Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 19 August 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here.
I have been re-reading volume two, the commentaries, of the University of New England’s Geography Department’s 1977 Atlas of New England. In this case, New England covers the Tablelands, Western Slopes and part of the Plains.
Edited by David Lea, John Pigrim and Lesley Greenwood, the commentaries contain a series of generally short essays explaining the maps. These cover nearly every aspect of New England’s geography, physical, human and economic.
I thought that the Atlas was a remarkably interesting piece of work when I first looked at it all those years ago. Now, re-reading, the commentaries provide a fascinating if sometimes depressing snapshot of the area as it was in the 1970s.
Fascinating because the Atlas presents a slice of the past frozen in time. Depressing because now looking back we can see what has and has not come to pass.
Take a simple example.
In 1971 New England-North West had a population of 164,128. Tamworth with 24,092 people was the tenth largest town in NSW; Armidale with 18,156 was fourteenth largest.
Projections prepared by the NSW Department of Decentralisation (remember that word?) and Development in May 1974 suggested that the region’s population would grow to 238,708 in 2001. Tamworth would grow to 45,613, Armidale still faster to 47,301.
In fact, at the 2006 census the Northern Statistical Division had a population of just 172,395.
Well, what happened? Why did the wheels come off?
A number of factors intervened: the then still high regional birth rate slowed more than expected, while out-migration was higher. But beyond factors such as these, the single most important cause was Armidale’s failure to grow.
The problem with projections based on present and past is that, by definition, they cannot accommodate future changes. No one recognised that Armidale would lose so badly in subsequent restructuring of tertiary education.
A second problem with projections, and we can see this with economic forecasts, is that they affect attitudes.
In Armidale’s case, expectations about future growth led to resistance to new developments for fear that they would affect the city’s life style. This complacency and resistance occurred just at the time when, in retrospect, it is clear that the city and its institutions should have been pursuing new directions.
In fairness to the Atlas itself, the commentaries actually pointed to the risks facing the city as a consequence of potential changes in higher education. It’s just that too few took the risks seriously.
This lesson from the past has current implications.
Governments use projections all the time for planning purposes. They have to. Yet projections can be wrong. Perhaps worse, they can become self-fulfilling.
Government resources are short. Resources (schools, houses, playgrounds, roads etc) therefore flow to the areas of projected growth and away from low growth areas. In doing so, they strengthen one, weaken the other.
This may sound dry stuff, but it’s actually very important.
Take a look at the NSW Department of Planning web site - http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/. You will see there that NSW planning is based on population projections showing growth concentrated in certain areas.
Increasingly, NSW planning fragments into a greater Sydney from Newcastle to Wollongong plus the North Coast plus the SE corner where Canberra is dominant. The rest of the state is simply called Western and has no plan at all.
Consider, for example, the regional cities project. This is designed to boost job, housing and lifestyle opportunities in regional cities across NSW. It will also help these cities become drivers of the NSW economy.
And what are the cities so far selected to drive growth across NSW? - Wollongong, Gosford, Parramatta, Penrith, Liverpool and Newcastle!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Time for another look at what is popular on this blog. I try to do this regularly because my stats package is limited to the last 100 visits. However, I got sidetracked and it is months since my last review!
With 15 visits, the most popular post has been Margaret Olley's New England connection, followed on 11 by The Poetry of Judith Wright - South of My Days. The posts about Judith are always popular, but I have been wondering about the hits on Margaret Olley; this has been a new trend.
With 6 visits, Round the New England blogging traps 10- a miscellany came in number three.
Two posts followed, each with 4 visits: Armidale-Kempsey Road - pretty but difficult and Fossicking in New England. The fossicking posts always get hits, but the interest in the Armidale-Kempsey road is new.
Then came four posts, each with three visits:
- Secrets of New England - along the Fossickers Way Day Two
- the monthly archive for April 2007
- Peter Allen, Armidale and Claire and Eileen Napier - an attack of nostalgia
- New England Story - Stockton Beach
Looking at this group, no less than five were included in the top group last time.
Friday, August 21, 2009
This really is just a meander.
In Introducing the Armidale poets I began a series on a particular New England poetry school. One of the poems is Gwen Kelly's On Hungry Head Beach.
Here, alone, the rock cliff juts
above the wave-whorled sand,
ruts in a crumble, aeons old,
to filter through my hand.
This Drew Hopper photograph shows the beach with its jutting rocks in mystical mode.
For those who do not know New England, Hungry Head beach is just south of Urunga. Urunga, in turn, is on the coast due east of Armidale.
This is one of the beaches of my child hood.
I see from 18th Century Historical Trekking,1680-1760 (Australia) that on Wednesday 7 October, the New England Colonial Living History Group will have a stall in the Armidale Mall from 10am. The Mall days are always fun, so if you are in town do drop in. The blog is also fun because it is different.
To be a New Englander is to travel. We really have too, but we also like it.
Gordon Smith's outback tour continues. This photo shows Aboriginal art from Wilpena Pound, at Arkaroo Rock, Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia.
While not a New England blog, Will Owen's Aboriginal Art & Culture: an American Eye remains a great way to introduce yourself to Aboriginal art.
Still on the Aborigines, while not a blog at all (!), the Muurbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative web site provides a great introduction to some of the Aboriginal languages on New England's coastal strip.
Continuing on the travel theme, Graham and Gaye (Snippets and sentiments) have headed north from the Hunter into Queensland. You can follow the trip on Gaye's blog.
It is a little while (ten days) since there was a post on LYNNE SANDERS-BRAITHWAITE. Still, I took the time to browse back over past entries. I really like this blog. There are all sorts of insights, especially for someone who knows a little about the area.
Lynne commented on the difference between Clarence and Bellinger River floods. I think that she is dead right. The Bellinger rushes. As befitting its role as the Big River, the Clarence spreads more slowly and majestically.
Mulubinba Moments has also been travelling, this time to Lord Howe island. There are some great photos.
Paul Barrett's Australian Observer continues with some absolutely fascinating posts drawn from his own senior official experience. Like me, Paul is an expatriate who writes on many things. He seems, however, to have taken more photos!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 12 August 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here.
Didn’t I see you at the Palais last night? Pick-up line, Newcastle beach.
May saw the final demolition of Newcastle’s old Palais Royale.
Growing up in Armidale, I never visited the Palais. I was also a very bad dancer.
In a now distant past there used to be a thing called the TAS walk. Grasp the girl, stride forward a few paces, turn right a few paces, turn right a few paces, turn right once more and then begin again!
My mother always wanted me to take dancing lessons, they were offered by the school, but I really could not come at the idea of practicing with other boys.
Still, while I never visited the Palais, I walked past it many times and was always interested by it.
The loss of Palais marks another step in the progressive erosion of Newcastle’s links with its own past.
Growing up, Newcastle was New England’s big city. The place fascinated me because it was just so different.
We stayed at the old Great Northern Hotel when we were young.
Looking back, it is hard to imagine my excitement when we went to stay at this pub. This was a seriously big hotel. It had a lift!
I am not sure how long we stayed. It was a little while. Early in the morning, brother David and I would go down to the waterfront to look at the trains and ships. This was exciting stuff.
The Great Northern was a pretty posh place. When Tooths upgraded the hotel in 1938, it was the largest single hotel expansion in the company's history. When we stayed it had started to run down, but it still retained some of its previous grandeur.
Talking to Newcastle people today, few can remember the old pub or even imagine what it was like when Newcastle actually was still New England's metropolis.
In many ways, Newcastle has been its own worst enemy.
Proudly union and Labor, Newcastle never quite fitted in.
Its industrial tradition is North English, the world the Belshaws came from. With its Protestant/Anglican/English mix, Newcastle was somewhat isolated in a clannish Labor world dominated by the Irish Catholic tradition.
Always loyal, its loyalty was often poorly rewarded because it meant that Newcastle and the lower Hunter could be safely ignored.
If Newcastle did not properly fit in on the Labor side, economy, life style and political orientation created divides with other parts of the North.
For much of the colonial period, Maitland and the nearby river port at Morpeth were the major New England mercantile centres.
The building of the Great Northern Railway transferred traffic to Newcastle, making it the head of what Lazlo has called a Northern economic commonwealth.
Newcastle’s period of economic power was brief.
As soon as the line to Sydney finally crossed the Hawkesbury River in the 1890s, the New South Wales Government Railways set freight rates so as to attract traffic to Sydney. Initially, this meant that freight on the Newcastle-Sydney stretch was effectively carried for free!
In the 1967 New State plebiscite, Newcastle remained loyal to its traditions.
In polling carried out before the plebiscite, 55% of Newcastle people responded yes to this question: if New England is to gain statehood, should Newcastle be part?
The follow up question gave a very different result.
It simply asked: the Labor Party is opposed to New England self-government. Would you support a New England New State? The yes vote dropped to around a third.
The answer to this question revealed what the result would be. The plebiscite was lost on the Newcastle and lower Hunter industrial and dairy farmer vote.
Today Newcastle is simply emasculated in political terms. A once proud city is now no more than the northern extension of Greater Sydney on many Sydney Government planning maps.
Newcastle still retains its own unique character. A Newcastle writer described the city this way:
Newcastle is a contrary and perplexing social microcosm: broadminded citizens of a global village yet disconcertingly xenophobic, parochial, even naive, to foreign visitors.
I would like to think that Newcastle could once again regain its public place as a major and distinct independent Australian (and New England) centre.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I watch the greying, hazy air
drifting from gardens like a pall,
winter my sister died in pain
But what makes an Armidale poet?
By their nature, most are in some ways expatriate, brought to the city from some other place. Armidale is a university city, drawing people for study or work not just from other parts of New England but well beyond.
This does not of itself make them an Armidale poet as opposed to a poet from Armidale. Other things are involved as well.
According to the Kardoorair Press web site, the Kardoorair Poetry Society was established in 1975 by a far flung group of external students at the University of New England. By 1979 founding member, Anthony (AJ)Bennett, had a regular community radio show and ran a monthly series of readings at the Wicklow Hotel in Armidale.
I think, I stand to be corrected, that the Society marked the embryonic start of the Armidale poets.
In 1979 Kardoorair Press was established as the publishing arm of the Society to serve primarily as an outlet for poets based on the Northern Tablelands region of New England or writers with an affiliation with the region.
Kardoorair's first publication, Loose Federation, was released in January 1980 and featured the work of Michael Sharkey and Julian Croft. Croft subsequently was a Commonwealth Poetry Prize winner and Sharkey a much published poet and respected literary critic. Kardoorair now has over 60 publications.
At the same time as Kardoorair started publishing so did Michael Sharkey's Fat Possum Press, both joining with each other and other small presses. All wanted to promote an alternative view.
Did they achieve this? I do not know.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The University of New England is in the process of carrying out a mid-term strategic review. You will find the paper here.
I would be interested in reader including alumni comments. What do you think of the approach? Where would you like to see UNE go?
Sunday, August 16, 2009
In Sunday Essay - obsessions with reading I reported on my growing obsession with reading and then writing. This was not my first post on this topic nor, I suspect, will it be my last!
Today I had to take youngest to hockey at Little Bay. To help while away the time in breaks in the game I grabbed three small poetry books of my shelf, all published in Armidale in 1980 or 1981. Between them, they provide a snapshot of a part of New England poetry at a point in time.
One of the problems an area like New England faces is that its cultural life is rarely re-presented. There are few local publishers, few journals analysing cultural activities, no platforms. Even within local areas people do not get to see patterns, to re-interpret past material in the light of current events. The problem becomes greater as we look at the broader New England. Similarities and indeed differences are lost within the melange of metro or national models.
At the time these books were published the Armidale poets were consciously challenging what they saw as the metro dominance. More precisely, I should say, the dominance of Sydney's Balmain push with its often contemptuous rejection of anything outside their own collective or, more broadly Sydney, as provincial, second rate.
What do I mean by Armidale poets? They came from many places and to some degree had different interests and approaches. The unifying element lay in the fact that they were in Armidale at that time. This created a shared bond.
You will not find material on the Armidale poets if you Google search, although you will find material on poets from Armidale. There have been a lot.
Over the next few posts I thought that it might be fun to explore the world of the Armidale poets, using the three small poetry books I grabbed from my shelf as a base. Who were they? What did they write about?
I hope that you enjoy the series.
Wilfred Belmont, A J Bennett & Michael Sharkey, No Standing :12 Poets, Kardoorair/Fat Possum Press, Armidale, 1980.
Gwen Kelly & A J Bennett, Fossils and Stray Cats, Selected Poems, Kardoorair Press, Armidale 1080?.
Michael Sharkey, Barbarians, Fat Possum Press Armidale & Canberra, One Eyed Press, Auckland, 1980.
- This post
- Armidale poets - beginnings
Friday, August 14, 2009
Back in September 2006 in New England Australia - Aviation I spoke of Australian aviator P G Taylor.
Now in The Southern Cross comes to Armidale Paul Barrett has returned to the theme.
I won't repeat Paul's story, you should read it yourself, but I could not resist one of his photos.
This photo shows the Southern Cross, Kingsford Smith's plane, at the Armidale Airshow in (I think) 1959.
Dear this took me back. Hats are still in, while women's dresses are still in shapeless mode! I really love old photos because of the way the detail tell's us things. To see what I mean have a look at New England Airways - Postscript.
I said that I could not resist one of Paul's photos. Well, here's a second!
This one gives you a better view of the queue formed to see the plane. If you click on the photo you can see the school girls queued at the front.
Things like this were big time. Indeed, they still are.
One day I will write a little about air shows I have seen!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 5 August 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here.
Sunday morning and another blank screen.
I have just finished a piece responding to an Indonesian blogging colleague.
Tikno lives in Samarinda, the capital of the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan. He is, I think, Christian. For those who do not know Indonesia, Christians make up nearly 9 per cent of the Indonesian population, roughly the same number of people who live in Australia.
Tikno was concerned that reporting stereotyped Muslims. He wondered why there was no reporting on things like two Fatwas against terrorism, one from Indonesia, the other India.
The Indonesian Fatwa was issued in 2004 by Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), the highest Muslim authority in Indonesia.
Another blogger, Nadia, is an Indonesian Muslim working in Angola as an oil industry engineer. She lost friends in the second Bali bombing, 2005, a loss brought back by the recent Djakarta bombing.
She, too, worries about stereotyping. In her case, the fact that she has an Indonesian passport creates constant airport delays.
I understand their concerns.
I have written a fair bit about selection, perception and bias in the media, if from an Australian perspective.
I was on holiday in South West Rocks when the story about Tamworth and the Sudanese refugees broke. I was horrified.
If the reporting was true, then we had a major racism problem. But knowing Tamworth and some of the people involved, I did not think that things were as simple as reported.
I was also horrified at the way the story carried round the world, reinforcing stereotypes that all Australians were racist.
I had seen this before. Simplistic metro reporting based on Australian stereotypes gets transmuted in global reporting and writing in ways not recognised by those who wrote the original stories.
Of course some Tamworth people are racist, as they are in Armidale or Sydney. But that is not Tamworth.
In some of the most widely quoted and visited reporting that I have ever done, I followed the Tamworth story through.
What I did was simple enough.
I went back into all the previous stories in the Northern Daily Leader. I checked material against official web sites to find out about the official programmes relating to Sudanese refugees. Then I wrote about the story as it unfolded.
With time, the metro media itself began to present the other side. But, by then, the damage had been done: Tamworth was racist, Australia was racist.
I don’t know what we do about all this. We all have deadlines. We have to simplify. For me, writing to meet my own deadlines is a constant issue.
Perhaps the one thing that I have learned is simply this: try to look outside, to see how what you might say might be interpreted by those who do not share your world view.
Easy to say, not so easy to do in practice.
As I write, the story about problems in Australia’s overseas student sector and especially those affecting Indian students runs and runs and runs. What began as reporting on a small number of perceived race motivated attacks has developed into a global story now doing great damage to what had become Australia’s third largest export industry.
Was Four Corners wrong to run the story it did? No, I don’t think so. However, I would question the timing.
The existence of problems in the overseas student sector has been well known, and not just in the private vocational sector. Four Corners could have selected this as topic before. It took the difficulties faced by some Indian students to make it news.
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Kurt Gidley who plays for the Newcastle Knights in the National Rugby League competition has shifted his blog to a new address.
On Snippets and sentiments, Gaye is, I think, still adjusting to the move into town. Despite the fact that she is renting, she has not been able to resist the temptation to start fixing up the garden! Early one morning in July and missing the Hunter Valley, she took the car and her thermos and drove back out into the Valley to explore the early morning.
Back in May, I missed it at the time, in Newcastle’s shame, newcastleonhunter mourned the violent and sudden demise of the old Palais Royale.
This is a very well written and passionate piece. Growing up further north, I never visited the Palais Royale, although I was fascinated by the building. There was certainly nothing like it in Armidale!
I remember one day on the beach at Newcastle a girl tried to pick me up with the line didn't we meet last night at the Palais!
Things must change, but I think that some of the things that have happened in and to Newcastle are a tragedy, one made worse by what I see as the loss of memory of Newcastle's broader past. To quote from the piece:
Newcastle is a contrary and perplexing social microcosm: broadminded citizens of a global village yet disconcertingly xenophobic, parochial, even naive, to foreign visitors.
I do not fully understand Newcastle. I think that one has to live there to properly understand the place and especially the modern Newcastle. I used to know it quite well, but that was in a different era. Growing up, I just thought of Newcastle as the North's big city, a place made more interesting because it was so different.
NEWCASTLE AU. CITY PHOTOS PLUS HUNTER VALLEY AND BEYOND continues with its regular short posts and photos on Newcastle and surrounds. I really like this gentle blog.
Craig Wilson's Media Hunter has been ranked 95 in a list of the world's top advertising blogs. More importantly, perhaps, it ranks second in the average number of pages looked at per visit. No less than 6.7 pages! That's a quite remarkable number. Crikey I feel envious! This blog presently sits on 1.5.
The writer of Saved by Psychotherapy, a new blog, grew up in Newcastle. Some of her posts contain material on Newcastle life.I found the blog a little sad, but hope that the writer continues.
Not on blogging but related, FlIckr has a Newcastle and Hunter Valley photographers group.
Finally, ric woods photography newcastle nsw australia is a new Newcastle photo blog.
I have run out of time. Time for bed.
Friday, August 07, 2009
A week or so back in Saturday Morning Musings - Aboriginal languages and the return of Kamilaroi I mentioned that I had been bogged down in New England's Aboriginal languages. It really has been something of a journey, one squeezed into my little available time. One side-effect has been further limitations on blogging time.
This week I loaded some of the things that I had written into a single document simply called New England languages. I hope to have this finished over the next few days so that I can load it as a working draft onto the New England History blog. It is now over two months since I last posted there.
In any form of research, the first part is nearly always interesting because you are looking at new things. Then come the dog days, trying to fit bits together to create a working narrative. I say dog days because this part is time consuming and often frustrating. Once past this point, life is again interesting because the structure is there. The process now involves test and extension.
I have been in the dog days on Aboriginal languages, the consolidate and write period. Only now can I begin to see my way through to the next stage. There is still a fair bit of effort to go, perhaps the equivalent of two full days research. Still, I at least hope to further flesh out the structure this weekend.
I think that it will be an interesting piece. I hope that you do too once it is finished.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on Wednesday 29 July 2009. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line. You can see all the columns by clicking here.
I have mentioned Gordon Smith’s great photo bog (http://las.new-england.net.au/) before. It really is a delight, especially for someone interested in Armidale or the Tablelands.
Gordon is presently running daily photos taken on his outback trip. At the time of writing, his most recent photo was simply called corrugations. It shows an outback road marked by corrugations across the road.
When I learned to drive, many of the roads around Armidale were dirt. I quickly learned that the only way to overcome the vehicle shudder created by corrugations was to drive faster.
This worked well so long as there were no pot holes. Pot holes required slower driving. Any road combining corrugations with pot holes guaranteed a bad trip.
I actually like dirt roads, although I don’t miss the clinging clouds of dust that used to rise on the more heavily travelled roads, nor do I miss the stones thrown up. Still, you actually have to dive on dirt roads.
My family, modern people that they are, regards my liking of dirt roads as strange. Give them a modern highway any time!
The Australian economy is a bit like all this just at present. The immediate stimulus packages have helped us maintain a degree of economic speed, thus minimising the impact of the corrugations, but can we avoid the coming pot holes?
Back in early February in Access Economics feeds the herd instinct, I suggested that Australia’s best known economic consultancy had got things wrong and that, worse, its very negative prognostications on Australia’s economic outlook were feeding a negative herd instinct.
I wrote the column against a background of analysis that I had done looking at the underlying economic data. I simply could not make Access’s forecasts stack up with that analysis.
Well, Access did get it wrong. The Australian economy has done far better than they allowed, far closer to my then conclusions.
Access now admits that their forecasts were incorrect. However, Access’s Chris Richardson is still expressing certain cautions about the future. In this case, I agree that we do need to be cautious.
Well, what are the potential pot holes?
The first is China.
It is not clear to me that the present stimulus driven Chinese growth is sustainable. The huge expansion in money supply and official bank lending has fed what appear to be asset bubbles in real estate and now on the stock exchange. There is a risk that China will, like Japan in the 1990s, hit a stagnation wall as the bubbles unwind. This would be bad news for all of us.
The second linked potential pot hole is the Australian balance of trade on goods and services. After a long period of deficit, this went positive last year just when the country needed it most. Talk about good fortune!
The balance of trade is now back in the red.
To a degree this was inevitable since the maintenance of economic activity of itself implied continuing imports at a time exports were going to come under some pressure because of the global downturn. Should pressure on exports become too great, and we do depend here to a considerable degree on China, then our balance of trade could move from support to pot hole.
The third potential pot hole is inflation.
The headlines on Australia’s most recent inflation numbers screamed the lowest inflation rate for years. However, if you drop down to the detail, things look a little different.
The things that went down included financial services and insurance and fuel. The big increases, all above the Reserve Bank's target inflation band, were education, health, housing, food and alcohol and tobaccos. What can we say about this?
Well, transportation is strongly influenced by fuel costs, so if fuel prices rise as the global economy starts to rise again, we can expect this item to rise. Insurance and financial services costs are strongly influenced by interest rates, and will rise with interest rates.
On the other side of the ledger, the majority of high rise items are in non-import competing sectors and will rise as the Australian economy starts to expand. Rents are already rising. In addition, there are built-in upward factors in education and health.
So increased inflation is a real risk, and with it comes increased interest rates.
In saying all this, I have not joined the negative crowd. I just think that we need to manage carefully at personal, business and national levels.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
I have just finished Keith Leopold's memoirs on his student days, part in Armidale, part in Sydney. Today I rushed through John Bach's A Maritime History of Australia.
So much to write about, but I am trying to limit myself to 100,000 words in my history of New England. More and more I am becoming fascinated, obsessive, about what to include, what to leave out, how to tell the story.
I was talking to eldest yesterday after a politics lecture. She did not fully understand the difference between the states and territories. It was the ACT gay marriage saga that bought this alive. She commented in passing just how boring she had found Australian history at school.
Boring? It's fascinating. So how, then, have we killed it?
The answer, I think, lies in the fact that we try to tell kids what they should know rather then telling a story. I am not talking just about narrative history here. All history involves stories.
New England's story is a fascinating one. But how to write it so that it is accessible to all?
History has to have framework and facts. It must be as accurate as possible and testable by other researchers. Yet, despite this, the best history should draw the reader into the story.
I think that people and examples are central to this. Each section of the narrative should build, creating a world that sweeps the reader along.
At one level this may sound a contradiction, for I am saying that the reader should be grasped, absorbed. If you are absorbed, how then can you be objective?
I think that objectivity and test comes later. The literary value of the work, and history is or should be literature, stands alone.
I know that in a sense I am setting myself up to fail because the absolute benchmark created cannot be met. But, surely, isn't it a good thing to aim high?