Recent Speakers

Recent Speakers

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. Summaries of various earlier talks are to be found within theArchivessection of the website.



David Beard, March 2021

David gave us an uplifting speech inspired by his father who said “Wish I was 20 years younger and know what I know now.”

David’s training as an Exercise Physiologist and his working with elderly people has given him insight into what factors influence the enjoyment and health of old age.

He based 7 points of his presentation on the Acronym of AGE WELL.

The first three relate to one’s brain.

A – Attitude – think positively and each day think of 3 good things that have happened.  “Do not let what you can’t do interfere with what you can.” ( John Wooden)

G – Goals.  Set yourself a goal – What do you want to do for your 100th birthday? Then work towards this goal.

E – Expectatons – Times have changed and we can expect to be here a lot longer than our forebears. So make good use of the time.

The following 4 are more practical.

W – Work.  Make sure you have something to do, something that means you will get up out of bed each day

E – Exercise .  Make sure you keep your body strong.  David suggested that each day you almost sit and then stand up and repeat this until your legs are tired – this keeps the muscles in your legs strong. Then do standing push-ups near a wall so that your upper body is strengthened.

Eating healthily – mainly fresh food, meat and vegetables and not full of preservatives is also part of this E.

L – Learning. Keep the brain active and thus continue to make new pathways. Learn a language, a musical instrument, a dance, crosswords etc.

L – Leave a Legacy.  Show your family and friends that although you are old, life is good, full of enjoyment and you are happy.

His speech was met with an enthusiastic round of applause and many bought his book “If Only I’d Known I’d Live This Long….”

Wendy McCallum


Early Dunsborough and the Castle Rock Whaling Station

Dr Errol Seymour, April 2021

Dr Seymour gave a very interesting account of his family history and the importance his great great grandparents  had played in the development of Dunsborough.

Through many years of research he found old diaries, newspaper articles and long lost family members who contributed to the fascinating story.

He found that William Frederick Seymour who settled in the area in1838 to join the whaling company, was really Frederick William Palmer – a mystery as to why the change of name. This caused confusion in the research, especially as there had also been a convict William Frederick Seymour.

William started the Castle Rock Whaling station in 1846 and managed it until its closure in1872.  With his wife Mary he also ran a farm in the vicinity of the present day township of Dunsborough. The original cottages have been transported to Yallingup and form part of Millbrook.

The family endured much tragedy with the drowning of the two eldest girls and then the suicide of the next daughter.  As if this was not enough, William was then accused of shooting one of his good friends and former employee and had to endure arrest and consequent court hearings.  He was acquitted but the stress took its toll and he died at the age of 54.  His wife Mary took over the farm, paid off the debts and brought up the remaining 6 children surviving another 45 years.  One of the sons, Errol’s grandfather was a great worker and entrepreneur who enlarged the farm, started a bakery, opened a store and a garage and thus laid the foundation for the very desirable town of Dunsborough.

With such pioneering contributions to the area, Errol noted with sadness that it is known that family members are buried in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church in Busselton, but there are no headstones, or any indications of which are these historic graves.

Errol has written his book,”The Boy Who Told Stories: The Seymours of Dunsborough” to ensure their contributions are not forgotten and their importance to the area is recorded for posterity.

Wendy McCallum



Roger Bussell,  May 2021

Roger gave a fascinating history of how beer and whisky have been regarded as medicine over the centuries. He began by talking about Whisky and informed us that Aristotle wrote about distillation being discovered. In Scotland in 1494 the distillation recipe was a closely guarded secret.  It was promoted as preserving health and prolonging life. It was also used for perfume, disinfectant, embalming fluid and to improve gunpowder. In 1555 it was only the Guild of Surgeon Barbers who were allowed to distil what was called Acqua Vita. Through the ages it was a very popular drink and prescribed as a panacea for many illnesses. During the Prohibition in USA the rules were circumvented by calling it a medicine and millions of gallons were imported. Many advertisements pronounced that whisky would cure innumerable complaints. For example for cholera: “Take a wineglass each hour and more frequently if necessary!”

Roger then spoke about beer.  In past times many potions could be added to beer and they were camouflaged by the flavour. A Sumerian tablet from 2000 years ago described herbal extracts and the Egyptians were also known to add plants and herbs to alcohol. Willow bark was known to help pain as it contains salicylic acid better known today as aspirin.  Opium from poppies and quinine from the cinchona tree were early remedies. Oregano supposedly helped colic, Nettle beer for gout and Spruce for the kidneys. Roger gave many examples of plants and their derivatives which were added to beer and used as medicine. Hops were found to prolong the shelf life of beer.

Roger mentioned an amusing way to predict the sex of the baby.  Barley and hop seeds were to be immersed in the pregnant woman’s urine.  If the hops sprouted first then the baby was a boy and if the barley was first then it was a girl.

Prior to 1961 Guinness was promoted as a medicine in hospitals.  In the past hospitals prescribed so much brandy, whisky, gin, Guinness and even champagne  that alcohol formed a large part of the budget. It is only in recent years that the dangers of over consumption of alcohol have been accepted.

This was a fascinating walk through the centuries with what we might think of as old wives’ tales, but many of the potions form the basis of what we use today.

Wendy McCallum


Call The Midwife: The Bearer of Glad Tidings

Margaret Foo, June 2021

Our presenter Margaret Foo is a member of Morley Ladies Probus Club where she has served on the Committee for more than 20 years.  She has served three terms as President and every other position except treasurer, but  it was about her career that she was speaking to us.

Margaret has had a distinguished career as a midwife in various countries and occupied a senior role at Perth Kings Edward Memorial Hospital.  She was educated in Adelaide where she also took her general nursing training including having to polish the brass door handles, empty bed pans etc until she qualified. Thereafter she went to the UK to be trained as a midwife.  She travelled on the Fairsky with a girlfriend and when they landed at Southampton they took a taxi to Bristol. The taxi driver couldn’t believe his luck – hardly anyone took a taxi for 75 miles! At Bristol hospital the two girls were the first Aussies to work there and were very popular.  They were often invited out and one memorable evening when they went to Liverpool to a party, they made the mistake of not being back by the curfew of 10 pm!  However they both did very well and gained top marks.  This still meant they had to witness 6 births before being allowed to deliver a baby – a great exciting event when that happened.

Later she did the “Aussie Thing” and hitch-hiked with friends around Europe.  Her parents would have been horrified at all she got up to.  She then travelled to the USA and worked in ‘Hillbilly Country” in Kentucky where she had several memorable experiences.

After her return to Adelaide she left again for Papua New Guinea and worked there for two years. During this time she delivered about 1000 babies.

In 1970 Margaret “discovered” the attraction of Perth and has worked here since, apart from serving 12 months on Christmas Island where she met her husband.

She finished with a light hearted anecdote of a Year 2 child recounting the story of a birth of a sibling.  With a pillow stuffed in front, the child recounted how Dad had put a seed in Mum’s tummy and the “Middle Wife” delivered the baby which was then followed by the “Playcentre”  Because the baby had crawled up inside it had to be smacked when it came out!

Margaret has very much enjoyed her role as a midwife and spoke of her joy at helping mother’s to bring a new life into the world.

Wendy McCallum


Human Trafficking: The Abuse and Sale of Human Beings

Chris Douglas APM,  July 2021

Chris Douglas spent 31 years with the Federal Police, some as a Superintendent and has a wealth of knowledge of and experience in illegal actions throughout the world.

He concentrated his speech on the frequency, ways, and reasons for this criminal trade encountered in many foreign countries.  He made the distinction between People Smuggling and Trafficking.  With smuggling the people have paid for the service and often are aware of the risks.  However trafficking involves victims having no say in what happens to them and generally it is involuntary.

It was quite shocking and horrifying to hear of the corruption and kick backs and blind eyes that occur in many parts of the world to this human trafficking – which virtually relates to slavery, Fortunately he indicated that the problem was not a big one in Australia, but he warned about any travels overseas and stressed particularly for our young people that they be prepared and aware of the possible unsavoury people they might encounter.

It is very well worth reading his presentation – I am sure it will shock most of you on how prevalent this dastardly business is.

Wendy McCallum


Mr Douglas later kindly sent us the following links:

I have referenced below an online training programme for students and teachers about human trafficking provided by Anti-Slavery Australia.  And A21 is a US anti-slavery group also have excellent references to HT that would be of benefit to all.




The Idiosyncrasies of European and Aboriginal Art

Ernie Turpin, August 2021

Ernie captured the audience with his art.  He firstly drew a couple of people sitting near a lake and then showed how Aboriginal people would draw the same scene.  Aboriginal people would use particular symbols to depict people, water and objects.

Ernie learnt the vast difference of how Westerners paint compared to Aboriginals when he was an Artist in Residence in the Halls Creek area.  He had a stereotypic perception of drunkenness, idleness and lack of intelligence of the indigenous people but discovered how wrong he was.

Two elders had particular influence on Ernie and taught him to appreciate their rich culture.

Ernie then taught art at some of the schools and painted 250 murals.  All but 5 of these are still kept in good order as the children have ownership of them.

Ernie then told the Aboriginal story of how the China Wall was created.  This is a 20 – 30 Km straight gash in the landscape that exposes stark white rock next to the chocolate covered ground. The story explained how this was a kangaroo’s backbone.

He also gave the Aboriginal story of how 2 rocks were perched on the top of a hill.  He likened these stories to some of those that we have in the Bible.

He spoke of the discovery of Greek librarian Eratosthesis that the Earth was round and wondered why the Aborigines had not worried about those sorts of things, but just how to survive, dance, draw and tell stories.

He spoke of the disruption to their lives when early settlers and surveyors like John Septimus Roe erected fences in their pathways and song lines.  This demonstrated the very significant cultural gap between Western civilisation and the local tribes.  He referred to terrible arrests and massacres  some of which are in memory, but have never been documented.

He commented on how art is in the eye of the beholder – each person looking at the same thing will have a different view of that picture.

He concluded by showing examples of his art and how the colours used changed the atmosphere and the perception. To illustrate he sketched the face pictured below in less than a minute.

We were all in awe of his talent.

Wendy McCallum


TE Lawrence: the Man Versus the Myth

Nigel Ridgeway, September 2021

Nigel became very interested in TE Lawrence when as a 16 – 17 year he lived in Jordan for 2 years.  This was immediately after the film  “Lawrence of Arabia” was made in 1962 .

Nigel opened his talk by showing 3 minutes of the film to illustrate the popular myth that has grown up about TE Lawrence. Lawrence was an archaeologist, a writer a scholar, a diplomat, an army officer and an exhibitionist. He was no Arab nor a hero but he did become famous.

Nigel then divided his talk into three sections. Lawrence’s early and academic life, his diplomatic and military life and his post-war life. Lawrence had 4 brothers, two of whom were killed in the war.  His parents had never married so that was a stigma he carried.  It was not until after his father’s death that he found out his true heritage.  He was always an individualist and did not conform easily to rules and regulations.  As a youth in 1909, for his thesis in archaeology he travelled alone through Arabia looking at castles, doing brass rubbings and appreciating archaeological sites.  He jumped at an opportunity to return as part of a British Museum expedition to Carchemish. He loved the Middle East and loved the Arabs. He learnt Arabic which stood him in good stead later in life.

The second stage began in 1914 when he was part of a British Military expedition of the Sinai and Negev Desert which was really surveying the territory possessed by the Ottoman Turks. When WW1 began he joined the Military and ended up in Cairo as an intelligence officer. Despite no military training he headed for the front after two years and after his two younger brothers had been killed. He joined dangerous missions behind enemy lines during the Arab revolt against the Turks His hatred for the Turks was fuelled by the treatment of the Armenians and he was very pro the Arabs. He attacked the Hejaz railway and is credited with blowing up 79 bridges.

Lawrence’s famous exploit was leading the charge to Aquaba.  He needed to bribe the Arab troops to stay with him and not defect to the Turks.   Following the appointment of General Edmund Allenby Lawrence was then involved in the army’s entry to Jerusalem – the first time a British Army had been there for 600 years.

Lawrence was a non conformist who used his initiative and great intuition.  However, this did not save him from being captured by the Turks.  In his book “7 Pillars of Wisdom” there are 3 versions of this capture – however it is generally agreed he would have undergone some form of torture.

At this time Lawrence was in a very influential position, being friends with King Hussein and Prince Faisal and it is interesting to contemplate on what a different place the Middle East might be if his suggestions had been followed. After the War Lawrence refused a knighthood and returned his medals as he was appalled at the intrigues happening between the Allies and how the Middle East was being divided.  He felt the Arab s had been betrayed. Oil of course was the desire and Jerusalum the prize.

He became the Middle East adviser to Churchill in 1921 and following this he rejoined the Air Force  using a false name.  When this was discovered he resigned and joined the Royal Tank Corps using another alias. At only 5ft4” Lawrence made up for his lack of height with determination and willpower.  He suffered from PTSD and hated the brutality of war.  He had self doubts and wanted both anonymity and yet liked to be famous. 

Sadly he died when only 46, but his fame lives on. Churchill said “I deem him one of the greatest beings of our time – doubt we will see anyone like him again.

Wendy McCallum

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