In no particular order, here are the top ten reasons why academics tell me they love living and working in Newcastle, in Australia's Hunter region.
1. Close community breeds collegiality
The same people you met with today to discuss a research project you may say hello to again at the beach, jogging along the waterfront or at the supermarket.
2. Open culture: build links easily
People are amazed how easy it is to approach anyone with a good idea, to explore and build new partnerships and projects. This applies to both public and private sectors.
3. Great workplaces
Staff at University of Newcastle tell me it's a great place to work, with strong commitment to research excellence and it really strives to contribute to the region and its communities, including a track record in Indigenous education and research. As a young university, it is open to new challenges and innovation. These things matter to many academics.
The University lists campus workplace benefits here. Easy commutes help with work-life balance, too.
4. People collaborate
The culture of integrated work and problem-based approaches is enabled and encouraged. Edinburgh is a similar size to Newcastle but has several leading universities, turning neighbours into direct competitors.
5. Strong ties between gown and town
Novocastrians are engaged. Whether connecting through community music programs or attending performances at The Conservatorium, supporting the unique community partnership of Hunter Medical Research Institute, participating in collaborative city-based events like CityEvolutions, or as alumni and graduate employers of the University of Newcastle -- they feel a strong interest, and even ownership of their local institutions. And the institutions involved fully accept and seek that engagement. One academic leader has described this level of connection to me as a 'treasure'.
6. Small city, world-class research and infrastructure
Newcastle has all the lifestyle benefits of a regional city, but with world-class infrastructure and research intensity attractive to leading researchers. For example, John Hunter Hospital has the state's busiest emergency and the third largest Children's Hospital in NSW. The University of Newcastle runs one of the largest teacher education programs in Australia. The scale, and quality, of these and other activities are appealing to researchers, especially those wanting their work to directly improve people's lives.
World-class research facilities like the HMRI facility, and new investments in education infrastructure are part of an upward trajectory that many academics want to be part of.
7. Lifestyle! Lifestyle! Lifestyle!
If you love blue skies and being outdoors, Newcastle has an enviable temperate climate. And when much of Australia's east coast is baked brown by drought, a quirk in the offshore currents keeps the Hunter pleasantly green.
The city that grew up on the natural resource of coal mining is becoming as well known these days for its artist-driven cultural renaissance. TimeOut magazine has a good run down of all Newcastle's creative precincts and the events of the artist-led movement Renew Newcastle are also online.
Craft beers and well crafted coffee, waterside fine dining and alfresco cafes are all done well in Newcastle. See the Newcastle Insider's Guide for more. And locals love their fried chicken chain, Henny Penny!
Newcastle is on Awabakal land and the region's Traditional Owners are blessed by bushland and beaches side by side. Travel to Newcastle from Sydney through the beautiful Hawkesbury river region and then explore its amazing beaches, wetlands and native bushland areas. See these wonderful photos (thanks to Professor Mel Gray).
Wine country and regional cuisine
Newcastle is gateway to the Hunter, Australia's premier wine region, which also hosts many outdoor concerts during summer's warm evenings. Meet local farmers and producers at outdoor markets and make cooking at home - or just compiling a picnic - a tasty pleasure.
Proximity to the nation's largest city
The state capital is just a two hour drive, short flight or train trip away, making it close enough for meetings with colleagues at Sydney's seven public universities, or to catch that international flight or touring show. (The trip may not be required: most national touring events are hosted at Newcastle's centrally located Entertainment Centre.)
8. A historic and evolving region
Australia's second oldest city has fascinating historical layers, featuring architectural treasures that represent all the major design epochs of the past two centuries. The region has long been a major contributor to Australia's economy and its industries continues to thrive and evolve; it retains a busy working port and is centre of a $37 billion economy centred on innovation and technology.
9. Surfing and Rugby League football
Some of Australia's finest surf beaches are right next to the CBD. Check out these waves. Even if you never learned to read a wave, enjoy the iconic Aussie surf tradition from the cafe, bar or restaurant in Merewether Surfhouse
Many who grew up on Rugby League have it in their blood, and love to watch a game standing on the hill on a chilly winter weekend afternoon (or even a warm one). The Newcastle Rugby League has nine teams and is one of the oldest competitions in Australia. The region also has a side in the National Rugby League, the Newcastle Knights. Expect to see plenty of Knights stickers on local cars.
Many of the above benefits really come together at a barbie. I love it that the HMRI lists its new barbeque in its top ten features for biomedical and clinical researchers! It even has its own Facebook page. And it is a fabulous facility for HMRI staff and visitors: perched high amidst the fragrant gumtrees and bellbird song...
Do I need a disclaimer? When I'm representing UoN on academic search assignments, part of my role is to suggest to the world's top academic leaders what they could do in Newcastle. Once they discover Newcastle, they don't need me to convince them.
Did I forget anything?
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