Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Australian Famers' Markets

Photo: Australian Farmers' Market

In my last story on Orange, I spoke of the Orange Farmers' Market.

Farmers' markets are an emerging phenomenon in countries such as the US, the UK and Australia as a reaction to mass-distributed supermarket food.

For producers, they provide an alternative market. For consumers they represent a way back to the world of quality and individual choice so well described for Italy in David Anderson's View Italy blog.

As a hint with David's blog, if you have time at any point use the search facility on as many topics you like just to explore some of his past stories.

In Australia, the Australian Farmers' Market Association provides a peak body for the sector. Their web site includes a list of markets organised by state or territory.

Orange Food and Wine - a postscript

Photo: Orange Farmers Market

Over dinner last night (two different reds plus a desert wine all from Orange) I had a chance to follow up on some more details on the Orange food and wine experience I described in my last post. This described the reaction of my brother-in-law and his wife to their weekend in Orange.

Talking further last night, both said that they would go back to Orange rather than the better known Hunter Valley wine areas. I found this an interesting comment because it shows that Orange is now getting real traction.

In previous posts I have spoken (here, here and here for example) about the impact of travel time. While Australians will travel long distances, two to four hours driving time is about the maximum range that people will drive from their home base for, say, a weekend away.

The Australian wine industry is very competitive, especially for the thousands of small wineries that rely on cellar door or local outlet sales. For that reason, it's not surprising that so many wine regions and wineries are located in a four hour drive circle around major metropolitan centres as both Orange and the Hunter are to Sydney.

As a smaller wine and food area, Orange only needs to attract a small proportion of the Sydney market to continue as a considerable success.

While in Orange Tim and Kim went to the local farmers market. This is held on the second Saturday of the month at the Orange Showground. They were impressed with the quality of the produce, although because the markets really target the upper quality end, produce is not necessarily cheap. If you are interested, you can find out more from the very useful market web site.

One thing that did puzzle me is that while Orange sells its food and wine reputation to attract visitors, there does not appear to be any emphasis on local food in restaurants once the visitor is there.

Now it may be that this is taken for granted, but I still think that it is a mistake since it seems to me that changes in menus centred on the seasonality of local food would add to the experience.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Regional Australia Food & Wine - Orange NSW

Photos: Vineyard scenes, Orange NSW

For my brother-in-law's birthday, the family combined to give him a voucher allowing he and his wife to choose a range of holidays. They chose a wine and food weekend in Orange, NSW.

They had a magnificent time, unveiling some of the results at yesterday's family Christmas lunch in the form of a range of Orange wines. These were very good indeed. Over lunch they told us about Orange's wine, food, shops and sophisticated life style. They were also impressed that Orange prices were generally lower than Sydney prices for equivalent product.

All this pleased me indeed given my continuing desire to promote the opportunities offered by Regional Australia for life work and play.

For those who do not know Orange, the City is located in the NSW central tablelands around 3.5 hours driving time west of Sydney, 3 hours north west from Canberra. Located in scenic countryside, it is a beautiful and historic city with a population of 38,000 servicing a district population of 100,000 in all.

The Orange Wine Region is a young district with the earliest plantings in the early 1980s. It now includes vineyards planted above six hundred metres in altitude within Blayney, Cabonne and Orange local government areas. In all, there are now approximately fifty vineyards (some twenty-five cellar doors) all producing award winning cool climate wine of unique and distinct character are now some 1350 hectares under vine. The Region has a reliable rainfall, a dry autumn and a cold winter - all of which gives Orange an enviable natural advantage.

The higher vineyards of the region near Mount Canobolas range up to 1050 metres above sea level and are particularly suited to Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot. At this altitude vineyards can often be dedicated to sparkling wine production with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir dominating.

Over Christmas lunch we drank a lovely Pinot Noir with a glorious golden colour.

The Orange region has also built a substantial reputation for its cool climate chardonnay with wines from many regional labels [Rosemount Estate, Highland Heritage Estate, Brangayne of Orange and Canobolas-Smith Wines] winning trophies for their Chardonnays in recent years.

Red wines are less well known, although there are still some very nice wines.

Like so many of our new wine areas, development of local food and cooking followed vineyard development. Here Orange has had a real advantage because of its fine local produce including good meat and cold weather fruits. Development has been supported through the development of a local farmers' market, wine and food festivals and a range of restaurants and food outlets.

You can find out more information from:

  • Orange Council site and especially the food and wine section
  • Orange Regional Vingerons Association site
  • Food Week web site
  • Farmers Market web site.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Olives in Regional Australia - Introduction

Photo: Green Frantoio. Australian Olive Association

When I was growing up in Regional Australia olives were still an alien product. Yes, we ate them sometimes, but we never used olive oil. In fact, as a child I confused olive oil with cod liver oil, a nasty tasting substance that our mother used to give us sometimes when we were off- colour.

How things change. Now I use olive oil all the time in cooking, while we eat olives two to three times per week in anti pasto. I do not pretend to be expert, but certainly my own views have changed enormously.

This change in my own habits is a sign of a broader change.

I did not know until I came to research this story that olive growing had a long history in Australia.

The history of olive farming in Australia dates back to the early 1800’s. Olives were probably first planted in groves around 1805 in Parramatta near Sydney.

All the states and territories, excluding Tasmania were planted with some varieties of olive trees during the 1800s. During this period, South Australia and Victoria were the states where most of the planting was going on and they were considered the leaders at that time.

The problem with these early plantings was that Australians at the time (like me) saw olive oil as a medicinal rather than culinary product, thus limiting demand. Like wine, olives were very much a minority product.

It was not until the fifties when large numbers of settlers came to Australia from Southern Europe that community attitudes began to change. These settlers brought their diet with them.

Initially this had limited impact. Then, as with so many other areas of Australian life, their tastes began to spread into the broader community. As they did, demand for olives and olive oil as a food product began to increase.

In the beginning, this demand was met largely from European imports. However, recent decades have seen a rapid expansion of Australian plantings, leading to the development of a local olive industry. As with wine, Australia is fortunate to have large areas of country suitable for olive growing, facilitating expansion.

I suspect that the local olive industry now stands in roughly the same place that wine did in the sixties. Then no one could have envisaged the huge growth in the local industry nor the fact that Australian wine would become such a force in the global wine marketplace.

Like wine, the Australian olive industry has to educate consumers about the local product. Again like wine, the local olive industry has a strong boutique element as producers in various parts of the country attempt to establish individual reputations.

Unlike wine, though, which in some ways had to start from scratch, the olive industry is building from an already established and growing culinary base. It is no coincidence that there is a strong relationship between wine and olive growing regions.

Major Australian olive regions include:

  • Moore River Region, Margaret River and Great Southern Regions of Western Australia
  • Fleurieu Peninsula and the East/South East of South Australia
  • North, Central and Western Victoria
  • Northern Slopes of New South Wales, Hunter Valley and the Murray Irrigation Area
  • South Eastern Queensland

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bush Fires in Regional Australia - Information Sources

Photo: This is a first for me. Given my interests, I have been following the establishment of the Al Jazeera English language edition.

But this is the first time I have used one of their photos to illustrate an Australian story. I could not copy the right URL, but you will find their front page here.

Australia is a dry continent. For that reason, bushfires (wild fires in a US context) are common during the dry summer season.

These vary in scale, but can be substantial.

As perhaps the most dramatic case, on 6 February 1851 - 'Black Thursday' - fires covered a quarter of Victoria (approximately 5 million hectares). Areas affected include Portland, Plenty Ranges, Westernport, the Wimmera and Dandenong districts. Approximately 12 lives, one million sheep and thousands of cattle were lost.

On a smaller scale but still as dramatic because of its location, bushfires ravaged Canberra, the national capital, in January 2003 killing four people and destroying more than 500 homes. As I write, major fires are raging in Victoria and Tasmania.

Australia is a dry continent. When Captain James Cook first skirted the eastern shore line he saw many fires. Some were started by the aborigines who used fire as a tool. Others were started by lightning strikes, still a common phenomenon.

Today fires have a greater impact than then because more people choose to live in fixed locations in bush areas, especially on the outskirts of the major metro centres. Others move to rural blocks to pursue their life style dreams.

All this means that fire and the risk of fire is an issue that needs to be addressed in considering relocation locations, especially for those going bush for life style reasons. The same issues arise if you choose to live on the metro outskirts.

I am not saying this to be alarmist, simply pointing to issues that you need to think about.

There are many sources of information about ways to assess and manage bushfire risk. A short list follows:

Importantly, bushfire risks vary from area, there are different planning requirements in each state or territory, while individual local councils have their own approaches. For all these reasons it is important to check local conditions as part of your planning.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Getting old in Regional Australia

As she got older, my mother used to say "It's getting draughty, dear." By this she simply meant that many people she knew were dieing.

I know that we do want to think about getting old, about old people's homes, about incapacity, but these are issues that need to be addressed.

In many ways Regional Australia is kinder to its old than the metro cities.

Shorter distances and less traffic make it easier to get out, for friends and family to visit. The isolation that can be experienced in metro nursing homes is less common, as are the scandals associated with poor care simply because it is easier for the community to see what is going on. Costs are also lower largely because base real estate prices are less.

All this said, there are parts of Regional Australia were aged care facilities are poor. This can be especially so in fast growing coastal retirement areas where population growth has out run facilities. In the New England seaside town of South West Rocks, for example, there are no aged care facilities with 175 people expected to need residential care over the next twelve months. This means that they have to relocate to the nearby town of Kempsey.

Neither distance nor travel times are great by metro standards, but this still creates real problems for South West Rocks people who need to visit older relatives in Kempsey by limited public transport.

I mention all this because the availability of aged care is another issue that needs to be considered by older Australians wishing to relocate to Regional Australia.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Relocation Possibility - Maitland Rugby Club needs players

The Maitland (NSW) Rugby Club is seeking players willing to relocate to Maitland.

Now in its 130th year and with a strong record in the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union Competition, the Club faces a problem in its senior grade because of regular loss of key players to university commitments or relocation for career purposes.

According to Club President Paul Fletcher, the Club is searching for a five eight, an inside centre, full back and prop, although anybody interested in joining the Club is welcome to apply.

Mr Fletcher said that there were plenty of employment opportunities in the Lower Hunter so that so long as the players were qualified in something, the Club would be able to find them work.

The Club's offer includes a month's worth of accommodation to allow time to find permanent accommodation.

For more information contact Paul Fletcher 0438 133 501.

Source: The Land regional edition, 7 December 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

Belshaw takes a Break

Photo: South West Rocks, New England

Tomorrow I leave for a few days in South West Rocks, one of the most beautiful places in New England.

While there is an internet cafe in South West Rocks and I will be checking my blogs and responding to any comments, I do not expect at this point to make any posts.

I want a rest to rethink and re-charge.

In Search of the Tastiest Tomato

Photo: Gunnedah Tomato Day Contest 2005 - Lyn Louis 1st Prize Tomato Sauce

Remember the taste of a tomato that truly tastes like a tomato? Head to Gunnedah (New England) in January and you’ll be able to savour one or two, or at least find out how to grow one, at the National Tomato Day Contest.

This annual event is an institution for backyard growers, who compete for the glory of such titles as biggest, reddest, tastiest and oddest-shaped tomato.

To be held at the Gunnedah Services & Bowling Club on Sunday January 14, 2007, the event has been held annually for the past 27 years, since two locals argued over who had grown the biggest tomatoes in their backyards.

Organiser John Campbell, who describes the day as “sport for vegetable growers”, says locals are now growing tomatoes purely for the sake of the competition.

“It’s not quite as competitive as it used to be but there are people just growing them especially for the day,” John said.

In past years, though, the competition was so fierce it even led to cheating.

“Some years ago, the judges discovered a tomato entered in the Biggest Tomato category with lead sinkers concealed inside it,” John explained.

Despite the rivalry, the contest is still a very friendly affair, with competitors comparing notes on the best ways to grow the popular fruit.

The newest category, tastiest tomato, is expected to intensify the competition. Other categories in the competition include: The biggest tomato; the widest tomato; the oddest shape tomato; the heaviest single truss of tomatoes; the best tomato; and a special novelty exhibit category for children under 12 years.

Then there are prizes for all those delicious condiments made from the tomato: best tomato jam; relish; pickles and sauce!

Other home-grown produce competing for prizes will be the cucumber and the humble onion.

There are also contests on the day for whip-cracking and home brewed ginger beer; and displays of olive produce and lavender farm products.

Entertainment on the day includes a talent quest, with categories for under 10s, 10 to 16 year olds and open; as well as live music. First prize in the open talent quest is $250.

All produce is auctioned off at the end of the day, with total proceeds going towards the Rural Fire Service.

For more information or interviews, phone John Campbell at the Gunnedah Services & Bowling Club on (02) 6742 0400 or Ray Darcy on (02) 6742 2919.


Gunnedah is on the Oxley Highway, 490kms North North-West of Sydney and 650kms South South-West of Brisbane.

The town is particularly famous for its resident koala population and is known as The Koala Capital.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Regional Australia Food - Stocktake of Posts

Photo: Australian chefs Vic Cherikoff and Benjamin Christie, pioneers in the use of Australian native foods in cooking.

I wish I had more time and more money. I say this because I really would like to be able to investigate all the new foods and wines now appearing in Regional Australia. In the meantime, I thought that I should do a stocktake of current food posts.

Posts on Australian native foods are:

General posts on Regional Australia food are:

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tree Change - Deciding where do you want to live

Waiting for the Judge. Another great photo by Gordon Smith because I like it.

This post continues to story of Katrina and Tom's search for an alternative life in Regional Australia. I have listed all the previous posts at the end of this post so that those who are interested can follow the story through.

Our focus in this post shifts to ways of analysing and ranking different localities, starting from the premise that you have followed previous advice and therefore have a pretty fair idea as to your needs.

Drawing up a Table

On good technique is to start with a table. Down the left hand side put your needs as you have defined them. Then along the top put the names of the areas that you are considering. This then allows you compare the varying advantages and disadvantages of different localities by inserting comments in each box.

Time and Distance

City people are used to thinking in terms of travel time rather than distance. For some reason when they look at the regional alternative, many switch to thinking in terms of distance. This is plain dumb.

Ten minutes in the city is the same as ten minutes in regional Australia. Ten kilometres or miles is not the same because it just takes so much longer to travel the distance in the city. So its very important to compare like with like.

In an earlier post, Sydney or the Bush - a few numbers, I attempted to compare a Sydney life style with an exactly equivalent regional one.

I followed this up with a post, Understanding the Regional Alternative -Comparing Like with Like, in which I looked at the normal patterns of metro life, suggesting that people thought of this in terms of a series of circles whose size was determined by travel time. My message was that you should apply the same approach in considering the regional alternative.

In Getting the Best out of Regional Living - Wagga Wagga case study, I took a major regional city and looked at just what was offered by the broader region around the city, comparing this with the things available to Sydney people, taking travel time into account.

Drawing from all this, I suggest that you draw three circles on the map around each locality under consideration:

  • Circle one represents, say, 10-15 minutes driving time one way. This represents the normal city travel time for the day-to-day circle round home. Work travel time may be much longer. In regional areas most activities will be well within the circle. But there are advantages in adopting a broader approach.
  • Circle two equates to around 60-80 minutes driving time one way. This is the maximum radius for things like city sporting activities, although most things - a special dinner for example - will be within a 30 minute radius.
  • Circle three equates to 2-3 hours driving time. This is the maximum normal driving time that a city person will do for, say, a weekend away. Two hours driving is about the normal limit, 3 hours for something special.

You can then look at what is in each circle.

The advantage of this type of approach is that it provides a comparative structure for analysing total opportunities in any area.

Circle One: the 10-15 minute Circle

This is the day to day circle, so it is very important to understand just what lies within it. Here you need to look at:

Structure of the town: You need to get a feel for how the town fits together, the distances between things, the structure of life in the town. The local newspaper is usually a good source of information. Most now have an on-line presence, but to really get a feel you need a subscription. Beyond that, the only way to get a final feel is by visiting and then talking to people.

Housing: Most local real estate agents now have a web presence. Don't get caught by a heaven sale, buying at inflated prices. Take the time to really get to understand your options.

Education: Identify all the local schools in order to determine your options. Most schools have web sites that can give you some initial information. You can also get local feedback by talking to people. Beyond that, you have to visit. Depending upon your needs, you may want to check access to TAFE and University facilities. In smaller centres, you may need to consider studying externally or factor some travel in.

Health: Again, you need to check local health facilities. Where there is a local gap, you may need to check nearest availability and then look at travel times. These may or may not be greater than the metro equivalent.

Community, professional and recreational: Most professional bodies have specific support programs for regional areas and can provide advice here. Local professionals are usually happy to talk. Most councils maintain community directories that list local organisations. Most communities, too, have chambers of commerce that can act as a source of advice on business issues.

Supporting Infrastructure: In an earlier post, Getting the Best out of Regional Living - Using the On-line World, I looked at the impact of modern communications. This is an example of another thing you need to look at, supporting infrastructure. This includes:

  • water and sewerage. Some regional areas, for example, have lots of water and no water restrictions at all, others suffer from periodic water shortages. If one of your reasons for considering a move is to have the type of home garden no longer possible in metro areas, then you need to take rainfall and water supply into account.
  • communications. Availability of broadband may be important, as may access to air, bus or train travel. Air travel is generally more expensive in Regional Australia, so you will want to factor this in.
  • business services. If you are looking to establish a business and require supporting services, you should check local availability. Some services may not exist in the immediate area.

Circle two: the 60 to 8o minute circle

This circle covers all those things that you might want to access on an irregular basis, including life style and recreational opportunities as well as special shopping, educational and business services.

The 60 to 80 minute circle can be especially important if you have chosen for life style reasons to live in a smaller community since this will, be definition, have fewer local services.

The clue here is simply to look at the map to identify possibilities for further investigation.

Circle three: the 2 to 3 hour circle

Although specific services in this broader circle may be important in particular cases, this should be thought of primarily as the play circle within which it is easy to get away. Again, use a map to identify possibilities.

Previous Posts in this Series

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Regional Australia - Country Shows

Photo: Gordon Smith, Dorrigo Show. Gordon's caption reads in his usual terse but descriptive style:

This is a general view taken to illustrate a few of the sorts of things you’d find at a typical rural Show. On the right is the tent in which The Magician is entertaining some children; in the centre fore- and middle-ground some visitors catch up with the gossip and decide where to go next; behind that a couple of food stalls; then at the left rear are the Dodgems.

Few people growing up in the city with the big city shows such as the Sydney Royal Easter Show can understand the excitement that sometimes attaches to shows in smaller communities.

Preparation begins as soon as the previous show has been completed. There are no staff. Everything is done by volunteers.

As the show approaches, excitement increases. There is cooking to be done, preserves to be made, various crafts to be finished, vegetables to be gathered, livestock to be prepared. Catering has to be arranged, a myriad of logistic details sorted out. Then the showmen arrive and erect their tents and rides.

Show day dawns. People gather, children rush around the sideshows and play with each other. Their elders tour the pavilion to see who has won what, always a matter of great interest, watch the ring events. There is constant gathering as people meet and exchange gossip. Then it's all over for another year.

Local shows are not as strong as they once were. Properties are bigger, so that there are fewer families on the land. As families moved away, many of the towns that depended on them have struggled. Whole show traditions such as the boxing tents have gone as fashions changed. Yet somehow the shows survive, constantly reinventing themselves.

To the visitor, the shows provide a window into local life. To the locals, the shows are an opportunity to meet each other, to say hello to the people they know in their broader community.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tree Change & the Job Search Process - accessing local information

In my post Tom & Tree Change & the Job Search Process - the story of Katrina and Tom continues I outlined a number of general sources of information that Katrina and Tom might access to find out about job vacancies. They can then use this information to start investigating localities that might be of interest to them

An alternative route if you have already identified areas that might be of interest to you is to start with the local council. Increasingly councils and their economic development officers are playing a pro-active role in trying to attract people to their areas. This is best illustrated by example.

The city of Greater Taree in the beautiful Manning Valley on the Mid North Coast of NSW has a population of 43,000 and is home to a number of significant industrial establishments offering, among other things, the type of boilermaking work of interest to Tom. In this case, the Council web site has a specific relocation section including an on-line job matching service. Here you can enter details of your skills and Council will then match those with local employers needs.

Not all councils are as well organised as Taree. Sometimes you have to dig down a bit.

In the case of Dalby in Queensland for example, the council web site provides a range of general information about the town, but does not appear at first site to have any jobs information. However, if you keep clicking on links you will finally come to Your Guide to the Dalby Wambo Region which does have jobs information.

This split in information sources between councils and local guides, community or development sites is fairly common.

Rockhampton is another example. Here if you visit the council site, then click on tourist, migrant and business information and then on Rockhampton Tourist and Business Information (Information for Migrants) you will be taken through to the information site. This includes a relocation service.

The split in information sources can be a nuisance where proper links are not provided. However, you will usually pick up both through a web search on the town name.

Tamworth, NSW, provides another example of the need to dig down. Here you go to the council web site. Under business/industry there is an employment page. This provides some general information, but it is very general.

In this case, the council does not appear to offer direct relocation support. Your best bet is to go the regional directory on the council site which has a search facility that allows you not only to identify employment agencies but also firms in a variety of industry areas. This allows you to investigate directly.

Some councils sites, Duaringa Shire in Queensland is an example, may not provide any employment information. This shire contains a several mining centres. In this case, you will need to contact the council directly.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What has Jane Austin got to do with food in Regional Australia?

Photo: Virginia Enzerink, Tall Poppy Gourmet, Cowra NSW

What, indeed, does Jane Austin have to do with food in Regional Australia?

I have just been watching Pride and Prejudice (again!) with my daughters. I do wish that I had ten thousand pounds per annum in funds so that I could properly focus on food in Regional Australia.

Today I received an email from Nicki providing information on Nosh on the Namoi. I always try to check my facts first before writing, so I dug down.

A few facts before my mouth starts watering too much.

On Saturday 31 March next year New England town of Narrabri will celebrate the 5th birthday of its annual food and wine festival, Nosh on the Namoi. I will describe the day in a moment. A little history first.

Nosh on the Namoi began with 27 exhibitors presenting products such as olives, ice cream, wine, crayfish, smoked trout, beef, herbal tea, locally produced pasta, preserves, chicken, oysters, condiments, caterers and restaurants.

Digging down further I found that Bellata Gold had been launched at Nosh on the Namoi.

Now I already knew about Bellata Gold from Regional Food Australia. The family owned firm produces the finest quality chemical free pasta, semolina and Durum flour products using traditional methods of low temperature drying, ensuring that their unique flavour is retained in pasta and distinctive herb blends. Then I found that Tall Poppy Gourmet with its luscious relishes had been launched there as well.

I will do a fuller story later. In the meantime, I just wish that I too had ten thousand per annum to help me travel Regional Australia just tasting the food and wine.

Tree Change - Contessa & Removalist's Costs

On an earlier post I talked about Contessa and the challenge she faced in thinking through a move to Sheffield in Tasmania.

In this post I am repeating one part of the comment exchange between us on the original post because I think that this exchange may be of broader interest.

Contessa wrote:

Jim, we have been searching everywhere for SOME idea of how much (approx) it is going to cost us to move...removalists costs...any clues as to how we can work out a guestimate?

I replied:

Crikey, Contessa, that's hard. I would do two things. First, get some quotes from Melbourne removalists to provide a costing base. Then ring Devenport removalists to get a counter cost. My experience has been that local removalists can have a back load problem. That is, more people going to Melbourne from Devenport that are coming from Devenport to Melbourne. This may give you a lower rate.As I said, I don't pretend to have expertise in this area.

Contessa responded:

Jim, the difference in removalist quotes is HUGE...we have one from a Tassie company and one from a Vic company and the Vic one is twice as much.We have signed the docs! BUT there has been a last minute hitch where the vendor raised GST at the signing! We said no, our lawyers said no and he said well if it has to be paid, I'm not paying it...AARRGGGHHH...there is no mention of it in his contract but we had it included as not chargeable in ours. So we are waiting for that to be cleared up and then it's ON! WOW!

I replied:

How very exiting Contessa. I am glad that the removalist hint was helpful. I am going to run the exchange here as a separate post because it might be helpful to others. Hope that the GST issue will be sorted out.Do post from time to time about your experiences. I know that this will be of interest to our still small if growing pool of readers. Who knows, I may be able to give the farm some plugs as well!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tree Change & the Job Search Process - the story of Katrina and Tom continues

Photo: Park scene, Dalby, Queensland, one of Katrina and Tom's options.

This post continues the story of Katrina and Tom's search for a future in Regional Australia.

In my first post I reported that Katrina had sought advice on relocation possibilities in regional Queensland or possibly NSW. Because final choice depends upon family needs, my second post discussed Katrina and Tom's needs based on information supplied by Katrina.

At this point I diverted from Katrina and Tom's story to discuss the case of Contessa and a possible move to Tasmania. While a diversion, the theme (the need to think through needs) was the same.

Now that we understand Katrina and Tom's needs, the next step is to help them scope the marketplace for Tom's skills as a boilermaker. As they do this, we will then be able to start scoping the pluses and minuses of particular locations. Remember, it's not just a job for Tom that they want, but a life style no longer available in metro Australia.

Information Sources

Many skilled trades jobs in Regional Australia are no longer advertised simply because employers have found it so hard to get a response. I will talk about ways to access this marketplace later. For the moment, I want to focus on major information sources that Katrina can access via computer.

I start with Seek. This site used to be pretty awful outside metro areas, but is now getting much better regional coverage.

I started by doing a search on boilermaker/welder in NSW other. Eleven jobs had been listed over the last 30 days mainly located in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley. This is an area where the growth of the coal industry has had a major impact.

I then looked at Queensland, other. Here there were 26 boilermaker/welder positions listed again with a bias towards manufacturing and mining areas in Regional Queensland. So this simple search has generated over 35 possibilities listed in the previous 30 days.

I then looked at the Rural Press JobsGuide. This covers job ads in Rural Press newspapers. I did not find the search categories here as helpful as the Search categories (there is no provision to search on boilermaking), so ended up searching on trades & services, light industry, NSW. This threw up a few jobs, including an urgent need in Oberon, a town that exactly fits Katrina and Tom's specifications.

I then did a similar search on Queensland, but Rural Press is weak in Queensland, so there was nothing there at this point.

I then looked at APN, who have major newspaper holdings especially in Regional Queensland and the North Coast of NSW as well as parts of NSW. I had a little difficulty finding the APN equivalent of JobsGuide. Finally I found a site called Checkout that allows you to search APN classifieds on APN sites. I then clicked on jobs all locations. I got through the first time identifying a number of boilermaker positions, but then the site went down.

I then found a Queensland Government site providing information on over 12,000 job vacancies in regional Queensland. This site also carries you through to the Australian Jobs Search site, a national site listing over 100,000 job vacancies around Australia. From this, you can drill down by area and occupation.

Next Steps

This should give Katrina enough information to start scoping job possibilities. In the next post I will change focus to look at the approach to be adopted in selecting between localities.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Tree Change & the Loss of the Familiar

Another wonderful photo from Gordon Smith because I like it and because it seemed somehow to fit with this story.

One of my dreams for this blog is that it will develop to the point that reader questions and discussion become its core, allowing me to moderate discussion while feeding in new material from time about the wonders and diversity of Regional Australia. Given this, you will understand why I am so pleased to get comments and questions.

My last post Tree Change - defining your needs continued the story of Katrina and Tom and their search for a regional alternative. This story led Contessa to post a question that I thought we might discuss while I am doing the research to write the next post on Katrina and Tom.

I will quote Contessa's question in a moment and then provide some comments. Please feel free to post your own ideas as comments or questions.

Contessa's Question

My partner, Ian and I have talked about moving to Tassie for the past 10 yrs. I am a cold climate person and a passionate gardener and we both adore Tasmania, although the evil grip that Gunns seems to have makes me very angry and nervous for the future of this beautiful island.

We have the opportunity to buy our own slice of heaven, a certified organic property in Sheffield and I keep swinging back and forth with my feelings on moving. Every time I'm in Tassie I want to live there. Now we have the real chance to do it...I keep having emotional, unsettled, am-I-going-to-regret this thoughts. Will I miss our home of the past 12 years? What about leaving our 4 grown (early 20's) independent kids and family all here in Melbourne? Our entire lives have been spent here and we live in St Kilda.

I don't want you to tell me what to do...I just need some guidance on how to read and interpret my fluctuating emotions. It's not the physical stuff that concerns me, it's just KNOWING if this is the RIGHT thing. I JUST can't tell.I know this is a most unusual request...if you can think of anywhere else I could seek guidance, please let me know.

My Response

As Contessa says, only she and her partner can work this out. Our role is simply to help her clarify issues in her own mind.

I have not been to Sheffield for over forty years, so I thought that I should look it up on the web. Located 27k (27 minutes driving time) from the major centre of Devenport (population 26,000), Sheffield is a small community set in beautiful surrounds that has reinvented itself in recent years as a tourist centre. So Ian and the Contessa will be moving from the cosmopolitan urban life of St Kilda into a very attractive but much smaller community.

When you look at Contessa's concerns, the critical issue for her is to identify just what her real concerns are. Three issues arise:

  1. To what degree are Contessa's concerns due to lack of information? She and Ian appear to have done a fair bit of research, so this may not be an issue.
  2. To what degree are Contessa's concerns due to worries about risk, about burning bridges behind her? I think that the key here is for Contessa to write any such concerns down so that she can then then address them individually.
  3. Linked to 2, to what degree are Contessa's concerns due, as she really suggests, to worries about loss of things that have been important to her, the area that has been familiar all her life, the house, loss of contact with the family?

Number three is by far the most difficult because it centres on the important emotional content of life. It is also a major cause of relocation failure in that people find that they miss elements of their past life more than they expected. So it's not surprising that feelings should fluctuate.

There are no easy answers here. However, again I think that it helps to break things up into bits then look at just what each bit means. For example, how easy will it be for the kids to visit? How easy will it be to return to Melbourne from time to time? In some cases, you may be able to build some of these elements into your plans.

The advantage of this type of chunking approach is that it helps identify where the core concerns are.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Tree Change - defining your needs

Photo: Gordon Smith, Detail of Orchid Flower. Photo included because I like it!

In my last post, In Search of the Regional Alternative - the case of Katrina and Tom, I reported on an email from Katrina: we are looking for a small town some where who needs the services of a boilermaker who loves a challenge , therein lies the trouble, finding one! "

The first step in the in the search process is to understand your own needs and that of your family. Relocation can be a big step, so you really do need to be clear on your needs before looking seriously at possibilities.

For that reason I emailed Katrina seeking more information. My questions and edited answers follow.

Family Connections

Access to family (parents, grandparents, siblings) can be important, especially for women with children. For that reason I asked "where is your family? Near you? Important to be near them?"

Katrina replied: "The only family we have is my brother and he spends more time overseas than home any way so as long as where ever we go has Internet access then he will be just as close to us as he is now. We do have a very special couple living in Briasbane who are more like family than any one else, but again they are big Internet uses as well and we have discussed this move with them and they think it would be right for us and would give them a place to holiday and an excuse to go! "

Katrina's reply shows that closeness to family is not an issue. However, the reply also draws out that the family are active internet users, so access to the internet is an issue to be considered. Many parts of Regional Australia have equal to if not better internet access than parts of metro Australia, but coverage does vary. So this is an issue that will need to be looked at in considering specific locations.

Children's Needs

No matter how happy parents may be, the move may fail if the needs of children are not taken into account. In this context, Katrina and Tom have four children aged fourteen down to nine weeks.

I therefore emailed Katrina "any special features re education?"

Katrina replied: Education, well my eldest is in grade 8 first year of high school while he isn't brilliant he is holding his own, he travels now to get to a decent school so that will be no big deal for him. The only other concern education wise is my second born who is in grade 6. He has trouble with his reading. He is making progress but slowly, so he would need extra help there. He is on the other hand gifted with maths and the arts. My daughter is well above average so is doing grade 3 and 4 work in her reading yet she is in grade 2 so as long as her teacher is willing to let her move forward at her pace. My youngest obviously has yet to start.

Tom and I love a challenge and our children are not really what you'd call city kids they love to be out doors and don't often play video type games. They email all their friends of course and we all have computers but they still love to run!

We haven't gone into this with our eyes closed we have talked things over with the kids so they are aware of what this would mean, they will miss there friends but will make new ones. They know it and so do I, they are all happy go lucky kids and we would rather they grow up some where where the nastier side of life isn't so in your face all the time, some where that we can feel safe to let them play in their own front yard or to go to the park and know that they will not be harassed or called names for being happy together.

We are a close family as we don't really have any one but each other to rely on so we can be happy any where as long as we have each other and a roof over our heads and plenty to keep dad busy!

Katrina's reply draws out a number of important issues. She and Tom have discussed the move with the kids and have involved them. This is very important since a move away from friends can create real worries in kid's minds.

Education may be an issue in final selection between towns and will need to be investigated. This has to be done on ground. The nature of the support available to the eldest to help with any learning diffculties will be important (country schools can be good in this area because of the personal support that can be provided in a smaller school), as will the capacity of the school to provide accelerated learning opportunities for Katrina and Tom's daughter.

Health services will also need to be investigated on ground. Medical services in a smaller town can be limited, with some services provided in the nearest major regional centre. The critical issue here is not distance but travel time.

Partner Needs

Partner considerations are important in any move because both sides have to be happy.

Katrina's responses focused the needs of Tom and her family, leading me to ask: "What do you want? Do you want to stay at home, to work part time, to work full time? What would you like to do?"

Katrina responded:

What do I want? Well I don't really want to work. I love being a mum and Tom works so I can stay home to raise our kids. Pre children I was working as a seamstress so I love all things making, still do it when I get time, sew that is, I love craft, I quilt, crochet and all things made by hand but my real passion is wood turning I have even sold some on line until getting pregnant and being unable to use the lathe for safety reasons .... I love to read and learn to make new things I am always on the look out for some thing new to try and create.

looking at this, Katrina can be happy pretty much anywhere so long as she and her family have the life style they need.

The life style issue is critical. The life Tom and Katrina want is really no longer obtainable in a metro area. Tom and Katrina need a biggish block with access to a shed and place for the children to play, to dig, to have pets. They need an area in which it is still posssible for the kids to hop on their bikes and vanish without their parents being worried.

In the next post I will discuss how Katrina and Tom might set about finding the job that Tom wants.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

In Search of the Regional Alternative - the case of Katrina and Tom

On 19 October I invited people to submit questions about life in Regional Australia that I and my colleagues would try to find to answers for. Subsequently Katrina emailed me:

Hello I currently live in outer Brisbane with my husband and four children aged 13 years down to 9 weeks, we are looking to make a "country move" but there seems endless information that tells you not a lot I am afraid. You see my husband is a trade qualified boilermaker with transport and fabricating experience as well as some fitting and body work experience, and we are looking for a small town some where who needs the services of a boilermaker who loves a challenge , therein lies the trouble, finding one!

I was wondering if you new of any small towns in Queensland that are looking for the services of a boilermaker that can turn his hand to almost anything fabricating and isn't afraid of trying new things. If you don't would you be able to help us with where to start we don't have a specific place in mind but mountains come to mind and rivers! We love fishing and camping so we are planning an exploratory holiday in the Christmas holidays so any pointers as to where we may start would be greatly appreciated. I guess that isn't exactly a questions is it oh well we won't know if we don't ask.

I have read through your questions and answers section of the blog site but it seems to deal with NSW not that I have anything against it and from what I can gather we could move there with out worrying about work either but again I have no idea where to start. Thank you for your time. I look forward to your response.

I was very pleased to hear from Katrina since she and her husband are just the type of people Regional Australia needs. So we are going to try to help her. With her approval, we are going to feature the on-going story on this blog.

Old Aussie Food Recipes

I have now switched this site to the new Blogger Beta. This allows me to use labels. However, it will be a little while before I can add these to all my old stories.

As part of my searches looking for material for my Australian Regional Food - Looking Back series I found a rather nice site, Old Aussie Food Recipes, subtitled "Recipes, Cooking and Delicious Meals the old time way in Australia."

Here I was caught by the description:

Like yesterday I remember the glorious aromas coming from my Mum's kitchen. Sponge cake or a scone topped casserole and veges, oven hot scones or damper, hot soup or the look of a glorious bowl of home made ice cream and fruit topping.

The site is well worth a browse by anyone interested in Australian cooking.

Monday, November 13, 2006

An Apology - and a continuing frustration

It is almost a week since the my last post. My apologies. I have been working on certain stories but in doing so have become very frustrated.

I refer you to two stories posted on the Ndarala Group blog. The first story focuses on just what is required to build local tourism. The second story, frustrations of a tourism official, was generated by the first and deals with some of the practical on-ground problems involved in tourism development. Both stories were originally written in 2004 but remain relevant to day.

One of the things that we are trying to do with this blog is to make the interest and variety of the Australian regional experience accessible to a broader audience. In this context, I have just spent over eight hours researching a particular story, it would be unfair to name the story, only to finally give it away because of the paucity of on-line information.

There are tens of thousands of towns and localities throughout Australia. It is simply not possible to feature them all on this blog. To make the material really accessible, I need to work on larger areas, regions, or on themes linking a number of localities. This is where the problem comes in.

There are some good regional sites, South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula for example. There are a few thematic areas where sites such as wine diva, wine is the most developed, provide a national and regional picture that I can draw from. Too often, however, I have to do multiple searches checking multiple sites just to try to get basic information.

A core problem is the way in which even quite good local sites limit themselves just to an immediate area such as a council. Too often, they then provide just a topic based list of things with little interpretive material. Too few have any visual material that I can use. Too often, the focus is inward.

Does this matter? I think that it does, very much. If we want people to enjoy the Regional Australia experience whether for life or just to visit, we have to make it accessible to them, to attract their interest. Because so many people now use the web to find out information, the web front door becomes absolutely critical. And this is where Regional Australia is failing itself.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Regional Australia Food - Australian Native Foods: Lemon Myrtle

Photo: Lemon Myrtle

Australia's CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) is one of the best sources of information (here) on Australia's emerging native foods industry whether you are interested in becoming a producer or as a consumer.

The macadamia nut is Australia's best known native food and so far is the only one to achieve major international success. Lemon Myrtle is probably the next best known.

Growing to a height of over 15 metres, Lemon Myrtle originated in the sub-tropical and tropical rainforest areas of Queensland with a natural rainfall greater than 800m. However, commercial growing was developed in the humid coastal zone of Northen NSW.

The leaves contain between 0.33 - 0.86 % essential oil consisting almost entirely of citral, giving it a strong lemon flavour. In summary:
  • COLOR - bright green herb with pale yellow flecks of citrus
  • AROMA - early sweet lemon, lime and lemongrass oil bouquet with a citrus middle nose
  • PALATE - robust lemon flavour-scent complemented with a mild acid citrus back palate and faint anise and green tea

Current retail product categories include:

  • Tea blends and beverages, dairy, biscuits, breads, confectionery, pasta, syrups, liqueurs, flavoured oils, packaged fish/salmon. Dipping Sauces, Simmer Sauces. For use in sweet and savoury dishes.
  • Non-food products include deodorants, cosmetics, air fresheners, washing powders, disinfectants, soaps and facial creams.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Regional Australia Food - Bush Tucker and Australian Native Foods

Photo: Celebrity chef Mark Olive was recently honoured at the 12th annual Deadly Awards, honouring excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander music, sport, entertainment, the arts and community achievement.

Mark hosts The Outback Cafe TV show on Foxtel’s Lifestyle channel, specialising in indigenous Australian cuisine such as possum, emu and native plants.

In a thoughtful response to my last post on bush tucker Vic Cherikoff made the point that there is a huge distinction between bush tucker and authentic Australian ingredients in today's culinary world.

Vic noted that bush tucker covers the food resources of the 600 Aboriginal nations pre-invasion by the English and would include around 2000 different food items from the plant kingdom and perhaps 200 animal and insect foods.

Much of this food is only accessible on location and under the guidance of someone who knows the food stuffs and the area. There is a nice page on Warren Whitfield's The Great Greenway Eco Tours site that will give you a feel here. In Warren's words:

Some of the plant resources utilised by Aboriginal people follow (Please note that some plants contain toxins and irritants. Some plants require treatment prior to eating and not all are edible! DO NOT TRY ANY OF THESE WITHOUT PROPER SUPERVISION).

Vic contrasts bush tucker with Australian native foods, the term used to cover those bush food elements that have been commercialised since the 1980s when Vic and others began work on commercialising bushfoods, thus making them accessible to a wider audience. Since then a considered selection of indigenous foods have entered the market place.

I had not visited Vic's web site before he commented. It includes some fascinating material.

One of the challenges faced by Vic and other pioneers including Mark Olive lies in finding ways to fit ingredients that are both very ancient and new into cuisines that have not had access to them before. Many of the pioneers faced a chicken and egg problem in that they needed to demand to support development but could not attract the required demand without development.

As Vic pointed out, fortunately, we now have over two dozen authentic Australian ingredients forming a backbone of food resources for creative chefs to innovate and develop our own cuisine.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Australian Regional Food - Bush Tucker and the Australian Aborigines.

Aboriginal botanist Warren Whitfield teaches students from Atlanta (US) Emory University about Aboriginal fire-stick management practices and how this affected vegetation. The trees in the background are: Melaleuca leucadendra The Weeping Tea Tree, Paper Bark Tree. Why do these trees have hard flammable leaves and what did Aboriginal people use this plant for?

In recent years there has been growing interest in Australia in traditional Aboriginal life, in the way they managed the country, in the life they led and the foods they ate. When the Europeans first arrived, they too, supplemented the European style diet with local foods. As the country became more urbanised this interest died, in part because of greater availability of other foods, in part because Australian food and animals had not been (apparently) cultivated, domesticated and were less readily available to a growing population.

I say apparently because the Aborigines had developed quite sophisticated ways of managing the country. Here I was fascinated to discover when reviewing the anthropological literature for my history honours work all those years ago (I was part of what was I think Australia's first Australian pre-history class in 1966 at the University of New England) that the Aborigines had actually worked significantly less hours than Europeans had too.

So I plan to look at bush tucker as part of my Regional Australia food series. As a first step for those who are interested, you might like to start here, a Queensland school site on bush tucker.

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.