Another Must Do

With half of this country’s population in Lockdown and the rest of us either in masks or walking on egg shells it’s a little galling to admit that there have been some really good things that have come about due to COVID.

One of those is Theatre Redlands, formed last year during the worst of lockdown, by a group of experienced and passionate individuals who have formed an alliance with Redland Museum to share stories from our past.

Early in the year I attended the performance Women Of Their Word, a “celebration of Australian women poets who captured their times and experiences in verse – insights into what inspired them, the challenges they faced and the contribution they made to Australia’s emerging cultural identity”. Some of the women included Judith Wright, Dame Mary Gilmore, and my personal favourite, Maybanke Anderson. ( Never heard of her? Either had I! Fascinating – look her up.)

Last month Theatre Redlands had a new program on offer with a distinctive Queensland flavour to coincide with June 6th – being Queensland Day, when Queensland officially separated from New South Wales to become its own colony. ( I was taught at school that June 6th was D Day but I digress).

Down Came a Jumbuck is a whimsical theory about how Banjo Paterson might have come to write Australia’s unofficial national anthem ‘Waltzing Matilda’. I particularly enjoyed this given my recent trip to outback Queensland where I visited the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton.

Following intermission The Droving Days took the audience to “Pub Redlands”, the area in which I live, to join a group of retired drovers and their mates, reminiscing about horses they’ve known and ridden and tall tales of unlikely characters, all woven through with Banjo Paterson’s timeless ballads.

The recitation of Paterson’s Man From Snowy River was breathtaking. You could have heard a pin drop – the audience was enthralled.

So two things :
1. I am so looking forward to the next production from Theatre Redlands


2. There is an annual Man From Snowy River Bush Festival next April. Who knew??? Added to Must Do List.

War Memorials on my travels

Did you know that there is a Queensland War Memorial Register, currently with over 1300 sites listed?

War memorials resulted from a ground swell of community sentiment going back to the Boer War when memorials were usually situated within cemeteries. With the mass casualties of the First World War affecting almost every family communal memorials in prominent public places were established as a tangible symbol of national mourning. 

These memorials are ever so present in country towns where the names of the fallen indicate just how many local families lost their husbands, fathers and sons. Some are big, some are small. Each are poignant.

Roma, Qld
Longreach, Qld
Ilfracombe, Qld
Chinchilla, Qld
Exhibition in Winton, Qld, in a Troop Train transporting soldiers to the Big Smoke. ( Located in the Waltzing Matilda Museum)

These are just a selection from my recent travels. I’ve always been a sucker for these memorials and how they correspond to a township’s history. When I was in my teens and working for Veterans Affairs ( then Repat) my dream was to travel Australia and photograph all those in small, country towns. Copped the ” responsibility lecture” instead. In those days I listened to what I was told. How things change.

For more information go http://www.qldwarmemorials.com.au

Longreach – Lonely or Otherwise

With house guests and travels my recent reading history is abysmal.

Lonely In Longreach” by Australian author, Eva Scott, is chick lit that I picked up after having spent a few days in Longreach, 1000 kms north west of Brisbane.

I wont bore you with more holiday snaps though Longreach is home to some really big hitters in the tourist department. The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, which opened in 1988, showcases the history and the culture of life in rural Australia. It is nothing short of spectacular : informative, user friendly, and totally fascinating.

Sitting in the outside arena watching a drover working his horses in the daily show reminded me of Errol Flynn in the 1950 movie Montana. (Yeah, I wonder about the things that go around in my head too.)

The Qantas Founders Museum is another Must Do as is the Sunset Cruise on the Thomson River.

All of these venues are mentioned in the book “Lonely In Longreach”. Which in turn had me thinking of another movie : Sleepless In Seattle. Same premise – kid worries his widowed Dad is lonely so fixes him up by signing him up to a Dating App and arranges for his choice of stepmother to fly in from the Big Smoke to give a career chat at the local high school. We all know how the story ends, don’t we?

Then I had to read “Everything Is Beautiful” by Eleanor Ray for Book Club.

Amy is a loner who suffered major heartbreak a decade ago and deals with it by collecting bits and pieces. Read: she is a hoarder with a house full of junk.

Readers were meant to be sympathetic to Amy’s situation though consensus amongst this group of readers was that Amy needed to “have a teaspoon of concrete and harden up”. Not the outcome the author was looking for, I would suggest , and I wondered if this was the Australian readers’ take as opposed to the English ( which is Ray’s ethnicity). Okay, agreed, the answer could be that my Book Club is full of neanderthals……..

Thank goodness for the coming Pop Up Book Sale fundraiser on the weekend.

NOTE:

Coming out of a three day Lockdown which had me housekeeping like crazy. I’ve deleted 350 “Followers” from Word Press. My apologies but at this stage of the game I am not in any need of nutritional or financial advice, information about cryptocurrency nor the stockmarket, and nor do I require the services of a pretty Asian lass. Don’t even start me on Life Coaches…….

Barcaldine, Western Queensland

Barcaldine is a sheep and cattle town 520 kms by road west of Rockhampton, and over 1000 kms from Brisbane, on route to the popular tourist destinations of Longreach and Winton. 

Affectionately known as Barcy, most travellers on the road through town stop to peruse the Tree of Knowledge. The current tree is a copy, the original having been vandalised in 2006, and represents the trials and tribulations of the Great Shearers Strike, one of Australia’s earliest disputes between union and non-union labour, and an event that is today acknowledged as having led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party. It is a glorious sight by night and the original rootball remains under glass – even Liberal voters are impressed.

A recent addition to Barcaldine is the Desert Dreaming Centre.

Local First Nation woman, Cheryl Thompson, is a big believer in “closing the gap” and “sharing the Dreaming” and runs a hostel in town, with no Government funding, for children from indigenous communities who want to complete their secondary schooling. Remote areas do not have internet or other facilities so the School of Air is not an option. These students learn about work ethic and managing finances through weekend shifts at the Ridgee Didge Cafe, and are also involved in traditional Aboriginal activities and learn about the local Iningai history of the area through Thompson’s Desert Dreaming Centre, where they follow a curriculum that combines school work with learning about culture, art and tourism. 

There is a dedicated work room which is strewn with artists’ materials where the students work on projects which are then sold at the Desert Dreaming Centre’s Gallery.

The Desert Dreaming Centre is also a tourist destination from which Thompson offers a variety of authentic aboriginal cultural experiences. Activities include :

Ocre Workshops, 

Boomerang Workshops

Creating artworks and message sticks. 

Sitting around a corroboree ring stories, song, and dances are shared, often involving the students, who are also being trained in other arms of Cheryl’s business activities such as the Barcy Base Camp (hospitality) and Trackers Tour Company( tourism). The latter includes the concept of Dreamtime Guides who are trained by Thompson to present culturally appropriate and culturally safe information.

We enjoyed the Desert Dreaming Dance and Dinner Experience around burning log fires whilst being entertained by the young dancers who explained the cultural significance of each performance.

Cheryl’s partner, Paul Stumkat, is a renown palaeontologist with a passion to further open up the Queensland Outback’s Dinosaur Trail. Together they present a blend of palaeontology and living cultures in order that tourists gain a better understanding of both the past and present life of outback Australia.

Paul has developed workshops that he uses to this result which I found both fun and educational. Here’s my caste of a fossil footprint of a small dinosaur, and I’ve also gained some experience in identifying the tracks of both kangaroos and emus. For the Little People there is even a sandpit where they can unearth a dinosaur skeleton. I warned you : mega fauna freaks are everywhere in the outback!


Yeah, so artwork is not my forte……..

NOTE: The students currently participating in Thompson’s dream have a 100 per cent school attendance rate. Now that’s called ” closing the gap”!

LIFE LESSON :

A reminder to never dismiss a country town. You would be surprised by what lies lurking…..

Winton, Outback Queensland.

Winton is over 1450 kilometres northwest of Brisbane. It has three major attractions that draw travellers from all across the country:

  • The Waltzing Matilda Centre, the only museum in the world built around a song.
  • Dinosaur bones. I cannot tell you how many professional and amateur palaeontologists I came across.( And I thought I was eccentric!)
  • Black Opals. 

Because I’m skipping the tourist brochure bits here are my personal highlights of Winton :

  1. O’kay, we can’t completely bypass Banjo Paterson, (Andrew Barton Paterson 1864 – 1941), journalist, author, and the bush poet who wrote Australia’s unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda – whilst visiting Winton. Indeed, the North Gregory Hotel is the venue where it was first performed in 1895.

         This was a beaut find (as was the steak sanger) but not what excited me. No, it was the Daphne Mayo glass etchings of the jolly swagman in the dining room named in her honour. Who was Daphne Mayo, you ask ? Mayo was a significant 20th-century artist, most prominently known for her work in sculpture.

           I also saw my very first Coolibah Tree. I honestly thought they were like Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree…….and unicorns.

        2. The Royal Theatre, established in 1918, is one of only two remaining open-air picture theatres in Australia still in operation.  

Wednesday Night is Nostalgia Night which is a guided presentation that recreates the experience of going to the movies during the 1960s.  

Many movies have been filmed in the area including The Proposition and Mystery Road, and the Royal Theatre now hosts the annual Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival in June (following on from the Writer’s Festival).

          3.  The Age Of Dinosaurs is well worth a visit and not only is the area a veritable garden of fossilised dinosaur bones that keep popping up on cattle stations, but this venue makes the Top Ten Dark Skies in the world. So not only is this place jumping with mega fauna freaks but stargazers as well.

This photo looks down on Channel Country, where water run off after big rains channels into a basin: 

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him

In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,

And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,

And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.

                       From Banjo’s Clancy of the Overflow.

Road Trip: Queensland Outback

Aussies are most certainly travelling : mobile homes, caravans, utes loaded up with camping equipment, and families packed into sedans are keeping the outback townships of Queensland busy as. Indeed, word on the street has it that Longreach, 1600 kms out of Brisbane (our capital) is fully booked until November (when the weather turns stinking hot and only for the brave and/or stupid).

Looking out a window – Longreach

My adventures have been many and memorable. I thought I’de share some that aren’t highlighted in the tourist brochures. Currently in transit between Tambo and Augathella, two rural townships, both with a population of approx 400. The former is famous for it’s Teddy Bears and historic buildings, the latter for its bushrangers, its Meat Ants – don’t go there – and it was where the movie, Smiley, was filmed in the 1950’s.

Queensland is a big state, bigger than Texas, and you often travel for several hours before finding a township, and not necessarily one with bathroom facilities or appropriate refreshment facilities.

Life Lessons gained from this trip:

  1. Always travel with water and a few supplies. Not always available and at inappropriate times.
  2. Even though some small towns may give off a very real *Wolf Creek feel don’t hesitate to investigate. There are so many hidden gems to discover, like this one at Movern, population 250

So how do you know when you’ve reached The Outback? The landscape is as flat as a pancake for as far as the eye can see, roads are straight and go on forever, and emus. Lots of emus.

And the sunsets are sensational!

Thomson River, Longreach


*Aussie horror movie which saw a couple of young travellers butchered. Literally. I’ve not been a fan of meat hooks since.

Silos, Rivers and a Boneyard

Other than the astonishing artwork on silos and murals in some of the country towns in the Southern Country Queensland landscape I was honestly taken aback by the beauty of the rivers.

Firstly, I didn’t realise that there were so many waterways in that part of Qld – the Balonne, Macintyre, Moonie and the Condomine – and that they all have a tendency to flood. My road trip provided a better understanding of why so many of our early poets and writers romanticised the river systems, the life blood providers, with the magnificent gum trees along the waters edge.

Where the lone creek, chafing nightly in the cold and sad moonshine,
Beats beneath the twisted fern-roots and the drenched and dripping vine;
Where the gum trees, ringed and ragged, from the mazy margins rise,
Staring out against the heavens with their languid gaping eyes…….”

– Henry Kendell : The Wail In The Native Oak

Never was the river more appreciated than at Nindigully, with the Grey Nomads out in force at Queensland’s oldest (1864) licensed pub.

If it looks familiar that’s because the Nindigully Hotel was used for filming Hugh Jackman’s first film in the ‘90’s – Paperback Heroes – where he plays a truckie with a penchant for writing bodice rippers.

( NOTE : No apologies for still preferring Todd McKenney as The Boy From Oz).

I have always loved the monuments in our country towns honouring the lives of those lost during times of conflict. They provide so much history about how much families and local industry lost during wartime.

Don’t even get me started on the history that can be found in cemeteries – but can I recommend Dunwich Boneyard on North Stradbroke Island for sinking ships, Spanish Flue, Leprosy, and Insanity?

The Freedom Tree at Surat
The Pilots Memorial at St George. I wrote a book review a while back on The Missing Man. This was Len Waters story : a decorated indigenous ace fighter pilot who couldn’t get a job after the war. Tragic.
And a summation of Wandoan’s history.

Exploring Brisbane During WW2 : A Walking Tour

The 2 hour tour begins at the Museum of Brisbane on the the third floor of City Hall, King George Square.

King George Monument in King George Square with City Hall in background.

City Hall was built in 1930 and at that time was the tallest building in Brisbane. It was an important building during WW2 as it housed a recruitment area, was a distribution point where the Red Cross handed parcels to troops heading overseas, and has a ballroom suitable for 1500 guests. It was standing room only for 3000 when Eleanor Roosevelt arrived in Brisbane.

City Hall

During the early 2000’s City Hall underwent a massive restoration. What do you think they found? In the men’s bathroom in the basement Australian soldiers had signed their names on the wall along with their service numbers, as did many American servicemen who included their regimental details. This has been preserved and a reproduction is located within the museum.

Signature Wall Reproduction

Diagonally across the road from City Hall sits a church, a familiar landmark within the CBD, which was the site of 16,000 marriages between American men and Australian women during WW2.

Proceeding to ANZAC Square and The Shrine of Remembrance we then visited the Memorial Galleries underneath this structure. Most locals are unaware of the Galleries : for twenty years I too was totally ignorant and walked past on my way to the railway station. It is well worth a visit with its interactive displays and the staff are an invaluable source of information.

Self indulgence

Moving on we heard all about the Battle of Brisbane, the “ riot between United States military personnel on one side and Australian servicemen and civilians on the other on 26 and 27 November 1942.”

This was the American PX during WW2 and site of the riots

This concluded our walking tour though not the insights gained about Brisbane and her involvement during WW2. Brisbane had the name of Jazz Capital of Australia thanks to the influence of American soldiers. Who knew? We learnt about the HMAS Centaur, a submarine base in nearby New Farm and the SS Growler, and I was so excited to see my very first Air Raid Shelter, one of only three remaining in the vicinity. I repeat : who knew?

This walking tour is suitable for all fitness levels and we totally enjoyed seeing the city in a totally different light.

For further information go here : https://www.museumofbrisbane.com.au/whats-on/walking-in-wartime/

We paid an additional $10 each to also visit the MacArthur Museum.

Absolutely fascinating and I learnt more in a 1 hour talk by a passionate volunteer named John, standing in front of a map of the Pacific, than I did during six years of high school. Toss out the text books. This was easily digestible, understandable, and logical and the personal tidbits made it interesting to boot.

Here’s ol’ Doug’s office :

I worked in the Brisbane CBD for twenty years and knew little of this history. Once again I put it down to COVID making us more familiar with our own backyards. Now that’s a positive from a negative, wouldn’t you say?

Two Stories

Read The Codebreakers by Australian author, Alli Sinclair.

“1943, Brisbane: The war continues to devastate and the battle for the Pacific threatens Australian shores. For Ellie O’Sullivan, helping the war effort means utilising her engineering skills for Qantas as they evacuate civilians and deliver supplies to armed forces overseas. Her exceptional logic and integrity attract the attention of Central Bureau – an intelligence organisation working with England’s Bletchley Park codebreakers. But joining Central Bureau means signing a lifetime secrecy contract. Breaking it is treason”.

This book became far too “girlie” for me with an overdose of romantic interludes. What did interest me was the property in Ascot, inner Brisbane, from which the Central Bureau actually did work during the war.

In July 1942, General MacArthur moved his Headquarters to Brisbane. Central Bureau immediately relocated to Brisbane, establishing its headquarters in “Nyrambla” at Henry Street, Ascot. The residence was built in 1885–86. In September 1942, the US 837th Signal Service Detachment relocated to Brisbane. The Detachment’s officers and enlisted men moved into “Nyrambla”. The machines to decode intercepted Japanese ciphers that concealed message were placed in the rear garage of “Nyrambla” and this is where the women Codebreakers worked.

Nyrambla

Over the years Nyrambla has been lovingly restored and recently went on the market.

Women working in the garage……..*still shacking my head.

****************************************************************************************************

Terrigal, on the Central Coast of New South Wales, is a seaside township popular with both locals and tourists. Back in the 1940’s it was a sleepy fishing village with a population of less than 500. 

During World War 2 the Surf Lifesaving Association of Australia (SLSA) was stretched to provide rescue services along the beaches on the East Coast. Of the 76 original male members of the Surf Club at Terrigal only four were available to patrol beaches whilst the others went off to war.

This led the female members of the club – mostly wives, sweethearts and sisters – to ask permission to become lifesavers. Their application to the controlling body failed though this did not deter them.

After training by the chief instructor they were assessed by Central Coast Life Saving’s inaugural president Dr E.A. Martin.  In two exams, some 30 women qualified for the equivalent of the bronze medallion, receiving certificates on Terrigal beach and going on to patrol the area over the summer.

These young women undertook their duties with enthusiasm and passion even making their own swimming costumes and uniforms out of sheets, curtains and the odd parachute­, despite not having been awarded their bronze medallions.

At wars end 70 men returned and resumed lifesaving duties with the women then relegated to previous duties.

It wasn’t until 75 years later in 2017 that the women who patrolled the beaches of Terrigal during World War 2 were finally recognised. They were awarded their Bronze Medallions, most posthumously to their families, as well as a special Terrigal Parliamentary Award to acknowledge their contribution to the community.

75 years. *still shaking head.

40 years on : Gallipoli, the movie.

It’s the 40th Anniversary of the release of the Australian movie, Gallipoli. A restored, digitalised version has been doing the rounds at selected cinemas over the past few days to coincide with ANZAC Day.

Gallipoli comes across as a light little movie that examines the brutality of war and the heroic sacrifices made by the ANZACS. It looks at mateship and heroism ( and personal opinion: stupidity), and provides an insight into the lasting impact of the ANZAC story. Makes it not so light and fluffy, hey.*

The movie won eight Australian Film Institute Awards including Best Film and Best Director, and was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 1982 Golden Globe Awards.

Gallipoli starred two young Aussie actors : shy, blond Mark Lee, and confident, dark Mel Gibson, as well as beautiful rural Western Australian vistas. I was always a fan of the quiet Mark Lee and it wasn’t until Braveheart days that I switched camps.

The Yanks don’t like Mad Mel apparently. Yes, he’s been a dipstick and certainly earned his nickname. But you know what ? He’s not been dealing drugs, using the casting couch to win young girls, has never been involved with paedophilia nor incest, nor murdered anyone. He’s guilty of being abrasive, brash, a loud mouth, lacking cultural sensitivities, and has a tendency to call a spade a shovel. Just a typical Aussie lad. Sheesh, I wonder how some of you lot would cope at a Sunday Sesh…..

For some reason, Americans aren’t offended by Gayle King. Or is it not allowed to be offended by Gayle King. I don’t get that at all. “ What did Prince Phillip die of?” she asked. For God’s sake, how does this flip keep her job? And they think Mel Gibson is whacko….

Although Mad Mel hits the media regularly, Mark Lee has remained very unassuming. Read a write up in the weekend rag. Must say, he’s looking mighty F-I-N-E.

Courtesy Courier Mail 24/4/21

Anyway, if you haven’t seen the movie it’s worth chasing up. Two performers at the beginning of their game telling a story about the too many young lives totally wasted, the too many shattered families. For a little film I remember coming out of the cinema the first time I saw it so full of anger and anti British. Of course, those were the days when I was young, fresh faced and an idealist. I’m too scared to revisit this movie 40 years later – the apoplexy might not be good for the health.

Hang in there, Mel. Hold. Hold. Hold the line.

*Today’s lesson in Queensland-speak , and yes, our lingo changes from state to state. Qlders tend to put hey at the end of sentences. After 25 years living here I’m afraid it is starting to stick. Then I hear my father’s voice in my head admonishing me with “ makes the bull fat”.