Friday, April 29, 2011


LONDON : Feral squirrels nearly ruined the dazzling wedding of Prince William and Kate. Little Darwin’s Royal Roundsman, Davy Crockett , can reveal that a colony of squirrels perched in the oak trees inside Westminster Abbey caused chaos at the nuptials , watched by a TV audience of two billion and one million seeing eye dogs.

The squirrels, about 50 in number, caused mayhem as they dashed among the select assembly, nibbling at the nuts on fancy hats .One cheeky squirrel ran up the leg of Elton John and snatched a packet of baby rusks from his frock coat . Fortunately, Elton’s husband had a nappy bag slung over his shoulder , so he stuffed the squirrel inside and took it home as a toy for the baby,oft seen being pushed around Hyde Park by nanny Dame Edna in Queen Victoria's bath chair,hired from the Albert Museum for a monthly amount said to be equal to a king's ransom.

A mighty cheer went up when David Beckham gave a squirrel a kick and it landed in the baptismal font stored at the back of the organ. As Prince Philip slashed at the marauding squirrels which caused women to scream and leap up on their seats , his swordplay was reminiscent of something out of an Errol Flynn movie on late night cable TV.

The man responsible for supplying the oak trees at a special cut price, Claude Jeremiah Greengrass , was later arrested posing as Lord Muck at the Queen’s party for the 650 wedding guests . He is expected to be deported to either Van Diemen’s Land, Darwin, Tennant Creek or Alice Springs. Before being locked in the Tower of London , Greengrass told our man Crockett he bought the trees from a Yankee outfit, National Lampoon Christmas Trees (Inc. & Biro ).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Copies of the latest book on East Timor, a hefty volume by Dr Clinton Fernandes, are expected in Darwin soon. Called THE INDEPENDENCE OF EAST TIMOR Multi-Dimentional Perspectives– Occupation, Resistance and International Political Activism , it is from the British publisher, Sussex Academic Press.

In his review of the book, Noam Chomsky said:”The struggle of East Timor for independence, resisting aggression and slaughter backed by the great powers, is an inspiration for those who value freedom and justice. Fernandes provides an expert and perceptive inquiry into this true modern epic, exploring in unparalleled depth the internal dynamics and international dimensions of the struggle. The most welcome contribution is a worthy tribute to those who endured and overcame , yielding lessons of great significance for understanding of the realities of international society and the resources of the human spirit.”

Dr Fernandes spent time in the Top End researching the book, said to contain "riveting" detail crammed into a vivid account of a fight on many fronts, according to the Sydney Morning Herald Asia-Pacific editor , Hamish McDonald. Insert above one of many stickers and leaflets issued in Darwin during the long struggle.


From the Little Darwin files comes this battered postcard, further proof of the friendly relationship between Australia and Japan long before WW11. It shows the warm welcome given to members of a Japanese naval squadron of three cruisers which visited Adelaide in May 1903 .

A number of people have expressed surprise at the Little Darwin report with information from historian Glenville Pike about the fact that the Northern Territory was defended by Japanese naval forces during WW1. (See NORTHERN TERRITORY WENT TO WAR DEFENDED BY OUR JAPANESE ALLIES ).

During the 1903 visit to South Australia,the flagship,Hashidate, under the command of Rear Admiral Hikonoto Kamimura ,fired a 21 gun salute. Fort Largs responded and the booming of the guns could be heard all over Port Adelaide.An official party from the squadron went by special train to the city from whence they were escorted in two carriages by mounted police to Government House to visit the Lieutenant –Governor, Sir Samuel Way.

Cable news came through that the Japanese government had decided to spend $23million on its navy. Rear Admiral Kamimura, who had given the Russians a shock at Port Arthur ,was “ very well satisfied” on receipt of the information.

Entertainment included a garden party,an afternoon tea party, a visit to the theatre,and students from the School of Mines went aboard the flagship. A proposed rifle shooting competition failed to eventuate.

A large naval party , which included 30 officers,90 midshipmen and 510 others, "saw the sights of the town "-this photo (above ) almost certainly being taken at the time.A small party went to Woodville Cemetery to see the grave of a cadet who died during the visit of a warship in 1887 and had been interred with naval honours.

Another Japanese warship, Kongko, had visited Australia in 1902, its officers calling on the Victorian Governor-General and had been entertained by the Naval and Military Club. In 1926,the Japanese training ship , Iwate, made a five month cruise, via Manila, Singapore, Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne , Hobart and Sydney. Prince Hironobu was a cadet aboard the ship, became the chief torpedo officer on the destroyers Akeno and Sazanami , served in the House of Peers in the Diet of Japan in 1932 and appointed superintendent of the Naval War College in 1939.

Monday, April 25, 2011


According to the latest book by Derryn Hinch HUMAN HEADLINES–My 50 Years in the Media , a stunning blonde cadet reporter on the Sydney Daily Mirror , Anna Torv, caught Rupert Murdoch’s eye . It was rumoured Torv had a journalist boyfriend on the paper and, Hinch writes, he was transferred to Darwin. Torv became Murdoch’s second wife , the marriage lasting 30 years. We wonder if the journo sent north looked anything like the great Rudolph Valentino who wowed the ladies , despite a squeaky voice. (Sheet music cover and cellotape courtesy of the Little Darwin Choral Society.)


Is it correct that a former influential member in the Henderson government has been signed up by Inpex? If so, how come the political reporters and other media hotshots have not heard ?

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Albert Charles Borella, awarded a Victoria Cross in World War 1 ,was determined to join up and fight on the other side of the world. Territory historian,Glenville Pike , currently stoically battling cancer, detailed the long and difficult journey Borella made to enlist .

Borella was employed as a camp cook with a line party at Tennant Creek Telegraph Station in February 1915 when he decided to enlist at Townsville , 1500 miles away. It being the Wet , he set out for Katherine on a borrowed horse. There he caught the mail coach to the Pine Creek railhead after battling across flooding rivers. From Darwin he went by ship to Townsville and enlisted in the Australian Light Horse. Later he left the Light Horse and became an infantryman on 80c a day. He fought at Gallipoli and Pozieres, France , where half his battalion was wiped out.

Promoted on the battlefield to Lieutenant,he was later, on the Somme, awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery. One of the few survivors at the bloody battle of Bullecourt,he was then involved in the thick of action on July 17 and 18,1918,which resulted in him receiving the Victoria Cross.

The citation to Borella’s Victoria Cross reads: “For most conspicuous bravery in attack. Whilst leading his platoon with the first wave ,Lieutenant Borella marked an enemy machine- gun firing through our barrage . He ran out ahead of his men into the barrage, shot two German machine- gunners with his revolver and captured the gun. He then led his party , now reduced to 10 men and two Lewis guns, against a very strongly held trench, using his revolver , and later a rifle,with great effect,causing many enemy casualties. His leading and splendid example resulted in the garrison being quickly shot or captured. Two large dugouts were also bombed and 30 prisoners taken. Subsequently the enemy twice counterattacked in strong force,on the second occasion outnumbering Lieutenant Borella’s platoon by 10 to one , but his cool determination inspired his men to resist heroically, and the enemy was repulsed with heavy losses .”

Pike wrote that because Territorians were used to a hard pioneering life, they were already expert riflemen and horsemen,especially the Aboriginal members, at the time called halfcastes .

FOOTNOTE: Borella was invalided back to Australia,farmed a soldier settlement block at Hensley Park, Victoria, unsuccessfully stood as a candidate for the National Party in the Victorian Legislative Assembly,enlisted in WW11 ,with the rank of Captain, serving in Australia. He died February 7,1968 and a road in Albury is named after him.


Friday, April 22, 2011


A patriotic"smoke farewell" was held in Darwin for a contingent of Territory men who went off " to the front" in 1915 . As the men marched down to the wharf, followed by townspeople, on April 26, to embark for the south to enlist , the Australian flag flew at the front and the Rising Sun of Japan brought up the rear.

Historian Glenville Pike (above) pointed out that Japan was an ally of Australia at the time and its vessels protected us from German warships , raiders and submarines as the north-east portion of New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago was a German colony, as was Western Samoa in the Pacific.

The first convoy of troops which sailed from Fremantle to Aden and then on to Egypt was escorted by Australian warships and the Japanese battleship, Ibuki. Two Japanese cruisers , he wrote, Chikuma and Yahagi, patrolled the coast of North Australia from Broome to Torres Strait. Another two Japanese warships, Aso and Soya, patrolled between Fremantle and Brisbane in May- July 1915. No less than three Japanese cruisers and eight destroyers escorted troopships across the Indian Ocean in 1917 .

At the farewell smoke social in the decorated Darwin Town Hall for the above mentioned contingent one of the flags displayed was that of Japan. Described as a Japanese Darwin merchant, Mr Yamamato, conveyed the good wishes of the Japanese for the Territorians’ welfare at the battle front . Comment was made by Captain R.J. Lewis, leader of the contingent , that Japanese reservist were available to defend Darwin , apparently a reference to the fact that Japanese naval vessels patrolled northern waters protecting vulnerable Darwin from German attacks.

Catholic priest , Reverend Father,F.X. Gsell, a native of Alsace , ushered in by the playing of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise ,performed by the Darwin Brass Band , spoke about the deplorable effect of German rule on the inhabitants of Alsace and Lorraine . The NT Times and Gazette said the reverend gentleman gave the gathering an idea of the “rule of whip and the boot” which would follow if Germany won the war. The Russian anthem was rendered for the “well-known” Darwin Russian resident, Karl Nylander , who addressed the issues at stake for Russia.

There were many leading Chinese merchants present, and Mr Walter Bell , on behalf of the Chinese community, wished the contingent well . Chinese generally wanted the Allied forces to come out on top. One of those who also made a spirited speech was journalist Fred Thompson.

Songs sung included Long Live the King, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, Three Cheers for Jack, Ginger ,You’re Balmy ,The Song of the Bow and there was a banjo solo. Several speakers urged everyone present to join the rifle club. A prominent Darwin resident , Jack Burton, president of the Australian Workers' Union, a veteran of the Boer War ,who also went off to fight in WW1 ,deplored the fact that soldiers did not get any recognition when they returned from fighting.Of the short, incomplete list of contingent members mentioned in the newspaper acount of the evening , at least nine were killed .

*************In August 1918, the NT Times and Gazette received a letter, posted in May , from Gunner Jack Burton , later a Darwin mayor and involved with author Xavier Herbert , in which he wrote about the death of Lieutenant R. Butters . Burton had met Butters in a dugout and said he had been killed in the “big Hun offensive.” A copy of the Darwin paper had been forwarded to Vic Parkhouse, another Darwin soldier. Burton was pleased to hear Darwin had launched a Battleplane Fund. Planes, he said, were a great factor in present day warfare .

He would watch out for the NT plane to fly over and get the boys to give a great cheer . There were a number of Australian planes over there , flown by daring airmen , he added . Burton urged another 100 men be raised in Darwin for the front. News reports that he was in hospital in England were untrue.

Historian Glenville Pike also stated the NT had an inspiring record in WW1.With only 2800 Europeans in its 523,000 square miles, 40 percent of males enlisted ; 228 went overseas in the AIF; 52 paid the supreme sacrifice, and one Victoria Cross was awarded to Albert Charles Borella.Pike pointed out Territorians raised enough money to buy two planes and Red Cross collections were an Empire record .

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Instead of nauseating Easter chocolate treats,Little Darwin has received two great letters which were sent by a teenage Serviceman ,Thomas William Scott,of Adelaide, when based in the Territory during WW11 . In the first letter, dated 13/11/42,he wrote to a mate,Fritz, in Adelaide, and told him the trip up to the Territory had been a "fair bastard "and that he did not think he would ever want to come back here after the war.

On the initial trip north, during which there was “ a lot of strife”, they got one decent meal a day. You could sleep on a barbed wire fence after that experience , the last stage of the journey made in cattle trucks . During the first few weeks, Scott was made the cook and the meals were “terrific”- a description, he admitted, which could be taken any way you liked.

One morning he got the curry powder mixed up with the egg powder...“and you should have seen their faces when they tried to eat it. " It was so”bloody hot” , they were drinking water all day to cool off. His attempt at making cream also failed because he used flour as an ingredient .Glad indeed was he to see the cooks arrive and take up their duties.

Part of the letter seems to imply that he had seen a promising horse which he might bring back down south to win the 1945 Melbourne Cup.

MOSQUITOES ! They were so big that they were caught in rabbit traps and trained to be water carriers. BEETLES! Chew tobacco . WHITE ANTS !They carry your boots away if you leave them out at night .CROCODILES : He had seen one about five foot long, and he would not want one to take a liking to him in the water as he might come home with a “squeeky”(sic ) voice.

The moon was becoming brighter and the Japs were expected any night.

Despite all these drawbacks, he felt fitter than ever. There were movies once a week shown on a screen made from canvas slung between two saplings, swinging gently in the breeze. If it rained, you just sat watching as the show continued. WEATHER : “Bloody hot.”

In the other letter to Fritz, dated 9/5/43,Scott , a Leading Aircraftsman, born at Norwood,said it was being written while he was in hospital after a month away in the islands " on jobs " , returning with pneumonia and sandfly bite poisoning.

Of late he had been sailing and flying. Fritz , it seemed ,was in the railway service ,perhaps an engine driver, at Mile End, Adelaide .It was almost a year since Scott had joined up .With a bit of luck, he could be back in Adelaide in the New Year and would like a good game of soccer . The possibility of him becoming a goal umpire is also discussed . Mention is made of “ Moonshine” who had his 21st birthday and had been " the union adviser ".

Young Frankie , not 17, had put up his age and signed on to serve outside the Commonwealth in the merchant navy. Scott signed off both letters ,Your Old Cobber ,Scottie, the last with kisses for Nance and Pat, with instructions for the girls not to fight over them.

The letters, part of a pile discovered in a southern op shop, were delivered to us by former Darwin resident, Beverley Bird . More excerpts from the letters, which give a great first- hand account of the Territory during the war years , will appear exclusively in Little Darwin .


Court action is likely any day now over a dispute between the Darwin City Council and a group of lawyers who have been driven mad by the council building’s noisy airconditioners . The legal eagles, whose offices are opposite city hall, complained to the DCC.

They were informed that to remedy the clunker cooler it would cost $80,000. Furthermore , the council put the sting on the lawyers for a cool 40 grand. With Cavenagh Street and Smith Street Mall shopkeepers hot under the collar over the actions of our city fathers and mothers, global warming will be nought compared with the heat mounting against the council. In fact, the next council elections could see a bloodbath as a result of strong opposition campaigns against the mayor and certain councillors on a list (growing longer by the day and including politicians) , drawn up by the Lord High Executioner for the chop. They will none of them be missed, as sung with great vigour in the grand musical, The Mikado. It has been pointed out that the DCC likes to portray itself as green, a member of the trendy Cool Mob, yet its building rumbles and hisses like gaseous Mt Vesuvius about to erupt.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Of these three young Australian men who went off to fight during World War 1, the one in the centre , Oliver Harrison Ladlow ,19, was killed in France . His older brother,Albert,on the right, survived the war, but was killed in a tractor accident at Dooen North , Victoria. The handwritten information on the back of this postcard in the Little Darwin Collection says their other mate, F.G. Milne, was killed by a horse at Minyip, Victoria.

In the case of Private Oliver Ladlow,Service Number 1866, born at Birchip,an 18 year old farmer ,who gave his next of kin as his mother, Maryann Ladlow, Dooen North, he enlisted in April 1916, was 5ft 11 inches tall , weighed 10 stone 12 pound, and distinctive marks included scars on a leg, thigh and scalp. On joining the AIF 38th Battalion he was transported to France and hospitalised with bronchitis. Killed in action on January 10 1917,he was buried in the Bonjean Military Cemetery.

His family was forwarded two parcels .One contained his letters,photos, cards,pipe and pouch,wristlet watch and strap, knife,two belts, two cigarette holders, wallet,two pencils , a ring ,badges and coin. The other listed a razor strop,steel mirror in a case, writing pad,a hold -all, anti-sceptic(sic) stone , toothbrush, three razors , a shaving brush. The Department of Defence also sent the grieving family one memorial scroll and the King’s Message .

Albert Ladlow ,# 1865, a farmer,was 21 when he also enlisted in April 1916 . He was 6ft 1 inch tall,weighed 11 stone 5 pound , and had a chest measurement of 32-35 inches; there were no distinctive marks on his body. In the same 38th Battalion as his brother, he was sent to France , admitted to hospital variously suffering from mumps, laryngitis, scabies , a nasal obstruction and tonsilitis. Wounded in action, he was promoted to corporal.For his part in the War to End All Wars, he was “debited “ ninepence –nine cents – for losing an item of clothing . On September 30,1919, now aged 25, he married Maud Dear ,22, a spinster, whose father was a labourer.

In the case of the other soldier in the trio, F.G Milne, he seems to have been Frederick George Milne, of whom there is little information, who suffered from a septic heel in France and was discharged in 1917 due to deafness . During WW1, 67,500 Australians were killed out of a population of four million .Unknown tens of thousands returned suffering physical and mental impairment.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


World War 11 internees , some of them having fled the turmoil of Europe by boat, in South Australia during a working party ,watched by the militia . In the top photograph , sitting in the centre, is a man holding a sandwich , an obvious comedian , with a sticker attached to his hat:NOT WANTED ON VOYAGE.- From Peter Simon Ephemera Collection .

Monday, April 18, 2011


Near the end of the ABC’s two part TV series PAPER GIANTS –the Cleo magazine story-this viewer nearly fell out of his recliner . The cause of the shock was the announcement by Ita Buttrose’s secretary, the good Catholic girl who got tangled up with that married intercourse intent interlocutor,that she was off to London to work for a struggling publication,Time Out.

It just so happens that I am in the midst of researching that very publication in its early years in the swinging British capital on which the redoubtable journalist /politician/ speeding ticket collector , Pete Steedman ,subject of the ongoing Little Darwin special series, PETE’S (SERIOUS )PARTY ,was business manager .

Cleo was tame compared with the radical Time Out, a guide to London with a strong political content, in the late 1960s and 70s. When Steedman worked there he was questioned by British security about a story it ran dealing with the assassination of a Royal Marines commando in Vietnam. Not in his time , Time Out caused an uproar when it ran the names of 60 alleged CIA operatives in England.

The Packer company, Australian Consolidated Press, a right wing outfit which aided and abetted PM Robert Menzies thunder on about reds under the beds, making the most of the Petrov Affair and the rescue of Mrs Petrov at Darwin airport, helped the Tories to hang on to power for nearly a quarter of a century .

The Cleo show revealed Fanta- swilling , gruff Kerry Packer’s strong dislike for ALP leader , Gough Whitlam. The idea that Ita’s secretary, skilled at writing the stars page and handy with white out ,which Kerry thought was nail polish , was off to work for a subversive publication like Time Out added an unexpected , quirky Darwin twist to the story.

It was interesting to note that PAPER GIANTS part where Sir Frank Packer exposed his knowledge of sexual foreplay –that nonsense Cleo wanted to run about sheilas biting you in the armpit did not catch on until Vampires recently became all the rage in Hollywood . And, I am sure, one of Sir Frank’s racehorses or Dame Pattie (the yacht, not Ming's gracious wife ) would have made a better cover photo than Dame Edna . Incidently, Time Out, changed its ways , became straight, and has been parlayed into a global success bigger than Cleo .

Sunday, April 17, 2011



From the Little Darwin collection of unusual ephemera comes this postcard ,which is about 50 years old , showing how we used to attract tourists to the Top End . The sender was Peg at the Parap Hotel,Darwin, N.T., who posted it to Grandpa, possibly in Adelaide , hoping he was not doing or drinking too much (handwriting not clear ).Peg expected to be seeing him at Christmas and hoped that "Liny and Chook" were okay.



A little known insight into Rupert Murdoch was aired recently on the ABC NT Guest Room show in which Kate O’Toole interviewed veteran singer/entertainer Kahahl. Kamahl told how he had been singing , virtually for his supper, in an Adelaide venue early in his career ,when he was given ten pound by a group in the audience , and approached by Rupert Murdoch .

Murdoch, himself in the early stages of his rise to fame, probably some time after his purchase of the NT News , had arranged for him to perform for six weeks at the Hotel Australia in Sydney. After that gig, Murdoch asked Kamahl what his plans were for the future. When Kamahl said he would return to Adelaide, Murdoch dissuaded him from doing so, saying it was too small a place. Using Kamahl’s words, he said Murdoch had " taken him home " and he had lived with Rupert and his wife for two years.

During that time, Murdoch had helped Kamahl out in his problems with the Immigration Department , writing supportive letters saying this student from Malaysia was expected to be highly successful. That assistance for Kamahl put him on the course to international fame.

Little Darwin has previously pointed out that during the 1960s, Rupert Murdoch allowed the NT News crusading editor, Jim Bowditch, to draw on the paper’s kitty to prevent the deportation from Darwin of the so-called Stayput Malays. This act of financial support, which had to be paid back, had been acknowledged by North Australian Workers’ Union secretary, Paddy Carroll, in a leaflet distributed throughout Darwin.

At the time, Bowditch described Murdoch as Australia’s “ great white hope”, saying he had been a “lefty” at university in England , and had returned to Australia when his father died with new ideas and a different view of the world .

It was also pointed out in a previous Little Darwin post that an uncle of Rupert’s, Professor Walter Murdoch , had been an enlightened individual who supported many causes , some unpopular with the establishment, one such case being the 1934 attempt by the Australian government to prevent Czech journalist , Egon Kisch , an opponent of the Adolf Hitler regime, to enter and stay in Australia to address anti- war gatherings. Sir Keith Murdoch, Rupert’s father, exposed the true position at Gallipoli where allied forces were being slaughtered and upset the military brass and others .

Friday, April 15, 2011


Sisters Sara Simon (left )and Lizbeth Johnson pose for Sara's Darwin party which was picked up by seismometers on the Indian subcontinent. Three elephants and icing on a specially made birthday cake had to receive first aid after it was hit by young boys having a pillow fight. During the evening, one of The Three Musketeers ,Beverley Bird , told Little Darwin about the interstate discovery in an op shop of bags of letters exchanged between young men serving in the Territory during WW11 . We hope to peruse this cache in the near future and will keep our readers posted.


When Irvine Brown , the regular caller of bingo numbers at Darwin’s Evergreens meetings was absent due to him not being in the pink of good health , a replacement took over. Because of diminished eyesight , he committed a few blues – called some numbers which he later corrected. Speedy bingo players, who rapidly mark their cards with coloured pens, went red in the face and gave him a few black looks .

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Jose Ramos Horta on the Darwin waterfront at the time of the arrival of a vessel with refugees from East Timor, media far right . - Photograph from Peter Simon Collection .


New evidence about the cover up over the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and the murder of the Balibo Five media team has emerged in an article by Clinton Fernandes, headed WHAT WE REALLY KNEW ABOUT EAST TIMOR ,in New Matilda online publication of April 14 . It says Fernandes,Senior Lecturer in Strategic Studies at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy, fought for five years to get access to documents which definitively show for the first time what Australia knew about the killing of the Balibo Five .

In April 2007 he applied to National Archives of Australia for access to the Defence Intelligence Organisation documents relating to Indonesia and East Timor for the period October 1 to December 31, 1975.

A former major in the Australian military intelligence , Fernandes was consulting historian to the film Balibo , based on the book of the same name by Jill Jolliffe, starring Anthony LaPaglia as Roger East, another veteran newsman murdered by the Indonesians at Dili, who worked in Darwin after Cyclone Tracy . Little Darwin recommends the New Matilda article to the Darwin media for follow up interviews

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


From Bangkok comes an unusual report from one of our roving correspondents about an operation to cut a tumor from her lower right leg. Throughout the 50 minute procedure,the plastic surgeon, Dr Ruch, with a wonderful voice, sang to one and all in the theatre.

Performed under a local anaesthetic , the operation was long and traumatic , but the surgeon’s "beautiful singing" set everyone at ease. “I don’t think there would be too many singing plastic surgeons in Australia,” our correspondent emailed. Casting aside her walking stick, she and her husband set out for Kuching to continue wandering about Southeast Asia like gypsies,venturing into distant byways, offering their expert services to various organisations .

Little Darwin informed a Darwin private hospital cardiac specialist that we expect him to break out into song , perhaps with a repertoire from The Sound of Music, when he next robes up in the operating theatre .

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Far from Darwin’s stormy and polluted waters , former Darwin Port Corporation CEO,Robert Ritchie, reportedly played corporate golf in Tennant Creek at the weekend . Soon he will be off to Perth for a round of conferencing , come back for a spot of leave and then take off on a six week tour of Europe .

Ritchie called DPC staff into the boardroom and firmly stated he was not being dumped as reported by the media ,that he was moving into the Chief Minister’s Department to carry out vital infrastructure work –before setting sail at the end of May.

Little Darwin has been informed that there were no tears, no expressions of regret, no renting of sackcloth by those assembled.However,the DPC corporate services manager, Melissa Reiter , with an admirable attitude when it comes to recycling and thus keen to salvage some of the flotsam and jetsam, asked if she could have his IPAD. Ritchie did not reply immediately to her request.


The October 1996 funeral service for Darwin’s crusading editor, Jim Bowditch,76, began and ended with the powerful strains of African-American human rights campaigner, actor and singer , Paul Robeson. The Bowditch family regarded those songs as symbolising Jim’s lifelong struggle for the underdog.

Robeson spent two hours in Darwin when passing through on his way to Sydney in October 1960.At the time, the Northern Territory News carried a report that Robeson spoke to union activists, Des and Norma Robson, at the airport. The paper announced that a committee, including News reporter , Jim Kelly, had been formed to try and arrange for Robeson to perform in Darwin on his way back overseas. Unfortunately, this could not be achieved.

In Sydney, Robeson sang Old Man River and The Ballad of Joe Hill to workmen on the Opera House site. In the audience of a packed Adelaide hall where he sang was teenager Rob-Wesley Smith, later to become a well known Territory agronomist,civil rights activist,Gurindji campaigner and longtime supporter of East Timor. Wes , as he is known in Darwin today, mightily impressed by Robeson’s singing and his message , went backstage in the enthusiastic throng and shook his hand.

That episode was vividly recalled this week as a result of the Darwin ABC’s Guest Room interview by Kate O'Toole of singer and entertainer,Kamahal . He was also in the Adelaide audience for Robeson , and on air mentioned the fabulous voice of the American. He also told of the part played by Wes’s father in his ( Kamahl’s) career. Academic Registrar at Adelaide University , Harry Wesley- Smith, advised Kamahl, a student from Malaysia , to switch from architecture, at which he was not doing well , to a course at the Conservatorium of Music. Kamahl visited the Wesley-Smith household from time to time and shyly sang a song one evening , near the open French doors ,so that he could bolt if the audience booed.

Wes made contact with Kamahl after the ABC broadcast and they discussed the proposal to commemorate Robeson musically, a subject which had been raised previously with Martin Wesley-Smith , a well known composer whose wide ranging work has included political content dealing with international issues such as Vietnam, Afghanistan,Timor and West Papua.

One of his compositions ,Quito,a documentary music drama, with text by his twin brother ,librettist Peter Wesley-Smith, called a magnum opus, dealt with a young East Timor refugee, Francisco Baptista Pires , suffering from schizophrenia , found hanged in Darwin Hospital.There have been other works dealing with East Timor . Jose Ramos Horta described Martin Wesley-Smith as a model political artist , a true creator , activist and humanitarian. Horta went on to say Martin and his brothers were “treasures of our country”. Wes intends to forward to Martin the information supplied by Little Darwin about Robeson's connection with Darwin and his songs being played at the funeral service for editor Bowditch. The Paul Robeson Centenary was celebrated in 1998. NEXT : The unusual part played by Rupert Murdoch in Kamahl's early, struggling life and the singer's involvement with Sir Donald Bradman who heard Robeson sing in Show Boat . (See Newsflash below )

Saturday, April 9, 2011


In a proposed special tribute to the great African-American activist, Paul Robeson, renowned international singer and entertainer, Kamahl, has offered his services in communications with Darwin resident, Rob Wesley-Smith. Furthermore, an email sent to Wes included Kamahl singing Old Man River, one of Robeson’s signature tunes. Further details of the proposal will include mention of Rupert Murdoch , Sir Donald Bradman and the ABC radio interview which sparked renewed interest in Paul Robeson ,who toured Australia and NZ in 1960,during which he sang to workers at the Sydney Opera House site and expressed deep dismay at the treatment of Aboriginals. Kamahl described Robeson as a big man with such a strong voice that it would sound like the earth if it could sing .

Friday, April 8, 2011


The latest development at the Darwin Port Corporation will probably raise a wry smile or three in the London inner sanctum of one of the world’s best known crusading lawyers, Australian Geoffrey Robertson,QC, deeply involved in the Julian Assange extradition case.

Robertson’s office was made aware long ago of a situation at the DPC in which action, we firmly believe, was unfairly taken against a longtime female staff member . Official DPC correspondence in that matter referred to a Little Darwin spoof set in Cloud Cuckoo Land which involved a number of hypothetical hypothetical questions and somebody exhibiting puberty blue flushes . Most people would know that Geoffrey Robertson ran a number of Australian TV hypotheticals.

He is also married to vivacious Kathy Lette, co-author with Gabrielle Carey, of the bestseller, Puberty Blues , made into a movie by Bruce Beresford.

Somehow, the Little Darwin post , pure spoof ,was taken to be a reference to goings on here in Darwin . How anybody could equate Darwin with Cloud Cuckoo Land is , frankly, baffling and plainly offensive to the establishment, heartily enjoying the fruits of occupation . However, an official letter bearing the DPC seal, hairy nosed wombat or echidna, was sent out specifically mentioning the crazy blog and demanded an explanation by a set date.

Union officials here and in Melbourne, and southern industrial lawyers, thought the mango madness season had obviously arrived early on reading the correspondence. In a friendly way, the DPC was told that if the media became aware of the matter – all the hypotheticals,flushes ,etc- they would have a field day.[ Imagine, for example, what a brilliant cartoonist like Wicking would draw on learning that a CEO believed Cloud Cuckoo Land was actually Darwin !]

It was further pointed out that if the DPC felt the blog item somehow related to it , then the contents had to taken in toto, not just be cherry picked .This, in itself, would then point the fickle finger of fate in many directions and demand explanations,action etcetera ,etcetera, etcetera.

In effect, the DPC was strongly advised to dump the matter in the harbour where, unfortunately, so much muck spills. That sage advice, proffered with legal input, was not accepted. A growing number of southern industrial lawyers, union officials and those who appreciated the absurd tapped into the Little Darwin blogspot on being informed of the Cloud Cuckoo Land hypotheticals. Now it is up to the Chief Minister, other politicians and the Public Service here in the Northern Territory to remediate the intolerable situation of an employee.

To make sure that this happens, it is suggested the media do follow ups, ask questions. In a purely hypothetical situation, they might also like to ask for details under freedom of information about what the DPC had to say in respect of the wretched Little Darwin blog. Wicked Wicking by now must surely be sharpening his charcoal stick .

FOOTNOTE: Pelicans taking refuge in the duck pond from the 15th cyclone predicted by the NT News this week were scared off when Tugboat Annie repeatedly cart-wheeled along the waterfront . She had previously been reported to the RSPCA for monstering Big Bird who recently underwent the trauma of being plucked in public, his flashy plumes inserted in a mock goose-feather bed for export to Nippon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


The long struggle over her ruinous involvement in the Bank of America Down Under Tour as part of the build up to Sydney’s 2000 Olympic Games descended even further down the lucrative lawyers’ picnic route when a Federal Court magistrate ruled against former Darwin Raintree Aboriginal Art Gallery owner , Ms Shirley Collins.

Magistrate T. Lucev , from Perth ,dismissed an application for Ms Collins to be represented at further proceedings by Brisbane chartered accountant, Barrie Percival, who has done so at previous hearings over the years and knows the case inside out .

Percival , who had flown to Darwin for the hearing, had asked to be accepted as a Mackenzie Friend , a term for a person , a non lawyer, who helps a litigant present a case, at further proceedings. The Canberra based legal firm of BlakeDawson , through Paul Vane-Tempest ( with an impressive moniker like this it would not be surprising if he presented his bill in guineas), via a TV link which at times belched metallic sounds like something out of a Dr Who episode in which the world is about to be sucked into a black hole , appeared on behalf of the federal Department of Finance and Deregulation. V-T challenged the right of Percival to represent Collins.

In delivering his lengthy, rapidly read, at times hard to hear, decision rejecting Percival’s application , Lucev made it clear that another lawyer would have to become involved ,despite court being told that two approaches for legal aid had been turned down. At the end of his oration, magistrate Lucev, WA’s first appointed magistrate in the Federal Court, ordered that Collins,72, a pensioner , should pay $2365 court costs before the start of the Festive Season.

When Little Darwin asked for a copy of the finding as it seemed comment in the preamble sounded as if he had been critical of the way her application for a grace in favour payment had been handled , a court official said he had no idea when it would be available online.

The former managing director of the Australian Tourist Commission , John Morse, in America at the time of the Down Under Tour which was conducted in an inflatable replica of the Sydney Opera House , is on record as saying, after investigation of her case , he came to the conclusion that she had been used as” a scapegoat” for the mistakes and misinformation of others. Factors involved included an unrealistic commercial assessment by consultants , a naivety on behalf of the Australian Tourist Commission office in the USA as to the commercial opportunity , a change of policy by the Bank of America , and subsequently a hardline ,unsympathetic approach by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

As a result, Morse said he had seen Collins go from a vibrant,successful Aboriginal businesswoman,running an Aboriginal art gallery, to someone who lost everything, including her business, her health, her home and her dignity. Summing up, he said it was “grossly unjust”. Continuing, he said his comments came from the perspective of decency,fairness and moral justice.

While he was sure Collins would acknowledge “her own naivety” in assessing the commercial opportunity for the Tour Down Under ,she had been given considerable guidance by others more familiar with doing business in the USA and took this in good faith. In hindsight, it was obvious that the promotion should not have been attempted on a purely commercial basis.

After years of seeking justice, one time locked up in a room in Brisbane with a flock of QCs and forced to sign documents under duress, Collins is now seeking a grace in favour payment from the Federal government. It is interesting to note that a former Administrator of the Northern Territory, C.A. Abbott, an ex politician , somewhat short of cash late in life, received a grace in favour payment from government and even a state funeral, for which he did not have to pay. Needless to say, Collins is not seeking a state funeral . Such a payment has to be passed by parliament. Instead of showing some humanity, decency, fairness and moral justice in this matter, politicians from both sides , abdicated to bureaucrats and lawyers. This has resulted in the ongoing legal crushing of a woman. It is hearsay that ATSIC and its successor have spent $400,000 on legal fees in this matter.

Collins is liable for hundreds of thousands and she is paying off in small instalments an account for the hire of a truck in America to transport the Aboriginal art . During one court hearing it was revealed that a party to the dispute had indicated it was prepared to pay up to $100,000 to Collins, but this had been kept secret . Not one cent of that money was paid to her .

FOOTNOTE: During the Darwin hearing , a reporter asked for the name of the magistrate. After being given his surname, the reporter then requested the Christian name . It was spelled out as TONI . No, the reporter replied, that’s the girl’s way, and wrote TONY in her notebook. In fact, it is TONI .

There used to be a famous advertisement for a home hair care product, first appearing on May 16, 1949, and later in Life magazine , in which twin women featured. Hair conscious people were asked : Which twin has the TONI? In the lank, dank ,Yank bank marathon court case , Magistrate Lucev definitely had the Toni ; Collins was scalped, yet again.

ADDENDUM:The magistrate's associate,Ms Sandra Gough, kindly advised that once the court receives the transcript and finalises the judgment, it will be posted online. This should take approximately a week.

Monday, April 4, 2011


The “ meat ticket” attached to a disabled Australian soldier at the Citadel Military Hospital , Cairo, Egypt, during WW1 , listing disabilities for stretcher bearers and medical staff . It was attached to Trooper Vincent H. Graves ,of the Australian 9th Light Horse Regiment , put aboard the Army transport vessel, Dongala, on July 24,1919.Handwritten information said he had to be kept under observation and heard voices. In small print is the chilling information that it was one of TWO MILLION such tags printed in March 1917. Graves, regimental number 1383, a labourer, aged 24, had enlisted in Adelaide June 29, 1915.

The 9th,without their horses , fought at Gallipoli , and later took part in several mounted battles with the Turks in the Middle East, at times taking outposts at bayonet point. It is possible that Trooper Graves fought in areas or battles in which former NT Administrator Abbott was involved. The 9th Light entered Damascus on October 1, 1918 and was on the road to Homs when the Turks surrendered on September 31. With the war to end all wars said to be over, the 9th was waiting to be shipped home when it was called back to quell an Egyptian revolt in March 1919, order restored after a month. From the Peter Simon Ephemera Collection

Sunday, April 3, 2011


One of our culture vulture friends wears a bowtie and claims there is a Darwin link with the notorious London murderer , JACK THE RIPPER . At this stage , he refuses to say exactly what that connection is. One foggy night , we plan to fill him with rum and Pommie pork pies and extract the tantalising details.

Friday, April 1, 2011


CANBERRA : PM Julia Gillard this morning announced that political commentator Ague Bolter will be rushed to Japan in an RAAF biscuit bomber to take command of the Fukushima nuclear power station disaster . Bolter is renowned for pouring endless cold water on anything that the Australian government does. Thus it will be a piece of fairy cake for him to flood the melting rods and bring the horrendous situation under control. “My supply of cold water is larger than the great artesian bore ,” brave Bolter bragged , despite having recently been belted with a nulla nulla by a masked man wearing a possum skin cape outside the exclusive Melbourne Club. The PM said blase Bolter regarded the nuclear power station emergency as a trivial matter , as he demonstrated on the ABC Insiders show, with a dismissive wave of his hand. In the unlikely event that Bolter showed signs of running out of wet stuff, PM Gillard said several other blustering right wing journalists were standing by to do a Clochemerle on the dangerous nuclear piles .


A well attended funeral service was held in the Nightcliff Uniting Church for Margaret McDermid , 86, typical of the unsung army of volunteer women who help various charitable organisations operate . For 10 years she regularly helped sort out and price donated items and run the Nightcliff Uniting Church Op Shop.

From there clothing , shoes and other goods are also sent to Aboriginal settlements in the Katherine region and across to WA. In addition, reading matter , exercise books, pens and pencils , toys and children’s shoes are sent to communities in the hills of Timor- Leste . Clothing is sent to the Cowdy Ward at RDH. Mrs McDermid was also an active member of the CWA, always on the go despite hip trouble. Margaret had a sense of humour and when photographed in this hat which came into the Op shop , said it made her look like Miss Marple from the Agatha Christie TV series . A Scot , she had lived in Nyasaland and Sierra Leone with her late husband, John, who got the calling to religion. She died after a short illness.

It pays to investigate Miss Marple’s Nightcliff Op Shop on Fridays from 4-6.30 pm, and Saturday from 9-12 , its Saturday morning tea and coffee shop -Frilly's (a name derived from Frilled Neck Lizards which frolic in the area )- a popular drop in spot .


From Melbourne , home of the Comedy Festival and seemingly awash with comedians , comes a suggestion that the time is ripe for another political romp like the TV series Rubbery Figures .

There are lingering fond memories of the days when brilliant comedian Max Gillies got inside a bean bag to send up the rotund , mud crab and prawn munching Queensland minister, Russ Hinze , who departed stage left before corruption charges could be heard. Already some huffing and puffing reporters and conservatives with a Tele Tubby build are unkindly referred to as the Bean Bag Brigade.

A bug-eyed bean bag wearing Speedos would surely be enough to make Ian Thorpe give up his return to the deep end . Dyspeptic observers of political reporting in Australia have informed Little Darwin that an hilarious and outrageous send up of some of the shock jocks and scribes who pontificate about all things political could be written .