Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Regional Australia - the diversity of regional experience

Italian's Insight to Travel Italy is one of my favourite blogs, bringing the Italian experience alive.

Unlike Australia where so much coverage including tourist promotion centres on a small number of cities, the Italian experience is essentially regional. It would seem simply silly to define Italy in terms just of Rome, or even Rome, Milan and Naples, yet that is what we do in Australia.

Part of the reason for this is historical. Our history since European settlement is so much shorter, allowing less time for regional variations to develop. Part of the reason is structural, the way in which power in Australia has been so concentrated in the various state capitals. Our regions become submerged in a void between the state capital on one side, the national on the other. This does no good to either the metro centres or the regions.

The reality, at least as we see it, is that there are in fact pronounced differences in history and life style between Australia's regions, differences that visitors can taste, those living there experience more directly. This in fact holds even for the metro cities themselves.

Melbourne, for example, is not the same as Sydney in visual appearance, ethnic mix or life style and is in fact becoming more distinct. Sydney itself has a number of quite distinct areas that can be classified as regions or at least localities or districts in their own right, areas as different from each other as Sydney and Melbourne are distinct.

One of our core aims in this blog and on the Regional Living Australia web site is to make the Regional Australia experience more accessible for work, life and play. To do this, we have to find the best way of encapsulating and presenting the differing regional experience across this vast country. This is no easy task.

Our story on Regional Australia & wine provided a summary history of the Australian wine industry, tracing the story from the early foundation to the point where today nearly every area in Regional Australia has its own wine. Experiencing the local wine is part of the joy of a Regional Australia lifestyle for both locals and visitors.

Our story on McLaren Vale and the Fleurieu Peninsula looked at the on-ground position in one geographically small area, an area in which wine, food and geography combine to present a life style experience. The New England Australia blog carried short stories on three very different wine regions within New England, the Hunter Valley, the New England Tablelands and the Hastings Valley.

These four stories draw out a little of the evolving variety but also present the challenge involved in trying to cover so many areas. The challenge does not finish there.

Each regional area has its own history that needs to be set within broader themes. Again, this is presently very fragmented.

In our story Why Wool?, we tried to explain why wool and the wool experience was important to Regional Australia. The Wool in Australia section on the main Regional Living Australia web site presents material on the history of the industry and its impact on regional life, while Explore the Wool Track New England looks at the wool experience across one major regional area, linking it to some other features of regional life.

Because paddle steamers were a major transport mode, this lead us to look at the history and role of paddle steamers along the Murray-Darling River system, leading to a story In Search of the Paddle Steamer again intended to make the experience more accessible.

Regional life consists of a lot more then wine, wool and paddle steamers.

The best selling Australian writer Patrice Newell moved from Adelaide to a property in the Hunter Valley. Her books are in part a tree change story, but they are more than that being detailed and evocative descriptions of local life.

A story on the New England Australia blog, New England Australia - Writers, used Patrice's writing as an entry point to look at the problems involved in understanding regional writing - and there have been a very large number of New England writers - in the absence of defined structures. A second story, In Praise of Patrice Newell, looked at one of her books in more detail, linking it in a personal context to other elements of the New England story.

Sadly, one of the writers mentioned in the New England writing story - Alex Buzo - died a few days after the story was written. Alex was very much a Sydney person who loved the city. However, his experiences living in Armidale and his time at The Armidale School where he studied English under Brian Mattingley had a major formative influence on his life. He saw himself correctly as able to interpret both sides of the metro-regional divide.

The point of these stories is that regional life across Australia involves a complex interlinked web. Understanding this web can enhance the regional experience whether as visitor or resident. Patrice Newell's the River or Judith Wright's Generations of Men are good stand-alone stories. They become still more if you can set them in context.

We began the Regional Living Australia journey with the simple objective of providing people with easier access to information about work, life or play in Regional Australia. This has now broadened to making the regional experience itself more accessible.

This is a vast canvass, one really beyond the capacity of any single site. We need far more regional sites and especially regionally focused blogs if the varying regional experience is to be properly captured and presented. Here our experience with Regional Australia Living on one side, the New England, Australia blog on the other, is instructive. Regional Living allows us to present material across a broad canvas, while New England, Australia drills down into the detail of the regional experience in one Australian region.

1 comment:

Travel Italy said...

I see this is a new site. I look forward to following over the coming months. I have never been to Australia but look forward to learning more!