Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tree Change, Sea Change Stories

Brief post to note that there are some interesting case studies on the your sea change site.

Update 5 August 2010. Sadly, this site has changed its form and is now nothing but ads that have very little if anything to do with sea change! My thanks to Michelle for pointing this out. I have removed the link.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Men - and where to find them

I am struck by the number of women I know who cannot find a bloke. My daughters appear to have no problems, but once you get to the late twenties there appears to be a male drought!

Here I was struck by a post from Heather on the Australia blog pointing out that in some regional areas there are more men than women.

This is certainly true. Further, it is easier to meet them since there is more social interaction than in the isolated metro life style.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Thunderbolt's Way

Photo: Autumn glory, Walcha

I wasn't sure that I should run this story. I have known of the road now called Thunderbolt's Way for a very long time. It is, among other things, by far the shortest route between Sydney and Brisbane. But no-one knows about it, and that's to my advantage!

Now they have gone and launched a website,! This provides information for travellers on each of the towns on the route, along with some essential history on the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt himself.

Thunderbolt robbed mail coaches, carriages, stations and hotels around the New England area throughout the late 1860s before being shot and killed near Uralla in 1870. McCrossin’s Mill in Uralla depicts his story and there are a number of other Thunderbolt-related attractions in the area.

Beginning at Port Stephens and finishing at Goondiwindi, Thunderbolt’s Way passes through the Great Lakes, Gloucester, Nowendoc, Walcha, Uralla, Armidale and Inverell. The website is a result of the collaborative efforts of these towns.

The homepage on the easily navigable website consists of a map with a click through facility to the website of each participating town.

With revolving emotive imagery and several pieces of history pertaining to Captain Thunderbolt, the website provides a compelling incentive to explore the areas between Port Stephens and Goondiwindi.

Highlights of the journey include: the beautiful beaches of Port Stephens, Great Lakes and Taree areas; the history of the villages of Stroud and Nowendoc; the beauty of the World Heritage listed Barrington Tops and the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park near Walcha; Armidale’s beautiful heritage buildings and gardens; Uralla’s museums; the sapphire fossicking in Inverell; and the monument to Gunsynd in Goondiwindi.

Walcha Tourism Manager Charlie Winter said Thunderbolt’s Way is rapidly becoming a popular alternative inland route to the Pacific Highway. Blow. Not too popular, I hope.

“It’s a peaceful country drive with breathtaking views and plenty of good reasons to stop along the way,” Mr Winter said.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Banalasta Plantation - Bendemeer

Photo: Eucalyptus Radiata, Banalasta Plantation

Banalasta is the world’s largest organic eucalypt plantation, and a decade after being established, it can’t keep up with the demand for eucalyptus oil.

Situated in Bendemeer, half way between Armidale and Tamworth in New England, Banalasta is a successful mix of business and tourism, producing eucalyptus oil, a wide range of eucalyptus and lavender-based products and boutique wines. It is also a popular tourist attraction, with a Visitor Centre and café.

Kim Hawksford, from Banalasta, says the demand for their premium eucalyptus oil is so great that they just can’t keep up the supply.

“With our export market, it’s a matter of first in, best dressed,” Kim explains. “We just fill the orders as they come in but unfortunately we’re not in a position to produce a greater quantity to meet the intense demand.”

Banalasta currently produces three tonnes, or 3,000 litres of eucalyptus oil per year. Most of this oil is exported to the USA, Hong Kong and Europe, while the remainder goes into its eucalyptus-based products, which are sold via its website, direct from the Banalasta Visitor Centre at the plantation, or at selected outlets.

There are one million eucalyptus trees growing on 150 hectares here but the entire property, once a sheet and cattle property, is some 3,000 hectares.

Eucalyptus trees grow to around three metres before being harvested and take 12 months to grow to this height again for re-harvesting.

The species grown at Banalasta, eucalyptus radiata (australiana) or the narrow peppermint leaf, produces a premium, medicinally classified oil. It is particularly suitable for cosmetics and medicinal purposes, as opposed to the lower quality oils used in household cleansers and the like.

The oil has a wider anti-microbial spectrum than common eucalyptus oils, such as globulus and blue mallee. Its properties enable it to be used as an active ingredient in a wide range of goods, which in Banalasta’s case, means therapeutic, medicinal, skin care, hair care, pet care and household products.

One of the aims of Banalasta’s founder, Rolf Blickling, was to bring some eucalyptus oil production back into the Australian market. He has also strived to increase awareness of organic farming and the excellent uses of their end commodities, as well as conservation.

Spanning 40 hectares of the property is the World Forest Plantation. This is an ongoing environmental initiative to assist carbon sequestration, combat global warming, and help save endangered native flora. To date there are 35,000 trees of 40 different native species planted. People are able to “buy” a tree and have it planted here in honour of a baby’s birth, to remember someone who has died, or as a gift.

Lavender is the secondary product grown at Banalasta, with the oil used for some of their skin care products. It’s a French hybrid variety, Intermedia Lavendula Grosso, the leading producing plant for lavender oil worldwide.

Rolf Blickling once imported Australian wines into his native Germany so it was inevitable that he would plant wine grapes here and produce his own wine.

There are 16,000 vines in the high altitude vineyard, where the ripening process is slower, giving the wine a fuller and fruitier flavour.

Six varieties of red and white wine are produced under the Blickling label. The wines are currently available via the internet, in larger restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne, and should be available in the Brisbane market soon.

Visitors to Banalasta can tour the oil distillery, eat lunch at the café or cook their own by purchasing a barbecue pack and using the outdoor barbecues. Wine tasting is on offer, along with cellar door sales. The Visitor Centre stocks the full range of eucalyptus and lavender-based products.

Banalasta’s café actually attracts as many locals as tourists who often use it as a meeting ground because of its ideal location between Armidale and Tamworth.


Banalasta Plantation is at Bendemeer, off the New England Highway, 55 kilometres north east of Tamworth heading towards Armidale. It is open seven days from 9am to 5pm. Banalasta Visitors Centre: 02 6769 6786 or visit the website:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Arnhem Land - introductory post

Photo: Nanydjaka Cape Arnhem Coast

After my Kimblerley series, I thought that it was time to open up a new regional series on places that I have not visited, but have always wanted to go to.

Here I noticed that the Kimberley series gets a steady stream of hits, in part I think that it does provide a consolidated series of posts with links.

The introductory post on Arnhem Land in Wikipedia notes that this is an area of 97,000 sq km (to put this is in perspective England has an area of 130,410 sq km) in the north-eastern corner of the Northern Territory. The region was named by Matthew Flinders after the Dutch ship Arnhem which explored the coast in 1623.

The area was declared an Aboriginal Reserve in 1931. Growing up, it was a remote, little known, but romantic place. Today it is perhaps best known for its continuing remoteness, its art, and the strong continuing traditions of its indigenous people.

Over coming posts I will provide basic information about the area and its attractions. So do come with me on a voyage of mutual discovery.

Next post.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Australian Regional Dialects - Harry Potter learns to speak South Australian

Photo: Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter

My whole family loves Harry Potter.

Back in June I put up an introductory post on Australia's regional dialects. How does this link to Harry Potter?

I see from a post on one of the Sydney Morning Herald's blogs that back in 2005 Daniel Radcliffe spent six months in Adelaide learning how to speak like a South Australian for his new film The December Boys.

When I mentioned this to my girls, youngest expressed surprise. She is so dialect deaf that she finds it hard to recognise an Australian accent!

In practice she can, of course. It's just that hears so many forms of English in her daily life that she does not distinguish between them. To really recognise differences, you have to be able to type them, to measure them against other things, and Clare simply does not worry about this.

I do and can. But my hearing, my understanding of phonetics, are not sufficiently clear to allow me to always accurately type differences.

So I was interested to read about the Harry Potter case. I also found the comments on the SMH blog post very interesting because they drew out some of the regional differences.

Introductory post. Next post.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Going bush for city slickers - working out what you want

Okay, so you have decided that you would like to go bush, whether to live or just for weekends. So what's the first thing you need to do?

This may sound obvious, but you need to decide what you want and how much you are prepared to pay. By pay I mean not just cash, but time and effort.

Starting with what you want. Are you looking for a place to live, or just to visit on weekends?

If you are looking to live there, do you want to make a living from your block or is it to be a base with income coming from elsewhere?

If the first, then you need to start investigating just what is involved in primary production. If the second, then the starting point has to be investigation of job or other income earning possibilities.

If you are looking for a place to visit, a get away, then how much travel time will you allow, what travel costs can you afford, how often do you want to go there?

In all cases, why are you doing this? Write it down. Write down, too, a list of criteria that your new location must meet.

All this done, you are now ready to move to the next stage, investigating possibilities.

Introductory post. Next post.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Bush Tucker - a note

Following up a search on this blog on bush tucker led me to the Wikipedia article on the topic of bush food.

I had not thought to check this source. I am recording this as a note to follow up.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Regional Australia - the joys of fishing

Photo: Fishing, Inverell, Northern NSW

Now I do not fish on a regular basis, but I know that many people love too.

Recently I was browsing around trying to find out details on dam levels in New England. There has been a lot of discussion on the impact of drought, and I wanted to check details for myself.

Many of the inland dams are also major fishing spots. So my search for dam information also led me to fishing information. Here I found Sweetwater Fishing Australia.

On the surface, pardon the part pun, the site seems to have a lot of information for everyone interested in fishing throughout Australia.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Regional Living Australia end month review - August 2007

Another month and now the start of spring!

August was a bit of a messy month. Having got behind in posting, I struggled a little to catch up. Still, after just five posts in July, August saw me get back to my target of 2-3 posts per week, with 10 posts in the month. Not all very profound perhaps, a bit over the place in fact, but a start.

Four of the ten posts dealt in some way with Australian culture. This reflects my long standing interest in teasing out the patterns in Australian culture and especially the way these vary across Regional Australia.

In The Differing Cultures of Regional Australia - Polyculturalism, I was really trying to construct a framework that would allow me to better understand and present cultural variation across Australia.

Here I suggested that there was a core Australian culture that itself varied to some degree across Australia. Then there were the various migrant cultures co-existing with the core culture.

Australia is a land of migrants. Each new migrant group has contributed to the core culture in some way. So the core culture itself has shifted over time as a consequence. Because patterns of life and and of migration have varied across Australia, so has the cultural mix.

I extended this argument in Australia's Regional Differences - Melbourne vs Sydney. Examining some of the differences between Sydney and Melbourne, I concluded:

When we extend this analysis across Australia, we are left with a smorgasbord of different life styles, cultures and attractions. Sometimes it can be difficult for those of us living here to see it. We actually have to leave the country to see the differences.

To re-emphasize this point, compare Melbourne's European cafe society with elements of life in Darwin (and here) or the Kimberley. Or, again, with another post I put up during the month, Judith Wright's The Hawthorn Hedge - Regional Australia writers.

Especially in her earlier writing, Judith Wright is very much a New England writer, although Queensland also tries to claim her on the grounds that she lived there for thirty years! One thing I achieved during the month was the creation of an entry page on the New England Australia blog for the writing I have started to do on Judith Wright.

Because I am now writing so much on the cultures of Regional Australia, I have turned one post, The Differing Cultures of Regional Australia - Introduction, into an entry page for all my posts in this area. With time, and it is going to take time just to reference past posts, I hope that this will turn into a useful resource.

There were two posts during August dealing with Regional Australia's universities.

The first, University of New England acts to stamp out cheating by overseas students, dealt with the problems that UNE had experienced in this area. One point that I tried to make is that overseas students, and especially those who are looking to gain Australian permanent residency, must comply with Australian standards.

Because this story might cast doubts on UNE, I followed it with a second story on that university's continued high rankings in the student satisfaction surveys. This links to a point that I make regularly to both metro and overseas students, the way that all the universities in Regional Australia rank high on key student indicators as compared to their metro cousins.

I also carried a number of individual stories in August. One was a personal note on Aboriginal art, giving a very useful link through to a very good blog on this topic. A second, Going bush for city slickers - introduction, marked the start of a new series on the pleasures and pitfalls involved in acquiring that bush retreat.

Turning now to the most popular entry pages, by far the most popular post after the front page was the post on the differences between Melbourne and Sydney. This was followed, if with a substantial gap, by Australia's Indigenous Heritage - Big Sky Country, then by Kimberley Region WA 2 - The Romance of Pearls and Pearling.

These posts were followed by four with roughly equal ranking: Australian Regional Food - Bush Tucker and the Australian Aborigines, Aboriginal Art - a personal note, Regional Australia - Population and Residential Building Hotspots and Judith Wright's The Hawthorn Hedge - Regional Australia writers.

Then came a handful with two visits each.