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.



Margaret Watroba  February 2022

Margaret kept us all entranced and in awe of her feats in mountain climbing.

She has attempted so many mountains higher that 8000 metres that I lost count.

She was born in Poland as one of identical twins.  Her education was in Krakow and she was always one who wanted to do her best finally graduating as an electrical engineer.  (she works for BHP Billiton). Mountains hold a very special place in her heart which began when she was young, enjoying climbing with her sister and father.  After marrying and having two daughters, the restrictive government of Poland gave the family the incentive to migrate and with the girls 5 and 7 they arrived in Australia in 1980. There are not too many mountains here and Margaret always had the dream to climb Mt Everest. In 2004 she finally had the chance to visit Nepal. This began the challenge to herself and the taking of risks and her determination to climb, with eventually the adrenalin rush and satisfaction of completing the daunting challenge.  She has climbed Mt Lohtse  the 4th highest, Dhaulagiri in Nepal the 7th highest, Makulu  the 5th highest, Manasly the 8th highest, K2 the second highest,  as well as My Kilimanjaro.  But the icing on the cake is Mt Everest. (I am sure I have not listed all the mountains she has climbed.)

Margaret has had 4 visits to Everest, two which had to be abandoned and two successful.  In 2010 from the S and 2012 from the N she had to retire because of illness.  However in 2011 she was successful, climbing from the South and in 2013 achieved the summit again from the North, making her the first Australian women to climb from both sides. There is only a window of a few days, due to weather conditions, when it is possible to climb between the 1st April and end of May.  The expedition costs are above $30 000.

She enlightened us to the difficulties of preparing to climb.  Firstly the airport at is Lukla is known as the most dangerous in the world.  It is where Sir Edmund Hilary’s wife and daughter were killed in a plane crash, After arriving at base camp it takes about three weeks to acclimatise. Firstly the climb is from base camp to camp 1 and then return. Then climbs slowly get longer and higher, but always with a return, building up the red blood cells to cope with the thin air as you ascend. It is so important to do this slowly as altitude sickness must be avoided. Margaret explained the dangers of avalanches, earthquakes, high winds and a very difficult terrain.  Ladders have to be roped together to cross ravines – this would not pass the health and safety tests here.

She told of the stress on the body, the hyperventilation, the use of oxygen, the tiredness and the lack of wanting to eat.  To do the ascent means starting at 8 pm and it is close to 24 hours before it is possible to rest again. Clothing has to be as warm as possible to counteract the cold up to  -40 C and the high winds up to 100 km – but weight has to be as least as possible.  Margaret’s outfit weighed 12 kg’s

We enjoyed hearing of her experiences and were in awe of her physical stamina and ability to conquer Everest at the age of 63!!

Wendy McCallum



Ron Banks April 2022

He was born after the war. His father had returned from serving in Syria where he had received wounds and carried the shrapnel for the rest of his life.  Their home was in Mosman Park which was  quite a different suburb from what it is today.  Then it had The Rope Works, Sugar Mills, Fertiliser factory and General Motors Assembly plant which made it quite a working class suburb. Ron and his sister attended Cottesloe State School where they joined in the playtime activities of marbles, hop scotch, skipping, climbing bars and the Yo Yo craze which was promoted by Coca Cola. Bikes were ridden to school and after hours were spent unsupervised, riding bikes, swimming, surfing, footie, hockey or basketball for the girls.  Inside was no TV but board games of Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly or checkers.

Ron took the audience down memory lane.

Other entertainment was the Saturday afternoon pictures – the Saturday Matinee, inside in the winter and outside in the summer. The Camelot outdoor cinema is still operating.

Ron recalled going to a fund-raising concert for Wendy Nash in the Cottesloe Civic Centre.  She was 15 and had been selected for a scholarship to London and went on to become a concert pianist.  He also remembered his first encounter with celebrity when Sabrina came to town and was living in a house in Mosman Park.  She was performing at His Majesty’s in “Pleasures of Paris” which Ron did not attend!  However he and his mates lined up outside the house and were rewarded with the sight of Sabrina and her mother in the back of a black limousine.

Ron says it was a time of peace and harmony and lots of freedom for children.

Most households kept chickens in their back yards and roast chicken was a delicacy – often had for Christmas dinner.  Other fare generally followed the English diet of chops, stews, sausages and mince with overcooked vegies.  Ron remember the tripe in white sauce that his mother made as a treat for his father, and the crumbed brains for him when he had tonsillitis. Other offal such as liver and kidneys and pigs trotters were often part of the diet for families.

Women were generally kept busy in the home and few went out for paid employment.  Girls were not expected to achieve academic greatness and boys were expected to get apprenticeships.

He reminded us that when TV came in 1960, many lined up outside shop windows to watch programs such as Gunsmoke, 77 Sunset Strip and Cookie.  Televisions were too expensive for the worker but they did give the first contact with American culture. 

Ron had won a teachers’ bursary, but was not enthusiastic about being a teacher.  He always wanted to be a journalist. At 16 he applied for a cadetship with the West Australian but was not successful. He then applied to Dunlop as a trainee executive but one week in the job convinced him it was not for him.  Having passed the Leaving he decided to take up the Teaching Scholarship and following his degree he taught for 7 years, but being a journalist was still calling him.  So as a mature age student he went to WAIT and qualified.  He was then fortunate to have a job on the West for many years reporting on the Art Scene.

He then called on the audience to give any memories of theirs and this brought up Drive in Theatres, registering bikes and the bike number plate, cutting off chooks heads with an axe and seeing the headless body run for a bit, going to Sunday School,   There were many more memories that could have been discussed but the time had run out!

Thank you Ron for the Nostalgia

Wendy McCallum


Bugs and Habitat in the Garden

Faye Acaro May 2022

Faye’s enthusiasm for Nature and her dedication to the habitat in all gardens was inspiring and very entertaining.

She won the 2007 Gardener of the Year presented by Josh Byne of the ABC Gardening Australia and has kept up her love by not only working in her own garden, but also giving advice and encouragement to all by talks and her broadcast on Curtin Radio each Saturday morning.

She lives on 4 acres in Jandacot in banskia bushland where she says she is forever fighting the soil. She has produced ‘rooms’ of different types of gardens and is now very keen on fungi and slime moulds. So far she has identified 682 species on her property.  She is an avid photographer and has many many photos as well as videos of the amazing creatures that can be found by carefully watching.  Her advice is to look and then look more closely.  The more you look the more you see.

She urged the audience to spend time in Nature and just ‘listen’. She described many wonderful things she had observed by just sitting quietly and listening and watching.

She described how she saw birds flapping their wings only to discover they were disturbing insects to swoop on, ant lions building conical traps in the sand to catch ants, ladybirds eating aphids, wasps pollinating flowers, the magic of spider webs etc.

She stressed how what we may regard as pests, are very important in the integration of the habitat.

She suggested that all gardens need some flowers, some prickly bushes and a bird bath.

She is enthusiastic to spread the word or how important the integration of all species in the environment is to keep a healthy planet.

Thank you Faye for a very enlightening talk.

Wendy McCallum

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