The photo shows part of the audience in the Bellingen Library for the Digging Up the Past session on Sunday morning. Given my interests, this is one session that I would have liked to attend. I quote from the Armidale Express coverage:
One particularly well attended, thought-provoking session was ‘Digging Up the Past’, featuring Linda Neil, Leslie Cannold, Armidale’s Sophie Masson and Wendy James.
Facilitator Ron Howard asked the panel, all of whom had written novels incorporating historical research, about the power of fiction to bring the past to life, and then got them talking about the question of whether historical fiction simply projects contemporary issues back onto people who would not have had the same concerns as us.
A lively discussion ensued, with the authors describing their experiences as readers and writers, and agreeing that their present-day preoccupations necessarily influenced the fictional histories they produced.
I thought that facilitator Howard's question was a pretty fair one, and one relevant to my own writing.
Staying with Bellingen, I see from the Courier-Sun that the next stage of restoration work on the Alma Doepel has begun, The ship is a three masted topsail schooner originally built as a shallow drafted coastal trader in Bellingen in 1903. There is a gap here that I do not understand between the time I visited the ship at Port Macquarie where it was a tourist attraction and the present. Something to find out.
Adam Fulton reports in The Sydney Morning Herald that Hunter Valley artist Hadyn Wilson has won the $20,000 Gallipoli Art Prize with a montage addressing the human costs of war. My congratulations.
There were were two interesting obituaries in the Sydney Morning Herald with New England connections.
The first was the remarkable story of Dutch born Jack Dalmayer. Did you know that there was such a thing as Victory Camp in Casino which was declared Dutch territory by the Australian government early in the war and was occupied by the 1st Battalion, Netherlands East Indies Army, consisting of Dutch and Indonesian soldiers. I did not. Jack was part of a group came to be known as ''The Dutch Boys'' or ''The Casino Boys''. I leave it to you to read more.
The second obituary also has a Northern Rivers connection, the story of community activist Bess Dwyer.
Meantime, fellow New England blogger Paul Barratt who has written a fair number of obituaries for the metropolitans media has posted a new one, Vale Rex Robert Budd, DFC (1935-2010). Rex was a TAS (The Armidale School) old boy.
This followed an earlier obituary of another old boy, Duty Done: Flight Lieutenant Colin Russell Leith AM DFC.
If you look at the various obituaries I have mentioned you will get a feel for my liking for them. They are all so very different, but are also part of the varied tapestry of New England life.
Over on my personal blog, Poker machines, Windsor and Joyce is a follow up to an earlier story I did on Andrew Wilkie and the proposed poke machine tax.
I must say that I take a really evil pleasure in the way that political events have made New England from the Hunter to the border once again politically relevant in a way that we haven't actually seen since the 1960s. Long may it continue!
In State fragmentation & the meaning of NSW economic statistics I referred in part to problems in attracting skilled labor, especially in inland New England. Much earlier in my column in the Armidale Express I made the suggestion that for at least some migration should be attached, a residency requirement should be attached to get people to the country. Last night's ABC 7.30 Report carried a story on labour shortages in the Queensland town of Roma. You will find the transcript here. I quote from one part of the transcript:
SAUL ESLAKE, GRATTAN INSTITUTE: But given the long-term nature of any effective solution to this kind of problem, it's one that the Government ought to be working on solutions to over the next two or three years because if they don't, then some of those consequences in terms either of opportunities foregone or unsustainable upward pressure on wages could come home to bite us in a very nasty way.
If I took a certain evil pleasure in the return to prominence of Northern New South Wales, my broader New England, I took no pleasure from Mr Eslakes' comment. I have been banging away at some of these issues for a number of years. To my mind, there has been no progress over the last twenty years.
The key problems lie in lack of continuity, of focus, of integration. The lead time to train a specialist medico now has blown out on the shortest route to eleven years, more normally fourteen or fifteen years. Whereas most people once gained their trade qualifications at twenty, they are now twenty three or twenty four.
With long lead times as well as structural impediments, If you really want to fix some of these skills issues you need to adopt a twenty year planning horizon. That's how long it will actually take. With the average Government policy having, at best, a three year life expectancy before major modification, it's no wonder that we end up reacting to the current squeaky wheel!
I said that this was going to be a brief round-up. I find that I have barely scratched the surface, but I am far out of time.
Janene Carey, the writer of the Armidale Express article came in with a very interesting comment. This led me to write this post, George Negus, watermelons & the meaning of words. Have a look at Janene's comments first, and then my post.