Opinion: Newcastle Post Office – Our Heritage Is Crumbling (Newcastle Herald 20 May 2015)

Opinion: Our Heritage Is Crumbling by Gionni Di Gravio, Newcastle Herald, 20th May 2015 p.11
Opinion: Our Heritage Is Crumbling by Gionni Di Gravio, Newcastle Herald, 20th May 2015 p.11

Online Version: Our Heritage is Crumbling

In the movie Apollo 13, NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz breaks up his bickering engineers by stating “Let’s work the problem people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.” This is great advice in dealing with our very own ‘Apollo 13’, the former Newcastle Post Office.

Our city’s ancestors created this magnificent building, and fashioned it so structurally sound and beautiful to the eye as to last us over a century. This glorious building has been bestowed to us, as heirs, and it is part of our collective cultural heritage, of which we should be very proud.

But unfortunately, it’s falling to pieces before our very eyes, and we don’t seem to able to do anything but squabble like red assed monkeys.

We are now at that point where we need to take a leaf out of NASA’s book and ‘work the problem’ and stop blaming the Awabakal people, the Liberals, ‘Krackers’, Jodi, Save Our Rail, naysayers, Jeff and anyone or anything else including the red assed monkeys.

There has been hope in recent days with the SES offering to help saying that they can secure the roof, just call them.

I would like to see some real leadership here. For the CEO of the Awabakal Co-op to get together with our Federal and State reps and Lord Mayor, along with Business leaders, building and heritage experts and devise a PLAN.

It’s about time that people who can do something now do it, and not let money, or self interest dictate your every move. The people who know how to seal a roof have to do it now, the people who know how to stabilise asbestos will have to do it soon, the people who know how to make a building structurally safe need to do it asap, and the rest of us people who want to lend a hand need to get their ‘pigeon poo’ shovels ready.

Where’s the money coming from? There is always plenty of public money around, we just don’t always spend it on really wonderful things. We could have a Post Office Lottery, just like Sydney had with the Opera House. With the sale, (sorry ‘lease’) of the Newcastle Port, and the millions made there, I’m sure the State of NSW could handsomely contribute, as could the Federal government that got us into this mess by selling it in the first place.

All these things could be done, whether Newcastle will do ever do them is another thing. Watching ‘Struggle Street’ on the Mt Druitt community reminded me of what many parts of Newcastle and the Region are fast beginning to look like; cultural deserts.

It’s not the physical poverty (i.e., lack of money or possessions) we have to really worry about, that’s easily fixed. The poverty we have to really fear is the poverty of heart, mind and spirit. That intellectual ‘poverty’ that makes for coarse human beings that don’t care about anyone or anything. That kind of poverty takes generations to heal, and causes untold damage along the way.

Yes, those NASA people had a much more dire situation with three astronauts stranded in outer space. We also have our collective Novocastrian cultural souls stranded out there in dire peril, and we need to also get them home safely.  We can do this by pulling together and bringing  this beautiful symbol of Newcastle’s achievement fully restored and back home, serving the community again.

So, I hope our answer when people from afar laugh and say this is Newcastle’s worst cultural disaster ever, we can reply, as Gene Kranz said in Apollo 13, “With all due respect, sir, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.”

Gionni Di Gravio
19th May 2015

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