Monday, May 12, 2008

New England New State Movement - consolidated posts linked to the fight for New England self government

Graphic: New England New State Movement Anthem, National Library

We will raise the banner of New England
Work for New England,
Fight for New England
We will raise the battle cry of freedom
Fight for our Liberty
Part of the New England Anthem

Way up in the north of Northern NSW
There is a new state movement that's sort of on the go
But what will be the capital of this new state of ours?
That is the burning question that's being worrying them for hours
Will it be in Armidale, Tamworth or Bendameer?
Or will it be in Grafton the place where they make beer?
Song, University of New England Student Review, 1960s

I was browsing Wikedpia and I found a talk section on the New England New State Movement. I also found two of my blogs including this one listed as not suitable for citation but as a useful entry point for source material.

I added some information, and then thought that my own writing on the New England New State Movement is all over the place in terms of blogs and post topics. I have been meaning to put up a Wikipedia page on the movement, there is not one at present, but it would sensible to do something about consolidating my own stuff first.

My own biases on this matter will be clear. I was a member of the Movement and was in fact on the Executive for a period representing the University of New England New State Society. I remain a strong supporter of New England self government.

Since the Movement went into decline following the defeat at the 1967 plebiscite, its history and indeed that of New England itself has become lost. I believe that's a pity.

This post is intended to provide a consolidated entry point for my posts on the New England New State Movement. It is broken into two parts. The first simply provides a short overview of New England and the Movement. The second is an annotated list of posts broken up by topic.

I hope that the post is of some use to those interested in the topic. I will try to update from time to time.

The Snapshot

Name: New England was initially called Northern NSW, the North, the Northern Districts or the Northern Provinces. The name New England was originally the name of the Tableland area forming New England's core. The Tablelands are known as the Northern Tablelands, the New New England Tablelands or sometimes just the New England to distnguish them from the broader New England area.

The name New England was adopted for the whole area by the Northern Separation Movement at its 1931 Maitland convention. From there its usage spread, contracting again as the New State Movement went into decline after 1967.

Area: Because New England has never had a formal identity, its boundaries have varied with time. In broad terms, it covers the humid coastal strip from the Hunter Valley to the Queensland border, the New England Tablelands and the immediately adjoining Western slopes and Plains.

In economic and geographic terms, New England forms a natural unit that has survived to the present day. The modern TV aggregation boundaries, as an example, reflect the New England core.

In political terms,the boundaries have varied. The initial separation discussions excluded the Hunter, in part because of tensions between the industrial and mining heartland of the lower Hunter and the rest of the area. The problem with this is that Newcastle and the Hunter are a logical part of New England. The boundaries recommended by the 1935 report of the Nicholas Royal Commission into areas of NSW suitable for self-government included Newcastle and the Hunter. These boundaries were adopted by the New England New State Movement and used as the basis for the 1967 self-government referendum.

New State Agitation. The first separatist agitation occurred during colonial times at the the time of the separation of Queensland from NSW. While this was followed by outbreaks of agitation,these remained sporadic.

This changed in the twentieth century. Agitation began again at Grafton ltowards the end of the First World War led by Earle Page, a local doctor and later a prominent Australian politician. This was picked up a little later by Victor Thompson, editor of the Tamworth Northern Daily Leader who launched a sustained newspaper campaign that involved papers as far south as Cessnock in the lower Hunter. This led to the creation of a formal movement. One outcome was the 1924 Cohen Royal Commission into New States.

The Cohen Commission ruled against to the movement and it went into decline, resurging at the start of the depression. This forced another Royal Commission, the Nicholas Commission. While this recommended in favour, the movement was again in decline as economic conditions improved.

Agitation started again at the end of the Second World War and this time was sustained by permanent staff. In 1961 the movement launched Operation Seventh State, raising over 100,000 pounds. This allowed more staff and greater agitation, culminating in the 1967 referendum.

The no vote was led by the Labor Party who campaigned hard. The very high no vote in the Labor strongholds of Newcastle and the Lower Hunter offset the majority yes vote elsewhere, although the no margin was not high. Exhausted, the movement collapsed.

The Posts

Because of the importance of the topic to me, material about the separation movements and the New England self government cause can be found in many posts. I have tried to select posts that will give the interested reader an entry point. Uou will find the material somewhat fragmented. Looking at the posts reminded me just how many unfinished series and indeed incomplete posts I have.


New England's geography is central to its story because it both divided and provided a natural unity.

The Changing Definition of New England

As indicated in the introduction to this post, both the names used to describe New England and the meaning attached to New England itself has varied with time.

Introduction to the History of New England

The history of Northern NSW has yet to be written, with the area squeezed between the state or national level on one side, the narrow regional or local on the other.

Politics - historical

During the colonial period, New England politics was dominated by the Sydney based factional political system, with particular local manifestations. The emergence of the party political system saw the new Labor Party and the Progressive/Country Party compete for influence. Labor influence was strongest in Newcastle and the mining areas of the Lower Hunter, the Country Party came to dominate elsewhere. New England interests dominated the NSW Country Party.

In addition to the political parties, the separation movement exercised varying degrees of influence. There were close links between the separation movement and the Country Party in terms of leadership and aspirations, especially in the period between the wars. This added to Labor's opposition to separation.

Today the National Party (the name the Country Party came to take) is in serious decline in its previous New England heartland, in part because of the rise of the New England independents who better represent continuing local differences.

Separation Movements - history

From sporadic outbreaks in colonial times, the various separation movements came to represent a unique and powerful element in New England's history, creating common views across sectional and parochial interests.

Current Politics

I have selected a few posts on current politics that contain information linking present and past.

New England Thought

New England developed its own forms of thinking conditioned by its geography and history.

To be continued

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