Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Great Inland Fishing Festival 2007

Photo: That's a fish!

In an earlier post I talked about New England dam levels. While water levels are down, there is still some good fishing.

The Great Inland Fishing Festival at Lake Copeton has established a reputation among regional anglers as one of the best, with more than 800 anglers expected to vie for a prize pool of $20,000 over the weekend of November 30, December 1 and 2.

Lake Copeton is regarded as one of the nation’s best inland fisheries, with plentiful Murray Cod, as well as Yellow Belly, Catfish and Silver Perch.

In 2003 the rules were changed to make it a catch and release contest (rather than catch and kill). The proceeds were then used to put fish back in the water in an effort to further develop Inverell's claim to be the Inland Fishing Capital of Australia.

Festival organiser Darrel Kachel says while the Lake Copeton level is at 15%, the fish are still plentiful. He attributes the high level of fish to the catch and release policy of the surrounding fishing clubs in recent years.

“There’s certainly a healthy supply on hand and our sponsorship has really improved since we introduced the catch and release policy,” he said.

Mr Kachel said the festival is designed to be a family event which promotes the district and sustainable fishing.

At least three measuring stations will be set up on the dam foreshores during the competition, as well as 20 flag boats for measuring out on the water.

A highlight of the weekend is the Fishermens’ Dream Raffle – with a prize of boat, motor, trailer, and safety equipment.

The Australian Inland Fishing Champion will be awarded a major prize of $1,000.


The Great Inland Fishing Festival at Copeton Dam runs from November 30 to December 2. Lake Copeton is between 17 and 35 kilometres south west of Inverell, depending on which area of the Dam you choose to go. It is three times the size of Sydney Harbour and offers cabins, bunkhouses and campsites.

Entry fees for the Festival are $20 for adults, $8 for pensioners and children and $30 for a family. For festival enquiries, phone Darrel Kachel (02) 67224410 BH or (02) 67221054 AH

For accommodation enquiries at Lake Copeton, phone the Recreation Area on (02) 6723 6269.

Inverell is 569 kms (7 hours 35 minutes) north west of Sydney if you travel by Thunderbolt's Way. The New England Highway route is longer. If you are travelling from Brisbane it is 433 kms (5 hours 20 minutes), from Armidale 126kms (one hour 43 minutes).

Friday, September 28, 2007

New England Australia Demography - Stocktake of posts as at 28 September 2007

Now that the results of the latest Australian census are out and I want to write some more on New England's demography, it seems sensible to do a stocktake of previous posts linked in some way to that demography.

A list follows in more or less chronological order.

Friday 7 July 2006. The past is always present - the Country Party discusses the enduring influence of different European settlement patterns on politics in different parts of NSW.

On 14 November 2006 I began a series of posts examining the NSW State Government's new ten year plan from a New England perspective. Assumptions about demography are central to the plan.

In NSW Ten Year Plan - New England's Needs I set out my perceptions of the needs the plan might meet. This post includes supporting demographic data. My next post, Does the NSW Ten Year Plan Meet New England's Needs?, looked at the structure and objectives of the plan against the needs as I saw them. My conclusions were not positive. This was followed by a concluding post, NSW Ten Year Plan and New England - Conclusions, drawing the analysis together.

On 18 January 2007 in Sydney Government releases draft Mid-North Coast strategy I reported the release of the the Government's strategy for this area as defined by them. Assumptions about population growth are central to this strategy.

I followed this with a post on 23 January, Sydney Government's Coastal Planning Strategies, looking at the coastal strategies as a whole. I was again very critical of the demographic assumptions.

On 5 August 2007 in Sydney's Sluggish Population Growth, I commented on Sydney's growth compared to the other capital cities, querying again the Sydney Government's planning assumptions.

New England's indigenous people spread across many posts.

New England's indigenous population is significantly higher than the national average, with the distribution of the population affected not just by natural increase, but by migration within and beyond New England. All this makes, or should make, issues relating to Aboriginal economic and social development a key policy concern.

In Australia's Aborigines - a Note on Demography (21 December 2006) I looked in a preliminary way at migration patterns. On 7 March 2007 in NSW's Aboriginal Population I provided some data on the regional distribution of Aboriginal people.

One of the points that I made in my analysis of the NSW Government's Ten Year Plan was the need for economic development if New England's problems, including those of its Aboriginal people, were to be properly addressed.

On 4 March 2007 in New England's Poor Towns - a failure in public policy I commented on work done by Professor Vinson that nearly all the poorest and most socially disadvantaged towns and villages in NSW could be found in New England. I followed this in quick succession a second post on the same day - New England and the Immiseration of Public Policy - that extended my argument in a somewhat angry fashion.

On 31 July, in Rental Stress in New England I reported that the top three, and four of the top ten, electorates in NSW suffering rental stress were in New England. The census data provides an opportunity to extend my economic and social analysis in a more rigorous fashion.

Finally, I have yet too look properly at the various ethnic and national groups that have contributed to New England's evolution, although I have referred to it in passing in various posts. However, I have made an in initial foray here with New England's Chinese - Introductory Post (26 February 2007).

Previous Stocktakes

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Moree mentoring attracts interest - congratulations to Peter Strang

Back in June I wrote a short post on the work of Dick Estens and his colleagues in creating employment opportunities for Moree's Aboriginal young.

I see from an article in the Moree Champion that this work has continued. My congratulations to Peter Strang for receiving the initial AES award for his work in Moree's mentoring program.

I think personally that this type of action is very important. Whatever the issues and approaches may be at state or national level, action at local level to improve opportunities for New England's Aboriginal kids is critical. Without this, other things will fall over.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hunter Valley Walks

Photo: Sundara Rajagopalanm, Tranquil setting. Photo from ABC Newcastle Radio breakfast.

I found by accident a rather nice if still incomplete story on ABC Newcastle on Hunter Valley walks, especially around Newcastle. I must try some of them on my next visit.

At a dinner party in Sydney recently I was arguing to friends that Newcastle must now be one of the most civilised places to live in Australia. I was pleased to find that a number agreed with me. Even with those who did not, I think that I have actually encouraged some to visit.

Monday, September 17, 2007

New England Dam Reports

With all the talk of drought, I thought that I should start a regular series of New England dam reports. You can find the original source data here. The percentages that follow may not be exactly correct since they come from graphs. I have drawn supporting information especially from sweetwater fishing.

Toonumbar Dam was built across Iron Pot Creek 31km west of Kyogle and completer in 1972. It holds 11 000 mega-litres of water and has a surface area of around 400 hectares when full. It is currently around 90 per cent full.

Pindari Dam is located on the Severn River 63 kms from Inverell, 22 kms upstream from Ashford. Pindari comes from an aboriginal word meaning 'high rocks' and is the name of an early pastoral run which adjoined the dam. Construction of Pindari began in 1967 with completion in 1969. Key facts:

  • Storage capacity - 312,000 million litres or over half the volume of Sydney Harbour.
  • Catchment area - 1,994 square kilometres.
  • Surface area - 10.5 square kilometres.
  • Maximum spillway discharge - 21,900 cubic metres/second (1.89 million ML/day).
  • Maximum outlet discharge - 58 cubic metres/second (5,000 ML/day).

Pindari is currently around 35 per cent full, with a recent increase in water levels.

Copeton Dam is located approx 30km south west of Inverell. The dam is almost three times the size of Sydney Harbour when full and was built across built across the Gwydir River in 1976. I have started a series on the Gwydir River Valley.

In recent weeks dam levels have increased slightly to around 13 per cent.

Split Rock Dam lies on the Manilla River, a tributary of the Namoi, 31k from Barraba and 15 k from Manilla and was constructed in 1987 for irrigation. It has a water storage capacity of 397,370 mega-litres, a surface area of 2150 hectares and a maximum depth of 60 meters.

Split Rock has been flatlining at around 3 per cent full.

Lake Keepit lies on the Namoi River 13km upstream from the junction with the Peel River. The Dam was constructed in 1961 and has a storage capacity of 425 000 mega-litres when full.

In recent weeks, dam levels have increased from around 6 to 14 per cent.

Chaffey Dam lies on the Peel River on the edge of The Fossickers Way, 16km to the north of Nundle and 44Km south of Tamworth. The Dam has a capacity of 62,000 mega-litres and is the main water supply for Tamworth. Over the last few months, storage has increased from around 14 to 44 per cent.

Lake Glenbawn lies on the Hunter River around 15 kilometres east of Scone. Construction of the Glenbawn Dam was finished 1958, with a major upgrade in 1986. The Dam now holds 750 000 mega-litres at full supply capacity.

Since May, dam levels have increased from around 28 to 38 per cent.

Glennies Creek Dam lies 25 km north of Singleton and has a storage capacity of 283,000 million litres. Since May capacity levels have risen from around 25 to 35 per cent.

Lostock Dam was built across the Paterson River in 1971 for irrigation and town water storage and has a capacity of 20,230 mega-litres. The dam is currently full.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Why I remain a New England New Stater 5 - the case of Tasmania

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.

As I write the Federal election is raging. As always, Tasmania is receiving a fair bit of attention. And cash. Senator Harradine showed what could be done to extract benefits for a state from a position of power

New England is far bigger than Tasmania, yet receives almost no attention. Not for us the Harradine largess .

This is a very clear case where statehood would improve our position through increased bargaining power.

Now one could argue - I have often heard this argument - that Tasmania should not receive these benefits. That is small consolation to those concerned with New England and its neglect.

Return to introductory post

Friday, September 07, 2007

Judith Wright's "For a Pastoral Family" - and "Skins"

This post continues my irregular series on Judith Wright, again inspired by a good post by Neil. I do not have a full copy of this poem, something that I must rectify. Again, I thought that I might usefully add a little context to the discussion.

Before reading this post, I suggest that you read Neil's post first. You might also read a rather interesting piece from the Cordite Poetry Review found by Neil that provides useful biographical material on Judith, as well as a commentary from an external perspective.

A year or so back I brought Judith Wright's autobiographical memoir Half a Life Time (1999). I bought it with anticipation, I read it with a degree of sadness.

We all interpret and reinterpret our own lives in the light of experience and events. Things change. As they do, we change. Here Neil quoted a much later poem, Skins, a poem that I had not see before.

The poem begins:
This pair of skin gloves is sixty-six years old,
mended in places, worn thin across the knuckles.
You can see here how she retains her superb control of English.The poem goes on:
Snakes get rid of their covering all at once.
Even those empty cuticles trouble the passer-by
Note the references to the "empty cuticles". This is critical to the point she wants to make in the poem.
Now she says:

Counting in seven-year rhythms I’ve lost nine skins
though their gradual flaking isn’t so spectacular.

So she is comparing herself to the snake. This lays the basis for her final, tart, jab at those who were critical of her later, more political, writing.
You ask me to read those poems I wrote in my thirties?
They dropped off several incarnations back.
The difficulty for Judith is that you cannot easily disentangle yourself from your own life or family, nor can you stop people interpreting your work through their own current frames.

When I look at her work as a whole, I have not read all of it, I can see a gradual erosion in optimism, a darkening. You can see this simply by comparing Generations of Men (1959), Cry for the Dead (1981) and Half a Life Time (1999).

Part of this came from her growing political activisim. Her focus on the Aborigines and on environmental issues is well documented. Personally I find this later material much harder to read because I cannot disentangle my own views on issues from the writing.

I am not sure exactly when For a Pastoral Family was written, 1979 or 1980, not long before the publication of Cry for the Dead. This is message poetry, but one (as I see it) with an edge of bitterness. One part of the poem says:
Our people who gnawed at the fringe
of the edible leaf of this country
left all the margins of action, a rural security
and left to me
what serves a base for poetry,
a doubtful song that has a dying fall
The language is superb. Read it out loud several times and you will see what I mean.

I will talk about family - caught in the and left to me - in a moment. For the present, you will see what I mean by message poetry. To see a little more, go back to Neil's post and read out loud the words from To My Generation. There is a real passion there, captured in superb English.

To understand Judith, you have to understand her family. I tread cautiously here because in all families there are different views. While I knew many members of her family including her father, I did not know Judith. Her (Judith's) daughter may well have a different perception to me.

As I see it, there were two family members who had a particular influence on Judith.

The first was the matriarch, Charlotte May, who essentially built the family fortune. Judith knew about powerful women. This made her exclusion from the male line of succession doubly difficult.

The second was her father, P A Wright. Everybody called him PA, if not to his face. His sense of committment, his dedication to development and the New England cause was profound. In a comment on his post Neil wrote:

I find it fascinating that Judith Wright followed a line of thinking about such things as the environment and Aboriginal Australia before such things really became “fashionable”. You could say her poetry led her down that path.
One of the points that I have made to Neil in our on-going and enjoyable debates on Australian intellectual life is that certain concerns did not arise out of a vacuum. In Judith's case, she had a father who (among other things) was involved in environmental issues. His concerns may not have been quite those that exist today, but he did fight to create his own national park, the New England National Park, the second(I think) in NSW. I will write this story up a little later.

PA died in 1970. At this point, Judith's exclusion from the land she loved became absolute. Then, towards the end of her life, she had to deal with the loss of the family properties.

First came the loss of Jeogla and the V1V branch (V1V was the brand) of the family. A little later came the loss of of V2V and Wallamumbi itself.

I do not want to comment on the commercial issues involved. Richard Wright with his partner was my first ever consulting client. Both Richard (ViV) and David (V2V) Wright had a passion for good cattle and have played a major role in the development of breeds and of new objective measurement techniques. Both became involved in expansion plans that brought the empires down. Both suffered from the bastardry of the banks.

To Judith with her love of country, this was a disaster. In the words of the ABC Dynasties program talking about brother David Wright:
By December 2000, he had lost it all — his properties, his cattle and his wife to cancer. His sister, the poet Judith Wright, watched in despair and died soon after.
I suppose that I have come a fair distance from talking about Judith's poetry. But (to my mind) you cannot separate her from her family and the broader history of New England.

After thoughts

Re-reading this a little later, I do not think that I have the balance exactly right.

Judith's father died in 1970. This was the second important death in a few years, for her husband Jack McKinney had died in 1966.

I knew that Jack McKinney was older, but had forgotten by how much. He was born in 1891, only two years later than Judith's father (1889). It seems to me that Mr McKinney, her daughter along with her family and the family country formed a core in her life. So she lost her husband, then her father and finally at the end her family country.

Tracing all the influences on a life is always hard. I used the New England National Park example to indicate that her love of the environment did not just appear, but had its roots deep in her past. I think something similar holds with her support for Aboriginal causes.

How do I explain this?

I have a problem here in that her work is so often forced into modern thought structures that can actually impede interpretation. Further, and as I suggested in the post, Judith's own interpretations shifted over time.
I think that we have to look at her writing and especially her poetry across several dimensions.

One is literary. Whether one agrees with her or not on particular issues, the power and passion of her words is tangible, a living thing. So we need to understand and study this.

But this does not make her writing valid as a historical expression. Her poem Bora Ring paints an evocative picture of a vanished race. Yet the people she spoke of were still alive, their traditions were still alive, at the time she wrote.

I cannot continue now. I have to cook tea. I will try to continue as a new post.


Browsing, I found that Ramona Koval had done an interesting interview with Judith just before her death that traces some of the effects of time on her thought.

Entry Page for posts about Judith Wright's poetry.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

New England, Australia - end month review August 2007

Looking back over August, one feature was the arrival of visitor 8,000. A second feature was the resumption of more normal posting -12 posts - after a collapse in July to just 4 posts.

Traffic on this blog is not high and is also very sensitive to drops in posting. So traffic in July was well down. Traffic in August, while still not high, was up with 361 visitors excluding me viewing 483 pages.

I continued my series on why I remain a New England New Stater with three posts during the month. I do not want to overload the blog with this material. However, my hope remains that, with time, this will build to a worthwhile series. Entry post here.

Looking at the visitor stats, I found a clear interest in the poetry of Judith Wright, New England's best known writer. For that reason, I established an entry page to make access easier to posts about her across my various blogs. Again, I expect this to grow with time.

Thanks to Rob Busby from the TASOBU, I learned that Emma Buzo was launching a new theatre company to feature the plays of her father, Alex, another writer with strong New England connections. This led me to write a feature about Alex and the new company.

The email exchanges with Rob Busby led me to establish another entry page, this one drawing together some of my collected posts about TAS, The Armidale School. Again, I hope that with time this will become another useful resource.

One frustration during the month lay in my continuing inability to get decent material on developments in Newcastle, the place remains an information black hole. However, the search did have one useful side effect because it led me to to the latest Carrick citations where New England's three major universities all did well.

This search also led me to find out that Browyn Clarke had won a Golden Heart award.

During the month I also managed to do something that I had intended to do for some time, write a story on the Koori Mail, New England's only national newspaper and a major voice for Australia's indigenous people.

There were two other stories during the month, one on cotton (a major New England industry), the second looking at Sydney's sluggish population growth.

I have been meaning for a little while to discuss the latest census data for New England. However, I wanted to do a stocktake post first, pulling together previous posts on New England demography. This is taking time.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Poetry of Judith Wright - South of My Days

Photo: Here, in the misty rain, Cooney Creek rises out of its bed and passes behind the old cottage. Gordon Smith. Cooney Creek crosses Waterfall Way, the main road linking Armidale to the coast, just to the east of the city.

In his Friday Australian poetry series, Neil (Ninglun) featured Judith Wright's South of My Days. This is a magnificent poem that, like all good poetry, stands alone independent of context.

While the poem does stand alone, the language and content of the poem are also deeply imbued by the world in which Judith grew up. I know and love this world, so I thought that I might continue my irregular series on the poetry of Judith Wright by placing this poem and its language in a context.

I am not going to repeat the poem in full. If you are interested, I suggest that you read Neil's post first, perhaps printing the poem off. At the end of the post I have added links to some of the other posts I have written on the Wrights
The Wrights and the associated Wyndhams are one of the great New England pastoral dynasties whose story encompasses the rise and later fall of New England itself.

The story begins in the Hunter Valley in 183o when George and Margaret Wyndham purchased "Annandale", renaming the property "Dalwood" and building Dalwood House as a home. From there the family spread, acquiring a chain of properties along the eastern edge of the New England Tablelands and then stretching up into Queensland. Judith's own book, Generations of Men, captures the early history of the family.

Wallamumbi, the home property for Judith's branch of the family, lies on Waterfall Way to the east of Armidale just before that road plunges into the rough country of New England's Snowy Mountains. Look north, and the rolling green hills are all Wallamumbi.

The poem begins: "South of my day's circle, part of my blood's country,".

As Neil notes, Judith was then living to the north in Queensland. The spare elegance of these words captures location and love of country. Blood can be read in two ways, both her blood and that of her family. The poem goes on:

rises that tableland, high delicate outline
of bony slopes wincing under the winter,
low trees, blue leaved and olive, outcropping granite -
This is high country. Coastal hugging Australians know the eastern escarpment mainly as a distant blue range seen from a car window. Some venture as far as the national parks along the rim, the Barrington Tops, Oxley Wild Rivers, Dorrigo, New England. Far too few venture further in.

High country means cold. The "black-frost night" is a term Judith uses a little later in the poem. Snow is not uncommon, frost very common. The worst frosts, the black frosts, crisp the ground itself. This can actually crunch under your feet as you walk.

Much of the New England Tablelands is also granite country, especially in the west.

Granite takes many forms. The water-streaked dome of Bald Rock is the largest single granite rock in Australia. It's 750 metres long, 500 metres wide and 200 metres high. Sometimes you have several major boulders together such as Thunderbolt's Rock south of Uralla where Captain Thunderbolt used to watch for the gold coaches. Sometimes the granite forms flattish sheets.

Granite makes for poor soils. Trees are low, smaller, struggling. This can be, as Judith says, "clean, lean, hungry country." Hungry country carries two linked meanings: country that has to be fed if it is to be productive; but it also means country that can suck the spirit, the life, from the settler.

The poem goes on:
clean, lean, hungry country. The creek's leaf-silenced,
willow choked, the slope a medlar and crabapple
branching over and under, blotched with green lichen;
and the old cottage lurches in for shelter.
There is a contrast built into these lines between the Australian "low trees, blue leaved and olive "and the very European willow and crabapple.

The early European settlers planted to remind them of home. With time, these plantings (run wild) became part of the landscape. Here, as in Judith's poem The Hawthorn Hedge, the plantings form a sometimes complicated link between past and present.

The old cottage" lurches in for shelter" continues the theme of "wincing under winter." This continues in the next verse:
O cold the black frost night. The walls draw in to the warmth
and the old roof cracks its joints: the sling kettle
hisses a leak on the fire ...
In the early period, cooking was done over an open fire. There was often a bar over the fire on which hung kettles, pots and pans. To avoid the problem of fire, kitchens were often separated from the main house by a covered walk-way.

In all places, the kitchen became the place to gather for warmth. At home in Armidale, my girl friends used to stand with their backs to the fuel stove, hitching their skirts up to capture the warmth.

The poem now changes direction with the introduction of old Dan with his "seventy years of stories". Now we come to something that is different from the modern metro atomistic society.

Judith grew up in a village world.

Tablelands' society was far more stratified than today. Yet properties then employed far more people, so Judith would have known and listened to the older hands. In my case, I remember old Mr Wallace who did the weekly gardening at our place and used to tell me stories about the clearing of the tall trees on the Dorrigo plateau.

In Judith's case, the stories would have resonated because of her own family past. So when Dan spoke of droving cattle from Charleville to the Hunter - "nineteen one it was, and the drought beginning" -she would have remembered stories from her own family experience.

In all this, Judith captures an idiom that is still familiar to Australians today despite all the changes. describing Thunderbolt: "He went like a luny, him on his big black horse."

The poem finishes. To quote Neil: And that closure: wonderful.
South of my days' circle
I know it dark against the stars, the high lean country
full of dark stories that still go walking in my sleep.
As they do for me too.

Entry Page for Posts about Judith Wright's poetry.

Linked stories: