A man of passion
By JULIA ILES
WHEN I found out James Patterson was playing the role of captain in the classic musical HMAS Pinafore at the local high school, I took a moment to toast the casting director.
Without too much difficulty I could imagine him steering a vessel on the open sea, voicing out to the sailor in the crows-nest to bring the mast down.
But many others would know him for his original and sometimes outspoken letters concerning the future of the Clarence Valley.
Although originally from Melbourne, he and his wife Ann had always held a fondness for the North Coast, even before they settled here.
Many of his views have been shaped by a diverse life experience, coloured by overseas travel and changing career paths.
His first job in the Valley was as a youth worker for Clarence Valley Community Programs, and it was there he learned that current fixes for social problems were inadequate.
"I saw bandaid solutions where young people were seen as just statistics or clients, or disadvantaged and that no-one was really addressing them as people with differences and personalities," he said.
"The answer to this I believe is to build awareness through net- works while trying to create a consciousness to convince businesses and organisations to give people a shot."
Mr Patterson also felt that noone was there to stand in the gap or to say, 'this situation is not right'.
And he was motivated to say something after being exposed to generations of families brought up on the dole who knew the system better than even government staff.
For 10 years he was an Aussie expatriate in London and al- though the 46-year-old is currently unemployed, he has been a policeman, prison guard, welfare assistant, social services officer, youth worker and a diabetes counsellor.
In his opinion, the best solution for region is for the community to join together and build better infrastructure, attract cash injections through tourism and improve basics such as public transport to outer-lying towns.
It's certain James Patterson believes in the Valley and in the potential that could be harnessed through community cooperation.
What's next for him, one wonders.
Once the demands of the Criterion Theatre's light comedy season are done, the captain may turn his mind to more serious matters.