• Addresses 2015


Addresses to ProbusPerthWA, 2015

Click on the topic to go to the talk summary.

Year Date Speaker Topic
2015 10-November Bill Edgar The Convict Era in Western Australia
13-October Dr Michael Jones How things have changed
8-September Prof. Alan Bittles Why not Marry your Cousin?
11-August Very Rev. John Shepherd A Sense of Humour – Does it matter?
14-July David Heath Rottnest: a potted history
9-June Liz Teale A sentimental journey
12-May Mel Whinnen; Rob Baxter; Nev Walker Various (See Recent Speakers)
14-April Murray Lampard Homeland Security
10-March Lynn Coy Battle of Waterloo
10-February Ernie Turpin Portraits and Painting



By Bill Edgar

Bill Edgar told us all about the convict era of the Swan River Colony in West Australia.

Captain James Stirling initiated the private colonisation which started in 1829. It was a disaster from which it took a long time to recover. The British Government was not interested in supporting another colony development so it was left to Stirling to find enough support from wealthy families to finance it. The colonists arrived with little experience, insufficient skilled support labour and no idea of the problems to be faced. Lack of water, no infrastructure, no fencing, inadequate equipment, bush fires, health issues were just some of the problems. The Colony struggled along till 1850 when it was realised that a labour force with appropriate background was the only way forward. The solution was convicts who were sentenced to transportation.

At that time convicts (or white slave labour) were being transported to America, the West Indies and now Australia. Convicts in Australia were put through a Separate Confinement period, followed by imprisonment on old hulks and then if behaviour warranted it became “ticket of leave” convicts. The influence of a fellow called McConochie brought about the incentive scheme which could see convicts move through the system to become land owners and reliable free settlers. Bishop Hale was also a stronger supporter of the concept of rewarding convicts who had the right attitude.

With the passage of time, the gaining of experience and the “good” convicts becoming useful citizens the Colony got through the disaster period and slowly moved ahead. The ex-convicts spread through different parts of the state and settled in pockets such as York. One legacy of the convict era was the convict-built government buildings such as Government House and the York Catholic Church.

With the advent of the gold rush years when the population of West Australia increased by a factor of four, the influence of the convicts was greatly reduced. Bill Edgar believes there is a lack of teaching in schools about this convict era and that younger generations do not know enough about it.

Peter Wesley thanked Bill for his very interesting talk and in doing so admitted that he had convicts amongst his ancestors–all had done well and enjoyed life.

Ray Purdy



Dr Mike Jones

Dr Mike Jones is well qualified to address our group on this topic, as a GP who has also had a long career in health politics. He was Federal Vice-president of the AMA in 1990 and involved in the GP Stategy Review Group for six years from 1998.

Health care is expensive, but is this money spent wisely? Health costs are rising as a percentage of GDP, increasing over the last decade at 5.4% per year, compared to annual GDP growth rate of 3.1%. 38% of the $147 billion spent in 2012-3 was on hospital care, with 36% on primary care. While during any fortnight, 661out of 1000 Australians will feel unwell, 175 will visit a GP, but less than one will be admitted to hospital.

With such a huge annual expenditure, politicians can’t avoid being involved. Minister of Health is a poisoned chalice; there is an unlimited demand on finite resources. In this situation one can only make enemies.

In the mid-1970’s health insurance was voluntary, public hospital care was means tested and there was a perverse incentive to over servicing. From that point, the system started to change significantly, with a plethora of regular inquiries involving more and more groups, and resulting in reports and reviews, which continue to the present. Numerous issues were identified, which led to changes in government policy. Responses to these policies included vocational registration, accreditation of GPs, entrepreneurial medicine, Superclinics and corporatisation.

By the late 1980s, outlays in rebates had increased by 65%, consultations per capita by 250% and fraud and over-servicing were identified as important problems, of which Dr Jones gave many humorous and/or horrifying examples.

The important question now is “Can we afford (or provide) a health system that is financed in a way designed to sustain an illness system?” The future GP will probably be female, work part-time and not own the practice.

Mike’s talk provided a detailed and fascinating look behind the scenes at a most important aspect of our lives.

Ned Overton



Professor Alan Bittles

Professor Alan Bittles posed the question and then went through the history of how it went from “the wrong thing to do” safely and even a good thing to do.

It was noted that sixty to seventy thousand years ago humans as we know them to-day left Africa to populate the world. In those early times it was thought that between 700 and 10,000 breeding individuals represented the origins of a growing population. There must have been a considerable amount of inbreeding yet the human race continued to grow.

In the sixth century biblical laws nominated who could not marry as it was believed inbreeding would cause infertility. Marrying cousins was not banned so the laws applied to marriages between siblings and their parents – in to-days terms that ban would apply to incest.

In the thirteenth century the catholic church disallowed marriage right through from first cousins to sixth cousins. Restrictions were progressively relaxed to the extent that only marriage between first cousins was banned. Through the ages there have been any number of marriages between first cousins of eminent people – royalty through to prominent political identities. In fact there was considerable support for marriages between first cousins. This support recognised that the parties would be compatible, dowries would be less and knowledge of what you were getting would prove to be an advantage.

Many studies seem to indicate that there are good reasons why marriage between first cousins and closer relations is not a desirable thing. These studies show that deaths at birth and more frequent, longevity is reduced and intelligence is likely to be lower. Marriages of second cousins and further apart do not appear to have any significant downsides. It should be recognised that people who conduct studies can generally conclude the results they personally believe in.

I don’t know what most members concluded from the talk but I would not recommend first cousins marrying and anything farther apart from first cousins should be left to the individuals to make their own decision.

It was an interesting and thought provoking talk. Roger Bussell gave the vote of thanks on behalf of members.

Ray Purdy



The Very Reverend Doctor John Shepherd

The Very Reverend Doctor John Shepherd kept us all entertained and at times in fits of laughter as he convinced us that whilst life as such is not funny, it is much improved by humour. A good sense of humour certainly adds considerable value to your life.

Being a man of the church John started off with the need for humour in religion. The classic example was the well-known Vicar of Dibley.

John then ran us through the different types of jokes or stories.

First there was the “one liners” typical of the likes of Bob Hope. Such one liners as “Marriage isn’t a word it’s a sentence” and “For 25 years my husband and I were deliriously happy. Then we met.”

Second was the extension of the “one liners” into such examples as “Which end of the train should I get off? It doesn’t matter. It stops both ends” and “Is this train on time? We’re just happy if it’s on the track”.

Then there are the subtle ones that are not for those who are slow on the uptake. You should NEVER have to explain a joke. “He doesn’t understand the concept of Roman numerals. He thinks we fought World War Eleven”, and “When’s your birthday? 16th December. Which year? Every year”.

The classics and the narratives which go from stage to stage – they don’t necessarily have funny lines but slowly build to increasingly hilarious situations – and are preferably telling a story against the person telling it. The YMCA story had us in fits of laughter but was overtaken by the funeral story. John was good enough to give me his notes so rather than try and remember the steps of the narrative I have used his notes. It makes this a long write-up of John’s talk but I believe it worthwhile.

“I suppose a good example of this would be when I was doing graduate study in New York, a friend of mine, who was Rector of a small parish on Manhattan, asked me to take a funeral for him while he was away on holidays.

It would be simple, he said. Blind Freddy could do it. He would visit the family, and make all arrangements. All I had to do was to turn up on the day, and take the Service.

The day came. I arrived at the church in good time. The Service went off well I must say, and then the next part involved getting to a crematorium in Brooklyn, about 15 kilometres away for the final prayers and committal in one of their chapels.

The funeral director came up to me and said “You’ll be travelling to Brooklyn with us in the hearse of course.

Now there was a problem there, because at the end of the Service I didn’t want to have to go back with them to Manhattan. Home was in the other direction – half-way across Long Island.

So I said, “No thanks, I’ll follow in my own car”.

“Sure you’ll be alright?” he asked.

“I’ll be fine”, I said, and went off to get my own car. Except by the time I’d walked a block downtown, and finally checked the car out of the car park, the hearse was well and truly on the way. I figured I needed to do some pretty fancy driving to catch up.

After ten minutes frantically weaving in and out of Manhattan traffic, through the toll booths, and then roaring along the Expressway, I thankfully saw a funeral procession up ahead, and fell in behind it.

Eventually we drew into the cemetery, and came up to a building which contained four chapels.

So I parked my car in the special clergy spot, walked around to the front of the chapel, turning up the place in my prayer book as I went along. I finished up at the back of the hearse, alongside the coffin. It was then picked up, and I led it, and the procession, into one of these chapels, took my place on the rostrum and began the Service.

I guess it was after about three minutes that a sense of uneasiness came over me, and I looked up more carefully at the mourners. And then that kind of hot, clammy sweat started up as I realized that I didn’t actually recognize any of them.

And every time I mentioned the name of the deceased, questioning, disconcerted looks came over the faces of the congregation.

Only then did it strike me. I’d followed the wrong hearse.

Now I don’t know if any of you have ever found yourself in this position. Because the thing is, when you’re actually in it, it’s quite a trick to get out of it.

There are three generally accepted methods. Keep going and pretend everything is just fine. Bury the wrong person, and if anyone asks, say it’s one of life’s more profound mysteries, beyond human understanding.

Or stop; admit the mistake, then try to quell the wrath of around 150 irate, and now distinctly dangerous-looking mourners.

Or faint.

Now fainting has two advantages. It distracts the congregation from whatever murderous thoughts are pounding through their minds, and it raises sympathy.

I fainted.

There was a stunned silence. Then, after a slight commotion, I was picked up, as it turned out, by the four funeral directors, and I could feel myself being carried out of the Chapel, and put on some kind of hard platform. When I opened my eyes, I realised that they’d laid me out flat in the back of the hearse, where the Coffin had been, with my hands placed across my chest. As I looked out through the windows of the hearse, through the wreaths of flowers, I could see another hearse and a procession of cars coming towards us, headed for the other chapel.

Now I suppose it must have been an amazing sight, as I clambered out of the back of the hearse, wearing my white clerical robes.

The driver of the oncoming hearse obviously thought so, because I could see his face turn ashen white, and his eyes lock on to me in a frozen, terrified stare, as his hearse slowly veered off the driveway, through a memorial rose garden, and into an artificial lake.

Luckily the coffin floated out through the back doors before the hearse sank without trace. And just before it did, the four funeral directors each struggled out through the windows.

But as luck would have it, none of them could swim, so while the coffin was heading comfortably with the tide towards shore, the funeral directors began flailing around, and sinking underwater.

Floating above where the hearse had sunk were about 20 or so wreaths, made up of flowers attached to Styrofoam rings, which had been on top of the coffin. They were all floating on the water like life buoys. One of the funeral directors grabbed hold of one of them and wrenched it over his head. The three other funeral directors did the same, and then all four started kicking with their legs, and one by one they made it safely to shore.

However, the problem now was that the 3 Styrofoam rings had shrunk, so that the funeral directors couldn’t get them off. After trying for a bit, they gave up and left them on, still stuck around their necks, picked up the coffin, and carried it, with me leading them, into the right chapel, each of them trying to look as dignified as possible.

Now in this Chapel, there was a choice of how the coffin would move out of sight.

It could be lowered automatically down a shaft, then rolled along a tunnel to the back room, or it could move out of sight on a revolving platform built into the dais. These mourners had chosen the second way.

At the right time, I was to press the remote control button, and the centre stage, with the coffin on it, would revolve out of sight to the back room.

When I reached the right prayer, I pressed the button, and kept going, eyes glued on the book.

What I failed to realise was that I was standing on the revolving platform, and that I was now moving out of sight with the coffin.

When I finally looked up, I was in the back room, alone with the coffin. I pressed the button. Nothing.

I went back to the dividing door, but it had clicked shut behind me – or behind us, to be precise.

Then I noticed the tunnel that ran under the stage, for when the coffin came the other way.

There was nothing for it but to crawl along it on my hands and knees, and to climb back into the Chapel through the hole in the floor.

By now I’d been gone about five minutes, and some resourceful person had started everyone singing the hymn, “Will we ever meet again?”

I could hear it as I was crawling along the tunnel.

But when I appeared, all dressed in white, coming up head-first out of the shaft, somebody screamed, and in the commotion all I could pick out was the voice of the funeral director calling out over the crowd, “If you think you’re being funny, you’re doing a really great job”.

I don’t think it was meant as a compliment. “

Ray Purdy.



David Heath

David Heath spoke to the subject, “A Potted History of Rottnest”. His talk was supported for the most part by a Power Point presentation that unfortunately broke down during the presentation.

The talk highlighted a number of key periods in the history of this unique island, from its formation from roughly 7000 years ago when the effects of last Ice Age made changes to much of the Australian coastline (and those of all other continents) to the present-day that sees the island as a place of recreation.

The periods highlighted included the 1600s when Dutch seamen such as Hendrik Brauer (who, in the early 1600s, was among the first of the Dutch traders to recognise the benefits of using the Roaring Forties to cut down the time of sailing to the East Indies and was the first to chart Rottnest), Samuel Volkersen, Abraham Leeman (survivor of the Gilt Dragon wreck and Volkersen’s inexplicable marooning in the mid-1600s) and Willem de Vlamingh (late 1600s) to whom is credited the naming of Rottnest. Following the founding of the Swan River colony in 1829 came some difficult years for the early settlers, some of whom, like Robert Thomson, took up land on Rottnest and commenced farming.

Troubles with the local aboriginal people resulted in overcrowded prison yards in Perth and Fremantle and so, in 1838, began almost 100 years of Rottnest being used as an aboriginal prison. By 1848 the Marine Pilot Service had been moved to the Island and the facilities required by it, together with those required by the prison keepers, led to the construction of the current crop of heritage buildings seen in and around the Settlement area.

David spoke also about the dangers of the marine environment resulting in the construction of the first lighthouse at Wadjemup Hill (1843-1851 in building) and the second (and current) lighthouse in the same location built under the supervision of C.Y.O’Connor in 1895 and the disaster of the City of York resulting in the construction of the Bathurst Point Lighthouse in 1900.

Finally David referred to the development of better facilities such as good walking tracks and the improved golf course that have been allowed with access to better water sources including the desalination plant and deep water bores.

David’s enthusiasm for the Island is obvious.



Liz Teale

It’s not often we are fortunate enough to share in the reminiscences of a celebrity but this was our good fortune at out June meeting when our guest speaker, Liz Teale (nee Harris), addressed the meeting.

Born in Kalgoorlie sometime “..in the forties…” much of her early life was spent in mining centres –Kalgoorlie, Ravensthorpe, Marble Bar and Mary Kathleen. As a young girl she was rather adept at sports but really had a yen for the entertainment industry. A dusty trip across the Nullabor in the 50s in the family Vanguard introduced her to Melbourne which she loved and determined even at that early age she’d return to in due course.

Leaving school following the Junior Certificate she joined the typing pool of the Mary Kathleen uranium mine centre and learned to master the old Gestetner copying machine. She later moved to a Bank from where she was able to transfer to Brisbane in her late teens. When her parents moved from Mary Kathleen to Melbourne in the late 50s she joined them there and found a job with Radio 3UZ and thus began her career in entertainment. Commencing with a second placing in a Crawford Production’s talent show, she became the lead singer in a local (Heidelberg) band. However, soon afterwards, she auditioned for a new Crawford Production’s TV series, Video Village, winning the part of the Mayor. She left the band and enjoyed her role in Video Village for the four years it ran. During this time fate played a significant part when she met Leonard Teale while he was filming the long-running cop show Homicide. In the meantime Liz worked on the TV series Adventure Island and sang in various shows around town. During this period Liz and Len married (1968) and lived in Canterbury. While filming for Adventure Island continued during the week, they travelled to Sydney on weekends and did various shows. Liz loved Sydney and when Len began filming for Seven Little Australians, they went to live there. While in Sydney Len worked on Class of ’74 that became Class of ’75 but when that show stopped they embarked on a one-man show based first on the works of Henry Lawson and later those of Banjo Patterson and travelled Australia wide. Liz continued to do various musical shows but when Len died in 1994 she decided to return to Perth to her family.

Liz is currently a member of Lake Karrinyup Country Club and enjoys catching up with many of her old friends.

David Heath.


Probus Clubs and Apartheid

Mel Whinnen, Rob Baxter and Nev Walker

In the absence of our Guest Speaker, who had to cancel at the last moment, we were fortunate to have three “fill-ins” who each did a magnificent job in entertaining the assembled members.

First, Mel Whinnen, of West Perth football fame, told us about the demise of the Wembley Probus Men’s Club. Some five years before it folded, the Wembley Club was in much the same situation as our Club is in to-day – aging membership, difficulties in forming committees and in recruiting. Whilst their Club was keen to continue, it did not really consider the option of female members, so tried to recruit new members. This proved to be unsuccessful so the Club folded but about twenty-five ex-members have been meeting informally but regularly for some three years now. Their average is about ninety, so the informal meetings cannot go on for too many more years. Mel’s recommendation is: we need to be active in sorting out which direction we go before it is too late.

Rob Baxter, who is new to the Club, spoke about his impressions of Perth Probus Club. He said the Club had many strengths – good venue, good speakers, professionally run and a good ambiance. It was far different to a Club he had tried some years earlier then never revisited. If we maintain our strengths and go about it the right way, we should be successful whichever route we follow.

Neville Walker gave us a completely different topic. He spoke about growing up in an apartheid community and the history that got South Africa to its current circumstance. The Dutch first colonised the Cape Town area as a stopping-off place for its East India Company trading in Asia. The English followed later and pushed the Dutch further north to the Homelands. When gold was discovered in the Homelands the English wanted a slice of the action and followed. The competition led to the Boer War in the late nineteenth century. To gain power and establish apartheid, there was a deliberate push by the Afrikaners to outnumber the whites by having big families and moving into locations where eventually majority in numbers gave their National Party the power. Whilst in control, the Afrikaners formalised through legislation the apartheid regime. The result of this method of gaining power has been a “brain drain” of whites leaving South Africa. Without the stability of middle class citizens and no social support systems for those who could not find or hold a job the situation has been disastrous for South Africa. With no job and no support many people have resorted to crime to feed their families. It is understandable but not a good state of affairs. Neville was one of the many who have left the country.

Ray Purdy


Homeland Security

Murray Lampard, April 2015

Hamish McGlashan introduced Murray Lampard who spoke to the Club about Homeland Security.  In listening to what Murray is involved in – road safety, victims groups, United Nations, War Memorial activities, security, etc., etc. it is obvious we were very lucky that Murray was able to fit us into what is a very busy programme.

The talk covered the three facets of Security – do we have a threat? What are we doing about it? and Can we meet the threat?  Up until the “Twin Towers 9/11” Terrorist act, the fact that Australia was an island and to some extent protected by distance meant that security did not seem to be a big issue.  Our closest neighbours did not have big military capacity and Australia was acting as “peace keepers” in any civil conflicts taking place amongst these neighbours – bigger powers such as India as part of the Commonwealth and China as a strong trading partner.  There was however piracy which could threaten Australia’s assets offshore and in the North West region.  There were also terrorist acts in Indonesia, Burma, the Philippines, Japan, Africa, Iran and Sri Lanka which could spread.  Murray reminded us of John Howard’s advice when he was Prime Minister – Homeland Security starts abroad.

The external threat is there and arises from world politics, religious issues, radicalisation which is “anti the west” etc., and is evidenced by the Bin Laden activities and the likes of the Jema Islamiah Islamic Group.

The Internet threat is growing and is being escalated by radicalisation of Australian citizens and certainly not helped by “Do Gooder Groups” within Australia who try to influence Security Organisations into being less proactive in looking after Australia’s interests.  Extremist Groups do not hesitate to use the organised crime groups to further their needs and aims.  For success terrorist groups need arms, explosives, safe houses, false documents and the ability to hide and move money.  They get this through criminal groups who have greed rather than Australia’s security as their priority.

More and more money is being spent on security – $16.0 billion dollars to date.  Police and Special forces are being trained, the Critical Infrastructure of the North West is being better serviced by Patrol Boats and the Jindalee Radar System.  CCTV cameras and other sophisticated systems are being used more and more to monitor suspicious activities and characters.

Murray’s parting message was that we should not be alarmed but should be continually aware and supportive of security organisations.  He believed the ethnic communities must help to identify and counter the growth and activities of radical groups.  Most important of all Australia should be much tougher in assessing who should be allowed into our country.  We can be aware of the humanitarian aspects related to our International responsibilities but should not expose Australia to risk by being “too soft”.  There is a right balance between tolerance and security.

Ray Purdy.


Battle of Waterloo

Lynn Coy, March 2015

Hamish McGlashan introduced Lynn Coy who spoke to us about the Battle of Waterloo and how some of the veterans of that famous battle became the Swan River Pioneers who helped develop West Australia in its early years. It was appropriate that this topic was on the agenda because we are just approaching the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. This was fought on the 18th June 1815 and was all over after a bloody skirmish which only lasted ten hours.

Napoleon Bonaparte had escaped from custody on the Isle of Elba and was back in France with ambitions to build the French Empire in Europe. His army of 69,000 infantry, cavalry and gunners were opposed by the 67,000 infantry, cavalry and gunners of the Duke of Wellington. The British were in an alliance with the Prussians, led by Blucher. It is not that well known that it was probably the Prussian support which enabled the British to win the Battle. Paintings of Waterloo indicate that it was a bloody confused skirmish with thousands killed and or wounded on that one day.

Lynn reminded us that Josephine, Napoleon’s first wife, was a very keen grower of roses and that the famous Josephine Rose is named after her. Also during his military career Napoleon rode as many as 160 different horses, but none so famous as the mighty Copenhagen, which he regarded as the best of all.

As a reward for their efforts at the Battle, a number of War Veterans were given land grants and money to settle in the newly established Swan River Colony. Elizabeth and William Adams came out on the ship Rockingham and settled in the Peel and Murray River areas. John and Georgiana Molloy settled in the Vasse Area, as did Elijah and Ann Dawson. William and Eleanor Edwards also came out on the Rockingham and formed a link with the Bussel family. Richard and Ellen Goldsmith-Meares came out on the Gilmore and settled in Cockburn Sound, then Guildford, then York. , William and Eliza Shaw settled in Upper Swan and William Trimmer at Cheynes Beach near Albany. Most of these couples had very large families and did much towards growing the Colony in its early years.

John Tonkin thanked Lynn on behalf of the members. John revealed that his wife is a descendant of the Edwards and he had a real interest in how those Waterloo Veterans managed to help get West Australia started.

Ray Purdy


 Portraits and Painting

Ernie Turpin, February 2015

Ernie Turpin was introduced by Peter Wesley as a cartographer who turned professional artist at the age of 50.

Ernie’s talk was as much a demonstration as a talk.  It was all about being quick, getting depth of either character or scenery and creativity into whatever you were sketching.  This applied to both scenes, objects, animals or portraits.

Ernie spent a lot of time in the “back blocks” with aboriginal communities.  He was able to demonstrate how aboriginals with their dots and symbols went about creating a story in their paintings.  He followed this by demonstrating how a typical artist would create the same story in what we would regard as conventional sketching.  The result of both demonstrations was clear evidence that Ernie has real talent in that after just a few minutes of creative sketching he had produced something which was truly artistic.

Another demonstration showed how aboriginals used sketches to recall dreamtime stories.  The example used was that of the rainbow serpent that was killed by two young aboriginals who later climbed a hill as a storm developed and lightning struck them dead.  The sketch showed the hill with its two pinnacles of rock representing the two young fellows who had killed the serpent.

The many sketches that Ernie displayed and enlarged upon their particular merits showed what he was recommending that young artists should seek to achieve with their sketching.  By skilful use of different colours aboriginal portraits had eyes which “followed you”.  An old dead tree when skilfully sketched became a splendid work of art that was “alive”.  Sketches of various well known attractions in the Kimberley showed depth and lighting which made the sketches considerably more appealing than would photographs of the same subjects.

Ray Purdy gave a vote of thanks to Ernie on behalf of all those present, who had clearly been impressed with his talent and his way of explaining how he used that talent to produce amazing sketches.

Ray Purdy

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