Monday, December 24, 2018

A happy Christmas to you all

This will be my last post for 2018. I am shutting down fully until the new year to recharge my batteries.

For those who celebrate this festive season, may I wish you a very happy Christmas? For those who are alone, and that can be just so hard, tomorrow is a time to remember our blessings no matter how few they seem.

We will continue our discussions and sharing in the new year. There is a lot to talk about. For much of 2018 I have been tied up in other writing. I hope but do not promise to be more active here in 2019. There is so much to say and report. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

The grab for cash that affected New England exporters - short backgrounder on the sales of Ports Botany and Port Kembla

Container Ship entering Newcastle Harbour. A Sydney grab for cash imposed costs on New England exporters that are only now emerging. 

On 10 December 2018,  the ACCC (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission) announced that had instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against NSW Ports Operations Hold Co Pty Ltd and its subsidiaries Port Botany Operations Pty Ltd and Port Kembla Operations Pty Ltd for making agreements with the State of New South Wales that the ACCC alleges had an anti-competitive purpose and effect.

“We are alleging that making these agreements containing provisions which would effectively compensate Port Kembla and Port Botany if the Port of Newcastle developed a container terminal, is anti-competitive and illegal,” said ACCC Chair Rod Sims.

The following day, 11 December 2018, the Port of Newcastle released a commissioned report on the economic impact of a container terminal at the Port of Newcastle. This suggested (among other things) that a modern container terminal would cut land transport costs for northern NSW businesses by $2.8 billion by 2050. This would, according to Port of Newcastle CEO Craig Carmody, increase exports from from Northern NSW including the Hunter by $1 billion by 2050

"Businesses in Newcastle, Singleton, Tamworth, Gunnedah, Port Macquarie, Kempsey, Liverpool Plains and Narrabri can look forward to savings of more than $500 per standard container, if they shipped their goods through Newcastle rather than Port Botany or Port of Brisbane," Mr Carmody said.

With these actions, the originally secret agreements preventing the Port of Newcastle competing against Port Botany and Port Kembla in the container trade finally entered full public gaze. It had been some time coming.


In April 2013, then NSW Treasurer Mike Baird announced that a consortium, NSW Ports, had agreed to pay $4.31 billion for for a 99-year lease over Port Botany with a further $760 million for a similar lease over Port Kembla. After net debt was repaid, the net proceeds of $4.3 billion would be funneled into the state government's investment fund, Restart NSW. There would  lso be an annual lease payment of $5 million to the government.

Mr Baird said that the transaction meant the government's $1.8 billion commitment to the $10 billion WestConnex motorway between the M4 and Port Botany was funded. In addition it would provide $400 million for the Pacific Highway, $170 million for the Berry bypass on the Princes Highway, $135 million for the ''Bridges for the Bush'' program and a further $100 million for projects in the Illawarra region.

What was not said at the time, was that a commercial agreement provided that the State Government would provide a financial reimbursement to NSW Ports should container traffic at the Port of Newcastle pass a certain trigger point.

Just over twelve months later, now Premier Baird announced that a 98 year lease over the Port of Newcastle, the world's biggest coal port, had been sold for $1.75 billion. Of this amount, $340 million would go to Newcastle projects to aid the city's revitalisation.

The sale agreement included a clause that the new owners would have to reimburse the NSW Government should container traffic trigger the compensation clauses under the original agreement for the sale of Ports Botany and Kembla. The effect was to make a new container terminal un-economic.


The original agreement would appear a restraint of trade designed to maximise the sale value of the southern ports. I know of no evidence to suggest that the potential adverse effects on exporters across the broader New England were even identified, let alone discussed in the context of the sale. It is only now that we are starting to get the data to assess the economic costs to the North of Sydney's decisions.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Current State and Federal policies may rip New England apart beyond repair

My slow posting reflects my personal preoccupations. The problem is that while I have been preoccupied, issues have arisen, decisions are being made, that will adversely affect New England. In each case the adverse affects come from the simple fact that people don't recognise our existence. To illustrate this, I thought that I would simply list a few examples without great detail.

A few things to remember in considering the examples I will be citing:
  • The broader new England does have its own identity and geographic validity. But because we don't exist, no statistics are collected, we don't appear as an entity in policy making.
  • In economic and geographic terms, New England is being ripped apart by the growth of the South-east Queensland conurbation in the north, the growth of Sydney and Canberra with its spillover affects in the south. 
  • The definitions used for policy making and statistical terms, regional is an example, act to smash our attempts to create identity and to overcome long term structural decline. 
  • The longer this process goes on, the harder it is to recover.
Now for my brief points. I will give links later.

When you look at the Commonwealth Government's regional university initiative, it is concentrated in the outer metro rim and South Eastern NSW. There is almost nothing for New England.

When you look at the the NSW Government's regional development and tourism strategies, they have a bias towards Southern NSW.

When you consider the discussion on infrastructure, the focus is on metros or links between the metros. There is very little that will benefit New England

When you consider the new discussion on migration and decentralisation policy, not only is there little recognition of the history decentralisation policy, but the discussion focuses on growing the metro rim to abosrb more people. They talk about state based migration policies, but that won't help us because me have no state. The question of achieving better population balance within New England does not come up because New England does not exist.

While I have been absorbed on other things, the policy discussion has taken off in ways that will leave us worse off.        

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Glen Innes tartan

Did you know Glen Innes has its very own tartan? I did not until the Glen Innes Highlands Facebook page told me so.

The five colours represent:
  • Light blue, the clear day time skies of the New England.
  • Royal blue, for our famous sapphires.
  • Dark blue, our clear night skies.
  • Red, the Celtic blood links to Glen Innes people. 
  • White, fidelity with Celtic pasts and traditions. 
Glen Innes is very proud of its Scottish heritage and has been turning it into a considerable attraction.

The tartan is available to buy in many forms at the Visitor Information Centre.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Maitland City Council's new museum plan and the city's historical significance

West Maitland 1890s

Very few people even perhaps in Maitland realise just how historic the city is. Maitland was established in 1820. Melbourne was established in 1835. By then, Maitland and its river port at Morpeth had begun to develop as entrepot for the European settlers now spreading north. It would be decades before the small settlement at Newcastle passed Maitland in population.

I mention this now because Maitland City Council has unanimously backed an action plan to establish a new and revolutionised model for museums in the city.  (Meg Francis, Maitland Council back report on revolutionising city's historical collections, Maitland Mercury, 28 October 2018).

While I have not read the report on which the decision is based, the idea of the creation of an over-arching museum structure that will link together all of Maitland's museums and historical collections strikes me as a good one.

I do get annoyed because so many people fail to recognise Maitland's historic role. not just as an entrepot but as a centre of professional and broader commercial services for New England over many decades. The Maitland Mercury itself was a key journal of record, while Maitland's professionals including lawyers and architects played an important role in the development of New England life including the built landscape.

I hope that the Maitland Council will recognise that and build it into its visitor promotion.  


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

New England architecture and architects feature in this year's NSW 2018 NSW Country Architecture Awards

Armidale - Refuge/Prospect, Armidale, by Virginia Wong-See architecture@altitude. Winner of the Award for Small Project Architecture. Photo by Brett Boardman.
This year's 2018 NSW Country Architecture Awards featured architecture and architects from across the broader New England.

Byron Bay architects Dominic Finlay Jones Architects took out no less than five awards and three commendations. These honours included the award for Residential Architecture – Multiple Housing presented for the Habitat Live Work project, which provides a new building prototype featuring basic, good-quality, lower-cost housing with articulated home-office workspaces and is set within a sustainable development encouraging collective creativity.

The jury said: ‘This is an excellent prototype development, which is imaginatively conceived and beautifully executed, and deserving of a multiple housing award.’

Kingscliff architects Aspect Architecture’s Elanora House, a flexible beach home suitable for multi-generational living, was crowned winner of the Residential Architecture – Houses (New) category, with the jury noting the project ‘does a number of small but significant things very well’.

Armidale's Virginia Wong-See of architecture@altitude took out the Small Project Award and Termimesh Timber Award for her ‘small and perfectly formed’ Armidale – Refuge/Prospect garden pavilion.

I really loved this one. Ms Wong-See describes it in this way: "The concept for Armidale Refuge/Prospect began as a simple place of refuge from strong westerly winds, transforming an ordinary place into one that continues to delight through foggy mornings, moonlit nights, fireside conversations and enjoyment of the surrounding trees and the birds that come to rest there."

The Armidale Express story on this particular award provides more details and a broader range of photos. Have a look and you will get a feel for why I really like this is a truly imaginative work.

The award for Urban Design went to Coffs Harbour’s Jetty4Shores Revitalisation project by Fisher Design and Architecture (Bellingen) with Mackenzie Pronk Architects (Sydney) and Coffs Harbour City Council. ‘The project effectively communicates the spirit of place and the genuine community affection for this site,’ the jury noted. ‘The cultural and environmental meanings of the site have been enshrined within the design.’

The final award in the program, the People’s Choice Award, was also announced at the Awards presentation night, held at the NSW Regional Architecture Conference on Thursday 4 October. This year the honour went to a project in the newly introduced Interior category: the Byron Shire Council Foyer, Mullumbimby, by Byron Bay architects SPACEstudio.

NSW Chapter President, Andrew Nimmo, congratulated all of this year’s award winners and noted the important contribution the profession as a whole was making to deliver more sustainable, cohesive communities.

‘Architects apply design thinking to everything they do in order to do more with less and help clients realise opportunities that they did not know existed,’ said Mr Nimmo. ‘This is just part of the value we describe when we speak of the design dividend, and each year we see the bar raised when it comes to the innovative design solutions and practices architects are implementing across regional NSW.’

If you would like to see photos of all the ward winners you can find them on the Australian Institute of Architects Facebook page.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Cultural Tourism: telling the story of New England's Aboriginal past

I have long been frustrated about what I see as neglect of the opportunities offered by Aboriginal cultural tourism in Northern NSW, the broader New England that I write about. 
A number of things contributed to that sense of frustration. One was the absence of material and supporting infrastructure to attract, interest and hold visitors, A second was the way that Aboriginal cultural and historical tourism in the broader New England was fragmented and submerged by tourism promotion that focused on the Sydney basin. Essentially, you had Sydney and a then series of small dot points scattered across the rest of the state. A third frustration lay in the way that disputes and disagreements in and between Aboriginal communities made it difficult to tell stories and to take action.
I accept that there has been great improvement since I first looked at the matter when I was chair of Tourism Armidale in the mid nineties. Historical research has provided more information. Aboriginal communities have begun to organise, collecting material and making that and their stories accessible to a broader audience. However, problems of fragmentation remain. 
Against this background, I was pleased to see a story by Steve Evans in the Glen Innes Examiner ( Tourists want to see Aboriginal cultural sites so more skilled people needed) that TAFE colleges in Armidale, Glen Innes and Inverell have launched a course on Aboriginal cultural tourism to upskill local Aboriginal people. I was also pleased to read this quote from Tom Briggs, CEO Armidale Local Aboriginal Land Council:  “There are many spectacular tourism sites and traditional walking trails across the Northern Tablelands that we as Aboriginals want to explore and make available for our Members and the broader community.”  
Problems of fragmentation remain. The remarkable story of Aboriginal New England is not just localities or even language groups, but of a complex pattern of cultural, economic and political interactions over space and time. This story has still to be properly told and integrated into tourism. Once this is done, both locals and visitors will then be able to properly appreciate and enjoy the story of Aboriginal New England. In the meantime, the new course is a small step forward.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A busy October 2018 at the NERAM - the New England Regional Art Museum

October is shaping up as a busy month at Armidale's New England Regional Art Museum.

NERAM's Lounge Room Collector Series

Behind the doors of private homes in New England you will find a variety of diverse and expansive private art collections.

These 'lounge room collectors' have differing interests and approaches in developing their collections. Some are motivated to collect to continue a family tradition, others for investment, or to provide ongoing support for practising artists. Some are driven purely by their love of art. Collections may have a dedicated and specific area of focus, while others are eclectic and influenced by changing tastes and whims. Each collection captures a unique view of our cultural heritage outside of the strict collecting policies of public art institutions.  

NERAM's Lounge Room Collection Series explores the extraordinary, eclectic and sometimes surprising private collections of the New England Region. This series begins with local collector Glenda Kupczyk-Romanczuk. The exhibition will present a selection of artworks from her collection focusing on her involvement with Packsaddle to show how attending and organising the annual Packsaddle Exhibition has inspired her exuberant collection.
Date: 12th October -  2nd December

Opening: Friday 12th October, 6.00pm  (opening will include the announcement of the 2018 Helen Dangar Memorial Bursary Recipient)
Venue: New England Regional Art Museum

My Terrain - Rita Winiger

Image: Rita Winiger Det äne am Bergli 2018

Armidale artist, Rita Winiger depicts landscape terrains in paintings interpreted through, and overlayed with, emotional resonance. The mountainous scenery and memories of trekking in Switzerland, where Winiger spent the first thirty years of her life, inform her work, and the landscapes that emerge capture her experiences of that time and place.      

Date: 12th October -  2nd December

Opening: Friday 12th October, 6.00pm (opening will include the announcement of the 2018 Helen Dangar Memorial Bursary Recipient)
Venue: New England Regional Art Museum

October School Holiday Workshops

Looking for something fun for the kids or grandkids these school holidays? Come to NERAM!

In this Working with Clay Workshop with Honey Greenwood (Armidale Pottery Club), children/teens will explore creating different forms and textures out of clay using a range of techniques such as pinching, rolling and coiling.  Children/Teens will have the opportunity to create their own pinched pot, small sculpture and hanging mobile.

The workshop will be held over two sessions.  The first session will focus on building the pieces which then need to be left to dry in readiness for painting and decorating.  The drying takes between one-two days. Children will then return for the second part of the workshop to paint, decorate and finish their pieces.

5-12 year old:

Date: Tuesday 9th October
Time: 10am – 12pm  Clay Working Session #1

Date:Thursday 11th October
Time: 10am – 11:30pm Painting your Creations Session #2
Book here: https:

12-16 year old:

Date: Tuesday 9th October
Time: 1:30pm – 3:30pm   Clay Working Session #1

Date: Thursday 11th October
Time: 1:30pm – 3:00pm   Painting your Creations Session #2

 Book here: Book now! Only 10 spaces per age group!

Cost: $40 Friends of NERAM/ $45 General
Venue: Packsaddle Studio – located downstairs behind NERAM

Concert: Goldheist & James Needham

Musician GOLDHEIST (aka Hester Fraser) and visual artist James Needham come together to present REALM, a collaborative performance project exploring the spirit of place.

Combining their respective artistic practices, Needham will paint landscape, as inspired by tour locations, whilst GOLDHEIST provides the soundtrack, fusing her narrative songs with electro-acoustic soundscape. Simultaneously curated and improvisational, this spatially motivated one hour performance will explore the spirit of place, and the different ways our surroundings can inspire and impact on us. read more.

Date: 20 October
Time: 1.00 - 3.00pm
Venue: New England regional Art Museum
Tickets: $35 Adult / $30 Concession / Under18 FREE

Concert (live art and music) + Q&A with the artists

Book Now!

This performance is part of a regional tour by the performers. New England venues:

  • BARRABA: The Playhouse Hotel Theatre - Fri. 12 Oct.
  • TAMWORTH: Tamworth Regional Gallery - Sat. 13 Oct.
  • MOREE: Bank Art Museum Moree - Fri. 19 Oct.
  • ARMIDALE: New England Regional Art Museum - Sat. 20 Oct.
  • WALCHA: Walcha Mountain Festival - Sun. 21 Oct.

Printmaking Workshop with Basil Hall

Basil Hall is returning once more to Armidale to run one of his popular workshops for experienced and beginner printmakers alike on 20th/21st October 2018.

This workshop is ideally suited to regulars at NERAM workshops, but enthusiastic beginners will be able to join in and make a plate themselves, whilst watching the more experienced work on theirs.

This year Basil is proposing to offer his expertise as a custom printer of 35 years standing. Participants are encouraged to bring existing etching plates they have been working on and Basil will offer suggestions as to how they might be resolved or further developed. He will demonstrate how to print them up in a variety of ways including a la poupee wiping, using large rollers, colour blends, stencils and applying colour to the back of rice paper prints.

Copper etching plates and printmaking papers will be available for sale at cost, if required, and lunch will be provided.

Date: Saturday & Sunday, 20th/21st October 2018
Time: 9am - 4pm
Venue: Packsaddle Studio, NERAM
Cost: $330 General/$300 Friends of NERAM/Black Gully Printmakers

BOOK NOW! Only 5 spots left

Packsaddle is coming soon!

It is that time of year again when NERAM gets ready for the annual Packsaddle Exhibition. The Packsaddlers have been visiting artists and galleries to select a diverse range of contemporary artworks to include in the exhibition, and have been spending time at NERAM framing prints for display. We have been spying and can say with certainty that there are some exceptional works to be presented this year.

The annual Packsaddle Exhibition provides local audiences an opportunity to see and purchase contemporary Australian art, and has for 33 years supported the development of local art collections while fundraising for new acquisitions and special projects at NERAM.

Save The Date: The Packsaddle Exhibition will open on Friday 19th October, viewing starting from 5pm, the bell will ring at 6.15pm!  

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Crash of ANA's Lutana 2 September 1948

On Thursday night, 2 September 1948, the Australian National Airways DC3 airliner Lutana clipped trees on top of Square Peak before crashing into rough country in the  Crawney Range about 16 miles from Nundle. The crash took the lives of 10 passengers and three crew members.Simon Bourke has the story.

Update 11 September 2018

Simon Bourke has a later podcast that provides much more detail on the crash. The dead were buried at the Tamworth cemetery but the location of the graves was lost. Now they have been rededicated. And here.    

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Could Newcastle trams have come back?

Nice piece by Mike Scanlon in the Newcastle Herald on the ending of Newcastle trams and the possibility but, for just one vote, they may have been returned.

At this point I am just recording the story for later reference.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Uralla Shire Council mayor Michael Pearce elected chair of the newly-formed New England Joint Organisation of Councils

Sophie Harris reported in the Moree Champion (25 June 2018) that Uralla Shire Council mayor Michael Pearce was elected chair of the newly-formed New England Joint Organisation of Councils at the group’s first meeting in Moree on Monday.

The New England JO comprises from Moree Plains Shire Council, Inverell Shire Council, Narrabri Shire Council, Armidale Regional Council, Uralla Shire Council, Glen Innes Severn Council and Tenterfield Shire Council

At Monday’s meeting, the JO established a charter which focuses on infrastructure development, economic development and social issues. The group will meet again in July to “nut out any kinks’ and then after that Cr Pearce said it’s full steam ahead. Cr Pearce said the major advantage of the JO is that the member councils are in a better position to lobby the state government for investment opportunities as a group, rather than as individual councils. One of the big ticket items the JO plans to investigate is a waste to energy project which has the potential to involve the whole region.

The formation of the JOs is a State Government initiative to encourage collaborative working among councils. The membership of the JOs is set out in the table below.

The latest measure is one of a long line of initiatives from either councils or Sydney dating back to, I think, 1919. That history makes me cautious, although I hope that the new arrangements will have some positive results.

Joint Council Organisations in Regional NSW
Joint organisation
Council areas forming joint organisation 
New England

Hunter Joint Organisation
Cessnock, Dungog, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Mid-Coast, Muswellbrook, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Singleton, Upper Hunter.
Namoi Joint Organisation
Gunnedah, Gwydir, Liverpool Plains, Tamworth, Walcha.
New England Joint Organisation
Armidale, Glen Innes Severn, Inverell, Uralla, Moree Plains, Tenterfield, Narrabri.
Northern Rivers Joint Organisation
Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley, Tweed.
Mid North Coast Joint Organisation
Port Macquarie-Hastings, Kempsey, Bellingen.

Canberra Region Joint Organisation
Bega Valley, Eurobodalla, Goulburn-Mulwaree, Hilltops, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Snowy Monaro, Upper Lachlan, Wingecarribee, Yass Valley.
Central NSW Joint Organisation
Bathurst, Blayney, Cabonne, Cowra, Forbes, Lachlan, Oberon, Orange, Parkes, Weddin.
Illawarra Shoalhaven Joint Organisation
Kiama, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Wollongong.
Orana Joint Organisation
Cobar, Gilgandra, Mid-Western, Narromine, Warrumbungle.
Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation
Albury, Berrigan, Edward River, Federation, Griffith, Hay, Leeton, Murray River, Murrumbidgee.
Riverina Joint Organisation
Bland, Coolamon, Cootamundra-Gundagai, Greater Hume, 
Junee, Lockhart, Temora.


There was some dispute about Narrabri joining the New England JO. This is covered in this Northern Daily Leader story.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

What does the Halsey report mean for New England?

Dr John Halsey's recently released Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education contains some useful material but is not a great deal of help when it comes to looking at the practical implications for the broader New England. You will find the report here, a quite useful summary here, a report into residential accommodation at university here, while the Government's response is here.

A major problem with translating the implications of the report to specific areas lies in its national focus and the use of statistical constructs including especially ARIA (the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia) as an analytical tool. This actually tells us very little about issues and problems at state let alone broader regional areas. Writing in 2011, I described the problem this way:
The decline in the use of the words New England was not the only semantic change affecting the North. Words are important because they affect and reflect changing perceptions. In 1950, the word country was commonly used to describe NSW outside Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. While the use of this term divided Newcastle from the rest of New England, a divide that at least reflected cultural and political differences, country was at least a broad, commonly understood, geographic term.  
By the 1970s, country was losing favour, in part because of the growth of urban centres whose residents did not identify with the term. In its place came the word regional. This fragmented in turn. By 2000, there was something of a crazy patchwork quilt of words – country, regional, rural, remote, coastal – that overlapped and were used in different combinations. This growing confusion in terms reflected in part the increasing use of ARIA. 
ARIA, the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia, was developed by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care and the National Key Centre for Social Applications of GIS. ARIA measures remoteness based on the physical road distance between a settlement and four classes of service centre . In 1999 a further revision of ARIA called ARIA+ was developed that incorporated more information on the location of service centres. 
While ARIA was a simple geographic descriptor intended to measure remoteness from services, its widespread use by the Commonwealth Government for statistical purposes and to guide service delivery affected the use of words. In 1950, the Australian states still retained a substantial degree of independence. By 2000, the Australian Government was involved in every aspect of policy once the preserve of the states. To the officials in Canberra seeking mechanisms to allow for national uniformity in service delivery while also taking geography into account, the ARIA classifications seemed a useful device; very remote, remote, outer regional, inner regional and major city were now firmly added to the semantic mix. 
The difficulty from a New England perspective lay in the way that these various terms cut across the area’s natural geography, further fragmenting the sense of New England or Northern identity, while creating problems for integrated service delivery based on geography. We can see this if we look at New England’s Kamilaroi or Gamilaraay Aboriginal language group who occupied the Western Slopes and Plains. Their traditional territory was variously classified from very remote to inner regional, a classification that affected the services provided. People with a common culture sharing common problems received different benefits depending on just where they lived. Social Change in Australia’s New England 1950-2000, paper delivered in the University of New England Humanities seminar series, 8 April 2011. 
To extend this point, this is the latest ARIA map for NSW that I have been able to find.If you look at it, you will see that the broader New England is a mix from major city round Newcastle, a patchwork quilt of inner regional, a broad sweep of outer regional, a narrower sweep of remote and then patches of very remote. Further comments follow the map.

In the end, effective service delivery depends upon geography. This is recognised in the NSW Health regional structure, although even here there are problems that I will refer to in a moment. I have used the Health  structure because this seems to have become the main state regional structure.

Three regions are included within New England's boundaries as defined by the Nicholas Royal Commission, Hunter New England, Mid North Coast and Northern NSW. The Nicholas boundaries also include a portion of Western NSW. From a historical viewpoint, the names and structures may seem a little odd, when did the Northern Rivers become Northern NSW?, but there is some regional coherence.

Dr Halsey's generalised analysis based on ARIA classifications supplemented by case studies has to be translated into specific approaches that reflect regional realities.Otherwise it has no meaning beyond the creation of another overlay, another set of principles, to complicate an already complicated scene. 

I said that there were problems with the NSW regional structure. These are twofold. 

The first is that the regions are administrative service delivery structures. They have no real policy role. Just as the Halsey inquiry dealt at a generalised national level, so NSW works with state-wide metrics. If you look at the NSW Education Department website, you will see that all the analysis and primary measures are state wide. It is not possible to use them to determine the position in the broader New England. Given Sydney's dominance in the statistics, NSW might achieve all the set targets and indicators even with total failure in New England. 

The second problem is that the administrative regions used can become barriers to cooperation between areas even where that cooperation might make sense. In this way, they become instruments of further centralisation, standardisation  and fragmentation. .

We will have to wait and see how all this pans out of course. But at the moment, I'm not sure that the Halsey recommendation will actually have much positive meaning so far as the North is concerned.       


Monday, June 04, 2018

Calling ex students of the Armidale Teacher's College and Armidale College of Advanced Education - can you support the New England Regional Art Museum?

Mary Edwards, The Orchid 1935, Hinton Collection, New England regional Art Museum. 
Many students who went to the Armidale Teacher's College or the Armidale College of Advanced Education will remember the paintings from the Howard Hinton Collection that graced the College walls. Those paintings now form part of the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) collection along with the Coventry Collection plus other bequests. 

NERAM now needs your help to maintain and extend both the collections and its extension activities through the region and beyond via a bequest program. Bequests can include donations of funds, artworks, property, assets or shares and can be made through wills, estates and deeds of gift..
Why you should give

“Many of the great art museums of the world have been built around the foresight of people who have made significant donations, bequests or endowments to ensure the artworks, programs and buildings that they love are looked after properly well into the future,” said Robert Heather, Art Museum Director.

“The New England Regional Art Museum was founded around one of the most significant acts of philanthropy in Australian art history, the generous gift of over 1000 artworks to the Armidale Teachers’ College by Howard Hinton.”

“Acts like this create a lasting legacy and are a tribute to the donor who gives them,” he said.  “The New England Regional Art Museum has been treasured by the many people in our community who have generously supported it over the years and we invite them to consider planning ahead to make a bequest to support the art museum after their lifetime.”

“The future sustainability of NERAM will depend upon the passion and commitment of those people who make a gift or bequest in their will,” he said. “We believe that anyone can make a bequest that makes a lasting difference for NERAM and the wider community.”

For those in the immediate region

Locally, NERAM is teaming up with local solicitors and accountants to assist people to plan ahead by attending an information seminar on Planning your Estate and Bequest at NERAM at 10.00am on the morning of Thursday 14 June 2018.T he seminar is open to anyone who wants to learn more about estate planning and bequests in general with some further information about how to specifically make a bequest to NERAM.

Tax expert Paul Williams from NERAM sponsor Roberts & Morrow Chartered Accountants will be making a presentation at the seminar about the potential tax issues involved in planning your estate.

“The taxation implications of gifts of this nature are complicated and often overlooked,” he said. “Understanding the taxation consequences of the various options can assist donors in maximizing the effectiveness of the gift for themselves and the beneficiaries of their estate.”

Solicitor Chris Serow, Principal at NERAM sponsor Legal Minds law firm in Armidale will be discussing some of the legal problems that can befall those who don’t plan properly.

“Many people aren’t aware of some of the legal pitfalls that have the potential to make it difficult for their wishes to be met,” said Mr Serow. “These can include challenges to the will, incorrect wording and other issues which can be addressed through proper planning and communication with all parties.”

“One of the key issues for anyone thinking about making a bequest is make sure that they talk to the proposed recipient and everyone else involved as early as possible ensure that their wishes are fully realised,” he said. “That includes the team here at NERAM who want to make this potentially difficult conversation as easy as possible for all concerned.”

For those beyond the immediate region

 If you would like to make a bequest or an immediate donation, you should contact NERAM via their website. NERAM will provide you with information and put you in touch with local experts who can assist you. Alternatively,. you can seek advice from your own professional advisers.  

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hard Yards: Story of the Newcastle Knights Rugby League team

I see from a story in the Newcastle Herald that a full history of the Newcastle Knights Rugby League team has been released

I have a soft spot for the Knights having been following them since their   first entry to the competition in 1988.

It's been a sometimes turbulent time with some highs and a fair few lows that in some ways reflects the history of Newcastle itself.

Written by award-winning Newcastle Herald journalist Robert Dillon, Hard Yards: The Story of the Newcastle Knights tells  the complete history of the much loved team. It covers every player, every game, every triumph, every loss and every controversy.

How to purchase

Books can be ordered now for $39.95* (plus postage and handling) through the Newcastle Herald online shop by clicking here.

You can also buy the book from the front office of the Newcastle Herald at 28 Honeysuckle Drive, Newcastle; Maitland Mercury, Level 1, Suite 2/12 Elgin Street, Maitland; The Advertiser, 155 Vincent Street, Cessnock; Singleton Argus, 6-8 Campbell Street, Singleton; and Muswellbrook Chronicle, 1-2/6 Commercial Centre Market Lane, Muswellbrook.

Available too at nextra Group Newsagencies: Westfield Kotara, Cessnock, Warners Bay Plaza, Stockland Glendale, Marketown, Raymond Terrace, Mount Hutton, Mayfield and Hamilton.

$1 from each book sold will be donated to the Mark Hughes Foundation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Video tells some of the story of the Hinton Collection

While this YouTube video was published in February 2018, I hadn't seen it before. It tells something of the story of the Hinton Collection at the New England Regional Art Museum and in so doing showcases some the paintings themselves. Enjoy.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Tamworth attracts migrants

Interesting piece in the Northern Daily Leader (1 May 2018) by Jamieson Murphy and Grace Ryan Tamworth growth trends revealed by Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The overall growth in population for the Tamworth Local Government Area in 2017 was positive  at just under one per cent, although this is too low to allow the City to easily achieve its 100,000 growth target.  However, what was positive and quite important was that of the net increase of  556 people, 379 (68%) came from overseas migration.

The propensity of Australia's new settlers to flock especially to Sydney and Melbourne has been one of the drivers of Australia's growing population imbalance. While the movement of migrants to Tamworth is still small in absolute numbers, the positive ratio means that international migration is now making a positive contribution.  .

Outside Tamworth, Armidale LGA grew 0.8 per cent to 30,552, while Gunnedah Shire grew by 0.6 per cent. Walcha Shire increased by 0.4 and the Liverpool Plains grew by just 0.2 per cent. Inverell showed no growth, with Moree down 1.3% over 2017, Narrabri and Uralla down 0.7%, Tenterfield down 0.6% and Gwydir Shire and Glen Innes Severn down 0.2%.

One of the things that we need to be thinking about in inland New England is how we get a better population balance across areas. This requires the bigger centres to support the smaller centres. It also requires us to put aside the parochial competition that so bedevils cooperative action.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

BEYOND ART: True Stories from the desert by senior Aboriginal men at the Tamworth Regional Gallery

NEW LIGHT: Tamworth gallery director Bridget Guthrie with a new exhibition highlighting contemporary Indigenous art. Photo: Peter Hardin 300418PHE043

I am often frustrated that I simply cannot get in the car and drive to visit new New England exhibitions or celebrations. A case in point is the new display at the Tamworth Regional Galley highlighted in the Northern Daily Leader story  Tamworth gallery highlighting contemporary Aboriginal art.

The exhibition, BEYOND ART: True Stories from the desert by senior Aboriginal men, highlights the streak in contemporary Indigenous art that combines innovation with deep connection to country.The exhibition is open until 10 June. I would encourage you to visit if you can.

While I greatly support the exhibition and the work done by Ms Guthrie, I must admit to a feeling of pique, I would like to see, I would really like to see, a greater focus on current Aboriginal cultural activities across Northern NSW, my broader New England. It seems to me that because we don't exist in a formal legal sense, we get ignored. .

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

NERAM's Robert Heather to join UNE: he will be missed

On 3 May  Andrew Murray, the Chair of the New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) announced that NERAM's Director Robert Heather would be leaving NERAM on 22 June to take up a position of Director, Advancement, Communications and Events at the University of New England.

Mr Murray made the announcement with considerable regret, noting that the appointment was an affirmation of Robert’s talents.

"Robert has been leading our Art Museum for just short of three years", Mr Murray said. He ":has made a significant impact in this time, with renovations to the building, new LED lighting, solar panels and the wonderful HINTON permanent exhibition development. He and his team have provided us all with engaging exhibitions, stimulating lectures and vibrant events. Robert has also developed many friendships for NERAM both locally and within the national art community."

"The Board wishes Robert every success in his new career and we thank him sincerely for the contribution he has made to our gallery and our region since moving here from Melbourne. The Board has commenced a search for a worthy replacement as Art Museum Director at NERAM and we expect there to be considerable interest in the role."

"During the likely period between Robert’s departure and the commencement of a new Director, our Manager Curatorial and Exhibitions, Ms Rachael Parsons will become Acting Director."

As I write, I'm listening to the ABC program on the opening of the permanent Hinton collection at NERAM.  It's worth listening too, a very good program. .

NERAM has had some good Directors. Robert has been one of the best with his constant attention to the promotion of NERAM as a cultural icon not just for Armidale but for the broader North. I know that Robert will give good service to UNE, but we will miss him.

Friday, May 04, 2018

New England Travels seminar paper

I have now posted to my history blog the paper I delivered  in the University of New England’s Humanities seminar series on 13 April 2018: New England Travels: journeys through space and time. The paper is a personal ramble through elements in New England's history.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Monday, April 16, 2018

Return to Armidale

On 12 April 2018, I returned to Armidale to deliver a paper in UNE's Humanities Seminar series. This post on my personal blog, Reflections in my latest Armidale visit - a mix of travel, history, the town: a mixed bag, reflects on my journey and what I found.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

More old photos of Newcastle.

The Newcastle Herald has continued its practice of running old photos of Newcastle from the University of Newcastle cultural collection with support from  the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund.Two recent examples include:

I love old photos because of the things they reveal. I study them and look at the detail. Sometimes there is a more emotional response.

Back in 2008 I wrote a short nostalgic post Newcastle's poshest hotel - the Great Northern. So much has changed in Newcastle that I find it difficult to place things in my memory. These photos actually triggered real memories. On that visit, I can remember my brother and I escaping from the hotel and going down to the waterfront. It wasn't far. As country kids, the waterfront was exciting, a very different world. In two photos I suddenly saw where we must have walked. .

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Reflections on the opening of the TAFE NSW Digital Hub in Armidale

Northern Tablelands MP and Minister responsible for TAFE NSW Adam Marshall, left, TAFE NSW Digital General Manager Megan Aitken and Armidale Regional Council Mayor Simon Murray at the opening of the new building for the NSW TAFE Digital Headquarters

While in Armidale for the opening of the new permanent exhibition of the Hinton Collection at the New England Regional Art Museum, I took the opportunity to visit the TAFE campus both to refresh memories and to look at  the almost completed NSW TAFE (Technical and Further Education) Digital HQ building.

It was a warm Saturday morning, a sunny break in in an often rainy weekend. The walk was partially one of those sacred sites tours, a walk along the Creeklands from the the city looking at what had changed, trying to fit the landscape into my past memories. As we walked across the little suspension bridge outside the old swimming pool entrance towards the TAFE, I rocked the bridge to see if it would still swing. It did!

On Monday 26 March, the new building was officially opened. The Armidale Express carried the story. I will leave aside the puffery associated with official releases and focus on a few key issues.

The new centre is central to the plans to restructure the delivery of TAFE courses across NSW, increasing the use of on-line platforms. I have some reservations about elements of those plans, but the centre fits within TAFE NSW's strategic objectives.

I don't think that the centre could have been established in Armidale without the NBN. I have become increasingly disillusioned with former independent New England MP Tony Windsor because of what I see as an increasing rigidity, bias, in his views and responses on issues. However, his role in bringing the NBN to Armidale needs to be recognised. Without him, the new centre would not have been possible. We also need to recognise the work of Adam Marshall, the state member for the Northern Tablelands. He, too, was critical to the move.

As Mr Marshall noted in his press release, at 51 staff the number of jobs involved is not large by the standards of bigger centres. However, it makes an important addition to Armidale. As important as the number of jobs is, the variety in the jobs is more important. More important still is the way that those jobs mesh with Armidale's existing strengths.

Unlike the move of the APVMA (the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority) to Armidale, the creation of the TAFE Digital Hub appears to have attracted little political controversy. That's partly a matter of size, more the absence of vested interest and political responses that bedevil the APVMA move. It's interesting that TAFE appears to have experienced no significant recruitment problems, whereas those are a central issue in the APVMA move.

I have a part completed post updating the APVMA move.  At this point, I simply note that it is hard to get people to move to Armidale, hard to recruit new people to Armidale, when you are told by senior Labor Party figures that the decision to Armidale will be reversed, that you either do not have to move or if you do come to Armidale, you will be forced to return to Canberra.

Postscript Monday 2 April 2018

The brief discussion on this post, more comments would be welcome, reminded me of an earlier post about our attempts to create a network between Armidale schools based on the new new computing and communications technologies: Dreams past: Collective Wisdom, education & the NBN.

On a different site, Robyn Archer pointed to this rather wonderful interview with Arthur C Clarke from 1974. Both Robyn and I are still waiting for the foreshadowed shift to the country!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Brotherhood of St Lawrence snap shot of youth unemployment - New England

Towards the end of March, the Brotherhood of St Lawrence released a national snap shot of youth unemployment.

More than 264,000 young people aged 15 to 24 are currently unemployed across the country, accounting for more than a third (36 per cent) of unemployed people in Australia. The latest ABS data show the unemployment rate of 15–24 year olds in the labour force is much  higher than the unemployment rate for all ages. The youth unemployment rate in January 2018 of 12.2 per cent was more than twice the overall rate of 5.5 per cent, and three times the rate of those aged 25 and over (4.1 per cent)  The rate of 12.2 per cent, however, has come off the recent peak of 2014, when the youth unemployment rate reached almost 14 per cent. Nevertheless, youth unemployment is still well above the levels before the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC).

A Regional Focus

The report maps youth unemployment trends, zeroing in on 12-month averages to identify 20 ‘hotspots’ that have the highest youth unemployment rates in Australia. Comparing their current youth unemployment rates with two years ago reveals that in all but one of those hotspot regions youth unemployment had worsened.

In five regions, all outside capital cities, unemployment among 15 to 24 year olds in the labour force exceeds 20 per cent. Youth unemployment is at its extreme – more than 65 per cent – in a thinly populated but vast tract of land in the Queensland outback, encompassing Cape York as well as the mining centres of Mount Isa and Weipa.

Conversely, in the 20 regions with the lowest youth unemployment rates in 2018, all but two
recorded lower rates today than two years ago. Fourteen of these 20 regions are in capital cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Darwin.

The differences in youth unemployment trends between the low and high unemployment regions highlight the disparities between local labour markets. Place matters. In responding to the challenge of youth unemployment, it is important to understand distinctive features of local labour markets and develop local approaches to foster economic development and job opportunities for young people.

New England Position 

Two New England regions were listed in the 20 worst hot spots. Coffs Harbour - Grafton came in at 6 with a youth unemployment rate of 19.8% in January 2018, up from 9.4%  in January 2106 or by 10.4 percentage points. The second region, New England Northwest was at 16 with an  unemployment rate of 16.6%, down from 17.8% in January 2016, giving an improvement of 1.2 percentage points.

As an aside, I struggle with the idea that Coffs and Grafton in some way form a region. It doesn't make a great deal of geographic sense.

None of the twenty best regions are to be found in New England.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Wagga Wagga, Tamworth 100,000 population growth targets

Interesting piece in the Northern Daily Leader by John Ellicott: Two NSW regional cities nominated as the next big thing(s) (23 March 2018). Apparently, Wagga Wagga and Tamworth (photo) have been pinpointed as the two big regional growth centres in NSW, with a push to turn them into 100,000 population centres. At the moment Wagga sits at about  64,000 people, while Tamworth has 41,000 people.

Deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro supports the 100,000 plus population targets. He said both cities had been pinpointed as major growth centres and there was no reason they could not achieve 100,000 populations. “We are of the opinion that if you build it, people will come, and that is what we are doing in these two places,” Mr Barilaro told The Land.

Wagga is selling itself as an education, health and agribusiness centre, while Tamworth is an important freight, food processing, services and possible international airfreight centre. Agriculture will remain one of the big economic drivers of both centres.

Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the agricultural sector was pushing Tamworth’s economic future, and its growth was “even better than Wagga’s”.

“Our growth has been far stronger than the state average,” Mr Murray said. New residential releases would be coming on stream by this Christmas, with 1600 housing lots. “We have large areas available for residential growth,” Mr Murray said. Also the building of the Arcadia industrial estate would create about 5000 jobs.

“We have consistent growth and this will only increase,” he said.

Achievement of a 100,000 population in a reasonable time frame requires both cities to achieve significantly higher growth rates than has been the case in recent years and especially in the case of Tamworth which has a lower starting point.

Friday, March 16, 2018

New England Stories - Camp Victory and the Casino Boys

Netherlands East Indies troops march Melbourne 1943

Over the first part of 2017 I wrote a series of posts on my history blog telling a little of the story of Camp Victory and the Casino Boys.

The story begins with the fall of the Netherlands to the Germans and then switches to the Netherlands East Indies where the Dutch Government in exile and the Netherlands East Indies are trying to strengthen local defences in the face of a looming Japanese threat. With the fall of the Netherlands, elements of the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) government and forces escape to Australia.

.In Australia a government in exile is created, the only official one ever created on Australian soil, and bases established. One, Camp Victory, was located outside Casino.

Among those who came to Camp Victory in 1945 were a group of young Dutchmen brought to Australia for pilot training. With the war winding down their training was constantly delayed.

As news of the Indonesian declaration of independence reached Australia , Indonesian soldiers serving as part of the NEI forces refused to continue service.

Now fighting to re-establish its control of the East Indies, the NIE government interned the mutinous soldiers. At Camp Victory, the Casino Boys were given basic military training and found themselves guarding troops who weeks before they had been fraternizing with.

The political situation was incredibly messy in Indonesia and in Australia with accusations that Camp Victory had become a concentration camp.

Finally, the interned soldiers were repatriated to Indonesia and most of the Casino Boys returned to Holland to complete their pilot training. There, missing Australia, most made arrangements to return as quickly as possible. They became a tight knit group known to all as the Casino Boys.

The posts that follow only give a taste of the story. They are listed in date order so that you can follow the story through.