Friday, August 31, 2007

New England's Federal Electorates - Welcome Visitor 8,000

Welcome to visitor 8,000 who came to visit via a Google Australia search on government electorates, New England NSW.

Looking at his visit, I realised that while I have previously listed state seats, I have not provided a complete Federal list. So, for the record, a list of Federal seats follows in alphabetical order. A full list of all seats by state can be found here.

  • Charlton. Safe Labor - margin 8.4.
  • Cowper Safe National - margin 6.6.
  • Hunter. Safe Labor - margin 11.1.
  • Lyne. Safe National - margin 13.4
  • New England. Safe Independent - margin 13.6
  • Newcastle. Safe Labor - margin 9.1
  • Page. On paper, moderately safe National - margin 5.5.
  • Parkes (most). Safe National - margin 17.5.
  • Paterson. Safe Liberal - margin 6.3.
  • Richmond. Marginal Labor - margin 1.4.
  • Shortland. Safe Labor - margin 9.2.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Armidale School (TAS) - collected posts

Photo: Main School Building, 1905

I have written a fair number of posts on several blogs referring in some way to TAS, The Armidale School. I know from searches that there is a fair bit of interest in the school. I thought that it might therefore be sensible to create a special post providing an entry point to some of the main posts.

This post is very much a work in progress since I have to go back through past posts, a process that will take me some time. I also have to work out the best way of ordering material to make it accessible. This will take a bit of experimentation.

In many cases the stories themselves are on other topics, but include references to TAS and its people. So you may need to scan to find the reference. In most cases, the references are personal.

From the Photo Archive - School and some other

Old Boys - General

Old Boys - Specific

Barrett, Paul, (public servant, consultant), Belshaw, David (engineer), Busby, Rob (TAS OBU Sydney) (and here), Buzo, Alex (writer) (here, here, here, here), Cousins, Peter (G&S star, singer, founder Kookaburra National Music Theatre Company, Harrison, Brian (historian, priest), Kitley, Philip (academic), Kemp, Peter (G&S star, lawyer), Page, Geoff (poet), Taylor, Sir P G (aviator)

School life

Cadets - I did not like!, Sport - Rugby, TAS Seconds, - 1962, against Shore 2007, National Primary Rugby Carnival 2007, International students at TAS 2007,


Brownie, Peter and here, here (geography, economics), Crossle, RWL (George) and here (history, English), Fisher, Gordon (GAF), head, Hughes, Davis (Bill) (science, later Country Party parliamentarian and minister), Mattingley, Brian (Joe), here

Friday, August 24, 2007

Why I remain a New England New Stater 4 - Cockington Green

Note to readers: This post is one in a series using personal examples to illustrate why I continue to support both agitation for New England self-government and self-government itself. Agitation, because its very existence forces forces the Sydney Government to consider New England interests. Self-government, because there are some things that we cannot achieve without this.

When I was chair of Tourism Armidale, we set ourselves the target of doubling visitor spend to the city and surrounding regions. To do this, we needed to increase visitor numbers and the amount that people spent while visiting. Increasing the average length of stay was critical to the second.

During my time as chair there were a number of examples that I could use as illustrations in this series. This post deals with one, visitor statistics.

Effective planning starts with data about the current position. While out core focus was on the domestic Australian marketplace, we were also interested in international visitors. Here we found almost no usable information at all. The only New England data available was aggregated data on the Hunter and Coffs Habour.

When we investigated this, we found that the international visitor data was based on surveys and that, as part of this, each state or territory was allowed to nominate (from memory) twelve attractions for inclusion in the survey. New England got two of the twelve.

By contrast, Cockington Green (a miniature village in the ACT) was identified as an attraction in its own right. So we had very little information for an entire region, while the ACT obtained information on a relatively small local attraction.

There was no way to overcome this problem other than paying for our own survey, something that we could not afford as a community organisation. Any additional New England inclusions in the exiting system required a Sydney attraction to be dropped, and that was not going to happen.

This type of problem was replicated time and time again during my time as chair and still holds today. Clearly this is a case where self-government would have been a major help since the state of New England would have had its own section in the survey, including twelve attractions.

Return to introductory post

Monday, August 20, 2007

Emma Buzo launches the Alex Buzo Company

Back in August last year I wrote on this blog of the death of the Australian playwright Alex Buzo.

I followed this with two posts on my personal blog. The first talked about Alex's funeral, the second the ABC TV program prepared following Alex's death.

I did not have quite the same relationship with Alex as his friends such as Aarne Neeme or Bob Ellis. Rather, Alex was simply a known personal figure in my life for a very long while. The relationship began because of the friendship of our parents, our local links, our attendance at the same school and continued until his death when our youngest daughters were in the same class in Sydney. We had much to talk about simply because we had so much contact and liked each other.

Alex was born in Sydney and indeed escaped back there as soon as possible. Yet you can take the boy out of Armidale (and New England), but you cannot take Armidale (and New England) out of the boy. Close to his death, I had the pleasure of going with my Helen, my eldest also born in Armidale, to a reading of his plays at Currency Press. One of the plays really described Alex's escape from Armidale. A departure not in sadness, but in search of a broader life.

Armidale, and New England more broadly, have had an impact on Australian intellectual life far out of proportion to their relative sizes. This is something that deserves to be written about as part of Australia's intellectual history.

In Alex's case, Brian Mattingley, a teacher at The Armidale School, inspired him with a love of English as indeed he did me and many others. Alex carried Armidale with him always in his writing and in his personal life.

I did not understand until very recently why Alex gave up writing plays. During the time he was writing I bought every one as they were published. Then they stopped.

Alex was an Australian writer who loved (and criticised) the Australian vernacular. He presented Australia to Australians and with humour. There was too much humour and indeed personal tolerance for Alex (not that Alex was always tolerant!) to survive the message ridden environment that emerged during the seventies. I am not saying that Alex's plays did not have messages, simply that the play rather than the message was central.

Today, I think, there is more recognition of the value of Alex's work. For that reason, I was very pleased to learn that his daughter, Emma Buzo, has launched a new theatre company to celebrate his work.

Alex's love of theatre runs deep in his family. Emma herself has been involved for a long time as a teacher, producer and performer, while youngest daughter Genny is already a skilled performer.

To celebrate its launch and also raise funds, the new company's first performance will be Alex's riotous satire The Roy Murphy Show.

Directed by Laurence Cox with Emma as producer, the show will be held at the NIDA Parade Theatre in Kensington on Tuesday, September 4.

Consistent with its sporting theme, another of Alex's enduring loves, Roy Slaven and H G Nelson will be on hand to support the event. H G 's daughter is in fact in the same class as Genny Buzo and my daughter Clare.

As you might expect from Alex, the show is attracting people from the theatre through sport to a solid group of TAS old boys. At this stage, I think that this family will have three present.There will also be food, drink, live music and special guest stars as Roy and HG to support the show.

As you might expect from a fund raiding launch, the tickets are reasonably pricey, $100 per head or $90 for groups of 10 or more. But this is actually pretty reasonable in order to give Emma a war chest to get the new company off the ground.

Tickets can be obtained from the company web site or from ticketek. I hope that I will see you there.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The poetry of Judith Wright - entry page

I have begun an irregular series on the poetry of Judith Wright, talking about her poems, but also using them to illustrate aspects of New England life.

Because the posts are spread over several blogs as well as time, I thought it sensible to establish a single entry page as a way of accessing all the posts as a series.

The Poetry of Judith Wright

30 January 2007, The Poetry of Judith Wright - Bora Ring

14 August 2007, Judith Wright's The Hawthorn Hedge - Regional Australia Writers

1 September 2007, The Poetry of Judith Wright - South of My Days

7 September 2007, Judith Wright's For a Pastoral Family" - and "Skins"

Friday, August 17, 2007

Why I remain a New England New Stater 3 - the conservation laboratory case

More than twenty years ago I was involved in moves to establish a conservation laboratory in Armidale.

I thought that this was a pretty good idea. New England records were rotting away. It was expensive to send them to Sydney. Why not create some local infrastructure?

To make this work, we had to get some economies of scale. Not a problem, I thought. We will treat it as a New England lab servicing the broader New England area including the Hunter, North Coast and Western Slopes and Plains. Those in Newcastle might still prefer to use Sydney because it was closer than Armidale, but overall we should get sufficient scale.

The then conservationist at the New England Regional Art Museum carefully explained that the existing labs in Sydney were underutilised. There was no way the NSW Government would fund an extra lab in those circumstances.

But, I said, New England people are not using this service because of cost and distance. That does not matter, I was told. Looking at it from a state perspective, you cannot justify a new facility when existing ones are underutilised. The idea ultimately died.

Would a New England New State Movement have helped? Probably, because it would have given us additional political strength to overcome the Sydney problem.

Return to introductory post.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why I remain a New England New Stater 2- Industry Representation

All Government's use advisory bodies of one type or another to provide external input. While the strength of those bodies varies, collectively they have a significant impact on the development of policy.

Recognising that economic activity across NSW varies, one might expect that New Englanders would have membership of those bodies roughly proportional to population. However, it does not work that way.

A number of years ago I was asked by the national president of an industry association to put forward some names for consideration by the NSW Government for membership of a particular body. The aim was to get broader representation.

I deliberately put forward some names from regional NSW, including a New Englander. The New Englander was head of a firm in a new industry area that had been developing an international reputation.

All the names were rejected by the NSW Government Department on the simple, practical grounds that selection of people from outside Sydney would create greater administrative difficulties and also increase costs through payments for travel and accommodation.

Fair enough, perhaps. But this decision had two effects. First, it meant that there was no regional input at all into what was meant to be a body advising on the state as a whole. Secondly, it cost those I nominated the chance to build a broader reputation.

In broad terms, Governments appoint those that they know. Yes, there are now all sorts of policies and procedures intended to ensure fair and representative treatment in appointments. Yet the reality is that the really hard part is to get that first appointment.

This is an example of a systemic weakness, one that compounds with time.

Would New State agitation help? Yes, because it would force Governments to look at ways of accommodating New England representation.

Back to introductory post.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New England's Universities do well in Carrick Citations

I was pleased to see that New England universities did well in this year's Carrick Citations.

The Australian Government's Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education was established in 2004 to provide a national focus for the enhancement of learning and teaching in Australia. It receives $26 million annually from the Australian Government for its awards program, fellowship scheme, and grants programs.

Now in their second year, the Carrick Citations are designed to recognise people who have made a significant and sustained contribution to student learning. This year the Citations recognised the work of 253 academic and support staff from all parts of Australia.

The University of Newcastle received eight Citations covering four individuals and four staff teams, 18 staff in all.

The development of an innovative, hands-on program that places first-year law students in the court room was one of eight University of Newcastle programs honoured. Other Citations included leadership and creativity in developing an around-the-clock, flexible and innovative information and learning environment; and inspiring and motivating first-year science students through a nationally recognised, real-life approach to conservation education.

The University of New England also received eight Citations covering three individuals and five teams, 21 staff in all.

UNE's awards showed a strong focus on distance education.

A team lead by Adrian Adrian Kiernander received an award for sustained commitment and innovation over 15 years in devising and providing real world learning experiences for off-campus students in the practical study of theatre. I had a personal interest in this one since I was once a member of the Theatre Studies Department community consultative committee.

Other awards included for sustained excellence in scholarly activities and curriculum development which has enhanced the teaching and learning of first-year Ancient History both at UNE and internationally; overcoming the tyranny of distance in tertiary chemical education through innovative distance learning curricula and resources; and for going the extra mile: for sustained teamwork that brings geographically remote and disadvantaged students into our UNE learning community through personalised attention in access centres.

Southern Cross University received two Citations, one individual and one team, six people in all. SCU's library team received its Citation for the provision of innovative library and information services which are integrated with the changing teaching and learning needs of staff and students.

If my maths serves me correctly, 45 staff in all received recognition as compared to the national total of 253. Not a bad effort. My congratulations to all those involved.

Monday, August 13, 2007

New England writer wins Golden Heart Award

In July Armidale writer Bronwyn Clarke returned from the United States with a "Golden Heart" and a promising future as a novelist.

Bronwyn's novel Falling into Darkness was chosen as a finalist in this year's Romance Writers of America (RWA) "Golden Heart" contest for unpublished romance manuscripts. She travelled to Texas for the award ceremony earlier this month. During the ceremony, Falling into Darkness was announced as the winner in its category.

"It was pretty amazing and wonderful and nerve-racking – and I cried," Bronwyn said on her return.

She was presented with the prize – a heart-shaped gold pendant – in front of an audience of 2,500 people in the ballroom of the Hyatt Hotel in Dallas. (Another Australian – the established romance writer Barbara Hannay – was a prize-winner in RWA's 'RITA' awards for published novels, announced at the same event.)

Bronwyn works as an educational developer at the University of New England and is also engaged in a PhD project on the "romance" genre of fiction. She is also partner to Gordon Smith whose photos often grace this blog.

As the award ceremony in Dallas was part of the RWA's 27th Annual Conference, she was able to take part in wide-ranging discussions on a genre of writing that is becoming increasingly richer and more diversified.

"It was wonderful and inspirational to be a part of that," she said. "And it gave me a lot of background material for my research."

At a reception for the finalists in the "Golden Heart" competition, she met prominent agents and editors – one of whom is currently reading Falling into Darkness. Several other editors have contacted her since, requesting copies of the manuscript. This access to the publishing world is the most valuable outcome of the contest for the finalists, as about 40 per cent of them get their novels published within a year or so.

Falling into Darkness – the fictional story of the search for a child abducted from a traumatised town on the edge of the Australian outback – was one of more than 100 entries in the competition's "Romantic Suspense" category. Bronwyn is working on a sequel to her prize-winning novel as well as on another book, and has "lots of ideas" for more.

"Romance is a vibrant and important genre," she said. "Today's romance writing ranges from purely entertaining fiction to deeper, more complex novels looking at serious issues. And the readership is evolving along with the genre: while most of the delegates to the conference were women, there was a sprinkling of men. RWA statistics suggest that the genre is becoming more popular with men."

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Koori Mail - New England's national indigenous newspaper

For a little while, an Aboriginal colleague at the office has been lending me copies of the Koori Mail to read. That colleague is leaving, so I am going to have to take out a subscription if I want to continue to keep in touch.

The Koori Mail is, I think, one of the few if not the only New England publication with truly national reach.

The paper was founded in in 1991 by Owen and Sue Carriage. In 1992, it was taken over by a company called Budsoar Pty Ltd, jointly owned by five Aboriginal organisations on the North Coast of New South Wales- Bundjalung Tribal Society (Lismore), Bunjum Aboriginal Co-operative (Cabbage Tree Island), Kurrachee Co-operative Society (Coraki), Nungera Co-operative (Maclean) and Buyinbin (Casino).

The Koori Mail remains an entirely self-funding, wholly Aboriginal owned company. The board of directors comprises one member from each of the five Aboriginal organisations that own it, with twenty percent interest from each.

The paper's mission is to report news and relay advertising of interest to indigenous Australians and people interested in indigenous affairs. It covers news from around the nation and accepts contributions in the form of stories, poetry, news, photographs and artwork.

For a long time the paper was the only national voice of the indigenous community. Today it has developed into a strong fortnightly voice with an audited circulation of 90,000.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

New England and Cotton

Photo: Assistant Federal Minister for Water, the Hon. John Cobb, launching (7 August) a new public exhibit to explore the cotton industry’s management of water, the first of its kind in Australia.

Cotton growing is one of New England's major agricultural inndustries.

Located at the Australian Cotton Centre in Narrabri NSW, the “Water Wise” exhibition puts cotton’s water use in perspective, explains water allocations and licences and looks at ways the industry is saving water using science and technology.

“The launch of the water exhibit at the Australian Cotton Exhibition Centre is not only a valuable resource for the industry and the region, but goes a long way in dispelling the myths about this important industry,” Minister Cobb said.

“This is a practical exhibit that can be easily understood by anyone who sees it. I am adamant about the need for a balanced water debate and am extremely pleased that the industry is on the front foot in ensuring that the facts are made available,” he said.

“I am also hopeful that school groups will use this facility to further their understanding of agricultural industries,” Mr Cobb said.

Jointly funded by the CRDC, Cotton Catchment Communities CRC, Namoi CMA, Auscott Limited and Cotton Australia, the exhibit highlights the realities of water use on a cotton farm. According to the Australian Cotton Exhibition Manager, Sandy Young, this new exhibit meets the needs of visitors and the industry alike.

“Water is overwhelmingly the major issue concerning visitors to the centre, and this interactive display will help to dispel myths relating to the cotton industry,” Ms Young said.

“It encourages the visitor, from school children to retirees, to explore the complexities of water use and management.

“The exhibit has two parts; the first is a miniature model of a river catchment, complete with rain and running water informing visitors about water management and use at river catchment level.

“The second shows a section of an irrigated cotton field that siphons water onto the field and demonstrates water use efficiency by the irrigated cotton industry and technologies used within the industry,” she said.

The Australian Cotton Centre is the only front-line educational facility for the cotton industry in Australia. It’s open from 8.30am to 4.30pm everyday of the year except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Sydney's Sluggish Population Growth

In a stocktake post I still have to bring up but hope to do so soon, I list the posts on this blog concerned with New England's demography.

In the meantime, I was interested to see the census figures on Sydney's population growth. compared to other capital cities.

In an earlier post I queried the population assumptions built into the Sydney Government's planning strategy. This projected a annual population growth along the NSW coastal strip over the next twenty five years of 68,000, of whom 48,000 would be in Sydney. Based on current demographics, I simply could not see where the people were to come from.

If we look at the census period 96-01, Sydney's population grew by 247,136, or 49,427 per annum. So in this earlier period, Sydney growth was just above the 48,000 projection.

In the latest census period, 01-06, Sydney's population growth fell to 156,107, 31,221 per annum, well short of the 48,000 projection.

Part of the reason for Sydney's slower population growth is that all the other capital cities grew faster in the 01-06 census period than in the previous period, with Mebourne and Brisbane both growing more than Sydney in absolute numbers . The figures are:

  • Melbourne grew by 272,748 in the 01-06 period as compared to 188,347 in 96-01
  • Brisbane grew by 191,267 as compared to 128,330
  • Perth grew by 126,508 as compared to 97,910
  • Adelaide grew by 38,133 as compared to 29,549
  • Hobart grew by 8,284 as compared to 1,546.

This growth came in part from continuing net migration from Sydney.