LESSON FROM ROCK NO ENCOURAGEMENT FOR NT PARKS DEAL. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
As the NT Government launches into joint management of its national parks with Aboriginal traditional owners, a similar system at Ayers Rock for the past 18 years has borne little fruit and is now under serious stress.
Graeme Calma, Community Liaison Officer in the park, says the budget for the Office for Joint Management has been slashed and its staff reduced from six to one.
Mr Calma says the office was the go-between for Aboriginal people at the Rock and park managers, the Federal Government's Parks Australia.
He says the office dealt with day to day management issues, numerous inquiries from academic and other researchers, permits for commercial photography and cultural issues, and provided an element of stability in the running of the park which has had some 20 managers in 18 years.
"The Aboriginal people, with their traditional knowledge, made the park's joint management strong," says Mr Calma. "Now we don't get any more mail."
Parks Australia's Programs Director Julian Barry says: "I'm not really in a position to comment about that other than to say changes were made.
"We have new liaison systems in place now.
"They were negotiated with various people, including the Central Land Council, which represents the traditional owners.
"In a complex environment like the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park you'll never get 100 per cent consensus on many things."
The park's management board membership has a majority of traditional owners, or Aboriginal people representing traditional owners.
But the board does not deal with day to day issues, only broad policy.
Mr Calma says Aboriginal ownership has so far failed to deliver real benefits to the Mutitjulu community, with massive unemployment and social strife still the order of the day.
He says the Ayers Rock Resort, which operates on freehold land outside the park, should be made "accountable" why it doesn't employ Aborigines.
[The resort has repeatedly told the Alice News it would like to employ local indigenous people, but it isn't getting any applications.]
Mr Barry says "job readiness" is still at a low level.
It can't be expected that "anyone from the Mutitjulu community could just take up a job at the Ayers Rock resort and feel relaxed and comfortable and know what to do and function fully in the job.
"There are low levels of English literacy and oracy in many cases."
The massive earning power of the nation's greatest natural tourist attraction notwithstanding "many of the issues at Mutitjulu are symptomatic of employment, health and education levels throughout much of indigenous northern Australia."
Mr Barry says the park staff of about 54 is around 40 per cent indigenous.
Some older people are also on contract as traditional consultants.
"We can always do better," says Mr Barry.
But after nearly two decades of Aboriginal ownership most of the key development initiatives are still in their early phase.
Says Mr Barry: "We are working with the community to capacity build them to pick up more of the contracts in the park."
At present workers from the community are building bollards and fences, but it is planned to "take a next step to help capacity build the Mutitjulu community to deliver building services for the park which would mean employment and training for Anangu people.
"As the community gets runs on the board we would look to expanding that in the future."
Mr Barry would not disclose the present value of contract work but says "we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for various services provided by tradesmen.
"We are working with the Mutitjulu community to help capacity build them so they can get a larger slice of that work."
However, Mr Calma says a training manager, who drew up the curriculum and did the teaching, has now left "very dissatisfied".
The park now has 400,000 visitors a year. The admission fee is $16.25 and 25 per cent of that is paid to the Aboriginal owners.
That, together with a further rental of $200,000, amounts to around $1.8m a year which is paid to some 600 traditional owners (an average of just over $3000 a head).
Mr Calma says there should be a review of the people receiving park royalties and the list should be "shortened".
Meanwhile Mr Barry says "we have had quite a turnover of park managers in recent years but we're hopeful that we're moving into a phase of stability.
"The last park manager stayed for around two and a half years, which was longer than the few before him.
"But it also needs to be acknowledged that it's a pretty tough being manager at Uluru.
"The key responsibility is to do one's best accommodate the needs of a number of diverse stakeholders.
"They are seeing each other's perspective much more these days than perhaps they did in times gone by."
Mr Barry, now in Darwin, lived at Ayers Rock six years, including three as the park manager.
GOVT. SPEND ON PAR WITH CLP. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
The NT Government has refuted allegations that it is spending much less in the Alice Springs region than the CLP administration it replaced two years ago.
A spokeswoman for Treasurer Syd Stirling says in fact the difference is only $1.8m over two years.
In its last two years in Government, the CLP spent $113.3 million on capital works, minor new works and repairs and maintenance in Alice Springs, compared to $111.5 million spent by the Labor Government in its first two years.
The spokeswoman says the breakdown is as follows:
¥ 2002-03 $50.1m
¥ 2001-02 $61.4m
¥ 2000-01 $63.4m
¥ 1999-00 $49.9m
She says the higher spending in 00-01 and 01-02 can be directly attributed to the major redevelopment of the Alice Springs Hospital.
"It is also worth noting that 2000-01 was an election year.
"The figures show that recent major projects such as the Alice Springs Hospital and the Convention Centre had a significant impact on construction activity in Alice Springs.
"Spending in the region has dropped off as these projects have drawn to a close.
"This sort of Ôboom and bust' cycle is indicative of the way the previous CLP Government did business, with an emphasis on major projects at the expense of community infrastructure," says the spokeswoman.
"In order to avoid this inconsistency in spending across years, Government is supporting more small to medium-size projects, both in Alice Springs and out bush.
"This spreads the workload more widely across all regions and throughout the construction industry."The Territory Government is also working to stimulate private investment and construction in Alice Springs, successfully negotiating with native title holders for the release of land at Larapinta for housing development.
"Around 90 house blocks will be made available from this land release. The Alice Springs region will share in the Government's $434 million capital works budget for 2003-04."
Major projects in the planning stages, with tenders to go out shortly, include:¥ Desert Knowledge Centre headworks Ð $2.2m.
¥ Water Reuse in Alice Springs project Ð first stages of $6m spend currently in design stage.
¥ Tanami Road upgrade Ð a further $2m, in addition to $1.5m recently awarded.
¥ Mereenie Loop Road Ð $3 million in two contracts, as part of the Government's commitment to seal the road over the next 10 years.
¥ Significant tenders recently advertised or won include:
¥ Hospital staff accommodation Ð $24m;
¥ Finke River crossing at Hermannsburg Ð $390,000;
¥ Kintore Police Station Ð $1.4m;
¥ Traeger Park redevelopment Ð $2.5m; and
¥ Larapinta Headworks Ð $1.5m.
BLOODY GOOD DRINKERS. Report by KIERAN FINNANE.
The most important thing for the NT Government's new Alcohol Framework will be to have it based on evidence.
So says Donna Ah Chee, Deputy Director of the Aboriginal health service, Congress, and appointed, together with former CLP Health Minister Daryl Manzie, to head up the framework's project team (see last week's issue).
Ms Ah Chee is confident that the evidence will point to excessive consumption of alcohol as a problem for the whole community.
She says Ð and it is widely accepted Ð that Territory consumption is just under double the national average.
"There is no way that that is all Aboriginal drinking," she says, "We are a minority of the population."
This view is supported by at least one study, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (2000 Vol 24 No. 1) and reported by the Alice News in its issue of March 15, 2000. The study showed that while the Aboriginal mean annual per capita consumption of pure alcohol in the Territory for the period 1994/96 to 1997/98 was 19.05 litres, the non-Aboriginal consumption was 13.83 litres. These figures compared to 9.67 litres for Australia as a whole.
The authors of the study, Dennis Gray and Tanya Chikritzhs, of the National Drug Research Institute (Curtin University, WA), commented: "Consumption levels among non-Aboriginal people in the NT as a whole are estimated to be 43 per cent greater than among Australians as a whole. "Thus, even if some magic solution was found to reduce the harmful levels of consumption among Aboriginal people, the NT would still have a significant alcohol problem."Ms Ah Chee sees reduction of consumption to the national average level as a key objective for any alcohol strategy, and with that would come the reduction of alcohol-related harms.
Her emphasis is quite different from that of the Minister who appointed her, Syd Stirling. The press release announcing his initiative was headlined, "Alcohol Framework to further tackle anti-social behaviour". In the text, Mr Stirling, Minister for Racing, Gaming and Licensing, presented the view that "most Territorians use alcohol sensibly, but there is a minority of people whose excessive drinking can lead them to harm themselves and others".
"It is this sort of behaviour that we are targeting in the development of this new framework," said Mr Stirling.
However, he did also say that his government "will be examining all issues of community concern surrounding alcohol, including health, enforcement, economic, community amenity and licensing issues".
The News asked Ms Ah Chee how she, as a committed and well-known pro-restrictions lobbyist, expects to be listened to by anti-restrictions stakeholders, such as the liquor and tourism industries. This where the evidence comes in, she says. It will be such that "any reasonable person will reconsider".
"We need to take into account the opinions of different stakeholders but opinions need to be balanced with the evidence.
"And if there is evidence of successful strategies, we need to trial and review them until we get it right."
She says the recently concluded alcohol trial in Alice Springs achieved only minimal change.
"There was some reduction in alcohol-related harms but really no reduction in overall consumption. The community cannot afford that," she says.
She says the strategy will require leadership.
"Good leaders will take on issues that are not necessarily well-received at first. They will impart a vision of what is the right thing to do and change attitudes in the process. Leadership has to come from the Northern Territory Government as well as from all the key stakeholders."
Community consultation will be around a draft framework document, to be produced by the project team that includes lawyer Gordon Renouf as full-time project director.
Mr Renouf most recently worked as the Director of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. He has provided consultancy services to the Australian Investments and Securities Commission in relation to "book up" and Indigenous consumer education, as well as to the NT Legal Aid Commission and various community organisations.
He is currently undertaking a literature review, says Ms Ah Chee, to take into account all the research Ð regional, national and international Ð to date.
The draft document should be in circulation by December, with the final document ready to be presented to government by May next year.
SAVING GREAT APES.
Students at Anzac Hill High School have joined an international project to raise awareness about the plight of the Great Apes in the world today.
They have been researching the situations of gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans and looking at the threats to their environments, together with students and teachers in Senegal, Sri Lanka, Uganda and in other parts of Australia.
The students are using the Internet to collaborate with other students through iEARN, the International Education Resource Network of teachers and students in more than 100 countries who work together on collaborative projects.
iEARN Australia is collaborating with GrASP (The Great Apes Survival Project), an innovative and ambitious project of UNEP (United Nations Environment Program Group) and UNESCO, which is responding to an immediate challenge Ð to lift the threat of imminent extinction faced by gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans.As Year 8 student Angelo says: "The habitat of the orangutans, the rainforest, is disappearing very quickly. If the forest keeps disappearing at this rate there will be no orangutans in Sumatra by 2005 and none in Borneo by 2010.
"The main threat to the orangutans is the destruction of their environment and the illegal pet trade. We all need to do something about it."Kym is concerned about bonobos, with less then 20,000 still alive.
"Their biggest enemy is humans," says Kym, "humans are destroying their habitat.The students are determined to make a difference.
NEEDED: COMMON SENSE. Report by ERWIN CHLANDA.
Desert Knowledge is something key government services in Central Australia lack desperately.
Take Australia Post, for example.
In most of the country Express Post is a guaranteed overnight service. Not in the Territory, not even between Alice and Darwin.
Why? According Post's PR lady it's "because of logistics, flight schedules and the reciprocal nature of the Express Post service (ie it needs to be guaranteed both ways).
"We have a 6pm Ôend of day' mail closing time nationally.
"With an Alice Springs to Darwin scenario for example, mail posted by 6pm is processed that evening for the next flight which leaves for Darwin next morning.
"That article will arrive in Darwin Mail Centre that afternoon.
"It would be processed overnight for delivery the next day - hence Day Two."
All it would require is adjusting the express mail closing to the airline departures (to Darwin at 12.30pm and 5.15pm and leaving Darwin at 6.20am and 2.30pm) and Ð hey presto Ð we'd have a decent air based service like the rest of the country.
Post Australia's on the ground mail service is equally hopeless.
One of our suppliers despatched a small parcel to us by surface mail on September 30.
It arrived in Alice Springs on October 9 Ð that's 10 days after dispatch Ð and was promptly delivered to the wrong address.
The following day we checked with the supplier company Ð as we had done several times previously, refusing to believe there could be such a massive delay.
After the best part of half an hour on the phone the Post Office admitted its mis-delivery, picked up the parcel and finally dropped it off to us, without a single word of apology.
As if to mock, the blurb at the end of the PR person's email reads as follows: "Australia Post is committed to providing our customers with excellent service.
"If we can assist you in any way please either telephone 131318 or visit our website."
What a pity that unlike Telstra, Post Australia isn't for sale, and there is no clamour for uniform service obligations.That the "one size fits all" approach doesn't necessarily work in the outback seems to be news to Centrelink as well.
It is building a new office in The Alice, adjacent to the Woolworth service station at the Anzac Hill end of Railway Terrace, presumably servicing a good number of Aboriginal people, some from the bush, others from town lease areas at the periphery of the town.
Yet the new offices won't have toilets for its clients. Why not?
Here's what a spokesperson told us:
"Many of the Centrelink Customer Service Centres in the Northern Territory / Area North Australia do not have designated public toilets."There are no plans to include public toilets in the new Alice Springs Customer Service Centre.
"It should be noted that non-provision of public toilets is completely consistent with other public offices such as banks, post offices and Medicare centres.
"The availability of public toilets within easy walking distance is taken into account when establishing Centrelink offices."Where are these?
"Costs and space restrictions may also weigh against their provision.
"There are public toilets in close proximity.
"Whether there are public toilets or not in a Centrelink building, or within walking distance, it is Centrelink's policy to make available its staff toilets to customers in an emergency situation whenever they approach the staff."
CONISTON MASSACRE: POSSE STARTS ITS MURDEROUS WORK. Part Six of a Feature by DICK KIMBER.
ÔReal True History': The Coniston MassacrePart Six of an historical perspective by DICK KIMBER.
(This series has been published in weekly instalments since September 10.)
Mounted Constable George Murray, accompanied by Aboriginal police trackers, "Police Paddy" and "Major", arrived at Coniston Station on the 12th August, 1928.
Here Murray learnt from Alex Wilson that Joe Brown had died, which meant that he could focus solely on planning the pursuit of the murderer and accomplices responsible for Fred Brooks' death (7th August), as well as the cattle-killers.
He was still at Coniston on the 15th August when two warriors named Woolingar and Padygar arrived at the station.
When they resisted arrest by trackers Police Paddy and Major, and an altercation developed during which Woolingar swung a neck-chain at Murray, he drew his revolver and shot Woolingar over the eye.
Although Woolin-gar's wound was serious, the two arrested men were chained to a tree overnight, which was conventional practice at the time when police cells were not available.
While at Coniston Murray had also been busy interviewing Aborigines about Fred Brooks' murder.
No doubt Skipper and Dodger, who had a command of "bush English", were encouraged/obliged to assist in discussions with the arrested men, Padygar and Woolingar. Alex Wilson was probably obliged to assist too.
According to Murray another 20 names of people said to have been implicated in Fred Brooks' murder and the pilfering of his camp were obtained. (If this list still exists it would be interesting to know who was on it. Bullfrog's brother-in-law relations of the Japurula sub-section, and their Napanangka wives, would be likely to be included). Murray was now faced with a problem. If 20 people were to be arrested, then a larger patrol was needed, so the formal police party was now joined by the following men:-
Randal Stafford, who had returned to his homestead on the 15th, was a well-educated resilient bushman who had experienced over 40 years of frontier life.
As earlier mentioned, he was living with Alice, an Anmatyerre woman (incorrectly stated as Warlpiri in the earlier article). Because of the laws of the era, she was ostensibly his housekeeper.
Randal always had fine horses, and can be expected to have been a competent shot with his .22 rifle.
His best long-term mate, Fred Brooks, had recently been murdered. He believed that he, not Fred, had been the person they had wanted to kill, so blamed himself for the rest of his life that Fred had taken his place.
While his entire background and his call to the authorities for assistance indicates a man who had respect for the law, he also appears to have believed in "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
He was not at all unusual in this respect in the era, and many people still think it a reasonable stance to take.
He undoubtedly had a basic comprehension of the Anmatyerre language, which combined with "bush English" allowed him to converse with and understand his wife and station hands.
Jack Saxby was a young bushman who had worked with Fred Brooks, and knew him well. He was a marksman, an absolutely superb rifle shot, according to Bryan Bowman. In 1925, when prospecting, he was attacked by a group of Aborigines; he stated that he had fired a dozen shots and "shot to kill." However this is viewed today, it would have been understood as one's only hope of survival by any of his bushman mates of the era. Presumably several warriors had died before the others fled, but no details are available.
Quite clearly any deaths are to be regretted, but in a fight for one's life there isn't much likelihood of checking when "enough is enough".
Had there been an investigation at the time, it is fairly certain that Jack would have been exonerated because it would have been accepted that he shot in self-defence.
He was armed with a revolver and rifle, probably a Winchester repeating rifle, at the time of the patrol, and can be assumed to have had a very basic ability in local languages.
Billy Briscoe, who had been sent for by Randal Stafford, was a frontier cattleman who had known Fred Brooks well and had considered him "a thorough gentleman."
As with Randal Stafford, he lived with an Aboriginal woman. Again, as with any man living out west of the Alice at the time, he must have been tough of mind and body, competent at all bush skills, and a man who could live off the land with a rifle.
He contributed "six or seven horses" and was armed with a "revolver loaded in seven chambers" and had "thirty or forty cartridges" in his swag. (Such a supply of ammunition was presumably normal, and those with rifles as well as revolvers probably had the same minimal amount of rifle bullets).
He was possibly the same Billy Briscoe who Skipper Partridge described in 1917 as "little, white bearded, and with the clearest of blue eyes"; whose favourite sayings were "as the saying is" and "in a manner of speaking"; and who "disbelieves in holidays on the ground that they are a waste of time and money that in all probability will be needed to buy tea, flour, and sugar at a later date."
He almost certainly had a basic ability in the Anmatyerre language.
Alex Wilson, son of a former miner and an Aboriginal wife, was a Walmajirri man. He was the smallest man in the group, but at about 20 years of age was already a great survivor and, like the rest of them, a good horseman and as tough as nails. He was an extremely competent bushman, and was an excellent shot with the rifle he used on the patrol Ð probably a .303 rifle.
In that he came from Halls Creek Alex was a trespasser in Warlpiri country, yet he had also worked with Warlpiri and was to marry Warlpiri women. John Cribbin ("The Killing Times", 1984) gives an incorrect perception of his ability in languages: he had a good bush story-telling command of English, and spoke the south-western Halls Creek area language, Walmajirri, fluently. There is also no doubt that he already had a very good grasp of Anmatyerre and Warlpiri Ð he became fluent in Warlpiri during the 1930s. In that his prior employer had been the recently deceased Joe Brown, he was now probably technically under the employ of George Murray before his return to employment by Nugget Morton.
At this stage Dodger, so recently one of Fred' Brooks' camel boys, was the final member of the patrol. He was Anmatyerre, probably a young man by Aboriginal law, and can be assumed to have been the horse-tailer (there were 14 horses) and general camp help for the patrol. He was armed with a revolver during the time that he was on the patrol, and spoke both of the local languages and bush English.
The laws of the land, as they then prevailed, meant that all of the Aborigines were strongly under the control of the white people who employed them. During a police patrol they were even more strictly controlled. They could not withdraw from the patrol without specific permission, so were "locked in" to following Constable Murray's orders, whether they wanted to or not.
One would assume that Murray would have got the additional civilian men of the patrol to swear an oath to uphold the law, but his lack of formal police training meant that he apparently failed to do this. Nonetheless he clearly repeated Cawood's orders, and was also supported by Randal Stafford in making it plain that no women or children were to be shot if it came to shooting while attempting arrests.
There seems little doubt, given the Tanami police experience, the threats that had been coming in about men wanting to spear Randal Stafford, and the actual murder of Fred Brooks, that a hard line was to be taken. The shooting of Woolingar while he was resisting arrest was later accepted as legally justified, but might also be suggestive of the approach that was about to be taken.
Before considering the accounts of the actual patrol, though, try to put yourself in Mounted Constable Murray's shoes. What would you have done?
You are a light-horse trained mounted policeman, having missed out on the last great cavalry charges in history.
Your government has totally let you down by not formally training you, however much you appreciate the freedoms this gives you. You are newly arrived on the last frontier in Australia, in command of Native Constables and excellent, tough but independent pastoralist horsemen, none of whom you really know. You are to attempt to arrest, without violence, armed warriors who, on all accounts, will spear you as soon as look at you.
And you do not know their language or customs. No-one expects you to go out with anything but a well-armed patrol. Everyone expects you to lead by example, and everyone also expects that you will "teach them a lesson."
I would like to think that I am a fair person, but had I been out on the frontier in 1928, known the circumstances and been called upon by George Murray to join the patrol, what would I have done? I suspect that I would have chosen my best two horses, checked that my revolver and rifle were in their normal well-maintained condition, and joined the patrol wearing a waist bullet-belt for my revolver and a bandolier for my rifle.
It is easy to forget that things are different now. Passing judgments on the past is mostly done with hindsight, from a comfortable distance.
The following select and edited accounts of the police patrol's activities are based on the information given by the various witnesses at the later enquiry.
Mervyn Hartwig's excellent unpublished thesis is acknowledged, but has not been extensively drawn upon. Similarly T.G.H. Strehlow's unpublished references are acknowledged, but have only been drawn upon in a peripheral way. An interesting source is Violet Turner's "Good Fella Missus", about missionary Annie Lock's experiences at Harding Soak (east of Coniston, between Aileron and Teatree) and other localities in Central Australia, particularly in the period 1927-1929.
Bob Plasto's "The Killing Times" (Imago Productions, 1985) is the only television film of substance that has ever been made that deals specifically with the massacre; it is a priceless source of information.
Yarns I had with Alex Wilson, various Warlpiri and Anmatyerre people, and other people who heard stories from patrol members or Aborigines who had survived, complement and sometimes challenge the formal record. In respect for their own independent research, yet to be published, I have not used any new evidence that Justin O'Brien and James Warden have located, but I thank them for friendly yarns. Interested readers are referred to the Central Land Council's excellent little booklet, "Making Peace With The Past" (2003), if copies are still available.
On the 16th the patrol, taking the two prisoners with them as "volunteer" guides Ð neck-chained, walking and with Tracker Major (also walking) in charge of them Ð travelled 18 kilometres west, where they observed a camp of 20 to 30 Aborigines. Jack Saxby described the situation and his perceptions prior to this first encounter as follows:
"On the way out from the first camp we were warned by the natives with us [Padygar, Woolingar and Dodger] that the blacks were going to fight and were not afraid of police.
"There was never any suggestion this was to be a reprisal party, on the other hand, we were warned not to shoot except in self-defence, by Constable Murray.
"You cannot arrest these bush blacks. All the deaths [which occurred] were the result of our party having to defend themselves.
"A spear is a very dangerous weapon in the hands of a bush black.
"I always carry a revolver on my tours [prospecting or station work] and consider it necessary. I have had occasion to shoot at blacks before this trouble. I have had to shoot to kill. This was not a party got up for the purpose of wiping out the blacks before the blacks would wipe out the settlers. We could have killed a hundred if our object was reprisal."
Old Warlpiri men, and an old woman from a neighbouring group, have supported Jack Saxby's perception of the warriors as "cheeky" Ð a view initially stated by Michael Terry: "Cheeky, that sums them up."
Jack Saxby's comments are his honest assessment. It is improbable that he was alone in thinking like this.
On sighting the Aboriginal camp Constable Murray ordered, "No shooting allowed unless absolutely necessary.
"I want to take as many prisoners as I can. Do not interfere with women and children!" He then arranged the patrol in a line that, in its progress, was meant to encircle the camp.
However, after initially proceeding at a walk then canter, Murray rode ahead at such a pace that the others were left behind and the order of advance became haphazard. Randal Stafford recalled:
"I heard the rattle of weapons such as boomerangs and spears. I heard Mr. Murray calling on them to stop, in English. I don't suppose the blacks understood but there was no other way of speaking to them [by Constable Murray]."
Billy Briscoe corroborated Randal Stafford's account, and gives greater detail:
"Constable Murray galloped ahead and jumped off his horse which took fright and galloped back to the packs. I saw Constable Murray try to arrest a native. There were mobs of blacks close handy. The native had a boomerang and shield in his hand and the other natives got their spears and rushed towards Constable Murray as if they were going to throw them. The lubras ran around with nulla nullas and yamsticks. I sang out loudly to the half-caste [Alex Wilson] to get in there and help Mr. Murray. I heard a noise in the scrub and went to investigate this and while I was doing so I heard four or five quick shots."
There were more shots than this. Murray, who had been rushed and was being struck by various weapons, drew his revolver and fired two shots. Jack Saxby "fired three shots at the leaders of the mob".
And, although he did not mention it at the enquiry, Randal Stafford later independently told a pastoralist and a store-keeper that, on seeing a slender naked youth fleeing, he fired three shots, all of which hit the youth in the back, the last one being fatal.
When he rode up to the youth he realised that he had been mistaken Ð he had killed a young woman.
Much as he later talked about it in a hard-edged old bushman's way, at the time it shocked him that he had shot a woman. He had, however, avenged his old mate Fred's murder, so stated to Murray that he would no longer take part in the patrol.
The other shots had, so the enquiry was later told, resulted in the death of the man who had initially attacked Murray, two other men who had attacked him, one woman, and another woman who was severely wounded. Randal Stafford gave her a drink, and she died shortly afterwards.
Whether Murray was so inured to the realities of death as a result of his experiences in World War I, expressing the practicalities of the setting, or ruthless when he later said, "I don't think it matters where she died a minute or an hour afterwards", will depend on the individual reader's perception.
Tracker Major, so Randal Stafford later stated, had identified her as the woman who had held Fred Brooks' arms while the men attacked and killed him.
Alex Wilson was apparently not involved in any shooting, but had assisted Murray to escape his predicament.
Police Paddy was also not directly implicated at this time because his job was to gallop his horse towards anyone attempting to flee the Aboriginal camp; he twice turned back one man.
It appears that Murray probably shot the leading warrior, and possibly one woman; that Randal Stafford shot a young woman (mistakenly thinking that she was a young man), and that Jack Saxby probably shot the others.
Billy Briscoe, Randal Stafford and Jack Saxby all said that the shootings were unavoidable under the circumstances, and agreed with George Murray that his very life depended on him using his revolver.
The bodies of the deceased were buried and, as was normal practice in the era, and occurred as late as the 1960s, all Aboriginal weapons in the camp were destroyed. As also might be expected, items which had belonged to Fred Brooks Ð "a coat, shirt, singlet, quartpot, tomahawk, blanket, calico, butcher knife, tobacco wallet and about one pound of tobacco broken up into little pieces" Ð were collected as material evidence.
NEXT: Spears vs rifles, the massacre continues.
BAD CONDUCT: REF WALKS. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
Four matches in two days, with some memorable hits, ideal wickets, and lively support launched the 2003 - 2004 cricket season in a manner the association would have been hoping forÉ until the fortieth over of the second innings on Sunday evening at Albrecht Oval.
At this point, independent umpire Steve Goldring walked from the field, leaving Rovers on the brink of victory over Wests, but no official to stand behind the stumps and see the game through.For Goldring, the behaviour of particular player(s) in the field had become too much, and having issued a warning earlier in the innings, he stuck to his guns and departed.Matt Pyle, the Rovers' skipper, took to the field and with Wayne Geisler from Wests, umpired, so ensuring that the run target required was obtained by the Blues.The impact of the incident, however, does not end with the game completed, albeit on a sad note, and unofficially.
The reality is that local cricket is struggling to attract officials, particularly those prepared to stand in scorching conditions (for most of summer) and do their best to see a fair game prevail.
Players want independent umpires at A Grade level.
They in fact contribute each week to the lowly fee that the men in white receive.
Given that this is the case and most players treat the umpires in the manner expected, it is a sad state when a minority can create a situation that becomes untenable for the game's official.
Responsibility rests squarely with the offending players, and certainly added responsibility is placed on the shoulders of club captains to ensure that the onfield behaviour of each member of the team is in keeping with the laws and traditions of the game.
Otherwise, some delightful cricket prevailed at both Traeger Park and Albrecht Oval over the weekend.
Playing 45 over innings this year has been an innovation and Federal took advantage of the extended number of deliveries by putting together 5 / 217.
Tom Clements and Brendan Martin got the innings off to a solid start with 46 and 50 respectably. Nick Johns, who is about to return to cricket in Adelaide, scored 30 not out and Graham Smith impressed with 23. With the ball Greg Dowell, who has had the benefit of playing for Nightcliff during our winter was the most successful of the bowlers taking 3/55.
Of particular interest in this innings was the Sundries total of 34.
In going to the wicket, the Blues soon found themselves in strife with openers Matt Pyle (1) and Greg Dowson (0), leaving it to Dowell to keep his side's chances alive.
Alas in making 30 he received little support, as the second highest scorer was Shaun Lynch (a transferee from Federal), scoring 15 and batting at number seven.
Dismally Rovers could only put together 68 runs in their chase.
The outstanding bowling performance came from Federal's Martin, who complemented his batting 50, by taking 5/10 off 5.3 overs.
Skipper Jason Swain joined in the demolition with 2/20.
West and RSL did battle at Albrecht Oval on Saturday afternoon, with the Bloods able to open their account for the season, eclipsing the RSL score of 154, with the loss of eight wickets.
RSL in taking to a pitch that appeared to be made for runs, were in dire straits early when Graham Schmidt and Rod Dunbar opened the innings with ducks, followed by a run out of Tom Scollay when on four.
This left the hard work to skipper Jeff Whitmore who toiled away to make 30 before being given LBW off Leith Hiscox.
Veterans Luke Southam (23) and Bernie Nethery (27) formed a stoic combination, but with only 154 on the board at the completion of the innings, RSL were always going to struggle.
Westies had three players take two wickets. Jeremy Bigg bent his back to produce 2/19; Hiscox finished with 2/28; and Darren Clarke, 2/30.In defending 154, RSL had Graham Schmidt and Bernie Nethery keep Westies honest, and were so rewarded in taking 3/30 each. With the willow Luke Spragg managed an impressive 35; while Bigg did well with 31, in a chase that lost only eight wickets.
Sunday's game at Traeger Park ended as a surprise result, with Federal literally taking the highly fancied RSL apart. Following in the mode of Saturday, RSL batted first and could only produce a tally of 8 /136 after their allotted overs.
Whitmore moved up the order to open with Schmidt and while they got a start (15 and 11 respectively), it was left to Tom Scollay (28) and Scott Robertson (30) to compile some runs.
For Federal the spread of wicket takers was even with captain Swain completing the day with 2/19 and Curtis Marriott taking 2 / 27.
The Federal response to a target of 137 was indeed something to behold. Nick Johns bade farewell to Traeger Park with a swashbuckling 86, before being bowled at the death knell by Matt Forster.
The innings was one to remember from the big boy, and because of it Federal reached the target, scoring 3 /139 in 31.2 overs.
Hence with the game over early, Federal celebrated with two wins for the weekend, while RSL could not open their account.
It was soon after this that the game between Rovers and West became controversial at Albrecht Oval.
West had made 191 in their innings, thanks to a magnificent 101 not out from Adam Stockwell. The opener who for some years has shown promise, was dropped when on a duck, and recovered to chalk up a tonne, with literally little support.
Leith Hiscox's 11 was the next best West score. In the 43 over innings West were foiled by the bowling of Adrian McAdam (2/20), Brad Tanner (2/31); and Shaun Lynch (2/35).
McAdam was a stabilising force in the Blues innings when he compiled 29, before making way for a game winning partnership between Nick Clapp and Peter Kleinig. Obviously needing the run, Kleinig in particular found himself cramping up as he put in some big hits to make 78. Clapp, while caught by keeper Peter Lake off Shane Trembath when 42, proved to be an inspirational support in the game winning partnership.
The Westies young guns Ryan Thomson (2/22) and Shane Trembath (2/19) led the way for the Bloods, but over the 45 overs 191 was always going to be achievable. The Blues made the runs in the 43rd over, in a game that had the soul removed from it by irresponsible on field antics at a time of day when it was the last thing needed.
THREE YEAR OLDS ENTER THE RING. Report by PAUL FITZSIMONS.
The hot favourite Jubes, winning for a third consecutive time, set the pace at Pioneer Park on Saturday.
In the 1400 metre Centre Racing Class Six Handicap, Jubes ran according to the price. Starting at prohibitive odds the galloper allowed Prince Anthony to lead the field in a leisurely run race. At the 400 metre mark, Ben Cornell made his move on Jubes and at the corner he was in full control. He ran the race out well scoring by two lengths, from Ollettie, who ran on well a further five and a half lengths away in third.
Favourites continued to take the money, as in the 1000 metre XXXX Gold Maiden Plate, the three year old Not Abandoned made every post a winner. Newcomer to the park Tonnes of Style led the field into the straight by a length and a half, before Cornell unleashed a run from fourth on the fence to prove too strong in the run home. The Viv Oldfield trained performer went to the line a winner by a length and a half, with Tonnes of Style hanging on, while Enunciate was a further seven lengths in arrears in third place. The win gave Ben Cornell a riding double for the day.
The ZIB Insurance Brokers Class Two handicap over 1200 metres, proved to be tailored for Sunday Drive. Garry Lefoe wasted no time in hunting Sunday Drive to the lead, and from there was able to dictate the terms. Sunday Drive maintained an early one length lead to winning post. Volcanic Pearl ran on in the straight to hold down second place by a neck over Bright Vision. Cartoon Hero found the 1200 metres too short, especially as he was asked to carry 60 kg. Favourite Mr Woodie finished well back, indicating that he needs to lead to win.
The last of the day the Danny Usher Memorial Handicap was raced over 1200 metres. The Big Fella, a popular galloper recently transferred down from Darwin was backed in as favourite, but found the running tough, finishing fourth. The light weight By Joe led from barrier three, and had a length and a half on the field coming into the straight.
Queens Image camped in second place, with The Big Fella, Cover Gal and Star Damsel racing as a group. By Joe, who is a 1000 metre specialist, battled on well over the last 200 metres but proved no match for Queens Image who cruised to an eight length win. Cover Gal took third place a length behind By Joe.
PARTY FUN, BUT WHAT IF GATE CRASHERS STORM THE JOINT? Review by JOHANNA CASTLES.
Teenage parties are a lot of fun, but if you have one you can expect to encounter some uninvited guests.
Gatecrashers can improve a party or ruin it. I spoke to 11 teens to hear their views.
Linda Hughes doesn't mind gatecrashers; she says that "parties are a place to socialise" and that gatecrashers "are a bit like the more the merrier".
She said that she probably would mind though if she were the one having the party. Maxine Craker agrees with Linda, saying that gatecrashers don't really affect her but she would be upset if it was her party. Maxine has never had anything stolen at a party but has a lot of friends who have lost wallets and phones. She says that soon after a party gets gatecrashed, the "cops come and handle it".
Rebecca Brown also doesn't have a problem with gatecrashers.
She prefers big parties and says that gatecrashers can make a small party more interesting. But sometimes she does get annoyed because, "it's pretty impossible to separate gatecrashers from people that are invited, so the whole party gets broken up".
John de Jong has been to parties that were gatecrashed but says, "it was all cool, and they just joined the party".
John has never had anything stolen at a party but his friends have had wallets stolen, though John says the thief "could have been anyone", not necessarily a gatecrasher.
Geoffrey Miller likes to go to parties and has no problem with gatecrashing.
He has gatecrashed a party before but would not steal property from other people and thinks "it's pretty bad" when people's houses get damaged.
He has never had his property stolen or broken at a party and doesn't think gatecrashing is a big problem in Alice Springs.
Alycia Bongiorno will gatecrash a party if she hasn't one to go to. She believes that parties are about "going around and meeting people" and says that people should know that stuff is going to get stolen at parties. "It is each person's responsibility to put valuables away so they don't get stolen or broken," says Alycia.
Emma Walter is undecided.
She says that gatecrashers "are good in some ways and bad in others".
"If they are your friends that makes a party better but they nearly always bring trouble." The trouble Emma is talking about is police breaking up the party, people having their possessions stolen or broken, and fights breaking out.
Emma agrees with Linda that there are often fights between gatecrashers and uninvited guests. But Linda says that only happens "when drunks come being annoying, stupid, loud and aggressive".
Like Emma, Julia Winterflood says it all depends on what the gatecrashers' intentions are. "It depends on who they are and if they are there to have fun or to cause trouble. But it is really low when they go to a party and don't even know the host."
She has had her phone stolen at a party that was gatecrashed and says that "there is always a lot of conflict, because the gatecrashers are generally unwelcome".
Shaun Ashcroft loves to go to parties and likes open houses but absolutely hates it when an invitation only party gets crashed: "That's when people's stuff get stolen or broken."
Shaun remembers one party where "after it was gatecrashed, fights started to break out and the police came and broke it up. They ended up breaking it up three times because people kept sneaking in the back way."
At another gatecrashed party, Shaun says, "It was so full of people that it was really lively." But he recalls that later on, a number of things got broken, huge fights started breaking out and someone called the police.
Felix Allsop, like Julia and Maxine, goes to parties because "there isn't really much else to do". He says of gatecrashers "if they are friendly, it doesn't matter but they sometimes bring violence".
Felix hosted a party that was gatecrashed by about 50 people. He said that he wouldn't have done anything if his discman hadn't been stolen, so when the police came he let them break it up.
Julia has hosted a party that was gatecrashed. In fact, one of her gates literally came down! She says, "I didn't mind the gatecrashers, it was only when they started to cause trouble." Other than her gate, Julia also had her bathroom sink broken, a big chunk was missing and people kept using it, soaking her bathroom.
Dash Hewett had his recent 18th birthday party gatecrashed by a huge number of people and as a result had to close down the party much earlier than he would have otherwise. Dash says, "I didn't really mind some people being there, but there were a lot people there that I didn't know."
CITY? GIVE ME THE BUSH, ANY DAY! Profile by KIERAN FINNANE.
"I could never live in a city Ð it's too boring, nothing to do."
It's the exact opposite of the mantra of most young people, but Geoff Morton knows what he likes.
"You don't know how good Alice Springs is until you leave it."Over his four year apprenticeship as an aircraft engineer, he travelled to Adelaide four times a year to go to trade school. He doesn't miss it at all.
"In the city, they are already thinking about what they'll have for dinner at midday; they're planning to buy their eggs on Tuesday because they're two cents cheaper than on Friday.
"In the Territory, people don't have to plan their lives by the minute. If you go to buy milk, you don't have to spend half an hour looking for a car park.
"Here I've got a good job, a good place to live. I know the people in every second house in the street. If I go to the pub, the barmaid has poured my beer before I ask for it.
"In my spare time, I build and fly model aeroplanes.
"I play golf, I ride bikes out bush with my mates, we get together and work on each other's cars, or else throw an esky in the back of the ute and drive out to a waterhole."
Geoff is a walking advertisement for outback living. Born and bred in the bush, for him it is the centre of the world. Not that he is uninterested in the rest. If the right opportunity came his way, he'd take it.
He grew up on Derwent Station, 220 kilometres west of Alice. He had a typical bush childhood. With his brothers and sisters he played cricket with a stick, footy with a paddy melon. He'd go mustering with his dad, Ian, did School of the Air with his mum, Chris.
He was sent away to school a bit younger than many but was very keen to go. He boarded at St Philip's from age nine, going to Ross Park Primary School.
Boarding was a "shock to the system".
"You ate lunch at 12, not when you were hungry. Everyone lived by the clock and there were always other kids around."It took about a month to adjust. Then he loved being able to play footy in a team, instead of just with his brothers and sisters, loved the sports carnivals, didn't mind the school work, later on physics and tech studies especially (he still can't see any sense in analysing poetry).
He lived at the boarding house for 10 years.
"If you rubbed someone up the wrong way, they'd administer their own justice. The juniors would be treated to the Ôroyal flush' every now and then. They would try to get their own back but it never worked.
"You toughed it out. That's just the way it was. Then you'd get a bit older and it'd be your turn."
The experience formed a lasting bond. Geoff still sees his old room-mates.
"Town kids probably don't see their old friends as much as we do. All my mates are still here."
Like most station kids, Geoff could ride a bike and drive a car from a young age and knew enough about mechanics to take "any old bomb" out on a bore run.
When he was about 13 years old, he and his mate, Jason Prior, had an old Landcruiser die on them, about 60 kilometres from home.
Investigation showed that they had a kinked fuel line. Geoff knew there was an abandoned Honda Civic out on the main road, about three or four kilometres away. They set off with a pair of fencing pliers, got its fuel line, put it into the Landcruiser and "it got us home".
"You have to be able to improvise in the bush. Even if I'd been able to get the old man on the radio, he would have just said, can you fix it?"
At St Philip's he extended his bush mechanic's knowledge to aircraft. The school was offering an introduction to flying light planes as an extra-curricular activity. It was mostly theory but included a trial instruction flight.
It seeded Geoff's ambition. He'd raised and sold a few head of cattle in his time and used his savings to take lessons. He had his restricted pilot's licence before he graduated from Year 12.That set him back a few thousand, and he started saving again. By this time he'd started his apprenticeship.
He'd done work experience in Year 10 with a local aircraft maintenance company, Aircraft Engineering NT, and kept in touch whenever he was around the airport.
"I was curious, I'd always stick my nose in there. Then one day, during my last year of school, I called in to say g'day and Tony Byrnes offered me an apprenticeship."
After two years with Tony, the Royal Flying Doctor offered to take him on. He got his ticket in November, 2002 and has stayed on in a full-time position to look after their state-of-the-art fleet. In the meantime, Geoff had also qualified for his full light aircraft pilot's licence at the age of 21.
Now 22, Geoff is pretty satisfied with life.
"I particularly enjoy working for the Flying Doctor. You know the plane you are working on will be part of saving someone's life.
"It's only by everyone working together that that service can be provided.
"And really, you can't get any more Australian than that, working for the Flying Doctor in Alice Springs!"
When one thing leads to another. COLUMN by STEVE FISHER.
Maybe it is something to do with the occasional cyclist you see in town on their way from Darwin to Adelaide, but recently I have developed a habit for books about intrepid cycling adventures.
The kind where hairy young men battle across the Gobi Desert with nothing more than a school atlas and a jar of Vegemite. Or start at the bottom of a hill called the Andes Mountain Range and a year later reach the top, having repaired 20 punctures a day and almost starved 74 times.
These books are full of astounding statistics that make we ordinary people seem even more ordinary. Most of the expeditions last a year. By the end, the reader has developed an inferiority complex and capacity for sleep that is otherwise only produced by a tied Brownlow Medal ceremony or a double episode of Blue Heelers.
One characteristic that these pedalling people have in common is a raging hormone imbalance. They might be worried about where their next meal is coming from, but they still cannot relate to the opposite sex without breaking out in hot flushes and writing a chapter about the experience. They all fall in love and it is always unrequited as a result of the aromas produced by 10 hours of exercise and no shower.
The more that I read books like this, the more that I notice three things happening. First, I spend more time at the YMCA pedalling a stationery recumbent bike and watching the television breakfast news. Actually, it used to have news. But now they offer more exciting material, like five consecutive bulletins of lingering shots of the news presenters strolling through a park in Sydney, repeatedly commenting on the beauty of the park. This is about as close as we come to real news. Then again, viewing pictures of Hyde Park while riding an exercise bike is also the closest that I will ever come to a cycling expedition.
Second, I learn minor pieces of information that I bring out at social events, instantly converting me into the least interesting person in the room. For example, Russian people drink a lot of vodka and don't get paid for months on end. Farmers in the Andes are friendly and talk about the Falklands War. Cubans dance. European hotels overcharge.
Third, people buy me more cycling books for Fathers' Day and other present-giving occasions. So I become stuck in a rut of reading the same kind of book, demonstrating how much I like them, so people buy me more. I close the last page of one and open the first page of the next.
It's like serial reading for lovers of romantic novels, but with thigh muscles and unkempt armpits. Eventually, the tales all merge into each other.
No sooner have the hairy guys arrived in Beijing than the Chinese woman sets off for Havana (or was it Harwich) and falls in love with a waiter (or was it a llama).
This experience raises questions about the effect that reading a book can have on your life, triggering reactions you might not have planned. But reading is going out of fashion. Like real news, it's too heavy for most of us. Why read a book when you can see the movie and not have to concentrate.
Look, I'll skip the moralising about attention spans getting shorter. After all, the last time I reached the end of a novel was in 1974 and it was written by the Goodies. But fiction, just like music, promotes swings of mood in even the most hardened of us. These gently influence the everyday routine, making life a bit different and maybe better than it was before.
Of travelling and things. COLUMN by ANN CLOKE.
"Aren't you concentrating on social issues now Ð are you trying to become a travel writer?" someone asked me as I checked the post box for letters from afar.
I wouldn't have thought a couple of columns about a quick trip through Outback Queensland and a weekend at Glen Helen quite qualified me, I replied. I simply (I used to hate "simply" and "just") wish to travel through life, maximise each day, go where I choose, when I'm able, write about it every so often and if others enjoy it, great. It averts the focus from "other things", social issues and injustices we may, or may not, consider we live with in Alice Springs.The idea of travelling and writing has appeal, although I'd like to have some say in the destinationsÉ My first OE was a bit of a disaster: my pack disappeared, together with traveller's cheques, some cash, my trusty address book and other precious items, on about day five, as I boarded a local bus in Java. Fortunately my passport was elsewhere. Even if someone had been interested (which they weren't) I wouldn't have been able to describe the pack let alone the person who decided he needed it more than me. It's about tuning in to the finer points, isn't it?
I'm not detailed enough to be a travel writer, although I do have a yearning to see the Americas Ð San Francisco, New Orleans, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Cuba sometime and an all expenses paid trip (for two obviously) could assist the thought flow. I used to feel the need to go to Poland to find out more about Mum's ancestry, but when David and I travel to Europe, we tend to base ourselves in England and go "abroad", Greece, Spain, Italy, FranceÉ.
I don't particularly wish to revisit Southern Africa at this point: a month or so ago I spoke to visitors who'd travelled through Zimbabwe, warned about the TATS (Tourists are Targets) slogan, but were seemingly unaware of the suppression of all Zimbabweans under Mugabe's oppressive ruling regime: the wonderful exchange rate and the associated buying power blurred their vision.
Friends, Danny and Yvonne, have recently returned from what they've said was the trip of a lifetime: Switzerland, Prague, Budapest, Vienna, St Petersburg, to board the Trans-Siberian and traverse Russia and Mongolia and finally, ChinaÉ
It depends on how we wish to travel doesn't it? There would be nothing more comforting (or frustrating!) than the thought of a long hot shower after nights (-45 in winter!) of staying in a ger on the Mongolian SteppesÉ
I sometimes think my middle step-daughter, Mim, is on another planet but she's trying, like millions of others, to find her way in Sydney.
"So, are you still concentrating on local issues?" he persisted.
Well, yes, and no! I thought if I highlighted the wonderful aspects of living in the Alice this could allay any (possibly unfounded) concerns I may have. Of travelling: for the first time in the history of The Melbourne Cup, and in the build-up to the race that stops the nation, the trophy has been on the road. The Gold Cup was displayed in various locations around Oz and attracted attention wherever it went, including Alice, so why was it decided by the Mutitjula Community at Uluru that it was inappropriate for the Cup to be displayed at the Rock? It was welcomed to the Top End by the Kembi Dancers from Cox Peninsula on behalf of the Larrakia people in Darwin. Why wasn't the prestigious Cup allowed to be exhibited at Uluru?
Was it cultural concerns or something else, the increasingly familiar "because we can" ruling?
The concept of travel writing is safer Ð images of exotic locations and mind broadening journeys yet to be undertaken. Last weekend David and I drove out to the Telegraph Station to join the Cormack Clan for drinks and nibbles and witness yet another absolutely brilliant Centralian sunset.
The joy of rubbernecking around the Centre, diarising the less contentious, the upside of living in the Alice, managing, for now, to side-step the many gnawing social issues and questions.
TED EGAN'S BIG HEART, KEEN MIND. Review by KIERAN FINNANE.
"The Land Down Under"
By Ted Egan
Evergreen Media, 2003
I didn't realise until I started to read Ted Egan's latest book, "The Land Down Under", launched locally last week together with double CD, how great the range of his interests and empathies has been.
Above all, I didn't realise how often women have been the subject of his songs, how often he has been able to put himself in their shoes.
His prologue story for the book is about convict woman, Mary Broad, who became "The Girl from Botany Bay" in her own time and in Egan's song.
In what Egan hails as one of the great escapes of history, Mary, her two infant children, husband and seven others sailed and rowed away in a six-oared cutter from the penal colony to Koepang in Timor, a journey of some 3,500 miles!
This ordeal was not Mary's last, though: within a year all members of her family had died and she was to be incarcerated again in England. The story of her audacity and courage, however, captured the attention of James Boswell, biographer of Dr. Johnson: he had her pardoned and supported her for the rest of her life.
Egan's song has her as an old woman by her window in Cornwall, looking back on her life: the melody rises and falls likes the sea and Nerys Evans sings with the right kind of melancholy, the resigned infinite sadness of someone who has known great loss. The strategy of the book is to give an overview of the background to the song, then to provide the song's lyrics, which do their work on their own, as any good poem does.
Women of the same era are remembered with a completely different tone in "A Bunch of Damned Whores". It's amazing that this raucous, hard-hitting, feminist ballad was written by a man. But the material is perfect for Egan who has an eagle-sharp eye for hypocrisy: "So if I'm one of them whores / And I never wear drawers, / It's simply that I can't afford 'em. / But it seems plain to me / That the English gentry / Is the baskets what causes the whoredom."
The song is recorded by Margaret Roadknight, Margot Moir, Geraldine Doyle and Nerys Evans and is one of my favourites.
In the chapter of the same name Egan argues, in line with feminist historian Anne Summers, that the early stereotyping of women as "damned whores" or
"God's police" had a far-reaching impact, keeping white women on the frontier on a pedestal, but allowing many Aboriginal women to be abused and exploited.
"A Song for Grace" takes us to World War I and its appalling toll of human life. Grace was Egan's mother whose three brothers were casualties to the war: one died, another was gassed, another shell-shocked. "And I?" Egan has her ask. "I'm just an old lady who watched them all go / But I am the one you should ask about war, for I know / That all of these years have gone by, / and I know the grief yet É"
Egan also tells men's stories of the war, but it is a fine example of his rounded sensibility that he tells this one of a woman's grief.
The songs where he is in the shoes of another are Egan's most powerful. One of the most famous is the great land rights ballad "Gurindji Blues", which manages to lose nothing of its impact however often you have heard it. This version, with by way of introduction the voice of Gurindji leader Vincent Lingiari, is no exception.
Egan's book goes so many places Ð bushrangers, the waves of migration, unionism, our great sporting stars Ð that it serves as a kind of potted history of Australia, albeit with strong editorialising by Egan who specialises in cutting irony. A table in the prologue sets the tone: it contrasts the First Fleeters' diet of mouldy bread and rancid pork with that of the Iora Aboriginals Ð Sydney rock oysters, crayfish and prawns, roasted kangaroo, grilled snapper.
It's a theme for Egan Ð Australians have wasted opportunities, made plenty of mistakes, not least in their treatment of the "First Australians" Ð but he is also optimistic that we can "change direction". It's not too late but "further delay will be tragic", not least because we have so much to lose.
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