This article is reproduced from The Punch, Tuesday 22 May.
If South Australia had just arrived in the world, red and wrinkled and mewling, what would we call it?
It’s on a t-shirt so it must be true. Pic: Campbell Brodie
Something to reflect our pride – FreeSettlerVille, perhaps? Or our aspirations – New Melbourne might suit. Or something that highlights the diverse range of South Australian attributes, from bogan frenzies to Old Adelaide Family pretensions – Taylyah Ashton-Smith, maybe?
Back in 1999 advertising ‘guru’ John Singleton declared the name South Australia “boring” and suggested ‘Bradman’ instead. It may be that having six or seven wives gives one a rather low threshold for boredom – although his enthusiasm for cricket shows he is not entirely averse to the concept.
Since then it seems we haven’t stopped navel gazing about this great state and what exactly it is, what it wants to be, and how it wants to be seen by the rest of the world. ‘All the way with SA’ was popular for the wrong reasons. ‘Gateway to the outback’ seems unnecessarily unambitious.
Lately Premier Jay Weatherill – who was introduced to an overseas crowd as the Premier of NSW – has been talking about our ‘brand’ and now Business SA chief Peter Vaughan says:
I’ve been with two Premiers on three overseas trips and whenever we go somewhere that’s not familiar with Australia the words South Australia are impossible to understand
(It) means to everybody from overseas the whole of the south of Australia. And the initials SA mean South Africa to most other people in the world.
Mr Vaughan’s not keen to suggest a new name himself – but that didn’t stop wags all over Australia having a crack.
Comic Dan Ilic started a Twitter competition which came up with some interesting options – Adeladies (because of all the good looking women), Clipsalia and Snowtown Abbey were highlights. An ABC presenter suggested the suggestive ‘Middle Bottom’. At least people would know where it is.
Pondering who we are in South Australia has – oddly – become emblematic of who we are. Perhaps ‘Ponderosa’ is fitting.
Mr Weatherill has even hired ex-chief economist of Austrade Tim Harcourt to solve the ‘brand confusion’ issue.
It’s as though people think there is some pure essence du SA that just needs to be distilled so people in far flung places would recognise it anywhere. Finding and painting that sort of single dimension is difficult because it is so far removed from reality.
Melbourne has successfully marketed itself as a cultural and artistic hub of whimsical knitting balls and high-fashion collars. Sydney can sell itself as a spectacular harbour city. Perth and Brisbane… well, they can brand themselves as easy transport hubs to the wonders the rest of those states have to offer.
In a way, SA’s diversity is its downfall. We can’t even decide what sort of city Radelaide is, let alone pin down the rest of the state.
For example, we host the mullets-and-beer-and-scantily-clad girls car fest, the Clipsal 500, at the same time that we host the patchouli-scented-hippies-crossed-with-art-gallery-scented-hipster festivals – the Fringe, and Womad, and so on. Verifiably split personality.
In one stretch through the city you can trawl Rundle St with the overdressed beautiful people clinking glasses in the sun, be in the generic and street-preacher-infested Mall and end up in down and dirty Hindley Street dodging junkies on your way to the university. And you’d still have time for a meander through our cultural boulevard, North Terrace, before lunch.
Within a quick and easy drive there are great beaches, the spectacular hills, lots of things labelled ‘world class’, hideous suburbs that stretch forever, mega malls and one-way freeways, the geometric beauty of wine country, outstanding restaurants. All this and there’s still the desert and Kangaroo Island.
It’s not a confusion, but a profusion. You can see how that ends up being confusing.
Giving us a new name, though, is not the answer. The last time we tried a major renaming exercise in SA it was an attempt to pretend our Germanic history didn’t exist and we had to half-heartedly fix it years later.
Mr Vaughan says the existing name has no impact, that it’s like “trying to write with white ink in snow”.
Any issues we have selling the state are nothing to do with our name – no matter who is writing things in the snow.
No middle bottoms on Twitter: @ToryShepherd
- ADELAIDE. IT’S OK!: Some earlier work defending SA