Monday, May 21, 2012

What's in a name?

I've been a bit annoyed over the past few days, reading online articles from the press back home about the pressure on my home state to change its name.  Apparently "South Australia" is confusing to people, partly because it is not specific enough (it seems to suggest the entire southern half of the country), and its initials give the impression of South Africa.  Both of these assumptions are fair, but come on!

This article/opinion piece even alluded to the fact that our new Premier was erroneously introduced to an international audience recently as the Premier of New South Wales.  The article suggests this is South Australia's problem.  Uh, no.  This is a presenter problem.  Clearly whoever introduced our Premier was an idiot who hadn't read his/her briefing materials properly.  Naughty.

I remember telling my English teacher in my final year of high school that I wanted to be the Director of the SA Tourism Commission one day.  I loved the idea of selling my State to anyone who would listen - anyone who wanted to stop by - and show them why I loved South Australia.  Indeed, when I started working for the State Government's environment agency and spent a month or so zipping around South Australia's national parks, counting chainsaws and tractors and other physical assets, I saw stretches of our natural coastline that would take your breath away.  In the 7 years I stayed there, I met so many amazing characters with great stories, and I ate and drank some of the best local produce I'd ever had in my life.  Blissful.

Granted, I never did become the Director of the SA Tourism Commission (well, not yet anyway), but I am still a big fan of my home state.

When I meet people overseas who have visited Australia, they talk to me about the great times they've had in Sydney or Melbourne, Cairns or Perth.  Friends have spoken fondly of the landscapes and scenic drives in Tasmania, or the majesty of the Outback, but by and large it's the cities - and not the states in general - that have left the most indelible impressions on them. 

When I left Australia for the first time, one of my very first international friends was from Sweden.  I was so happy when she told me she'd visited Adelaide.  But when I asked her what she did there, she told me that she had slept. She'd been running herself ragged playing tourist in the eastern states, so she spent her time in my home town just sleeping off her jetlag.  I remember being so crestfallen, just thinking of all the things she missed out on doing. 

Now you may well laugh, but you're just proving my point even further.  South Australia does need an image overhaul but it's not our name that's the problem. 

We need to rebadge Adelaide as a place worth visiting (and I'm presuming we do want them to visit).  We need to show the world what they're missing by flying over us - get them to fall in love with what we love.  And I just mention Adelaide as a first step simply because it's our capital city and the Adelaide Airport is the first impression most visitors will remember when they go there.  Fortunately the airport is looking pretty sparkly right now, so I think we're well on our way there.

When visitors come to Adelaide, don't we want them to love our food, wine, sports, churches, climate, beaches, national parks, and festivals? 

Don't we want them to proclaim Coopers the best beer they've ever had on a hot day (or any other)?  

Don't we want them to love Mr. Villi and his spectacular baked goods?  And don't visitors need to know how good those baked goods taste when washed down with a Farmer's Union Iced Coffee? 

Or what about how luxurious a bag of Haigh's chocolates can be, and how well they pair with any local wine you care to sip with them? 

Don't they need to appreciate that you can never get truly lost in SA - not with the beaches in one direction, the wineries in the other, and the national parks in yet another? 

Come on kids, it's a total no-brainer.

I don't think it matters what you call our State - it's what you offer visitors when they get there that matters.  Why would tourists spend extra money (and time) to fly to South Australia from the super-accessible eastern states when they know next-to-nothing about what to expect when they get there?

I can say with confidence that our networks of Australian Consulates, Embassies, and State Government offices fly the flag for all the states back home equally, and we have a wonderful expatriate group of Australians living abroad who do the same.  We support visiting politicians, artists, sports teams, philanthropists - the list goes on.  We get locals involved in Australian football, BBQs, and one of the funniest things we ever did in Chicago was to teach a bunch of our American friends how to do a TimTam slammer.  GOLD.

Admittedly Adelaide has its problems - moronic bikers and Hindley Street thugs being just two that spring to mind.  But the eastern states have those problems too - and hell, London and New York have the same (if not worse) examples of street violence like that and yet they get fantastic visitor traffic.  I don't think we should ignore these societal probems, but we can certainly overcome them.

And okay fine, I know what you're thinking.  If Adelaide's so great, why aren't you living there?  One day if the time is right, and the job is right, and the stars align, maybe I will.  But right now, my life is in New York.  But while my family is in South Australia, my heart is there.  And so I will always be supportive of it and I will try and inspire as many people as I can to get out there and enjoy it. 

If you go to South Australia and have a good sleep, that's great.  You'll need it.  Cause when you wake up, South Australia (or whatever the marketing goons decide to call it) will show you a really great time.  If you let it.


Helenbeee said...

The no comments were ringing loudly so I thought I would add my 5 cents worth to make a discussion ;)

heres how I see SA....
they need to spend money on public transport. There just isnt an easy or cheap way to travel around the state therefore it is not accessible.

Living in Melbourne, and even HObart made me realise that SA may have sports but again its the accessibility thing you have to drive to enjoy anything that Adelaide has to offer and driving is not what the world is in to these days.

Imagine an Adelaide that has a central sporting complex in the city with 2 or 3 types of public transport to its doors that is minutes from the CBD so that you can go watch sport, shop and eat out all in one afternoon.
Then imagine train lines that run from the CBD to the Barossa Valley, Victor Harbour and the Adelaide Hills every 20 mins till midnight.

If SA wants a new image and to share in the spoils of tourism they have to get a DECENT and FUNCTIONAL TRANSPORT SYSTEM.

You cant expect tourists to enjoy the wonderful state attractions if they have to pay a fortune in car hire and petrol just to arrive at them.

The parkland that rings the city has its downfalls it cuts the city off from the suburbs and essentially kills it vibrancy.

Hopefully when the footy starts at Adelaide Oval next year that will change it will bring people back into the city on the weekends and Im guessing businesses and the like will also benefit form this change.

I love Adelaide for its people but its not a liveable city in the fact that you have live out of the city and if you dont work in the CBD can go almost your whole life without ever going there thats the sad part.
Melbourne has taught me a lot about city livability Its transport system has its problems but it is essentially provides easy access to all parts of the city and surrounding areas. It provides useable transport to the regional areas as well. You can essentially traverse the state in relative ease for low cost.

Adelaide has always used the excuse that we are too small to spend money on proper comprehensive public transport which is so wrong.
The other point is bad planning decisions the fact that they never bought the houses on south road and built a better road system when they had the chance, that they built Football park in the middle of nowhere,that they sold the trainline land so there could never be a reversal on connecting Victor Harbour to a train service.

The biggest problem I see is the preservation of all that bloody parkland around the city.
Its pointless and practically useless to most of the population of SA.
To me it is the obvious location for an Entertainment and Sports complex with trams running to it from the train station.
At this point in time only the well off who live within walking distance and a couple of soccer teams get to enjoy this space it could be so much more and still maintain its park setting.
Im sure Col Light would think we were nuts to not be using this land in response to the needs of the city in this day and age.
Im pretty sure he preserved it for future expansion of the city not as a parkland for a fortunate few.

I am thinking seriously about whether I click the submit button on this comment as it appears like I dont love Adelaide and I do I love its beaches and wine districts and Festival theatre and zoo and botanical gardens and market which is in my opinion the best in Australia.
What I cant stand is its mismanagement by draconian conservatives who just wont let it evolve.
Hopefully they will die off and vibrant and optimistic people like yourself will let it Adelaide become one of the best and liveable city in OZ. I like to think that people like yourself may set it on a course for change I think we need another Don Dunstan sooner than later :)

Okay enough said as usual I waffled for way too long.

Helen :)

nam said...

How is the Barrossa Valley doing commerce wise? I have never been but it looks fabulous!