Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Studying in Regional Australia - Central Queensland University

Photo: Montage, Rockhampton Queensland

The various universities located in Regional Australia form a critical part of the regional infrastructure and offer an education that is as good, in many cases better, than that offered by their metro cousins.

The Central Queensland University was founded in 1967 as the Queensland Institute of Technology (Capricornia) and has 24 000 students from over 120 countries.

A leading provider of distance education, CQU has campuses in Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Mackay and Emerald plus delivery sites on the Sunshine Coast . The University operates international campuses in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Fiji with offshore delivery sites in Hong Kong , Singapore and Shanghai.

The main campus is located in Rockampton, a major regional city with 60,000 living in the city itself, 100,000 in the greater Rockhampton area. The city is situated on Queensland's largest river, the Fitzroy, 40 kilometres inland from the beautiful Capricorn Coast beaches.

Founded in 1858, Rockhampton grew on the wealth of gold rushes and cattle empires. The City's Quay Street Heritage Precinct has well preserved heritage architecture, including historic Customs House and the classic Walter Reid Cultural Centre. The city claims with justice that very few regions offer the affordable lifestyle advantages of Rockhampton's tropical climate and all year outdoor lifestyle

Like many other of Regional Australia's universities, CQU ranks high on student satisfaction.

According to The Good Universities Guide 2006 , no other Queensland university rates higher than CQU for positive graduate outcomes. The Guide gives CQU a top rating (5 stars) for graduate outcomes and above average (4-star) ratings for graduate starting salaries and job success. CQU graduates have one of the highest employment rates in the country. According to the Graduate Careers Council of Australia (2005), almost 91 per cent of CQU graduates with a bachelor degree found full-time work within four months of finishing university as compared to a national average of 81 per cent.

More than 100 undergraduate and postgraduate programs are offered by the University's three Faculties:
  • Arts, Humanities and Education
  • Business and Informatics
  • Sciences, Engineering and Health

The University hosts the Institute for Sustainable Regional Development and is also a partner in four Co-operative Research Centres (CRCs):

  • CRC for Coastal Zone, Estuary and Waterway Management
  • CRC for Cast Metals Manufacturing
  • CRC for Railway Engineering and Technologies
  • CRC for Integrated Engineering Asset Management

Friday, October 27, 2006

Guyra, New England - the birds of Bradley Street

Photo: the birds of Bradley Street

Located on the Northern Tablelands of NSW at an altitude of 1,320 metres, Guyra (population 2,200) is one of the highest if not the highest town in Australia.

Like a number of our inland towns, Guyra went through difficult times because of rural downturn combined with closure of the local abbatoir. Shops closed, house prices collapsed, people left.

Guyra fought back and has been going through an economic resurgence due in part to a remarkable group of women - the birds of Bradley Street (Guyra's main street) - including a number of tree changers.

Two and a half years ago, Leanne Emmerton bought the Guyra Emporium, a long-established business housed in what was previously the Arcadia Theatre.

The Emporium sells furniture, camping gear, hardware, giftware, homewares and toys. Since taking it over, Leanne has renovated and introduced news lines of stock and given the place what she calls a woman's touch.

"It was previously owned by the same family for 25 years, basically run by a father and son, and I really don't think the store had seen a duster in years", Leanne recalled.

She is certainly getting positive feedback from the out-of-towners. One Sydney resident who shopped there told her that he would have had to shop in 10 different places to get everything he bought there that day!

Melbournite Julie Mills shifted to Guyra with her husband and young son in 2004 on a 12-month trial basis and bought an old department store to set up Black Sheep Wool'n'Wares. The business is now thriving and Julie hasn't looked back.

The store stocks wools, knitting patterns, woollen clothing and soft toys, and is a key element of Guyra's unique village shopping precinct.

In 2004, Grace Kane, a Guyra local for the past 15 years, established gGs, a family department store and boutique, with the aim of creating a destination rather than just a retail store.

"I was running the newspaper and I actually felt the town was quite sad," Grace recalled. "It was a dream of mine to buy the store and make the town come alive."

gGs is a historic attraction in itself, as one section of the store is located in the original Guyra Refreshment and Tea Rooms, built in 1900. Much of the store contains renovated or recycled items from its past life as a family run general store.

Nicole O'Malley Jones opened her Fork and Spoon Cafe and Pantry in November 2005 after she and her husband Stephen Earl decided that Guyra had great potential for growth.

The couple, who relocated to Armidale five years ago, have 20 years experience in the hospitality industry in Brisbane, Sydney and London.

"We found the prices appealing in Guyra, saw that employment was good and believed there was a market for the gourmet products we stock here, as well as the cafe", Nicole said.

Nicole has introduced some new features to her business, like a tealeaf reader twice a week, and traditional high teas. It is quite likely she will open the cafe for special dinner functions in conjunction with the recently established Guyra Theatre Group.

A longer-term tenant of Bradley Street is the Guyra Adult Learning Association (GALA) which has been operating for 23 years.

GALA offers a range of courses to adults, both vocational and leisure-oriented, and recently expanded its services into Armidale.

Other female-owned businesses in Bradley Street include: JoJos on Bradley, a cafe owned by Jo Burey; the Body and Soul Sanctum, opened in May 2006 by Benita Filipovich; Jenni Jackson's Jenni Jackson Guyra Pharmacy; and a naturopath clinic run by Rene Lockrey.

In Jenni Jackson's view women are the primary consumers so it's been good to see so many businesses in Guyra run by women.

"I think women have that retail focus as well as compassion and understanding for their customers, which works really well, particularly in a country town."

Guyra's development has been further aided by the Costa Group's $36 million hydroponic tomato growing operation attracted to the town by the availabilty of land, clean air and water. This began just over 12 months ago, is now in its second stage of construction and when complete is expected to employ up to 200 people.

Guyra Shire Mayor, Robyn Jackson, said the fact that women have really taken the bit between the teeth and made things happen both personifies the area and demonstrates their self-belief.

"There were so many empty shops a while ago and I think their presence actually inspired these women to see their potential", Cr Jackson said.

"Now you don't have to leave town to find luxury items, and shopping has become more of an experience in itself. I have had visitors from out of town giving me positive feedback about browsing through the shops, then enjoying a coffee afterwards."

Location Details

Guyra is on the New England Highway and is well located in terms of access to other centres.

Armidale with its major educational facilities including the University of New England is only 30 minutes away by car. Other nearby centres include Inverell (one hour ten minutes ) and Glen Innes (45 minutes). There are a number of nearby national parks including the New England National Park (one hour 20 minutes) and Dorrigo (one hour 30 minutes).

The nearest beach is two hours 15 minutes away via Dorrigo and the beautiful Bellinger Valley. Brisbane (five and a half hours) and Sydney (seven hours) are further by road, although the nearest major airport is only 30 minutes away at Armidale with plenty of free parking.

Further information on Guyra businesses can be obtained from Robyn Ryan, Guyra Shire Council's Economic Development Manager, (02) 6779 1577 or visit the Guyra Shire Council web site.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Regional Australia - Worthwhile Web Sites

Photo: Gordon Smith, Armidale NSW

Another of my periodic posts on worthwhile web sites found in my travels.

The Australia Blog bills itself as the one stop travel guide to Australia and indeed it does provide access to some interesting material. is an interesting on-line magazine providing information for all those interested in tree or sea change. Update 5 August 2010. Sadly this site has turned into an un-related ad platform.

I have mentioned Gordon Smith's Look and See photo blog before because of its wonderful photos of Regional Australia.

Phillip Diprose's Ochre Achives, another blog that I have mentioned before, provides an interesting picture - life, wildlife, soils etc - of one property in regional NSW.

Michael Kiely's Diary of a Carbon Farmer bills itself as : This is the diary of an Australian family who escaped from the city, joined a farming community, and learned to love soil. Carbon Farming is about growing soil carbon - the first link in our food chain. The topsoil is where God's creation is taking place, at every moment. Carbon is the building block of life. By growing it we can restore ecosystems to health. At the same time we can remove Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and store it as Carbon in the soil.

Regional Australia Real Estate - Heaven Sales

I was fascinated to come across the term "Heaven Sales" applied to regional real estate. I knew the phenomenon but had not heard the term.

Regional people are not dumb. Because of the still large gap between metro and regional real estate prices, some people are putting houses (often on acreage) on sale on-line at inflated prices in local terms hoping to attract city buyers who simply do not know better. If they sell, they are in heaven, hence the term. And some are selling.

The problem with this approach is that it distorts the local marketplace while leaving the city buyer with an over-valued asset. So while real estate in Regional Australia still offers very real bargains, please check the local market place before buying that apparently attractive property.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Australian Regional Food - Looking Back 3: Catering for Large Numbers

In my first post on this topic I indicated that one of the reference sources that I was using was the CWA Cookery Book and Household Hints.

I covered the history of the Country Women's Association of NSW in an earlier post on the New England, Australia blog. In short, the CWA was established in all Australian states to provide mutual support for often isolated country women.

One feature of country cooking was the way in which country women had to cook for very large numbers often using very limited ingredients. This might happen during shearing, working bees or at social gatherings. In the case of the CWA itself, the organisation generated funds by catering at stock sales and country shows.

These needs come through in the first part of the Cookery Book. So the first item is catering for 50 people followed by afternoon tea at a Fete. In the case of the Fete, the Book advises allowing 2 sandwiches, 2 pieces of cake and half a scone per person. Instructions are then provided on the quantities required.

After dealing with a wedding breakfast for 100 guests, the Book provides catering details for serving approximately 300 adults at a public stock sale with a lunch consisting of cold meat and salad with sweet to follow. Then there are descriptions of a potato salad for 100, pea soup for 120.

Reflecting limited money and ingredients, the food can best be described as plain. Thus for sweets to serve 300 adults at a public stock sale you need:
  • a large baked custard
  • 2 large triffles
  • 2 cases of apples
  • 6 tins of fruit
  • 2 and half kilos (5lbs) of pastry.

The book notes that sweets may be varied according to availability of material (ie cream, fruit etc).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Regional Living Australia - Questions & Answers

We have been doing some tidying up on the main Regional Living Australia site. We have had a question and answer section on this site. However, this role is meant to be fulfilled by this blog. So to tidy up, we have transferred the material in the following questions/answers to this blog.

I and my colleagues remain very happy to answer questions that you might have about Regional Australia. We are now thinking through just how this might be done in the best way.

Practising Law in Regional Australia


What career opportunities are open to me in Regional Australia? Question raised at Country Week 2005 by a young lawyer just completing his practice certificate.


The short answer is a lot.

Unlike some metro areas where legal professionals are in relative over-supply, many regional areas throughout Australia have immediate job vacancies. Further it is much easier to establish your own practice or to acquire a partnership in an existing practice. Adjusted for practice and living costs, profit per partner can be significantly higher than the city suburban average.

However, the starting point in considering these has to be your own needs, aspirations and areas of interest.

Regional Australia involves a hierarchy of communities from small centres through to major regional cities.

Practice in the smaller communities is very different from that generally found in the metro areas.

Lawyers have to be more generalist working across fields including criminal law, family law, conveyancing and local government matters. The relationship with clients is also different in that the lawyer is more likely to be the key source of advice instead of simply one among a range of advisers.

Bigger communities such as major regional cities offer more scope for specialisation in practice simply because the business base is larger. In addition, while regional businesses do use metro solicitors to meet particular needs, their preference for local support creates opportunities in areas such as commercial, corporation and property law. Simply put, competition for supply of services in these areas is less than in the bigger metro centres.

There is also great variation within regional Australia in demographic structures and the type and level of economic activity. This creates significant variations in practice possibilities that need to be individually investigated. Examples include agribusiness and rural law in major farming districts, estate planning in retirement areas, business succession planning, biotechnology in certain areas, different types of employment related law depending upon the dominant industrial base.

Partnership opportunities can be very good. Because many law graduates prefer to work in metro areas, the average age of regional solicitors tends to be higher. Practice succession is an important issue, creating a range of partnership possibilities.

All lawyers need to maintain professional currency. It used to be the case that the tyranny of distance made it more difficult to keep in professional touch. However, the existence of on-line resources as well as professional support mechanisms now places all lawyers on a more even footing regardless of location.

Job Opportunities in Regional NSW


What employment awaits me in NSW country? Frequently asked question.


There are a wide range of job opportunities, especially for professionals and skilled trades.

NSW country is currently experiencing shortages of skills in the following areas:
  • Skilled labour: mining and construction
  • Welders
  • Electricians
  • Fitters
  • Boilermakers
  • Engineers
  • Medical:Doctors and Radiographers
  • Accountants
  • Lawyers
  • Rehabilitation providers - Occupational therapist providers
  • Teachers

These are examples of roles that are in high demand. Other skills are also needed.

At the same time, country NSW is very diverse. This means that there are considerable variations between areas. So you need to investigate opportunities in the areas that you are interested in.

How do I find the job I want in NSW Country?


How do I find the job I want in NSW country? Frequently asked question


There are two overlapping ways, depending on your preferences.

If you know where you would like to live, at least in broad terms, start by researching the region and town that best suits you. Most councils have their own web sites.

The council web sites will provide you with general information about an area and also often include links to the local newspaper. The newspaperļ¾ web sites often contain details of current advertised jobs.

While most councils do not provide job placement services as such, many councils (Taree, Dubbo and Tamworth are examples) do have some knowledge of key local skills needs. The starting point here is the Council's economic development officer or the local development corporation where this exists.

You should also contact employment agencies in the region regarding suitable roles. For example in some towns the shortage for a good boilermaker is such that one could walk into town in the morning and have a job before dinner!

Because relocation involves more than just a job, you should also plan a visit to the region. This will allow you to assess living conditions and talk to council and local businesses.

If you do not have a preferred region or are prepared to consider broader opportunities, then the annual Country Week Expo provides an excellent opportunity to find out about both job opportunities and life style across regional NSW. The Expo features stands from a wide variety of areas, with most council exhibitors having some form of job kit and associated job vacancy list.
Recognising that not all jobs are advertised, you can also check advertised vacancies in Rural Press Publications across regional Australia, not just NSW, by visiting This allows you to search by job category or region or a combination.

Depending on your area, you should also check with the relevant professional or industry association to see what information they have. A number of these bodies do have details of job vacancies.

Real Estate and Getting Back to Sydney


One thing that worries us about any move from Sydney is the fear that we will not be able to come back again simply because we will never be able to afford to buy here again. Worried professional, Balmain.


The starting point here is to do some research so that you know what your options are. For example, do you hold and rent the Sydney property, sell it and buy in the place you are going to, sell it and reinvest in part in Sydney, in part elsewhere?

The regional real estate marketplace is very diverse, just as diverse if not more so than Sydney.

In general, house prices are lower then Sydney, blocks often bigger. So it's possible to get a much bigger place with the same money. Things such as swimming pools or even tennis courts can be added. The real risk to avoid here is overcapitalisation, adding life style elements that cannot then be recovered from later sale.

It is also actually not true that Sydney real estate always appreciates faster than its country cousin in percentage terms, although the timing in appreciation cycles can be different. In regional NSW for example, country appreciation cycles often lag Sydney cycles. One reason for this is that Sydney money often goes bush once Sydney prices become too expensive and peak.

Another factor to consider is that the return on an investment property over time is a combination of rents and capital gains. Rental yield on regional properties are usually higher, often much higher, than the Sydney equivalent. This can make the apparently higher Sydney capital appreciation very misleading.

Because both rental and purchase markets vary so much across regional Australia, you do need to investigate. Do not, for example, buy something just because it appears incredibly cheap by Sydney standards. Sounds dumb, but a lot of people do.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cars, Trains and Planes - how they affect our view of the world

Photo: Gordon Smith, Styx River east of Armidale New England

Have you ever noticed how transport affects our view of the world?

I suppose that this first became really important with the train, the first fast mass transit technology. Not only was it fast, but it enabled people to ignore the world they were travelling through.

Cars and planes accelerated the process. Vast valleys that had once taken days or even weeks to cross suddenly became an hour or even minutes of travelling time.

This photo is one of a series of shots taken by Gordon Smith along the Styx River. Gordon felt that after walking 14 km, wading across the river 14 times, and 600m of ascent, the post-walk coffee and chocolate biscuits were well deserved!

Compare this with the view of the world created by modern transport. The entire Styx river simply disappears.

I am not knocking modern transport. The story on some of the attractions around Wagga Wagga, a case study showing a small slice of the opportunities offered by Regional Australia, was all based on the car. But sometimes it's nice to look small.

There is enormous variety in the Australian countryside, variety that can really only be seen if you stop and look.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but it sometimes worries me that we seem to be creating a generation of children whose only knowledge of the country side comes from obligatory school excursions now increasingly preceded by information sessions warning parents of dangers and intended to protect schools and organisers from legal risk through a process of "informed consent."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Statement of Editorial Policy

I am carrying this statement on each of my blogs.

There has recently been a fair bit of discussion (here, here, here and here, for example) about problems and issues associated with blogging.

I publish and mainly write four blogs, each serving a different purpose. In doing so, I try to be accurate. However, recently I made some mistakes of fact and interpretation in a story. They were pointed out to me and I have corrected them.

This case provided an excellent illustration of the need for care. I thought therefore that I should provide a statement of principles governing my approach to all my blogs. Each blogger has their own approach. This is mine.

All my blogs are intended to stimulate interest in and discussion on particular topics. They provide an opportunity for me to place ideas, thoughts, information and research on the public record. I spend a fair bit of time thinking about individual stories and want my readers to value the visit experience. I also believe that blogs are a way of encouraging civilised conversation. To this end:

  1. All my blogs contain a mix of fact, analysis, recollection and opinion.
  2. I try to check my facts. However, I will make mistakes. Where I do so, I will make corrections to the story and, if necessary, acknowledge the mistake.
  3. There will also be mistakes in my analysis. Again, I am happy to recognise and discuss such errors.
  4. While I try to be objective, I recognise that my own values and opinions colour my writing. I will try to write in such a way that the reader can properly indentify my views and biases and hence make their own judgments. This holds especially when I am arguing a case.
  5. When writing as an analyst, I try to deconstruct the elements in a discussion so that I can properly present issues and approaches. I will try to do so independent of personalities.
  6. Since I want to encourage civilised conversation, I will try to treat my visitors with courtesy even where I disagree with them. I reserve the right to delete comments where those comments are nasty or may create legal problems, but I will never delete a comment just because I disagree with it.
  7. As part of civilised conversation, I will try to recognise other's ideas, to contribute to relevant discussion on other people's blogs and to answer promptly emails arising from my blogs.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Festivals in Regional Australia

Photo: Land of the Beardies Festival, children's float

On the New England Australia blog I carried a story about the Land of the Beardies Festival to be held this year from 3 to 12 November. That story reminded me about one of the things I most love about Regional Australia living, the local festivals.

The festivals have different themes, but generally follow a common format. There is nearly always a procession and a major following event, usually held at the local showground. Around that are grouped a number of activities.

The whole thing is, quite simply, fun. Planning is carried out by local committees, very few regional festivals can afford staff, and begins immediately after the previous festival. Outcomes and activities are reviewed, and a plan developed.

The following months are then spent developing detailed action plans. Activity steps up as the date approaches. Venues and visiting artists have to be confirmed, volunteers and PR organised, programs printed.

The final weeks before the launch become a mad round of action. Things go wrong, tempers' fray, will we get there?

Launch day dawns. Regional Australians are generally good organisers, so much is done locally, that things generally work out. Still, there is always chaos at the start of the procession.

Even a small procession can stretch for several blocks from the start of the marshall point. People have to be told where to go, missing floats found, bands briefed. The whole thing is a major design exercise. Then start, the crowd lining the street, people clapping and yelling out comments, sweets thrown to the kids, kids running out into the road. Chaos but fun.

And then it's all over for another year.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Australian Regional Food - Looking Back 2: The Home Garden

The home garden that used to be common in both city and country has been in sad decline, especially in city areas where density living and small block sizes make gardening more difficult. The gardening folk memories that we used to absorb from our parents have also declined.

While common in city and country, the home garden was especially important in regional areas simply because alternative supplies of fruit and vegetables were then not so readily available and could be expensive.

The CWA (Country Women's Association) cookery book puts it this way

"Home is not a Home without a garden. Plant one, and it will repay you.

Every wise housewife knows the value of the kitchen garden. It is a money saver, and a pleasure at all times. Nearly all vegetables are of easy culture. All soup vegetables should be grown at home. It is a great comfort to slip out and cut your own home requirements in your own back yard."

A reasonable size home garden could be quite a complex operation. Herbs - lavender, thyme, marjoram, mint, sage, parsley and rosemary were usually grown near the back door so that they could be easily picked for domestic purposes.

Further out were the vegetables grown in cycles depending on the growing season. Standard vegetables included onions, carrots, potatoes, peas and beans, sweet corn, pumpkins, lettuce, sometimes garlic although its use was then less common, cabbages, cauliflower, tomatoes, lettuce, silver beet, beetroot, parsnips and turnips. The compost heap could normally be found near the vegetable garden.

The garden nearly always included vines and fruit trees, with the mix varying depending on the climate. In the case of our home garden - a cool climate garden - there was the ubiquitous grape vine, three apricot trees, a rather superb plum tree, a fig tree, gooseberries, red and black currants, strawberries and raspberries.

Many gardens also contained a chook yard providing fresh eggs and the sometimes fowl for dinner. The manure from the yard was collected and used to fertilise the beds.

Then there were the flowers grown both for decoration and to supply cut flowers to the house.

The importance of the home garden, limitations in other supplies from outside the district, meant that the seasons were important.

As children we knew every fruit tree in the immediate area, knew when they were coming into fruit. No problem in getting children to eat fruit. Somehow fruit that we picked ourselves was just that much more satisfying.

The fruiting season for fruit and vegetables flowed into the bottling ritual. The bottles were sterilised, the fruit cooked, the tomato relish made, the jams created, providing a steady stream of produce for the rest of the year.

The exact mix of meals depended on what was available. Soups, stews and casseroles were common because these made best use of available produce. I still love the taste of fresh field mushrooms, of rich casserole sauce.

The standard meal was two courses, three for bigger meals. The main dish consisted of a meat dish presented in different ways usually with two to three vegetables. This was followed by a desert often of bottled fruit, sometimes with fresh cream. In some cases soup preceded the main meal.

There was great variety in home made soups. Some soups like chicken, often made from the remains of a bird previously killed, were relatively light, as were the broths served to invalids. Some soups were major meals in their own right served with crusty bread.

From a kid's perspective, one of the greatest things about the home garden was the way it provided trees to climb, places to hide, spots to dig in or to build camp fires.

We were expert in fires, how to start them in the best way, how to build fireplaces. Potatoes cooked in the ashes were eaten, charcoal and all, with butter with the melting butter running down fingers. Nostalgia!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Australian Regional Food - Looking Back 1

Photo: Serving suggestions, Bacco's Bakery, Murrurundi

I found Bacco's bakery through , the Australian Regional Food Guide, one of my regular reads. Founded by Kristy and Luigi Papagni, the bakery hand makes a savoury and sweet range of artisan products.

Australian cooking has changed enormously in recent years. Many of the changes are good, some not. Past menus may have had less variety, but they were also more balanced.

Today so much of what we eat is delivered from around the world to the supermarket door. This has its risks (see the story on the US spinach for example), may not always give us the best tasting food, but does provide a year-round variety that was once simply not available. We also take refrigeration for granted. And we are obsessed with saving time.

So what we eat, how we prepare it, how we serve it, has changed. Peas used to be much more popular than beans, with a shelling a family ritual, the kids eating the peas as they went along. Now fresh peas can be hard to find simply because of the preparation time involved.

The connection between diet and changing seasons has been largely broken. Yes there is a new emphasis on fresh seasonal produce, but the pattern of seasonal change is no longer built into the annual eating cycle.

Because so much has changed, I thought that it might be of interest if I looked back from time to time at past food experiences in Regional Australia, drawing among other things from my own experiences, the New Goulburn Cook Book (27th edition 1937), the CWA Cookery Book and Household Hints (36th edition, 1974) as well as Geoffrey Blainey's Black Kettle and Full Moon (Penguin Books, 2004). Subtitled "Daily life in a vanished Australia", the book is just that, an exploration of daily life up to the First World War.

This post is just to set the scene.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Cultural Activities in Regional Australia - information sources 2

This post follows up my earlier post on information sources relevant to cultural activities in Regional Australia.

Transformations is an electronic journal dedicated to the exploration of ideas, issues and debates emerging out of contemporary global culture. I mention it because it has some interesting articles on the Australian regional experience spread over several issues.

As mentioned before, Regional Arts Australia is a national body providing helpful information and tools for people involved as artists and arts workers in Regional Australia. It includes an online 'contact book' of regional artists and arts workers, to provide a mechanism for networking, sourcing of artists for contracts and projects, and for artists to make connections.

Festivals Australia is an Australian Government cultural funding program which provides assistance to Australian regional and community festivals for the presentation of quality cultural projects. Funding is available to add a new or special sort of cultural activity that has never been done before and could not otherwise be afforded. If you look at the details of past you will get a feel for the diversity of local and regional festivals.

Festivals Australia is a companion program to the new Festivals Australia Regional Residencies program. If you need support for an artist in residence to assist your community to tell a local story at a festival or major one-off community celebration, information on the Festivals Australia Regional Residencies program website may assist you.

Visions of Australia aims to enable more Australians to enjoy our diverse culture by accessing exhibitions of cultural material. It provides funding to eligible organisations to develop and tour exhibitions of Australian cultural material across Australia. Exhibitions should have a predominantly Australian source or theme.

The Commonwealth Government's Culture and Recreation Portal provides access to a range of information sources including a weekly updated news of what's on and what's coming up in the world of Australian culture and recreation. As a national site it does have a metro focus but does include information about activities in Regional Australia.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Seasonal Work in Regional Australia

Taking seasonal work such as fruit picking is one way of seeing Regional Australia while also being paid. Workabout Australia remains one of the best sites for seeking information about opportunities in this area.

If you are from another country, you must have a valid visa allowing you to work in Australia. In this context, the Australian Immigration Minister has recently warned regional employers to check if the people they are employing are legally entitled to work in Australia. (details).

Special arrangements apply to young people.

The Working Holiday and Work and Holiday Programmes provide opportunities for people between 18 and 30 from arrangement countries to holiday in Australia and to supplement their travel funds through incidental employment (details).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Getting the Best out of Regional Living - Using the On-line World

Note to reader: I had some photos to go with this story, but blogger is not uploading them. So I am running without photos rather than hold the story up.

This post continues the theme - getting the best out of Regional Living - begun with our Wagga Wagga case study. Our focus there was the wide range of things to be found within a relatively short driving distance, comparing this to Sydney. Now we look at the use of the on-line world.

We have already done one case study here, looking at the life and work of Paul Budde, servicing a global market from a regional base.

Standard of Telecommunications Facilities

Just as the standard of the telecommunications infrastructure - especially access to broad band - varies within Australia's metro cities from extremely good to awful - so it does in Regional Australia.

The great majority of people living in Regional Australia have access to telecommunications as good if not better than the metro average. But there are areas where telecoms is problematic. If you would like to see an entertaining case of the issues that can be involved visit Ochre Archives here. So if you are thinking about a move to a particular area, do investigate.

Keeping in Professional Touch

It used to be the case that living in Regional Australia could involve a degree of professional isolation. This is no longer the case since so much material is now on line. This where I find blogs to be especially useful because they give me instant access to a range of global resources and commentary. You do not need to be a blogger yourself just to visit, although once you start you may wish to.

The blogosphere is crowded, with over 57 million blogs world wide still growing at 75,000 per week. However, most of these are unlikely to be of interest to you. My own experience has been that it took me about two months to narrow down to a must read and a regular check list.

In addition, there are a number of conventional web sites that provide solid information again varying from subject area to subject area, while most business associations and professional bodies provide special on-line resources intended to assist their regional members.

In addition, there are an increasing number of international on-line professional networking systems that you can use for both professional and business purposes. Some like Linkedin are free, others have a small charge.

Of course, you will need personal interaction outside you business or professional environment.

My experience has been that you will actually meet a broader range of people in Regional Australia than in the metro areas simply because numbers are less. I really miss this since we moved to Sydney. So that's a plus.

But I would also build into your plans and family or business budget a deliberate allowance for trips to other places and especially the metro centres. We all need breaks, and a visit to a metro centre can be real fun, so much more fun because as a visitor you see and do things lost to those that live there because of the hurly burly of their daily round.

On-line Business

Regional businesses big and small do service regional, national and global markets using the power of the internet.

I have already mentioned the case of Paul Budde. Another example is the global Petals florist network established in and still operated from Armidale.

Not Just a Copy Shop provides a more regional example. I have spoken of Des Walsh's Thinking Home Business blog (another example of a regional business) before and will do so again in a moment. For the moment, Des nominated Not Just a Copy Shop in response to our call for examples of small business blogs in Regional Australia.

Located in Tweed Heads on the New South Wales/Queensland border, the business is a little different in that it began servicing local copying needs. Then it found that it was starting to get orders for some services from hundreds of kilometres away, using emil to communicate with clients. Now it has moved to the next stage, creating a blog to build communications with a broader customer base looking especially at needs across Regional Australia.

These cases are all different. A common theme is the way in which they are using on-line communications to achieve business objectives.

I am a great supporter of the use of on-line systems for business purposes in Regional Australia. But I also know that you must do your homework. When Bobbi Ballas and Scott Williams set up Petals, Bobbi was a florist, Scott knew a lot about computers. Both had already worked in a business environment, in fact for my then company. So they had solid knowledge base from which to work.

There is no better place to start your homework than Des's blog since he is an expert in the on-line world.

Monday, October 02, 2006

US Spinach contamination kills one, 187 sick

Did that attract you attention? The story is a serious and frightening one.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (here), spinach affected with E. Colli supplied by one company has so far affected 187 people (other cases have been reported but not confirmed) in 26 US states. The CDC states:

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising consumers to not eat any fresh spinach or salad blends containing spinach grown in the three counties in California implicated in the current E. coli O157:H7 outbreak -- Monterey County, San Benito County, and Santa Clara County. Spinach grown in these counties is often packaged in other areas of the country. If consumers cannot tell where fresh spinach was grown, they are advised not to purchase or consume the fresh spinach. Frozen and canned spinach can be safely eaten.

Spinach has largely vanished from US shops and restaurants.

Australia has high food standards. There is no suggestion that the US experience will be duplicated here. But the case illustrates the problems we all face in identifying where our food has come from.

What has this got to do with Regional Living Australia? Well, the move of people to Regional Australia is in fact part of a global trend in which people are seeking to take back control over their life, to move back to simpler life styles, to change the texture of their life from the homogenised mass produced to the individual and local.

I grew up in a simpler world. I do not wish to go back to that world. I love the diversity and variety offered by modern Australian life. I do not wish to give up Thai food, garlic, the use of chilies in cooking. But I do miss parts of that world.

I miss the taste of fresh milk from the cow just milked by my Uncle. I miss the crisp taste of apples picked straight from from the tree in the early morning, wet with dew and cool from the
night before. I miss the thrill of our childhood fruit raids: we knew where every fruit tree was in the immediate area.

I miss feeding the hens (one of our jobs), the tiny fluffy chickens. I do not miss chopping the bird's head off, but do miss the free range taste later. I miss the taste of the raspberries picked from the vine then mashed up with fesh cream for breakfast. I miss the eggs hidden by the hens that we found and then ate for breakfast. I miss the preserves made by mum and stored in the pantry outside the kitchen door. I would come back from early morning training and open a jar from the fridge, black cherries, apricots, plums.

I miss the yabbies we collected from nearby dams using a tin with holes punched in the bottom and then fresh cooked. I miss the cakes and scones fresh baked. I miss the food cooked on the open fire, the taste of potatoes cooked in the ashes and then eaten, charcoal and all, with lashings of butter. I miss the taste of fresh mushrooms picked from the paddocks.

I miss the mornings when with friends we grabbed our bikes and the dog and cleared out, not to be seen for hours. I miss the cubby houses we built in the strangest places. Most of all, I miss the freedom.

I accept that in this more complex world many of the things we did are no longer possible, especially in the city. Indeed, some are now illegal. But it worries me that we are bringing up generations who have never seen a farm animal, who have never experienced the countryside outside the increasingly controlled world of the school excursion, never lit a fire or grown a plant. Even gardening, once a universal Australian occupation giving everyone some exposure to growing things, has become very much a minority past time.

But it's not all black. Starting in Italy, the slow food movement has spread world wide. Coming out of the US, the local food movement has also spread world wide. In Australia, farmer's markets have spread, while consumers are increasingly demanding that supermarkets identify, at least in broad terms, where food has come from.

One advantage of living in Regional Australia is that it is much easier to identify where your food has come from in that you can identify and select local produce. You do not have to, but the choice is there. Because blocks are bigger even in urban areas, you can also (but only if you wish) grow more of your own. And your children can still access the rural experience.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Getting the Best out of Regional Living - Wagga Wagga case study

Photo: Wagga Wagga Civic Centre, Riverina, NSW

This post, addressed to both those already living in Regional Australia and those who might like to live there, takes the NSW city of Wagga Wagga as a case study in getting the best out of regional life.

Wagga Wagga is the putative capital of the Riverina region of NSW. Like the New England region, Riverina has long aspired to achieve self government as a separate state in the Australian Federation. This movement reached its peak under the charismatic Charles Hardy during the depression when Riverina threatened to secede from NSW.

As an aside, I have included the Australian Dictionary of Biography link to Hardy with some reluctance because I do not think that Andrew's article does Hardy justice.

The separation movement died down, but the Riverina retains a powerful sense of its own identity.

Wagga Wagga itself has over 57,000 people, a regional museum, art gallery, a campus of Charles Sturt University, all the things that you would want in a place to live. But my focus here is not on the city itself, but on the city as a point from which to explore a variety of experiences.

Let's start with skiing, something many Sydney people love.

Sydney people going to Thredbo take over six hours by road, quite a bit more sometimes since the roads are so crowded. The time from Wagga Wagga is four hours. If you want to try the Victorian ski fields, Mount Hotham is about five hours away, still less than the distance from Sydney to Thredbo.

Australians like their wine. Wagga Wagga has its own vineyards. But assume that you would like to try something different. Two hours twenty minutes takes you to Rutherglen (Sydney seven and a half hours), two hours twenty minutes to Griffith (Sydney eight hours). Some vineyards are closer to Sydney, Hunter or Orange for example, but there is still a lot of choice.

Assume that you would like to visit Australia's national capital on business or just to taste the local wines. Here you only save half an hour one way by living in Wagga Wagga, but still not to be sneezed at. You can service Canberra clients just as easily out of Wagga Wagga as you can out of Sydney.

Feeling bored and want to go on a luxury paddle steamer or just take some time out in a house boat? Albury is under two hours away, Echuca (Victoria's river boat capital) four hours. Of course, Sydney people can fight their way up to the Hawkesbury to at least get a taste of this.

Thinking of dropping down to Melbourne? Wagga Wagga a bit over five hours by road, Sydney ten hours. You can visit Melbourne for the week end from Wagga Wagga by road, you really need to fly from Sydney.

There is a lot more, but I hope that I have made my point. Note that all this ignores the immediate day to day time savings of living in Wagga.

Does Sydney have some advantages? Yes. If you want to go to the beach, then Sydney living offers real time advantages. Beyond that, no.