Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Introducing the AA Company

While headquartered in London, the Australian Agricultural Company was New England's first big public company. It was also one that had a huge influence on our history. This post, Introducing the Australian Agricultural Company, does as the name says.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

History revisited - the changing UNE story through the prism of its wardens/VCs

This History Revisited column, History revisited - changes at the helm of UNE, is the start of a new series on the history of the New England University College/UNE seen through a prism set by Wardens/Vice Chancellors of those institutions. I will add the links at the bottom as I go along. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New England Lives - introducing Robert Dawson

Yesterday's post on New England's History was New England Lives – Robert Dawson (1782-1866), company manager, pastoralist and writer. I split the New England Lives series between this and the history blog, depending upon the person. Dawson was an interesting bloke, and a significant figure in early New England history. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Glimpses of New England Chinese life in the first half of the twentieth century

Yesterday's post on New England's history is as the title said, Family counts: glimpses of Chinese life in New England in the first half of the twentieth century.

I was talking to a colleague who grew up in Bundarra who remembers the Chinese store there. Its a long time since I have been to Bundarra. I wonder if the store is still Chinese owned?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Looking back at New England's Environmental Wars

Last year in the lead up to the Federal election, ABC's Background Briefing was going to do a full piece on the contest for the Federal seat of New England, including part on the environmental wars raging across the North.

I was going to be interviewed to provide historical context. In the end, the program did not proceed because of Richard Torbay's sudden withdrawal from the context. That reminds me, I need to update my personal piece on Richard; there have been newspapePilliga Protestr stories since I added the last entry.

I can't remember when I first wrote on New England's environmental wars. It was some time ago.

From memory, it started in Newcastle with the protests against the coal loader. Then, a little later, I drove through Gloucester on my way to Armidale and saw the protest signs. Later came Lock the Gate and a more structured campaign.

My impression is that the protests have lost some of their steam, but they are persistent. This photo from NBN shows the protest against Santos and coal seam gas in the Pilliga Forest. This post from Sharyn Munro, Sitting for Leard Forest, describes the protest against Whitehaven Coal. I see, too, that Sharyn has now published a book, Rich Land Waste land: how coal is killing Australia. On the North Coast, North Coast Voices maintains the rage.

Stage one of the environmental wars was driven by general fears about global warming. It was very much a Green activist thing. Then came the local phase as people at Gloucester, in the Hunter and on the Liverpool Plains became energised, creating a sometimes unusual amalgam of local protest and Green activists. It was this combination that was of special interest to the ABC.

Part of the local reaction was a NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) thing, but more was genuine concern about life style loss and significant environmental risk. I, for one, wondered about the potential impact on Liverpool Plains' ground water, a significant New England resource. Neither the companies nor the Sydney Government helped. At a time of contracting state revenues, the great big golden pot of royalties was just too attractive. Damn all of that royalties money benefited the areas in question. They paid a price without compensation or even recognition.

This brought a groundswell of protest that finally forced change. From Newcastle to the Queensland border, local newspapers in affected areas ran what were effectively protest stories. One side effect was the re-emergence of support in Newcastle for self government for the North.

In Canberra, the pivotal role of the New England independents and especially Tony Windsor finally forced a Federal response. In Sydney, the new O'Farrell Government enforced an effective if clumsy freeze on CSG development.  

We have now come to a new phase in New England's environmental wars. I think of it as the end game. I will explain why in my next post.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tragedy on Thunderbolt's Way

Those of us who know Thunderbolt's Way know just how steep parts of the road are. Travelling east down the escarpment is a break hugging journey. Wednesday, tragedy happened. The story that follows is drawn from the Manning River Times.  

Wednesday 5 February, two trucks were travelling down the mountain. A bit before 4pm, the truck behind carrying a load of sheet metal found that its brakes were malfunctioning. It radioed the truck in front to say that I have lost my brakes. The truck in front tried to slow him down by blocking him, essentially allowing the truck behind to run up its rear, thus forcing a slow down,

The manoeuvre failed. According to a spokesman for the Hunter’s Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, a trail of debris more than 100m long was left along the road. it was clear the trucks had attempted to reduce their speed by going up the high side of the embankment several times. Finally, both trucks went off the low side of the road and down a steep 45 degree incline.

Emergency service crews then struggled to reach both trucks and their drivers who were trapped more than 50m down a steep cliff. Specialist climbing gear had to be brought in by the SES to reach the trucks.

The driver and sole occupant of one of the trucks, a 32-year-old Karuah man, died at the scene.

A 47-year-old man and 51-year-old woman travelling in the second truck were airlifted to John Hunter Hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Knowing that road well, I have always been concerned on the steep parts about the risk of crash. You just have to be very careful.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

New England must cooperate to survive

last Friday (31 January) I made a quick trip to Armidale for a meeting of the New England Writers' Centre Board (A fleeting visit to Armidale).P1010090 It was the first time I had flown for some time. Normally I go by car; flying is just so damn expensive!

I was struck by just how quiet Armidale's main street was. "Business is pretty bad", a local shop keeper told me. I could see what he meant. It was like a ghost town!

The pub on the right of the photo, the New England, has gone into receivership. It's shut. Who would have believed it?  This is the pub where Peter Allen sang professionally for the first time.

In my writing, I am trying to make New Englanders see themselves as a whole. From Newcastle to Lismore, from Moree to the coast, so long as they seem themselves in strictly local terms they don't count.

Say people in Armidale were to say we would really support Glen Innes's Celtic festival. Say the Armidale Express ran a campaign demanding that Armidale people go to Glen. Then Glen would support Armidale. Ditto for Newcastle.  

We don't have our own government to link us. We should. Hopefully, we will. For the moment, it is up to us as individuals to campaign for cooperation. To link our interests together so that we get the best result.

Can we do that? I would like to think that we could.     

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

New England writers and writing - the local historians

In aggregate, the local historians probably form the largest group of New England writers, especially if combined with the overlapping group of family historians whose writing often extends beyond the immediate family into broader topics such as station histories.

The first local historical writing seems to have been associated with civic events such as anniversaries. Here local newspaper editors such as E C Sommerlad in Glen Innes seem to have played lead roles. They were used to writing, were committed to their communities and also controlled the printing presses. They also wrote and published on a range of other topics through their papers, pamphlets and books, adding substantially to the total body of New England writing.  

In 1928, the Armidale Teachers' College College was established, followed by the New England University College in 1938. They brought the first trained historians to the North, while the students they educated generally came from the North and were interested in local and regional topics. This combined with a rising interest in local history. leading to the formation of local historical societies. The Richmond River Historical  Society was founded in 1936. Within twenty years, most Northern centres had their own historical societies. These not only provided local historical forums, but also began to collect records and memorabilia and to establish museums and displays.

Even in the 1950s, there were still very full local histories. This was not dissimilar to the position in Australian historical writing in general. An explosion took place over the next thirty years. By the end of the eighties there were hundreds of titles, most with very small print runs. General interest in Australian history was growing, but beyond that the existence of the Teacher's College and University in Armidale had a huge direct and indirect impact at every level in the process.

Not all the local histories were well written. Some were mere compilations of newspaper stories, catalogues of things considered to be locally important written in isolation from broader events. They provide a useful resource, but are boring to read unless you know and are interested in the area in question.  Others, however, are very good indeed. This includes both those books written by professional historians such as John Ferry's Colonial Armidale and those written by amateurs, if often amateurs with some form of study at the University of New England,

Note to readers:  This piece is a work in progress, the start of my attempt to define and describe the various threads in New England writing over time. I have over four hundred separate New England titles on my shelves, and i know that I have barely scratched to surface!                

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Moving images from New England's past

This one came via the We Love South Grafton Facebook page. It was posted to YouTube by wayne hope. He describes it in this way.

Historic footage taken from feature films, documentaries, newsreels & home movies from the 1920's to the 1970's. It mainly shows people going about their daily lives. Also some of the towns festivals & street parades. Included are the NSW towns of Grafton, Inverell, Coffs Harbour, Yamba, Moree, Tenterfield, Angourie, Casino, Lismore, Coutts Crossing, Glenn Innes & Maclean. The video is divided into 6 separate decades, starting from the 1920's thru to the 1970's. 1920's begins at 1 minute. 1930's at 25 minutes. 1940's at 41 minutes 50 sec. 1950's at 51 minutes 40sec. 1960's at 1hr 2min 25sec. 1970's at 1hr 12min 10sec.

As you can see, it is quite long. However, it does provide some vivid images, slices, of daily life in parts of the North over time. Do have a browse.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Round the New England blogging traps 29 - writing and rates

I suddenly realised just how long it had been since my last run around the New England blogging scene, fifteen months! I have been monitoring, but not reporting.

In Clarence Valley Council rating by the numbers, North Coast Voices had an interesting discussion on the rate setting process and especially the use of the index of relative socio-economic disadvantage as one factor in rate setting. The piece includes a link to the council minutes, as well as the ABS statistical series presenting the latest indices.

Reading the Council minutes, I was struck by just how complex the rate setting process can be in largish geographical areas with their variety in local conditions. I was also struck by the apparent decline in land values within the Council area. The latest Valuer General valuations placed a value of $4.2 billion on rateable land, down from $4.8 billion three years before. That's a fall of 12 per cent.

North Coast Voices continues its environmental campaigning, including Screenshot from Metgasco Limited proposed unconventional gas drill site at Bentley, NSW. For those not familiar with the intensity of on-ground feeling, click through the link to the story in the Northern Rivers Echo.

Meanwhile, on Northern Rivers Geology, Rod Holland has put together a consolidated List of Natural Gas Posts. These provide a factual geological analysis of the different types of gas and gas extraction.

Up the mountain road from the Clarence, last year saw the death of one of Denis Wright, one of New England's best known bloggers. The last post on My Unwelcome Stranger carries Denis' final message, as well as the eulogy by friend and colleague David Kent. Denis really was a remarkable man.

Staying in Armidale, Janene Carey's Turkish Delights describes a recent trip to Turkey. Janene is a very good writer and a fellow board member of the New England Writers' Center. On Saturday, I had coffee with her in the Mall before my return to Sydney. We chatted about writing, including the difficulty of actually making a living from the craft. I described the overall trip in a post on my personal blog, A fleeting visit to Armidale.Sunset Ridge

Still in Armidale, Paul Barratt's On final for Armidale describes his flight into town. Paul has been on something of a nostalgia trip recently (A day trip to Dangar Falls, Those were the days). A bit dangerous from my viewpoint because of our shared links.

Some of my favourite New England photo blogs have gone into extended recess. That's a pity, because they were an invaluable source of ideas and inspiration. However, Julia's Newcastle Photo continues, again with an environmental theme.

Moving back to the Northern Rivers, Jan's A Tapestry of Life continues to give, as she says, "glimpses of an active, contented life in country Australia." That's true! 

Moving to the far west and back to writing, Nicole Alexander (blog here) was born and raised on New England's northwest plains. She calls it NSW, but I don't know that place! Her family property is located north-west of Moree near the Queensland border. Her new book, Sunset Ridge, is now out.

New England has a remarkable number of writers. Of course, the questions of just who is a New England writer or what New England writing is are open questions.

I must stop here. I am out of time!