Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The rise and rise of the New England Writers' Centre

Under the energetic leadership of writer Sophie Masson, (web site here), the New England Writers' Centre (NEWC) appears to be going from strength to strength.

It's only a few years'ago that the Centre lost its State Government funding.and was forced to let its full time director go. I joined the Board at the time and remember the feeling of gloom that surrounded the Centre's future. It was hard to be positive.

I am no longer a Board member, but I was there during the beginning of the transformation period that has now made the Centre such a force, This was helped by renewed State funding achieved with local member Adam Marshall's support, but this was only possible because the Centre itself was transforming under Sophie's leadership.

Inland Armidale lacks the sex appeal and reach now attached to Byron Bay. With time, economic and social change its prominence has shrunk from the the putative capital of our own New England state to the point that it is sometimes described as just a country town. And yet, somehow, the city survives as a unique university, educational and administrative centre.

Armidale has always been a writers' hub. Relative to its size, the current population is around 23,000, Armidale has more writers than any place in Australia. It has its own tradition, its own writer schools such as the Armidale poets who form part of the broader web of the New England literary tradition. You won't find this tradition referenced in literary writing with its metro focus, but it exists. Armidale is not alone here, of course. The writers of the Northern rivers are also neglected. I think that you would find the same in North Queensland or the Riverina..

The thing that the NEWC does, I think, par excellence, is that it links local writers into the broader networks required to have a chance in the competitive world of literature. There was a period in the dark days when the NEWC focus narrowed to just Armidale. Now the Centre is again extending its reach beyond the city.

Even though I am no longer a Board member, I am just so proud of what the Centre has achieved in recent years.  Well done to all those involved.          

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fly Corporate's growing New England network

It's been interesting watching the growth of Canberra based airline Fly Corporate within New England.

Whereas most previous airline attempts have focused on the Sydney market, Fly Corporate has focused on the Brisbane linkage, progressively adding flights to Brisbane from Coffs Harbour, Armidale, Tamworth, Narrabri, Moree and Inverell. Within Queensland, they also added the Biloela (Thangool) service when Qantaslink pulled out, making Brisbane a key hub. Now the company has added Narrabri-Sydney to their route, marking their first Sydney connection.

There are a number of interesting features about Fly Corporate's growth within New England. Whereas there used to be connections between New England ports and Brisbane, they struggled to survive in the face of thin traffic and rising costs, including those imposed as a consequence of changing regulatory structures, ultimately closing. This had adverse effects. In Armidale, for example, it meant that Queensland students attending school or university did not have direct flight connections.

It seems the economics may have changed a little. It's always seemed to me that Brisbane rather than Sydney was a logical destination for many services, but it was one difficult to access because of uncertain connections. Now, once again, we have a Northern network to Brisbane.

It was also great to see Inverell again get an air service. This gives Inverell people a choice of Brisbane as opposed to an hour half drive to Armidale and then a flight to Sydney. In the days of East West Airlines, both Inverell and Glen Innes had Sydney connections.  



Thursday, September 07, 2017

Warialda's new historical museum

2 September 2017. Opening of the new Warialda Museum
2 September 2017 saw the opening of a new historical museum in Warialda. Supported by the Gwydir Shire Council who provided Masonic Centre for refurbishment,  the museum was developed by the Warialda Historical Museum & Society

The local history and museum movements in New England have long histories.

The last decades of the nineteenth century saw a burgeoning interest in Australian history. Australia as a nation did not yet exist, but each of the colonies wished to promote their own achievements, while there was an evolving sense of national identity.

In 1880, for example, the text books introduced into NSW schools contained a segment on Australian history. That same year saw the founding of the Bulletin magazine. In 1901, the Royal Australian Historical Society was established, publishing its own journal from 1908.

This growing interest spread to the North with local papers playing a key role in promoting the history of their own areas, while settler reminiscences began to appear. In the Clarence Valley, for example, Thomas Bawden, as President of the School of Arts, gave three lectures in 1886 on the early history of Grafton. His collection of newspaper clippings and personal notes eventually filled 63 volumes. By 1906, the Grafton Daily Examiner was calling for the establishment of a local museum.
Display, Warialda Historical Museum
The establishment of the Armidale Teachers’ College in 1928 marked a major step forward. It was to include a museum that Education Minister David Drummond hoped would represent the North to students from the North. To this end, he peppered his Department with minutes demanding that they find the best possible exhibits.

Down in the Clarence in 1931, Sir Earle Page suggested the establishment of a historical records museum, which was named the Clarence River Historical Society with R. C. Law as Secretary. In 1935 the society affiliated with the Royal Australian Historical Society, the first country historical society to do so.

In 1933, Drummond opened the Armidale Municipal Museum, proclaimed as 'the first municipally controlled museum' in the state.
Display Warialda Historical Museum
The museum, Drummond suggested, should be more than just a repository of specimens. To his mind, a country museum should firstly be a place for objects that are 'intimately bound up with the history of the district'; and secondly a place for things 'closely associated with the industries of the district'. He warned that, above all, the museum 'must not be allowed to become a mausoleum or dumping ground for curios'.

In 1936, the Richmond River Historical Society was founded. By 1938, it was publishing its own journal.

The war set the movements back. However, from the 1950s, the growing interest in local, regional and then family history saw the establishment of new history societies and new museums. Now the Warialda Museum is added to the list.

These local museums are very important. They help preserve local history while adding to the attractions of the town for visitors.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

The Western Bundjalung Native Title Decision

The photograph from ABC North Coast shows some of the traditional owners gathered to hear the Federal Court’s decision on the Western Bundjalung Native Title Case.

This post discusses the Federal Courts decision on the West Bundjalung application for Native Title under the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993. I have given some links within the post, with the major media sources I have drawn from listed at the end of the post. The Federal Legislation is different from the NSW Aboriginal Land Right Act 1983 that, among other things, granted NSW Aboriginal peoples certain land rights and provides for the administration of that land including the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and Local Land Councils.

By way of background especially for international readers, the Bundjalung are one of New England’s biggest language groups whose territory stretched from the Clarence River onto the Northern Tablelands and into what is now Queensland. There are a number of Bundjalung dialects whose speakers occupy major territories within the overall territory.

The map gives an indication of the full Bundjalung territory.

The Decision

Tabulam, 29 August 2017.Around 400 people including traditional owners gathered in a crowded marquee erected on the local racecourse as a temporary courthouse to hear the consent determination delivered in the long-running Western Bundjalung Native Title case.

After a Welcome to Country and traditional smoking ceremony, Federal Court Judge Jayne Jagot delivered her consent judgement. This granted the native title claim, legally recognising the rights and interest of the Western Bundjalung people as traditional owners of the land, including the right to camp, hunt, fish, gather resources and conduct their cultural practices on their country, as well as the right to be consulted on matters including mining applications on their land that affect the management of their land. You can find the full decision here.

The Western Bundjalung determination is the 10th in NSW since the Native Title Act came into force in 1993.

While not very clear, the map provides an indication of the scope of country covered by the determination.  

Western Bundjalung territory extends from the Clarence River at Moleville, north of Grafton, to Carpet Snake Creek, north of Tabulam, and from the Hogarth Range in the east to Bald Rock National Park in the west.

It includes the Aboriginal settlements at Baryulgil, Malabugilmah, Jubullam Village and Jubal. The two main water courses of Western Bundjalung country are the Clarence River and the Rocky River.

The claim area covers more than 5,000 square kilometres and contains 24 national parks, nature reserves and state conservation areas. A total of 820 land identification areas have been granted native title within the Western Bundjalung claim boundary.

This includes all national parks and state forests within the claim perimeter. However, there are some lots within the parks and forests that are not having native title recognised because investigation showed that it was freehold land  which extinguishes native title.

A long and arduous process

The path to the consent determination has been long and complicated.

In the 1990s, some six native title claims were lodged for different portions of land within the Western Bundjalung nation. It wasn't until 2011 that the descendants of about 19 apical (literally sitting at the apex) ancestors from the area united to lodge a combined claim.

From that point, the claimants had to establish that they that they were descended from apical ancestors living within the claim area prior to British settlement. They had also to establish a continuing cultural connection with the land handed down over the generations since the Europeans occupied the land.

To achieve this, a research team supported by the NTSCorp conducted anthropological interviews and undertook research to establish genealogy and cultural connection and continuity. 

Dr Ken Lum, NTSCorp Research Manager, said the group's evidence to prove their continuing connection to country was strong.

"Numerous claimants gave affidavits about the connection to country including information about Dreaming stories and continuing cultural practices such as turtle diving," he said.

In addition to the evidence required to establish the basis of claim, land tenure research is required to determine where native title could be established to avoid clashes with freehold titles

Once the evidence has been agreed on between the claimants and the relevant government bodies the claim is determined in the High Court or the Federal Court.

In all, more than 250 people, including indigenous elders and community members, were involved in the native title negotiations for parcels of land within the Western Bundjalung nation..

The process is complex even when all parties agree. A report released by the National Native Title Tribunal in 2009 said native title claims take an average of six years to resolve in the Federal Court when all parties agree.

The high levels of evidence needed to prove native title coupled with lengthy court processes and cost have been cited among the main factors that delay native title determinations.

In delivering her judgement, Federal Court Justice Jagot stated that the native title process was still taking too long in New South Wales.

"It's taken six years to get here from the filing of the claim and many years I know in the lead up to the making of that claim," she said. "They've not been easy years".

"I believe that this does perpetuate injustice by other means."


I have drawn together a number of the responses reported in the various media reports.

Gary Brown, a member of one of 10 families who made the joint Western Bundjalung claim, said the unified approach adopted by himself and the other applicants could be the key to getting other claims considered in a more timely manner.

"I think we might set a precedent here," he said. "Where others can be able to look at our claim, and say, pick a few things out of it. So it will be good for them to go ahead."

Applicant Joan Hippi cried tears of joy as the determination was made. "First and foremost, I wish to acknowledge the land we stand on today cause it is a foundation for social, economic and employment outcomes for our future generations," she said. "This is a big thing for us today. This is the start of a new beginning."

Applicant Dave Walker said he would celebrate in the best way he knew how.

"I might just sleep … sleep on my land down here tonight on the side of the river," he said. "I've got no blanket or anything but I'll just go down and make a fire and just sit up and enjoy it, I think. Because it's our land."

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) welcomed the decision. Tina Williams, NSWALC councillor for the North Coast, said the determination provided rights and recognition for future generations.

‘The Western Bundjalung determination strengthens our connection to country and our ability to teach culture,’ she said. ‘While the claim was lodged in 2011, the fight for land justice and recognition goes back a long way.

‘Our Elders fought tirelessly for this day and I pay respect to those who sadly passed away while the claim was being determined.”

Cr Williams said the determination also showed how Land Rights and Native Title could work together. Today is a great day for Land Rights and Native Title. We may operate under different legislation and systems but we work together.

Jubullum, Baryulgil, Casino Boolange, Grafton Ngerrie, Moombahlene and Jana Ngalee Local Aboriginal Land Councils have been part of this journey.‘When Native Title and Land Rights work together, we can focus on the bigger picture of building our people economically, social and culturally.’

In my introduction, I mentioned that the NSW Land Rights Act and the Federal Native Title legislation both applied in NSW in different ways. The NSWALC and the Local Aboriginal Land Councils are established under the NSW Act.

Terry Robinson is honoured to be looking after his ancestors' country. "Our country, our Jugun, has looked after us and it is now our turn to look after country."

The Native Title Services Corporation (now NTSCorp) has supported the claimants through the processes to gain Native Title. Chief executive Natalie Rotumah, herself a Bundjalung woman, credited the hard work of the western Bundjalung community for their commitment to securing native title.

She paid respect to those original claimants who had passed away since the claim was lodged. “It has been a long fight begun by my grandparents and the other Elders of that generation for recognition as Western Bundjalung Traditional Owners".

Next Steps

This victory is just the first step for the Western Bundjalung. They have to decide how to manage their new rights and responsibilities.

As a first step, the group have established the Ngullingah Jugun (Our Country) Aboriginal Corporation to manage their native title rights and interests. The Corporation will play a key role in representing Western Bundjalung people's interests in negotiations with government and private organisations.

Claimant Graeme Walker said the corporation will be used as a vehicle to have their rightful say about the management of their land. "Any businesses looking to do work in Western Bundjalung country should be coming to us first and we are looking forward to working with them," he said.

There is a difficulty here. While Prescribed Body Corporates are intended to establish an economic base for native title holders on their country, they have not been adequately funded by the Federal Government and has a consequence have struggled to carry out their roles, to maximise the gains that might flow from the native Title decisions.

There is also an issue as to how Ngullingah Jugun Aboriginal Corporation might mesh with the NSW Land Rights system, including the Local Aboriginal Land Council. This will need to be resolved through discussion.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

North West Electricity - Sydney's 1955 electricity heist revisited

On 23 August 2017 under the headline Inverell’s light bulb moment, the Inverell Times carried a piece remembering the North West County Council, the organisation that used to provide electricity to the North West.

 In 1995, after 50 years of electricity generation and distribution, the NWCC, trading as North West Electricity, and its $9m reserves were taken over by the state government. It became a larger organisation called Northpower, administered from Port Macquarie.

On 1 January 2001, Northpower was merged with the two other country electricity retailers (Great Southern Energy, Advance Energy)  formed after the forced acquisition and closure of all the electricity county councils. On 15 December 2010, the then Treasurer in the NSW Labor Government, Eric Roozendaal, announced that the retail division of Country Energy (including the Country Energy  brand) was to be sold to Origin Energy as part of a A$3.25 billion deal. As part of the sale of the retail business the electricity distribution division was separated from Country Energy and re-branded as Essential Energy on 1 March 2011

The original asset heist was justified on the grounds that these were state owned assets; that the Country Councils were not yielding a proper return from those assets; that while profitable, the Country Councils were too small to be viable in the new emerging national electricity market; and that the takeover would benefit consumers by lowering prices.  

The takeover came with costs to the North West. It lost the reserves built up from trading profits, as well as the contributions the NWCC had been making to local activities. The Ashford power station that had been locally funded was decommissioned, while both head office and support jobs were lost. Sadly, the expected benefits never eventuated. Sydney took the reserves, borrowed against the assets and then finally collected the money from the partial privatization. Little if any of that money came back into the North West, while there is no evidence that I know of to suggest that consumers benefited. If anything, the reverse seems to have been the case.

Back in 2010 in Sydney's 1995 electricity heist, I provided details of the policy and political background to the changes. Seven years' later with current problems in the energy marketplace, the changes seem even more suspect.  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Armidale to settle 200 refugees - overview and discussion

In April (Bias against the bush in Australian refugee resettlement) I reported on the continuing difficulties that had been experienced in some New England areas including Armidale and Tamworth in gaining approval as refugee resettlement centres. Finally, a break through.
Armidale Panorama 
The Announcement

On 11 August 2017, the Turnbull/Joyce Government announced Armidale as a new community-driven regional settlement location for the settlement of refugees. Deputy Prime Minister and Member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, was joined by Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter and Assistant Minister for Social Services, Zed Seselja in Armidale for the announcement.

Mr Joyce said the first of an estimated 200 refugees would settle in Armidale in February 2018. 

“Armidale is a good fit as a new regional settlement location for humanitarian entrants to Australia,” Mr Joyce said. “It has a strong, welcoming community demonstrated by the fact that this push for the city to be a settlement location for refugees was driven by the community itself.

“I have absolutely no doubt that Armidale will work closely with the refugees settling here to ensure they can take up all the opportunities available to those who choose to embrace the great lifestyle available in regional Australia.

“Some of the people who will settle here are fleeing unimaginable circumstances which have torn families apart.

“I’m sure that, with the necessary settlement services that will be provided and our welcoming community that refugees arriving in Armidale will be able to make a new start and build a safe, stable future which provides them with the same opportunities that all Australians enjoy.”

Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, said the addition of Armidale as a key regional settlement site was part of the Government’s commitment to encourage migrant and humanitarian settlement outside the major cities.

“This move reflects the Government’s aim to encourage settlement of humanitarian entrants across Australia, not just in our larger cities and I thank and congratulate the people of Armidale and the NSW Government for their support for this initiative,” Minister Porter said.
Armidale Panorama
Australia is a welcoming country to refugees. Our Humanitarian Program is growing from 16,250 to 18,750 in 2018-19 and beyond and it’s important that through our settlement services we encourage more settlement in regional areas.

Completing the trifecta of ministerial remarks, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, Zed Seselja, said the about 200 humanitarian entrants settling in Armidale would be primarily drawn from persecuted minorities from Syria and Iraq.

“The Government has focused on resettling women, children and families with the least prospect of ever returning safely to their homes,” Senator Seselja said. “Under the Government’s new Humanitarian Settlement Program, service delivery has been optimised to achieve better outcomes in employment, education and English language.

“We are committed to ensuring humanitarian entrants are able to overcome barriers, start a new life and integrate into Australian society as quickly as possible.

Settlement Services International, which is contracted through the Department of Social Services to provide settlement services, will provide on the ground settlement services to refugees in Armidale. “This will supplement existing services, providing a further boost to Armidale through SSI staff and resources in the region,” Senator Seselja.

“This settlement program in Armidale will build on the additional 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq who Australia committed to resettling. “The vast majority of these 12,000 refugees have arrived in Australia, with the remaining families expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

“Armidale provides a similar regional environment to the refugees’ source country,” he said. "The Australian Government carefully considers the establishment of new settlement locations.”  Factors considered in selecting settlement locations include:
  • availability of mainstream services such as health and education;
  • opportunities for employment;
  • the size, cultural and religious composition of potential settlement communities;
  • the availability of affordable rental housing;
  • the support of the local council and community in welcoming newsettlers;
  • the potential for the harmonious settlement of the specific group.

I have included links to media coverage at the end of the post.

University of New England International Hub
I assume that the majority of this refugee intake will be families, although it could included some individuals. I make this point because 200 sounds like a lot. If the average family size is four, we are talking about fifty families, 100 adults, 100 children. That is large enough to provide for self-support within the group but is small relative to Armidale’s size and existing international community in town, at the university and in the schools. 

In the media coverage, considerable emphasis was placed on the availability of jobs, including jobs in agriculture and at the big tomato growing facility at Guyra which has experienced some difficult in attracting workers. All this may be right, but it misses an important point. We should not assume that people will stay in Armidale.

I have been researching a little of the history of the big migrant camp at Greta in the Hunter Valley. Between 1949 and 1960 100,000 people passed through this camp. Some settled in the Hunter, most settled elsewhere. The camp was a transit point.

The critical thing for the refugees coming to Armidale is that they come to a stable and welcoming environment that can provide them with a base to recover and plan for their future. Hopefully that future will include Armidale, but it may not.

Civic welcome for International Students
While I know that there are some private reservations in Armidale, I have no doubt that the City will be welcoming, It’s had to work hard enough for the opportunity. Here I quote from the Express story:
"The federal government has finally recognised Armidale as a suitable refugee settlement location. It comes after years of lobbying by refugee advocacy groups and Armidale Regional Council.
“It’s not just Armidale who has been pushing for this either,” Sanctuary Humanitarian Settlement member Robin Jones said. 
“Multicultural NSW has promoted it, The Refugee Council of Australia has promoted it, Paul Power [its chief executive] has promoted it, it’s been a long time coming.” 
Dr Jones said this was excellent news for Armidale. 
“We’ve ready, willing and able, let me assure you,” she said. 
The city will also receive a boost in refugee services to assist the new arrivals according to Dr Jones. 
“We already have four services here - and the major one is Northern Settlement Services,” she said. 
“But we also have a refugee nurse - two refugee nurses in fact. “We have STARTTS, which is a councilling service that comes up from Coffs Harbor.“We have TAFE that has the language programs. 
“And we have a community that is very supportive too"
Armidale has already been a centre for some refugee resettlement. Makuach Maluach and his family arrived in Armidale in 2009 as refugees from South Sudan. Now Makuach is set to play college basketball in the US

The question of the availability of support services is a vexed one. I have made the point before that I think the approach adopted by the Federal Government is far too rigid and bureaucratic.

The Armidale announcement was preceded by an announcement on 27 July that Settlement Services International had been awarded a contract to provide settlement services to refugees and humanitarian entrants under the Commonwealth’s Government new Humanitarian SettlementProgram (HSP) in NSW Regional, which covers northern NSW. That contract followed a competitive tendering process that began in September 2016. This means that SSI will manage Newcastle, Coffs Harbour and now Armidale,

I wondered how Settlement Services International meshed with Northern Settlement Services. Digging a little, I found that Northern Settlement Services is a member of SSI and part of the the NSW Settlement Partnership (NSP). Led by SSI, the NSP is a consortium that delivers settlement services in agreed areas of NSW, as of July 1, 2015 until June 30, 2018, under the Department of Social Services’ Settlement Services Program (SSP). Presumably some form of collaboration will be involved in Armidale delivery. 

There has been a fair bit of criticism of NSW co-ordinator general for refugee resettlement Peter Shergold over the failure to resettle refugees in regional areas, as well as the lags that have occurred in Armidale’s case. Reading the Guardian report, I suspect he has been caught between a rock and a hard place. I quote in part::
"NSW co-ordinator general for refugee resettlement Peter Shergold told a resettlement conference in Sydney that efforts to help settle refugees in rural and regional areas would ease pressure on Fairfield and neighbouring Sydney councils. 
He said NSW and Australia’s refugee intakes were “eminently manageable”. NSW took more than half of the additional intake of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, in addition to its regular refugee resettlement program. 
Refugees made up a tiny percentage – 0.14% - of population growth in NSW, Shergold said.  
“But refugees don’t just distribute across NSW. In this last year, relatively few refugees have gone to Wagga, or Albury or Coffs Harbour, or even to Newcastle or Wollongong. To a very large extent these additional refugees have come to western Sydney… they’ve come to Fairfield. That’s the challenge.”  
Shergold said the issues facing Fairfield City Council were “acute”, and that a broader spread of resettlement would ease pressure in that area, and, critically, assist refugees in finding employment.  
“What refugees want is a job. And that has been the most challenging, helping refugees do what they want to do most, which is get employment. 
Armidale Campus, New England Institute of TAFE,  location of TAFE NSW's new digital hub
Shergold welcomed the Armidale announcement, saying the regional city had the necessary infrastructure and support services already in place to help refuges. 
“This decision has the potential to boost Armidale’s local economy, create new business and most of all, become a template for the kind of Australian mateship the world needs to see.”
Now that approval has been given for this group of refugees to come to Armidale, groups in both Tamworth and Glen Innes can be expected to redouble their efforts to achieve similar outcomes for their towns. 


Thursday, August 10, 2017

The remarkable Patersons

On 12 July, my post From Armidale to Bega: sharing the remarkable Hinton art collection included a reproduction of an Esther Paterson (1896-1971) painting, The Yellow Gloves, also known as Portrait of Betty Paterson.

I knew nothing about Esther or Betty Paterson so did some digging around. I found they were part of a rather remarkable Melbourne artistic family whose story I briefly outlined in my Armidale Express column subsequently re-posted on my New England History blog, The Patersons and their artistic legacy 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The story of New England's Anaiwan or Nganjaywana Aboriginal language

A lot of my writing at the moment is elsewhere and on the history side. I fear that this blog continues severely neglected as a result.

Regular readers may remember that I write the weekly history column for the Armidale Express. I have been writing a series on the mystery associated with New England's Anaiwan or Nganjaywana Aboriginal language I have now brought on-line the last column in teh series. You will find this here. It includes links to all the columns in the series so that you can follow the story through.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

From Armidale to Bega: sharing the remarkable Hinton art collection

Esther Paterson (1896-1971), The Yellow Gloves, also known as Portrait of Betty Paterson. Oil on board. Gift of Howard Hinton, 1939. This is but one of the Hinton paintings I remember from my childhood. 
Visitors to the exhibition Treasures of Australian art 1880-1940: the Howard Hinton Collection opening at 10am on Saturday 15 July at the Bega Valley Regional Gallery will discover one of the most significant art collections in regional New South Wales.

The exhibition will feature forty-four key works from the Howard Hinton Collection at the New England Art Museum (NERAM) in Armidale including paintings by Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Margaret Preston, Nora Heysen, Hans Heysen, Norman Lindsay, Elioth Gruner and Herbert Badham.

“Howard Hinton was an extraordinarily generous man who gave away these fabulous artworks during his own lifetime and this exhibition is just a small selection of what is to be found here in one of the most significant art collections in regional Australia,” said Robert Heather, Director of the New England Regional Art Museum. “We hope that the exhibition inspires visitors to come and see more of The Howard Hinton Collection in Armidale.”

“Howard Hinton donated over 1200 artworks to the Armidale Teacher’s College between his retirement in 1929 and his death in 1948,” said Mr Heather. “Every year zinc lined packing cases would arrive bearing artworks and be opened by the staff, than the collection was hung in lecture theatres, offices, hallways and the library of the College, where the artworks stayed for over fifty years.”

Tom Roberts (1856-1931), Mosman's Bay, 1894.Oil on canvas. Gift of Howard Hinton 1933. Those who know Mosman will recognise the building in the centre. Hinton was insistent that the collection not be broken up, that it be preserved in perpetuity and displayed for the benefits of students.
“Hinton collected with the express aim of providing student teachers with access to the history of Australian art from the 1880s until his own time with an emphasis upon genres such as landscape, still life and portraiture. It also provides a unique glimpse into the art scene in Sydney in the 1930s and 40s when Hinton was a significant benefactor and supporter of many artists.”

“We are privileged to be able to show these iconic works from this nationally important collection and partner with the New England Regional Art Museum to bring them to our community for the enjoyment of local audiences and visitors,” said Iain Dawson, Director, Bega Valley Regional Gallery. “The story behind Howard Hinton collection is one of the most intriguing in the history of benefaction and art philanthropy in Australia.”

Norman Carter (1875-1963), Portrait of Howard Hinton 1936. Oil on canvas.Gift of the Armidale Teachers' College staff and students of the 1935-36 session. For most students coming from across Northern NSW, the Hinton paintings were the first original art they had seen and opened a new world. In making the collection available to other galleries, NERAM is staying true to the intent behind Hinton's original bequest.     
Howard Hinton OBE (1867-1948) arrived in Sydney as a young man in the 1890s and lived with artists such as Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton in camps around Mosman and Cremorne. He soon found work as a clerk with the shipping agents W & A McArthur Ltd, rising to the position of Director in 1916, and retiring in 1928.

Described as a ‘modest and self-effacing gentleman’, he lived in ‘Hazelhurst’, a boarding house in Cremorne with a small selection of artworks and books. A lifelong lover of the arts who had aspired to be an artist when younger, he was a regular fixture as art exhibitions around Sydney and was a Trustee and donor to the (then National) Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Following his retirement he started donating hundreds of paintings, sculptures, books, prints, drawings and other artworks to the new Armidale Teacher’s College. The College opened in temporary premises in 1928 with the first painting, The Lock Gates by Sir Adrian Stokes. RA,.arriving in 1929 in advance of the opening of the College's new building. Hinton was warmly welcomed by students, staff and the wider community on his rare visits. He died of severe pneumonia and heart failure in 1948 and the final shipment to the college included the small selection of artworks that had been in his room at the boarding house.

Community concern about the collection following the closure of the Armidale College of Advanced Education led to it being relocated into the purpose built New England Regional Art Museum in 1983, where it now forms the basis of regular exhibitions, displays and other programs that are seen by thousands of visitors to the beautiful university town of Armidale.

The exhibition was originally developed as a partnership in 2016 between the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre and the New England Regional Art Museum.

Exhibition Venue:
15 July – 30 September 2017
Bega Valley Regional Gallery
Zingel Place
Open 10am-4pm Monday-Friday, Saturday 10am-12noon, Admission free

About Bega Valley Regional Gallery
The BVRG is a regional gallery in south eastern New South Wales, half way between Sydney and Melbourne. The gallery is an important resource for its artistically rich and diverse community and works collegiately with fellow professional arts organisations, fLiNG Physical Theatre, Four Winds Festival and South East Arts who collectively deliver engaging, challenging and innovative programs of both artistic and educational excellence. The Bega Valley Regional Gallery is funded by the Bega Valley Shire Council, and the NSW Government through Create NSW.

About New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM)
The New England Regional Art Museum opened in 1983 to house The Howard Hinton Collection and The Chandler Coventry Collection in the grounds of the former Armidale Teacher’s College. Today NERAM’s nationally significant collections of over 5000 works of art form the basis of the gallery’s programs. Visitors to NERAM can enjoy changing art exhibitions and other art activities, see the Museum of Printing, NERAM cafĂ© and the Museum Shop.

For more information: http://www.neram.com.au

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Problems with ATMs

I see from the Moree Champion that Moree's Balo shopping centre has lost its only ATM. The National Australia Bank decided not to renew its lease on the spot.

Given the size of the shopping centre, the decision is a little surprising. One side effect has been a big increase in people asking for cash out from Coles to the point that Coles is no longer giving cash out from the cigarette counter as too many people were taking time away from customers who were buying something from the store.

The decline in ATMs is the latest in a series of changes that tend to affect country areas more than the city, although there are city problems too. We have seen how bank closures carried out in the name of efficiency and cost savings adversely affected country regions in particular. The spread of ATMs represented a partial compensation, giving country people continued access to cash. Now the spread of new payment mechanisms with consequent decline in use of cash is leading to a decline in ATMs.

This trend is already creating its own problems Again, the country is likely to be most affected. There are more older people, cash usage is higher, while fewer shops have the new payments mechanisms or provide them for free. .

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bias against the bush in Australian refugee resettlement

In November of last year I reported (From Africa's Great Lakes to Mingoola's Field of Dreams) on Mingoola's successful attempt to settle African refugee families. It had been a bit of a battle because of the belief among officials and refugee agencies that refugees had to close to support agencies and that mainly meant the city. I wrote at the time:
This business of need for adequate support services for refugees has become a major difficulty that actively impedes families moving to country areas . The need to provide adequate (ie modern) housing and support services can actually place refugees in situations where they have good housing and support services but are isolated from the surrounding community without access to work.
In February this year, Armidale was rejected as a location for Syrian refugees on the apparent grounds that the city lacked the necessary support services. I almost went ballistic on this one because the city has very good facilities and access to support.

Meantime down in Tamworth, the Syrian Refugee Project began work early in 2016 to create welcoming conditions and supports for Syrian refugees to allow them to settle in Tamworth.

By mid-April, Project representative and Multicultural Tamworth president Eddie Whitham was expressing acute frustration. Quoting from the Northern Daily Leader of 20 April, 
Mr Whitham and project chief Brian Lincoln have even been actively pursuing the issue through the available channels, but so far it has all been to no avail. 
“We have written letters and made phone calls asking what is happening and when we can expect to get some refugees to settle – so far there has been no answers coming back,” Mr Whitham said. 
“We want to see four families come to Tamworth because we are ready for them now. We could take a dozen families progressively.” 
So Tamworth is ready too, but simply can't get an answer. While all this has been going on, it appears that some 4,000 Syrian refugees have been settled in Sydney's Fairfield. This is partly a matter of refugee choices, but I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that we have a clear pattern of exclusion of non-metro options.  

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Australia's largest under 12 rugby competition about to kick off in Armidale

The next TAS (The Armidale School) Rugby Union Carnival, will be held on Saturday 8, Sunday 9 April. Now in its thirteenth year, the carnival has developed into Australia's largest under 12s rugby carnival.

The Armidale Express reports that this year there will be over 900 players from 45 school and club teams grouped into five divisions based on teams of similar ability. Over the two days, 110 games of rugby will be played on eight school ovals, proudly prepared by TAS grounds staff over recent weeks.

While carnival attracts teams from a very wide area including the metros, it especially important for country teams such as the Moree Junior Bulls who have participated in every carnival since its inception.

According to Moree Junior Bulls coordinator Cath Keen, the team loves heading to Armidale to take part in the massive competition.
“It is competition from bigger regional centres, they’re playing against kids from all over New South Wales and parts of Queensland,” she said. “It’s more competition and it’s great for them to see how other kids play and what the standards are.” 
There has been a lot of media coverage about the problems that smaller communities have faced in maintaining sporting competition in all codes because of diminishing numbers of young people. There has been less coverage of the problems that good country athletes face at both school and club level in accessing good coaching and proper competition.

At school level, the problem is compounded by the growing gap in pupil numbers between country and city schools. It is very hard, for example, in rugby union to compete against a city school which may have 2,000 boys if you only have 300 or even 600. The problem is further compounded by the growing professionalisation in school sport. Mind you, its not just a problem for country schools. The smaller city schools struggle as well, as evidenced by the problems over recent years in the NSW GPS (Greater Public Schools) rugby competition. .

I think TAS deserves commendation for the way that has been prepared to make its grounds and staff available to support not just regional sporting activities, but also academic and cultural activities.      .

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Munnmorah's falling stacks marks continuing end of an era

Sunday 26 March 2017 Munmorah Power Station chimney stacks falling (photo ABC) The Newcastle Herald piece by Scott Bevan has a good description of the technical difficulties involved in bringing the stacks down.  
 The demolition of the Munmorah chimney stacks was the symbol of an end of another era.

Vales Point (1963-64) was the first of the big Northern power stations followed by Munmorah (1967-69) then Lidell (1971-73), Eraring (1982-1984) and Bayswater (1985-86).

At the time of the new state plebiscite in 1967, Vales Point  was included in the southern end of the New England boundaries which included the Lake Macquarie catchment. One of the vexed issues at the time was the price to be placed on NSW assets in New England, how much debt the new state should have.This would have become a bigger issue with the construction of the other stations.

That is now all water under the bridge, of course. Still, it somehow seemed appropriate to record Munmorah's passing.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Japan's Nihon University may establish campus in Newcastle

According to the Newcastle Morning Herald, Japan's Nihon University has chosen Newcastle as its first bricks and mortar university in Australia.

If you read the tone of the editorial, you will see that the paper is playing it's role as Newcastle's booster. I have no complaints with that, and indeed it is a sign of Newcastle's progressive maturation.

Newcastle has always had its own character, but for too long its been under the shadow of Sydney, a lesser city often ignored and indeed subsumed into a strange entity called Greater Sydney. It's been interesting watching the changes in the city over the last few years, including the growing role of the University of Newcastle in supporting change.

As the editorial notes, Nihon will add to Newcastle's depth without distracting from Newcastle Uni.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Importance of Cundletown's new Coptic Church

 The singing of traditional Coptic hymns plays a big part in each mass. (ABC News: Emma Siossian)
I am constantly fascinated by the diversity of life across Northern NSW, the broader New England. A case in point is the opening of the St Mary and St Pope Kirolos the 6th Coptic Christian Orthodox Church in Cundletown as reported by Emma Siossian for ABC Mid North Coast.

The Copts are one of the oldest Christian groups in the Middle East and still constitute a significant minority of the Egyptian population.. The Coptic Orthodox Church  is one of  the orthodox churches that formed in what was then the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire during the schisms that marked the early Christian Church. I have read a little of Byzantine history, including the religious disputes, and find the whole thing remarkably complicated!

Photo: The old Cundletown dock yard
Cundletown near Taree in the Manning Valley lies a long way from Egypt. While young by Coptic standards, Cundletown is a historic village in its own right with its colonial remains.

The linkage between the Cundletown and Coptic Egypt is provided by Dr Moheb Ghaly, a long-time Manning Valley surgeon born in Egypt.

Over very many decades, the combination of political instability with religious persecution led to the emigration of many Egyptian Copts, some of whom settled on the North Coast. Like many other Copts, Dr Ghaly used to travel to Sydney for services. Now he worked to establish a church where local Copts could worship.
Local resident: "This will bring more people and families to the area. It's our community, it's us, it's our identity."  Dr Ghaly outside the new church. 
I have no doubt that the new church will assist in attracting new Egyptian Coptic residents. There is now a long history of such chain migration in New England including the Germans and Scots that came to New England from the 1840s-1850s and then, much later, the Indians who came to Woolgoolga

At a time when many parts of New England are struggling to attract people, when it's just so hard to get people to move from the metros, the creation of such community infrastructure, the welcoming of new people, is important in attracting new residents who, in turn, will attract new residents.The North gains from increased population and from added diversity to New England life.   .      

Monday, March 13, 2017

New natural history museum adds to Armidale's attractions and diversity - but can we fix Beardy Street?

The University of New England's new natural history museum is about to open.

Announced back in June 2015, the museum is intended to be a showcase of a new $27 million Integrated Agriculture Education Project precinct. The museum features the skeleton of a carnivorous dinosaur, and a diverse collection of animals, plants, and meteorites, building on the collection previously held by the Zoology Museum.

Armidale has two main museum/cultural precincts. The first centres on Kentucky Street in the south of this city and includes the New England Regional Art Museum (photo), the Armidale and Region Aboriginal Centre and Keeping Place and the Heritage Centre. The second covers the museums and displays at UNE to the north-east of the city.

These are not Armidale's only museums and cultural centres. The Armidale Folk Museum in the centre of the city is one of the oldest and best folk museums in the country.

I still live in hope that Armidale Regional Council can revitalise the centre of the business district with its bookshops, cafes and galleries. Poor planning decisions over a long period have fragmented the small CBD, turning it from a vibrant centre to something of a desolate pedestrian absent zone dominated by relatively small shopping malls at each end.

Beardy Street is the heart of the old Victorian city that constitutes one of Armidale's architectural gems. It should be the heart of the city, providing a central point for visitors and locals alike, a starting point for all the other attractions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Grains, Livestock R&D announcements - good news stories but a lost communications opportunity?

It's sometimes difficult to know what Government statements mean, primarily because they contain so little information. Two recent statements, both good news, are cases in point.

The first is a 10 year funding partnership between the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and the NSW government. More than $130 million will be invested into grains research and development in NSW over the next 10 years, "meaning researchers will have more long-term certainty in their projects and jobs, and grain growers will continue to get the latest information for their decisions in the field."

Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair and GRDC chairman John Woods announced the bilateral agreement at the Department of Primary Industries’ Sustainable Farming Training Centre at Calala yesterday.

Mr Joyce said the agreement would build on the current research and development partnership between the GRDC and government, and would secure research in Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, Condoblin, Yanco and Trangie. There are 31 full time equivalent positions involved across these sites, about half of which are in Tamworth.

“The research and development will focus on two significant areas: winter crop pathology and winter crop agronomy and physiology,” Mr Blair said.

Reading the reports, this one primarily involves maintenance of existing research activities including presumably aspects of the work of DPI's Tamworth Agricultural Institute (TAI).

The second  announcement by also involving Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce
NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair dealt with the Commonwealth and NSW Government’s five-year co-investment in two research and development programs intended to benefit the sheep and cattle industries The photo shows Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair with UNE Vice-Chancellor Professor Annabelle Duncan and Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall at the launch. .

The first co-investment research and development program will focus on five key areas including improving supply chain efficiency, overcoming the nutritional limits to livestock genetic potential, improving reproductive performance, sustainability of livestock production systems and enhancing the feed base by optimising grazing and soil management.

The NSW Government is investing $17.5 million into the partnership with MLA Donor Company (MDC) – a fully-owned subsidiary of industry service company Meat &
Livestock Australia (MLA). The NSW Department will also invest an additional $5 million in the new National Livestock Genetics Consortium (NLGC) - an initiative among key livestock industry stakeholders seeking to achieve world leading rates of genetic gain to ultimately drive value chain profitability.

Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said the NSW Government is focused on supporting regional NSW and sees the five year commitment as a pivotal investment to grow core research initiatives that will benefit the sheep and cattle industries.

Under the collaborative partnership model, MDC will match the NSW Governments funding for research projects that address the five key red meat priorities. MDC has also given in-principle support to match the investment in the NLGC.

This is clearly an important initiative and one that will further consolidate and develop the rural research in base in New England. Again, though, I had to dig round to collect information to try to understand what it really meant. .In the end, I think that I have worked it out roughly, although the respective web sites are not especially clear.

.I accept that I am something of an odd person in that I very rarely run press releases without some checking. It used to be the case that press releases came with backgrounders providing factual information. That seems to have dropped out.

In these particular cases, the stories would have definitely have benefited from the supply of additional information, especially for those who wanted to write more reflective pieces later for a broader audience. This is especially a pity at a time when things such as the move of the APVMA to Armidale has led to quite condescending attacks, at a time when the University of New England is struggling to sell its research story.

In this context, I note that UNE itself did not issue a parallel release for reasons that escape me. It is not my job to go through the UNE web site to try to establish linkages, although I did my best. It is UNE's job to sell its own story.

Even though these stories got coverage locally and in the farm press, I think that they were opportunities missed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tingha's Chinese past features on SBS

Held to mark Chinese New Year and to celebrate the town's Chinese past, this year's Tingha's Lantern Festival featured on SBS Television.

New England has a rich Chinese history. The first Chinese came as shepherds in the 1840s, then came an influx with the gold rushes during the 1850s to places like Nundle and Rocky River and then another rush with the tin boom of the 1870s. For a period, the Tablelands were the largest tin province in the world.

To mark the Festival and the SBS coverage, I thought that I should re-publish a History Revisited column, , that first appeared in the Armidale Express on 4 June 2104.

Tingha's Chinatown 

Most of New England’s small settlements have vanished in the great rural depopulation, leaving little behind beyond a few posts. This is especially true of our mining towns, for there the town survived just as long as the rush endured. Once the miners left, the town vanished, the buildings moved or decaying into the landscape. Now the few remains lie forgotten, ignored even by neighbours, their history lost.

This remains true even where the original physical presence was substantial. Tingha’s China Town is an example. Heard of it? I bet not.

China Town ran on the creek bank along Amethyst Street. However, the Chinese population was so big that it overflowed across the town. At the height of the tin boom in the 1870s, Chinese boarding houses, stores, cafes, peanut shops, wine shops, herbalists, opium dens and gambling shops competed for space in Tingha’s overcrowded town centre.

How big was big? That’s difficult to estimate. At the height of the boom, 2,500 people packed into Tingha and its immediate surrounds. The population of the broader Tingha mining district was 7,000 of whom 2,000 were Chinese. My best guess, and it’s only a guess, is that Tingha itself had perhaps 500 Chinese residents, the remaining Chinese visiting as needs demanded.

Chinese celebrations were both noisy and colourful. One year, a huge paper marquee was imported from China and erected in the vicinity of the main joss house. It housed displays of various gods and devils and of humans being punished for their sins.

The display remained open for a week. On the seventh day amidst much ceremony, it was set alight. As it burned, fire crackers exploded; there was much gaiety until the whole structure was reduced to ash.

As the mines declined, people left, Chinese and non-Chinese alike. Yet many Chinese lingered, leaving their imprint. That is why stores in so many towns near the tin belt carried Chinese names, names that linger to this day; Hong Yuen (Inverell), Kwong Sing (Glen Innes and Bundarra), Hong Sing (Stanthorpe) and Wing Hing Long (Tingha).

When Harry Fay died in Inverell in August 2012, the Northern Daily Leader spoke of his connection with Inverell's iconic Hong Yuen department store. After taking over the store in 1970 that his grandfather had run for sixty years, the paper said, Mr Fay had carried on the family tradition of honesty, quality service and community spirit. That’s not a bad epitaph.

In Tingha itself, the Wing Hing Long store survives as a museum,  preserving one aspect of Tingha's colourful Chinese past.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New England representatives in the new NSW Berejiklian-Barilaro Government

Earlier in the month, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced her new ministerial line-up. You will find the full list here. I thought that it might be helpful if I provided you with a list of those selected from the broader New England. They represent key targets if we are to argue for new approaches within New England.

  • Melinda Pavey, National Party, Member for Oxley, Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight
  • Adam Marshall, National Party, Member for the Northern Tablelands, Minister for Tourism and Major Events and Assistant Minister for Skills
  • Sarah Mitchell. National Party, Member of the Legislative Council, Minister for Early Childhood Education, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Assistant Minister for Education
Parliamentary Office Holders
  • Trevor Khan, National Party, Member of the Legislative Council, Deputy President and Chair of Committees
  • Thomas George, National Party, Member for Lismore, Deputy Speaker
  • Andrew Fraser, National Party, Member for Coffs Harbour, Assistant Speaker
Parliamentary Secretaries
  • Kevin Anderson, National Party, Member for Tamworth, Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads and Transport
  • Rick Colless, National Party, Member of the Legislative Council, Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources and Western NSW
  • Catherine Cusack, Liberal Party, Member of the Legislative Council, Parliamentary Secretary for Education and the Hunter
  • Ben Franklin, National Party, Member of the Legislative Council, Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy and Northern NSW
  • Chris Gulaptis, National Party, Member for Clarence, Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Planning
  • Scot MacDonald, Liberal Party, Member of the Legislative Council, Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Central Coast
  • Leslie Williams, National party, Parliamentary Secretary for Regional and Rural Health

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The work of New England photographer Joshua Smith

Resuming posting after the new year, New England photographer Joshua (Josh) Smith comes from Narrabri on the Liverpool Plains. He describes his work in this way:
"My goal is to tell the story of Australian farmers, who are the best and most sustainable in the world. Through my photography, showing the scale and beauty of what they do with our land."
As you will see from this example, his work is quite striking.

I hadn't seen any of his work until Canon Australia ran a special feature on it. The colour and composition struck an immediate chord, further illustrating the colours of New England.  This second photo is called Inbound to Wee Waa. I'm sure that you will see why I like him.