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 the “Archives” section of the website.
OF SHEEP AND OTHER THINGS
Alex Campbell AM, August 2020
Alex Campbell gave an interesting and entertaining about various advances in farming in Australia since the 1840s, with particular reference to his agricultural experiences, many of them here in the West.
Drought has been an inescapable feature of Australia’s climate. Memorable droughts included that of the 1840s, just as Australia began to feed itself, wholly free of imports. The “Federation drought” (1900s) caused huge stock losses. A feature of the 1935–42 drought, just as Australia was emerging from the depression, was the evolution of blowflies to become a notable pest for sheep. Alex is sceptical that “climate change” is having significant impact on the frequency and/or intensity of droughts, rainfall and other weather, all of which continue to be highly variable.
Wool in the 1840s began in Australia from 26 breeds of sheep; merinos were possessed only by pioneer James Macarthur and little-known Eliza Furlong. But sheep breeding flourished and became very important for Australia’s prosperity. In the heyday of wool (1950s), the income from two bales could buy a Holden ute; it took 20 bales to buy the final model.
Dry land salinity has been a perpetual problem, caused by several factors: the salt (sodium chloride) content of rainwater; low rainfall due to Australia’s location in the doldrums; and the great age of the (Western) Australia’s ancient landscape (the Yilgarn), which is also flat rather than undulating.
Alex is one of many farmers looking for a profitable way to rectify the damage caused. Various trials – of lucerne, no-till farming, contour banks and re-establishing saltbush to feed sheep – have all contributed to a rough doubling of the area of Australia’s arable land since these measures began to be adopted.
Alex considers himself to belong to the last generation of farmers to reap the rewards of land-clearing and the first generation to devote itself seriously to land care.
He offered for sale his book, “Of Sheep and Other Things; a farming odyssey of the Campbells in Australia 1846–2013” (self-published, 2017), from which his talk was abstracted.
ABORIGINAL ROCK ART OF THE KIMBERLEY AND PILBARA
Mike Donaldson July 2020
Dr Mike Donaldson, a world authority on Aboriginal rock art and author of six books on it, spoke specifically about Western Australia’s rock art, chiefly of the Kimberley and Pilbara; he illustrated his talk with many excellent slides.
Rock art covers a wide range of markings on rock, from ochre paintings to charcoal drawings to petroglyphs, but excluding ceremonial grooves, etc. Aboriginal art is represented in about 20 regions throughout Australia, each region showing a notably different style. Aboriginal art is particularly well preserved in the Kimberley basin, which comprises large areas of very old, horizontally-bedded sedimentary strata; these commonly provide flat surfaces. Critically, much art was executed in caves, where minimal rain damage and bleaching has mostly led to its excellent preservation. This body of work is comparable in artistic achievement to older European Palaeolithic art. Though well documented, WA’s rock art is not as well promoted or signposted as Europe’s major rock art sites are, due partly to Aboriginal cultural beliefs.
A number of stages of rock art have been recognised in the Kimberley, chiefly the distinctive Gwion (‘Bradshaw’; 12–18,000 years old) figures, delicately drawn, and the more familiar ‘Wandjina’ (~4000 years old) characters, with large staring eyes, haloes, and lacking mouths. Aborigines believe the Wandjinas are not paintings but remnants of beings (?) which entered the rocks. Though fairly well documented, many of the Kimberley art sites are difficult to access because of their remoteness.
The best-represented style of the Pilbara’s rock art is petroglyphic. Over a million examples are found on the Burrup Peninsula, near Dampier, covering a wide range of animal, human and superhuman subjects. Now, 95% of these petroglyphs are under reserve and protected by law.
Go to http://www.wildrocks.com.au/ to see the range of Mike’s self-published books. At the end of his talk, after being thanked by Kevin, Mike kindly donated to us a slide screen much larger than our present one, previously the property of the Kimberley Society.
THE GREAT RIDE
Carmel Charlton, March 2020
Carmel Charlton, a local singer, songwriter and musician, gave a presentation, accompanied by poems, songs and her guitar. Her tale is based upon a personal letter written by Ned Moriarty (born 1894) of the 10th Regiment, Australian Light Horse, to his sister Alice from the deserts of Palestine in September 1918, just before the end of World War I; Ned was a relative of Carmel’s husband. The 10th Regiment, about 500 men, were part of the 3rd Brigade of the Australian Light Horse, commanded by Lt.-General Henry Chauvel. ‘Banjo’ Paterson was at that time a remount officer with the brigade, being then too old to enlist in active service.
The men of the Australian Light Horse brought about 50,000 horses to the Near East during the war. They trained with swords to retain their flexibility as armed cavalry, overcoming their need to dismount to fight. Their most famous military action, as part of General Allenby’s army, was to by-pass many of the Turkish forces occupying Palestine to capture Damascus.
Remaining camouflaged for some time at Ludd (now Lod, near Tel Aviv), they travelled north-east across country, clear of the enemy lines, slightly ahead of the rest of the army, in October 1918. En route, they engaged several enemy groups of Turks in fights ranging from skirmishes to full battles. These included at Nablus; at Megiddo; at Jenin, where the brigade took 8000 Turks prisoner, together with five guns; and at Barida Gorge, which ended piled high with bodies both human and animal.
The brigade’s journey, which over twelve days took them about 300 km (straight-line distance 225km) through Nazareth, Tiberias (near the Sea of Galilee), ended with the Governor of Damascus surrendering to a small ALH contingent, led by Major Olden, a dentist from Narrogin, just prior to the Arabs’ King Feisal entering that city. Carmel sang several poems written by the ALH horsemen about the battles in which they had fought.
At the end of the war, Ned sadly learnt that his brother Frank had died of wounds while fighting in France the previous August. None of the brigades’ horses were allowed to return to Australia after the war’s end. Some were sold to the British or Indian Armies, but many were shot by their owners, who feared the animals would likely suffer if left to their fate in the war-torn region. Ned Moriarty died prematurely, aged a mere 51.
The stirring story of the 1918 battles, part of the Australian Light Horse campaign in Palestine and one of the greatest cavalry feats ever, was told in great detail by Henry Gullet in ‘The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914–18’ (Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1937).
Anton Reigger presented Carmel with a small gift as a token of the club’s appreciation of her presentation.
WHAT it MEANS to be AN OCTOGENARIAN
Kary Miller, February 2020
Before introducing Kary Murray to talk to members about “What it meant to be an Octogenarian”, Ray Purdy explained that initially the talk was to be “What makes a good Retirement Village”. As a resident of Ocean Gardens Retirement Village Ray stated that –
- Most important was to be happy to call the Village home. Home being where you are free to come and go as you please and also free to have your friends and relatives visit and enjoy the Village facilities with you;
- It was important for the Village to have a strong Residents Committee with a good relationship with the Village Management;
- It was also much preferable to have a “not for profit” Village so that you could be sure any financial gains were reinvested in the Village.
Kary Murray, a trained nurse and qualified midwife with a degree in Business Management, was well suited to her role as Business Manager for Ocean Gardens Retirement Village. She gave an interesting and sobering picture of how the Australian population was aging and living longer. Baby boomers and those 75 plus Australians becoming octogenarians meant that care must be carried out “at home” rather than “aged care facilities”. Hence the need for Retirement Villages to be recognised as “your home”. Government supported care would be means tested and more efficiently managed by Villages with care capability. Kary’s view was that by the year 2050 there would be 3.5 million Australians receiving some level of government care support and that 85% of this support would be carried out in your home.
Kary was able to answer the many questions that came from an audience with many who were already octogenarians and the rest whose ambitions were to one day become octogenarians. Questions mainly revolved around what support was available and how it was to be managed.
John Taylor lightened up the mood by telling his story of the octogenarian looking at himself in the mirror and bemoaning the fact that he was bald, wrinkled, stooped and really showing his age. When he asked his wife to give him some news to brighten his day, his wife said “at least there is nothing wrong with your eye sight.
Bob Dewar gave a vote of thanks to Kary on behalf of members and presented her with a bottle of wine. Kary accepted the thanks but donated the wine back to the Club.
DIFFICULTIES of GOVERNING TODAY
Peter Kennedy, November 2019
David Heath introduced Peter Kennedy who gave us an entertaining and very interesting view of how difficult it was to govern in today’s climate and his views on how to fix the problem.
In the good old days there were fewer parties and a lot more stability in Governments. He cited the longevity of the likes of Bob Menzies, David Brand, Charlie Court, Malcolm Frazer, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard who all spent at least two terms in office. Compare this with the six prime ministers we have had in the last 12 years of government.
What is causing this state of turmoil? Apart from the differing personalities there are –
- The effects of worldwide problems such as the mess Europe is in, conflicts in the middle east, the influence of the USA/China competition for dominance, the spinoff of Donald Trump, the climate change debate etc. The world is in a bigger mess than it has ever been.
- The fragmentation of the major parties. When there were only 2 major parties and a handful of minor parties, things were more predictable and consequently more stable. Having a big bunch of minor parties coupled with their ability to get into the Senate with really small numbers of members, creates a situation where Bills are hard or impossible to pass without some horse trading.
- The influence of polling. Politicians take far too much notice of opinion polls and worry more about retaining their jobs than doing what is best for the country. Polls go up and Polls go down – they should be almost ignored.
- The influence of allegedly reputable journalists who push their particular view can sway a lot of the “non thinking” voters. The biased advertising that goes on can have the same effect. Rarely are the journalists or advertisers asked to justify what they are putting out.
- The influence of prominent citizens, whether they be sportsmen, socially prominent or business leaders can also be followed blindly by the “non thinking” voters.
In Peter’s view the only way to get rid of these issues and make governing a more reasonable task is for the Labour Party and Liberal Party to get together and make the necessary changes. He accepts that this is difficult to envisage but says it needs to happen. The changes he suggests are –
- Aim for a better quality of Members of Parliament. They should have some career experience in “the real world” before being eligible.
- The numbers need to be reduced, particularly in the Upper House. Keeping in mind that the Upper House is a “house of review” only, you do not need the current numbers, particularly with their small representation and specialist views.
- With lesser numbers and better quality of members paying them more can be justified. It follows that people who would make good politicians are more likely to be interested in a political career.
- Aim to get more people interested in joining the major parties and not the “one topic” parties who do nothing but disrupt the process.
Peter got a good round of applause for his talk and I guess there were many Probus members who thought he should have been in politics himself rather than reporting on it.
Frances Maber, October 2019
Frances Maber told us how she tracked down her great-great-grandmother-in-law Catherine Maber, and then about the tough life her GGG had lead.
With her husband in a barbers shop way back in 1975 they spotted a Sports journal which had an article on a boxer named Shadow Maber who came from Goulburn in NSW. As Maber was an unusual surname they decided to trace it back as a potential relative. It was not easy, after many years in working through the old microfilm records they finally found a William Maber who was convicted of stealing cheese and earnt seven years in gaol as a convict in Australia. Further research ended up with William Maber being identified as the grandson of Catherine Maber.
Catherine had no childhood as she started work as an eight year old cleaning pots and pans. With the help of the cook, a Mrs Reilly, she held her job till aged 19 while learning the skills of cooking and sewing. After marrying a man called Tolson, the marriage was unsuccessful and she left him. To make ends meet she worked in a hosiery shop. She was accused of stealing from the shop and when convicted at the Old Bailey was deported and spent seven years in the Female Factory at Parramatta. The best way out of the Factory was to offer herself for marriage. William Maber became her partner but they never married. Generations later Frances put the story into her book – Remembering Catherine.
PS: If the above is disjointed and not what Frances was trying to convey – my apologies; to me it was not easy to follow. Maybe some of you did better.