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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

APVMA announces site for its New Armidale national headquarters

On 12 March the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)  named 102 Taylor Street and 91 Beardy Street as the site for the authority’s permanent office in Armidale. The site includes the former Armidale Club building and then extends at the back to Taylor Street.

The announcement was made on site by the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. David Littleproud MP, the Member for New England, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, and APVMA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Chris Parker.

A purpose-built, two-storey office will be constructed by the Stirloch Group (Stirloch), a developer based in Queensland and Victoria that has considerable experience with large government developments.

“This is a significant milestone in the APVMA’s relocation from Canberra to Armidale,” Dr Parker said.

“The APVMA has made a long-term commitment to deliver agvet chemical regulation from regional Australia for the benefit of our clients and stakeholders. We have signed a 15-year lease with Stirloch, with possible extensions.

“Our move to Armidale now has real momentum. We have 15 staff at the interim office at 246 Beardy Street, and that number will double by the end of March.

“More staff will relocate from Canberra and more jobs will be advertised that I hope will attract local talent from Armidale and the surrounds to help us deliver robust regulation and top rate services to Australia’s agvet chemical industry.”

The APVMA will have around 150 staff based at the permanent Armidale office once construction and fit-out is complete in mid-2019.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Terry Crowley and the cracking of the mystery of the Anaiwan language

In Australian National Indigenous Languages Convention - a New England perspective (28 February 2018) I mentioned attempts to revive the Anaiwan Aboriginal language spoken on the southern parts of the New England Tablelands.

Last year I wrote a series of columns in the Armidale Express on Terry Crowley and the Anaiwan language. The language was something of a mystery to linguists because it did not seem to be related to other Aboriginal languages. It was Crowley as a young postgraduate student who cracked at least part of the mystery by showing that it was related to coastal languages.

Over at the New England history blog, I  have now created an entry page so that you can follow the series through in sequence. .