And find that now it stops in your court and mine. The Armidale region finds itself at an important point in its history and in what could be underestimated as “challenging times”.
It’s a funny-bunny district in lots of ways, acting as though we have a population of 500,000, but not marketing ourselves to show how we stand out, telling our stories so other people take notice. We tend to act as a terrestrial island, busy within our own boundaries to the exclusion of our potential and attracting new citizens to contribute. We can’t look back and want the past – we need to get out there.
The city and the university need each other to function and indeed, to remain viable. And yet I hear that that old elusive Town and Gown image has never been weaker. How fixable! Firstly, the university needs a proper presence in the centre of the city – Head Tenants in the Old Courthouse would be a big first step. Events open to the general public would attract townspeople and help “fold in” the concept of a true university city.
UNE’s putting a lot of investment into agriculture and the natural sciences – vital in the new economy. The world must be fed and many city-born people haven’t a clue what goes into filling supermarket shelves – too busy worrying about their mortgages!
There’s been a lot of publicity about future jobs needing a fluid education across disciplines to cope with future needs. It‘s the non-routine jobs that require creativity and are hard to automate. Only one stream in education doesn’t seem to be what will cut it down the track. The new Business Incubator’s recent speaker, Alan Jones, went to Silicon Valley, ended up a Director of Yahoo and now Blue Chilli as well as being a sounding board and potential venture-capitalist for start-ups. People are thinking outside corporate and about more individual small businesses.
Starfish Initiatives, a local sustainability operative, has just launched a foundation, kicked off with a private $500,000 donation.
Have you noticed that NBN’s fibre-to-the node strategy seems to be coming unstuck? Here we are in Armidale, with fibre to the premises.
For our region to “unleash the possibilities” as our new slogan says, we can’t potter on “as you were”, thinking that projects like the new airport are enough. Embracing change needs energy from our leaders, with a new, invigorated and streamlined Council in September bringing fresh ideas, free of the animosities and delays of the past.
Other regions are stirring – we can’t be left behind when other regional places with many fewer advantages get attention.
Lindy Hume, theatre and festival director, has written a Quarterly Essay titled “Restless Giant: changing cultural values in regional Australia”. Lisa Havilah, Director of Carriageworks, the “country’s fastest growing cultural precinct”, has a regional background which trained her to make the best of opportunities and not see cultural boundaries.
There are certain moments when I make memories here: the Vietnamese dancing group outside the Town Hall at April’s Carnivale – with different groups and heritages joining in and children doing their best to dance down the poles and back to the beginning – it was joyous. Another memory – the Armidale Youth Orchestra under the deodars in gentle misty rain at a fundraiser at Chevy Chase, with the audience holding coloured umbrellas over the young players; and sitting warming around a fire with soup bubbling, yarning while some people made clapsticks at the Community Garden at Narwan Village. Some memories are painful – the Folk Museum’s Great War exhibition, with the terrible waste of war on display , eminded us of those we’d lost, like my uncle from Uralla.
Just because our region sits outside the mad, vulnerable hurry in the big cities doesn’t mean we can’t take up challenges and take on the world. We don’t want to live down to our expectations when we don’t need to. Serious ball, our court.
P. S. Since managing Saumarez, Les Davis has certainly picked up that particular ball and run with it!