Small Projects and a Book Review.

I was recently introduced to a woman of around my vintage at an author talk at the local Library. Turns out that she is a writer and during the worst of Covid was asked to commit to a “small project”.

Shirley Chambers’ “small project” was indeed a misnomer as it involved the chronicling of the rich literary history of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs, which are located to the west of the Great Dividing Range in Queensland.

Toowoomba, known as the capital city of the Darling Downs, has its colonial beginnings dating back to 1816. Much of its history has been preserved in its buildings and heritage-listed sites with the region also being renowned for its farmland and grazing. Shirley Chambers, who was born on a farm at Rocky Point on the Downs, has authored “Words From The Past”examining those who formed part of the literary landscape and how their time in the area may have inspired their life experiences.

Arthur Hoey Davis, born in 1868, is perhaps one of the better known authors from that region. Writing under the pseudonym of Steele Rudd (1868-1935) Davis wrote sketches of life which were based on his father’s experience as a selector, someone managing a free selection of land before it was surveyed. These sketches were combined and published as “On Our Selection“. The Rudd Park at Nobby stands as a reminder of his contribution.

Other writers were educators, some were country folk simply expressing their experiences in the bush, some became influences in the literary field, and Mary Hannay Foote, (1846-1918), was an absolute trailblazer becoming Queensland’s first professional female journalist. Several writers had their written work evolve into movies for the big screen, whilst the works of contemporary award winning children’s book illustrator-author, Narelle Oliver, (1960-2016), remain firm family favourites around the nation to this day.

Words From The Past” spotlights nearly thirty wordsmiths with a connection to the Darling Downs. Some were born in the area, others built their lives around the Downs, and a few were simply travelling through. It is an interesting and easy read which would appeal to those who love reading and Australian history, and at $10 a book ( postage additional) is going to make a delightful Christmas stocking filler!

Note to Sharon at https://gumtreesandgalaxies.com/author/gumtreesandgalaxies/, :I believe Shirley has banners featuring these writers at The Lighthouse…..


Another Project Giving Life To History

Research undertaken by Australian historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher for their book, Untraceables – The Mystery of the Forgotten Diggers has led to an interesting pilot project adopted earlier this year by sixteen Primary Schools across the nation.

The historians created The Find Them, Remember Them: Creating Citizen Historians pilot program to establish Living Memorials to the Fallen by creating Citizen Historians of school children.

According to the authors “during WWI, 60 000 Australian soldiers died.  The issuing of medals to fallen soldiers was governed by the Deceased Soldiers Act 1918.  The intent of the act as proposed by the Minister for Defence was to honour the wishes of the deceased soldier with all war medals to go to either their next of kin or will legatee.  However, an ascension list (not contained in the Act) was adopted when settling intestate estates.  The dogged application of this list denied many female next of kin and the deceased soldier’s nominated next of kin, the right to receive their loved one’s medals creating an archive of uncollected medals.”

There is some controversy that unissued medals from WWI veterans, soldiers who fought and died for this country,  and their individual military heritage,  were archived around 1998, and their location is unknown and denied by the Directorate of Defence Honours & Awards (DH&A). 

The intent of the program is to research the soldier, and have students educate the local community at an appropriate ceremony.  The school will commemorate the sacrifice by their researched soldiers on commemorative occasions such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day in an endeavour to keep their memory “alive”.

If eligible descendants are located from the pupil’s research they will be able to apply for custodianship of ( replacement) medals. If no descendants are located then the school can apply for the medals with the soldier thereby being “adopted” by that community.

A much better lesson in history than the old chalk-on-blackboard method, don’t you agree?

It can well be said the Anzac’s are not dead, their deeds and fame will live for evermore.  Australia’s duty to her dead may be expressed in four words- ‘Don’t let them die’!  Their memory should never be allowed to die.” Parramatta Mayor, Ald.

A Parenting Mistake Of Sorts

When my youngest daughter was transitioning from Primary to High School I made a massive mistake in gifting her the book, 1001 Books To Read Before You Die.

Why was this a mistake? Because both our lives became book-centric involving visits to book sales and secondhand outlets in search of the books on The List. It became our” thing”. My child is the one you see lugging a suitcase on the train to enable her to bring purchases home from the Lifeline Bookfest. Her greatest joy comes from spreading her purchases on the floor all around her, similar to how we emptied the contents of our Easter Showbags all those years ago and sat enthralled as we surveyed all that was on offer.

She’s been home these last few days and is still chasing books from The List. Plus, thanks to the ABC television program of late last year we are now also chasing the books from The Books That Made Us.

Cat Balou’s time in Qld went all too quickly and we’ve cooked together, chatted non stop, laughed, and drank coffee ( as well as lots of bubbly things). Walking home from a Cafe one morning she spotted a table on someone’s front lawn with a sign advertising Free Books. Move over Cathy Freeman – I’ve never seen anyone move so fast! Another twenty books for the Little Community Library. Excellent work.

We walked up to the Little Community Library one afternoon where she of course insisted on alphabetising the contents. She also located another entry from The Books That Made Us compilation which she celebrated like a medal winner on the Olympic podium.

The local Op Shop was another adventure (because Mo, I need a book for the plane ) where said child, 34 years of age, located yet another read from The List. WOW, this is turning into an exciting holiday, she says. Only 300 more books to locate.

This is one happy daughter.

Until she spots a lone book on a display shelf.

Mo, have you been donating any books here, she asks. Yes, Cat Balou, sometimes I do that. Books are meant to go round.

Mo, she says, Mo, is that my book that I lent you and asked you to return before Christmas? And is that my copy of the Booker Prize winner you were supposed to send to my sister for Christmas?

An expensive little visit to the charity store as I was required to buy back many of the books I had donated in recent months.

My payback came when reminding her that a new edition of the 1001 Books had been recently published adding almost an extra 100 newer novels since her copy was released twenty years ago. More books to collect, kiddo, said with a smirk from mother.

The house is quiet once again and we are living on pots of tea, cheese and biscuits, and left over San Choy Bow. Cat Balou has returned to her 1 bedroom, 1 reading room unit in a trendy pocket in the nation’s capital and my Wizard Of Oz jigsaw puzzle which scares the bejesus out of her is back on display.

Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”
– Clementine Paddleford

“Miss you heaps.”
– Mo

Women’s History Month


I’ll be participating in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge this year with the aim of promoting Australian women from the past to the present who have led the charge in their own way : the scientists, the inventors, the creatives and the dreamers.

I will be borrowing from the Trailblazing Women of Australia blog which a friend and I started as a Lockdown project in the throes of the pandemic. Months in we have only scratched the surface…….

March is Women’s History Month so it is appropriate to share my favourite tale about women from the past who were courageous and yet great fun.

The Peaches of the Beaches.

Many of you would know of Terrigal on the Central Coast of New South Wales with its beautiful beaches making it popular with locals and tourists alike. 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 anywhere along the Australian Coast. From the Surf Club at Terrigal only four men were available to patrol the beaches when 72 men 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.

They were trained in surf lifesaving skills by chief instructor Harry Vickery and 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 volunteer to patrol the area over the summer seasons.

These young women undertook their duties with enthusiasm and passion. They even made 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 being relegated to their previous tasks.

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 the families, as well as a special Terrigal Parliamentary Award to acknowledge their contribution to the community.

The Surf Life Saving Association finally admitted women as full members in 1980 and now benefit from more than 80,000 dedicated female members of all ages across Australia contributing in activities from active patrolling, to surf sports, education and everything in between.    

For a look back at these Terrigal surf lifesaving trailblazers I recommend the archives at The National Film and Sound Archive. Try not to laugh at the commentary though…….Go here : https://www.nfsa.gov.au/latest/australias-first-female-lifesavers

You can also listen to 92 year old Muriel Jones talk about her days as a surf lifesaver at Terrigal here: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/centralcoast/programs/breakfast/ww2-female-surf-lifesavers-finally-recognised/9178846

(Courtesy of M Green – Trailblazing Women of Australia)

Another Project or Who Said There Was Nothing To Do In Retirement ?

One of the projects I’ve undertaken recently came to mind during Lockdown. I’de been reading a lot, particularly on social media, about the wonderful deeds of women in the past, particularly women from overseas. The Americans and the English seem to honour and celebrate the achievements of both their men and women whereas we Australians tend to be a little too “laid back”.

My friend Bernadette studied History at University. I opted for Geography and mostly courtesy of those great movies and television series during the 1960’s. Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan was all I needed to pass exams about the Amazon and John Wayne movies filmed in Monument Valley also contributed greatly to my success in the subject.

Together we thought we should highlight our Aussie women, past and present, who have done so much to change our landscape. Today, after four days of continual rain I am thankful for Myra Juliet Farrell (1878 – 1957) who came up with the idea for an indoor folding clothesline.

We would love you to join us here:

Trailblazing Women Of Australia at

https://trailblazingwomenofaustralia.wordpress.com/blog/

No femminazi here’s a photo of the most important young men in my life.

Harry Kilom and Bentley

Another Project and Library Lovers Day

In January 2020 Inverell Library, in rural New South Wales, launched a project to provide all newborns in the shire with a handmade library bag of specially selected books to support early literacy. The project is a joint initiative between the library and the Friends of the Inverell Library.

Reading to babies is a great way to nurture skills including talking, understanding, imagination, listening, concentration and creativity.

The team at the library put the call out to the community to find crafty locals who would like to sew a book bag for newborns. Those who lack sewing skills happily donated suitable fabric for the bags and instructions including required dimensions were made available.

Harry Kilom at 4 months, located in rural and remote Nhulunbuy NT, has been reading a lot of books with his parents. Thankfully Father Christmas was extremely generous as I was getting concerned about his Army Dad continually reading books about military strikes to the child.

What is interesting about bub’s haul is that I can tell from whom the books were gifted as they each reflect a particular person’s interests and history. The kid is lucky to have so many *different people in his life.

Another great project from a smallish country Library.

*Yes, you may read as odd or eccentric.

Blind Date with a Book : Another Project

Valentine’s Day is an annual festival to celebrate  love held on February 14th.

I’m going all out with the feels this Valentines Day setting up Blind Dates for the occasion. Blind Dates with new and near new books that is, which I’ll be placing at the Little Community Library in the local parkland.

Blind Date with a Book gives readers a fun way to try something they never would have chosen to read otherwise as well as being a reminder that you’re never alone with a book.

Many thanks to my youngest, Catbalou, for her recent donation of books for the cause and my Gemini pal, Kayzee for the epicurean mags.

Okay. I’m done. That’s my quota of romance for the next 12 months. 

#blinddatewithabook

The Letterbox Project

Still reflecting on some of the positives that came out of 2020 one of my favourite initiatives is The Letterbox Project.

The Letterbox Project sends handwritten letters from all across Australia to people experiencing isolation and loneliness. They source writers, manage and approve all letters, and deliver them safety to vulnerable people.

The Letterbox Project quickly become a national service supporting tens of thousands of people. With over 13,000 writers they are averaging over 500 letters being sent each week into nursing homes, disability services, and to lonely people across the country. There are over 270 schools participating, and a growing list of large corporations getting involved.

Why did this all come about ?

  1. There are up to 240,000 Australians in residential care and 40% receive no visitors.
  2. 1 in 8 adults with a disability get less than 30 minutes a day interaction with another person.
  3. 2.5 million Australians are not connected to the internet.
  4. There are more than 6,000 young people with disabilities in permanent residential care.
  5. Loneliness and Isolation are major predictors of mental health issues.

For further information about Why see here: https://www.connectedau.com.au/the-letterbox



I signed up early in the piece and have been corresponding with a nonagenarian in a nursing home in Tasmania with a passion for cats. It’s surprisingly difficult to write enthusiastically pages and pages about felines and indeed a handwritten letter takes effort after many years on a word processor. ( as long term victims of my annual Christmas letter will confirm).

This task is rolling over as a 21 project.

A New Year – A New Decade

Haven’t managed to stay up till midnight for over forty years. It’s one of those quirks for being a bright eyed, bushy tailed morning person. 

Don’t set New Year Goals nor Resolutions though I am ruminating about some new projects. Despite being retired I like projects. I have a need to achieve or create. Little things. Little things are okay.

Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.” – Anais Nin

So let’s share something chilled and wet to bring in the new decade together. Join me at my local waterhole, the Grand View Hotel in Cleveland, Queensland.

Built in 1851 the Grand View was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 21 October 1992. It is well regarded for its views overlooking Moreton Bay to beautiful North Stradbroke Island ( AKA Straddie – because we’re a lazy lot), and its alfresco dining in the beer garden, regularly voted one of the best in the state. The tucker passes muster too.

G.J. Walter Park is situated between the Grand View and Toondah Harbour ( where the ferry terminal carries passengers to Straddie) and is one of Queensland’s oldest parks being gazetted as a public reserve in 1889. 

This area is home to koalas and many bird species that depend on the mangroves and mudflats for survival. Of course this means that it has been targeted by Developers for the construction of 3600 units and a water park. Apparently this is called progress.

Said farewell to 2020 at lunch with my youngest daughter sitting amongst the frangipanis. She reminded me that I’ve always been one to question progress. Sounds like another project, doesn’t it?

365 new days. 365 new chances.

Cheers!