Speakers during 2018
Every month, Probus Perth invites a speaker to address members on his or her particular field of expertise or endeavour. Below are summaries of talks given recently.
AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY
Angela Bowman, November 2018
Peter Medd introduced Angela Bowman who spoke to us about the problems Australia faced with the extinction of endangered animal species and what her organisation was doing to address the problems.
Australia had the worst record in the world for losing its rare animal species – 30 species had been lost for ever since Europeans inhabited Australia. In the same period the United States had lost only one species. Those species that had not been lost altogether were losing numbers at a frightening rate; typical of this was in mammals where woylies as an example had gone from 225,000 down to 180,000 in the period monitoring had been introduced.
The A.W.C.with their limited funds had created 27 properties around Australia as wild life sanctuaries. In parallel with this the State Governments had created National Parks around Australia with the same basic aims. Government expenditure was huge compared with the A.W.C. expenditure, but despite its large staff numbers and huge expenditure Government expenditure was nowhere near as effective in terms of results achieved. Government were starting to accept that A.W.C. could do it better and in some instances were engaging A.W.C. to manage their National Parks. A.W.C’s success was based on getting people into the field and with meaningful monitoring where Governments spent a big proportion of their budget on administration and bureaucracy. Success could only be claimed when numbers of endangered species actually started to increase and there are now instances, such as the purple crowned fairy wren, where this is occurring.
The biggest threats to our endangered species are feral cats, foxes, agriculture, herbivore and “hot” fires. There are 4 million feral cats in Australia who between them are killing 2000 individuals every minute – frightening numbers. The only way to protect species from these feral cats and foxes is by selecting properties which can be proved to be free of them and fencing those properties. Fences must be designed to disallow climbing over them or digging under them. A lot of research is currently going into creating a gene in feral cats which causes them to give birth only to male cats. Over a period of time the cats will lose the ability to breed. Obviously the human population has to eat so we must have agriculture which means clearing land and losing habitat. The herbivore problem is related to domestic animals eating and tramping down growth which could have provided protection and hiding places for species. By discouraging less eating of meat the herbivore problem can at least be reduced. “Hot” fires are the burning off late in the season when there is more dry fire fuel to burn. The extra heat created by these fires kills off flora which would otherwise survive and regerminate. The “cool” fire technique is to reduce the quantity and size of burn-offs and do them early in the fire season. The recovery from “cool” burn off is remarkably good and gives the protection and concealment needed by species.
It was interesting to be told dingoes were now almost recognised as native to Australia and were not a real danger to our endangered mammals. Dingoes only killed to eat whereas feral cats killed for the sake of killing. Dingoes and mammals seem to be able to live together. The presence of dingoes also discouraged the presence of feral cats and foxes.
A.W.C. relied on Government funding but was gaining more support from the Corporate Sector and other charities. Supporters can visit their Properties which are generally established in locations which could be classed as tourist attractions themselves.
Angela was thanked by Penny McHugh and given the usual bottle of wine in appreciation of her interesting talk.
HUMOROUS EXPERIENCES OF A JOURNALIST
Cyril Ayris, October 2018
Cyril Ayris gave us an interesting and humorous account of how journalism was carried out at the West Australian in “the good old days”.
His first story was how the West was able to feature on the front page the Atomic Bomb testing on the Monte Bellos Is. way back in April 1952. It was a top secret exercise which started in 1950. The West had heard of the proposal but did not know where or when. It wasn’t till unusual activity in Onslow with a lot of British looking fellows in the area attracted attention that it was thought this could be it. A convoy from Newspaper House headed off for the beach area adjacent to the Monte Bellos. The convoy had journalists, photographers, a dark room for developing film and was backed up by access to an aeroplane on Mardi Station; co-operation from the Post Office who handled communications in those days and a few interested locals. The April 1952 date arrived and photos were taken of the huge mushroom cloud which resulted from the bomb testing. The photos plus a story were rushed by the plane from Mardi Station to Newspaper House. The Federal Policy tried to intercept the operation but only got away with false photos and story. The true photos and story hit Fleet Street in London before the British could release the news themselves.
His second story was of the 1954 arrival of the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip arriving in Fremantle on board the Gothic. With a target of catching the 7.15pm news and the Gothic’s arrival only a short time before that a special plan was devised and enacted. A Cessna took aerial photos of the arrival, dropped the film in a waterproof bag into the Swan River to be picked up by a press boat with a courier aboard who ran up to the nearby Newspaper House where a paper clip on a string had been lowered to ground level awaiting the package containing the photos and story. The deadline was achieved.
On a more risqué note, Cyril related how three Aussie soldiers were waiting on the dock at Fremantle for their three Japanese war brides to arrive. As the ship came in with a lot of hand waving the three potential husbands waited with hands in their pockets and impatience in their strides.
Allegedly Queen Elizabeth at a reception for her in 1954 noticed a little old lady sitting all on her own and looking neglected, so she went out of her way to talk to the old lady. When asked by the Queen if she knew who she was, the old lady replied – “I haven’t a clue, but the officials over there might know”.
The story of Cyril getting approval to fly out of Pearce in a Mirage Fighter Plane to break the sound barrier showed what influence the West had in political circles. To add to the story was permission for a second mirage to photograph the mirage with Cyril aboard. The Air force was not amused; the pilot one Bricky Brinkhop said “why not take the whole squadron”. I think he got his own back on Cyril by ensuring that his aerobatic manoeuvres ensured Cyril was unable to hold his sumptuous breakfast – he wasted it over three ground crew who were appointed to help him out of the Mirage.
Obviously Cyril could have gone on entertaining us as there were more stories than recorded here and plenty more untold.
Oh for the good old days of journalism!
MAKING SENSE OF MODERN ART
David Hounsome, September 2018
I am not sure that I am the right person to write up David Hounsomes talk on the above topic. I am strictly an admirer of “real” art – Heidelberg Group Style – and neither understand or appreciate modern art. My apologies to David if being honest offends him; obviously there were many in the audience who did understand and appreciate modern art.
David developed an interest in art at a very young age and followed the history of art as it developed into modern art. The need for modern art seems to have stemmed from the great advances in photography which pushed artists to express themselves in a different manner.
A succession of events has lead art to what it is today. In 1884 Sargeant’s’ Madam X with the “off the shoulder” gown was classed as indecent. In 1850 the Mona Lisa was not popular and not valued as it is now; the fact that it was stolen and later recovered lead to it being the most copied and probably the most valuable painting ever. Kosuth was one of the early conceptual artists painting objects such as clocks, chairs, crucifixes, beds and other objects.
We hear Robert Hughes views of modern art as – some being very good, some being bad and plenty in between. The warning message is not to judge art until you know who the artist is. It seems that once you have earnt a reputation you can get away with almost anything.
Roger Bussel thanked David on behalf of all members and presented him with the traditional bottle of wine.
FUTURE AUSTRALIA – A NEW WORLD
Brian Greedy, August 2018
Peter Medd introduced Brian Greedy, who gave a fascinating but frightening view of where Australia was headed and what we would look like by 2050. Fortunately it is most unlikely any of us present would be around by then but you must be concerned for how your grandchildren will fare. In times past who would have predicted what the modern phone is capable of or how China has developed to be a world leader. At school we learnt Australia’s population was 6.5 million and already we have reached 25.0 million in 2018. Twenty pound a week was a good salary, now the equivalent $40 barely buys you a decent meal.
Population increase is the scariest and probably the most dangerous factor to the wellbeing of the planet. It is predicted the world’s population will be 9 billion by 2050. African and Muslim countries are still having big families and are becoming a greater percentage of that population. Typically these countries battle hardest to feed their population and provide a reasonable standard of living. What does this mean for the rest of the world and in particular, Australia?
Education and the jobs that we know of today are changing fast. The skills taught need to be aimed at what is required in the future not what the past has indicated. People skills, the ability to network and influence others will be the dominant qualities. Most jobs of the future will be part-time and short term as technology changes. The areas of job availability will be in the health industry; particularly the aged care section, education, hospitality, professional and technology areas and mining/construction skills will always be required.
Already we are seeing electric and driverless cars talked about and seen. This trend will gather pace as batteries are improved and technology improves. Uber are preparing for the day we see a service provided by them replace the need for a vehicle of your own.
Brian did not touch on animals in the wild but you have to wonder if there will be a habitat for them or will zoos be the only place many of them will even exist. Mike Forde thanked Brian on the members’ behalf.
FIRST NINETY YEARS OF THE ROYAL FLYING DOCTOR SERVICE
Michelle Grant, July 2018
Michelle Grant, from The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) was introduced by Peter Medd.
The RFDS was commenced 90 years ago, by Reverend John Flynn. The first flight was out of Cloncurry, Queensland on 15th May, 1928. The aircraft was a de Haviland, single engine, timber and fabric biplane leased from QANTAS.
The RFDS is now one of the largest and most comprehensive aeromedical services in the world, with 69 aircraft of four types, Hawker, Pilatus, King Air and Cessna. In WA the RFDS had bases in Kalgoorlie, Carnarvon, Derby and Jandakot but now has only two – Jandakot and Broome (the area above Derby is served by the Northern Territory as it is closer). Australia wide, the RFDS flew 26million miles last year. As well as transfer services the RFDS undertake many medical clinics at remote stations and communities.
The Service recently had four Pilatus PC 12 aircraft delivered. The cost of these four was $22 million, including having them medically fitted out. BHP Billiton contributed $4.5 towards the cost of these aircraft.
This year the new Pilatus PC-24 has been delivered. This jet will halve the flying time over long distances of the Australian outback.
Whilst most of the RFDS funding comes from Federal and State Governments, approximately 20% is provided by donations from individual donors, communities and corporate partners.
THE GOLDEN PIPELINE
Anne Brake, June 2018
Anne Brake from The National Trust of WA was introduced by Peter Medd. The National Trust’s aims are to remind us who we are and develop our connections. Western Australia really battled to survive in the early years. A lack of labour to build infrastructure was the problem. The answer was to introduce convict labour from the 1850s onwards. Things started to happen and with the gold rush in the Coolgardie/Kalgoorlie area the state really took off from the 1890s.
The gold rush in the dry area of Coolgardie/Kalgoorlie had to have water and Premier John Forrest’s solution was to engage New Zealand engineer C.Y. O’Connor to solve the problem. Producing water by boiling and condensing the local brackish water was expensive and could not meet the demand. O’Connor’s solution was a dam at Mundaring, a pipeline from the dam to the gold rush area and pump stations to push the water down the pipeline. For its time the dam was a great achievement and the original dam, since raised in height, is still a major component of the grid of connected dams which serve Kalgoorlie and the Metropolitan Area. The pipeline saw the invention of the steel pipes made in two halves with locking bar joints which had a smooth profile to reduce friction. Pipe lengths matched rail car capability and were joined in the field by a hemp and molten lead process. Initially the line was to be buried, but for detection and maintenance of leaks it was built above ground. The friction losses in the pipeline plus the higher elevation of the goldfields called for pump stations at Mundaring Weir, Cunderdin, Merredin, Yubelin, Gooli, 50 km short of Coolgardie and another out on its own. The spacing was designed to match the pipes capability to cope with the high pressure adjacent to a pump station and the ability to push water against the friction which increased with distance. O’Connor’s brilliance overcame all these difficulties but he did not “go the distance” – he committed suicide 10 months before the pipeline opened late in 1903. Without the support of John Forrest who had moved to Federal politics, O’Connor was given a terrible time by the local press, the local communities; in fact everyone seemed to be against him. It affected his health both mentally and physically and eventually lead to his suicide on 10th March 1903.
The pipeline resulted in towns springing up around pump stations and today it supplies branch lines which service a lot of the state’s northwest. The line was so important to WA that it was protected by a team of “home guards” during World War 2.
Albert Tognolini gave his usual witty thanks to Anne for a most interesting talk.
THE INTERNET AND SENIORS
David Cook – May 2018
David Cook from ECU, in delivering his talk on “The Internet and Seniors”, gave almost all of us at our May meeting a huge “wake up” call. He started by telling us about his 11 year-old son who was able to find his way into Ikea’s pay section by cracking their password to gain entry. We need to accept that to-day’s generation of kids grow up with computers, they are way ahead of our Probus generation and going further ahead all the time. They are not all crooks and scammers but there are enough of them both here and abroad who can easily develop into very lucrative scamming roles for crooks.
Most of us have already encountered a lot of the scams that are thrown at us on a daily basis. David cited a few of them –
- The Telstra, Optus, Coles, Woolworths, Qantas, etc., phone calls or emails which seek to get your personal details by all kinds of means which are “too good to be true”.
- The very “nice” Flo/Florence/Doreen who is super convincing and super nice and happy to agree with anything you say in an attempt to get your personal information. Typically she ends up by offering to clear a very small debt for you if you give her the information to do it – you are saddled with that small debt repeatedly for the rest of your life because your bank won’t bother with small transactions and chances are you will not always notice it yourself.
- Free Wi Fi is a trap, particularly in popular places like coffee lounges and large cruise ships. The crooks will watch in these areas for those who give away personal details that they can see as easily as looking over your shoulder in free Wi Fi areas.
- Email “harvesting” is a lucrative exercise for those involved. The information can be on-sold to others or used by the harvester. By using such apps as the electoral role, birth records, marriage records and death records and others an experienced scammer can turn little more than your name and email address into knowing all about you.
- The social media such as Facebook can be dangerous if used carelessly. You are giving personal information to “the world”.
David offered a lot of good advice such as –
- Delete any email or text message that is too good to be true, immediately.
- Do NOT be rude to the persistent scam phone calls – say sorry not interested and hang up. Getting abusive can result in retaliatory action which can be a nuisance.
- Never give your email address as a means for charities or for that matter anyone who does not need it to contact you.
However even if you take notice of all his advice you should have a “phrase password” that is unique to you and has no link to your address, birthday, family members, family pets, etc. The “phrase password” should be changed every 6 months, should not be written anywhere and is something you can easily recall in your head. A “phrase password” could be the first letter of a favourite poem or song that you learnt as a kid and has always stuck with you.
Ned Overton thanked David on our behalf and suggested that we all go away and implement David’s advice. Get thinking about your “phrase password” and do something about using it to replace all the passwords you have and need to write down somewhere to remember them.
GRUMPY OLD WOMEN of the SWAN RIVER COLONY
Lyn Coy, April 2018
As a descendant of the first free settlers to colonise West Australia, Lyn Coy was well qualified to tell us about the women of the Swan River Colony and why they were described as being grumpy. In general they were well educated women who had come from well off families in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. They were very young and mostly with very young families or about to start young families.
Typical of the women was Ellen the wife of Captain James Stirling who came out on the HMAS Success in 1829 to establish a colony before the French thought about doing it. The French had been in the area in 1828 and abandoned the idea as they did not like what they had seen – flies, unattractive land, hostile natives and infertile soil. James Stirling had courted Ellen from age 14 and married her at age 16 giving birth to children almost immediately – she had 2 children by age 21. Their introduction to the Swan River was via Carnac Island where they landed after going aground on a sandbank in Cockburn Sound. Their possessions were ruined on the beach, their equipment was wrong and the possessions they had brought unsuited to what they encountered. Sea lions and tiger snakes abounded on Carnac Island to add to their misery.
Lyn ran through a list of grumpy women and gave a brief background to their experiences. The common theme was drunkenness, abuse, being very young with lots of children, suffering ill health and homesickness with relatively short lives – no wonder they were grumpy. A few of the names can be mentioned and you will note that a lot of the names are now remembered as various West Australian streets, areas, etc., are named after them.
Catherine Davies and daughter Charlotte were caught up in the alcoholic problem that resulted from alcohol being part of the rations as water was not always potable.
Mary Hokin battled on after her husband drowned in the Swan River.
Helena Dance became famous for her sewing box which has survived until today.
Elizabeth Dent endured an alcoholic husband who ended up in a mental asylum.
Ann Farmer/Watson/Walker had 9 children under 16 but could not attract a fourth husband.
Fanny Samson was married to Lionel and the family name lives on as eminent West Australians.
Granny Elizabeth Adams after living in Pinjarra and on Garden Island became known as the mother of Fremantle.
Georgiana Molloy produced a bundle of children in the Augusta area before dying at age 38.
And the list goes on.
Marion Medd, another descendant of these early settlers, thanked Lyn for her very interesting talk on our behalf.
TALES OF A WASO TUBA PRINCIPAL
Cameron Brook, March 2018
Peter Medd introduced Mr Cameron Brook, Principal tuba player with WASO, who spoke to us about his time with WASO and how he became a tuba player.
He started by telling us there are only 7 tuba playing jobs in Australia who earn a regular pay check. It is obviously a tough gig which you take on because you love it and certainly not with the expectation of it paying your way in life. Cameron says he was lucky but I suspect it was more his skills as a musician and his other attributes, together with being in the right place at the right time.
Like most young musicians, Cameron started on the piano and grew tired of it. His parents persuaded him to continue with something, so he selected what he believed was the most absurd instrument: the tuba. In time he got to enjoy it and this lead from the local brass band, to a combined schools ensemble, to music competitions, to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, to the Music College of Arts and in 1983 to WASO. He has been with WASO ever since, but he also teaches at UWA and WAAPA and heads up the Musicians’ Union.
Most people think of a tuba as that big instrument that sits in the back row of the orchestra – there are dozens of tubas of varying sizes and shapes. The Germans and Bavarians are the most famous tuba makers and inventors of new tubas. They started making them as far back as 1827.
It is a continual battle to fund the huge cost of running WASO and moving it around to the various concerts that are not on the home ground of the Perth Concert Hall. Whilst a lot of the revenue is generated from its programme of concerts, there is a heavy reliance on Government, both State and Federal and philanthropic support. The original staff of six in number has grown enormously, as WASO finds it is more economical to employ its own ticketing and promotion staff. Shifting the orchestra around is contracted out to specialists who have all the right equipment to handle instruments on and off planes, buses, etc.
Questioned on conductors, Cameron was full of praise for Asher Fisch, their current conductor. Respect, but ability to take control and make decisions having listened to band members’ ideas is a must for a good conductor.
Peter Medd thanked Cameron for his entertaining and interesting talk and gave him a bottle of wine as a token of our appreciation.
A PHILOSOPHY OF TRAVEL
Steven Scourfield, February 2018
Peter Medd introduced the Travel Editor of the West Australian, one Steven Scourfield. Steven gave us a very interesting insight into what motivates him to travel and write – and he does a lot of both.
He likes to link his stories to places and people he has met and always aims to have his many readers feel attracted to and even friends with people in his stories.
Steven likes to take groups of people to places they would not otherwise even contemplate visiting. In planning his tours he selects destinations that are safe, different and where interest is created by the local people and their culture as much as by the scenic value. Some of the places he mentioned as safe came as a surprise to many of us – Botswana, Tanzania and Rwanda were on his ‘bucket list’. Having made a visit to such places he likes to think you are encouraged to revisit and reconnect with the locals you may have met.
He has been ‘everywhere man’ and how he copes with a life spent continually flying out of Australia and back to keep up with his real role as Travel Editor is a mystery and quite amazing. When asked about jet lag his response was – it is all in the mind and if you live the local time wherever you are there is no such thing as jet lag.
Roger Bussel thanked Steven on behalf of members and gave him a bottle of wine as a token of our appreciation.