Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year

As 2007 draws to a close, a happy new year to all. May it bring renewed peace and happiness to us all.

There were, I think, 105 posts on this blog during the year. Over 2008, I am looking forward to exploring further the remarkable variety and texture of life across the vast expanses of Regional Australia.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Australian rainfall projections - January to March 2008

Graphic: Bureau of Meteorology rainfall projections, January to March 2008

Back on 26 November I provided details of the BoM rainfall forecasts for the period December to February 2008. The forecasts suggested that the drought that had gripped parts of southern Australia was likely to continue to ease. Since then, much of southern Australia has received significant rain.

The Bureau has now released its projections for the January to March period. The biggest change is an increased chance of below average rains in a big north-south strip through the centre of the country.

The area in WA with the highest probability of above average rain has moved south. In the east, the belt of higher projected rainfall continues to be centred on southern Queensland and Northern NSW.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Great Source of Information about Australia - The Australian Government's Culture and Recreation Portal

I have been meaning to mention this site for a little while.

The Australian Government maintains a site called Culture and Recreational Portal that is, I think, a superb site for information about Australia, including Regional Australia. I use it all the time, often getting distracted and just browsing.

Do have a look.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Is Australia the world's driest continent?

My father, who as a Kiwi, used to tease Australians sometimes that one third of Australia was desert, one third semi arid, and the other third not much use anyway! Certainly Australia is a dry continent, but is it the driest?

Looking at The Weather Doctor, I see that Antarctica is the driest continent, but it is not inhabited outside research teams and support.

If we look just at South America, we can eliminate Europe and South America from the possibilities although South America has the driest area on Earth, outside the polar continent, located in Chile. North America could have a strong argument in the northern regions, but the southern areas such as Central America are quite wet. That leaves the A continents: Australia, Africa and Asia.

Looking at the climate classification maps, Australia seems to have the highest percentage of dry climates. But the Sahara is larger in area than all of Australia. And the dry interior of Asia along with the Middle East and dry areas of China and India give Asia large dry regions.

Still, if we look at overall patterns, The Encyclopedia of Climatology gives the following facts about Australia:

  • 50% of land receives less than 300 mm/year of precipitation
  • 80% receives less than 600 mm/yr
  • Over 75%, the potential evaporation is greater than 2500 mm/yr
  • In central Australia the evaporation potential is around 4500 mm/yr, 20 times the actual annual rainfall.

This leads The Weather Doctor to conclude that Australia can fairly claim to be the world's driest inhabited continent in an overall sense.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Australia's Best Restaurants 2007 - Australia's regional restaurants rank high

Peter Wade, Head on a Stick No 12, Grafton Regional Gallery

My thanks to the Australian Regional Food Guide for drawing my attention to the Life Style Channel's national I love food awards. This covered all parts of Australia including the metros.

The national winner was Georgies Café Restaurant at New England's Grafton Regional Gallery, 158 Fitzroy St, Grafton, NSW 2460, Ph: (02) 6642 6996. Food modern Australian.

The ACT's El Torogoz (Mexican/Latin American) came in at number 5. Contact details Palmerston La, Manuka, ACT 2603, Ph: (02) 6260 7077.

This was followed at number 6 by the Ambrosia Café and Bar (modern Australian). Contact details Shop 13, 84 Bemersyde Drive,Berwick, VIC 3806, Ph: (03) 9702 0044.

The Siam Terrace Thai Restaurant came in at number 12. Contact details 9 Alison Rd, Wyong, NSW 2259. Ph: (02) 4351 4555.

Then at 15 came the The Tasmanian Chocolate Studio (Bistro/Cafe). Contact details 1 - 3 Cuisine Lane, Launceston, TAS 725. Ph: (03) 6334 7878.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Regional Australia - climate and weather

Australia's size makes for considerable variation in climate and weather across the country. All Australians know this, but our knowledge is often limited to the headlines associated with weather extremes.

To help myself better understand these variations, I am creating a new climate weather tag to draw together posts in this area.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

New Country NSW web site

I see that Peter Bailey and the team from Country Week have put up a new web site intended to help those wishing to relocate to Regional NSW.

On the surface, the site looks good and I wish them well.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Country Shows - Dorrigo Show 08

Twelve months ago I carried a story on country shows triggered by Gordon Smith's great photos of the Dorrigo Show in New England. Now Gordon has visited the show again, with more photos.

This photo is of the lady doing the cattle judging. It somehow fits with my perceptions.

The judging is a formal occasion, so she is wearing a hat that would go well on a race course, along with what looks like a rather nice set of pearls. Then there is the coat. But if you went down, I bet you would find something like a pair of riding boots. So a mix of the formal and informal.

A confession.

Growing up, I was a rather bookish kid from an academic family. The country girls with their practical approaches, pearls and style used to terrify me. It took me years to realise that they were in some ways as insecure as me!

Monday, November 26, 2007

The drought is slowly easing

This graphic of the medium term rainfall forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology suggests the drought that has gripped parts of Southern Australia is slowly easing.

Dam storage levels in many places are still very low simply because the long drought means that only a small proportion of initial rain runs off. Still, some regional centres such as Goulburn in NSW that have been on very tight water restrictions have been able to ease them.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Northern Myths - or a new reality?

The vast expanses of Northern Australia have long been seen as an un-tapped territory with huge potential. Yet the reality has been far from this - the North is littered with failed dreams.

Slowly, the old myths may be becoming a reality. Mining, tourism and defence have provided key economic drivers, leading to considerable if still patchy development. Now, partially influenced by debate about climate change, the expansion of agricultural activities has again emerged as a topic of debate.

Again, this is not new. What is new, to my mind, is the way in which supporting infrastructure has slowly evolved. This should not be over-stated. The North is still remote to those in the deep south. However, development tends to build on itself, creating further building blocks. I can see this happening.

As it does, new opportunities open up. Without being too prescriptive about it, my feeling is that the next two decades will come to be seen as the Northern development decades, the period in which Australia's focus shifted in part from south to north.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rain Shadow ends - and what is Yonees disease?

I really have been enjoying the Australian Broadcasting Commission's Rain Shadow. Sadly, the last episode is on Sunday.

The story line is simple enough. An enthusiastic young city vet Jill Blake (Victoria Thaine) arrives in the small drought stricken South Australian town of Paringa to work with notoriously "difficult" Kate McDonald (Rachel Ward).

Set to work, Jill immediately encounters many of the problems of dry-land farming in stark relief: a farmer who can cope with neither the drought nor his mounting debts; another forced off his land by the bank; and a third confronting the vexed issues of succession and future planning. Then there's the spectre of a notifiable sheep disease, the mere mention of which turns Kate's prickly attitude to open hostility.

While initially criticised by some critics as too slow moving, the program has evolved into a gripping six part mini-series that has become compulsive watching for my wife and I. However, one thing puzzled me. What was this mysterious "yonees disease"?

Now I grew up in a fine wool merino region and I had never heard of it. Finally, I got so annoyed that I went searching. As best I can work out, it is in fact Ovine Johne’s disease (OJD), a chronic wasting disease of sheep caused by the sheep strain of the bacterium, Mycobacterium paratuberculosis, which grows mainly in the small intestine.

The intestine wall slowly thickens and the animal has increasing trouble absorbing nutrition from its food. A sheep with clinical OJD usually continues to eat and remains bright, but slowly loses condition. There is no cure - the animal usually dies within 3 to 6 months. According to the NSW Department of Primary Production:

Since it was first found in Australia in 1980, Ovine Johne’s Disease (OJD) has proven to be a costly disease in Australia. It spreads slowly, is difficult to detect early on, causes lower weight gain and wool production and can kill about 10% of adult sheep each year if left unmanaged. Recent NZ research has been reported as showing losses of 17% of weaner weight and 10% of wool cut in sub-clinical cases in crossbreds. Once it gets into an area all flocks are at risk. The earlier you act, the less the impact of OJD on your business. Assuring sheep buyers about the OJD status of your sheep is becoming the norm.

Now I feel a little better about not recognising it since it did not exist in Australia when I was growing up.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Australia's Lobster Shortgage

Graphic: Western Rock Lobster Development Association

WA produces something like 80 per cent of Australia's lobster catch. The industry with its 500 boats justly prides itself on running an environmentally sustainable fishery.

This year the combination of economics with nature has worked against the industry. Rising fuel prices together with the rising Australian dollar has combined with a reduction in the projected catch from 10,500 to 9,400 tonnes to place pressure on the industry.

The loser? The Australian consumer who can expect to pay Christmas prices of $20 per piece as compared with $10 a few years ago.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Victorian Wine Regions - Rutherglen

Photo: All Saints Winery, Rutherglen

I really do like the old gold mining and wine center of Rutherglen in North Eastern Victoria.

I first went there many years ago. I had a small station wagon at the time, and came back loaded with crates of wine.

Rutherglen is located 283k (3 hours) from Melbourne by road. There are nineteen or twenty vineyards in close location to the town, vineyards that are especially famous for their fortified wines. I have two of these in my cupboard for immediate drinking as I write.

The last time I was there I did not have time to do more than go from vineyard to vineyard trying the wine. Now some might say that that was no hardship, and that would be right. But still, I did not get to properly experience the district's history. Or food!

So of you are going, allow plenty of time to explore. If you are interested you can find out more here,

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Victorian Tourism's cheeky Sydney move

Photo: Ballarat street scape

Victoria really does a better job than NSW in marketing the state's various attractions.

Both states are dominated by the state capital. Yet while Victoria does promote Melbourne as a centre piece, it also markets the state's attractions in an integrated way.

By contrast, Tourism NSW has two different brands, Brand Sydney and Brand NSW. The second is always submerged by the first.

This is partially a matter of size: Victoria is simply a more compact state than NSW. But it also represents long standing differences in approach between the two.

While Sydney and the NSW Government were obsessed with Sydney's potential role as a global city, Melbourne and the Victorian Government were quietly reinventing Melbourne as a life style city. Now, with Melbourne out-performing Sydney in economic terms, Sydney's local press and especially the Sydney Morning Herald is obsessing about the need to reinvent and recreate Sydney.

In the midst of this, the Victorian Government paid for a glossy edition of the Victorian Wine Guide to be included in the Herald. Cheeky, really.

Still, its great from my viewpoint because it gives me lot of new material to write about. By contrast, I have to individually research NSW stories.

Friday, November 09, 2007

University of New England re-organises - 10 new professorial heads of schools to be appointed

I was fascinated to read that the University of New England, the oldest university located in Regional Australia, is advertising no less than 10 professorial heads of schools.

The move is one outcome from the University's latest strategic review during which it redefined its role as "achieving regional and global impact", thus trying bridge and integrate two key elements that have always existed within the institution.

All of Australia's universities have been, to use the old quote, "living in interesting times." Because of demographic change, numbers in the traditional feeder cohorts are down from their peak, increasing competition for students. Funding has been squeezed, making universities more reliant on international full fee paying students. There is also more competition for research dollars.

In all this, Regional Australia's universities continue to offer a more personalised alternative than many of the metros.

Part of the reason for this lies in size. Some of the major metro universities are simply huge.

According to the latest stats that I could find, in 2006 the University of Sydney had 45,848 students, UNSW 38,776 and UTS (Sydney) 32,712. In theory, size allows the universities to offer a wide range of courses. In practice, size often translates to bigger classes and tutorials, to remoteness, to lack of contact with staff.

Overseas, full fee paying students, is another variable. In 2006, Sydney had 9,680 overseas students, UTS 8,954 and UNSW 8,618. These are big groups. In theory, the presence of overseas students should enrich campus life, and indeed it does in some cases. The problem in practice, however, is that the very large number of overseas students makes for lack of integration and interaction between them and local students.

In all this, the University of New England faces a particular challenge because of the small size of the immediate population base surrounding the University. New England has to persuade its internal students to move from home to live on or near the main Armidale campus. While this makes for an intense student experience, the University still faces a significant challenge because of the stay at home nature of a high proportion of the nation's metro young.

Despite the problems, the University's collegiate, residential, feel remains one of its greatest strengths because it clearly differentiates the University from its metro rivals.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Golf Touring under a Big Sky

Photo: Golf at Gunnedah

My thanks to Niki Payne from John Campbell Communication & Marketing for bringing this to my attention.

Now I am not a golfer. More precisely, I enjoy golf but rarely get to play it. So I would never have thought of golf tourism.

Well, it's not quite golf tourism as such. More an excuse to move from one golf course to another while having some bloody good fun!

Now here Niki pointed out that New England's Big Sky Country - the Northern Tablelands, Western Slopes and Plains - has a golf course in almost every town.

A round of golf is not only an essential holiday activity, it‘s an easy way to meet some of the locals.

Remember that while golf is fun, allow some time to sample some of the other attractions. The individual towns are not too far apart, there is a range of things to see and do, while the countryside itself varies in interesting ways. While travelling, do also drop in at some of the growing number of local vineyards.

So rough guide to the golf courses follows, Tamworth north to Tenterfield and west to Moree, along with some recommended attractions while you’re there.

Golf Links Road
(02) 6772 5837
Holes 18 Par 72
Busiest day: Saturday

The only course in the city known for its four distinct seasons is particularly spectacular in autumn and spring, with its mix of native and exotic trees. Its own water supply, from two dams, ensures the course always looks in lush condition. Snow can blanket the course occasionally in the winter. Locals say the 14th hole is one of the most difficult Par 3 holes in the district.

Essential activity for visitors: Armidale, long the prospective capital of the proposed New England new state, is a historic grazing and education centre with a range of attractions. Free heritage bus tour of the city; for the non-golfing partners, the shopping is appealing here.

Hutchinsons Road
(02) 6732 1555
Holes 18 Par 71
Busiest day: Weekends

Glen Innes is located in the heart of Celtic Country, given this name because of the number of Scottish settlers. The Glen Innes course is well set out with consistently green fairways that are often home to resident wallabies and roos. As in Armidale, each Glen Innes season is special, so the course is most appealing in autumn and spring. The sixth and tenth holes, both Par 4s, are the most challenging.

Essential activity for visitors: Among other things, the Australian Standing Stones, the national Celtic monument dedicated to the pioneers of the region.

Plane Avenue
Holes 18 Par 70
02 6778 4059
Busiest day: Weekends

Uralla is located 20 kilometres south of Armidale and grew with the nearby Rocky River goldfields. , the Uralla Golf Course is set in natural bushland and looks sensational in autumn. Reputed to be one of the best courses in the district, there’s three dams and well maintained greens. The 16th hole with a Par 5 is the challenging one.

Essential activity for visitors: Visit the unique McCrossins Mill Museum including its Chinese Joss House; try a Thunderbolt Pie, made to the recipe that bushranger Captain Thunderbolt apparently liked when he roamed these parts in the 1860s.

George Street
(02) 6742 2111
Holes 18 Par 70
Busiest day: Saturday

Located in the centre of Gunnedah, the golf course’s koala population makes it a bit of an unofficial tourist destination. The course is reasonably green most of the year, although in summer the fairways can dry off, making red earth a common sight. There’s a nice gentle slope away from the clubhouse and the trickiest hole is the fifth – a Par 4 with a couple of trees and dams to negotiate.

Essential activity for visitors: Koala spotting; self-guided Poet’s Drive and the Lyrical Loos.

McKie Parkway
Holes 18 Par 73
(02) 6779 1015
Busiest days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday

Situated around the Mother of Ducks Lagoon, a wetland reserve for birdlife that measures 14km in diameter, the Guyra course offers plenty of watery challenges. The Par 5 14th hole, an uphill dogleg over a dam, is usually cause for concern. Guyra is the highest town in the New England region, so wind can be a factor when playing here. The course is green year–round.

Essential activity for visitors: Trout fishing in one of the local rivers; visit one of the nearby national parks.

Bombelli Street
Holes 9 Par 66
(02) 6724 1206
Busiest day: Sunday

Bingara is located on the Gwydir River. The course is a long and narrow riverside course that is well maintained year-round by a band of local volunteers. The Par 4 fifth hole with a narrow approach to the green guarded by a river red gum causes a few headaches. There’s a honesty box at the front gate for players, as the club house is only staffed most week days after 4pm and on weekends after 12noon. The Bingara course hosts a Veterans Week of Golf in the first week of October each year.

Essential activity for visitors: Tour of the art-deco Roxy Theatre; Rocky Creek Glacial Area.

Tingha Road
Holes 18 Par 70
(02) 6722 1574
Busiest day: Saturday

Home of the Sapphire Cup, a two-day competition held each January, the Inverell course offers undulating hills on the front nine and a flatter back nine, with water hazards on the last seven holes. The greens are relatively fast.

Essential activity for visitors: Fossicking for sapphires; Inverell Transport Museum

Greenbah Road
Holes 18 Par 72
(02) 6752 1405
Busiest day: Weekends and Thursday.

In the western-most town of Big Sky Country, Moree’s golf course is a green retreat, with tree-lined fairways and the Mehi River running through the back nine. The recently renovated clubhouse offers some good views and the 17th and 18th holes are the most picturesque. This club offers regular competitions for all levels of player, including nine-hole contests on Tuesdays.

Essential activity for visitors: Swim or soak your post-golf aching muscles in the thermal Artesian water at the public pool or at one of the many hotels with a pool tapped directly into the thermal water supply.

Gibbons Street
Holes 18 Par 71
(02) 6792 2344
Busiest day: Saturday, but this course is very accessible seven days a week.

Narrabri is known as Australia’s sportiest shire and its golf course welcomes all visitors with open arms. It’s a fairly straightforward course with a challenging back nine, the most difficult of these being the Par 4 15th. Narrabri hosts a Veterans Week of Golf each May.

Essential activity for visitors: Mt Kaputar National Park and its geographical icon, Sawn Rocks.

Mahoney Street
Holes 18 Par 70
02 6765 9393
Busiest days: Wednesday and Saturday

A traditional course with tree-lined fairways, plenty of bunkers and some water hazards. Look out for the Par 4 second hole, with water on the left hand side and out of bounds of the right; and the sixth, with the large dam.

Bear in mind that during the Country Music Festival in January, it can be difficult to get a game.

Greg Norman Drive
Holes 18 Par 72
02 6765 2988
Busiest days: Wednesday and Saturday

Designed by Greg Norman, Longyard is gaining a reputation for being somewhat testing. With a flat front nine, a hilly back nine lined with mature olive trees and Moreton Bay figs, the links style course has 59 bunkers. The par 3 16th, over water and surrounded by bunkers, will be your biggest challenge.

Wildlife is abundant here.

Essential activity for visitors: Tamworth is a major regional centre with a wide range of attractions - A photo at the Golden Guitar: Walk A Country Mile Interpretive Centre at the Tamworth Visitor Information Centre; a night of live music at one of the pubs.

Werris Creek Road
Holes 9 Par 72
02 6746 1209
Busiest day: Saturday

The Quirindi course is a softly undulating course with two dams and two bunkers, this nine-hole course has grass greens and a tricky third hole where the ball often finds the water. The clubhouse is only open on Saturdays so the rest of the week it’s an honesty box system.

Essential activity for visitors: First Fleet Memorial Gardens; Australian Railway Monument in nearby Werris Creek.

Pelham Street
02 6736 1480
Holes 18 Par 71
Busiest day: Saturday

The Tenterfield course gets some glowing reviews on for its condition and views, and justifiably so. This is a superbly maintained course that is never crowded, with tree-lined fairways that look their most spectacular in autumn and views towards the mountains. The Par 4 10th hole is the most difficult and there’s a dam on the 7th to look out for. A motel on the course provides views from your verandah and offers “stay and play“ options.

Essential activity for visitors: The Tenterfield Saddlery, the inspiration for the Peter Allen song; a tour of the local wineries.

Oxley Highway
Holes 18 Par 70
02 6777 2143
Busiest day: Sunday

A hilly, rain-watered course with views to the mountains, Walcha is sometimes the host course for the NSW sand green titles. There are a few dams and only the one bunker. The Par 5 12th hole with a dog leg and dam running beside it might frustrate you. An honesty box operates during the week, with the clubhouse open on weekends.

Essential activity for visitors: Sculpture walk; Apsley Falls and Apsley Gorge in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.

Crosby Street
Holes 9 Par 70
02 67693268
Busiest day: Sunday

In the historic village of Nundle, this course is long, at 5,660 metres, with synthetic greens, no bunkers and no water hazards. The Par 4 third hole is a slight dog leg with a man made rise at the front of the green that creates some challenges. An honesty box system operates here through the week, with the clubhouse open for dinner on weekend nights. The course is amalgamated with the Bowls Club.

Essential activity for visitors: Lunch at the Peel Inn; a tour of the Nundle Woollen Mill.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cloncurry Qld - a new type of solar power

Photo; Airport, Cloncurry, the start of QANTAS

Cloncurry (and here) in north west Queensland has the honour of holding the record for the highest recorded temperature in Australia - 53.1c in 1889. Now that's hot.

I mention this because Cloncurry is to be the site for a new type of solar power station in which 8,000 mirrors will focus sunlight onto graphite blocks. Water pumped through the blocks will turn to steam, driving a turbine generator.

When fully functional, the new power station is expected to generate 10 megawatts of electricity, enough power for 3,500 people.

Cloncurry has a rich history.

In 1861 Burke and Wills with King and Gray, were the first Europeans to come into the area on their ill fated expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Burke named the river “Cloncurry” for his cousin, Lady Elizabeth Cloncurry of County Galway in Ireland.

In May 1867, Ernest Henry (honored as town founder), came searching for grazing land. Instead he discovered copper, the start of great mineral wealth that continues until today.

Cloncurry has been the focal point for a number of Australia’s greatest innovations.

On 3 November 1922, what is now QANTAS flew its first passenger (Alexander Kennedy) from Longreach to Cloncurry on November 3rd 1922 at a cost of 11 pounds 2 shillings. The original QANTAS Hanger is still in use at the aerodrome, with “Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service” still displayed above the hanger door The airport was also on route for early planes coming from overseas and a stopping point for contestants in the great air races of 1919 and 1934.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service was founded here in 1928, now recognized the world over for its delivery of medical services across the vast outback. Cloncurry has a museum dedicated to the Service's history. The airport was also on route for early planes coming from overseas and a stopping point for contestants in the great air races of 1919 and 1934. During the Second World War, Cloncurry was the site of a major United States of America Air Base.

In all, a rich history.

Cloncurry is also on The Inlander, one of Queensland's great rail routes.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Regional Living Australia - end month review October 2007

In my last end month review I commented that I was getting back to regular posting and that, consequently, September traffic was well up.

Maintaining this in October proved a bit more difficult than I expected. At 9, the number of posts was one down. Further, posting was a bit irregular. As a result, October traffic was a little bit down from September.

What did people look at?

The most popular entry page after the front page was Tree Change, Sea Change Stories, a very short post giving a link through to another site.

This was followed by two equal stories. The first was the Land Newspaper and Australian Rural Life, the second the archive for August 2007. I am not sure just what brought visitors to the archive page, but there were some good posts in August.

Then came another archive page, this time for July 2006. Again I do not know what people searched on, but this one really took me back because July 2006 was this blog's first ever month.

This archive page ranked equally with three others.

The first was Kimberley Region WA 2 - the romance of pearls and pearling, a post that features regularly in the top group. Equal with this was Australia's Indigenous Heritage - Big Sky Country, another post often in the top group. also equal was another archive post, this time for April 2007.

Then came six equal posts:

The list this time is far more diverse, and brings out some of the diversity of this blog.

Where to next?

I want this blog to be both enjoyable and useful. On the first, I need to have regular posts with variety. On the second, I need more cross-links together with a greater focus on themes to avoid becoming to itsy bitsy. Let's see how I go over November!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Regional Australia's universities- engines for regional development

Interesting short article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Professor Gerard Sutton, VC at Wollongong University, on the role that Regional Australia's universities play in driving regional development. Unfortunately I cannot give the link.

Unlike New Zealand where university development was relatively widely spread, the establishment of universities in Regional Australia really lagged. It would be 1928 before the Armidale Teachers College was established as the first higher educational institution outside the metro centres, 1938 before the New England University College was founded. There was then a very long gap until the creation of Newcastle University first as a University College and then as a full university in 1965.

Professor Sutton makes the point that Regional Australia's universities are working hard to create university cities outside the metros - at places like Wollongong, Newcastle, Armidale, Bathurts, Lismore, Wagga Wagga, Townsville, Toowoomba, Ballarat and Geelong, just to mention a few.

These universities have very different roles in their communities as compared to the metros. As an example, they often have to drive the creation of infrastructure, rather than taking what is there as given. In doing so, they greatly enrich their local communities.

They are also major employers, injecting billions of dollars into regional economies directly and through their attraction of students who have to be fed and housed.

Now here Professor Sutton makes the point that regional universities have a responsibility to provide much more by acting as catalysts for development in ways in which metro universities need not and, often, could not match.

He is, of course, correct. Regional Australia's universities have acted as pioneers not just in the development of new teaching and learning approaches, but also through their contributions to regional development.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dogs in Ute

Photo: Dogs in Ute

This photo comes from The Outstation site.

When the kids were young and we were doing a long country drive, each would be given a list of things to spot. The one who filled her list first got a prize.

Dogs in the back of a ute was always one of the staples. We saw all sorts of utes and all sorts of dogs. Still, the strangest sighting was in the middle of Sydney itself. I still don't know what the ute in question was doing there.

As kids, my brother and I loved driving round in the back of utes, especially through the paddocks. Memories!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bunya Mountains National Park

Photo: From Gordon Smith, Grass Tree Forest, Look and See.

Looking slightly surreal, grass trees in State Forest on the edge of the Bunya Mountains National Park, Queensland.

The nuts of the Bunya pine were a traditional food for the Australian Aborigines. When the pine fruited, Aborigines would gather from what is now southern Queensland and Northern New England for ceremonies and to feast.

Today the Bunya Mountains National Park preserves some of this tradition.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Australian Election 2007 - Flynn

Photo: This photo looks a bit like Dante's Inferno, but it is in fact the Alumina Works, Gladstone, Queensland.

Australia is in the midst of a national election campaign. One side effect is that the commentary is drawing out some of the distinctions between Australia's electorates. And they are substantial.

This photo comes from a story in the Sydney Morning Herald about the seat of Flynn in Queensland. Centred on the regional city of Gladstone, Flynn is one of the centres of Australia's resources boom. There are also some rather nice tourist attractions nearby.

Notionally a strong National Party seat, Flynn is a seat to watch in the event of a major swing.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Australian Election 2007 - following regional seats

For the benefit of the great diaspora from Regional Australia who want to follow what is happening in the current Federal election, the ABC's Antony Green now has his electoral guide up.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Australia's busiest regional airports 2005-2006

Statistical data has always fascinated me. Probably something wrong in my childhood, but I do find numbers interesting. In this context, I spent a little time browsing airport data to find Regional Australia's top regional airports measured by passenger numbers in 2005-2006.

A list of the top (thirty four) follows, using 100,000 revenue passengers as the cut off point. I found the list an interesting reflection of modern Australia.

Without being too scientific about it, seventeen owe their position in whole or part to tourism, seven are mining centres, three are capital cities.

One. Cairns in North Queensland, 3,731,178, up from 2,594,857 in 1995-96. This total includes 855,949 international passengers, up from 694,650 in 1995-1996.

Two. Gold Coast, coastal resort city in South East Queensland, 3,515,021, up from 1,992,862 in 1995-1996. This total includes 210, 495 international passengers, up from zero in 1995-1996.

Three. Canberra, the national capital, 2,550,129, up from 1,749,608 in 1995-1996.

Four. Hobart, Tasmania's capital city, 1,605,978, up from 850,295 in 1995-1996. Hobart used to have a small number of international flights, but these stopped during 1997-98.

Five. Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory, 1,219,376, up from 931,578 in 1995-1996. This total includes 116,454 international passengers, down from 141,703 in 1995-1996.

Six. Launceston, city in Northern Tasmania, 925,637, up from 588,262 in 1995-1996.

Seven. Williamtown (Newcastle), major Hunter Valley industrial city and port, 816,651, up from 105,947 in 1995-1996.

Eight. Maroochydore, Queensland Sunshine Coast, 786,168, up from 309,885 in 1995-1996.

Nine. Mackay, service and tourism city in Northern Queensland, 660,632, up from 289,838 in 1995-1996.

Ten. Alice Springs in Central Australia, 605,073, down from 853,274 in 1995-1996. I wonder what the reason was for this fall.

Eleven. Rockhampton, tourism and service city in Central Queensland, 588,028, up from 312,853 in 1995-1996.

Twelve. Hamilton Island, Queensland Barrier Reef resort, 432,051, up from 306,287 in 1995-1966.

Thirteen. Ayers Rock (Uluru) in Central Australia, 377, 812, slightly up from 325,131 in 1995-1996.

Fourteen. Coffs Harbour, seaside resort on the New England/NSW Mid North Coast, 322,206, up from 168,626 in 1995-1996.

Fifteen. Broome, Kimberley region Western Australia, 302,061, up from 216,996 in 1995-1996. Broome used to have a small number of scheduled international flights, but these ended in 2001-2002.

Sixteen. Ballina, a seaside service centre and resort town on the New England/NSW North Coast, 269,886, well up from 79,277 in 1995-1996.

Seventeen. Karratha, mining service centre in WA's Pilbara region, 261,825, up from 162,072 in 1995-1996.

Eighteen. Proserpine, service centre for Queensland's Whitsunday Coast, 222,592, up from 96,805 in 1995-1996.

Nineteen. Townsville, major North Queensland city, 215,959, up from 143,548 in 1995-1996. Townsville was also a small international airport, but this stopped during 2001-2002.

Twenty. Albury, 198,020, up from 149,698 in 1995-1996. Albury is an inland city in NSW on the Murray River.

Twenty one. Kalgoorlie, WA mining town, 192,891, up from 187,793 in 1995-1996.

Twenty two. Wagga Wagga, major service city in the Riverina region of NSW, 171,677, up from 123,538 in 1995-1996.

Twenty three. Gladstone, industrial city and service centre on the Central Queensland coast, 159,950, up from 104,379 in 1995-1996.

Twenty four. Dubbo, inland city in the central west of NSW, 155,805 passengers, up from 109,837 in 1995-1996.

Twenty five. Mildura, Victorian Murray River town, 154,654, up from 86,260 in 1995-1996.

Twenty six. Hervey Bay, coastal resort and retirement city in South East Queensland, 140,863, well up from 40,348 in 1995-1996.

Twenty seven. Port Lincoln, South Australian fishing centre, 138,547, up from 89,290 in 1995-1996.

Twenty eight. Mount Isa, Queensland mining city, 132,475, up from 101,468 in 1995-1996.

Twenty nine. Port Hedland, port and service centre in WA's Pilbara region, 120,931, down from 128,739 in 1995-1996. Port Hedland used to have a small number of international flights, but these ceased in 1999-2000.

Thirty. Port Macquarie, resort centre, New England/NSW Mid North Coast, 108,969, up from 75,899 in 1995-1996.

Thirty one. Gove, mining town on the edge of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, 108,427, down from 131,427 in 1995-19956.

Thirty two. Mount Gambier, South Australia, 102,121, up from 61,205 in 1995-1996.

Thirty three. Armidale, 100,984, up from 66,384 in 1995-1995. Armidale is an educational centre in Australia's New England.

Thirty four. Newman, mining town in WA's Pilbara region, 100,518, up from 68,267 in 1995-96.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Regional Australia wine - James Halliday's Wine Companion now on-line

James Halliday's Wine Companion is one of Australia's best know wine guides. I was pleased to discover that it now has an on-line edition adding to the ever growing volume of information on the wines of Regional Australia.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Baz Lurhmann's Australia

Photo: Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman filming Australa

I must say that I am looking forward to seeing Baz Lurhmann's Australia. It's been a little while since we saw a major film set in the Australian outback.

Australia is Baz Luhrmann's first feature film since the 2001 musical success Moulin Rouge, still a favourite with my daughters.

The film centres on an English aristocrat in the 1930s, played by Nicole Kidman, who comes to northern Australia to sell a cattle property the size of Belgium. After an epic journey across the country with a rough-hewn drover, Hugh Jackman, they are caught in the bombing of Darwin during World War II. Filming began late April 2007 and is scheduled to finish approximately November 2007, with a November 2008 target release date.

In the meantime, the film's web site has a great photo gallery that is well worth a browse.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Regional Living Australia - end month review September 2007

Another month, another review. I said in the August review that I was getting back to regular posting again, with September traffic up from August, with August up in turn from the July low point. One pleasing point (chart below) was the number of visitors who looked at more than one page.

So what did people look at?

The most popular page after the front page itself was again the post Australia's Regional Differences - Melbourne vs Sydney, although its lead did decline. Then came Regional Australia's Universities - student satisfaction rankings. Looking back, I see that this page was in the top group back at the start of August. As I said then, good to see.

Australia's Indigenous Heritage - Big Sky Country retained its place in the top group, followed by the re-appearance of Kimberley Region WA 2 - the romance of pearls and pearling. On equal place came Judith Wright's The Hawthorn Hedge - Regional Australia writers. All my Judith Wright posts on several blogs (entry page here) have been popular, in part I think because a fair number of students are studying her poems for the year 12 exams.

When I look at the source of the last 100 visitors, twenty came direct, seven from the Regional Living Australia web site, seven from my other blogs, two from olives101, my favourite olives site. So if my my maths is correct, that leaves 65 from search engines.

If we look at country of origin as set out in the chart below, Australia dominates traffic at 52 per cent, followed by the US on 10 per cent.

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.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Going bush for city slickers - introduction

The desire to own a piece of bush as a retreat is still deeply felt by many Australians, recurring to many as a dream in the midst of a crowded city life. Often, it remains just that, a dream. In other cases, the step turns out to be a mistake, bringing problems to both the city dweller and their new neighbours. In still other cases, the result is great satisfaction.

The main reason for failure is simply failure to properly identify in advance all the issues that need to be considered. Take a simple example, weed control. Many weekend farmers let the land run wild, failing to recognise that things such as noxious weeds have to be controlled. This failure then creates difficulties for those around them.

Given the continuing interest, I can see this from some of the searches on this blog, I thought that I might start a new series pointing to some of the issues that need to be considered.

While I have been around farms all my life, I am not a farmer. So I am not going to tell you how to farm. But I thought that I could usefully give you some general hints to consider, focused especially on those who are looking for an escape, a retreat, rather than a permanent, full time, move.

In doing so, I will follow the structure that seems to work. This post will be the entry post. Then, as I add posts, I will put next posts, previous post, back to introduction at the bottom of each post to make navigation easier.

Next post.