In search of a Regional Identity for Australia
At the time of the Award, Kim Currie was Executive Officer of Brand Orange and a regional food and wine specialist working in regional branding and tourism. Kim had 20 years experience as a food and wine consultant and her career included farmer, restaurateur, and regional events promoter and caterer.
Kim was awarded the NSW RIRDC Rural Women’s Award in 2009 and her Award ambition was to challenge first-hand the claim that “Australia could never develop a true regional identity”, by immersing herself in the culture of markets, festivals and agri-tourism of regional Italy and France.
The tour took in farm gate experiences, markets, events and celebrations in and around Provence in regional France and Piedmont in regional Italy. Kim met with communities who showed great generosity and hospitality, who were proud of their culture and celebrating that culture and who were genuinely interested in sharing ideas in tourism and their wine and food industries. In Orange she was welcomed by a civic reception, while in Turin she was given an audience with the city’s General Manager and in Castelogni Monferado and El Palio she was taken up front and centre stage in their parades.
The tour proved fertile ground for new ideas and experiences. Kim found that our own producers, cooks and consumers are not far behind in the quality of produce and food, but are lacking in confidence and in the way they project and market themselves.
The most important lessons Kim learnt from the tour included the importance of promoting key strengths and the individuality of each region, success through simple things done well, the provenance of a single product is all it takes, the importance of protecting authenticity, and the power of town squares as the centre of celebration and culture within communities.
The tour showed Kim that Australia’s key strength is in its innovation, that it is a fresh stamp and an opportunity for food and wine specialists to make a mark and forge an identity never established before.
Kim’s tour opened up the opportunity for an exchange between winemakers and viticulturalists in Orange and Chateauneuf-du-Page and a proposal to pursue an officially relationship between NSW and the Government of Piedmont, with cultural and culinary exchanges being the basis of the relationship.
Kim subsequently became a councillor with the Royal Agricultural Society and Chair of the Fine Foods Committee. One of the committee’s projects was to support cheese making in school programs in NSW.