Susie Dunn – Armidale Courthouse

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As far as Armidale’s historic Courthouse is concerned, it’s a case of carpe diem – seize the day.

There’s a one-off opportunity right now to secure the future of perhaps the most important and impressive building in Beardy Street. Reinforcing any future development of a Civic Precinct and immediately bringing life to the Mall, I believe multiple uses by a consortium of local cultural bodies plus representation by the university becomes feasible within a structure negotiated by local State Member, Adam Marshall, in consultation with the local government authority. This could allow financial arrangements without overloading any of the participants, make a statement of Town and Gown strengths within the region and save this central heritage building from demolition by neglect or commercial adaptation.

The building’s many facilities provide multiple opportunities and benefits for participants, with a shared use of the courtroom space and probably a leased café area within the precinct.

UNE has marked its presence in Parramatta by leasing a dignified sandstone building in the main street. In Armidale as far as many visitors (and residents!) are concerned, the university is out of sight/out of mind on a distant hilltop. Sorry, but true. Pride in Armidale as a university city needs some UNE footprint in the middle of town.

Our district needs to capitalise on its growth potential on every front to attract attention and development. I must put my hand up here to say I think we’d be far better putting our money into demonstrating our distinct attractions here ourselves, rather than giving it to schemes such as Evocities.

Beef is “buoyant” at the moment, our wool always does well in the fine wool market, fat lambs such as the Milly Hill brand are celebrated in Good Food reviews by critics like Terry Durack, the Guyra tomato farm claims to be the largest glasshouse tomato operation in the Southern Hemisphere and UNE’s Smart Farm is attracting growing international attention. The whole district has so many strands deserving more attention as a distinct quality package with a marvellous lifestyle and 21st Century opportunities.

There’s a smart population here, and we need to work together and make our very individual, particular mark.

It was good to see two local women launching Moz & Duzzy, a new fashion business designing and making in Australia with Merino wool and organic cotton. A parade at NERAM was opened by Jock Laurie, a Director of Australian Wool Innovation Ltd., with remarks by Charles Coventry, local woolgrower in partnership with the Italian brand, Zegna. Michelle Bookallil and Tracy Wright put on a most professional show to a packed audience.  (Admission: I was a model and it was all great fun, and I did buy something).

I was sorry that day though, to miss an “Aboriginal Women’s Mother’s Day Event” put on by the Dawgaway Womens’ Healing Group and Murawin. I’ve apologised to Hazel Vale for not being able to visit, but with beauty therapies, cultural dance and music, story telling and painting, it sounded great. Which reminds me; it’s good to see a community push to finish the Aboriginal Cultural Centre. It sounds a good idea to use supervised TAFE students to complete it.

Unavoidably away, I was sorry to miss Terry Cooke’s photographic exhibition opening at the Armidale Art Gallery. Terry has a way through his art and skill of adding a memorable and magical dimension to his work.

On my return, I added a ribbon to the Loud Fence outside the Armidale Folk Museum. It’s only by facing the good and the bad things in our society that we make it stronger and better. Child abuse cannot be tolerated.

The Rugby season is certainly off and running – literally. Town’s been packed. [Latest sports’ overall estimates this year are now $10,107,925!]. I’ve had visitors from Queensland, South Australia,  Bourke, Dubbo and Sydney, all adding to tourism estimates.

And Miss Catherine MacLean’s donation of heritage roses from her important collection through the Garden History Society and its wonderful volunteers has won the National Trust Conservation Collection Award! Do visit the new Heritage Rose Garden at Saumarez.

Life is good.
Susie Dunn.

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