Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Regional Australia - how much does food cost

One of the issues that comes up from time to time is just how much food costs in different parts of Regional Australia. I make this point because food costs vary from area to area depending in part on transport costs. So people who are thinking of leaving the metros know that rents will be cheaper, but also want to know how much more they might have to pay for groceries.

The Australian Government's Grocerychoice site is a useful source here because it provides information on food prices by region.

The first thing that you have to do is to key in your post code or town. Alternatively, you can click on the map. This then gives you prices for baskets of groceries. You can use this to compare food prices between areas.

The site is not perfect, providing information at a broad regional level. However, it is still a useful guide.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Release of Baz Luhrmann's Australia nears

We are coming up to the release of Baz Luhrmann's Australia.I must say that I am looking forward to it.

"Australia" is Baz Luhrmann's first feature film since the 2001 musical success Moulin Rouge!

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, concluding on December 19th 2007. The film is presently slated for a November 26 2008 release.

For those who are interested, the film's web site has lots of great stills.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Regional Living Australia - most popular posts 1

From time to time I report on the most popular posts on this blog. This helps me get a feel for what people like. Unfortunately, my present free stats package will only allow me to look at the most recent 100 visits.

To help me overcome this, I have decided to start a new most popular posts series reporting every two to three weeks. Over time, this should give me a better feel for things that really appeal.

The most popular posts in the last 100 visits have been:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Barratt Galleries - Alstonville

One of the trends that is adding so much to the depth of life in Regional Australia is the progressive movement of creative people from the metros seeking new life styles who the join with local creative people.

Barratt Galleries is a contemporary art space located in the historic town of Alstonville in the Northern Rivers region of NSW. The region is renowned for the diversity of its local art producers, from the crafts to the contemporary.

Whilst artist/Director Julie Barratt will be showing works from national and international artists, Barratt Galleries is dedicated to showcasing the excellence and diversity of the work of regionally based artists.

Although the gallery has a focus on limited edition prints, works on paper and artists’ books however the solo exhibition space may exhibit works across all media.

Julie Barratt, as a producer of artist books herself, has an affinity for the medium, and seeks interest from producers and collectors of artist books for collection, acquisition, representation and exhibition.

Contact Details

Barratt Galleries is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am – 4pm. All enquiries should be directed to Julie on 6628 0297 or 0427211882


Address: 5 Bugden Avenue, Alstonville

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Climate change and Australia's coastal vulnerabilities

Like many Australians, I get a little confused with all the discussions about climate change. Again like many Australians, I wonder what it means in general and for me in particular. I also wonder in the discussion what is normal climatic variability, what climate is due to climate change.

In all this, I was struck by a recent suggestion (I cannot find the link) that 270,000 houses in NSW alone were at risk because of projected rises in sea levels.

Australians love of the coast is well known. But is the numbers and time horizons are right, a lot more Australians should now be thinking about the possibility of moving inland. Yes, some inland areas have their own problems with drought. But there are a lot of inland areas that in fact have enough water and reasonable facilities.

Adopting a medium term time horizon, if current prognositications are in any way right, these areas could well experience significant growth as people relocate.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nostalgia for the sights, sounds and smells of the Australian country

Photo: Hele-hiking in the New England gorges.

In my last post, Have Australians lost their sense of country?, I bemoaned the fact as I saw it that so many metro Australians were losing their sense of country. Thinking about it, perhaps I should say more accurately, losing their familiarity with country.

If so, how would I describe the sights, sounds and smells of the Australian country that people have now lost? Here there is a difficulty because Australia is a very diverse country, so that the sights, sounds and smells actually vary from place to place. However, I can at least indicate some that are important to me, many from childhood when our sense of place is especially formed.

Early morning at our Aunt and Uncle's place. The cow has been brought in for milking. There is the steady squirt splash, squirt splash, squirt splash as the milk squirts into the metal bucket. There are good health reasons for our treated milk. However, the taste of fresh creamy milk is very different from the bottled variety.

Still early morning, same place. We are in the orchard. While the sun is bright and the day will be hot, the night chill is still in the air. We pick the cold crisp apples from the tree and eat them, the juice running down our faces.

Fruit and fruit trees feature in many memories.

There were the trees in our garden and those around. We knew every tree within a ten minute bike ride. There were big old apricots suitable for climbing as well as fruit supply, there was the big mulberry tree in a backyard just down the road, there were plum trees, apple trees and many vine fruits.

We might not eat fruit when given it, but we sure ate a lot of fruit that we collected ourselves, green or otherwise!

Bikes were central to our lives. I was in primary school before I learned to ride one, envious of friends who already had them. We could walk or run long distances and did, but a bike gave much greater freedom. They could also be a challenge for the mechanically incompetent like me. Still, I did learn to put the chain back on and to repair the inevitable punctures.

The hot smell of dust floating in the air in little particles, or kicked up by bike tires. A familiar pleasant smell in small quantities, but sometimes a choking nuisance when thrown up by cars.

I learned to drive on dirt roads and still like them. Speed up if there are corrugations, slow down if there are potholes, but what do you do if there are both?

The ritual of Sunday drives and of family picnics, mostly within a thirty kilometer radius from home. We knew every road, all the swimming spots, every change in the country side.

Armidale lies in the centre of the New England Tablelands. To the east, the water flows down through the gorges to the coast. Just to the west is the divide. From there, the water flows west towards the Darling.

Drive a little west from Armidale, and the country suddenly changes - becomes drier, the vegetation and colours are different. Drive a little east, and the rolling Tablelands are suddenly broken by huge gorges. This is now all national parks country. We picnicked at the various falls and lookouts, explored the mining remains at Hillgrove, clambered down hillsides and valleys.

Turn south and you find the Arding lanes, Uralla and the old mining centre of Rocky River. This was much more English country side, tailored by the European settlers to fit with memories of home.

Once I learned to drive and could borrow the family car, I used to take my university friends out to explore, to show them the changing countryside.

New England was sheep country, fine wool merinos. I still love the feel of wool - thick jumpers, fine wool suits, scarves.

Sheep clothed us and fed us - steak was expensive, lamb and mutton plentiful and cheap. Graziers butchered their own animals for home consumption, something I watched but cannot say I really enjoyed. Often the butchered animals were quite old: people became expert in various ways of cooking mutton.

Sheep strike me as very dumb animals. Trying to move along a flock of skittish lambs can be a challenge! A good sheep dog was highly valued.

We loved wool sheds. They have a very particular smell developed over years. As kids we played in them. Later they were often the venue for parties, with fires burning in 44 gallon drums outside to keep some of the night cold away.

Shearing time was always interesting. Then the sheds came alive with sheep and shearers. The shearers quarters were generally galvanised iron huts - I stayed in a lot of them on camps or while working on archaeological digs, in so doing acquiring a liking for rum toddies as a way of keeping the cold at bay!


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Have Australians lost their sense of country?

This rather wonderful photo by Gordon Smith looking down from Halls Peak is part of what I think of as my personal country.

Scenes like this are imprinted on my memory. However, talking around I get the feeling that metro Australians at least have lost their sense of country.

I do not mean by this that they have lost their sense of their own urban area. Rather, that they no longer know the Australian countryside in the way I do and did.

A year or so back I went to a school function in Sydney. Part of the function was the presentation by different groups of their perception of the outback. To one group, Sydney's Blue Mountains was part of the outback. I blinked.

For the benefit of international readers, the traditional definition of the outback is inland areas far from extensive settlement. Back of Bourke in NSW terms.

The country I grew up in was not outback. The country sounds, feels and images were not outback, far from it. Now it is apparently classified by at least some metro dwellers as outback.

We have always been an urban community. Arguably, Australia was the world's first urban community measured by the proportion of the population living in major urban centres. Still, fifty years ago most Australians had some country connection.

This is no longer true. I find it hard to understand, but it's true that there are Australians who have never experienced the country other than views seen from a car while driving from point A to point B.

I am a townie. I grew up in an urban, indeed academic, community within the country. But I was still imprinted by the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside. As a consequence, my oral and visual language is different from that used by many metro Australians.

I find it sad that so many will never experience the things that I knew.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Pigs will fly - a community development blog

My thanks to the Australian Blog Index for drawing my attention to Pigs will fly, a community development blog and network. This strikes me as a very useful blog for all those interested in regional and community development.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Australian regional tourism - Grafton's failure to maximise visitor experience

In Australian regional tourism - maximising the visitor experience I spoke of the importance of focusing on the visitor experience in building local or regional tourism.

I was sitting beside someone from Grafton at a recent dinner. As it happened, I had just written a post talking about Grafton, Diary of a travelling trainer - day two: Grafton, Sydney. We started talking about the city's history, about its place as a major river port. He had no idea.

Now this links to my point.

As I said in my post on Grafton, the tourism material on Grafton fails to properly draw out the city's riverine and maritime shipping history. This is quite recent: North Coast Steam Navigation Company services finally stopped in 1954. Yet there is little mention of this history. I know the history, yet I had to ask to find out where the steamers docked.

Would people be interested in this history? Yes, they would.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Australian regional tourism - maximising the visitor experience

Recently I have been running a series of training workshops. As part of this, I have spent a fair bit of time in regional centres.

The first thing I do upon arrival at my motel is to look at the local tourism material. What does it tell me about the place? What might I like to see or do?

Frankly, some of the stuff remains very ordinary. For some reason, many of Australia's regional areas remain fixated on the simple attractions (what to see)/events (what's on) classification. Many also are still obsessed with the need to prove that they are as good as somewhere else. Far too few focus on maximising the visitor experience.

The central problem with the attraction/event focus lies in its inward looking, passive focus. You create a descriptive list, relying on that to attract a visitor with a given interest. By contrast, the visitor experience focus looks at what visitors want, how you might deepen and richen their experience.

Two things are central to the visitor experience approach.

The first is to understand what you have. The events/attractions list is a start here, but only a start. Now look at everything in the district or region to try to think what might interest the visitor, not just the more obvious things. Build a list.

The second is to think about things that you might do to add to visitor enjoyment. This may be things like clean toilets. More often, it should be things like more information, something that will tell the visitor a story, give them a context.

One key thing to remember is that the visitor experience approach does not require a grand new strategy. You can start small and build.