Thursday, June 30, 2011
Why did my heart sink? Well, in tourism terms there is no such thing as inland NSW, nor can there be because of distance and variety. It's just not brandable in any real sense. Worse, promotion of this as brand just increases the brand fragmentation that already plagues NSW tourism.
I have written a fair bit on these issues. Tomorrow I will pull some of that writing together in a consolidated exploration of the failures of NSW tourism branding, with a special focus on New England.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
At the end of my last column I said that I would continue the story of my return to Armidale for the Armidale Dem (Armidale City Public) School 150 year celebration in my next column. I was out of words!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
The decision by the new Sydney Government to pay $7,000 to assist up to 40,000 families to relocate to regional areas is a move that I support. However, if a story is the Newcastle Herald is to be believed, the plan has some very odd elements based upon mechanistic rules.
The core need is to shift families from Sydney. The Government has added in Newcastle and Wollongong to this list. This has created some bizarre results.
Both Wollongong and Newcastle are growing more slowly than Sydney, below the state average. This led the recent Grattan Report (here and here) to explicitly identify Newcastle as a slow growth area deserving of reduced resources.
Now we have the situation where people are to be paid to relocate from Newcastle not to Armidale or Tamworth but to Lake Macquarie just to the south, one of the fastest growing areas in the current state of NSW.
This is not a shot at Lake Macquarie, another part of southern New England, just a comment on the apparent idiocy of the criteria. Why not limit eligible applicants just to Sydney?
There is a broader issue that I will come back to in a later post. This is just another example of the way in which Sydney policies fragment New England.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
So far I have written two stories connected with the 150th year celebration of the Armidale Demonstration School (now Armidale City Public School) - Armidale Dem turns 150 , Do you want your reunion publicised?
I have also written two columns for the Armidale Express that will appear here over the next two weeks. My editor is pleased with both.
There is no doubt that nostalgia is a powerful thing. However, it is a little more than that.
In writing about the Dem reunion I have been trying to bring back a little of the feel of Armidale in the past.
If we broaden this, each part of New England has a different texture of life. Each is unique. I can't bring back all this, I can only select, recognising that the picture I present is partial.
I think that the distinctive thing about the Dem reunion is that it wasn't just a school reunion, but also a city reunion drawing together many who had gone around the world. The connections overlapped well beyond the school.
For most of us, to be a New Englander is to leave. In the absence of our own state, New England just doesn't have the jobs to hold us.
The numbers are actually staggering. For every past and present Dem student in Armidale, more than twenty live elsewhere.
Something like 1.4 million people now live in New England. I haven't calculated the number accurately, but the number of us living elsewhere is now well over 5 million if we included kids. The number could be higher than 10 million if we include grandchildren.
New England is like a Greek island, a place that bleeds its people.
The thing that stood out with the Dem reunion was the pleasure of those who made it back. Most could not return now. My own girls still think of New England as the place where they were born, but life has taken then away. They won't return. But the links remain.
In Armidale, I was asked a number of times how my history of New England was going. I had to answer that I was making slow progress,.
There was a very real interest in the book because it may tell a story to people about their own history, a history now ignored. I came back determined to make progress.
In the meantime, my blogs and column remain my weapons. I will continue to tell the story as best I can.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
When the computer went down, I lost all my blog bookmarks. I have therefore created a new page, New England Australia blogs, recording New England blogs with a brief description. This turns disadvantage to advantage, since it makes them more easily accessible.
It will take me a little time to find them all again, so bear with me while I complete the page over the next week or so.
Friday, June 17, 2011
Why is this important?
Well, Grattan recommended that Governments re-consider whether additional funding to regional universities was justified by social and cultural benefits given limited economic impact. Instead, the report proposed that the Government should consider providing additional support to regional students to attend capital city universities.
So how did the Grattan authors reach this conclusion?
The first plank in their methodology was to compare university cities with non-university cities that had roughly comparable populations. So Armidale was compared with Nowra-Bomaderry, Wollongong with the Sunshine Coast.
The Sunshine Coast actually has a university with over 8,000 full time student equivalents. However, it was counted as a non-university city on the grounds that the university was a relatively small proportion of the local economy.
Note that this comparison has very little to do with regional economic performance or contribution. We are talking cities, not regions. In Armidale’s case, the analysis was actually restricted just to the old city of Armidale.
Having defined cities as a comparative substitute for regions, just what data was used?
Some data was derived from the 2006 census – prime labour force, higher education level and the unemployment rate. Other data looked at changes between the 2002 and 2006 censuses – private sector and population growth. Then patents per 100,000 people was used as a proxy for innovation.
I cannot comment on the patents numbers because I don’t know how the number was derived.
Looking at the other numbers, they strike me as pretty meaningless.
The jobs lost in Armidale during the 1990s from changes to education led to actual population losses. The city has just begun to recover.
By contrast, Nowra-Bomaderry’s growth has been affected by the sea change phenomenon. You would expect both population and private sector growth to be faster.
In similar vein, the sun and sea change phenomenon makes the Sunshine Coast one of Queensland’s fastest growing areas. By contrast, while Wollongong is fast changing, it remains an industrial city.
I could go on to examine all the city pairs. I don’t think that I need to.
My point is that the analysis is pretty meaningless in a general sense, more so if it is to be used as a measure for economic contribution from regional universities.
The report also purports to challenge the idea that regional universities increase either the regional participation rate or the retention of university graduates in regional areas. Again we have city based comparisons.
I really struggled to understand the logic in the analysis.
The raw data actually does suggest a positive effect. Leaving that aside, the small area comparisons fatally affects the analysis. Again, I will take UNE as an example.
UNE is a national university (I have said before why I hate the word regional) with a majority of students now external coming from many places. If you want to measure local or regional effects on participation or retention, you have to net out most of the external students.
If you focus just on UNE’s local and regional students, then you have to factor in transport and time costs.
I don’t think that there can be any doubt that in the immediate area around Armidale – perhaps a sixty-mile radius – participation is higher. Once you move outside that area, then people have to live in residence at whatever university they study. This is one reason why country participation rates are lower than the city. Study costs are higher.
Beyond the sixty-mile radius from Armidale, UNE still has an effect on participation rates because of lower residential costs and, to a diminishing degree, lower transport costs. Parents with cash with cash will send their kids where those kids want to go. Not all parents are so lucky.
So far as retention is concerned, it remains a hard fact of life that most people studying at UNE have to go where the jobs are. However, there is now plenty of evidence, including my own work, to indicate that country education does help retain people in areas like medicine and law. You can’t pick this up in the gross statistics.
Finally, the absurdity of suggesting that country kids should be redirected to metro universities can be seen simply in the accommodation problems now being experienced by kids attending Sydney universities. Reasonable rental accommodation is no longer available despite the huge student accommodation building programs now underway.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
This photo shows a Dem group from our period, but also an Armidale High/TAS group. From left to right Phil Emery (High), Paul Barratt and myself (TAS), then Laurie Placing (High). I am carrying my writer's notebook that I now take everywhere! Further comments follow the photo.
One of the reasons why the Armidale Dem reunion was so good that a number of us came together through the miracle of blogging. Without this blog, many of the out-of-towners would not have been there.
Now this brings me to my point.
If you come from my New England, the Hunter to the boarder, and want your reunion promoted, I am happy to do so. It really does work. Just let me know.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
I had a fantastic time, one that I am featuring in this week and next week's Armidale Express column and will write about here as well.
The following photo was sent to me by the Armidale Express.
From left to right, yours truly (Dem 1950-1956), our friend Rob Richardson and fellow blogger Paul Barratt (Dem 1949-1955).
There is a certain symmetry in the photo. My dad was first lecturer to arrive at the newly formed New England University College, Paul's the first student to be enrolled at NEUC. Both our parents became professors, our families and Rob's were friends, while Paul and I went to the Misses Coopers, then Dem, then TAS and UNE and from there to the Commonwealth Public Service.
Armidale was a strange city, the only real university city in Australia. But more on that later.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Sadly, the full back-up I did was not effective. Hopefully, they can get the box going again , or at least recover material from the hard disk. My biggest problem is the lost emails.
Another annoying thing is that I actually had a number of part completed drafts saved in Livewriter ready to roll out.
I can still access new emails on-line and also hope to resume posting using other computers, but am not going to be able to post in quite the same way.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
I am still bogged down on issues associated with New England's universities. I want to report on this in detail.
This graph shows visits (yellow) and page views (yellow plus red) to this blog over the period to end May 2011. You can see how the decline in traffic over the last part of 2010 has been reversed.
The most popular posts on this blog in May were:
- NBN & Armidale 296 page views
- The Poetry of Judith Wright - Bora Ring 183 page views
- Margaret Olley's New England connection 165 page views
- The Poetry of Judith Wright - South of My Days 139 page views
- New England passings: Peter Gray, Maurice Kelly, Wilf Dews & Kevin O'Donohue 111 page views
- Wednesday Forum: your favourite food 110 -page views
- New England coastal stream 56 page views
- Round the New England blogging traps 10- a miscellany 53 page views
- New England's Kamilaroi people - web search August 08 53 page views
- New England Aboriginal life - process of language destruction 46 page views
The posts are an interesting mix of current such as NBN & Armidale and recurrent favourites, the Judith Wright posts.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express on 25 May 2011. 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 for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011.
At the weekend, Dee and I went down to Canberra for a friend’s 50th birthday party.
The party was held at a restaurant at Emubank in Belconnen. Now I had never been to Emubank before, and this got me thinking.
I was sixteen when I first visited Canberra. It was January, and I was on my way to hitchhike in Tasmania having just completed the Leaving Certificate for the first time.
My father had arranged for me to stay with the Hohnens. Ross, later to be known as Mr ANU, had become registrar at the New England University College in 1946 and then assistant registrar at the ANU in 1948, registrar in 1949.
I had just obtained my driver’s license, and the Hohnens lent me their second car, a big old yank tank. It was an absolute cow to drive for an inexperienced driver, low to the ground and very heavy.
Still, the population of Canberra at the time was a only a bit over 50,000 (Armidale’s population then was 12,500) and very spread out with almost no traffic. So accompanied by one of the Hohnen boys, I weaved my way all over the ACT.
I was nineteen when I next visited Canberra, this time with my parents. Again, we took advantage of Armidale connections.
Alf Maiden had been in the 1939 student intake at the New England University College and was now secretary of the Department of Primary Industry. The Maidens lent us their house while they were away on holidays, so we were there for several weeks.
ANZAAS (Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science) was on, so I was able to go to the Australian prehistory sessions. This was fun.
Canberra’s population was now over 90,000, Lake Burley Griffin had been created, and the city was starting to take its modern form.
Two years later I came to Canberra again, this time to work in the Public Service. Now, with some breaks, I was to work there for the next twenty years.
At the time I started work in Canberra, the city’s population had reached 100,000, although it still had fewer pubs and not all that many more licensed restaurants than Armidale!
By the time I left to come back to Armidale in the middle of 1987, Canberra’s population had grown to 270,000. Today, it is over 345,000, with fast growing populations as well in the adjoining parts of New South Wales.
Given my long connections with the city, I knew it very well as did my wife.
As we drove round Canberra this time, I thought how much it had changed. It is those changes that I want to talk about in the last part of this column.
One change is simply increased size.
If you look at various maps of NSW including those used for the planning purposes, the ACT often appears as a blank. Yet the reality is that that blank spot conceals Australia’s eight largest city.
If you add in the immediately surrounding areas, around six per cent of the combined NSW/ACT population lives within an hour’s drive of the centre of Canberra, with Canberra’s economic city reach extending all the time.
This has all sorts of effects. One is the growth of the Canberra-Sydney economic corridor, a second the progressive ripple effects spreading out to places like Wagga Wagga. The economic locus of NSW has been shifted south.
You can get a feel for the scale of the effects quite easily by assuming that Armidale had been selected as national capital and that we now had a population of 345,000.
This would have transformed the entire demography of Northern NSW at the expense of the south. Something similar would have happened if we had got state hood, if on a much smaller scale.
This one can be measured, if roughly. A far more complicated effect lies in the changing composition of the Canberra population.
When I arrived in Canberra, everyone came from elsewhere in Australia, and especially from centres outside Melbourne and Sydney. This meant that the Commonwealth Public Service was broadly representative of the nation.
Today things are very different. I don’t have the numbers, but I do have the strong impression that the Commonwealth Public Service draws quite heavily from Canberra, with second and third generation public service families not uncommon.
If I’m right, it may explain why Canberra official advice so often seems insensitive or at least out of touch. They just don’t have the broader experience.