her career as a teacher, Patriarca became actively involved in community work and subsequently left teaching and worked for 25 years in social welfare including as Community Social Worker in Local Government; as a child protection caseworker and in disability, adolescent, child and family services. She moved to Dubbo with her two daughters in 1990 and currently works with her husband as Director of a family owned and operated construction company.

Again, in electoral terms, we have the north and south of it.

Forecast: Nationals to retain, but with a reduced majority. I say reduced majority only because I expect the Labor candidate to have stronger pulling power in Dubbo.

Update 9.19 pm

  • Mark Coulton, NAT, 21,828, 46.2%, swing -15.5%
  • Margaret Patriarca, Country Labor, 11,893, 25.2%, swing + 0.4%
  • Tim Horan, IND, 10,338, 21.%
  • Matt Parmeter, GR, 1,353, 2.9%, swing -1.%

Paterson. Apparently safe Liberal - margin 6.3%

Based in the lower Hunter Valley and lower New England North Coast, Paterson covers 9,373, including the Hunter River centres of Raymond Terrace and parts of East Maitland, the resort towns around Port Stephens, agricultural districts between Dungog and Gloucester, and the holiday and retirement havens of Forster and Tuncurry.

In the last redistribution, the seat lost Thornton, Woodberry, Beresfield, Tarro and Williamstown to Newcastle, while gaining Metford, Morpeth and parts of East Maitland from Hunter. Thsi reduced the Liberal majority from 7.0% to 6.3%.

On the new boundaries the 2004 vote was:

  • Liberal 46.5%
  • Labor 36.3%
  • Greens 4.5%
  • National 4.2%
  • One Nation 2.0%
  • Citizens Electoral Council 1.3%
  • Veterans Party 1.0%
  • Family First 0.9%
  • Fishing Party o.8%
  • Australian Democrats 0.6%
  • Others 1.9%

The candidates this time are:

  • Arneman, Jim, Labor
  • Hennelly, Paul, The Fishing Party
  • Donnelly, Judy, The Greens
  • Stokes, Christopher, Family First
  • King, Tony, Citizens Electoral Council
  • Haynes, Heather, Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)
  • Hamberger, John, One Nation
  • Baldwin, Bob, Liberal

Forecast: possible Labor win.

Update 9.29 pm

  • Bob Baldwin, LIB, 27,206, 47.4%, swing 0.5%
  • Jim Arneman, ALP, 24,614, 42.9%, swing + 6.4%
  • Judy Donnelly, GRN, 2,98, 5.2%, swing + 0.7%

Richmond. Marginal Labor - margin 1.4%

Once centerd on Lismore, this is a 2,756 at the north-east tip of New Engaalnd, including Tweed Heads and Murwillumbah in the Tweed Valley, Byron Bay and Byron Shire, some rural parts of Ballina Council north of Ballina itself, as well Nimbin and the rural northern parts of Lismore City Council.

In the redistribution, Richmond lost around 7,000 voters near Wollongbar and Alstonville to Page in exchange for Nimbin and approximately 6,000 voters in the rural northern parts of Lismore City Council. The Labor margin rose from a narrow 0.2% to a slightly more comfortable 1.4%.

On the new boundaries, the 2004 primary vote was:

  • National 44.5%
  • Labor 35.7%
  • Greens 13.6%
  • Gamily First 1.9%
  • Liberals for Forests 1.9%
  • Australian Democrats 1.1%
  • Others 1.4%,

Despite the high National primary vote, the Nationals went down on Green preferences.

This time the candidates are:

  • Farmilo, Daniel LDP
  • Elliot, Justine, Labor
  • Ebono, Giovanni, Greens
  • Page, Sue, Nationals
  • McCallum, Graham Citizens Electoral council
  • Sledge, Scott, Democrats
  • Raymond, Barbara, Christian Democratic Party

Forecast: Labor to hold with increased majority.

Update 10.25 am

  • Justine Elliot, ALP, 27,651. 44.0%, swing + 7.8
  • Sue Page, NAT, 22,744, 36.2%, swing -7.0%
  • Giovanni Ebono, GRN, 9,967, 15.8%, swing + 1.3%

Shortland. Safe Labor - margin 9.2%


Shortland covers 182, squeezed between Lake Macquarie and the Pacific Ocean, stretching from the southern suburbs of Newcastle to the Central Coast, from Redhead to Budgewoi. Main population centres are Charlestown, Belmont, Swansea and Budgewoi.

Based on the new boundaries, the 2004 votes were:

  • ALP 49.3%
  • Liberal 35.8%
  • Greens 8.2%
  • One Nation 2.6%
  • Family First 2.4%
  • Australian Democrats 1.6%
  • Others 0.1%

Forecast: Labour to hold with increased margin

Update 11.12 pm

  • Jill Hall, ALP, 39,723, 57.1%, swing + 7.2%
  • Jon Kealy, LIB, 21,328, 30.7% swing -4.9%
  • Keith Parsons, GRN, 5,799, 8.3%, swing 0.4%

Final Results

Enrolment 93,192, turnout 95.78%

Results by candidate:

  • Parsons, Keith: Greens - 7,097 votes, +0.15% swing
  • Hall, Jill: Labor (elected) - 48,525 votes, +7.40% swing
  • Kealy, Jon: Liberal - 26,620 votes, -4.69% swing
  • Reeves, Mathew: Family First - 1,644 votes, -0.49% swing
  • Wallace, Les: Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) - 1,655 votes, +1.93% swing

Two candidate preferred vote:

  • Hall, Jill, Labor, 55,379 votes, 64.74%, swing +5.50%
  • Kealy, John, Liberal, 30,162 votes, 35.26%, swing -5.50%

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Story of the Northern Separation or New England New State Movement

In recent times I have noticed a quite remarkable increase in interest in the New England New State Movement. Half of the ten most recent searches have been on this topic.

To IP 58...., Mr Whitlam was a member of the Federal Parliamentary Constitutional Review Committee with David Drummond. This Committee recommended changes to the constitution to make the creation of new states easier. In regard to your second search on the New England Movement I have a fair bit of material covering the whole movement from the early colonial period.

The same advice applies to IP c211-30... who was also searching on the New England Movement.

To IP c211-30... who was searching on the Cohen Royal Commission, I can give you the full history here.

More broadly, my own support for separation will be clear from this blog. However, that does not prevent me supplying objective historical information. If you have questions or want info as to sources, please leave a comment.


Thinking about it further, perhps the most useful thing that I might do is to put up some more historical material on the New England history blog. I have been slow in posting material to this blog because of the time pressures on me, so far really only starting to sketch out a blog structure.

I will add a further postscript when I have put something up.

Election 2007 Worrying times for New England's Nationals

As we enter the last week of the Federal election campaign, the New England scene is now looking decidedly difficult for the coalition in general and the Nationals in particular.

There are eleven Federal seats in New England, broken up into Labor 5, Nats 4, Liberal Party and independents one each. The latest Galaxy poll in the Telegraph shows an average swing to the ALP across the NSW marginals including the New England seats of of 7.5%.

On this swing, the Liberals could lose Paterson, the Nationals Page and Cowper. New England would then be Labor 8, Nats 2, independent one.

I have continued to read North Coast Voices, the ALP supporters blog. Given that it seems very likely that Mr Rudd will win the election, it will be interesting to see if Federal ALP can effectively represent both Northern Rivers and broader New England interests. While experience with state Labor is far from encouraging, the Federal Party is a different beast.


I see from later information that the poll in question did not include any New England seats, so that leaves the whole thing even more up in the air.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New England Australia - writers

I was trawling away looking for New England blogs when I came across Loonie Bin, a student blog from the University of New England. The writer is heavily into games, but I was struck by one quote:

Might I just add, and I may have mentioned this before: Sharkey is a MACHINE. I handed that assignment in on friday. Friday! And I swear he'd had it marked before today, he probably marked all the assignments over the weekend and had them ready for collection on Monday. It's insane, he puts all other lecturers to shame!

Now the Sharkey in question is one Michael, a very hard working staff member at the University of New England. He is also one of New England's better known poets.

I mention this because I knew that had written on him before, but had to search to find the story. I have therefore updated the New England writers tag to pick up posts that I had missed.

The various posts give some still limited indication of the richness of New England writing.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New England's Aboriginal Languages - a map

I finally found a map (here) of New England's Aboriginal languages. The map extends down towards Sydney and misses a bit out on the left, but it gets the guts of it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Les Murray - another New England writer

The pot Les Murray is one of New England's best known writers. I mention this because back in February Michael Jensen, the blogging parson, put up a rather nice post on Les Murray's poetry that I have only just discovered.


Neil Whitfield featured one of Les Murray's poems as his Friday poem. You will find Les Murray's web site here. The poety site lyrikline includes his poetry with audio readings.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

University of New England's new academic structure

As part of its strategic planning process, UNE outlined a vision to achieve regional and global impact. This was followed by an academic restructuring and now UNE has advertised for no less than ten professorial heads of schools.

I will comment on the new structure in a moment. But first, a plea to the University. Please don't do what Sydney University did.

A year or so ago when Sydney moved to a new structure, the effect was to reduce student choice because it became harder for students to mix and match courses to do what they really wanted to do. Students were locked in to much more narrowly defined paths.

Sydney can get away with this. UNE cannot. Students have always had a centrality at UNE that has not existed in many other places. Academic structures exist to enhance student experience and choice, not to limit it.

So what does the new structure look like? To begin with, we now have two faculties, Arts and Science and the Faculty of the Professions.

The Faculty of the Professions is a fascinating concept. In writings on one of my professional blogs discussing the idea of a discipline of practice, I argued in part that the professions could learn from each other. The UNE structure might in fact facilitate this.

The new faculty has five schools: Education; Business, Economics and Public Policy; Law, Health; and Rural Medicine.

Education covers early childhood, primary, secondary and adult education. These are all areas where UNE has a long tradition and great strength. The inclusion of education as one of the professions is a great move.

The next school, business, economics and public policy, covers business, economics and administrative leadership. This one strikes me as a lot messier simply because I do not know at this point how things fit in. This is also an area where students need access to subjects in the other faculty, Arts and Sciences. A case in point.

Eldest was doing business studies at UTS. At the end of first year that the course was too narrow, so she decided to look elsewhere focused on Arts/Economics combinations.

She went first to Sydney because she was attracted by the extra curricular aspect of the place including SUDS, the drama society. She quickly backed off because the rigid academic structures precluded her doing the subject combinations she wanted. So now she is enrolled at UNSW in Arts/Economics.

The third school in the Faculty of the Professions is law, covering law and agricultural law. This one is pretty clear cut.

Then we have two health school, health itself (nursing, counselling, health management) and rural medicine, a course offered in conjunction with the University of Newcastle. Always good to see New England's universities cooperating. This is a potentially powerful combination of areas with significant international outreach potential.

The new Faculty of Arts and Sciences is somewhat messier. Again, the capacity for students to study across schools will be important in attracting them.

The school of arts includes english, communication studies, theatre, languages and music. Then we have behavioural, cognitive and social studies - geography, planning, linguistics, psychology and sociology. And humanities - archaeology and paleoanthropology, classics and ancient history, history, philosophy, politics and international studies, indigenous studies, peace studies.

To my mind, the interlinks between these schools will be critical to the effectiveness of the new system in practice. Students have to be allowed to mix and match across schools.

Then we have two science schools.

The first is environment and rural science - agronomy and soil science, animal science, genetics, earth science, environmental engineering, botany, ecosystems management, marine science, zoology. Not a bad combination that combines UNE's traditional interests with the new.

The second is science and technology - human biology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, physics and electronics, maths, stats and compute science.

This one strikes me as being rather more mixed. But I am not a scientist.

In all, I will be interested to see how it works out over time.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Death of New England Writer Eric Rolls (1923-2007)

I was saddened to see that Eric Rolls had died on Wednesday 31 October 2007 after a short illness.

I first read Eric Rolls' A Million Wild Acres many years ago. Published in 1981, the book is the epic story of what is now known as the Pilliga Scrub. This area, once open because of Aboriginal burning, became dense scrub/forest following the arrival of the Europeans and the withdrawal of fire.

I so loved the story that I gave it to my Uncle Ron for his birthday. Ron was no reader, but he too loved it because he loved the land and knew the area. The material that follows is drawn from Tom Burton's obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald, 7 November 2007.

Tome described Eric Charles Rolls as a farmer, poet, cook, fisherman and a supreme writer about the history and nature of his own country. "He lived with vigour and manifest joy and leaves Australians a remarkable legacy of words and insights. His voice has become part of this land and has forever changed the way we live here."

Eric Rolls was born at Grenfell into a western NSW farming family. Apparently his promise as a storyteller emerged earl,y at kindergarten. In Tom's words, he "found a way of telling stories that made listeners feel they were sitting on his knee. He carried a rare combination of authority and intimacy. With short sentences, vivid verbs, sensual imagery and a necessary swagger, this poet-turned-prose writer wove a kind of magic."

From Grenfell, Eric won selection to Fort Street High ( a selective high school), before serving in New Guinea in World War II. From 1946 he farmed his own land in the north-west of New England on the edges of the Pilliga Scrub.

In 1969 he published his first non-fiction book, They All Ran Wild, a history of pests in Australia, especially rabbits. However, of all his 20 books it was A Million Wild Acres that made him famous.

Its central story is the growing of a forest. "Australia was not a timbered land that has been cleared," Rolls argued. In much of Australia, Aborigines kept the forests open with their light, regular burning. The prolific germination that always follows fire was kept in check by the plentiful wallabies, possums, bandicoots and rat kangaroos, which ate the seedlings.

Now this was an argument that struck a real chord with me, for it was one of the lessons I drew from my studies in Australian pre-history. If, as Rolls argued, the Australian environment was human created, what did this say of our desire to "preserve"? Wasn't this just another human modification of the landscape?

Rolls the farmer found "wild" nature to be feral, mongrel and hybrid, nature enlivened by human intervention. He concluded that many of today's forests are different and new - exaggerated communities of plants and animals, volatile and vulnerable.

This view drew him into conflict with some of the "purists" in the environmental movement, yet it is (I think) clearly correct. Without Aboriginal fire management, wildfires do erupt, creating conflict and dispute including around the Pilliga itself, the first European made forest to be declared a national park .

As well as a pioneering environmental history, A Million Wild Acres is (in Tom Burton's words) a regional history like no other, where birds, animals and plants share the stage with humans. One hero is the white cypress pine. Through his democratic recognition of all life, Rolls enchants the forest, presenting a country raucous with sound and nervous with creative energy. Australian poet Les Murray read it "with all the delight of one who knows he has at last got hold of a book that is in no way alien to him".

Rolls was also an outstanding historian of the Chinese in Australia, demonstrated by his two-volume Flowers and the Wide Sea (Sojourners in 1992 and Citizens in 1996). Other books included poetry (Sheaf Tosser, The Green Mosaic, Selected Poems), children's books, memoirs, A Celebration of Food and Wine, and other histories, From Forest to Sea, Visions of Australia, and Australia: A Biography.

At 60, Eric Rolls decided to give away the land and focus just on writing. He and his second wife, Elaine van Kempen, moved to Camden Haven on the New England Mid-North coast.

Eric Rolls had two long and happy marriages, first with Joan (Stephenson), who died in 1985, then with Elaine, who survives him with his children Kim, Kerry and Mitchell, Elaine's children Nick, Sue, Simon and Adam, and his sister Dellas.

Upon his move to Camden Haven he helped found and was patron of the Watermark Literary Society, which organises a biennial "muster" of environmental and natural history writers in Camden Haven.

Vale to Eric Rolls.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Armidale Demonstration School - for the girls

Once, as a child, I made an ocean journey
With my parents and brothers; the big ship waited
At Circular Quay, stately in her leisure, while
White-suited stewards trundled trolleys up the gangplanks.
All through the morning we milled around on deck,
Poked around our cabins, said our farewells,
Till ship’s horn roared a warning; All Guests Disembark!
From Jenny Kimberley, Moving Along

During the week I got a very nice surprise, and email from Jenny Kimberley (photo), nee Kemp. The email was triggered by earlier stories on the Armidale Demonstration School (here and here). Jenny's brother Peter was in the same class as me at Dem and then later at TAS (The Armidale School).

I won't repeat the whole email, but I thought that some readers with an interest in Dem might find some of the reminiscences interesting. I have added a few supporting comments.

What a memory you have! I was there too, but a couple of years older and in the girls' part -- never the twain shall meet ... Is there any blog on the girls' school that you know of?

So far, Jen, no. On separation of girls and boys, after a joint time at infants, the primary schools were very separate. The older boys school was at the bottom of the hill, the two story girls school at the top. We only met the sheilas when we had to learn folk dances, or at some combined things like the showing of a film on Hiroshima.

I was amazed to read that while we were in England your teacher covered material on London and whatnot. I remember our 2-year trip quite vividly, especially that boat trip of 6 weeks to get there! I write poems and have written one about that, and the loss of those old liners. I'll attach it in case you like poems.

I have included an excerpt from the poem at the start of this post along with a link to the original on Jenny's web site, Poetry from Jen. I am sure that Jenny's comment is correct, but it did not come from me. I will check with her.

With both a Teachers College and a University, Armidale was very much an academic city from which people went on secondment and sabbatical to other places, always in those days by ship. Jen's poem captures this very well.

I took violin lessons from Mrs. Letters, wife of Professor Francis Letters. ... I visited her a few years ago just before she died, and still have her book she wrote about his career, History Will Out. I played violin for 45 years until my hands got arthritis. At those TAS Gilbert & Sullivan shows, I was in the audience and at intermission, found a dark room to weep in, for grief that I couldn't be in one myself.

I've played in many orchestras and now sing in the Colorado Symphony Chorus, and to my great joy, we've done several Gilbert & Sullivan operas!

The artistic streak clearly runs in the Kemps, for brother Peter took an active part in the TAS G&S. Under the leadership of Jim Graham, the TAS G&S performances were a major school tradition enjoyed by a much wider audience. Australian singer Peter Cousins is one of those who got their start here.

I live in the U.S. and have done (except for 5 years in the 70s), since 1963. The minute I finished at Syd Uni, I was on the boat to Berkeley and my boyfriend's new home there with his family. He was at Syd Uni too. We married and I have two sons, one in NY and one in Illinois. We divorced and I married a second time to the man in charge of UC Berkeley's tandem computers, and sadly lost him to cancer in 1999. Now I live in Colorado and just 3 months ago bought a house here. I'm a writer at a company that creates and optimizes websites.

And so things go. Armidale kids have gone all over the world.

Unlike Sydney or Melbourne, for most kids being born in Armidale meant that you were born to move. Very few now live in Armidale or, for that matter, the broader New England. New England's lack of higher level jobs made movement necessary.

Of my immediate friends at Dem, I do not think that any now live in Armidale. A considerable proportion were to leave Australia, in some cases for ever.

I haven't calculated exactly, but a remarkably high proportion left the country. This is not, I think, unique to New England, but holds across many areas of non-metro Australia. I suspect that once you have been forced to break the links with home, further movement into the unknown becomes easier.

This does not mean that you lose the heart strings to your ancestral homeland. Far from it. But you cannot go back because your homeland - I am not talking about Australia - has gone, changed. But this should really be the subject of another post. At this point, I would just note that one objective of this blog is to give the huge New England diaspora a link back.

Here are some names of kids I remember in Armidale: Gay McKenzie, Diana Ford, Jennifer and Anne Bassett (daughters of the Teachers' College Principal), Margaret Wicks, my best friend, whose father was a social worker, Julie Anne Knaggs, another friend, and many others who I can see in my mind, but can't remember their names.

These are all names that I knew of. As an example, Bob Wicks was in the same class at Dem as Bruce Hoy and myself. I wonder what Mr Wicks would think of the current problems facing the NSW Department of Community Services. I suspect that he would be horrified!

Thank you, Jen, for getting in touch.


Email update from Jen. The story about our teacher using the Kemp's overseas trip in class came from Bruce Hoy.

Jen confirmed that her dad, Leslie (Les) Kemp who had been Vice-Principal at the Armidale Teachers' College went back to Sydney in 1960 to become Principal of Sydney Teachers' College. Brother Chris was also at TAS, a few years behind me.