Former Hawke and Keating Government cabinet minister Gareth Evans is incorrigibly optimistic about the Illawarra.
During his political career Prof Evans held such senior roles as Attorney General and Foreign Minister. But prior to that he formed a positive opinion about the Illawarra when he visited many times in the mid 80’s as Resources and Energy Minister. At The Illawarra Connection he welcomed the opportunity to come back in a different capacity to the former role when he used to refer himself as the minister for pipes and holes.
“I used to tour the coal mines up on the escarpment and try and hose down some of those larger than life characters in the Mine Workers Union. The first big hole that I think I ever plunged down in a mine shaft cage was the Appin Colliery just a few years after the catastrophic explosion. That really did give me a very deep and lasting appreciation of the enormously real risks and hardships, even with all the modern technology, that have always faced underground miners.”
Prof Evans said things have changed since the 80’s. There are half as many people working in mines and far fewer at the steelworks. But Wollongong remains an enormously attractive city and beautiful region with plenty going for it. “The Illawarra has always had a fantastic capacity to reinvent itself now as a commercial services centre rather than a heavy industry hub”.
Prof Evans said it is also obvious that Wollongong has become a centre for higher education.
“The University of Wollongong under the leadership of Paul Wellings and people before him have been building an ever growing national reputation for excellence in a whole multitude of disciplines,” he said.
“I understand there has been a 20 per cent increase in the city’s already diverse population over the last decade. I think in that context you are entitled to be as incorrigibly optimistic about the Illawarra’s future.”
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