14th Dec 2018 – Excursion to the ‘Cook & the Pacific’ Exhibition at National Library
Information from Newsletter #456 of 21st Dec 2018. 32 Members attended.
The exhibition was a large collection of photos & drawings collected from all over showing the work of Cook & his colleagues over his 3 momentous voyages to the Pacific area. Here are a few photos of some of the exhibit
On this Friday we travelled to the National Library of Australia to view their “Cook and the Pacific” exhibition. Despite the prevailing weather conditions, we had an excellent roll-up for this event.
This amazing exhibition included many treasures from the period when Lieutenant James Cook set sail from Plymouth in August 1768 right through to the conclusion of his incredible voyages to the Pacific islands some 250 years ago. The most remarkable thing about this world-class collection is that it includes some of Cook’s own handwritten (i.e. original) journals, letters and maps, together with samples of the journals, letters, maps, drawings, paintings and writings of those officers, sailors, scientists, botanists and draughtsmen that accompanied Cook on his voyages. It also presents a record of the interaction with, and the culture of, the indigenous islander populations their voyages encountered.
Just a few examples of the rare and interesting items on display in this exhibition are as follows:
- A letter of “Hints offered to the consideration of Captain Cooke, Mr Bankes, Doctor Solander and the other gentlemen who go upon the Expedition on Board the Endeavour” from the President of the Royal Society, Lord James Douglas, 14th Earl of Morton (1702-1768), immediately prior to their departure to the Pacific in 1768 (note: spellings as per actual letter);
The following verbatim extracts noted from this letter were remarkable. The directives contained therein reflect a very enlightened and concerned attitude for peoples the voyagers would encounter, one that the politicians or leaders of that time (or today for that matter!) may not have committed to as generously;
“To exercise the utmost patience and forbearance with respect to the Natives of the several Lands where the ship may touch”
“To have it still in view that shedding the blood of these people is a crime of the highest nature. Conquest over such people give no just title, because they could never be the aggressors”
“They are human creatures the work of the same omnipotent author, equally under his care with the most polished European, perhaps being less offensive, more entitled to his favor”
“They are the natural, and in the strictest sense of the word, the legal pofefors (i.e. possessors) of the several Regions they inhabit”
“No European nation has the right to occupy any part of their country or settle among them without their voluntary consent.”
- Cooks original Journal and entry from Saturday 30 October 1772, from his Second Pacific Voyage between 28 November 1771 and 10 November 1774. This exhibit item was truly “living history” and it was fascinating to reflect on the circumstances of the times in which it was written.
- Naval architectural plans of HMB’s (Her Majesty’s Barks) Endeavour (1768) and Resolution (circa 1772)
- Cook’s geometric quadrant to sight and measure the altitude of the celestial objects, and to check the astronomical clocks.
- Lunar tables, an almanac of the positions of celestial bodies, calculated on the basis of the previous observations.
- Watercolours of the South East coast of Tahiti from August 1777, by William Ellis, assistant surgeon and part-time artist
- Ink charts of New Zealand voyages.
- Map of New Zealand compiled by James Cook (1728-1779) and Isaac Smith (1752-1831)
- A remarkable record by John Elliott (who was a 13-year old boy sailor on The Resolution during Cook’s voyages), written later in life, circa early 19th century. This records his amazing and unique recollections of the crew members he served with, noting such things as their ages, personal traits and natures etc.
- A detailed ‘Broadsheet’ giving a detailed account of how Cook was killed by the native peoples.
- A poignant item – a “formal dress outfit”, still unfinished, that was being made by Mrs Elizabeth Cook for her husband to wear to official functions on his ultimate return home (which of course never happened). Elizabeth lived on for 56 years after Cook’s death in 1779, dying at age 93 and outliving her children.
View some photos of some example display items included in this fascinating world-class collection
Leaving the exhibition, the majority of Shed members adjourned to the fourth floor to view the excellent “Beauty Rich and Rare” sound and light experience that relates the work of Joseph Banks and his team of botanists, scientists and artists, as they encountered Australia’s wide variety of flora and fauna for the first time. Then off to coffee! A good morning was had by all.
7th Dec 2018 – Stuart Allan Presented on the History of the America’s Cup
Information from Newsletter #455 of 14th Dec 2018. 57 Members attended.
On this Friday Stuart Allan, fellow Shed member, Foundation President and keen competition yachtsman, gave an entertaining presentation on the ‘History of the America’s Cup’. Stuart advised that this history was to a large extent the history of the New York Yacht Club.
To the Yankees of the 1840’s, the frivolous English idea of sailing for pleasure smacked of old-world decadence. Despite that, in 1844 the NYYC was formed with eight registered yachts.
In 1850 an English merchant suggested to some New York businessmen that an American boat be sent to the UK to compete in regattas to be held in conjunction with the World Fair.
In 1851 the yacht ‘America’, based on an American pilot boat design, was sent. It won its race so convincingly that when Queen Victoria enquired which boat came second, she was advised ‘Your Majesty, there is no second’.
The cup awarded for the race became known as ‘The America’s Cup’. In 1887 it was presented to the NYYC as an international trophy. For 132 years the Americans won every competition through great sailing, blatant rule manipulation, and superior boat design.
Stuart presented several slides showing how yacht designs developed.
In the early days of America’s Cup racing the yachts were large (about 100 tons) and therefore extremely expensive. They were funded by very wealthy businessmen, including Sir Thomas Lipton (the tea baron) and J.P. Morgan (a New York banker). To open the field, smaller classes of boats were introduced. The smaller boats were still expensive but did enable Australian syndicates funded by businessmen such as Frank Packer and Alan Bond to compete.
In 1983 ‘Australia II’ won. It was a ’12 metre’ class boat with a weight of 22 tons. This was Alan Bond’s fourth attempt. Since then New Zealand and Switzerland have won, as well as America.
By 2013 catamarans of 6 tons were used. In 2021 ’AC75 class’ foiling monohulls will be used. These resemble aircraft rather than traditional boats.
Stuart gave the meeting a bit of a taste of America’s Cup racing in high performance catamarans. Click here if you would like to see more about these amazing craft, via some BBC footage of the 2017 America’s Cup in Bermuda.
Stuart’s comprehensive talk contained fascinating information about this amazing America’s Cup race, and its basis in the New York Yacht Club.
Click here to read Stuart’s full presentation.
23rd Nov 2018 – Professor John Williams – Water Reform
Information from Newsletter #453 of 30th Nov 2018. 48 Members attended. Ron Thomson organised Professor Williams’ attendance at Melba Shed.
We were privileged on Friday 23rd Nov 2018 to have Professor John Williams talk to us about the issues surrounding water reform and the impact of drought. John is a founding member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and advocated for a rational debate on Australia’s water resources. His presentation to the Shed was largely based on water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin.
This can be a difficult task. Peter Cullen (co-founder of the Wentworth Group) says:
‘’Scientists entering into public debate need to understand that they are leaving a world where finding the truth is the most important goal, for a world where winning is most important. Some will find the techniques used by interest groups to pervert the science difficult to handle.”
The Wentworth Group has published a ‘Blueprint for a Living Continent’ which sets out what they believe are the key changes that need to be made to deliver a sustainable future for our continent and its people.
They believe there are five transformative, long-term economic and institutional reforms that Australia must implement if it is to create a healthy environment with a productive economy:
- Fix land and water use planning: We must put in place regional scale land and water use plans that address the cumulative impacts of development on the environment and the long-term costs to the economy.
- Use markets: We must eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, set a long-term emissions reduction target and introduce an equitable, broad-based land tax to finance programs that pay farmers, indigenous communities and other landholders to transform the way we manage the Australian landscape.
- Conserve natural capital: We must close the gaps in our national system of public and private reserves, and commit resources to a long-term plan to conserve our threatened native plants, animals and ecosystems.
- Regionalise management: We must embed and give prominence to natural resource management at the regional scale to reconnect people to the land, so that investment decisions are underpinned by an understanding of how landscapes function.
- Create environmental accounts: We must put in place regional scale, national environmental accounts that monitor the condition of our environmental assets, so that people can make better decisions to support a healthy and productive Australia.
We spent some time looking at rainfall statistics and the volumes of water being stored rather than allowed to flow to the sea. The key messages are:
- storage capacity is 50% greater than the average flow of all rivers
- carryover storages are essential to deal with climate variability
- available water is heavily used – relatively small volumes remain to ensure healthy river.
Pre settlement river outflows were some 12,233GL/year. Currently they are only 4,733 GL/y and by 2030 are expected to be 3,575 GL/y and by 2050 3,482 GL/y.
We learned that our views that cotton and rice were the big users of irrigation water was not correct – in fact dairy cattle use some 62% of this water for grass growing purposes. Rice and cotton are now much water efficient due to better water application.
We learned that the Perth Seawater Desalination Plant, located in Kwinana, produces 45 billion litres of fresh drinking water a year – around 18% of Perth’s water supply. John was quite confident that in the future all large Australian cities would need desalination plants to ensure sufficient fresh water was available. Sydney currently uses 600 GL/year, Canberra 60 GL/year and Broken Hill uses 15 GL/year of fresh water.
John’s presentation was most comprehensive and this summary only covers part of the information he provided and there were many questions and observations made by Shed members during the presentation.
Please click here to View or download Professor Williams’ PowerPoint slides | Click here to read Professor Williams’ article ‘Water reform in the Murray – Darling Basin: a challenge in complexity in balancing social, economic and environmental perspectives’.
9th Nov 2018 – Andrew Geraghty ‘The Aftermath of World War I’
Information from Newsletter #451 of 16th Nov 2018
At 11 am on 11 November 1918 the guns on the Western Front fell silent after more than four years of continuous warfare.
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month attained a special significance in the post-war years.
From a population of fewer than five million, 416,809 Australians enlisted, of whom more than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 wounded, gassed, or taken prisoner. When Britain declared war against Germany in August 1914, Australia, as a dominion of the British Empire, was automatically also at war.
On Friday 9th Nov 2018, thanks to Roger Amos, we welcomed back our guest speaker, Andrew Geraghty, who talked on the ‘The Aftermath of World War I’.
Andrew started his presentation by talking about the 1902 injustice metred out to Lieutenant Henry Harboard (Harry) ‘The Breaker’ Morant – the first person to be tried and shot for war crimes. Andrew suggested we should write to the Queen and ask that the British Government repeal Breaker Morant’s status as a traitor. Learn more about Breaker Morant.
Andrew told us that the outbreak of WWI was the 8th major impact of the 20th century which by the time of its ending had already seen the collapse of four monarchies, the Bolshevik Revolution and the redesign of European borders.
There were huge losses of life as a result of WW1:-
- Serbia lost 16% of its population
- Russia lost 9%
- France lost 4.3%
- Canada lost 1.0%
- Australia lost 1.4%
- New Zealand lost 1.6%
The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was about 40 million: estimates range from 15 to 19 million deaths and about 23 million wounded military personnel, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. The total number of deaths includes from 9 to 11 million military personnel.
Andrew stated that Australian troops were very badly treated overseas. They were treated as ‘colonials’ by the British offices who were mainly aristocrats who gained their commissions because of their positions in the class structures that pervaded Britain. Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and Indian troops were used by the British General Haig as ‘canon fodder’. Many Australian losses were in the Somme in a war of attrition. Haig simply calculated that the Allies had more soldiers than the Germans and that they would therefore prevail. The Somme was a nightmare of mud.
The argument has raged for 100 years over the performance of Haig and his generals; whether they did the best they could in the circumstances or if British and Australian troops were indeed ‘lions led by donkeys’. However, Australian General John Monash in 1918 showed the British how to mount a modern attack using aircraft, troops, cavalry and parachuting ammunition and food to troops on the ground. General Monash was knighted in the field by King George V – the first such knighting in 200 years.
In terms of direct costs, WWI cost Britain $186 Billion in direct costs and a further $150 Billion in indirect costs. These were huge sums at the time.
The aftermath of WW1 had a large impact on Australia and Australians:-
- We no longer respected British officers (upper class) who saw us as colonials and second class citizens.
- We saw ourselves as better soldiers than the British.
- Australia became more democratic and socialist and without the war, this would have been unlikely. We developed a sense of social justice well before others – eg national pensions.
- It was very hard for returnees to adjust to civilian life. Many could not adjust from a time spent in service with rules, sport and mateship but in civilian life they had none of this. Pensions were inadequate and many men were frightened or became bitter or violent.
- Many returnees suffered from (what is now known as) PTSD but this was not accepted by senior returnees from earlier campaigns who accused them of malingering. The RSL has now become much more aware of, and sympathetic to, how it sees PTSD.
- During the war, white feathers were often given to young, fit men who did not volunteer for service, even those exempted due to their roles in the war effort (eg people producing ammunition). Services Rendered badges were given to those who had been honourably discharged due to age, injury or illness to ensure that they were not accused of cowardice when they returned home.
Harry Redfern commenced our Remembrance Day commemorations with a rendition of ’In Flanders Fields’ – a poem written by John McCrae.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
2nd Nov 2018 – Visit to Private Gardens at “The Farm” Yarralumla
Information from Newsletter #450 of 9th Nov 2018
Welcoming us to The farm
Many thanks to Ray Osmotherly who organised a special visit to a private garden not too far from Scrivener Dam. The garden which is not normally open to the public is broadly based on the Monet Gardens in Paris and is located at a property that the residents call ‘The Farm’ which is a 25 acre property located between lady Denman Dr & Yarralumla Ck.
Pond in the Gardens
The garden of around 5acres was established over the past 30 years by Mrs Anne Dawn. Anne does all the garden maintenance other than lawn mowing and has some help a few days a week from a gardener/handyman. The gardens were established from paddocks used for cattle and horse grazing. The first job was to have the area ripped by heavy equipment and then to bring in a large volume of quality garden soil.
The gardens are now magnificent and at their best, save the roses which are due to flower this week, just after our visit. There are ponds, water features, garden monuments lots of walkways to enjoy.
Following our tour, Shed members and wives/partners enjoyed morning tea at The Farm. Many thanks Anne for a most pleasant morning. There were 37 Shed Attendees plus some 6 wives/partners. Click for some more great photos of our visit from Google Photos.
5th Oct 2018 – NSW War Service Land Settlement Scheme by Frank O’Rourke
Information from Newsletter #446 of 12th Oct 2018
Frank gave a fascinating insight into our history with relation to ex-servicemen after WW1 & WW2.
Frank O’Rourke is well-known at the Shed for his interesting presentations and this one was no exception. His late father-in-law was a soldier settler which prompted Frank’s interest in researching the NSW War Service Land Settlement Scheme that operated from 1946 to 1960.
Frank commenced by dedicating his presentation to three of his former mates from their school years in Wagga. Able Seaman Geoff McLean died when the destroyer HMAS Voyager was sliced in two by aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne in February 1964. National Serviceman Private John Slattery was killed in action in Vietnam in October 1968. Former Regular Army (ex-SAS) Second Lieutenant Mick Deak, MC and OAM, is very much still with us – a very successful South Australian businessman and Vietnam Veteran’s advocate.
The War Service Land Settlement Scheme (WSLS) was by no means the first of its kind. In fact, soldier settlement schemes date back to at least the days of the Roman Empire, when it was deemed prudent to disarm and disperse returning soldiers. The first such schemes in Australia were established for World War 1 ex-servicemen even while the war was still in progress (1915 in South Australia and 1916 in NSW, Queensland and Tasmania).
The post-WW1 soldier settlement schemes in all States were evaluated using as a criterion the percentage of settlers still remaining on their blocks after a period of twenty years. NSW settled more ex-servicemen than any other State or Territory, on 6,448 farms covering over 8 million acres, with much of it being previously unoccupied Crown Land. The failure rate was 29% by 1929 and 49% by 1942.
In the Federal Capital Territory (now the ACT), 86 blocks were allocated to 53 settlers. A number of them were in the area now covered by Belconnen, including a number very close to the Melba Shed.
In 1929 the Commonwealth established an enquiry into the causes of £23.5million losses nationally due to post-WWI Soldier Settlement (NSW’s share was £7million). Justice Pike headed the enquiry, which found four main causes for failure:
- Settlers lacking capital to develop their blocks
- Many blocks were too small
- Unsuitability of many settlers due to war service experiences (physical and psychological injuries)
- A significant drop in the value of primary products, chiefly in irrigation areas, post-war.
Others included relatively high interest rates, the government paying too high prices for land, many blocks were on marginal land and/or remote from markets, settlers lacking farming skills, bureaucratic bungling, and government and media interference.
The post-WW2 scheme in NSW involved the allocation of 3,057 farming and grazing blocks to suitably qualified ex-servicemen (and at least four ex-servicewomen). The scheme was intended as a form of repatriation and a means of boosting the then precarious state of food production.
Researching the NSW post-WW2 scheme was difficult because it appeared that the NSW Lands Department files on each soldier settler had been lost or destroyed by the soldier settlement administrative authorities, as none could be located at the NSW Archives at Kingswood in western Sydney, where all the WW1 settler’s files are held. Frank’s ‘Eureka Moment’ occurred when he stumbled across 600 of these files at the Wagga Wagga Regional Archives located at Charles Sturt University, resulting in months of painstaking research at that repository, as well as in the lower-ground stacks of the National Library to search through numerous NSW and Commonwealth Government reports of the era. A highlight for Frank and his wife involved travelling around NSW with their caravan to interview rapidly dwindling numbers of surviving soldier settlers, or their widows, or their adult children.
By the late 1940s, very little unoccupied Crown Land was available in NSW, so the Government was forced to acquire, or compulsorily resume, considerable amounts of private land. Also, existing Crown leases in western NSW had to be terminated early so this land could also be used under the scheme.
Soldier settlement blocks were obtained by the NSW Government acquiring, or compulsorily resuming, and then breaking up many large and allegedly ‘underutilised’ private properties. The process caused considerable friction with the property owners as well as with the Commonwealth Government over the low, capped amount the NSW Government was prepared to pay for the land.
Before an ex-serviceperson could be allocated a WSLS block, he or she had to possess a Qualification Certificate. To obtain it, a Qualification Committee assessed the applicant’s practical experience to undertake one or more occupations related to agriculture, horticulture, or animal husbandry. The same thing was supposed to have happened in the post-WW1 schemes but many ex-servicemen with little or no farming experience somehow ended up with a Certificate, which was one of that scheme’s crucial failings.
Soldier settlement blocks could be obtained by pre-qualified applicants via two different methods, known as ‘ballot’ or ‘promotion’. A ‘ballot’ estate usually referred to larger properties purchased or compulsorily resumed by the NSW Government from a private landowner, or by using surrendered pastoral leases of Crown land. These properties were then sub-divided into a number of ‘home maintenance area’ size blocks which were allocated by ballot. In the case of a ‘promotion’ estate, three ex-service applicants could directly approach a private landowner seeking to obtain all or a portion of his or her property which could provide a home maintenance area sized block for each of the applicants. If the land was considered suitable and the landowner was willing to sell at the price offered by Government, the land was purchased by the NSW Government. It was then sub-divided, developed and improved to the point where the resultant blocks could be directly allocated to each of the applicants who were deemed to have been ‘promoted’ to the blocks by the property owner.
The Federal and NSW Governments shared administrative control over the scheme which caused some nasty battles between them. The scheme was bitterly opposed by land-owners whose properties were being compulsorily acquired because valuations were capped at their value in October 1942. The NSW Government eventually added an extra 15% to that value but it was paid only if the land owner did not challenge the valuation.
Frank provided details of a number of case studies of properties that were compulsorily acquired, the associated court cases and the problems the settlers faced once they were actually on the land. For example, restrictions were placed on settlers’ credit, they often had unsustainable debt levels, they faced a rigid ‘Settler advances repayment’ regime and increased block rentals for new settlers after 13 December 1955 put them at a disadvantage compared to earlier settlers. Many settlers with no cash were forced to barter for farm services (e.g. providing sheep with wool on (killers for meat) to shearers as a means of paying for shearing services).
The NSW Government reneged on its promise to build settler houses, so settlers had to arrange this themselves as well as establish their farms plus arrange water, electricity and transport for the kids to get to school on poorly developed roads in remote, isolated areas. In addition, many blocks were degraded and over grazed. The rabbit menace was at its peak in the 1950s and foxes and snakes added to the settlers’ problems. Many blocks faced extreme weather (from searing heat in western NSW to snow in the Willigobung settler estate near Tumbarumba).
The sheer scale of the settler schemes nationally, when compared to other high-profile government undertakings, has not been widely appreciated. By 1954, expenditure on WSLS by the Commonwealth and State Governments had reached £100 million, meaning that it exceeded the cost of the Snowy Mountains Scheme, making it the biggest peace-time undertaking in Australia. By then, the Commonwealth had spent nearly £36 million, NSW £28 million, Victoria £29 million and Queensland £4 million.
In addition, the Commonwealth had provided non-refundable living allowances totalling £1.7 million and the Commonwealth and States between them had contributed just under £1 million in remission of rent and interest. By 1959, when any further settlement under the national WSLS scheme was about to cease, the total expenditure Australia-wide had almost doubled again, amounting to £185 million. Even though the national WSLS scheme was about to end, further Government expenditure was necessary for many more years due to debt write-offs, providing credit for further settler advances, as well as other settler assistance measures. The total of all governments’ expenditure Australia-wide by 1966 to establish and settle around 9,100 holdings was £225 million. The Commonwealth WSLS expenditure alone to all States had reached over £158 million.
Expenditures kept climbing. By 1980, the total expenditure nationally from 1946 was estimated to be around £293.5 million. With around 9,096 ex-servicemen settled nationally under WSLS, this represents an average expenditure of about £32,267 per settler, clearly showing the massive open-ended financial outlay to which the Commonwealth and the States committed themselves in 1946 in order to finance all the schemes. In comparison, other ex-servicemen were provided with £10 vouchers when they were demobilised to buy tools for their peace-time occupations.
28th Sep 2018 – Sister Kim Hoa and The Congregation of Mary Queen of Peace at Bonner
Information from From Newsletter #445 of 5th Oct 2018
Sister Kim from the Congregation of Mary Queen of Peace At Bonner spoked to us on Fri 28th Sep. Sister Kim is the recipient of the glass and medications that Shed members donate to Brian Wells. These items are sent to Viet Nam to benefit children with disabilities.
It all started with a visit to Viet Nam by a few kind-hearted people who wanted to establish an agricultural project to help indigenous people in Long Dien, Phuoc Long, Binh Phuoc Province. This initial visit quickly resulted in another one to Binh Minh School – a school for children living with disabilities.
The charity program “Hearts Beating Together”, was thus born from the hearts of people who worked with the disadvantaged people in Viet Nam.
The program seeks not only to benefit the people assisted to become self-sufficient but also to engage in a cultural exchange of ideas and experiences which benefited people from all nations. The emphasis was to engage in projects which empowered all people to recognize their common humanity of bringing happiness and hope to others. It did not distinguish between a person’s religious or ethnic background but simply by sharing talents and skills people could discover hearts that are beating together.
Sister Kim talked to us about three projects being undertaken by ‘Hearts Beating Together’:
- The Binh Minh Project in northern Viet Nam aims to provide a school environment and personnel to train children living with disabilities. There are two Binh Minh Schools where children are tutored and cared for by Sisters of Mary Queen of Peace, in Buonmathuot and in Dong Xoai.
- The Community House for staff training is in Canberra was officially opened on 8th March 2014. This house assists in training religious Sisters in working with children living with disabilities. This will also strengthen links between volunteers in Australia and the Binh Minh Schools in Banmathuot and Dong Xoai.
- Teaching English program. While Viet Nam has a strong link to French cultural tradition and many of the older people have learnt French as a second language, English is increasingly becoming the second language spoken in Viet Nam and in many other Asian countries.
Learn more about Hearts Beating Together.
31st Aug 2018 – The VUWAE 15 Antarctic Expedition of 1970-71 – Dr Alex Ritchie
Information from From Newsletter #441 of 7th Sep 2018
Alex Ritchie gave us a fascinating short presentation on the VUWAE 15 (Victoria University of Wellington Antarctic Expedition) conducted during the 1970-71 season. On 15 August this year Alex presented his personally recorded film of this expedition at the National Film and Sound Archives. Alex had recorded 7 reels of 16mm film during his time on this expedition, and this viewing was very well received by those attending (including some Shed members) and reviewed by the Canberra Times.
In November 1970, Alex and seven of his fellow geologist colleagues landed at Scott Base, New Zealand’s only Antarctic research station in Antarctica, located at the southern end of Ross Island in McMurdo Sound. Not having been to Antarctica before, the members ‘acclimatised’ by undertaking a trial run from Scott Base to Shackleton’s historic hut at Cape Royds, visiting on the way an Adelie penguin rookery and the nuclear power station which supplied electricity to the nearby McMurdo Station.
After more than a year of planning, Alex and the other expedition partners were now finally at a point where they could begin preparations for over two months of arduous geological fieldwork. The aim of this expedition was to investigate the different aspects of the geology of Southern Victoria Land, with Alex’s interest primarily being a search for the fossilised remains of primitive fish that lived in Antarctica over 350 million years ago, during the Devonian period.
After the initial acclimatisation period, Alex and his fellow expeditioners were flown to the vast expanse of the Southern Victoria Land. They were flown to this area by a U.S. Navy ski-equipped C-130 Hercules transport plane.
The leader of the expedition was Dr Peter Barrett, a post-doctoral Fellow with several years’ experience in U.S. Antarctic teams.
For the next two months the expeditionary party were to be on their own, situated on the edge of the Polar plateau at a height of about 6,000 feet. Two-man double-walled polar tents were used for shelter and to withstand any ferocious blizzards. Motorised toboggans were employed to pull their sledges, which were loaded down with food, fuel, personal equipment, tents and later, collected geological specimens.
The area they were to investigate extended along mountain ranges for about 120 miles (192 kms). To reach the exposed rocky slopes for fossil remains they had to sledge over vast areas of snowfields with very rough sub surfaces and snow ridges.
Alex and his field assistant, Mr Gavin Young, focussed on the search for Devonian fossil fish remaining in the Siltstone.
During the 1970-71 period, Alex and Gavin discovered fossil fish remains at several levels and recovered an estimated 2,000 pounds of fossiliferous rock. The search for fossils involved painstaking examination of large areas of exposed rock on the steep sides of the mountains. The best specimens of Devonian Fish fossils came from a spectacular serrated ridge, Alligator Ridge, in the northern Boomerang Range.
This 1970-71 expedition team managed to obtain the largest, most varied and best-preserved collection of ancient fossil fish ever found in that continent, but it was recognised by team members that the surface had ‘barely been scratched’ at that point.
Thanks Alex for this fascinating talk. We look forward to you completing this story and slide display at a near-future meeting.
24th Aug 2018 – Throwing Light on Africa – Volunteering in Ghana (Billy Williams)
Edited information from From Newsletter #440 of 31th Aug 2018
Thanks Billy, for the fascinating story below. It’s good to see how he helped such physically disadvantaged kids to develop the skills to live a happier life.
Billy Williams was the Australian Ambassador to Ghana from 2008 to 2013 and was resident in the capital, Accra, during that time. He also had eight ‘non-resident accreditations’ as Australia’s diplomatic representative (Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Burkina Faso and Mali).
20180824 Talk by Billy Williams about Ghana
As Head of Mission, Billy was responsible for knowing and promoting Australia’s interests (political, commercial, strategic, people-to-people) as well as being in charge of consular activities. To carry out this type of work it is important to understand and appreciate the culture norms and customs of the local people, their social conventions, greetings, types of ceremonies and the role of chieftaincy.
Africa is the continent in which world civilisation began (the Egyptian state dates from 3,300BC) and is the second largest continent, accounting for about one-fifth of the world’s landmass. It is also the most centrally located continent with both the equator and a prime meridian cutting across it. Africa was partitioned by the empires of Europe from the 16th century on, which had devastating effects on the 10,000 or so separate states/groups that existed before colonial rule. The race to occupy Africa resulted in exploitation of the locals and had a detrimental impact on indigenous communities.
Most African countries gained their independence around the mid-20th century. However, an unfortunate legacy of colonisation is borders that split ethnic groups and combine, within a country, people who have different backgrounds and traditions and speak different languages. As a result of the colonisation and arbitrarily-drawn borders, Africa has struggled to develop as rapidly as most of the rest of the world. The following statistics summarise Africa’s current situation:
- Home to over 1 billion people (16% of the world population), with 50% under 25.
- Speaking 2000 languages (one in every four languages in the world).
- World’s poorest continent (GDP is just 2.4% of the world total).
- 40% of the population is illiterate, two thirds of whom are women.
- Islam is the dominant religion, with Christianity second.
There are 54 independent countries plus one non-governing territory.
- 90% of all world-wide malaria cases occur in Africa, resulting in the deaths of 3,000 children each year.
- 358 million Africans have no access to clean water.
- 620 million live without access to electricity.
Ghana has had a tumultuous history since its first colonial settlement by the Portuguese in 1482. From the late 1400s to the mid 1800s, millions of West Africans were captured and sent into slavery in the Americas and the Caribbean. In 1874, the British proclaimed the coastal area of Ghana a crown colony and named it “Gold Coast”. In 1957 Ghana became the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to become independent, with Kwame Nkrumah being the first Prime Minister. He then became President in 1960 when Ghana was proclaimed a republic. In 1966, Nkrumah was overthrown in a military coup and a number of coups took place between then and 1994. In 1994 Ghana was returned to parliamentary democracy by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings. Since then, Ghana has flourished. Between 2000 and 2018, democracy has taken root with five peaceful elections where government has changed hands on multiple occasions.
20180824 Kids eating lunch with feet
Ghana’s annual population growth rate is 2.3%; the current population is 27 million (11½ million under 18 years) and Akan is the largest group at 45%. The main language is English with two other local languages (Twi and Fante) widely spoken and more than 60 indigenous languages being used to some extent. The main religions are Christian (68%), Islam (16%) and Animist traditional (9%). Adult literacy is 67%, youth literacy 81%.
Billy said his five years as ambassador involved work such as building a strong partnership with the government and institutions, supporting Australia’s investments in the mining industry (mining is a major industry in Ghana) and contributing to the work of many community organisations, such as the Orthopedic Training Centre (OTC). On a personal level, he made many life-long friendships, was installed as a ‘Chief’ and learned about the festivals, music, dance and drumming aspects of Ghanaian life.
Billy spent three months recently as a volunteer to assist the OTC. It was established in 1961 by a Catholic brother from the Netherlands to care for children and adults with polio, prior to Rotary International’s major drive to eradicate polio. Last year OTC supported 6,492 adults and children. The Australian government, through the Development Assistance Program, has supported the construction of new facilities over the past 10 years.
One in 300 children in Ghana contract cerebral palsy (CP). A CP Clinic and Day-Care Centre were opened last year and named in honour of Billy’s late wife, Lynette, as she had been a tireless supporter of the OTC during their posting and on return to Australia. The Centre started with just four kids and will expand to meet demand as resources allow (thanks to Rotary Ginninderra for its support).
20180824 OTC Founder, Director (Sister Elizabeth) & Lynette Williams (in 2012)
The OTC has established a Prosthetics and Orthotics Training Centre. Through a partnership with a nearby university, students do practical training at OTC for a diploma – the only one of its kind in English speaking west Africa. The aim is to provide a degree course so students don’t need to leave Ghana to study.
Many volunteers, from all around the world, come to assist at the Clinic. Billy’s work as a volunteer covered everything from painting to assisting with teaching (one boy was very keen to learn how to subtract and Billy taught him using stones), lifting the public profile of the Clinic and using his old connections with government and industry to obtain assistance for the Clinic. The highlight of his three months was the dedication of the Cerebral Palsy Clinic in Lynette’s name.
Billy said his motivation for volunteering was the fondness for Ghana he developed while working there, particularly the lifelong friends he made. He will be returning again to work as a volunteer.
17th Aug 2018 – Talk on the National Library of Australia’s TROVE by Jenny Higgins
Edited information from From Newsletter #439 of 24th Aug 2018
Jenny gave us an interesting talk on how to use TROVE to search for information especially on searching for people and information one needs to do when researching someone’s family history. Jenny gave us both a powerpoint presentation and a live demonstration of TROVE using our Telstra mobile modem
Jenny has been involved in family history research for about 40 years, in a professional capacity as well as researching her own family and assisting others in their research. She has used TROVE extensively.
TROVE is an online library database with an associated search engine hosted by the National Library. It contains almost 600 million records – electronic (scanned) copies of newspapers, government gazettes, books, maps and many other historical documents.
Jenny showed us the basics of using TROVE and then, using newspapers as an example, how to refine searches so you are not overwhelmed with irrelevant “hits”.
TROVE is a free service that offers fully indexed and digitised Australian newspapers from beginning of publication to at least 1954. Some extend much further; for example, the Canberra Times is on TROVE from its first issue in 1926 until 1995. The end date for the newspapers differs from one paper to another and is determined by copyright issues.
The TROVE search engine can be used to search for almost anything in a family history from births, deaths and marriages, obituaries, immigration, court cases, shipping arrivals, exam results, and major and minor local, national and international events.
Suggestions for types of searches:
- single or multiple words, with multiple word searches returning every occurrence of either word
- variants of titles and surname, initials and surname and variants of first names e.g. Mrs Hubbertson, Mrs M Hubbertson, John Phillip Smeaton, John P Smeaton, J P Smeaton
- names of places, streets, ships, events, etc
- local, national and international events, e.g. Queanbeyan show
- unusual or archaic words.
Searches that can be performed in the simple search box include:
- Using quotes in a search for multiple words: This search will return articles with the words in quotes occurring within five words of each other (upper or lower case does not matter).
- Put the words in double quotes: “jim higgins” will return a death notice which includes the words “jim” and “higgins”, in that order, but not “HIGGINS, our beloved father Jim”, as the word order is reversed. You can try reversing the word order, in quotes.
- Excluding or including essential words: A search using quotes can be used in conjunction with other types of searches. For example, you may use AND, OR and NOT and brackets ( ) to create logical expressions to find articles that must include or exclude certain words or phrases. A minus sign can be used next to the word in place of NOT, e.g. (“moreton bay” -brisbane), and (“moreton bay” NOT Brisbane) will return the same results.
- Date searches: To search for a date simply enter a date in the search box. Articles content from each newspaper is provided, including containing the date in the heading or text will be retrieved e.g. for articles about cricket in 1880, just enter “cricket 1880”. Dates can be entered in several formats e.g. “february 1880” or “feb 1880” or “9 February 1880” or “9-2-1880” or “9/2/1880” or “09/02/1880”.
- Search for exact phrase with no variations: To specify a search for an exact search term use the word text: e.g. text:”melba shed”.
- Near searches: You may use ~ to specify how near the words in your search need to be to each other e.g. “andrews john “~3 will return all instances in which the words “andrews” and “john” are no more than three words apart.
Link to TROVE’s website.
The TROVE website has some useful help facilities:-
Help on Using Trove | Searching TROVE Guide | Further help may be found on the TROVE home page or by googling “youtube trove”
Help about Newspapers, which shows a list of the newspapers in TROVE and the years for which digitised records are available. All personal notices, advertisements, examination and sporting results etc.
10th Aug 2018 – Excursion to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)
Editor’s note: Thanks to Bob Salmond for this report. From Newsletter #438 dated 17th Aug 2018
Friday 10 August twenty-one Shed members participated in a visit to the AIS. They were guided by Riley McGowan, an athlete training at the AIS for the 400m and 800m sprints. He had previously played soccer, including with overseas teams, but is now concentrating on athletics.
The tour began with thirty minutes of free time at Sportex – a precinct of electronic interactive challenges. Members attempted to display their skills at soccer, Aussie Rules, cycling, basketball, rowing, throwing, snow skiing, and tobogganing (‘the skeleton’), but the schoolchildren who accompanied them on the tour didn’t seem exceptionally impressed. The interactive exhibits were set among a unique collection of Australian sporting memorabilia.
The group then began tour of the facilities. Riley advised that the catalyst for the AIS was Australia’s poor performance at the 1976 Olympic Games where Australia won no gold medals, and only one silver and four bronze. The performance was so shameful that even New Zealand did better. Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser approved the AIS as a response to Australia’s despair.
In 1981 the AIS catered for only eight sports. The athletes shared common facilities but did much of their training at other venues; for example, swimmers trained at Deakin pool. The AIS expanded greatly, but over time Centres of Excellence for individual sports were created in several states, and the AIS is now mainly used for ‘sports camps’, rather than for all year training. The first facility visited was the AIS Arena, opened in 1981 as the first facility at the site. The Arena, which has 5,200 indoor seats, is now often used for indoor entertainment.
Moving outdoors, the tour surveyed the Canberra Stadium. This had originally been an athletics facility. It was so ‘fast’ that a world record (women’s 400m) set here by Marita Koch in 1985 still stands.
Koch’s time was so fast that if she had run as well at the Sydney Olympics she would have beaten Kathy Freeman by 15 metres. (Wikipedia records: On 6 October, 1985, East German athlete Marita Koch ran the 400m in a world record time of 47.6 seconds. To put it into perspective, it was more than one and a half seconds quicker than American Allyson Felix clocked to take gold at the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing.
Koch’s record, set at the World Cup in Canberra, Australia, has been the subject of much debate That’s because no-one has come close to breaking it, and Koch competed in an era when East Germany was known to be systematically doping its athletes. However, Koch, now 58, never failed a drugs test and has always maintained she did nothing wrong.)
In 1990 the athletics facility was converted to a 25,000 seat football stadium, and a new athletics facility was built next to it. The new facility is also ‘fast’. Each week it is open to the public; this is unusual for such a good facility.
The tour moved to the gymnastics hall, where a camp for junior women was in progress. For safety reasons quietness was required and mobile phones had to be turned off. Right below us girls were practising on single bars, and it was obvious why their concentration could not be disturbed. Other girls were practising vault work.
The next location visited was the volleyball courts. Riley advised that volleyball players were the tallest of all athletes. He asked the tour group to note the height of the net and advised that the average height of male players was 6’7”, and the tallest was 6’11”. Serves could reach a speed of 130kph.
The next venue was the ‘Conditioning Facility’ (i.e. gym). This was used by all sports, and usage was so great that usage times had to be scheduled to avoid overcrowding. Riley pointed out the excellent weight training area which has flexible floors so that weights can be dropped without damage to the weights or floors.
The tour then moved past the relatively new ‘Residence of Champions’. With some exceptions, scholarship holders were not required in live in, so many lived in the general community. This freedom was necessary for athletes with partners, and preferable for others who did not wish to spend all day, every day, with their fellow athletes. One of the exceptions was school children who needed to be supervised.
The adjacent Old Residential Halls were now used by the public, such as school groups visiting Canberra.
The next building on the tour was also the latest – The Swimming Centre. This was opened in 2007 at a cost of $17 million. It has modern equipment such as underwater windows where coaches can walk alongside their swimming students and photograph their techniques from the side or from below. The pool can be quickly converted to 50m or 100m lengths. Because the pool had an even depth of three metres it is very ‘fast’. The water is kept at a constant temperature of 27 degrees.
On the walls of the pool are photographs of champion swimmers; Riley pointed out Petria Thomas who spent eleven years at the AIS and won three Olympic gold medals, four silver and one bronze, as well as nine Commonwealth Games golds (two silver, one bronze).
The adjacent original pools, and attached gymnasium, are now available for use by the public. Only on rare occasions, such as overcrowding during school holidays, is the new pool open to the public.
The Shedders enjoyed the excursion and wish Riley all the best in his athletic career.
9th Aug 2018 – Roger Amos attended the daily Last Post Ceremony at the War Memorial to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Roger’s Great Uncle Stan being killed in action in France
Roger Amos attended the daily Last Post Ceremony at the War Memorial on Thursday evening, along with Harry Redfern, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Roger’s Great Uncle Stan being killed in action near Framerville, France.
The Last Post ceremony was conducted in true military style and the staff at the AWM were very helpful. The AWM Reception provided Roger with a wreath upon which they attached several small cards that Roger had prepared in advance of the day. The cards are collected and filed away each day as a record of the evening’s ceremony and the wreaths are then recycled.
Roger Laying a Wreath
Roger Holding Wreath
After Thursday’s selected serviceman (an airman) was honoured, members of the public lined up and placed their wreaths on the edge of the Pool of Remembrance. Roger was invited to stand at the front of the queue and was the first member of the public to lay a wreath. Stan was killed in action at about the same time, 4.45pm on 9 August 1918.
The screeching of the sulphur crested cockatoos did not distract from the solemn ceremony and there were several quite emotional moments. A piper played as the wreaths were placed and the bugler played a faultless rendition of The Last Post.
Roger recommends the Last Post Ceremony to all Shed members. it is something special that visitors to Canberra would also remember as an extra special event.
3rd Aug 2018 – Cycling across Australia – Presented by Bob Miller
Article from Shed Newsletter #437 dated 10th Aug 2018
Melba Shed member, Bob Miller, gave a fascinating presentation on his trip across Australia. Bob, took up cycling at the ripe old (but youngish) age of 47. Making up for lost time, Bob became involved in cycle racing and then decided on the ultimate challenge of riding from Perth to Sydney and on to Canberra. Apart from the satisfaction of such a major achievement that few have ever accomplished, Bob was raising funds for “BridgeWorks”, which is a Canberra-based charity that operates to prevent the exploitation of teenage children (including sex and slave trafficking) in the hill tribes of Chiang Mai, Thailand. With the assistance of Rotary, Bob’s ride raised over $30,000 (More information on BridgeWorks).
Bob’s adventure started at Hillary’s Beach, Perth on 22 March 2014 and he intended to finish at Bondi Beach, Sydney, which he reached on 17 May. However, when he got to Bondi, he was less than 300kms short of 5,000 kms for the ride so he decided to continue back to Canberra to bring up the 5,000kms milestone, which he achieved on Northbourne Avenue on 24 May.
Bob’s bike was a Vivente Tourer, shod with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, which are (almost) puncture proof but Bob managed to put a screw through the tread and into the sidewall just to support the “almost” qualification. One novel attachment was a generator in the front wheel which could be used to charge devices such as mobile phones.
Disproving another myth (that the prevailing winds on the Nullarbor are westerly) Bob rode into a strong easterly breeze virtually all the way to Adelaide. The wind restricted his speed significantly which led to longer days on the bike than expected. The hottest day reached 48 degrees and Bob’s longest day in the saddle saw him finish just over 200kms with the last part in the dark.
Apart from a couple of wet days, the weather was very hot until Bob reached Adelaide. He then started to encounter wetter and colder weather as he rode the last couple of thousand kms.
Bob’s wife provided support until Adelaide, starting a few hours behind Bob each day then catching up for a welcome brew-up before going ahead to set up camp for the night.
Bob took some spectacular photographs. See Newsletter #437
He said that some of the small towns had interesting exhibits, such as the Big Camera Museum in Meckering and cycling memorabilia (the Goldfields region was at the forefront of Australian cycling in the late 19th and early 20th centuries). Some other interesting historical points of interest were the rabbit-proof fence, a huge mining scoop at Kalgoorlie, Mulga Bill’s homemade bicycle and a plaque commemorating the “Goyder Line” near Clare in South Australia. (Goyder was Surveyor-General of SA in the 1860s. The SA Government asked him to map the boundary between localities that receive good rainfall on average and those that regularly experience drought. His “line” identifying the regions has proven to be very accurate over a century and a half; more details)
Bob said he got off the road if possible when he could see a truck in his mirrors. If he stayed on the road, the truckies always gave him plenty of room and he could hear them on the UHF radio he had on the bike warning other trucks that he was in front of them. The same could not be said, though, of some of the car drivers who cut in very close at times.
Bob confessed that there were times when it was really tough to keep going. However, keep going he did and he was greeted by a group of Canberra cyclists at Lake George to accompany him while he chalked up the 5,000th km in Northbourne Avenue and then on to the finish line.
Congratulations Bob on your determination in completing such a tough feat and your impressive fund-raising effort.
27th July 2018 – Emma Turner from Red Cross ACT
Emma is a Client Engagement Officer for the Red Cross. She looks after the range of Red Cross’ social inclusion programs designed to help seniors over the age of 65 remain independent, maintain their social connections and preserve their wellbeing. Emma told us about Meals on wheels, Personal Alarms, Telecross, the Social Support Program, TeleCHAT and the Community Visitors’ Scheme.
Emma started by informing us of the various types of activities in which the Red Cross is involved – blood bank (which is a separate entity), humanitarian services and emergency response.
Meals on Wheels
The Red Cross is responsible for Meals on Wheels in the ACT and Tasmania. Meals on Wheels in Canberra is coming up to its 50th anniversary, having started on 8 December 1968. As well as delivering meals, it also provides a welfare check on the recipients. For health reasons it is not possible to deliver hot meals. Meals can be chilled (delivered daily from Monday to Friday, with extra on Friday for the weekend) or frozen (delivered once weekly or fortnightly). The meal menu is quite extensive. Soups are $2.40 each, mains are $5.00 and desserts are $2.50.
The Personal Alarm Service is for people who may be at risk of accident or sudden illness and who are either living alone or with someone who may be unable to assist in an emergency. It provides access to emergency help 24 hours a day, all year round.
The alarm is a small button linked to a base unit, which has its own SIM so it does not depend on a fixed-line phone or the NBN. The button is light weight, water resistant and can be worn as a pendant or on the wrist. It works anywhere within about 100 metres of the base station, even in the garden or shower.
When the button is pressed, it sends a signal to the base unit, which automatically dials the monitoring centre. A staff member will attempt to talk to the client via a microphone in the base unit to arrange the most appropriate form of assistance. If no-one responds then paramedics are sent to the home. Medical information is stored at the monitoring centre and this is provided to the paramedics. Red Cross recommends that a key is stored in a key safe so that the paramedics do not have to force entry.
The fee for a personal alarm is $150 set-up and then $29 per month. It can be provided either via a referral from “My Aged Care” or by contacting Emma directly (her details are shown below).
Telecross is a national Red Cross service. It provides a free, daily phone call by volunteers to people who live alone, are socially isolated or at risk of accident or illness. Clients can receive calls seven days a week; they are made between 8.00am and 9:30am.
If clients don’t answer their phone, volunteers make two further attempts before Telecross staff contact the client’s nominated contact(s) to get them to check on the client. If no contact is available then Telecross staff ask the police to check.
The Social Support Program provides clients with friendship and support. A Red Cross volunteer visits regularly to assist with social activities and outings. Activities include going shopping, attending appointments, making home visits, having morning or afternoon tea, playing a game of cards or going for a walk. The same volunteer visits a client each time to provide continuity.
TeleCHAT provides a social telephone call to provide support and friendship. Clients are matched with a volunteer who will phone them at an agreed time and day, usually once a week.
Community Visitors are volunteers who visit residents living in aged care facilities, or people with a Home Care Package living in their own homes, on a weekly basis.
The purpose is to reduce the loneliness that an individual might experience due to reduced contact with the outside community.
Emma’s contact details
Emma concluded by saying that volunteers are always required to assist the Red Cross in these programs.
Australian Red Cross (ACT)
Emma Turner (02) 6234 7665 (if Emma is not available, call Cheryl (02) 6234 7663)
The United Nations – Mike Smith – 13th Jul 2018
Mike gave us a great insight into the UN and what it can (and cannot) do under its Charter.
Mike Smith grew up in Sydney, and attended Malabar Primary. He went to the Royal Military College, Duntroon and, after 34 years in the Australian Army, Mike retired with the rank of Major General. However, retiring did not mean retirement. Mike became CEO of Austcare (now merged into ActionAid Australia). ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights and defeat poverty. He then moved on to the United Nations (UN). Under the auspices of the UN, Mike spent a year in Libya and also time in Nepal, Yemen (where he was involved in negotiating a cease-fire agreement) and three weeks in East Timor.
Mike is involved with the Gallipoli Scholarship Fund, which commemorates the legacy of Australian servicemen and servicewomen. The Scholarship seeks to perpetuate among young Australians an understanding of those enduring traditions of perseverance, courage, self-sacrifice and mateship that were established at Gallipoli and on other battlefields in the First and Second World Wars. It provides financial assistance for one year to Australian applicants commencing their first year of tertiary study at a University or TAFE at Degree, Diploma or Advanced Diploma level. In assessing suitability for an award, a 60% weighting applies to necessitous circumstances and a 40% weighting to educational merit.
If that wasn’t enough to keep him occupied, Mike is also the National President of the UN Association of Australia, which was established in 1946 to champion the critical work of the United Nations. His particular interest is to encourage the Pacific Islands to improve their public sector governance structures.
The UN is at the centre of a rules-based international order (RBIO). That order is under greater threat now than at any time since the UN was established after World War 2 and so Australia needs to do more with the UN.
The RBIO emerged during the aftermath from the mess of World War 2. It comprises the treaties and norms that keep the world from chaos. All major political parties in Australia support the UN but the support is often fairly low-key. For example, the most recent Defence White Paper hardly recognised the UN.
The key pillars of the UN are: (a) Peace and security, (b) Humanitarian issues, and (c) Development. All are necessary, but it would be fair to say that the issue of human rights is critical.
There are 193 member countries in the UN and they all have a single vote. However, this is not true for some special groups within the UN. For example, the UN Security Council has five permanent members (China, France, Russia, UK, USA) and any one of them can veto a resolution. It also has 10 elected members; Australia has been on the Security Council several times, most recently in 2013-2014. The USA has vetoed more resolutions than all the other permanent members combined. The USA also resigned from the UN’s Human Rights Council because of a perception that some member countries had poor human rights records.
In 2000, the UN set up eight “Millennium Development Goals” (MDGs), which were particularly aimed at developing countries to reduce the level of poverty globally. In the event, they proved to be very successful. The sunset year for the MDGs was 2015 and they led to 17 Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) starting in 2016. Sixteen of the goals apply to all countries and the seventeenth is “Partnership”. There was unanimous support for the SDGs amongst UN member countries. The topics covered by the goals are: eliminating poverty and hunger; health; education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable communities; responsible production and consumption; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace, justice and strong institutions; and partnerships to achieve the goals.
Mike was involved with the UN’s peacekeeping activities around the world. The UN has 110,000 peacekeepers world-wide. Only 40 are Australian, all in the military (there is no funding for police peacekeepers at present), but about 60,000 Australians have served as peacekeepers since 1946. Some past missions have required armed peacekeepers, while some have been “observer missions”. The earlier missions were mainly peacekeeping between two countries but, later on, some became peacekeeping in a civil war, which was a much more difficult task. Typically, missions were led by the UN. However, Australia’s peacekeeping in the Solomons was different in that the UN supported that one rather than led it.
It is useless holding elections in cases where no rule of law has been established. Libya is a good example; after Gaddafi was deposed Libya had no-one with the ability to maintain security. Exacerbating the problem was the disparate, well-armed groups that were fighting for supremacy (Libya had more weapons available to such groups than were in Afghanistan and Iraq combined).
Religion plays an important role, although often within religions rather than between them. For example, the problems in Rwanda were Christians versus Christians. Muslims are fighting amongst themselves (Saudi Arabia versus Iran via Yemen, with Turkey also involved). An example of inter-religion unrest is Myanmar, where Buddhists are oppressing Rohingya Muslims.
A peacekeeper memorial on ANZAC Parade was dedicated in September 2017. It is unique amongst all the Australian War Memorial’s special memorials because it is dedicated to both men and women and to military, civilians and police.
The UN is often criticised for not sorting out problems but the UN has no power to step in unless all the Member Countries agree (it’s a bit like Australia’s Commonwealth/State relations but even more complicated).
Most know about the International Court of Justice but the UN is involved in other issues that we rarely hear about. For example, the UN has ratified agreements on the non-militarisation of space, aviation and postal services.
East Timor is an interesting case study. The UN tried to persuade Indonesia to allow peacekeepers to observe the independence ballot. Indonesia did not agree so the UN was not able to have peacekeepers available. After the ballot, progress towards East Timor’s independence was via a tripartite agreement between the UN, Portugal and Indonesia. This illustrates a key function of the UN; it facilitates discussion but it cannot legislate outcomes.
Letters From The Trenches – Part 5, 6th Jul 2018
Uncle Stan’s Last letter Home
Private Stanley Dean Willis,
21st and 17th Battalions,
Australian Infantry Forces
Killed in action, Friday, 9 August 1918,
At Framerville, France
Buried in Heath Cemetery, Harbonnières
Stan’s Last Letter Home was written neatly on six pages in pencil. It was kept in an envelope with: “Poor Dear Stan’s Last Letter Home”
written on the envelope.
My Dear Mother Father & all at Home.
Just a few lines once again to say I am still alive & well and still doing my wee bit towards beating the Hun.
I guess you have all been feeling anxious about me of late especially when you see where the Aussies have had so many stunts this last few months.
Well I have been in lately, in and out of the front line & have been in a very important part of the front, at times we have been under very heavy shell fire and I can assure you its (no Bon) having Fritz’s big iron foundries bursting quite close. I have had several close shaves, had my rifle blown out of the trench about 5 yds from me a few days ago and couldn’t find a piece of it but am thankful to say I wasn’t hit.
Machine gun bullets are nothing whizzing all around you to what shells are, we don’t take much notice of them, it’s the shells put fear into one, you know many of them weigh over 1 cwt, some two or three cwt so you can just imagine what an explosion they have but I won’t start telling you things like that but I’ll tell you this much, our boys have had old Fritz thinking every time they have hopped over this last few months. They haven’t had one failure, they beat him and have taken several hundred prisoners every time they have any size of stunt, have got the wind right up him, as we say but its time they took us out and gave us a rest now.
This last six months, there is very few days our boys haven’t been in reach of the shell fire, in and out of the front line all the time and have only had dug-outs to live in all the time. My Battn have at any rate, so you can guess we have had a pretty rough time of it.
I haven’t had a bath for about 5 weeks, can’t get one up here where I am at present only about 1000 yds from Fritz.
Our Battn is not half up to strength now, we have so many Americans attached to us learning trench warfare, most of them seem very decent Guys. We get on well with them and they all seem anxious to get at Fritz but after one stunt I guess they won’t.
I liked them when they came up the other night, it had been raining heavy and some places in the trenches had water nearly up to the knees, their lingo amused me, “The God dam Dutchmen” they call Fritz, they’ll soon know what us poor beggars have had to contend with, I see in papers and of course we hear from our officers where the French and Americans have had a big victory this month, drove Fritz back about 12 mls and have taken 25,000 prisoners. I think Fritz has about done his dash at last but can’t see how it will all end this year somehow, all his gasses and war weapons he has used – we are quite equal with him now, have him beat in the air, but only for America he had us thinking.
My word Mum I got a shock when I heard about so many of our old Millthorpe boys being killed. Carl Warburton was wounded a week or two ago, serious I heard. I saw him after he got his commission and was talking to him.
The last I heard of was poor old George Goode was killed. It is terrible hard for Mr & Mrs Goode losing two boys. It will break them up altogether. I think he is buried not far from where I am at present and I am keeping a look out for his grave and then poor old Garnet Bennett and Eric Wenban. Garnet was killed going into the line the very first time. I feel anyhow when I think of it all and their sorrowing families have my heartfelt sympathy.
Villers-Bretonneux from Memorial Top by Roger 2017 showing undulating countryside in the Somme region
I wrote to Mrs Wenban and Mrs Bennett and will write to Mrs Goode soon, nearly every day some of our boys go under. Its cruel when such good chaps fall. Well, for something else, I received several letters from the homeland a week or two ago, Mum, dated up to 10th May. Pleased to hear all are well, had your lovely letter. A long long one from Hattie, Annie, Millie, Alma Bryant, Jers Stanford and several other little friends – its great to get them all, am looking forward to another mail now. I haven’t wrote many letters this last few months, haven’t answered half I have received but you’ll know the reason being in the forward battle area all the time. One has a job to write a letter and it’s a hard job to get them censored too, but when we go out for our long looked for spell, if God spares me, I will try to write more often.
Tell Hattie I can’t find time to answer her long letter just at present so forgive me & don’t leave off writing because I can’t answer each and every one.
Fancy you seeing Jack Pattinson, he is lucky to be home, hope he writes to me.
So the chickens and cows etc. are as well as can be expected. Hattie, you are a character. I’d give you a good scruffing if I was near you, believe me.
How is Paddy? Do you still run him in the sulky? What about her sugar, is he still going strong like Walkers Whisky.
Haven’t heard from Charlie just lately.
Tell Alma I received the photo of her and Nellie and tell her it is trey Bon, but it made my mouth water seeing the afternoon tea laid out.
Haven’t received parcel you sent for my birthday yet, hope it soon comes though. I spent my birthday in the trenches with a few shells lobbing around, I thought of Nellie’s birthday on the 4th July. Some of our boys hopped over that morning with some Yanks. They took 1,000 prisoners and many machine guns.
How old are you Helen? I forget, is it 32yrs? What sort of a guess am I (Oh where is he?) He must be a V.C. Hero eh?
I am getting old – 25yrs eh?
Roger at Stans Grave stone at Heat Cemetery Harbonnières. Roger and some fellow travelers during a simple ceremony next to Stan’s headstone.
Millie you’ll soon be an unclaimed darling too. Pleased you received our photos and liked them. Tell Sadie I received the snap of her George and Jean. Just like Hatttie squirting the milk. I had to laugh.
Saw Stan Bryant about 3 weeks ago, he looked fairly well and we had a good old yarn. How is Erno, Top and all?
Love to all of them and same to all, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews.
Must conclude now.
From your ever loving son and brother,
XXX Stan X
P.S. Hope you received word my wounds were only slight before you get this letter.
P.P.S. I received a parcel from Mrs Worthey yesterday, also received one from Ireland a week ago.
P.P.P.S. I hope you can read this.
2018-06-29 Life on a Sheep and Cattle Station in the 1960s – Michael Dwyer
Glenrock Station is in the upper Hunter Valley between Scone and Nundle, just under 400kms from Sydney. In the 1960s, Michael was the first teacher in Glenrock’s school, which had been built by Naroo Pastoral Company (owner of Glenrock) and presented to the NSW Department of Education.
Glenrock School 1960s
Michael opened the new school and taught there for four years. During that time, he photographed many of the daily activities at Glenrock, the cottages in the main part of the station as well as those on the out-stations, the countryside in all types of conditions and the herds of cattle (8,000 of them).
Glenrock station was about 80,000 acres, divided into a number of smaller paddocks, the largest of which was about 5,000 acres. A full-time fencer was employed to reduce the size of the paddocks. The outstation staff lived in cottages close to the area in which they worked because of the time taken to travel around the property given the long distances and rough country involved.
Horses were used on the station and a stallion “GlenRego” was purchased to mate with smaller- framed mares to produce stocky and game-hearted horses. An article about the offspring of GlenRego appeared in 2006.
In the space of only four years, Michael was able to observe the full range of weather conditions on Glenrock – the good times, the floods, droughts, bushfires and snow.
Glenrock Station 1960s
Quizmaster, Mr Gradgrind, kept Shedders on their toes by asking four sets of five questions during Michael’s presentation. Congratulations to all those who scored a pass mark.
In 2015, Glenrock Station (30,608 hectares) was purchased for $45 million by a Chinese retail and supermarket giant – Australia Aulong Auniu Wang Pty Ltd (AAAW). Click here to see the page on AAAW’s website describing the company’s vision for Glenrock Station.
Many thanks to Michael for this fascinating picture of life on a large station in the 1960s.
Google Photos of the talk and Soup & Curry Lunch
2018-06-22 ACT Electoral Commission – Marie Sinstead-Reid
Marie is the Education and Information Officer at the ACT Electoral Commission. She talked about ACT Legislative Assembly elections, their history and the myths and then ran a mock election and set up a Tally Board so that we can see how the counting actually works at a real election in the ACT.
The Electoral Commission is an ACT Government Statutory Authority with a staff of eight, supplemented by some 900 casual employees at election time. They run education programs and manage ACT Assembly elections, as well as many others – ANU elections, enterprise bargaining elections etc. The next ACT Assembly elections will be held on 17 October 2020.
Marie explained the Hare-Clark system which is used for ACT Assembly elections for the Legislative Assembly. Hare-Clark is a type of proportional representation system which is used when you need to elect more than one person from each electorate.
From the 2016 elections, there were 25 MLAs. They were elected from 5 electorates called Brindabella, Ginninderra, Kurrajong, Murrumbidgee and Yerrabi.
You vote on the ballot paper by using numbers to show your choices. You start from 1 and keep incrementally numbering the boxes beside each candidate you like. This is called showing your preferences. You are electing 5 Members so you need to number at least 5 boxes. You can number more boxes if you want to. MLAs are elected for 4 years.
All the ballot papers with a number “1” are counted. These are the formal votes.
Votes are counted as per the following five steps:
Step 1 – Ballot papers without a number “1” or with
more than one number “1” are called informal votes. These are not able to be used in the count to elect candidates. Ticks and crosses are not counted.
Step 2 – A candidate has to receive a certain number of votes to be elected. This is called the quota. This is the formula to work out the quota:
(Total number of formal votes / (Number of vacancies + 1)) +1
Step 3 – Any candidate who has the same number of votes as the quota, or more, is elected. If all the vacancies have been filled, the election is finished. If all the vacancies have not been filled, a check is made to see if any candidate has more votes than the quota. If a candidate has more votes than the quota, go to step 4. If there are no candidates with more than the quota, go to step 5.
Step 4 – When a candidate has more votes than the quota these are called surplus votes. Surplus votes are given to other candidates by looking at the next choice shown by the voter on the ballot paper. There is a need to work out the new total of votes for each candidate and then go back to step 3.
Step 5 – If there are still vacancies, it is necessary to find the candidate who has the lowest number of votes. This candidate is then taken out of the vote counting. This is called excluding the candidate. Each of these candidate’s votes are allocated to another candidate by looking at the next choice shown by the voter on each ballot paper. Then the new number of votes for each candidate is calculated and we go back to step 3. The process of distributing surplus votes from elected candidates and excluding the candidate with the fewest votes goes on until all the vacancies are filled.
Simple, isn’t it!
A casual vacancy happens when a member leaves the Legislative Assembly before the next election. A new member then needs to be elected. Elections ACT recounts the ballot papers from the last election to elect the new member. Only the ballot papers that elected the member who is leaving are counted. Only candidates who were on the same ballot paper can be in the recount. They must advise the Electoral Commission if they want to be included. The recount is done by looking at the number voters put on the ballot paper. The new Member is the person with the most votes.
Voting and counting votes is a time consuming and involved process as we learned when Marie ran a mock election involving 3 vacancies with 12 candidates. She prepared a special ballot paper which we all used to cast our votes.
A casual vacancy happens when a member leaves the Legislative Assembly before the next election. A new member then needs to be elected. Elections ACT recounts the ballot papers from the last election to elect the new member. Only the ballot papers that elected the member who is leaving are counted. Only candidates who were on the same ballot paper can be in the recount. They must advise the Electoral Commission if they want to be included. The recount is done by looking at the number voters put on the ballot paper. The new Member is the person with the most votes. Our dummy ballot paper
1st June 2018 – Erik Boddeus, the Executive Manager of Retirement Living at Goodwin Aged Care Services presented about the attributes of Retirement Villages versus Residential Aged Care Facilities
He was also assisted by Liz Ley, Independent Living Unit Sales Officer & Laura Reading, Marketing Coordinator
Erik provide a very informative presentation on the issues associated with considering whether or not to move into a retirement village. He discussed the difference between a retirement village which is independent living in a residential community and residential aged care which is more akin to a nursing home where a person is unable to look after themselves and requires a level of care.
The discussion then moved onto why people choose to move from their current home to a retirement village. This choice is associated with current maintenance issues, a desire to downsize, a need to address social isolation or loneliness, a feeling of reduced independence, worries about security or even health issues requiring some external support or care. Organisations like Goodwin can provide more appropriate and flexible accommodation, facilities and services such as residential maintenance and secure parking.
Facilities often include a club house, library, business centre, TV lounges, residents’ kitchen, landscaped gardens, BBQs, gyms and even a Mens’ Shed. Services available to residents can include 24/7 emergency call systems, on-site staff, maintenance services, gardeners, telephone and internet services, activities , entertainment and a number of care options.
Care options include providing extra assistance to keep residents safe, comfortable and well in their own homes. A recent study claims that each additional hour of community care older adults receive per week is associated with a six per cent lower risk of entry into permanent residential care.
Erik then talked about the costs of moving to a residential village. These costs include an ingoing contribution, a monthly maintenance fee and a departure fee. There are many ways these fees can be organised to better suit the resident and Liz spoke about some of the options.
More than 95% of residents living in a retirement community say that their current lifestyle meets or exceeds their expectations and most regret that they didn’t make the move 10 years earlier. Indeed, the majority of residents living in a retirement community are healthier and live longer than their peers.
If interested, then consider your options, talk to the retirement village, talk to existing residents, seek independent legal and financial advice and make the move!
Thanks to Erik, Liz and Laura for a informative presentation on independent retirement living.
11th May 2018 – Ian Peters from Diabetes Australia NSW & ACT talked about Diabetes & the massive impact it is having on Australians health
Ian commenced his presentation with a number of quite alarming statistics about diabetes in Australia:
- Diabetes is Australia’s worst chronic disease with over 1.4 million people affected
- 22,000 Canberrans are affected – a number that is rising at 10-15% per annum
- 50% of patients (excluding maternity patients) in Canberra’s hospitals have conditions relating to diabetes
- It is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults
- It is a leading cause of kidney failure and dialysis
- It increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to four times
- It is a major cause of limb amputations
- It affects mental health as well as physical health.
- Depression, anxiety and distress occur in more than 30% of all people with diabetes
- Excessive sugar intake, excessive weight and unhealthy diet are the primary causes of diabetes.
When someone has diabetes, their body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a form of sugar which is the main source of energy for our bodies. Unhealthy levels of glucose in the blood can lead to long term and short term health complications.
For our bodies to work properly we need to convert glucose (sugar) from food into energy. A hormone called insulin, produced in the pancreas, is essential for this conversion. In people with diabetes, insulin is no longer produced or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body. When people with diabetes eat glucose, which is in foods such as breads, cereals, fruit and starchy vegetables, legumes, milk, yoghurt and sweets, it can’t be converted into energy.
Instead of being turned into energy the glucose stays in the blood resulting in high blood glucose levels. After eating, the glucose is carried around your body in your blood. Your blood glucose level is called glycaemia. Blood glucose levels can be monitored and managed through self-care and treatment.
Three things to know about diabetes:
- It is not one condition – there are three main types of diabetes: Type 1 (10%), Type 2 (85%) and Gestational diabetes (5%)
- All types of diabetes are complex and require daily care and management
- Diabetes does not discriminate, anyone can develop diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease which completely stops the pancreas producing insulin hence requiring the use of artificial insulin. It cannot be cured.
Type 2 diabetes occurs if the pancreas is slightly damaged. It can usually be controlled through diet, exercise and weight control.
Gestational diabetes is increasing, possibly due to women having children later in life and increasing weight over time of the population. It usually passes after the baby is born.
People with diabetes need to keep close control over their glucose readings. A hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test which reflects your average blood glucose level over the past 10-12 weeks is essential. For people without diabetes, the normal range for the hemoglobin A1c level is between 4% and 5.6%. Hemoglobin A1c levels between 5.7% and 6.4% mean you have a higher chance of getting diabetes. Levels of 6.5% or higher mean you have diabetes.
Ian handed out numerous NDSS Information Fact Sheets. These can all be accessed by clicking on this link. Diabetes Australia also run a range of information session for people wanting to learn more.
Thanks to Ron Thomson for organising Ian’s attendance at Melba Shed.
27th Apr 2018 – Peter Kain Volunteer Guide at the War Memorial talked about Gallipoli & The Western Front 1918
The following is taken with some minor amendments from our Newsletter #422 dated 4th May 2018
Thanks Peter for a very interesting and informative presentation. In his best modesty he also informed us he is the best Memorial guide & usually guides people around the AWM from 11AM Fridays
Myths of Gallipoli
Peter Kain presenting
Five major myths surround the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915:
- The ANZAC landing was heavily opposed
- The ANZAC troops landed in the wrong place
- The Australians overran their objectives
- The ANZAC commanders displayed superior ability to the British commanders
- The ANZAC soldiers displayed superior fighting spirit to the British soldiers.
Peter dealt with each of these in turn.
1. The ANZAC Landing was heavily opposed
The popular perception is of a blood-stained beach, soldiers scrambling ashore under a hail of bullets, and bodies littering the shoreline.
The reality is that the ANZAC landing was carried out in complete silence with no pre-barrage. Two Turkish Companies guarded the coast and the first wave of 1500 troops was opposed by about 200 Turkish defenders. The first wave of 36 boats landed at 0415hrs and had cleared the defenders and climbed the first ridge after 15 minutes. There were 4,000 ANZACs ashore by 0600hrs, 8,000 by 0800hrs and 12,000 by 1400hrs. However, Mustafa Kamal had quickly moved his Regiment from several kilometres away to cut off the ANZACs and dominate the heights. By 1030hrs the Turks had effectively won the battle for the heights. By dusk 16,000 ANZACs were ashore but their advance had been checked by 5,000 Turkish forces all day. Two additional Turkish Regiments were brought up overnight and the numbers were ‘balanced’.
2. The ANZAC Troops were landed in the wrong place
The popular perception is that the ANZACs were landed at the wrong place and this led to the failure of their assault.
The reality is very different. The original orders were for the ANZACs to land between Gabe Tepe and Fisherman’s Hut, 5 kms north. The actual landing point at Ari Burnu was in the centre of that line. The first wave landed on a front of 800m confronted by steep hills. The originally proposed landing place on ‘Z’ beach was south of the actual landing spot, was in open country and was well defended. If they had landed there they could have been slaughtered.
There were several advantages of landing at Ari Burnu:
- It was not heavily defended as it was considered too difficult for an assault
- The troops were closer to their objectives
- Natural features provided the only protected bay on the coastline.
ANZAC Cove became vital for landing supplies and reinforcements.
3. The Australians overran their objectives
The popular perception is that the soldiers in their eagerness overran their objectives and pushed too far inland.
The reality is that a combination of enthusiasm, inexperience and orders to advance at all costs drove many small groups to advance from their main units. Several groups got further inland than any Australians would for the rest of the campaign. However, they did not hold their positions beyond the first day. These men were few in number and no Australians went beyond the objective set for the landing force; in fact, few even reached it.
4. The ANZAC commanders displayed superior ability to the British commanders
The popular image is that British commanders displayed military incompetence.
The reality is a bit more complex. While this was true of some British commanders, the criticism of the British tended to obscure the errors of Australian officers. For example, Colonel Ewen Sinclair-Maclagan halted the advance of the main force 1 km short of the objective. Major General William Bridges refused to land the artillery and sent them back to the ships. He finally allowed one 18 pounder gun to land, which went into action at dusk. On the other hand, Bridges and General Birdwood considered re-embarking the troops that night but General Sir William Hamilton advised them to hold their ground. News (false) that the AE2 had broken through to the Sea of Marmara encouraged them to stay. Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Lee, Commander of the 9th Battalion, went back to the beach leaving his men leaderless; he was evacuated with a sprained ankle.
5. The ANZAC Soldiers displayed superior fighting spirit to the British Soldiers
The popular image is that described by (then Colonel) John Monash at Gallipoli in August 1915: “…poor quality of British troops …. They can’t soldier for sour apples. They have no grit, no gumption, and they muddle along and allow themselves to be shot down because they don’t know how to take cover.”
The reality is that Australia was allocated a subsidiary landing operation. The main landings were made by the British at five sites. They suffered up to 50% losses at two of these sites. British troops did fail to press their attacks despite outnumbering the Turkish forces. Most Australians fought as well as their British counterparts. Some though wavered and straggled back to the beach or in the gullies, although part of this was due to the inexperience of the soldiers and the loss of their officers. Gallipoli was a hard school and British and Australian soldiers performed comparably.
The August Offensive (Lone Pine, The Nek, Chunuk Bair and Suvla Bay)
At Lone Pine, Australian troops attacked the Turkish lines at 1730 hrs on 6 August 1915. The Turkish trenches were covered by logs to protect against shrapnel bursts. The battle lasted for 3 to 4 days (largely underground) until the ANZACs were able to secure the trenches.
Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross (two posthumously), which is the most awarded to Australians in a single engagement.
On 7 August at 0430hrs the Australian 8th, 9th & 10th Light Horse Regiments attacked the Turkish lines at The Nek. Following an offshore bombardment (which ceased 7 minutes early), four waves of troops attacked at intervals of 5 minutes. 600 attackers suffered 372 casualties (234 killed).
The plan was for Brigadier Monash to approach The Nek (Sari Bair) on the left flank. In the course of the night of 6/7 August his troops became disoriented and ended up on a “ridge too far” and were unable to assist the Light Horse attack in the morning. Often chastised for this misadventure the reality was that Monash had no maps of the area, he had not been able to reconnoitre the approach and his “guide” had never been in the area previously.
Peter acknowledged Ashley Ekins (Head of the Military History Section, Australian War Memorial and author of Gallipoli: A Ridge Too Far) for the information he presented.
The Western Front 1918: Villers Bretonneux and Le Hamel
Australian involvement in events leading to Le Hamel on 4 July 1918
On 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a three- pronged offensive to capture Paris (“Operation Michael”). Initially, it was an extremely successful attack as both General Haig and Field Marshal Foch were in a quandary as to how to stop the advance.
The German approach to, and the bombardment of, Amiens led to battles around Dernancourt and Villers Bretonneux on 4 April. On 24 April, the Germans attacked Villers Bretonneux and succeeded in occupying the town. An Australian counter attack overnight on 24/25 April was led by Generals “Pompey” Elliott and Thomas Glasgow.
In the lead-up to the battle of Le Hamel, Monash had recently been promoted to Lieutenant-General and appointed as the first Australian head of the Australian Division. Le Hamel was the first major British attack in France in 1918. Monash planned the attack meticulously. In over 60 meetings, his detailed planning covered all ranks so that each was fully aware of the plan. It involved all aspects of the military offensive:
- Aircraft – bombing the German artillery sites and assistance and in producing noise to cover the sounds of tanks being massed
- Tanks – 60 tanks were involved in the attack to work in concert with the troops
- Artillery to provide the usual “creeping barrage”
- Aircraft to resupply troops on the ground as they moved forward.
The overall Plan involved determining the precise location of the German artillery so as to take them out early. Up to 2 weeks prior to the battle “conditioning fire” consisting of explosive shells followed by gas shells was fired into the German Lines. Then on the morning of the attack only explosive shells were fired. There were no ground movements during daylight hours and tanks moved forward to the line under cover of darkness, with the noise offset by noisy aircraft and the initial artillery barrage. The troops moved into the line on the morning of the attack and advanced immediately, contrary to the normal procedure, which was to move in two days prior and dig towards the enemy. A major innovation was to resupply the troops with ammunition by aircraft and tanks, an approach that saved 1,200 men in the line. The use of aircraft to resupply the troops on the ground was the brainchild of Captain Lawrence Wackett who devised a small parachute that could be used to drop supplies to troops and designed a modified bomb rack to hold the supplies.
Monash planned the battle to last 90 minutes, a situation totally unheard of at this stage of the war when battles would last days or weeks on end. The plan allowed for continuous advancement without the need for any waiting for resupply thus reducing the opportunity for any counterattack by the enemy. He was far too much of an optimist – the battle actually took 93 minutes!
The tactics employed in the Le Hamel Battle became a template for the remainder of the war which led to the armistice just 4 months later.
Beginning on 8 August, this offensive contributed to further Australian successes at Mont St Quentin, Péronne and Montbrehain. In early October the Australian divisions withdrew from the front for rest and refitting. They were preparing to return to the fighting when Germany signed the Armistice on 11 November.
13th Apr 2018 – Excursion to Towrang Stockade Site and Powder Magazine, Cemetery, Convict Culverts and Bridges
The following is taken with some amendments from our Newsletter #421 dated 20th April 2018
Sixteen Melba shedders joined the excursion to Towrang, just north of Goulburn, to visit the historic Stockade site and the associated Powder Magazine, Soldiers Quarters, Cemetery, and Convict-built Culverts and Bridges.
We were very ably led by John Jervis, a local expert on the history of this area and a former Shed Speaker on this subject.
The group left Melba at approximately 9.00am, meeting up initially at the French VC Rest Area before heading to the Towrang Parking Area just north of Goulburn. After enjoying a morning-tea break we followed our leader John on a short walk to the site of the original Convict Stockade site (circa 1836-1842), the chief penal colony which was established in the southern district of the newly founded colony of New South Wales. John explained about just how harsh the conditions were for both the convicts and their soldier overseers, and particularly for the small number of wives who accompanied the soldiers at this site. Flogging was a common punishment for prisoners, and we heard about the ‘exploits’ of the floggers Billy O’Rourke and ‘Black Francis, a particularly fearsome character who was later found murdered near Run-o-way Creek. Someone had their revenge in large measure!!
We then walked on and viewed the ruins of the Trooper’s Quarters, whose walls were made of Pise, or ‘rammed earth’, construction. Along with the Troopers’ Quarters, the original Stockade site comprised other buildings such as convict huts, blacksmiths hut, bakery (unconfirmed), stables and the Powder Magazine. We then inspected the Powder Magazine (somewhat restored), which is situated behind and below a bank closely adjacent to the Wollondilly River. This Powder magazine is believed to have been used for storing the blasting powder for the local roadworks at the time. The cemetery gave us a sobering reminder of the harsh existence of the Stockade’s occupiers. One of the soldiers buried there, Private John Moxey, was only 38 years of age, having already served 22 years. Mary Brown, a 4 year old daughter of one of the sergeants is also buried there, along with another lady only 38 years of age.
At about 12.00pm we drove to the other side of the Hume Highway and enjoyed lunch and some laughs at the Derrick VC Rest Area, before inspecting the beautifully designed and convict-built stone bridge which crosses Towrang Creek on the old Hume Highway. This bridge is believed to have been designed by the well- known engineer David Lennox and construction was finished in 1839. It still remains in very good condition and is a testament of the stonemasonry skills evident at the time. We then viewed and walked across the route of the adjacent and original Great Southern Road, the first linking highway between Sydney and Melbourne, later renamed as the “Hume Highway” in 1928.
Following this we drove a few hundred metres south towards Goulburn and stopped to inspect some impressive stone culverts at various intervals along the road. Again, these are in remarkably good condition. When compared to the closely adjacent ‘modern’ (i.e. current present-day) culverts passing under the new Highway, these original stone culverts far surpass the quality of the current ‘tin and stone’ construction methods, and the originals possess an aesthetic quality and strength that belies their 180 years!
The group then farewelled each other and departed for home, variously arriving back in Canberra between 4.00-4.30pm.
Many thanks to John Jervis for guiding us on this excursion and for all the preparation and research he put into making this a fascinating day for the group. Thanks also to Roger Amos for arranging this excursion, and thanks to to Geoff Grimmett for the trip report and photos and to John Arundel and Ray Osmotherly for photos.
Google Photos | Information brochure about Towrang
6th Apr 2018 – Cris Kennedy, Manager, Education & Engagement at the National Film & Sound Archive of Australia talked about the work of NFSA
The following is taken with some amendments from our Newsletter #420 dated 13th April 2018 with some extra items from the editor
Cris Kennedy, Manager, Education & Engagement at the National Film & Sound Archive of Australia talked about the work of NFSA and how people can access and use some of the resources of the NFSA. He also shared some film and sound audio from their collection. Cris gave us a summary of his long career with jobs, among others, in film and sound at Electric Shadows Cinema and Ronin Films, a journalism degree at UCA, IT helpdesk manager at CSIRO, a film critic for the Canberra Times, and an ABC666 role talking about ‘new films opening this week’.
The National Film and Sound Archive is Australia’s ‘living’ archive – the custodian of over 2.8 million items that they not only collect, but also preserve for future generations and share in many diverse ways. NFSA is headquartered In Canberra with State Offices in Sydney and Melbourne. The collection of the 2.8 million articles is held in Canberra and much effort is being expended on digitising the entire collection to ensure its survival.
Cris then showed clippings from a number of original Australian films, including the earliest known feature length narrative film in the world, an Australian production, The Story of the Kelly Gang filmed in 1906 and which ran for an hour. We also saw clips from the earliest film footage ever taken in Australia – the 1896 Melbourne Cup.
Chris also talked about SHINEMA where some Mens Sheds borrow a DVD for $22 from the NFSA and have a film event at their Shed. He mentioned some WA Sheds doing this. Chapman Valley Menshed in WA use this facility. They state Shed & Cinema = SHINEMA. This is how they do it.
Chris also mentioned Australian Screen Online which is an on-line database operated by the Australian National Film and Sound Archive. It provides information about and excerpts from a wide selection of Australian feature films, documentaries, television programs, newsreels, short films, animations, and home-movies. It also includes teachers’ notes
Chris also talked about the Non Theatrical Loans Collection (NTLC for short) which allows people to borrow or use some old Australian movies for film clips. Go to NFSA.gov.au/collection and then search in the white box under SEARCH THE COLLECTION. You can also search the NTLC thris this link http://loans.nfsa.gov.au/htbin/wwform/076/wwk770
Thanks to Cris & to Ron Thomson & Geoff Grimmett for organising Cris’ visit to Melba Shed.
Click here for more about the NFSA.
Visit to Yass Valley Mens Shed – 23rd Mar 2018
The following is taken with some amendments from our Newsletter #419 dated 6th April 2018
25 Melba Shed members travelled to Yass to meet with members of the Yass Valley Men’s Shed. On arrival in Yass some of our members visited the Banjo Patterson statue in the local Memorial park before arriving at the Shed.
On this Friday, which is not a normal Yass Valley Men’s Shed opening day, we were pleasantly surprised by the welcome we received – not only in its friendliness but also in the trouble our colleagues had gone to turn up in considerable numbers and turn on a fantastic morning tea (courtesy of course of their very own 3* Michelin cook!). Their Shed moto is ‘Minimum bureaucracy, maximum fun’ and they clearly practice what they preach.
Collage of Visit to Yass Shed. From Bev Lewis
After a short welcome by President Bob Nash and Secretary Wayne Stuart over morning tea, we were invited to chat with, and get to know, Shed members and to inspect the Shed and surrounds, including their own vegetable garden!
Towards the end of the visit we again assembled in the ‘coffee room’ for farewells. No doubt we will get together again before too long.
After departing, President, Bob Nash took us on a tour of ‘The Lovat Chapel’, in Mehan St, Yass . This chapel was the original St Augustine Catholic Church built between 1840-44. It was replaced by a new building across the road in 1956. Recently a 1,200 pipes organ was donated and installed by Trevor Bunning of Canberra. The pipe organ was originally installed in the Wesley Church in Ashfield. It is planned to finish the organ commissioning in time for a recital in July 2018.
Adjacent to the Lovat chapel, the Church is refurbishing part of the old Convent as the Hartigan Centre of Yass and plans to have the ACT Academy of Music use 11 teaching rooms on their top level.
A great morning out and we owe special thanks to our friends at Yass Valley Men’s Shed and to Roger Amos for organising our visit.
Story of Australian Cinema – Ray Osmotherly – 16th Mar 2018
The following is taken from our Newsletter #418 dated 23rd Mar 2018
Ray started his fascinating presentation with some details about “Canvas Documentaries”, which were the forerunner of the cinema in many countries, including Australia. A very early form of this type of entertainment was an 18th century peepshow titled “The Siege of Gibraltar”. Patrons looked through peepholes at a detailed painting depicting this historic event.
The peepshow evolved into a ‘Panorama’, which means an all-embracing view (from the Greek in which ‘pan’ =‘all’ and ‘orama’ = ‘view’). The term ‘Panorama’ was first used in 1791 to describe artist Robert Barker’s nine metres long, 360 degree paintings on show in London.
During the 19th century, a number of large presentations of this type opened up for viewing with some having different levels to show various stages of the scenes. For example, the Rotunda in Leicester Square, London, opened in 1801 with different scenes of a fleet entering a harbour on the upper and lower levels of the building.
One of the main difficulties in painting a panorama was to maintain perspective, particularly in long-range views. It took very skilled painters to produce a good panorama. Some viewers even used binoculars to examine a panorama in close-up.
Moving panorama of horse race
A different type of canvas presentation was the ‘Diorama’ (literally ‘through view’ from the Greek ‘di’ = ‘through’ and ‘orama’ = ‘view’). It was first used in 1822 by Louis Daguerre who invented the word to describe a scene painted on both sides of a cloth with transparent sections that would change with different lighting effects. His painting measured 23 metres long by 13.7 metres high.
Australia went one step further by opening a moving panorama in 1880 in the School of Arts, Pitt Street, Sydney. As the name implies, a moving panorama was a scene that moved. An Australia example is shown in the photo of a moving panorama in Melbourne. The horse race is painted on a canvas that is gradually wound across the stage using the rather primitive mechanism shown.
Another term that came into vogue in the 1880’s was ‘Cyclorama’ (once again, from the Greek ‘cycl’ = ‘round and ‘orama’ = ‘view’). This term was used in the United States and Australia to distinguish moving panoramas from 360 degree panoramas. By the 1880’s most Cycloramas measured 122 metres long by 15.2 metres high. A cyclorama generally had a presenter (e.g. a race caller in the above case) who became part of the overall entertainment with his spiel. Cycloramas also developed by having different moving scenes presented one after the other. An example was an Adelaide cyclorama which showed various aspects of the Battle of Waterloo. A Melbourne cyclorama presented the story of the Spanish Armada. The Eureka Stockade also featured in this cyclorama.
The following photo shows an advertisement for a cyclorama presentation of these stories:
Advertisement for a cyclorama presentation
Ray moved on to the Australian film industry which evolved from these different types of painting presentations. In 1927, a Royal Commission into the Australian film industry heard about some exhibition practices that adversely impacted on local films. Despite these problems many locally-produced films were screened and well-received. Some examples were:
- The Man from Kangaroo
- The Blue Mountains Mystery
- The Dinkum Bloke
- Fisher’s Ghost
- The Adventures of Algy.
Newsreels provided an important means of providing the population with information about current events, continuing from the 1920s until the 1960s.
Ray showed us some fine examples of movie cameras and their advances during the 20th century. Kodak- Eastman and Bell and Howell were two prominent manufacturers of movie cameras. The early ones had a hand winder, which required a steady hand to turn the handle smoothly and evenly. They used a 16mm film, which cost the equivalent of about $100 for 3 minutes. The next step was a wind-up motor, which made life much easier for the photographer. Innovations for films were the introduction of a 9.5mm film, with the holes in the middle instead of the sides and a double 8mm film that was split down the middle during processing. Eventually, Canon introduced the Super 8 film (8mm), which lasted until being overtaken by digital movie cameras.
Ray concluded his presentation by showing us a clip from “The Picture Show Man”, a 1977 film about a man, his son and a piano player who travelled around Australia in the early 1900s showing the first silent movies.
Frank O’Rourke – Story of Australia’s Swimming & Diving Olympic Gold Medallists, Dick Eve & Boy Charlton – 9th Mar 2018
Note these two articles are reprints from the Shed Newsletters #416 & #417 of 9th & 16th March 2018
The previous week Frank talked about Nick Winter, Australia’s first field athletics Olympic gold medallist (in Paris, 1924). Three Australians won gold medals at the 1924 Olympics; today Frank told us about the other two – Richmond ‘Dick’ Eve and Andrew ‘Boy’ Charlton.
Frank dedicated this presentation to three of his school mates in Wagga:
- Able Seaman Geoff McLean, who died along with 80 mates on HMAS Voyager in 1964.
- Private John Slattery, a national serviceman, was killed in action in Vietnam in 1968.
- Regular Army Second Lieutenant Michael Gunther Deak is a very successful South Australian businessman and Vietnam Veteran’s advocate.
Dick Eve had the right pedigree for water sports. His maternal grandfather was an Englishman, Professor Fred Cavill, who was a renowned marathon swimmer. He introduced water polo (then known in England as ‘swim-ball’) to Australia. Dick’s mother, Fredda (or Freda) Cavill, was regarded as “absolutely the best lady swimmer of her day in Sydney.” It was reported in 1895 that Miss Freda Cavill’s “breaststroke was an ideal one – she did it to perfection and put any amount of strength into every effort. She is a powerfully-built, well-formed young lady, who could give many of our crack male swimmers a lesson in the particular mode of propulsion adopted by her”. Her brother Charlie Cavill was the first to swim the 7 miles across San Franciso’s Golden Gate gap, in 1896. He died in 1897 when performing a stunt in Stockton, California. Another brother, Arthur Channel Cavill, known as ‘Tums’ Cavill, won the NSW 500 and 1000 yards amateur championships. At 21 he was 220 yards professional champion of Australia. Swimming writer W.F. Corbett credited him with originating the crawl stroke – the forerunner of today’s freestyle. In 1901, Arthur went to the United States where he also successfully swam the Golden Gate gap but was frozen to death in 1914 trying to swim Seattle Harbour. His trainer was Syd Eve (Dick’s father).
Dick Eve (pictured, right) had two older brothers – Jim, who was a leading Sports Administrator and Empire Games Team Manager of many years standing and Allan, regarded as number two diver in NSW behind Dick. From 1917 Jim held various honorary positions with the New South Wales Amateur Swimming Association and introduced marked lanes at the Domain Baths in 1924. He was involved with both Olympic and British Empire Games administration, the latter until 1969.
Dick had already won a NSW and an Australian Diving Championship when he gave his first diving exhibition in Wagga on 25 January 1922, at a Swimming Carnival in the Murrumbidgee River swimming area. The Wagga Daily Advertiser reported that a feature of the afternoon was the exhibition, given by Mr. Dick Eve, the champion high and fancy diver of Australia. His display from the springboard, a back dive and flip, and what is called a one and a half, a stunt in which Eve turned a somersault and then dived, and a running dive were greatly appreciated, whilst his high diving from a 32 feet platform in a riverbank gum tree was a one and a half, back dive and the world- famous swallow dive.
Despite winning Australia’s first official diving championship in 1921, Dick Eve was not well known when he arrived in Paris for the 1924 Olympics, with his mother as coach. In the plain tower diving event, Dick was trailing going into the last dive and needed a near perfect score to take the gold. His swallow dive was flawless and the Parisians gave him a standing ovation. Dick was dogged by ear trouble throughout his career. He had also qualified to compete on the 3-metre springboard event but recurrent ear problems affected his performance and he ran fifth in the final. He also had to withdraw from the fancy high diving event due to these ear problems.
In 1925 Dick won the Australian springboard championship for the fifth successive time. After he succeeded his father as manager of Manly Swimming Baths in November 1926 the NSWASA deemed him to be a professional. The loss of his amateur status prevented him from being considered for the 1928 Olympic Games. Gravely disappointed at what he considered unfair treatment by Australia’s aquatic officials, he never sought to be reinstated as an amateur, even when the ruling became less stringent and thus a lengthy and highly promising international career was effectively destroyed.
Apart from his diving exploits, Dick was also a handy swimmer and once held the 400 yards freestyle championship of NSW. In 1930, Dick became the publican of the Riverina Hotel in Wagga following on from a stint as publican of the Grosvenor Hotel at Ultimo in Sydney. Prior to that he had managed the town baths at Singleton and Moree. Dick was heavily involved in community activities while he lived in Wagga.
Another claim to fame was that Dick taught Murray Rose to swim when Rose was five years old. In 1938, Dick visited the Manuka Pool to give a diving exhibition.
Dick enlisted in the AIF in 1942 and served as a 9th Division gunner in the Middle East but was discharged medically unfit in 1943 and returned to woolclassing. He remained involved in aquatics for most of his life and ultimately returned to managing the Manly Harbour Pool. He died in 1970.
Andrew Murray Charlton was only 17 at the 1924 Olympics but he was already the best known of the three gold medallists. He had first come to world notice in 1921 as a 14-year old, causing him to be known as ‘Boy’ Charlton, a handle that stuck with him for the rest of his life. He was born in Crows Nest and was educated at Manly Public School and Sydney Grammar. His family had no background in swimming.
In 1922 ‘Boy’ defeated Bill Harris, an American who was the bronze medallist in the 100m freestyle at the 1920 Olympics. ‘Boy’ won the 440 yards then set a world record of 11m 5.4s in the 880 yards event as well as winning the one-mile race.
In 1923, the 15-year-old Charlton swam for the first time against Frank Beaurepaire, who had won 35 Australian championships and had set 15 world records in his career. The Manly Baths was filled to capacity for the 440 yards race, with Charlton winning the race by two yards, which led Beaurepaire to predict that Charlton would break world records in 1924.
The start of 1924 in Australia was highlighted by the arrival of Swedish swimmer Arne Borg, at the time the holder of four world records, to compete against the 16-year-old Charlton in the 440 yards freestyle at the NSW Championships. The Domain Baths were filled to capacity with 400 metre queues forming outside the venue. Borg held the lead for the first half of the race but Charlton took the lead at the 320 yard mark eventually winning by 20 yards to equal Borg’s world record of 5 min 11.8s. Charlton was given a lap of honour as Borg rowed him around the pool in a small boat. They again met in the 880 yards and 220 yards events, with Charlton winning the former in a world record time and the latter in an Australian record time.
At the Paris Olympics later that year, ‘Boy’ won both his heat and the semi-final of the 1500 metres and then blitzed the field in the final, winning in world record time and lapping the field apart from Borg who finished 40 metres behind him. He won bronze in the 400 metres freestyle behind Borg and Johnny Weissmuller (“Tarzan”) and was part of the 4 x 200 metres relay team which finished with a silver medal. After the Olympics, ‘Boy’ went to the Tailteann Games in Ireland where he won the 200 metres, 400 metres and 800 metres events.
Charlton stunned the sporting world then by retiring from competitive swimming. He worked as a jackaroo on a property near Gunnedah owned by the family of poet Dorothea Mackellar.
After a two-year absence from competition, Charlton made a comeback to competitive swimming and, without any real preparation, he beat the Japanese champion Katsuo Takaishi in the NSW championships in 1927, setting a world record of 10min 32s in the 880 yards and an Australian record time of 4 min 59.8s in the 440 yards. He then returned to his jackaroo job in Gunnedah before going to Sydney the following year to secure qualification for the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam by winning the 440 yards NSW Championship.
In Amsterdam, Charlton claimed silver in both the 1500 metres and 400 metres, then once again returned to jackerooing near Gunnedah, shelving his swimming career for another four years. He resumed training in 1932 and broke the Australian record in both the 440 and 880 yards freestyle events at the 1932 NSW Championships to gain selection for the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, the oldest member of the team at 25 years of age. He contracted influenza a fortnight before the Games which dashed his hopes of any medals. In total, he had won five Olympic medals, which was an Australian record until 1960.
In 1934, Charlton accepted a position with an old swimming mate, John (Jack) Davies, at his newly- purchased pharmacy in Kingston. He remarked “The opportunity presented in this city with splendid baths (the new Manuka Pool) will induce me to join the Canberra Amateur Swimming Club, and endeavour to return to swimming form in the coming season”.
Charlton won the NSW 880 yards Championship in February 1935 over fellow Olympian Noel Ryan and French champion Jean Taris, who set 7 world and 49 national records and won 34 national titles during his career. He also won the Seine River 8 kms race four times. Charlton’s feat in winning from Ryan, the holder of the title, and also the French champion, was an amazing performance in view of his long absence from competitive swimming. The title was the first to be won by a member of the Canberra Amateur Swimming Club in State events. However, the race proved to be Charlton’s last major competitive swim.
In 1936 Charlton took up sheep-raising with J. Hyles, near Tarago. He was married in 1937 to Jessie Muriel Hyles, who was a prominent golfer. They then settled on a 12,000-acre (4,856 ha) property, Kilrea, near Goulburn, Charlton becoming a successful grazier. Extremely shy and modest, ‘Boy’ shunned publicity. He refused offers to turn professional saying: ‘I would never be forgiven by the Australian public … I am not in the sport for what I can get out of it’. He never actually won an Australian title.
In WWII Charlton enlisted in the Army at Goulburn and became a member of the 7th Brigade Light Horse. (Ed Note: There is no evidence of a 7th Light Horse Brigade in WWII. The closest likely unit was the 7th Light Horse Regiment which had its HQ at Goulburn. It only existed until 1942 when it was converted and redesignated 7th Australian Motor Regiment and was called up for full-time duty. In 1943, it was disbanded. Reference)
Charlton’s swimming mementoes, including medals, blazer pockets and certificates are held in the City of Sydney Archives.
Charlton died suddenly of a heart attack in 1975 at the age of 68. His son, Murray Charlton, said on ABC’s Australian Story, “he probably smoked up until the last five years before his death, as by then he had emphysema, so really he couldn’t even smoke. That was the irony of it – a very sad ending for a world champion, to die of cigarettes. It’s the way of the gods… I mean, if you’re a wonderful artist, they usually take your sight away. And I think that’s probably what they did with him – they took those wonderful lungs away with cigarettes.”
And what amazing lungs he once had. Physiologists had become involved in sport at the time of the Paris Olympics and Charlton’s lung capacity was tested with a machine, which blew mercury through a set of bent tubes. They could not believe his lung capacity. It was the highest of anyone they had rated at that time and he was then only 16 years of age.
Frank O’Rourke – Story of Australia’s First Olympic Field Athletics Gold Medallist, Nick Winter – 2nd Mar, 2018
We were privileged to listen as Frank O’Rourke gave us an enlightening talk about the life and activities of Nick Winter, our first Olympic Field Athletic Gold Medallist.
In 1964, as a 20-year-old living in Wagga, Frank witnessed Ron Clarke set his third senior outdoors world record on a grass track, breaking New Zealander Murray Halberg’s unofficial 4 mile distance time by 7.3 seconds. During his career, Ron set 23 world records. Eight years earlier, at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Ron had run the final leg of the torch relay into the MCG and then ran up the steps to light the cauldron. However, he was not the person originally selected to run the final leg. Ron was actually a substitute for a remarkable athlete, the ‘Marrar Marvel’ (Anthony William Winter), commonly known as Nick Winter, who had won Australia’s first ever Olympic gold medal in an athletic field event in Paris in 1924. Nick was regarded by many as perhaps the most versatile sportsman Australia had ever produced.
Nick first competed athletically at the small village of Marrar located between Junee and Coolamon, just 30 kilometres from where Clarke set his 1964 world record in Wagga.
Prior to and during WWI, ‘Nick’ was known as ‘Billy’ or ‘William’. His favourite event was the hop, step and jump (now called the triple jump) but he was an amazingly versatile athlete beyond this, competing until he was 50 in a wide variety of sports.
Not only was Nick top class in playing billiards and snooker but the famous Lindrum brothers (Walter and Fred) and their nephew Horace considered Nick to be the world champion fancy shot and trick shot exponent on the billiard and snooker tables.
It was alleged by various writers that Nick’s extraordinary athletic ability was considerably aided by him being ambidextrous. He could use either hand playing billiards, batting and bowling at cricket and writing. He was also double-jointed, being able to dislocate some of his joints at will. In addition, his ankle muscles were developed to twice normal size and his thigh muscles were also remarkably developed. Nick’s athletic performances were achieved despite being gassed in WWI, septic poisoning, synovitis in both knees, back injuries, and frequent bruised heels.
A newspaper report of 1925 stated that “Winter is probably one of the most versatile athletes Australia has produced. He won the State broad jump title in 1921 and the 120 yards hurdles title in 1922. He is a good tennis player, footballer, billiardist, boxer and wrestler. He is a ju-jitsu expert and a weightlifter, and plays bowls and golf, and also is a top-notcher at skating, trick cycling, and other sports. On two occasions he was runner-up in the Sydney metropolitan amateur billiard championship. He finished third in the State running broad jump championship and won the hop-step-and-jump championship. In the opinion of many experts Winter is entitled to the title of Australia’s best all-round amateur athlete”. Other reports indicate that Nick was also a handy cricketer.
Nick’s English grandfather, William Winter, was a Bungendore pioneer. In 1886, William applied for a liquor licence for the Carrington Inn, which he had not only built himself but had also made the bricks. In 1888, he obtained a billiard licence. In 1912, William was in Court for allowing billiards to be played in his licenced room on Good Friday. He pleaded guilty and was fined £2 plus costs.
Around 1860, John Winter (Nick’s grand uncle) settled in a slab hut on Red Hill Station bordering Wells Station in today’s Gungahlin. Two of his daughters (of his eight children) married Schumack boys from Springvale (the Shumack family property) in today’s Weetangera. Soon after John’s wife died in 1913, Red Hill station was resumed for the proposed Federal Capital Territory.
The former 1902-1904 Red Hill station homestead (built for one of John’s sons) as well as the nearby machinery shed have been restored as the focus of the Gungahlin Community Centre located in the suburb of Harrison. The former machinery shed is now the Gungahlin Men’s Shed.
Nick was born at Brocklesby in 1894, the son of a railway fettler. Known at that time as ‘Billy’, he was educated at the Superior Public School at Queanbeyan for about five years. He had two sisters – Elsie born in 1892 and Doris born in 1912.
Nick enlisted for WW1 at Cootamundra. He left Australia on 23 October 1915 on the troop transport SS Hawkes Bay as a member of the 12th Reinforcements for the 7th Light Horse. He spent the war as a driver once he reached France.
Nick’s service record does not actually indicate that, as a depot driver, he was in any of the great Somme battles involving Australian troops, but he was gassed. He was involved in sporting events during the war and a report indicates that he carried off no less than 40 trophies for athletic feats, and while on furlough in England he won six successive billiard challenge matches, including a highest break of 125. He arrived home on the SS Castalia on 1 June 1919.
After returning home, Nick moved to Sydney to join the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. He initially joined the Botany Harriers Club and his performances during the latter half of 1919 and the early half of 1920 were such that there were urgings by his supporters for his inclusion in the team for the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games. In January 1920, Nick set the NSW standing hop-step-and-jump record of 30ft 10in beating the old record of 30ft 5in with all three of his jumps. He then broke the running hop-step-and-jump record (47ft 3in), in the process bettering the winning jump of Ville Tuulos of Finland in the 1920 Antwerp Games. In the space of four seasons after coming home from the war, Nick gained about 60 first prizes, and over 50 seconds and thirds, in addition to breaking 10 Australian records at jumping.
Nick was selected for the 1924 Olympics. The triple jump was held on the 12 July 1924. Nick’s three jumps in the qualifying round including fouls were: 50ft 4in (foul), 49ft 9½ in, and 51ft 4in (foul). His only legal jump – the second – qualified him for the final. In the final he fouled on his first two jumps but his final one was 50ft 113/16 ins, which broke the world record that had stood for 13 years.
Nick’s medals and his beautiful “Service” porcelain vase are in the National Sports Museum at the MCG. The medals in the photo are his gold medal, the medal for breaking the world record, and his Olympic participation medal. The splendid “Service” vase was presented to individual gold medal winners. These vases were made at the world-famous porcelain factory of Sevres in France and were commissioned for gold medallists as a ‘special souvenir’.
Australia won 3 gold medals in Paris in 1924. In a remarkable coincidence, all 3 gold medallists, as well as one of the silver medallists and also the team manager, were all based in the then somewhat isolated and ferry-dependent village of Manly, as the Harbour Bridge had not yet been built.
Nicks Gold Medal
When the 1928 Olympic team was selected, Nick was not included, having been unable to jump well due to an injured knee. He later asked for special consideration to defend his title and the selectors allowed him to do a special trial at Hurstville Oval in April, where he jumped 14.96 metres which was enough for him to be added to the Olympic team. Nick, now aged 33, was unable to reproduce his form at the Games and could only manage 14.15 metres to finish 12th in a field of 24 jumpers.
In a feat of strength Nick supported six men averaging 147 lbs. (67 kgs) weight, or a combined weight of about 400 kgs. After Nick left the Fire Brigade in 1928, he went into business operating a billiard saloon in George street in Sydney.
Nick’s boxing ability was revealed in a 1929 newspaper report which indicated that Nick could have made fame in the boxing ring had he so desired. In 1930 he won the NSW hop-step-and-jump title three weeks after winning his first and only national title when he jumped 14.40 metres in Melbourne – the first time the event had been included in national athletic championships.
Sevres “Service” vase
Even though he had jumped 14.58 metres in early January, he was not selected for the first British Empire Games, held in Hamilton, Canada due to financial constraints keeping the team to a small number. His best jump in 1930 would have gained him a silver medal at those Games.
Nick announced he would retire from athletics after the Sydney Harbour Bridge Games of March 1932 (conducted to celebrate the bridge’s opening). He took up athletics coaching in his retirement, while still being involved in running his billiard saloon and giving jumping and billiard/snooker exhibitions. In December 1932 he became the new Amateur Athletics Association (AAA) coach. In July 1933 Nick was appointed sports coach to the Sydney YMCA. His role involved teaching lawn tennis, golf, billiards, snooker, and gymnastics.
In 1931, Horace Lindrum won the Australian Professional Snooker Championship. He also won the Australian Professional Billiards Championship in 1933 and 1934. In February 1933, he completed the first thousand break ever achieved in billiards and his opponent was Nick. Like Nick, Lindrum would also execute trick shots, such as jumping a ball into a hat.
In 1934 it was reported that “Nick’s repertoire of trick shots is admittedly of front rank quality”. Walter Lindrum and the famous English and World champion billiardist Joe Davis watched him perform a very difficult piece of billiards trickery and gave him the highest praise.
(Click on these links to see Nick performing some of his tricks:)
- You Tube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uR0Lp3sYwGY)
- Britishpathe (https://www.britishpathe.com/video/tricky-tricks-1)
Nick endeavoured to join up again for WWII but his varicose veins caused him to fail the medical.
In October 1943 Nick (aged 49 years) competed in an interstate athletic premiership meeting at Sydney Sports Ground. Nick tackled jumping contests and other field events, such as javelin throwing.
In 1946, Nick claimed a world record time of 19 minutes for completing three frames of snooker playing against his son Allan who won two of the frames. When the famed Dutch Olympic champion Fanny Blankers Koen visited here in 1949, Nick’s daughter Shirley, then aged 27 years, competed in heats of the 80 metres hurdles race hoping to race in the final against Fanny. Shirley had been in competitive athletics for only two years. She ran second in her heat to Marlene Mathews. What an amazingly talented family!!
In November 1954, Nick was nominated to carry the Olympic Torch on the last lap of the Melbourne Stadium for the Olympic Games in 1956. This was regarded as a great honour by Nick but, unfortunately, he did not get the chance. Sadly, and tragically, our first Olympic field gold-medallist died in 1955, aged 60. The coroner subsequently determined an open finding, unable to confirm an accident or suicide. Nick was cremated at Northern Suburbs Crematorium on 10 May 1955. His wife Minnie Pearl died from cancer five months later.
Nick is commemorated in Marrar with a life-size reproduction of his 1924 official Olympic photograph placed in the front window of the village café. He is commemorated at Sydney’s Olympic Park, via the Athletic Centre Path of Champions which recognises Australia’s contribution to sporting excellence by honouring NSW athletes who have attained the status of Olympic Champion, World Champion or a World Record Holder in International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) recognised track and field events. The Nick Winter Memorial Award is presented annually to aspiring Triple Jumpers.
Nick Winter deserves to be far better known, which is why Frank is writing his biography.
Dr Brendan Nelson, 9th Feb, 2018
Ed Note: Dr Nelson is also Patron of Lifeline Canberra and on the same morning attended the opening of their latest Bookfair extravaganza held at EPIC in Mitchell, before he rushed off to talk to the Shed.
From the Shed Newsletter #413 dated 2018-02-16
Dr Nelson AO is currently the Director of the Australian War Memorial, the latest in a long line of prestigious posts he has held during his lifetime. They include setting up and running after-hours medical centres in Tasmania; President of the Tasmanian Branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA); Federal President of the AMA; a Minister in the Howard Government; Leader of the Federal Opposition; and Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the European Union and NATO.
Dr Nelson spent much of his early life in Launceston before his family moved to Adelaide to provide better opportunities for the kids to go to university. After leaving school early and working for a year at Harris Scarfe selling doors and curtains, Dr Nelson returned to school, a school run by the Jesuits. They had four rules on how to get on in life (i) be committed to whatever you do, (ii) listen to your conscience (what is the right thing to do?), (iii) show compassion (see the world through the eyes of others and work out why people think the way they do), (iv) take risks. Dr Nelson said that these four rules have stood him in good stead through his adult life.
Dr Nelson presenting
After leaving school, Dr Nelson studied medicine at Finders University and, after graduating, set up two after-hours medical centres, one in Hobart and one in Launceston. He found that the AMA was very opposed to change so he stood for, and became, President of the Tasmanian Branch in 1990. In 1993 he became Federal President of the AMA. In this position he was particularly interested in getting the federal government to devote more resources to improving the health of aborigines and to study the effects of unemployment on health.
Discussions with Alexander Downer and Michelle Grattan led Dr Nelson to challenge David Connolly for Liberal Party pre-selection in the northern Sydney seat of Bradfield. He won both the pre-selection and the 1996 election and took his place in Federal Parliament.
Dr Nelson told an amusing story about a complaint he received from a constituent who had gone into a shop asking for change for a parking meter but had been refused unless he purchased something. The constituent was outraged and saw fit to write a lengthy letter to his Federal Member to resolve the issue. Dr Nelson read out his very entertaining reply, which could be best summarised along the lines of “this is a first world problem, so put up with it”.
During this time, he chaired a citizens’ forum on Sydney airport, which was a controversial topic. For his troubles he had the tyres on his car slashed and the windscreen smashed on two separate occasions.
Dr Nelson mentioned the cynicism in which much of the population, particularly younger people, hold politicians and the political process. He said that the Australian Financial Review’s had a “Quote of the day” in the 1990s and one of them was particularly apt: ”The problem is not that young people have not learned our values; the problem is that they have”.
Dr Nelson had some conflict with the PM (John Howard) over proposed changes to media ownership laws and spent his first five years in parliament as a backbencher. In 2001, he became Parliamentary Secretary for Defence. Peter Reith was the Minister and told him that he needed to concentrate on the job he had been given and future jobs would flow on from the hard work. The wisdom of this advice came to pass later that year, when Dr Nelson was promoted as Minister for Education, Science and Training, a portfolio he held for five years. After the 2006 election Dr Nelson was promoted again, this time as Minister for Defence. During this time, he had to deal with several stressful incidents but was pleased to be fully backed at all times by John Howard.
Shed President thanks Brendan
After the 2007 federal election, Dr Nelson became Leader of the Opposition but was challenged (successfully) by Malcolm Turnbull in late 2008. He resigned from the Federal Parliament about a year later when he was appointed Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the European Union, and NATO by then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. During his time in Brussels, he regularly visited Ypres for the evening “Last Post Ceremony” at the Menin Gate. At one stage, he was told by one of the organisers that he had attended the ceremony 73 times. It was this experience that led him to institute a similar ceremony at the Australian War Memorial each evening during which the details of a fallen soldier’s service are read out before the Last Post is played.
After being appointed as Director of the War Memorial, one of his first experiences was to talk to a young visitor who said he was disappointed to be able to see what his great grandfather and his grandfather had done in wartime but was unable to see anything about what his father had done in Afghanistan. As a result, Dr Nelson asked his staff to find space and memorabilia for a new exhibit on Afghanistan, which opened eight months later and will be added to once extra space is available. $17 million is being spent on planning to expand the War Memorial by about 40% to enable some current exhibits to be expanded and to incorporate some new ones on the 64 peacekeeping missions that Australians have been involved with.
Members of the Shed are very grateful that Dr Nelson was able to find time in his busy schedule to come to the Shed. Many thanks also to Ron Thomson for organising Dr Nelson’s visit.