The photo shows from left to right Jack Arnold (Armidale), Merle Rawson (Wangi Wangi), Greg Howley (Eleebana), Mark Zaicos (Kurri Kuri), Jim Rawson (Wangi Wangi), Peter Firminger (Wollombi) and Jim Belshaw (Sydney, Armidale). Nathan Clarke (Mayfield West) was a late apology because his kid suffered a Saturday morning sport injury.
We met at the Sydney Junction Hotel, all a little conscious of the irony of the name, given the subject of the lunch! However, it was a very convenient location. I must also note, however, that the pub does not carry a single Hunter Valley wine! I wouldn't expect it to have wines from elsewhere in New England, but no Hunter Valley wines?
Discussion ranged quite widely, as you might expect. Not only did group experience vary widely, but so did views on issues. At one point, Greg did a poll of people's political affiliations: the seven present covered five different political groupings! The thing that united everybody was a common belief that the existing system did not work, that only self-government could give the North a true voice and that the loss of the 1967 plebiscite had proved a disaster for New England in general and the Hunter in particular.
Rebuilding something like the New England New State Movement is not something happens overnight. It's not just organisational issues. So much of our historical memory has been lost, the things that united, that an action like this actually depends in part on rebuilding knowledge of history.
There is no top-down drive for New England self-government. This is grass-roots stuff, a person here, a person there. All this takes time, sometimes a lot of time. However, it was interesting that no less than three of us brought cameras to record the lunch because we all felt that it was a historic occasion that should be recorded.
The next lunch will be in about a month's time. If you would like to come or to find out more, please email me on ndarala(at)optusnet(dot)com(au).