Monday, December 30, 2013

New England Writers - Edwin Wilson

I love the interconnections I find through my various on-line activities. Judy Cassab self portrait This is a self-portrait by Judy Cassab. A friend is reading her letters at the moment, re-sparking my interest.

I first came across Judy Cassab when I was quite young, twenty two in fact. Oh dear, that seems a long time ago. A friend invited me to a showing by Channy (Chandler) Coventry held in his Sydney motel room.  This included a Cassab. Channy had yet to leave the property outside Armidale to set up his gallery, but he was already addicted to art.

Judy Cassab was not a New England artist. However, in the exchange that followed my first reference to her, Judith Ross Smith pointed out that Judy Cassab had done a portrait of husband Paul Lamb,

I had forgotten that, and decided to search to try to find a copy of the painting, I could not. Instead, I found another New England writer, poet Edwin Wilson. Edwin came up because he went to Armidale Teachers' College and was taught by Paul.

I hadn't heard of Edwin. Now I have! He is a Northern Rivers' poet, one who has retained his links despite the need to move. Here I just want to record the links to two of his books. They are:

I am very much into New England writing at present. I am trying to show both the depth and the way our writers illustrate the different aspects of New England experience. If we don't tell other people about our writing, how do we expect them to realise the unique New England elements? How will we recognise this ourselves? 

I will return to Edwin at a later point. Now, I just want to get the links down.      

Friday, December 20, 2013

The creative industries - Sydney 86.3% vs the entire North 7.2%

As part of my work reviewing the draft NSW arts and cultural strategy, I looked at a document entitled NSW creative industries profile prepared by NSW Trade & Investment. The following table provides a summary of NSW regional creative industries (CI) employment by New England region. Sydney numbers are included as a benchmark. Comments follow the table.

Region Total CI Share of NSW % CI share of total employment % Concentration change % pts Growth 2006-2011
Sydney 127,421 86.3 6.2 0.6 20.'5
Hunter 5,063 3.4 1.8 0.0 11.7
Richmond-Tweed 2,349 1.6 2.6 0.1 10.3
Mid-North Coast 1,882 1.3 1.7 0.0 8.5
Northern 893 0.6 1.2 -0.1 -5.3
North-Western 488 0.3 1.0 -0.2 -12.7

Now there are some definition problems with the numbers, but it's still not a pretty picture. The whole North has just 7.2% of the CI workforce as compared to Sydney's 86.3%, while inland New England appears to be going backward at a frightening rate. Not nice. 


This document, describes Newcastle as a satellite of Sydney. Again, not nice!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Growing New England - how do we overcome local town myopia?

At the moment, I am working on a response to the Sydney Government's draft arts and cultural strategy for NSW. Thinking about access to art and culture, I realised a funny thing about New England's urban dwellers. They are so used to shorter distances that they are wonP1010016't travel unless it's a formal journey.

This is another shot of Uralla's main street. Pretty isn't it?

Uralla lies twenty minutes drive time south of Armidale. Now in Sydney where I am presently living in exile, no body would blink an eye at the thought of travelling thirty minutes one way for coffee, an hour just to go to a function, over an hour to work or to take the kids to sport, three hours to visit another place for the weekend. Yet when your normal driving time around town is less than ten minutes, twenty minutes along a main highway seems such a long way!

It's dumb really, and we lose so much. If more New Englanders consciously explored their own immediate area, then this would increase the marketplace for a whole variety of activities while also adding fun to to life.    

At present, the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) is presenting a number of exhibitions including Herbert Badham's Observing the Everyday. I described this in A morning at NERAM - Flora, Cobcroft and Badham's Observing the Everyday.

Badham was a realist painter of social urban life, renowned for his scenes of Sydney. The exhibition concentrates on the everyday in Sydney mainly during the 1930s, combining Badham with other paintings from the NERAM collection on the same theme. This is a large high quality exhibition that has the potential to attract visitors from a wide area including Sydney. Sadly, NERAM has neither the money for wider promotion, nor for the catalogue that would give visitors the tangible memory of their visit.

If New Englanders could overcome their local myopia, then the Badham exhibition could draw effectively from all those within a two to three hour drive of Armidale. If Armidale people were more prepared to travel and could lift their eyes above the bounds set by the city's urban boundaries, then they could enjoy the events, activities and attractions offered by other centres.

This simple shift in perceptions could actually transform the economics of local activities, allowing for growth beyond the scale dictated by local populations.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oops - Uralla street art

P1010022 2

The Uralla main street has become an attractive place with its mix of buildings now with an arts and cultural focus.

I saw this piece while drinking coffee across the road and wandered across to take a photo.    

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Raymond Terrace - Sketchley Pioneer Cottage & Museum

Today's main post elsewhere focuses on Raymond Terrace and the making of a film - Australian life - transforming Raymond Terrace to Wirrawee.

At Raymond Terrace, we stopped outside the Sketchley Pioneer Cottage and Museum. P1000977

. The museum was shut, something else to see at another point, but we sat in the shade eating cheese and pate looking at the museum. It was very pleasant. 

Sunday, December 08, 2013

St John's Church at Stroud

This is the inside of the of St John's Church at Stroud. Built in 1833, it is one of the oldest surviving church buildings in Eastern Australia. Few people know that it exists.


This is a photo of the outside of the church. It is an unpretentious building, but very characteristic of the architecture of the time.  


Thursday, December 05, 2013

Promoting New England writing

Chatting to a friend this week, I mentioned that I had become a board member of The New England Writers' Centre. I also said that one of the two immediate projects that I had taken on was concerned with the promotion of New England writers and writing. Are there many, I was asked?

Feeling slightly stroppy, I asked my friend to name a few Australian writers. As I had hoped, three of the four named had New England connections.

Back in September, I posed the question Should we have a festival of New England writing? My idea then was an annual event that might promote New England writers and writing to a wider audience and that might grow into a major event like Byron Bay. That remains my dream, but there are a few intermediate steps first.

One is to grow the New England Writers' Centre cash flow to support the promotion of New England writing in the broad sense, as well as the capacity to seed fund a major annual event. For reasons implicit in my last post, The forgetting of Newcastle, there is little point in looking for NSW Government funding. It is a little hard to explain to Sydney based officials why they should fund an activity whose key aim is to promote the existence of traditions independent of Sydney or indeed NSW!

This need not be the case, of course, if NSW Government policy was based on a recognition of diversity. However, it is hard to plan and fund in a world where mind sets require centralised uniform, integrating approaches with key performance indicators directly linked to those uniform approaches. What do you do when someone asks for money based on the explicit assumption that those centralised approaches are wrong, that alternative paths should be followed? It all becomes just too hard. This is not a criticism of those involved, simply an observation about the way systems work.

To overcome this problem I have set a target of raising at least $100,000 in donations over the next few months with a key focus on the New England diaspora. Why $100,000? This would give the NEWC the minimum cash required to operate for twelve months without any form of Government subsidies and allow it to promote New England writers and writing in addition to its existing activities.

A number of issues have to be worked through before such a campaign can be launched. At this point, I am simply giving advance notice. Expect more in due course.    

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The forgetting of Newcastle

I have been working my way through a discussion paper entitled Framing the Future: Developing and arts and cultural policy for NSW. I will no doubt comment on the whole document in due course. Here I want to comment on one element, the theme entitled Arts and Culture for, by and across the whole of NSW.  The introduction states:

The location of arts and audiences has a strong influence on content, participation, delivery and engagement in culture.

NSW localities have different cultures, facilities and opportunities. It is important to ensure that opportunities to create and experience are spread across the State to ensure all contribute to and benefit from a rich cultural life. Locally relevant approaches are required to support arts and culture in different regions.

To amplify this theme, the specific geographic locations covered are:

  • Regional NSW
  • Sydney, Western Sydney and Greater Metropolitan Sydney.

Sydney, Western Sydney and Greater Metropolitan Sydney are treated as three separate entities. And, what, you may ask, is Greater Metropolitan Sydney? Why Newcastle and the Central Coast. It may also include Blue Mountains, but that's not clear.

Now what, you may ask is proposed.

The proposed goal for this theme is:

Sydney is an acknowledged cultural leader in the Asia-Pacific region, drawing on the unique
offerings of the CBD and the broader Sydney region.

Two questions are set for consideration:

  • What is required to make Sydney the acknowledged cultural leader in the Asia Pacific?
  • How can the NSW Government best work with councils in the CBD and greater
    Sydney in creating a rich cultural environment across the whole of the Sydney region?

These are the proposed directions:

Enhance the cultural identity and year round programming across Sydney with a coordinated
year round program of events and integrated promotions, and integrate major events, festivals, cultural programming into the NSW Government brand strategy

Enhance value, access and encourage repeat attendance at arts and cultural venues in Sydney
by proposals to:
— Investigate development of a Sydney Culture Pass to encourage visitation to Sydney’s arts,
museums and cultural sites
— Investigate and improve transport to key sites on Sydney’s arts and cultural ribbon
— Investigate ways to increase participation of children in State Cultural Institutions’ programming.

Co-promotion, shared programming and coordination between key organisations in Sydney CBD, Western Sydney and Greater Sydney

Strategic partnerships by the three tiers of government for priority localities to consolidate
investment of resources

MMMM. What can I say? Well, consider this to begin with:

  • There is no recognition of the separate cultural identities of Newcastle or the Central Coast
  • There is no recognition of Newcastle's role as a cultural centre for surrounding areas and beyond. Indeed, the boundaries effectively truncate Newcastle from the rest of the Hunter.
  • There is no recognition that Newcastle is actually in competition with Sydney, is striving to further develop its own very distinct cultural identity and needs integration with Sydney as an outrider like it needs a hole in the head.

See what I mean?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

We love South Grafton

Earle Page's hospital, South Grafton

For those on Facebook, Ursh Tunks has started a new Facebook page called "We love South Grafton". The drawing shows the building that was Earle Page's private hospital.

Ursh describes her purpose in this way:

I figure that we need to band together to promote our beautiful little heritage listed village and the township of South Grafton. That doesn't detract from being part of the Clarence Valley Community it merely allows us to celebrate the beauty, sense of community, ingenuity and strength of character of those on our side of the mighty Clarence.

That makes a lot of sense to me, for South Grafton's own history and character has become a little submerged. Expect a little of South Grafton's history from time to time.

Monday, December 02, 2013

A Robinson service car on the Dorrigo mountain road


This photograph comes from the Bellingen and Urunga Museums. It shows the Robinson service car going down the Dorrigo mountain.

It is historically significant for two reasons.

First, it shows the state of that mountain road in the early days of motor transport. Prior to that bullock drays crawled down that stretch.

Secondly, it is another example of the transport services offered by the Robinsons, an entrepreneurial New England family who had so much impact on New England transport and well beyond.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Remembering Hunter Street

Hunter Street

This photo came from Sean.

I do remember Hunter Street, although I am far too young for this photo.

Growing up, Newcastle was the North's big city. When I first went there from Armidale, I felt that it was such a big place!

Of course in population terms Newcastle is still a big place, But is somehow seems to have shrunk, to have lost its core identity. The suburbs stretch for miles, but the city center is flat.

Of course, this has happened in other places. I was in Armidale last weekend, and Beardy Street was almost deserted, squeezed by the shopping centers on each side. But, like Armidale, Newcastle has shrunk in public consciousness. This photo reminds us of when Newcastle was actually a big place.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

A morning at NERAM - Flora, Cobcroft and Badham's Observing the Everyday

NERAM The New England Regional Art Museum (Facebook page) is one of Armidale's premier tourist attractions, home (among other things) to the Hinton and Coventry collections of Australian art. It had been some time since my last visit, and I was keen to see the new exhibitions. I wasn't disappointed. 

The first and showcase exhibition comes from the Art Gallery of Ballarat.   NERAM Australian flora

Called Capturing Flora: passion for the exotick,  this exhibition of  350 original prints and drawings covers Australian botanical art from 1700 to 1900.

The official exhibition description  suggests that it will will take visitors through a historical journey of how Australia’s amazing and diverse flora have been recorded, interpreted and popularised by botanical artists from William Dampier and the early explorers to the present day.

That's true enough, but in doing so it also highlights the fascination that people found in what, to them, seemed the exotic at a time of great fascination in Europe with nature and the natural environment. Within twenty years of the settlement at Botany Bay, Australian plants were being cultivated in a number of European countries.

This first exhibition is very good and I would recommend it, but it was the next two exhibitions that really caught my eye.

The first is Echoes in the Hedgerow by New England born artist photographer Robert Cobcroft. Cobcroft was born in Inverell in 1960 and lived in Armidale until completing his high school education in 1977. After moving to Queensland in 1988, he attended the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University in Brisbane, graduating with an associate diploma of arts in applied photography in 1991. Since then he has established a name as an emerging artist with exhibitions in Australia and New Zealand.

The pioneers of the New England Tablelands brought with them the notion of planting out "New England" as a replica of the English countryside. Cobcoft's landscapes explores the effect created by combining the Australian bush with more than 150 years of planting European trees and shrubs , the imagery translated as a nostalgic, homogenous binding of 19th century ideas together with modern photo technology. Further comments follow the illustration. Cobcroft

This is not a big exhibition, but Cobcroft's work really resonated with me because I grew up in the world he presents. Copies of the works are for sale at $600 for the small, $1,Badham, Girl at the piano, 1937200 for the large. I wish I had the money!

The third exhibition is Herbert Badham's Observing the Everyday. Herbert Badham was a realist painter of social urban life, and renowned for his scenes of Sydney. The exhibition concentrates on the everyday in Sydney mainly during the 1930s.

Painted in 1937, this first painting by Badham is commonly known as Girl at a piano. Digging around, I discovered that the girl is actually Badham's daughter. 

This is quite a large exhibition centred on Badham paintings in the Hinton collection, supplemented by works by works in state regional galleries and private collections, including a small number of works by other artists that fit the theme.

The paintings are organised thematically to show different aspects of Sydney life - the beach, the buildings, scenes of day to day life. We really enjoyed it, but decided to take a break in the middle to have lunch at NERAM Harvest.

This was actually as funny as a circus. Outside in the rain, the men were trying to erect a marque to provide cover for Sunday's BBQ breakfast. "its like watching monkeys using tools for the first time", commented our waitress. "How many men does it take to erect a marque? Four, with one woman supervising."

We had a New England pale ale before lunch, followed by a rather nice why worry sparkling cuvee brut. To maintain the local theme, I had lamb salad. Fortified, it was time to return to the exhibition. 

Herbert Badham Hyde Park 1933 This next Badham painting comes from 1933 and is called simply Hyde Park. It will be instantly familiar to anyone who knows Sydney. It captures the day scene rather well.

We went round the paintings again, and then started selecting our favourites, Each had to select the top three.

My companion selected Joshua Smith's Peeling Vegetables (1939), Badham's Grocer's Shop (1943)  and Elioth Gruner's The Beach (1918).  I chose Hyde Park, Girl at a piano and an Unk White piece, Dad.

Finally, we left. It had been a satisfying visit.

The exhibitions will be on until 2 February 2014. If you get a chance, do visit. I don't think that you will be disappointed. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Maps show the administrative simplicity of New England self-government

One of the common objections raised to those of us who want self-government for the broader New England is administrative complexity. Wouldn't the creation of a new state structure be complicated? Well, no, and to illustrate here are two maps.

The first map shows the distribution of land services boundaries in the North. The Hunter, North West, Northern Tablelands and North Coast Districts cover most of the traditional new state territory.

Land Service Map 2

The next mao shows the health and human services boundaries, Again, the same broad pattern, in this case with three divisions, Hunter New England, Mid North Coast and Northern NSW. Most if not all of the administrative divisions display the same pattern, a pattern dictated by geography.

Health District Map 2

All this makes self government relatively easy to achieve in administrative terms, although there would be adjustments at the southern and western boundary edges, All that is required is the re-grouping of existing administrative units.

If he boundaries already reflect geography, does this weaken the new state case/ Not at all, Under the present system, most of those units finally headquarter in Sydney. Each of them is run as isolated entities within central frameworks dictated by NSW. They do interact, but only through head office. Despite what is sometimes called localisation, their decision making power is very limited, nor is there any mechanism for addressing common Northern concerns. From a Northern perspective, fragmentation rules.

The next time someone says how hard it would be in administrative terms to break up the NSW system say no, the existing administrative units whether in health or education or land management already reflect the basic geography of New England.

We want to reform the system by regrouping all the existing and often varying administrative units within New England together so that they can work more effectively together in meeting New England needs.From the viewpoint of the ordinary public servant in New England, their basic job won't change.  What will change is their ability to work with colleagues across regions, to do new things in as simpler world.

If you don't think that that's attractive, have a chat to any of the local staff trying to cope in the world of the NSW mega-departments, trying to deal with roles and systems created far away! Self-government would give us an opportunity to simplify things, to focus, to do their jobs more easily.       

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Update on Resuming Posting

At the end of September in Resuming posting I accepted that this had been a sadly neglected blog. I also said that I would be bringing up back posts; I have been doing that slowly with more to go. I haven't  publicised them. They are a bit of a rag bag lot. That will improve!

I am about to pass a milestone on this blog, 100,000 visitors. Expect a small celebration when I do.After 1,198 posts I think that I deserve champagne!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Aborigines, Greens and coal seam gas

I have referred before to the gas wars raging across New England.

Over two years ago, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC), the peak body representing Aboriginal land councils in NSW, decided to become involved in resources exploration as a way of generating long term income and job opportunities for Aboriginal people. As part of its plans, NSWALC has applied for prospecting and exploration permits that, if granted, would make it the largest holder of coal seam gas exploration acreage in NSW.

According to a story in today's Australian Financial Review by Angela MacdonalNSWALC CEO Geoff Scottd-Smith (Aboriginal council takes on greens, farmers over gas), NSWALC CEO Geoff Scott has come out with a swinging attack on the green movement for refusing to negotiate in good faith. He also accused the Lock the Gate Alliance led by Drew Hutton and other anti coal seam gas groups of ignoring the Aboriginal community's need for economic development.

:Hutton was out there saying that we should be noble and grow vegetables"  Mr Scott said. "Thanks for your advice! Its not noble having people whose sewerage systems don't work. It's not noble having people live on the dole all their life".

"We want something better and we don't want to rely on government. That's not sustainable. It's benevolence."  Mr Scott went on to attack the O'Farrell government's restrictions on coals seam gas development for driving up costs without improving protection of the environment.

The Greens were not impressed. Dawn Walker, the Green's spokesperson for the Tweed Valley region, said that its opposition was to coal seam gas in general and who owned the license was irrelevant. "The Greens have a no-CSG policy. We don't believe that it is a safe industry. It is not a suitable industry for Australia."

Clearly, the twain will never meet in this case.


For those like me who get confused about aspects of the coal seam gas debate, Rod Holland had quite a useful post on his Northern Rivers Geology blog, Being tight with loose terminology?. Rod has promised to write more explanatory material.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Even the church couldn't escape political infighting

This History Revisited column is the start of a short series on a major figure in the history of New England's Roman Catholic Church in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Pressed for change

This History Revisited post looks at the story of a simple, historically important, printing press.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

National Indigenous U16 side sweeps division 2 in national championships

A month back, I reported that Northern Queensland had beaten Northern NSW in the National Indigenous Under 16s national titles. The 23 strong National Indigenous Under 16 squad selected following the titles included nine from the Northern NSW team.

The national U16 titles were played at St Ignatius College, Sydney, from Sunday 29 September until Friday 4 October. The National Indigenous team were playing in Division 2. The results can best be described as unbalanced:

  • National Indigenous 115 v Tasmania 3
  • National Indigenous 62 v Northern Territory 0
  • National Indigenous 33 v South Australia 14

It would have been interesting to see how the National Indigenous side would have gone in Division One. It's actually very hard setting up balanced sporting competitions when you have such varying standards between areas and indeed over time. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

New England rode high in rodeo past

This History revisited post looks at bushmen's' carnivals, and the rodeo. I didn't know that New England played such a significant role.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Three New England boys in national indigenous under 17 squad to tour France

On 26 September, the Australian Rugby Union announced the members of the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team’s National Indigenous Under 17s squad to tour France. They will play against Racing Metro, Cote d’Argent and Stade Toulousain.U17s Indigenous

They will also take in cultural experiences at significant First World War monuments including the Menin Gate Memorial, Perth Cemetery and the Passchendale and Somme battlefields.

The tour will include visits to the graves of Private Daniel Cooper and William Allan Irwin, who was the only Aboriginal solider to receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the First World War.

LMRDT executive director Tom Evans said the trip was an important mix of Rugby, culture and heritage.
“This trip is important for a number of reasons,” Evans said. “Not only do these kids get to experience international travel and international Rugby, but they get to visit some places in the world that are extremely significant historical sights. We’ll be visiting the graves of two Aboriginal soldiers while we’re there and the lessons the kids take from that will be just as important as the action on the Rugby field."
“The Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team is really big on combining Rugby Union and education and this trip is just another opportunity to develop these great kids we work with.”

The LMRDT Under-17 squad departs Sydney on Friday, 27 September and returns Wednesday, 10 October. Three of the 23 strong squad come from New England schools. They are:

  • Damian Carriage-Watts, Macksville High School, Macksville
  • Jase Long, Toorminah High School, Sawtell
  • Callum Morris, The Armidale School, Armidale

Monday, September 30, 2013

Should we have a festival of New England writing?

What do the following have in common: Thomas Keneally, Geof Page, Les Murray, Judith Wright, Alex Buzo, Patrice Newell, Bob Ellis, Donald Horne, Patrick White, Michael Sharkey, Julian Croft, Bob Herbert, Sophie Masson, Anthony Lawrence, Maslyn Williams, Yve Louis, Eric Rolls, Gwen Kelly, Bronwyn Parry, Sharyn Munro, Ruby Langford Ginibi. Patricia Wrightson and D'Arcy Niland?

They are a small sample of writers who have had some connection with the broader New England. Some were born there and left, some came to visit and wrote about aspects of the place, some came to stay, some were born there and stayed. Disconnected in place and time, there are yet common threads in their writing.

On Saturday, I went to see The Turning, something I wrote about in Sunday Essay - the Turning. Tim Winton is very much a West Australian writer whose stories draw from aspects of life in the West. Watching the seventeen short cameo productions that make up the film, each by a different director, I started thinking again about the New England experience.

One of the difficulties in not having our own state or at least some form of defined structure that people recognise, lies in the ways it affects thinking about the North. New England doesn't exist; consequently, how can you talk about New England writers? And yet, New England writing does exist if largely unrecognised as a body of work.

From time to time I have tried to address this, focusing on particular writers and the links between them and aspects of New England life. While I have made some progress, I find the lack of a focal point, some bigger thing external to my own writing, difficult. There is nothing to draw things together, to present to a broader audience, to encourage interaction between those interested in New England writing as writing.

This got me thinking. Would it be possible to organise an event next year focused on the theme of New England writers and writing, not just Tableland writers but writers from the broader New England. If successful, this might become an annual event.

Thinking this over, I messaged Sophie Masson, Chair of the New England Writers' Centre, with the suggestion. It would need lot's of lead time, some sponsorship and a strong organising committee, but it might be doable. What do you think?     

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Resuming posting

I accept that this has been a sadly neglected blog. I have been collecting material, but my main writing focus has been elsewhere. This includes, among other things, two chapters in the book to be published to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the creation of the New England University College.

I am now focusing on this blog. As part of this, I am going to start bringing up material that I have been collecting, but at the right date. That is, the date at which it should have been published. This may make for a somewhat crazy publishing pattern, but the blog is partly a blog of record. I need the record for later use.

The blog is also coming up on 100,000 visitors. Who would have thought it? That will be a celebration!!

So browse back from time to time over the next week, and see what I should have published! The majority of the posts will be short but, I hope, varied. They will come up in no particular order, driven simply by my notes!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gas Wars enter end game?

On Friday in Maules Creek - Jonathon Moylan to go to trial in November. I referred to the environmental wars that have raged across New England in recent years. Now the associated coal gas wars appear to be entering their end game phase.

Just to summarise the history. The attractions of coal seam gas led to extensive exploration and to consequent opposition from environmental, farm and local community groups concerned about the impact on the immediate environment and especially the practice of fracking. In turn, this led the Commonwealth and NSW State Governments to introduce controls and new assessment procedures. The immediate practical effect was to effectively remove NSW from the emerging gas sector, at least for the short term

Coal seam gas is big business. Removal of NSW from the equation altered the dynamics of the industry elsewhere. Further, a potential gas shortage emerged in NSW. This created the risk of action at Commonwealth level and left the Sydney Government scrabbling a little to try to find a path that might allow development while meeting or at least muting environment concerns.

My judgement is that development will proceed. The environment and local concerns are just not  important enough in the evolving political landscape to stop the process, although they will have an effect at the margin. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Abbott overrules Pyne on student fees

75 year logo

I see that the Prime Minister has pulled Minister Pyne into line over the abolition of compulsory student fees. While the imbroglio was going on, it was causing a real fluttering in the university dovecots since the previous abolition actually hit very hard in terms of campus services.

By way of background, these are the areas that UNE spends the money on. 

Maules Creek - Jonathon Moylan to go to trial in November

The court case against environmental activist Jonathon Moylan is expected to be heard in November in the NSW Supreme Court in November.  The charges relates to allegations that Mr Moylan created a fake press release announcing that the ANZ Bank had withdrawn a $1.2 billion loan facility for the Whitehaven  Coal's Maules Creek coal project on the Liverpool Plains near Boggabri. The grounds given were volatility in the coal market and the bank's "corporate responsibility policy."

The release appeared quite professional, was briefly accepted as genuine and caused a dip in the price of Whitehaven shares. According to the story by Hannah Low in the Financial Review (it's behind the paper's paywall, so no link), there are three elements to the charge: that the information was false; that it was likely to induce people to buy or sell; and that the person who disseminated the information knew or did not care if the information was false. The maximum penalty for the offence is ten years in prison and a $765,000 fine. 

The case is part of the on-going environmental wars across New England that I have written about from time to time. Mr Moylan's problem is that the alleged actions are different from many of those involved in previous environmental protests, for they breach a key principle underlying securities' market legislation, the need for accurate market information.

Mr Moylan is being supported by Greenpiece, the Greens and local farmers. His supporters' web site can be found here

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Turning the page on a new chapter with newspapers

This History revisited column tell a story from New England's newspaper past.

Coffs Harbour hosts FFA National Boys Championship

The FFA National Youth Championships for Boys will get underway on Monday 30 September at Coffs Harbour International Stadium 

The tournament has been hosted by Northern NSW Football at the Coffs Harbour facility since 2006. It is one of many major tournaments hosted by NNSWF to be conducted at Coffs Harbour International stadium in 2013.

NNSWF held the Westfield National Youth Championships for Girls in July, as well as tournaments including the NNSWF State Championships for Boys (June), State Cup Finals Series (July) and most recently the NNSWF State Championships for Girls contested last weekend.

“Northern NSW Football is privileged to host the FFA National Youth Championships for Boys which sees Australia’s best young male talent come together to gauge their abilities against their counterparts from fellow States,” said NNSWF Chief Executive Officer, Mr David Eland.

“With a Technical Panel consisting of FFA Coaching Staff in attendance throughout the week, the Championships provide young players with the opportunity for identification for future Australian team camps,” Mr Eland concluded.

Over 400 of Australia’s best young male footballers in the Under 13s and Under 14s divisions will participate in the tournament, with 26 teams from around Australia contesting the two age divisions.

Each age division has two groups, seven teams in Group A and six teams in Group B.

Northern NSW Football will be represented by two sides in each age division – Country and Metropolitan. Northern NSW Country sides are made up of players from Northern NSW Football’s four Northern zones; Mid North Coast, North Coast, Far North Coast and Northern Inland, with Metropolitan players originating from the three Southern zones; Hunter Valley, Macquarie and Newcastle.

The Northern NSW Country Under 13 Boys will contest the Championships in Group B against Northern Territory, NSW Country, Queensland Country, Tasmania and Victoria Country.

The Northern NSW Country Under 14 Boys will compete in Group B against Football West Northern Territory, Queensland Country, Tasmania and Victoria Country.

The Northern NSW Metropolitan Under 13 Boys will contest the Championships in Group A against Capital Football, Football West, NSW Metropolitan, Queensland Metropolitan, South Australia and Victoria Metropolitan.

The Northern NSW Metropolitan Under 14 Boys will also compete in Group A against Capital Football, NSW Country, NSW Metropolitan, Queensland Metropolitan, South Australia and Victoria Metropolitan.

The Championships conclude on Friday 4th October. 

Full squad lists follow;

Under 13s Country
Coach: Vic Stokes
Assistant: Larry Budgen



    Suffolk Park
    Werris Creek
    Boambee East
    Port Macquarie
    Port Macquarie

    Football Far North Coast
    Northern Inland Football
    Football Far North Coast
    Northern Inland Football
    Football Mid North Coast
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    Northern Inland Football
    Football Far North Coast
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    North Coast Football
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    Football Far North Coast
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    Northern Inland Football
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Under 14s Country 
Coach: Andy Lennon 
Assistant: Brian Linsley



    Coffs Harbour
    Stuarts Point
    Port Macquarie
    Coffs Harbour
    Port Macquarie
    East Ballina

    North Coast Football
    North Coast Football
    North Coast Football
    Northern Inland Football
    Football Mid North Coast
    Football Mid North Coast
    Football Mid North Coast
    Football Mid North Coast
    North Coast Football
    Northern Inland Football
    Football Mid North Coast
    Northern Inland Football
    Football Mid North Coast
    North Coast Football
    Football Far North Coast
    Football Mid North Coast

Under 13s Metro 
Head Coach: Ryan Campbell





    New Lambton
    New Lambton
    Bolton Point
    New Lambton
    New Lambton  
    Rankin Park


    Emerging Jets
    Emerging Jets
    Emerging Jets
    Emerging Jets
    Emerging Jets
    Emerging Jets
    Emerging Jets
    Emerging Jets
    Emerging Jets
    Emerging Jets
    Newcastle Football
    Newcastle Football
    Emerging Jets
    Hunter Valley Football
    Emerging Jets
    Emerging Jets

Under 14s Metro
Head Coach: Wayne O'Sullivan





  Hamilton South
  Rankin Park
  The Junction
  Cardiff South
  Marmong Point
  Warners Bay
  Rankin Park
  Kilaben Bay


  Emerging Jets
  Emerging Jets
  Macquarie Football
  Emerging Jets
  Hunter Valley Football
  Emerging Jets
  Newcastle Football
  Emerging Jets
  Newcastle Football
  Emerging Jets
  Macquarie Football
  Emerging Jets
  Emerging Jets
  Emerging Jets
  Emerging Jets
  Macquarie Footb

Saturday, September 21, 2013

“When the wisteria starts to bloom it is time to make your run; when the roses bloom it is too late”

This photo from Paul Barratt took me back. It was taken by his father in the 1950s. Further brief comments follow the photo.  1957 In Booloominbah Forecourt

The photo is taken on Booloominbah's northern forecourt. The caption - “When the wisteria starts to bloom it is time to make your run; when the roses bloom it is too late” - captures the old exam message. The students with their books and gowns, the colour, captures a world now past.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Revolution born out of England's loss of war

Yesterday's History revisited post can be summarised in this way: the power of Empire rested on the shoulders of its public servants.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Likeable man drove development

Yesterday's History revisited column introduces the story of Archibald Clunes Innes, one of the founders of Port Macquarie.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Northern Queensland beats Northern NSW in the National Indigenous Under 16s national title

Northern Queensland has successfully defended its National Indigenous Under 16s national title after beating Northern South Wales on the Gold Coast.

An initiative of the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team (LMRDT), the two day Championship, held at Bond University, exposes athletes from across the country to Rugby and life skills.

Executive Officer of LMRDT, Tom Evans, said the two day Championship provided young Indigenous athletes with more than just a weekend of Rugby.

“Ultimately the Rugby objective is selection, but the off-field objective is to encourage these young men to stay in school and continue to become better individuals and community leaders.

“At all of the tournaments the Lloyd McDermott Team run, we try to ensure the Rugby is complemented by education.”

Northern Territory, Northern QLD, Southern QLD, Northern NSW, Southern NSW/ACT and Combined States were represented in the competition, with Northern Queensland defeating Northern New South Wales 38-19 to retain the title and Southern Queensland taking third place with a 38-24 win over Southern NSW/ ACT.

This tournament provided the platform for selection of players to represent the National Indigenous squad at the Australian Rugby Union National Under 16s Championships.

The ARU National Under 16s Championships is a National residential tournament for Under 16 players for National, State or Territory representative teams, conducted annually by the Australian Rugby Union and is another important element of the Player Pathway at National, Provincial, Regional and Affiliate level.

The 2013 ARU National Under 16s Championships will be held at St Ignatius College Riverview from Sunday 29 September until Friday 4 October. Nine of the 23 strong squad come from New England. They are:

  • Cody Walker, Maclean High
  • Kurtis Langdon, Hunter River High
  • Liam Kelly-Wynn, Jetty High, Coffs harbour
  • Dylan Chown, Farrer memorial High School
  • Jakobi Robinson, St Mary's College
  • Ngangarra Barker, Hunter River High
  • Buddy Mumbulla, The Armidale School
  • Jayden Harradine, The Armidale School
  • Keiren Ford, Brewarrina Central School
  • Luke Roberts, Maclean High

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Belshaw’s World – Barratt’s story: can the academic present measure up to its past?

For those who haven’t come across my train reading yet, these are the books I read two and from work. Each is just plucked from the shelves, and they vary greatly. This week my training reading is P E H Barratt, Psychology at New England: An autobiographical history of the first forty years (University of New England Publishing Unit, Armidale, 1983)

Paul Barrett Snr, we have to call him Snr because his son Paul Barratt Jnr is another very well known New Englander, was the first student to be enrolled at the newly established New England University College in 1938 and later the University’s third professor of psychology. The book is part reminiscence; part an overview of the author’s evolving interest in the discipline and teaching of psychology.

I suppose it could be a boring book to those who know nothing about the people, nothing about the history, nothing about the discipline itself. However, it is quite fascinating to me.

One if the big issues today in academe is the split between teaching and research. We need, or so it is argued, establish a clear division between the two. Staff and institutions must specialise in either. We can’t have both. That was not the view of early staff at either the College or subsequent University.

By the nature of the times in a small, newly established institution, teaching had to come first. Library resources were limited, courses had to be written or upgraded, students had to be guided and examined. There was neither the time nor the resources required for full or even intensive research, something that cost the staff members in question in career terms. And yet, none of them appeared to mind.

Not all the early staff were good teachers. Still, in total they did a pretty good job, aided by small class sizes and an intense academically oriented residential atmosphere. Pound for pound, their early students had lower entry qualifications than students entering Sydney, the mother university. Despite that, pound for pound, their students achieved relatively better results even when marked by Sydney staff.

While teaching came first, the ideal of the academy was deeply embedded: you had to ensure that your students had access to the range of the discipline; you had to do some research to extend your knowledge; and for many, applied research was critical to the areas that the College and University served. One result was that, relative to size, the College and University had a good research output measures by those standards so beloved by our current university funders.

Professor Barratt’s book charts the challenges involved in developing a new institution, in teaching, in trying to balance research and teaching where research had to come second. But it is also an exploration of his evolving ideas about his own discipline. In that sense, it’s a very academic book.

Paul Barratt Snr admits that he did not write as much as he should, that he didn’t carry the formulation of his ideas to the point that he should. Like many New England academics, he taught and revised certain courses year after year without ever publishing the results. Like a number of New England academics, he thought that too much was being published to the point that quantity totally outweighed content – and the budgets required to buy the ever-expanding volume of publications.

I regret his failure to publish the course material, as I regret my father’s failure to publish his history of economic thought material This was constantly being re-researched, rewritten, re-tested with students and then rewritten again.

When, at the request of some of his ex students, I tried to get him to publish, he simply said that there was too much written. In reality, I suppose, he just enjoyed the personal research and its representation to students via teaching. I was that that interested him.

It is just this point that pulls me up in my tracks about current approaches.

Do we really expect those university people designated as “teachers” with the heavy loads now expected of them to maintain currency in their subject areas, let alone pursue the intellectual curiosity (call it research; it is) required to improve? I think that we are being unrealistic and short sighted. But then, I accept that I am old fashioned.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Four New England New State questions

Over on the New England New State Movement Facebook page, new members have raised a number of questions. I thought that I would answer four of them here.

How do we create a new state of New England?

This one deserves a full response. However, the short answer is this. The Australian constitution provides for the subdivision of existing states and the admission of new states. The provisions are there, but just very difficult to use.

If its all so hard, why do you bother?

We know from experience that the only way to attract attention, to gain the things that we want. is to force existing power structures to respond. In 1967 just before the plebiscite, UNE geography professor Eric Woolmington said that anyone who voted no had rocks in their head.

Eric was not a new stater. He thought that the constitutional barriers were to great to be overcome. His point was that the new state cause was the only thing forcing the existing system to respond to our needs.

People look at me blankly. they think that I am strange, when I talk new states. How do I respond?

Keep it simple. Say that after 150 years, the New England or Northern New State movement is Australia's oldest political movement. It survives because we have our own history, because the needs that created the movement in the first place, still exist. We feel that we would do better if we governed ourselves.

We haven't been successful to this point, although we have forced the creation of two NSW and one Commonwealth Royal Commissions, a  major Commonwealth Parliamentary constitution enquiry, a plebiscite. national parks, Australia's first country tertiary institutions. encouraged decentralisation.

We are a democratic reform movement that has had significant national impact. But most of all, we just want to govern ourselves.

How do I help?

Learn about our shared history. Join the New England New State Movement Facebook group. Join the Association. Look to form new branches. Most of all, just talk about the cause. 

Change doesn't happen over night. It comes inch by inch.       

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New England Passings - death of Mike Morwood

Mike Morwood

The untimely death of the archaeologist Professor Mike Morwood will, I hope, be properly recorded. The UNE coverage is here, although other places have claimed him too.

Mike's best known work was leadership of a team that in 2003 discovered a possible new human species, Homo floresiensis, nicknamed ‘the Hobbit’, on the island of Flores in East Indonesia, UNE VC James Barber notes that the discovery of the skeleton of a tiny woman, who died about 18,000 years ago, has been hailed as one of the most important finds in human evolution since the discovery of the Neandertals in the middle of the nineteenth century. "

I think that there is still debate on this point, but it was a remarkable discovery. During his 32 years association with UNE, Professor Morwood worked as a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor, Professor of Archaeology, and Adjunct Professor, a position he stood down from earlier this year. His long and outstanding contribution to scholarship included research in the fields of human dispersal and evolution, culture contact and change, Aboriginal rock art, and ethnoarchaeology.

Since Isabel McBryde came to UNE as the first lecturer in archeology and prehistory, the University has established a proud tradition in these fields. It is also one that I can claim a tiny part as a member of Isabel's first prehistory honours group. All these years later, I am still writing in the area although as an amateur historian.

Necessarily, the University's focus broadened beyond Northern New South Wales, my main area of interest. That has actually left a gap. But I can take great pride in Mike's work and the contribution he made to students. That was very much in the UNE tradition.    

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Belshaw’s World – memories of a Port Macquarie far past.

Most children growing up in inland New England had vivid memories of the places on the sea coast where their parents used to take them for holidays. Many camped, others stayed in little holiday homes or small blocks of flats. Some were lucky enough to have parents who actually owned their own holiday home.

New England has a big coastline. The places varied depending on proximity, where friends went and, in some cases, just the need for variety. Some went to Port Macquarie, some to Urunga or Coffs Habour, some to Byron Bay, some into nearby Queensland to the Gold Coast.

To many of those coastal centres, the tourist trade from the inland was a central source of income. To some it still is, although population shifts mean that many inland centers now seek to attract tourist from the coast instead of seeing the coast as their own playgrounds.

One year, we went to Port Macquarie for our holiday. I remember the trip clearly because while we were away Rover, our Red Kelpie pet who was boarding on an Aunt and Uncle’s property, was bitten by a black snake and died. Rover was an energetic and inquisitive dog, not really suited to a town environment. Very few Kelpies are.

Traveling to Port Macquarie was unusual for us because it was just so far away. Well, at least it seemed that way. To get there, we drove south from Armidale where we were living to Uralla and then turned south east to Walcha. From Walcha, we veered further east and then plunged down the Great Dividing Range along the Oxley Highway.

None of the roads to the coast were then sealed. The road to Port passed through absolutely beautiful country, but was narrow, winding and dusty. The big timber jinkers carrying huge logs to the mills were a constant problem, for it was hard to get past.

Port Macquarie was then a small sleepy coastal settlement, far removed from today’s large tourist centre. The scale difference is actually astonishing. At the time I am talking about, Armidale’s population was perhaps three times that of Port. Today, Port’s population is twice that of Armidale.

At Port, we played and swam on the small local beaches. I learned of Rover’s death on one of those beaches, so it stands out in my mind.

I was reminded of all this by a book I have been reading, Annabella Boswell’s Journal (Angus & Robertson 1965, reprinted 1981). Before going on, I need to give you a little history.

Port Macquarie was founded in 1821 as a penal settlement. In 1830 Major Archibald Clunes Innes (1800-1857) became police magistrate at Port Macquarie and was granted 2568 acres (1039 ha) and contracts to supply the convict population with food. Working with convict labour, he transformed the wilderness into the fabled Lake Innes, the greatest pastoral property north of Sydney. There he built a grand home. From this point he built a web of pastoral interests. The town of Glen Innes is named after him.

Annabella was his niece. In 1839, her father took the family to stay at Lake Innes, hoping to improve his health. That hope was to be unsuccessful, for he died a few years later. Annabella loved the life at Lake Innes and recorded it all faithfully in her diary, republishing it all in later books.

The result is actually very Jane Austen, a story of domestic life and manners of an upper class NSW country family in a still relatively new colony. We have dear mamma, our dear uncle, the gentlemen callers, the first NSW election campaign in which the women gathered to make favours, the piper and the dances.

The last part of the book records the decline of Port Macquarie as families leave for other climes. It also contains references to her uncle’s growing problems. The end result is not clear to Annabella, for these things happen slowly. Finally, Lake Innes can no longer be maintained.

Today, Lake Innes and all its surrounds have been recaptured by bush, the house itself finally destroyed by fire. The tracks that the gentlemen and ladies of the house used to ride along to the beach or Port no longer exist. Yet the memory lingers quite intensely in Annabella’s writing. We can see the flowers, the gardens, the people, the lifestyle, memories that would stay with Annabella for the rest of her life.

Note to readers: Belshaw's World began as  a column in the Armidale Express. I have resumed writing the column because I  enjoy it. You can see all the Belshaw World  columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The New England challenge

John Lindsay UNE geologist

Over on Northern Rivers Geology, Rod Holland kindly featured one of my history posts, History Revisited - New England gold fields lost to time

In the post just before(Doctor John Lindsay), Rod featured the work of one of the University of New England geologists.

I didn't know that John had died 2008. He and I overlapped in time at UNE, but I didn't study geology and really only knew him as a face on campus. It is only now, years later, that his work has become important to me because of the way that it informs others including Rod. 

We, and I am thinking just of we New Englanders, have been very lucky in many ways. The things that we fought for in our efforts to grow our area and to retain our identity were hard won. Much has been lost. Yet the chain effects continue.

Our ancestors' efforts created the first university in Australia outside the metros. The students who came like John created New England knowledge. Most, and this is the story of the New England diaspora, went on to other things, but their contribution remains.

When Rod, I and others write today, we draw from and preserve that earlier work, 

New England doesn't exist. We New Englanders can agree on neither name nor boundaries. And yet, after 150 years, we remain the only area in Australia capable of mounting a sustained challenge to the intellectual and political dominance imposed by the metro elites.

We still demand to be heard, we still write, we still care. That's no bad thing.      

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Historic Gardens of New England exhibition, Potts Point, Sydney

I see from Archives Outside that there is a special photographic exhibition, Historic Gardens of New England, opening on 2 July at the Australian Institute of Architects in Tusculum, 3 Manning Street, Potts Point. The exhibition has been developed by the Garden History Society Northern New South Wales Sub Branch at Armidale.  The photographs vary from the grandest to the most unusual and come from collections held by the National Trust, University of New England Archives, Historical Societies and individuals.

Just to set the flavour, here is one photo from the exhibition. Isn't it a remarkable shot? New England has many grand gardens from the Hunter to the border, although this exhibition focuses on the New England, the Tablelands.  This garden shows the sheer industry of a school garden.

School garden

The exhibition ruins for a month. The curators, Bill Oates and Graham Wilson, will speak at 6.30 pm at the opening on 2 July. I can't give you a link so that you can book, it's down, but I will add it as soon as the link is up.


The link is

Sunday, June 23, 2013

My New England 5 - jumpers and jackets with the occasional pearls

Jumpers & Jackets

For  years, I bought much of my clothing in Armidale no matter where I was living. This held even after I moved to Sydney for family reasons.

In Sydney, I would prowl David Jones or other retailers and then, dissatisfied, return to home turf.

I suspect that there is something deeply psychological  with this particular obsession. Or, maybe, it just reflects my good taste!

Armidale is quite a cold place and very much has had its own fashion style. This shot from one of the local tourism bodies, Experience the Highs, brought some of that back. The thick jumpers, the jackets, the moleskins, the tweeds.

Mind you, the world changes. The local styles have to a degree become submerged in that standardised modernity that so marks the modern fashion world.

Yet memory remains of girls in thin ball dresses, breath frosting the air, gathered outside around the drums used as heaters with the fire and smoke drifting into the air. Of girls standing by the fuel stove in the kitchen hitching their dresses up at the back to get the warm air from the stove. Of sitting there around the kitchen table drinking gins and tonics in the early morning after the ball. Of girls in thick fashion jumpers the next day.

And the pearls? They often wore them. Actually, I was a bit frightened of their sophistication. I sometimes felt so gauche! Still, that shot did take me back.   

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sydney releases a North Coast Rivers marine-based industry policy document

The Sydney Government has released a new planning document, Marine-Based Industry Policy – Far North Coast & Mid North Coast NSW. My thanks to  North Coast Voices for the lead.

Looking at the material, I couldn't quite understand the NCV accompanying post - How Big BOF and his mates intend to f#ck the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. How does the policy statement do that, f#ck the Northern River? I must be missing something!

By the way, I found the river summaries in the attachment useful.