In The Gong–good news and bad news

Crown Street Mall yesterday experienced a visit from leafy Killara…


Some of our students down here are, it seems, up against it. Consider this graphic from today’s Illawarra Mercury.


Parts of the Illawarra are trailing badly behind the digital age, with more than a third of households in some suburbs still not connected to the internet.

The lag is creating a digital divide largely along postcode lines, according to latest Census data.

In Warrawong, more than 41 per cent of households are not connected to the internet, compared with 11.5 per cent in the 2508 postcode covering Coalcliff, Helensburgh, Otford, Stanwell Park and Stanwell Tops.

Barnardos community development worker Michelle Ridding believes the divide is creating a new "layer of disadvantage" among primary school-aged children…

In the Illawarra, broadband take-up is lowest in postcodes 2528 (Barrack Heights, Barrack Point, Lake Illawarra, Mount Warrigal, Warilla and Windang); 2506 (Berkeley) and 2505 (Kemblawarra, Port Kembla).

Australia-wide, 19.7 per cent of households have no internet, down from 35.4 per cent in 2006.

In the Illawarra, the average is 22.6 per cent, down from 39 per cent.

Some people in every Illawarra postcode – about 3.5 per cent – continue to use dial-up.

Work on the federal government’s National Broadband Network roll-out is expected to begin in Warrawong and surrounding suburbs within three years.

Kiama Downs and Minnamurra are already connected to the faster network and 44 per cent of eligible households have made use of it. Construction is under way in Wollongong, Dapto and elsewhere in the Illawarra, with Kiama next to be connected.

Meanwhile the local university has done rather well in a report into the quality of research taking place in Australian universities.

The Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2012 report takes into account more than 60,000 staff, $8.7 billion in external research funding and 413,000 publi-cations.

The report says that 90 per cent of the fields of research assessed at UOW delivered at or above world standard.

The assessment system confirmed UOW’s research excellence in areas including chemical sciences, geology, materials and interdisciplinary engineering, clinical sciences, tourism and human geography.

"These ERA outcomes recognise the research effort across all UOW faculties and areas of research strength," UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Judy Raper said yesterday.

"[These include] for example the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute, the Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials and Materials and Manufacturing Engineering," Professor Raper said.

"This collective effort has contributed to an outstanding success."

The University of Wollongong received the highest national rating in the broad discipline area of chemical sciences…

Another report in The Mercury has rather more mixed news even if the headline asserts: Illawarra set for better year: report.

IRIS’s September Profile Illawarra reflects a range of economic activity; some good, some not so good.

It showed export trade activity at Port Kembla grew by 6.1 per cent in the year to June, imports fell 20.2 per cent, job advertisements dropped 10.3 per cent, the region’s coal production increased by 16.1 per cent, and there was a fall in the number of land, house and unit sales.

During the financial year 2011-12 there were 3468 house sales, 1502 unit sales and 481 land-only sales.

At the end of the year 187,800 people were employed, down 2.6 per cent.

Unemployment was up 0.1 percentage points to 6.7 per cent and youth unemployment fell to 14.3 per cent from 15.1 per cent.

Labour force figures released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed the national unemployment rate fell from 5.4 per cent to 5.2 per cent in November.


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