Sunday, July 29, 2012


The ferry unexpectedly slowed on the run from Magnetic Island to Townsville and a crewmember was seen pointing into the sea . The cry went out : A whale! Passengers jumped to their feet and the infectious thar she blows! shout was heard. There was a rush to the doors at the back of the top deck  .Get the camera ! Get the camera ! Where ? Where ? The cat wallowed and the excited throng began to lose balance . A man jumped to his feet , turned right just as the boat gave a lurch and was thrown  heavily against the door fame , grabbed his shoulder and grimaced . He slumped into a seat holding the shoulder , obviously in pain . Cyclops , with only one eye , could not see the whale , so sat down. People returned to the cabin as the boat picked up speed and said they had not been able to see a whale . Others firmly stated it had been a whale. Later a man came in and  announced it had been a turtle, not a whale , which may have been hit by the ferry . The injured man, obviously in pain , was seen gingerly touching the collar bone area, nursing his arm . His female partner carried his bag from the ferry.


From the Little Darwin collection of unusual ephemera comes this rare l924 book list , above, offering novels, each costing six shillings (60 cents) , from a pioneering Brisbane bookseller, ornithologist , naturalist and astronomer , George Henry Barker . Born in 1880, George began work in l897 at the famous Sydney bookshop of Angus and Robertson ( now defunct ), where he became friendly with George Tyrell, another prominent bookseller . In l907, Barker and his father opened up a bookshop in Albert Street ,Brisbane , in premises rented for 30 shillings ($3) a week , with several cases of secondhand books on extended credit from George Tyrell. As business expanded , the shop shifted , added a new section dealing with technical books , a lending library and catered for students .

A foundation member (1924) and sometime president of the Queensland Booksellers' Association, Barker was also instrumental in forming the Australian Booksellers' Association; as its president (1949-51), he led a group of Australian booksellers to Britain to negotiate trading terms.

As well as being a member of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union for nearly half a century, and secretary (1922-56),he was treasurer and president (1940-41) of its Queensland branch . A member of the Royal Society of Queensland and of the Astronomical Society, Barker was foundation treasurer (1930-46) of the Queensland National Parks Association. Greatly interested in ground orchids, he was an office-bearer of the Queensland Orchid Society.

Barker contributed a number of articles to Emu and the Queensland Naturalist ,two of which were in collaboration with another prominent ornithologist, H. G. Barnard . Born at Rockhampton in l869, Barnard , whose father was a keen collector of butterflies , moths, beetles, birds’ eggs , some of which were sent to the Australian Museum .

Inspired by his father, Barnard made numerous collecting trips for various collectors — such places as Ferguson Island, the Trobriands and Woodlark, off the east coast of New Guinea- were visited in 1894 and1895, and Port Darwin and Cape York . In January 1913 he went to Brunette Downs, on the Barkly Tablelands, Northern Territory, and after five months he worked down the McArthur River to the little township of Borroloola, which he described as wild country , and returned to Rockhampton via Port Darwin in March 1914.

At the age of 84, he wrote that a long life spent mostly in the bush and wild places had given him a vast knowledge of birds and their ways of life..., “ one learns to love them not only for their cheery ways but also for their great assistance to man in destroying pests.”

• One of the novels offered in the Barker catalogue was THE BOY IN THE BUSH , by D.H. Lawrence , published l923, described as a masterpiece of the Australian bush,with all the color and mystery of background which made KANGAROO memorable. The denouement, it said, being as daring as it is characteristic . Kangaroo was seen as a self autobiographical novel based on the three months Lawrence and his wife, Frieda, spent in Australia , and contained sceptical comments about fringe politics in Sydney which involved fascists, bankers and other prominent people . In l986 it was adapted as a film starring Colin Friels, Judy Davis and Hugh Keays - Byrne .

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


The Chamberlainsat long last- recently obtained a modicum of justice for their long running ordeal when the coroner found their daughter’s death had been due to a dingo or dingoes. Another person waiting for justice after many years is former Darwin Aboriginal art gallery owner , Shirley Collins, ruined by her involvement in the Bank of America Down Under Tour in the lead up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
There is a powerful document claiming Collins was made the “ scapegoat ” for shortcomings in high places . She found herself crushed by the now defunct ATSIC, pressured by barristers , had information withheld that one party in a court case indicated it was prepared to pay her up to $100,000 ( she has not received one cent ), and a disinterested media which got the facts mixed up when it did occasionally look at the case .

Nearly a year ago , Federal Court magistrate , Toni Lucev , based in Perth , at a Darwin hearing , reserved his decision in a bid by Collins to have overturned the rejection by a Canberra public servant of her application for an act of grace payment from the Federal government . Grounds for the reversal claim were that the public servant had acted as both case manager and decider of the application , contrary to the implied terms of the legislation. There has been no reply to an email sent by Little Darwin to the Federal Court well over a month ago for an indication when this decision might be forthcoming .

There is growing discussion in Darwin legal and other circles about the long time it is taking for a decision in this case. For Collins to succeed in obtaining an act of grace payment would not be a first for the Northern Territory. A former NT Administrator C.L.A. Abbott, in Darwin the day it was bombed by the Japanese , received such a special payment for no other reason, it seems, than that he was a bit short of money late in life . The Federal government also threw in a proposed no cost state funeral.

As a result of her more than a decade long ordeal , Collins was forced to sell her house, cash assets were seized and she ran up extensive legal bills. Former Darwin accountant, Barrie Percival, who firmly believes Collins has been the victim of a gross injustice, has greatly assisted her , claiming ATSIC , eventually sacked by the Federal government, acted on incorrect legal advice when it ordered her art gallery’s stock to be seized . A pensioner , now in ill health, Collins was a major player in the Aboriginal art world in Australia and also participated in other promotions in Japan and the US on behalf of Australia and the NT in particular .

Monday, July 23, 2012


Today’s economic lesson, kiddies , is that money does not grow on trees –as this photo of a Page 3 topless palm tree ( right ) outside Westpac shows . The cruel Toothless Fairy came during the night and gnawed it and the healthy adjoining tree off at the base.

The Casuarina Bradshaw Terrace banking precinct has been tarted up somewhat after Little Darwin repeatedly exposed the unsatisfactory situation. Paint has been splashed about, several palm trees , including a long dead one have been removed from outside Westpac. A hole in concrete pillar has also been filled in (mustn't have a bank collapse as it could rattle the ASX ).

The assorted off-putting , spew (or worse ) patterns remain on the footpath at the main entrance. Westpac has even managed to get the reception desk sign, from which letters were missing so that it read like a Chinese crossword puzzle , fixed up. However, it still has those eight grotty looking chairs from which the plastic covering the armrests is tattered and missing in places, corroded metal showing through. One would think it a simple matter for one of our big four , government assured , banks to just arrange for new ones to be bought. One reason for the partial clean up of the banking precinct could be the fact that a wholesale chemist shop has arrived next to the Commonwealth and making its presence known with bright signage and a partial clean up of the garden area.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


This hideous creature from outer space emerged from a flying saucer in downtown Darwin this morning to suck out the brain pans of people who claim to be members of the ALP yet allow weird spin amoebas  to drop the Australian Labor Party logo from election material . The scary alien told our timid UFO Correspondent , Orson Welles , that it had picked up an urgent ALP distress message on Planet Zog. For any party like the ALP to deny its proud intergalactic record of achievement for workers and society in general and abandon its name was an alarming situation requiring help from superior life forms in outer space . Emitting deadly gamma rays, the angry blob asked Welles to lead him to the Territory leader so that he could begin instant botox suction. The terrifying visitor from a black hole and quaking Welles were last seen heading for one of five new water parks to be opened before next month’s election


A relative in Denmark , in partnership in a Copenhagen cafe which features popular variations of Aussie burgers , received concerning news that there was a fire in his apartment. Dashing home, it was found that the crystal ball he bought his wife had concentrated the sun’s rays like a magnifying glass onto some clothing piled up nearby because of work on a wardrobe. The clothing had begun to smoulder , neighbours detected smoke and raised the alarm. Firemen said it was the first time they knew of a crystal ball starting a fire . The shop selling crystal balls has been advised to inform customers of the possible danger. A Sydney relative , with a sense of humour , informed of the unusual event , said the crystal ball had failed to predict the future mishap. A Google check shows that crystal balls have started many fires  in  Britain and elsewhere .

Saturday, July 21, 2012


A bottle washed up on Mindil Beach , picked up by a long grasser , delivered in a cleft stick to the Little Darwin shipping reporter , contained a surprising message from missing Bulldust Diary columnist / illustrator Peter Burleigh , informing us that his silence is due to the fact that he , sporting a made in China French-type beret, is responsible for  maintaining  the bilge pumps aboard the impressive looking vessel (above) on the River Yonne , heading for Dijon. Obviously seasick, Burleigh’s billet ended, "Arrrgh,mateys!" We have alerted French security.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Melbourne journalist Kim Lockwood was given an unexpected family heirloom on a recent visit back to Darwin – the German Neumann Erika typewriter (above) his father, the renowned Melbourne Herald correspondent and author, Douglas Lockwood, used to write his reports and extremely popular Territory books from 1947-68. Dr Richard Giese, of Fannie Bay, bought the typewriter for $5 at a lawn sale in Darwin when Doug cleared out his possessions before taking up the post as managing editor of two papers in Port Moresby, which he combined into the first PNG national daily, The Post Courier.

Dr Giese heard from Grant Tambling that Kim was in town and rang Kim and arranged to return the typewriter to the Lockwood family. He came across the typewriter while sorting out the possessions of his late mother, Nan, who contributed much to the Darwin community. Kim says his father, in Darwin at the time of the Japanese bombing, probably brought the typewriter back from the Dutch East Indies, where he had been a war correspondent. It still works, he reports, though the ribbon is fragile. Kim has a 1937 Quiet Imperial 55, with a massive black iron frame, bought from reporter Rex Clark, which he used when he worked at the NT News from 1968-71.

During his recent visit, he and his wife, Jude, went out to Moulden and photographed the street named after Douglas -- Lockwood Court. As part of their visit to the Top End, they also drove out to Kakadu and, on what would have been his father’s 94th birthday, went to Malabanbandju Lagoon where Kim had scattered his father’s ashes in 1982. A large Jabiru floated down and looked at them.

Kim’s mother, Ruth, now 99, was well known in Darwin. She was evacuated on the last plane out before the bombing, just after the fall of Singapore. On their return to Darwin, Ruth was involved in several community organisations, including the running of the North Australian Eisteddfod. Douglas died while working on another book about selections from the works of Bill Harney and Ruth completed the project, which was published by Viking O'Neil in 1990 as A Bushman’s Life. Both Kim and his sister, Dee Mason, are published authors.

(PAINFUL) FOOTNOTE : Kim’s sister Dale, now Dee, trod on a stonefish in the Dry season, at Lameroo, outside the walls of the baths. She was screaming with pain as Kim carried her up the cliff and dinked her home on his bike. Their father rushed her to hospital, which had only the previous week or so been delivered its first stonefish anti-toxin.


"Golden Greek" Constantine Souvlis plants a kiss on former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh when he was a finalist in the Australian of the Year Queensland Awards .

The son of a poor Greek pearl diver who worked for the Paspalis / Paspaley family in Port Hedland and Darwin, is now worth $100 million and tells how he made his fortune in a new book to be launched on July 27. He is Constantine Souvlis, 86, a property developer and retailer on Queensland’s Fraser Coast, his biography- KING CON-is dedicated to "every Greek who came to Australia to find a better life".

The book has been written by former News Limited, Fairfax, APN News and Media, Channels 10 and 7 journalist and broadcaster Toni McRae, who spent a few months in Darwin in the 1990s editing the then Palmerston Suburban, now the Darwin Sun.

Mr Souvlis AM says he learned from his father Mick how hard work could pave the way to making big money."The trouble was my father forgot all that after he left the Paspaleys and went out on his own commercially fishing and running fish and chip shops with my mother Chrissanthi. He turned to gambling and women and that was the end of the father I used to admire. So I determined never ever to be like him and I made my own way in life."

Mick Souvlis, a sponge diver on the remote and rugged Greek island of Kastelorizo, shipped to Sydney around 1911 and became attached to the Theodosis Paspalis family , destined to become Australia’s foremost pearl merchants. Paspalis senior, a former tobacco merchant , and his family went to Port Hedland where he set up a grocery store and he bought a share in a pearling lugger. Theodosis died five years later , but his sons Michael and Nicholas and daughter Mary continued their father's interest in pearling.

Mick Souvlis followed Nick to Darwin and worked for him in the pearling industry here for at least a year before eventually moving to Ingham in Queensland with his new wife Chrissanthi. In Ingham, the couple’s first child, Con, was born in September 1925. Con moved to Brisbane with the family and then to Perth where he signed up to fight Japanese in WW2 on the island of Bougainville. After the war , he and his mother bought a fruit shop in Brisbane and in the 1950s Con moved to Maryborough on the Fraser Coast, took one look at the nearby fishing village of Hervey Bay and “I smelt money”. King Con’s foreword has been written by His Eminence, Archbishop Stylianos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia.

***King Con’s recommended retail price is $30 and books can be obtained from July 27 from Con Souvlis’ Betta Electrical Store at 138 Freshwater Street, Torquay, Queensland, Fraser Coast, Qld; 4655. Betta Store Phone: 4125 2555 and ask for Rosemarie Wright to place orders.Mr Souvlis’ Betta retail store website is:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A TALE OF TWO LIVELY NEWSPAPERS -The Pete Steedman Chronicles

Steedman arrived back in Melbourne from Darwin shortly before the 1975 Federal election caused by Sir John Kerr’s sacking of the Whitlam Government. He called at the ALP head office to offer his assistance and was given responsibility for getting out the “ethnic” vote. This involved him establishing a communications system to get relevant information to all the differing and often warring groupings in the immigrant community, provide translators, targeted literature and consultation with and between groups. The ethnic vote was the only “grouping” that stayed with Labor in Victoria when the Whitlam Government was swept from office.

Soon after, when Bob Hogg was appointed ALP Victorian secretary , Steedman was made editor of the party’s monthly newspaper, Labor Star , following the death of Colin Beadnall. Steedman was described in a newspaper article as a confident , tough-talking bodgie of Melbourne’s Left. It quoted Steedman as saying he had joined the ALP at its lowest ebb, unlike so many he saw as opportunists who signed up when Whitlam won government . Previously, he said, he had run an independent Left line, but got sick of plotting the revolution every weekend at home with three bomb throwers, so got into a party of mass support.

Steedman stated the Star had to change from one which just ran parliamentary speeches and reflected the views of the ruling clique, to one that allowed dissent and discussion aimed at debating or formulating policy. It became his baby for seven years ,for which he received no emolument , and he opened it up to “everybody.” As long as they did not personally slander anyone , contributors could express themselves on any issue, keeping it within the Party and not the daily Press. Under his virtual one man band control, the Star changed from a rather bland suburban paper publication into a “more grown up “ production, ready for a scrap , with much more content and lively headings such as FEARLESS FRASER FINALLY FREAKS and TIME TO CLEAN THE CROOKS OUT OF PARLIAMENT.

With a print run of 30,000, it was distributed to all Party members, by union workers on shop floors and, because it was now becoming meaningful, anxiously awaited by the Liberals. The Murdoch press , it was said, loved to mischieviously quote it out of context. At the time there was a lot of factional brawling in the party and the open pages policy helped ease the swellings of the heart . Naturally , the Liberals pounced on each edition to launch attacks about divisions, disunity and rows.

Labor Star ran discussion papers where different views to the current party line were aired. Some of the attitudes expressed in those columns eventually became policy. The new open policy was beneficial , he believed , and played a part in a growing consensus approach which developed in Victoria. Steedman hoped to take the heat out of some of the internal party conflict by restricting it to the pages of Labor Star while the Party was in the process of reinventing itself under the leadership of Hogg.

From Steedman’s extensive files came the above issue of July 23, 1979 , of 24 pages. It contains an extensive and lively letters to the editor section under the heading FEEDBACK , cartoons from architect /illustrator Peter Burleigh ,his Bulldust Diary series currently running in Little Darwin, and Rick Armor now an internationally acclaimed artist and sculptor who in 1999 was appointed the official war artist to East Timor by the Australian War Memorial .

Throughout his publishing career Steedman has had a great affinity for local and overseas cartoonists whose work often made clear involved, serious issues and caused people to think . Leunig , with whom he was involved back in the university days in Melbourne , is a classic example.

There is a two page spread for the Myer Music Bowl rally to mark the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima anniversary that includes coverage of US bases in Australia- PineGap, North-West Cape, Nurrungur and Omega . It also raises the nuclear power issue in Australia and the waste disposal problems. Three tribal elder women from Oenpelli- Hanna, Rachel and Barbara- are shown with three Filipinos in a page expressing concern about proposed nuclear power in the Philippines and the Pacific islands.

Sue Gavaghan , who helped out with regular , lengthy interviews , has two pieces in the paper . Another contributor, journalist and author, Larry Noye ,covered a dinner for Dr Jim Cairns , and wrote an extensive feature on veteran politician Reg Pollard with memories of ALP Prime Ministers John Curtin and Ben Chifley. Noye ,who wrote a book on the colourful King O’Malley , is still actively writing . Special mention is made of 95 year old, pipe smoking , Charlie Street, of Wonthaggi, who had been awarded the ALP’s 40-year-service medal.

Senator John Button provides the Canberra Diary and the Victorian parliamentary session is covered in a well written column by John Templeton. The Star also highlights the mammoth book fair to be held in the Fitzroy Town Hall, organised by the Melbourne Assembly of the ALP.

An unusual story is headed THE GOLDEN YEARS OF GOUGH-AN MGM MUSICAL highlighting the rise and fall of the Whitlam Government. It asks : Have you ever seen Gough Whitlam as a song-and dance man , singing in the rain like Gene Kelly? Or Sir John Kerr, dancing in top hat, white tie and tails, like Fred Astaire. Or Mal Fraser wooing the electorate by singing ,"Won’t you change partners and dance with me? ". Or Joh Bjelke-Petersen initiating a new dance craze, the Gerrymander?

Staged at the Grant Street Theatre it was put together by two theatre writers and directors, Albert Hyunt and Roberta Bonnin,working with drama students from the Victorian College of the Arts. The story ends with advice to book early for the show because , like the Whitlam Government, it is only scheduled for a short run. Next to this write up is an illustrated report about why VicRail employees are taking action against the government because of low pay and poor conditions. The Star was used as a tool to promote ALP candidates in elections by inserting colour pieces about the worthy person standing which were inserted in the paper and distributed throughout the electorate.


There was talk at the time of the need for the Labor Party to have a national newspaper like the Daily Mirror in Britain . Steedman was connected to an attempt to launch such a venture in 1976 . It involved two groups –Sydney and Melbourne . The Sydney one failed, he says, because it was full of basically dissident newspaper journalists who wanted the office structured like a newspaper, running " tits and bums " and other items like that, which would have made it like a Labor Truth . The capital to run such a paper would have been impossible to raise. On the Melbourne side, he explained , they got bogged down with ideological problems and the size and membership of the collective that would run the paper.

While saying there may well have been a need for such a paper at the time , it would have to be pragmatically thought out because it would have to sell to the public . People would not want a paper full of Labor Party propaganda.


While running the Star, Steedman was also involved in occasional lecturing at Swinbourne College of Technology and the Caulfield Institute of Technology in Urban Sociology and Marketing. At Swinbourne he was also lecturer in the Community Development course, specifically designed to bring young Aboriginals into the mainstream education system. The class produced the Aboriginal student newspaper, MUREENA, meaning Message Stick, which ran for several years.

Students came from all over Australia and included several activists - the late Bruce McGuiness , responsible for the first Aboriginal initiated national news-sheet, National Koorier , and Gary Foley, co-founder of the Canberra tent embassy, a leading figure in the Redfern Legal Aid Centre ,Sydney . Many of the current generation of Kooris running health centres and activists in other areas of Aboriginal rights were involved . One well known activist, Robbie Thorpe, directs the online TREATY REPUBLIC, committed to issues relating to Australian history, Indigenous sovereignty , the lack of a treaty, land rights and justice , genocide , national denial and a call for the nation to pay the rent, got his start in this course . One day a week, students did "field work " – wide ranging work experience .

The edition featured above contains an illustrated front page story about two students , Phillip Shields and Carol Dowling, who had come to Darwin after Cyclone Tracy and reported their observations under the heading TRIP HOME TO DARWIN. Armed with a video, Shields reported on land claims. At Knuckey’s Lagoon, where about 20 members of the Brinken Tribe lived, their only facilities were an old tin shack, a tatty tent , a bush toilet and one tap. They had been living on the land for centuries, had little Western education and wanted to establish a poultry farm , grow tropical fruit, set up a health clinic , craft shop and transit and permanent camping sites.

In the case of the Kulaluk people, Shields said they were in a worse situation.Numbering about 10 individuals, they lived in one tent , there were not taps, toilets , showers or other amenities. A water truck gave them water and they lived on pension and endowment cheques. Both groups complained about the incessant talk connected with their land claims .

Carol Dowling detected a lack of communication between Northern and Southern blacks. She gained the impression that the Northerners believed those from south stirred up "all the trouble" , both politically and socially. Because of this problem and great distances between groups, she believed there was an urgent need for a national Aboriginal magazine . There was need for more communication of a personal nature –visits and trips to outlying places such as the NT.

Acting on her observations, the eight page newspaper contained a report headed WHAT ABOUT A NATIONAL BLACK NEWSPAPER . It envisaged such a publication with a staff of 43 run at a cost of $100,000. It included a layout chart for the paper with reporters in each state, cartoonists and artists . Steedman is described in the article as "our friend and communications teacher." When it came to the position of managing editor , it asked who that person could be - "Pete?"

The justification for such a publication reads: We need a strong, healthy, concerted , witty, informative , arousing, controversial and independent newspaper written and produced by blacks for blacks in this country ...We really need a paper that embraces and tells the stories and news and fights for Aborigines in all states ...There are many different groups in the national black community who think, eat, live, and forever believe differently...There is not a single thing in the whole country that all Aboriginals can relate to , except perhaps for discrimination ...

This edition of Mureena contains poetry , an unusual review by Alice Startup of the film FAREWELL UNCLE TOM dealing with slavery in America , ending with her comment that any person seeing the film should not take a weapon with them as you could end up "belting any white person" who comes along. A very light hearted view had to be taken of the film, she wrote, otherwise you would come out"absolutely fuming ."

Lennie Tregonning has an interesting article about his work experience in the Melbourne Museum , looking at the 1936 Arnhem Land collection of anthropologist Donald Thompson and also describing in detail the "toys" of Aboriginal children . Other subjects covered are Aboriginal education and the experience gained by Stephen James Thorpe being attached to the Victorian Prisons Department . NEXT EPISODE : Dramatic union and political events .

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Bonnie and Clyde.-Library of Congress photograph.

The guns of notorious killers and bank robbers , Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, will be sold at an unusual auction in America on September 30 and could fetch $200,000. Bonnie and Clyde were shot dead in a hail of bullets some 80 years ago. Clyde carried a Colt . 45 and Bonnie had a Colt .38 strapped to her thigh. Other items to be sold include Bonnie’s cosmetic case , a box of face powder and a powder puff found at the ambush shoot out. The Elgin watch which belonged to Clyde is also listed by RR Auctions in a sale of 100 lots which includes a letter penned by bank robber John Dillinger from prison and the handwritten score of Madonna Mia, a song composed by Al Capone when he was in Alcatraz.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Does this feline togetherness represent local Darwin media hepcats ?

The perceived shortcomings of the local media were discussed over lattes during a boisterous gathering in a cool spot . A longtime Darwin resident said the trouble with scribes in this town is that they graze in packs , drink with each other, tell each other what great shakes they are, and –wait for it - THE BUGGERS EVEN BREED TOGETHER!

Naturally, the latter part of this audacious psychoanalysis caused much spilling of beverage as listeners choked and snorted . Warming to the response to his profound words, while his audience mopped up the spillage and nose dribbles, he pointed out this parallel universe kind of existence inevitably resulted in a basic sameness of the media coverage where there is really extensive diversity in town and many issues crying out for in depth, basic reporting , not shallow coverage and flim flam.

Signs of taking in each other’s washing were increasing , he continued . Apart from the Channel 7 feeble rehash of local news , he cited the NT News and the ABC obviously lifting stories from each other . Of course, this is nothing new in the history of news gathering , but he claimed it was much more evident with the reduction of staff at the News and centralising layout of the paper in Adelaide.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


It is surprising the items of interest which turn up in Darwin . One of the latest acquisitions by Little Darwin is this war issue of the Australian weekly, The Sunday Mail, for May 17, 1916. The striking cover artwork is by Sydney Ure Smith who played a large part in promoting Australian art at home and overseas. Born London, 1887, he arrived in Australia the next year and became a draughtsman, etcher, watercolourist , publisher. His drawings first appeared in the Sydney Mail .

The year of the above publication he founded Art In Australia and in 1923 organised the Australian Art Exhibition at the Royal Academy , London. The weekly includes photograph of Australian troops and advertisements for Winchester shotgun cartridges, Buick, Daimler and Willys-Overland cars .Constable John Dyson swears by Dr Barrett’s Herbal Skin Oil. Blocks of land at the beautiful Ocean Wave Estate, Woy Woy, are being sacrificed due to the war , starting at an equivalent price of $25.

Women wanting to preserve a youthful appearance are offered Dr B. Allen’s (USA) Mexican Walnut Stain for grey hair. An article in a series about women’s work in the war deals with the SOCK DEPOT , started by Mrs Keith Jopp, Elizabeth Bay , Sydney, whose son was a lieutenant . At the time of the writing of the article ,16,637 pair of socks had been knitted .
Hats sporting ostrich feathers were all the rage at the time as shown by the above advertisement for Miller’s Feather Shop, Sydney. Our boys on the front in Egypt were using Rexona soap to overcome chafing, sunburn and minor abrasions. You could also sign up for a course on how to become a ventriloquist.


Those brave early men – and women – in their flimsy flying machines risked their lives turning Darwin into Australia’s front door . Modern Darwin commemorates those aviation pioneers with a neglected showcase in the Victoria Hotel Arcade , off the Smith Street Mall, which contains cobwebs and gecko droppings. Little Darwin pointed out this unsatisfactory situation before the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Darwin , ample time one would think for somebody in government, the DCC , tourism , the history industry to organise a quick clean out . No .

Visitors off the former Love Boat and Queen Mary 2 wandered at large about the Mall , some even looking in the Red Cross Op Shop for something of interest , oblivious of the fact that nearby were the faded names and messages of GIANTS IN THE WORLD’S AVIATION HISTORY scratched into the wall of the old Vic Hotel . In the case of Australian Bert Hinkler , Little Darwin pointed out he had been so highly regarded internationally that an American astronaut had taken a piece of a Hinkler built model plane  on an ill-fated flight. That small fragment had been retrieved from the wreckage and returned to Australia.

Two weeks ago the showcase was  inspected and  nothing had changed except for the fact that an unfortunate , babbling person , his  belongings in  a shopping trolley, was seated in front of the display case , litter of  various kinds in the nearby planters.

Another inspection a few days ago, and the same situation pertained as a wall-eyed drunk , wearing shorts , no top, a feather in his hat , tottered out of the arcade . What looked like fresh urine was splashed across some of the plants , and there was liquid and some white powder at the right corner of the wooden base of the showcase. Empty cans and a cardboard box were in the planters . This totally unsatisfactory situation was pointed out to the NT Government months ago and then personally shown to an ABC reporter , without anybody doing anything . The aeronautical winds of change are long overdue in government and media circles in this town

Friday, July 13, 2012


A Little Darwin correspondent keen on fishing sent this pic of a 7ft long , 111 pound alligator gar caught in a Texas river. The silver haired gent is Jeremy Wade, host of River Monsters, on the Animal World.

Imagine what would happen if Territory barramundi mutated into a goliath tigerfish, (above), related to the piranha , from the Congo River, central Africa. The source for these photos is which contains further spectacular shots of fish that will blow your tiny little mind and probably make you scared to put your toe in the water.


While some strongly feel this year is the actual centenary of Canberra, March 12 of next year is the official date marking the laying of three foundation stones for the new bush capital at a ceremony over which Prime Minister Andrew Fisher officiated. At that event, held on Kurrajong Hill, now Capital Hill, were the Governor-General, Lord Denman and Lady Denman, she proclaiming the capital would be called Canberra. The colourful Minister for Home Affairs - King O'Malley- was also involved in the ceremony.

The award winning plan for Canberra , designed by American Walter Burley Griffin, with striking water colour perspectives supplied by his wife , Marion Mahony , one of the first licensed female architects in the world, was accepted in 1912, thus regarded by many as the real birth of the capital.

To mark the looming major event , Little Darwin searched through its collection of unusual ephemera and came up with the above rarity . It is a notice from THE ARCHITECTURAL RECORD announcing the resumption of the competition to select the architect for Parliament House in the new capital city of Canberra, signed by Walter Burley Griffin, Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction .

The competition, which had opened in June 1914 , had been suspended in September of that year owing to the war. Reopened in 1916, it was again put aside because of the war . The above notice says the competition was open to applicants from friendly countries ( enemy subjects not eligible ). The date for receiving drawings had been extended to April 30, 1917, at London and Melbourne.

Details could be obtained from the High Commissioner for Australia , London, the Works’ Departments of British Dominions, the British Embassies at Madrid, Paris, Rome, Petrograd, Stockholm and Washington. Outline sketch designs only were needed , there being eight prizes aggregating 6000 pounds ($12,000). An international jury of architects would judge the entries- George T. Poole, of Australia; Sir John Burnet, Great Britain; Victor Laloux , France; Louis H. Sullivan, USA, and Eliel Saarinen, Russia. As it turned out, the Commonwealth Chief Architect, John Smith Murdoch, a dour Scot , said not to have been overly keen on the concept of Canberra as the national capital,who fell out with W.B. Griffin, was charged with designing and constructing what was supposed to be a provisional parliament house , occupied from 1927 to 1988.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


The hottest thing in journalism more than 100 years ago.

Lamentations over the ruthless slash and burn tactics in the newspaper industry could become the biggest wake in recorded history. The demise of the auriferous period of reporting was recently discussed with deep emotion and animation by a variety of veteran media hands on two occasions in Darwin .

At the first post mortem - on the Balcony Bar - this gnarled scribbler , who began his newspaper career in Sydney in the 1950s, listened to verbal sobbing -as well as criticism of modern media - as he sipped, believe it or not, several mugs of lemon squash. On visits back to Darwin were journalist Kim Lockwood , from Melbourne, and ace photographers, Mike Jensen , and Barry LeLievre , from Canberra , all three having spent years in Darwin.

When Jensen, a Dane, a freelancer in Europe before coming to Oz , worked for the Australian News and Information Bureau , Darwin, I used to go through his waste paper basket like a scavenger , salvaging pix he discarded because he regarded them as not being first class . His fabulous views of the outback , some aerial shots, were works of art .

LeLievre , also of ANIB , worked with several well known journalists over the years . Lugging a heavy camera bag may have led to him having a hip replacement . Now he is a top gun cameraman at the National Gallery , Canberra . He took several shots of us hamming it up in between libations as we discussed , in tabloid terms , the shock , horror media massacre.

Lockwood conjured up a fine example of the proclaimed gilded era of journalism when he told how he and several other ex newspaper men meet regularly in Melbourne and , over liquid refreshments , discuss the state of the media world. One of that group , who had scaled the heights in the newspaper game , said an incredible sense of achievement- back in the hot metal days- had been pulling together all the human and mechanical ingredients needed to meet the deadline for a weekend paper with the Melbourne football results flowing in .

This anecdote reminded me of the time when I was a cadet reporter on the Sydney Sun in the 1950s doing a spell as the finance pages stone sub editor on the factory floor in the hot metal days. It was a smokey , Dickensian scene , with scores of clanking linotype machines, men shouting , pneumatic tubes disgorging copy and corrected galley proofs, the finance pages having to be ready on time , no matter what, to be pushed away and plated up. There seemed to be an orgasmic movement beneath your feet when the presses began to roll ; you felt you had played a part in making the ugly building shake - even though you were a pimply, small cog.

The prolific American writer , Paul Gallico, wrote a short story , the name of which I cannot recall, which told of the feeling of triumph and achievement in getting newspaper presses running . While drinking with a British journalist in New Zealand , nearly 50 years ago, he mentioned that same Paul Gallico story, saying it had greatly impressed him and summed up the meaning of being a journalist, the sense of achievement at regularly contributing to the birth of a new edition.

The second post mortem was actually a birthday party for a person who could write several books about the golden age of journalism in the NT- Betty Bowditch, wife of the late James Frederick Bowditch , crusading editor of the Centralian Advocate and the NT News. Her youngest daughter, Sharon, a journalist , came from New York , where her husband , Col Allan , runs the New York Post .With her was daughter Kate J Allan - the bare initial J in honour of two great newspaper men , her grandfather Jim Bowditch and the irrepressible Jim "Flasher " Oram .

Other well wishers who attended the party at Virginia came from South Australia, Alice Springs and included some media people from Sydney, one still hurt at having recently been made redundant after years in the newspaper game. It was only natural that notes and names were compared, the global state of the media discussed. The peccadilloes and peculiarities of paper people past and present provided a memorable evening of nostalgia and updating . It was a golden night for this old scribe. Alas, the hot metal days have long since melted away - but the memories continue to burn . The cool, sterile era of production which replaced the great hot metal period is in a sad state of disarray- and other technological developments within the next 18 months will further impact on struggling newspapers and television .

STOP PRESS: Emails from several newspapermen from yesteryear have specifically referred to the passing of the golden age. One, who requires oxygen because of smoking 40 cigarettes a day, is writing his memoirs and occasionally fires off a letter to the editor. Another, who spent time in the Territory, has written books and numerous magazines articles , is also trying to get publishers interested in various proposals- and kindly helps out in his son's vineyard and conference resort in NZ, sampling the product .

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Returning from Lord Howe fishing trip , writer in water at bow.

Lord Howe Island, population about 350, 600kms off Sydney , advertised as a pristine wonderland , even as the most beautiful island in the Pacific, is under threat by mankind’s pollution of the globe . A recent TV report showed disturbing footage of plastic washed up on the island , ending up in the intestines of birdlife , reducing the number of mutton birds in particular. I visited Lord Howe nearly 60 years ago , taking off from Sydney’s Rose Bay aboard a Sandringham flying boat , carrying 42 passengers , which landed in the lagoon , set against the spectacular cloud-capped twin peaks of Mount Gower and Mount Lidgbird, below.

There are fond memories and photographs of that trip- despite being violently ill during a fishing trip in view of Ball’s Pyramid , rising 552metres, said to be the world’s tallest monolith rising out of water , some 23kms south . I have a souvenir–a scar on my left leg due to stabbing myself with a penknife while making a hula skirt from a palm frond for a staff member at Kirby’s Pine Trees guesthouse for a fancy dress party . There were hardly any vehicles on the island, bicycles being the main form of transport.

As you cycled or trekked about Lord Howe there were several places where you could drop in for locally made fruit salad, which included guavas that grew in clumps . I slept in the boathouse to the left of the ramp in the above photograph on the lagoon shore , with a stirring view of the mountains, Rabbit Island , in the clear lagoon, the gleaming sands, the soothing waters caressing the shore at night. Robinson Crusoe never had it so good . Because my maiden aunt was employed as a hostess at the guest house I was given special privileges , made doubly welcome , introduced to island residents . Birdlife was abundant , and over at the ocean beach side of the island , where the waves pounded in , cowries and other interesting shells were found in the swirling waters.
A treasured find was a gleaming paper nautilus . The arrival and departure of the flying boat was a major event, especially watching the lumbering plane bounce across the lagoon. The disappearance in 1953 of an islander , Miss Kathleen Kimber, 40, connected to the Seppelt wine family of South Australia is an unsolved mystery. Her clothes were found at the top of a cliff.

There is a Darwin pioneering aviation link with Lord Howe. The daring British adventurer , Francis Chichester, who in 1929 unsuccessfuly attempted to break Bert Hinkler’s record from England to Darwin, in his Gypsy Moth , Madame Elijah, later landed his float attached plane in the lagoon in 1931 on a flight from NZ to Sydney via Norfolk Island and Lord Howe. Almost lost, in a squall, he brought the plane down , totally exhausted. The next morning , to his dismay, the plane was found to be upside down in the water. He spent nine weeks there dismantling the plane, making repairs, rebuilding. He then took off for Sydney.

In prehistoric days a large horned turtle lived on the island. Rats introduced from wrecked vessels proliferated and caused environmental damage to wildlife and the palm seed industry. They are still a problem, recently mentioned on the ABC’s Science Show. Plastic is being washed in from far and wide–Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. The Lord Howe Museum displays a Shearwater made out of a wide variety of plastic found on the beaches which includes milk and soft drink tops , bottles, glowing pieces off swordfish lines , balloon ties, cigarette tips ,etc. The Shearwater’s eye is the corner of a $10 note. A staggering 264 pieces of plastic were found in the intestine of a mutton bird , representing 15 per cent of its body weight.
The plastics scourge is a global problem. Last year Taiwan’s biggest ever food scare involved the discovery in sports and soft drinks of dangerous levels of industrial plasticisers, normally used to make a wide range of goods, including shoes and flexible hose pipes. China, Hong Kong, South Korea and the Philippines withdrew Taiwanese produce from supermarkets.The fear of polluted foodstuffs is such that Chinese tourists in New Zealand have been stocking up on baby formula . On SBS , the current Simon Reeve Tv series on the Indian Ocean has revealed the torrent of plastic being washed up on beaches in Kenya , destitute locals turning flip flops into toys and art , but the bulk of plastic just piling up on the sand . At Bali, now almost a suburb of Darwin, it has a growing problem of stream pollution and rubbish disposal which does not get a mention in the tourist brochures .

My aunt Gwen and maid Burniece ; handyman Tex with fish.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


*After handing out bouquets and brickbats in Broome, marauding Bulldust Diary columnist /illustrator, Peter Burleigh , becomes slap happy in Derby , where fly in fly out has another meaning

The funniest thing about Derby is a sign on its outskirts:

Things go downhill after that, although not literally. The place is flatter than a pancake. In fact, Derby almost isn’t there at all. It’s built in a tidal salt pan and its scattering of buildings is the same colour as its sandy marsh surroundings. The mud covers a little bit more of it every day. The tide and the sand flies are a key feature of its reputation. I’ll bet it’s no less miserable today as the day it was founded in 1883. And there are the mosquitoes which stand over the sandflies, mosquitoes at least as big as their night-fighter counterpart of World War Two. Attempt to slap one down and it’ll fly into your ear and eat your brain. The town’s crumbling at the edges but remains an operating port, exporting lead and zinc ore. Derby’s van park – yet another Gateway to the Kimberley - is so crowded even sardines would get claustrophobia.

The town’s highlight is the Pier restaurant at the end of the causeway at the far edge of the sand flats near the jetty. Its small terrace is perfectly located so you stare drop-jawed into the crimson sunset with a chilled Margaret River Chardonnay in hand. Under the veranda a sprinkler system sprays Citronella-and-water mixture through fine nozzles in an attempt to suppress the biting insects. The cool mist is delightful but repels nothing. The tastier individuals among us, your correspondent included, proudly display their red bites for days afterward. The compensation for being the mosquitoes’ meal is a big slab of super-fresh grilled Barramundi (and chips) for $22. The insects are included in the price. It’s still not a sufficient incentive to stay a second night.

After dinner
we overhear an argument amongst the fishermen on the pier. A Maori (or Samoan, I couldn’t tell) says “Two hundred years ago I’d be eating you.”

Next morning at Nita’s Cafe in the main street, surrounded by thistles and garbage, we spot a funeral notice taped to the wall. A Smoking Ceremony is to be held for a local Aboriginal woman. A footnote reads “The family requests that people attend sober.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Good to see the emergence of Darwin Truth and even more interesting to note the response of the NT News , probably tongue in cheek, calling it “our opposition.” This writer has long toyed with the idea of bringing out another blog called DARWIN TRUTH , but senile decay, arthritis of the digits , threat of divorce and a desire to avoid plummeting from the twig prevented such a venture . From time to time Little Darwin has cited the now online Magnetic Times produced on Magnetic Island, off Townsville, by a small group of enlightened individuals, as a shining example for a similar venture in Darwin. Originally a conventional newspaper printed on a Murdoch owned press, Magnetic Times went into cyberspace before Murdoch’s North Queensland papers, won awards , took on the Labor dominated Townsville City Council over various island and national environmental issues , the council almost wiped out at election. Magnetic Times diversified into short films- CARBON CUTS - using island residents, even a dog, in well acted and scripted movies with a message. Magnetic Times is now available on Facebook . “ Don’t tell me Darwin is going to tell the truth! Dr John Tomlinson commented (see below ). The truth is that the Darwin media setup badly needs new players to present the truth about many issues crying out to be told .

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Dr Tomlinson facetiously helping police with investigations.

In the annals of Northern Territory activism , the name of Dr John Tomlinson looms large. His relentless pursuit of social justice for the many, his drive to reform government welfare departments , strong opposition to uranium mining and his act of returning an Aboriginal girl, lodged with European foster parents in Darwin, to her family in Arnhem Land made him nigh on notorious . At one stage , it is said , he was the second person after Frank Hardy, author of the controversial Power Without Glory , charged with criminal defamation ; there was further uproar when it was claimed he was teaching what amounted to sabotage at the Darwin Community College and he used photographs of himself struggling with arresting police on the front cover of a two -in -one book which severely criticised Australia’s social welfare system, especially as applied in the Territory.

On top of these monumental rows , he managed to wet numerous fishing lines and take a keen interest in the welfare of Territory fishing grounds and the environment in general. He delighted in returning from fishing trips and alerting Darwin port authorities over the radio that his fishing smack , provocatively named Yellow Peril, was about to enter Australian waters.

From Queensland , he had worked as a clerk and then a cadet scientist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock, studying at night school for his matriculation. At the University of Queensland , he joined and subsequently led the Left wing Student Action and was involved in the Aboriginal Land Rights struggle with Aboriginal poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal ( Kath Walker).

After marrying high school teacher , Clare Priest, he graduated in Social Work in 1964 and worked with the Commonwealth Department of Social Services for nine months before transferring to the Welfare Branch in Darwin, which controlled the lives of Territory Aboriginals. Tomlinson , in supplied biographical notes, said he was constantly " in strife " with the hierarchy at the branch , headed by Harry Christian Giese –nicknamed “Do it my way” by John . Babe Damaso, an Aboriginal welfare officer , took the "cocky Tomlinson" under his wing and attempted to instil in him a sense of humility and patience . Babe also taught him most of what he knows about fishing in the Top End.

In 1967 , Tomlinson published his first book of poems REFLECTIONS OF A FOOL , printed by Coleman Printers ,Smith Street. He called the venture Wobbly Press as his writings were in line with the International Workers of the World- the Wobblies. Brian Manning ran off the text on a roneo machine atop a shaky desk in the Waterside Workers’ Union office on Stokes Hill Wharf.

Tomlinson returned to Social Services , Brisbane, in 1968 and through part-time study completed an undergraduate Arts degree . The next year he undertook an Honours degree in Anthropology and Sociology. In 1970 he was granted a two year full-time Commonwealth Public Service Post Graduate Scholarship to undertake a Masters in Social Work study , working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizens of South Brisbane. His study showed that a community work approach, which listened carefully to what Indigenous people wanted, allowed the majority of the community to achieve things that individualised counselling could not provide.

This , he says , is a lesson that the current Federal Government and/or Opposition would do well to heed if they were really interested in using evidenced-based social policy. In 1973, he returned to the Welfare Branch in Darwin as a grade 2 social worker, acting grade 3, with responsibility for the Top End of the NT. His friend, Colin Clague, (featured in the SBS documentary When Colin Met Joyce) had responsibility for the southern half of the Territory.

Shortly after returning to Darwin, whilst living in a house adjoining Essington House remand and detention centre on McMillans Road , he heard screaming emanating from the building . He raced across and insisted that he talk to the young girl who had screamed. He was taken to her cell and there was silence. The staff wanted him to leave saying ,“You see all is well now”. He insisted he speak to the girl. When the door was opened the thin, young Aboriginal woman was semi-conscious hanging from a sheet. She recovered.

Things went well for Tomlinson in the first eight months of 1973; Ray McHenry , the new head of the department, was a breath of fresh air- until the matter of Tomlinson returning the young Aboriginal girl to her father created an almighty rumpus which reverberated around the world . She had been fostered with a white family after a difficult birth. Her brother had also been fostered by the same family, again after a difficult birth ,but he had been returned to his natural parents at the age of four . She was seven and the foster parents did not want her to return. With the help of Bill Ryan, the Director of North Australian Legal Aid, she and her father returned to a remote Maningrida outstation. After a public service inquiry, Tomlinson was demoted to social worker class 1. Les MacFarlane, Speaker of the NT Legislative Assembly, telegrammed the department saying, "Can’t you demote Tomlinson one more grade."

This major incident led to the first social work strike in Australia, with all but one of the branch’s social workers striking for three weeks in support of Tomlinson’s returning the girl to her natural parents. The return gave impetus to other social workers around Australia who were attempting to keep Aboriginal children in their own communities.

The NT Council for Civil Liberties

After this, Tomlinson was not given an office nor was he given any duties. In order to fill in the day he caught up on all the social science reading that he had put aside during the previous year. That done, he set out to research the emergency income support policies and practices of the branch and commented critically upon policy and activities in letters to the Minister and the Prime Minister. Eventually senior people in the branch decided he might be less of a problem if he was put to work.

In 1974, Robert Wesley-Smith, Jan Tokarcyz, Clare and John Tomlinson, Maggie Kent and others called a public meeting to set up the NT Council of Civil Liberties. That meeting was " gate-crashed" by what he described as " 200 police" who won most of the motions and who then stacked the interim council with police and magistrates. [ This seems an extraordinary figure, as if Public Enemy Number 1 was on the premises .] The only motion which the originators of the plan for a Council of Civil Liberties succeeded in getting passed was to set the time, date and place for the next meeting, three months hence.

Cyclone Tracy intervened. Tomlinson was put in charge of issuing Emergency Purchase Orders for petrol and supplies for people who had lost houses and those who were evacuating. When the Navy relief vessels arrived, the head of one of the trucking companies with a contract to pick things up from the wharves and take them to emergency centres came in and asked for a voucher to supply all his trucks. Tomlinson gave him the voucher. About an hour later, all hell broke loose. He had exceeded his financial delegation a hundred fold. After two weeks Tomlinson was sent to set up the Northern Suburbs emergency relief office in the Casuarina High School.

Three months after the initial meeting of the Council of Civil Liberties, the police officer who had been elected interim secretary placed an advertisement in the NT News declaring the planned meeting of the CCL had been abandoned due to the cyclone. But at the appointed hour of 8pm a small band of the originators and Tom Pauling, later the Administrator ,who had been elected to the Council’s interim executive, entered the rubble-strewn ruins of Brown’s Mart (the agreed site for the subsequent meeting) and a motion was moved thanking the interim committee for their efforts and disbandening them. An election of new office bearers was then held.

Regional Council of Social Development (RCSD)

After Cyclone Tracy, former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Clem Jones , was appointed El Supremo of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. There were undoubted sighs of relief among senior staff at the Welfare Branch when Tomlinson took leave from the public service to work as the Social Planner with the Regional Council of Social Development, which was part of the Australian Assistance Plan. One day, a member of staff, Kass Hancock asked him to go to the hand over by Jones , to RCSD, of a demountable office in Casuarina. The speeches were mercifully short, much to the relief of several senior Commission staff.

Jones said something like, "Well that was short and sweet, we have an hour or so till the next appointment". Tomlinson , one of whose brothers-in-law had had a lot to do with Clem, suggested adjourning to the Marrara Hotel for a cold beer. After a couple, Clem asked ,"Well, while we’re here, is there anything else we can do for you?" Tomlinson replied, "You could knock down the cellblocks of the Essington House remand centre." When asked why, Tomlinson told of the night the young girl had nearly died and a couple of other horror stories he had heard about the place from staff who had worked there. "Where is it?" Clem asked. "Just across the road" several people chorused. The group piled out of the pub and drove the 150 metres to the remand centre. Most of the open part of the centre had been badly damaged but the cellblocks were still intact.

Jones found a place to sit about 80 metres from the cellblocks and dispatched his senior engineer and senior architect to inspect the site. Clem demanded more details of the young people who had been locked up there and the reasons for their incarceration. About 20 minutes later the engineer and architect returned and announced that whilst the main building would need to be demolished the cellblocks were structurally sound but would need re-roofing. Clem exploded: "Structurally sound- my arse! I can see significant cracks in the walls from here." Engineer and architect beat a hasty retreat in the direction of the cellblocks, returning five minutes later , confirming they too could now agree there were structural faults and recommended immediate demolition because of the safety hazard the site presented. Clem pointed to the completely intact gymnasium and asked "Do you want that knocked down too?" Kass replied , "No, we plan to hold dances there for young people."

One of the workers in the RCSD, Clive Scollay, was using low cost video cameras to help people get on with life after the cyclone. One afternoon there was a rumpus on the footpath in Smith Street opposite the RCSD office. A police officer had an Aboriginal youth on the ground. Tomlinson went down and remonstrated with the officer when it appeared to him that unnecessary force was being used. Clive filmed the event from the RCSD office.

The Council of Civil Liberties took the videotape to the Commissioner of Police and complained. alleging excessive use of force. A copy of the tape was kept in the RCSD office. Some months later the office was broken into and apart from the petty cash tin the only other thing that was identified as missing was a hand- drawn poster behind the lunch room door calling for an experienced sapper unit to do some explosive operations in the uranium province. That poster was in Tomlinson’s handwriting. It was assumed by some that the break-in was the work of ASIO or the Special Branch.

Some years later ,when the videotape was handed back to the Council of Civil Liberties, Tomlinson, in his capacity as secretary, asserted the tape had been doctored. Considerable Press interest was aroused, the Police Commissioner claimed to have been criminally libelled. Tomlinson arranged to get a copy of the original tape sent up by Clive Scollay . Tomlinson agreed to play both tapes to the police and arranged to have a journalist and a cameraman from NT News at theviewing .

After the screening, the police produced a search warrant, which Tomlinson read and then refused to relinquish, demanding a copy be given to him. A struggle ensued which the cameraman dutifully recorded and the front cover of next day’s News was entirely devoted to photos of the struggle. In a book some years later, Tomlinson used the photos with the caption "showing the author helping the police with their enquiries".[ Both copies of the videotapes were the same. For those who believe in conspiracy stories and UFOs , it was said that, at the time of the break-in of the RCSD office, the doctored tape was inserted in the box containing the original footage, which was removed. Richard Nixon would surely not have had to resign had there been such skilful plumbers working for him, instead of the Watergate amateurs.]

Tomlinson was charged with a number of offences, but barrister Geoff James, took an action in the Federal Court that found the search warrant had been insufficiently precise and police had exceeded their powers. The charges were eventually dropped.

Tomlinson became one of many Darwin activists who campaigned against the Indonesian invasion of East Timor . He was involved in the 1976 attempt to take a boatload of medical supplies to East Timor on the vessel Dawn . Intercepted by the Navy , those aboard were skipper Manolis "Manny" Mavromatis , Darwin agronomist Robert Wesley-Smith, James Zantis, of Bondi, Sydney , and Harold Clifford Morris ,of Deniliquin, NSW. Wesley-Smith had asked Tomlinson to take some of the supplies down to the Quarantine Station boat ramp to rendezvous with Dawn. Tomlinson’s car was being serviced , so he used the RCSD Kombi van to deliver the supplies. That night the Dawn was intercepted by a Navy boat as it attempted leave Darwin Harbour and all four on board were arrested. Tomlinson was arrested the next day and charged with aiding, abetting, counselling and being concerned with the illegal export of goods and being on Quarantine Station without permission. The late David Scott, Director of Community Aid Abroad, said it was "about time a social worker was charged with counselling." Customs seized both the vessel and the RCSD Kombi van .[More details of this in the next exciting post of the Rob Wesley-Smith series ].

The RCSD was involved with setting up children’s playgroups in the rural area, a prisoners' support group, a housing advocacy program, the Darwin Homemaker Service designed to help families who had been in Housing Commission homes destroyed by Tracy whom the Commission no longer wanted to house, and the Darwin Community Welfare Union, which in subsequent years morphed into the Darwin Unemployed Workers’ Union that held, on the parklands above Lameroo Beach, the Dole Bludgers Picnic at which 3000 people were wined and dined (thanks to the generosity of local businesses). In a later manifestation this Union became "Colie"- the Coalition of Low Income Earners and succeed in providing low cost accommodation .

Darwin Community College

In May of 1977, Tomlinson , a lecturer at the DCC, was the centre of a major argument about academic freedom when it was alleged he advocated sabotage in a course for the Associate Diploma of Community Work. Police were sent to the college without prior consultation with the acting principal .Once again he was the subject of lively debate in the media and parliament. Many students from this course did field placements at the Unemployed Workers’ Union and Colie.

For a couple of years Tomlinson published a small monthly magazine entitled Farewell to Alms, a play on the Hemingway novel. As its name suggests , he wanted to see the welfare system disassociate itself from the poor law charity system and embrace universal income guarantees such as a guaranteed minimum income. In one issue ,Tomlinson wrote an article in which he alleged that the Director of NT Welfare was murdering Aboriginal children by severely limiting their access to welfare payments. He states his luck luck with the law ran out at this point and he became the first person after Frank Hardy to be charged with criminal libel in Australia.

Tomlinson and Darwin lawyer , Geoff James , flew to Sydney to see a barrister who pointed out that, among other things, in order to prove "murder" it had to be shown that the accused had by his or her actions committed an act that directly led to the death of a specific person. Tomlinson’s arguments about statistical increases in Aboriginal babies dying simply wouldn’t stand muster. The Sydney barrister urged Tomlinson to make a complete retraction.

Geoff James took him across the road to a pub and said "Did you enjoy that? I hope you did because that hour just cost you $1200 and if we get him to defend you then you are looking at a minimum of $20,000. What did your last book cost to print?" Tomlinson issued the apology ,the criminal libel charges were dropped.

In a later edition of Farewell to Alms, Tomlinson alleged that by making it hard for parents to get welfare payments, it resulted in increasing numbers of Aboriginal children dying in remote parts of the NT. He was sued for libel and an out of court settlement of $5000 was reached.

In 1982, Tomlinson published Social Work: Community Work / Betrayed by Bureaucracy. In 1983, after sitting through an inquest into the death of an Aboriginal prisoner who had escaped from Darwin Hospital’s psychiatric ward, was recaptured and subsequently mortally injured , Tomlinson published a play entitled The Death of Phillip Robertson. After a reading at Brown’s Mart in October 1985 there was an eight week season at the New Theatre, Newtown, Sydney, beginning in December 1988.

In 1983/84, the Darwin Community College commissioned an external review of the Community Work course and despite the review recommending its continuation , the DCC executive committee , consisting of Director Joe Flint and Chairman, Nan Giese , lowered the boom. Tomlinson was made redundant in late 1985.

People’s Poems and Struggles

* Tomlinson bites mud crab instead of fat cat . A Black Snake once sank its fangs into John at Fogg Dam and he spent a night in hospital.

In 1986 he studied full-time for his PhD. at Murdoch University, his marriage to Clare breaking up late that year. His degree was finally awarded in 1989. In 1987 he was appointed Director of the ACT Council of Social Service and lived in Canberra until 1993 when he was appointed Senior Lecturer in Social Policy and Community Work at the Queensland University of Technology.

A poem he wrote in 1994 raised the plight of the Timorese. Dr Tomlinson retired from the QUT position in 2006. His latest book of poems and song lyrics (published in 1999) was entitled People’s Poems and songs of Struggle. His foreword said the collection had been published in the hope that those who read would be inspired to make the world a better place. Many of the pieces had arrived in their present form due to the craft of Penny Harrington and Peter Hancock. Many of the works had been read on picket lines, public meetings, demonstrations , lectures, fund raisers and sit ins. In 2007, he married Penny Harrington, his long- time partner. After having reluctantly sold his boat and trailer bearing protest stickers , he recently got among the fish in New Zealand , writes and does his bit to urge governments and oppositions to adopt universal income support policies, to end the NT Intervention and treat asylum seekers humanely. NEXT : Dr Tomlinson’s plan to lift the income of the poor.