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How to break the Adelaide habit

Opinion

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Our habits shape us and in turn shape the world in which we live. Habits can be good or bad, but always prove difficult to change.

We become what we repeatedly do and, for Adelaide, this has manifested as a legacy of perceived and actual missed opportunities with ingrained conservatism and pessimistic tendencies the result of generations of questionable habits. The upcoming election will continue to provide the negative rhetoric and finger pointing we have come to expect as our political parties engage in a popularity contest today, rather than offering policy for the future.

So where did it all go wrong?

Truthfully, I am not old enough to know the answer to that question and I don’t think there is any single answer. I do know, however, that I have no desire to allow a past I can’t change to dictate my future. After all, I am a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy.

I represent ‘New Adelaide’, a growing breed of natives who have decided to stake a claim for what the future of this city might look like. It’s a group made up of not any one demographic, but rather those who are willing to champion new ways of thinking and doing things in South Australia, reinforcing positive habits in the process.

In November last year, I came away from the opening of the JamFactory at Seppeltsfield Winery, a project on which I was fortunate to collaborate, brimming with energy. I wanted to share this story, and others, in the hope of encouraging like-minded South Australians into similar action.

A history of innovation

Innovation is something that we have always done exceptionally well in South Australia. Our state was a kind of prototype for the country, being the first convict-free settlement, and our unique city layout of squares and parklands has been emulated around the world. It is often said that if you can make something work in South Australia, it will work anywhere.

Seppeltsfield Winery and the JamFactory are both examples of organisations that demonstrate the state’s innovative disposition.

Seppeltsfield was settled by the Seppelt family who migrated from Poland in 1851 and by the turn of the century produced more wine than any other winery in the country.

The JamFactory recently celebrated its 40th anniversary and it is no surprise to discover this coincides with the Dunstan era, a great period of reform and new ideas in South Australia. The JamFactory was created in the hope of providing new opportunities between craft and industry and whilst this idea never quite materialised in the way Dunstan imagined, it became a globally respected model for fine craftsmanship and design.

Unleashing ambition

Shortly after the Seppeltsfield opening, I arranged a meeting with Brian Parkes JamFactory CEO, to discover how the partnership between these institutions materialised.

The project’s genesis could be traced back to the Thinker in Residence program, and architect/environmental designer Professor Laura Lee, a woman who has since had a great influence on design and architecture in South Australia. As is the case with most things, quite serendipitously, timing was the key.

While she was a Thinker in Residence, Laura had discovered the JamFactory and saw an extraordinary model without equal in the world, with the potential to engage in all sorts of markets. Following her residency in 2009, she was engaged by the new owners of Seppeltsfield Winery as an independent contractor to work on their master planning and the JamFactory immediately came to mind.

“They came to me (Laura and the owners of Seppeltsfield) and said look, we don’t know where this could go, we don’t necessarily have any money, but we think it would be great to do something with you guys, what’s the most ambitious thing we could do?” Parkes recalls.

Contrary to the state’s ingrained culture of constraint and risk aversion, this fresh approach of ‘yes, how can we achieve this’ rather than ‘wait there might be a problem here’ allowed the idea for a campus of the JamFactory in the Barossa to flourish.

Parkes and his team quickly set about developing a business plan, and with assistance from the Federal Government through Tourism and the former arts minister John Hill, who facilitated a small grant of $120,000, they had the confidence to proceed.

Quite often in South Australia, Parkes believes, a study is done, a need is identified, funding is allocated, a project is tendered out, and costs blow out and so on.

“We were determined to do it the other way around and aim towards our objective until such time it was no longer feasible. At each point we would join another dot, and we found we didn’t need millions of bucks and we built it from the ground up.”

Parkes highlights that they were prepared to take risks and that the partnership between the JamFactory, a not-for-profit organisation with a government-appointed board, with a private organisation like Seppeltsfield, is an innovative model. Based on the project’s success to date, the model could be replicated effectively in the cultural industries to achieve good public outcomes that are also good for private businesses.

A model worth following

I feel in order to remain relevant in the competitive national and international marketplace there is merit, and perhaps even an imperative, for South Australian businesses and government to operate in more innovative models of partnership such as the JamFactory at Seppeltsfield.

Through such symbiotic relationships, perhaps we can leverage our state’s collective strengths – something which may not be as achievable for our eastern neighbours. Parkes, who spent over a decade in working and living in Sydney, agrees.

“Scale and accessibility is really important. In my role, I can have access to political leaders and lines of business in this town and real influence makers. I can have lunch with them. In Sydney, the queue is so long that if you can get time with those people it’s so compromised by competing interests that making things happen is so much harder.”

As a young professional making my way in Adelaide, it is refreshing to hear a more optimistic outlook, particularly given the ever present push from colleagues and superiors to seek out greener pastures interstate or overseas.

The JamFactory at Seppeltsfield shows us what can be achieved with a little lateral thinking and committed leadership.

“It starts with a good idea, and it need not be your own. That’s the thing about leadership, it’s recognising when ideas are good.” Parkes suggests

With the right type of leadership I believe our state can become an incubator for innovation once again and herald a new era of prosperity. It’s time to break the habit.

Dino Vrynios is an Architect at Grieve Gillett and a South Australian chapter councillor of the Australian Institute of Architects. For full audio of the interview with Brian Parkes visit dinovrynios.com

This article is the first in a 12-part series for InDaily.

 

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