Tuesday, February 28, 2012


NT Education Minister and Leader of Government Business, Dr Chris Burns , who recently verbally took the filleting knife to Alison Anderson (CLP) in the Legislative Assembly , intends to go fishing after he stands down . In an encounter on the waterfront, he told Little Darwin that he is going to get a “tinny” and relax for a time after 12 years in politics , which he says drags a lot out of a person . Ms Anderson emphatically stated she would gaff and drag Burns into court if he repeated in public what he said about her in the protection of the Assembly fishbowl . After a relaxing period as a barra boy, perhaps growing some stubble in the process, what next ? Involvement with the medical centre at the Royal Darwin Hospital . While fishing, he will have to remember to be quiet , refrain from parliamentary-like outbursts , or else other anglers might express annoyance in a variety of ways, some even swinging golf clubs or prodding with pointy barge poles, the latter action resulting in a Goon Show cry about somebody falling in the water with crocodiles .

Monday, February 27, 2012


Brochure for Raintree Collection of Tiwi fashions displayed throughout Australia and appreciated by overseas visitors. ***************************************************
A dynamic , major force in the promotion of Aboriginal arts and crafts, Darwin resident , Ms Shirley Collins, has a strong feeling of betrayal , of being crushed by the sacked Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission , its successor, Indigenous Business Australia , an army of indifferent politicians , the media , the legal system and others.

As the head of Darwin’s Raintree Aboriginal Art Gallery , which opened in 1986, she fostered Aboriginal art across North Australia and played a large part in its global appreciation and understanding .

Ms Collins set up an exhibition of Aboriginal art at Rhode Island as part of the America’s Cup celebrations , she accommodated in one of the grand mansions built by the early tycoons, such as the Vanderbilts ; played a part in a large exhibition of Oenpelli art in Japan , viewed by huge crowds , the subject of extensive TV coverage and a book ; corresponded and conferred with major national and international collectors of Aboriginal art ; advised the large scale British collector and investor , Lord McAlpine, the man who had a big impact on Broome ; and , as explained in an earlier Little Darwin post, arranged , in a glittering event , for Lady Susan Renouf to launch an exhibition by Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas ,designer of the Aboriginal flag ; using Tiwi designs , she developed the Raintree Collection of clothing and textiles ,including wedding dresses, displayed at venues throughout Australia, bought by overseas tourists wanting something different to take home, NT MLA Dawn Lawrie photographed in a Tiwi skirt, Tamie Fraser attended a Raintree interstate fashion parade; the National Gallery of Victoria sought information from Collins about Tiwi designs from 1970 for a major exhibition it was planning ; former CLP Chief Ministers Paul Everingham and Shane Stone praised Collins in the Legislative Assembly; named Businesswoman of the Year , she was deeply involved in tourist promotion in the Darwin CBD.

Not bad for the daughter of a Stolen Generation mother from Borroloola . Shirley’s mother , Bridget Johnson , was placed in Darwin's Kahlin Compound when she was eight ; on her death in 1952, Shirley, just 14, took control of running the house and looking after three younger siblings .

Her first job as a teenager in Darwin was in a Chinese soft drink factory where she watched bottles , some of which exploded, whizzing around on a belt. Shirley’s paternal grandmother , concerned about the exploding bottles , saw an advertisement in the Northern Territory News for a Girl Friday , told her to apply. Gran prepared her for the interview by brushing her hair, applying lipstick for the first time and then Pond’s beauty cream.

The job was hers - in the bookbinding section at the News , in the old tin bank building , Smith Street, where she was given a special tool, like a piece of bone, which she still has, to fold paper. To earn extra money, she worked back at night feeding pages for the newspaper into the clanking old press one at a time. To give her added experience, she was put on the front counter to take advertisements. Taking money to the bank was another task. As she walked to the bank ,the driver of an Army bus used to whistle at her . She stuck her head up in the air and took no notice-at first . Marriage followed , children. Shirley subsequently found herself heading an office cleaning team for a Darwin accountant , Barrie Percival, who proved to be a longtime friend and a stalwart in her long battle for justice.

Through cleaning, Collins met Dorothy Bennett, who first came to the Territory from Sydney in 1954 through to 1960 on annual orthopaedic surveys in Arnhem land and adjoining islands. Her employer, orthopaedic surgeon , Dr Stuart Scougall, was a keen art collector. At the request of the NSW Art Gallery, Mrs Bennett collected art from centres visited during the surveys. Qantas also asked her to collect for them .

In 1972 Ms Bennett was appointed an art consultant and collector for the Aboriginal Arts Board , later transferring to its selling arm , Aboriginal Arts and Crafts Pty. Limited as consultant and field officer. On her recommendation, Shirley Collins was appointed director of the Darwin branch from which Shirley distributed to art galleries , museums and corporate outlets . Their relationship grew and Collins eventually opened her own business, the Raintree Fine Art Gallery and employed her mentor , Dorothy Bennett .

NEXT : Collins’s involvement in the Bank of America Down Under Tour in the lead up to the Sydney Olympic Games in which it has been said she became the "scapegoat" for shortcomings which resulted in her financial ruin .

Sunday, February 26, 2012


CANBERRA NEWSFLASH: The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Dumb Animals (SPCDA) has expressed outrage that the Australian political hermit , Kevin Rudd , will take up residence in a cave with an unsuspecting Tibetan Yeti . Pausing to squirt Golden Eye Ointment into his infected Third Eye, SPCDA spokesman , Lobsang Rampa, said it would be an act of extreme cruelty to expose any hairy Yeti to Rudd enumerating- in Chinese (with Cantonese expletives)- the 1001 points why he should be King Kong in the ALP and how he will star in a movie shot atop the Empire State Building in which he throws a screaming redhead to her death . Myopic Rampa , squinting into the sun, said Yetis throughout Tibet were howling disapproval at the news that the babbling Doctor Death would soon be moving to Tibet to muscle in on the monster tourist trade.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Inventive author/artist/rally driver, Peter Burleigh, develops miracle cure for scourge of outback Australia - BODY ODOUR - on historic Blackall-Barcaldine-Longreach stretch , during which sniffy, thankful locals roll out carpets for him , such is his fame , there being so many desperate farmers seeking advice from a couth city dude on how to snare a wife .

**It’s Sunday morning and Longreach is closed. The town is neat, clean and quieter than an empty church – and they’re pretty empty these days. Only the pubs are open and they’re buzzing when I pass by at 10.30am. My mobile phone refuses to work because it’s connected through Vodaphone, which seems only to offer connection on a single street corner somewhere in Western Sydney, and so I decide to compromise my hatred for Telstra and buy one of their SIM cards. My sworn oath never to use Telstra will remain intact at least until tomorrow when the shops open.

There are four coin-operated phones in Longreach and only one of them works. How do I know this? Because I go to the other three and see my gold coins swallowed before I find the right one. Telstra knows I have weakened and is exacting its tithe even before I sign up with them. I’m meeting Boonie from Brisbane at 6pm at the railway station but as usual I’ve had the pedal to the metal and so have arrived in town eight hours early. So what do I do? A steak sandwich at the pub, plug in the computer and bash away at the diary again. Really pleasant on this sunny, warm day.

Today I have two observations to make, both profound. The first, water. The locals won’t talk about their tapwater . If you comment on its unfriendly odour, they change the subject. In Western Queensland towns the super-chlorinated water comes from brackish, muddy, cattle-waded, dead-kangaroo-polluted creeks or is pumped from artesian bores. It has the powerful smell and flavour of sulphur (the satan-worshippers’ favourite) which lingers on the palate long after you spit it out. The smell is so strong in the shower this morning that I expect the water to be yellow.

To spend several dollars on a bottle of drinking water transported several million kilometres from the coast is a good investment, yet I wasn’t expecting the stinking shower. A notice in the Caravan Park’s office says that artesian water loses its smell when it cools down, and that Blackall water is sold around the world as absolutely pure for drinking. This appears to be an exaggeration of breathtaking ingenuousness. If you come across a bottle of Blackall when you’re dying of thirst in the Kalahari Desert, don’t drink it, you’ll regret it. I’ll bet the Blackall locals clean their teeth with beer instead.

My second observation is cultural, and concerns the selection of carpets in bars, pubs and clubs in the bush. There are rules which govern the design of such carpets:

* The colours must not harmonise - the more sickeningly colour-saturated the better.
* The pattern in the carpet must have a disturbing affect on patrons' minds and have no relationship to anything recognisable or natural.
* The carpet must at the same time preserve every stain, spot of gum, meat pie, squashed chip, sauce drooling, orange juice and drop of cooking fat which falls on it.
* If possible, the carpet should induce fits in epileptics, a "stoned" effect amongst young people, and uncontrollable thirst in all others.

The carpet lying under me in Longreach conforms to all these rules and invents a few of its own. It’s a masterpiece. I would write more but I can’t look at it any longer. Oh yes – QANTAS. Love it or hate it, it all started here in Longreach.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Widespread use in Darwin eateries and market stalls of the "food enhancer" monosodium glutamate (MSG) is claimed by a person who has returned to the city after years away. Because this person suffers headaches whenever food containing MSG is eaten, what amounted to a survey of Darwin eating places was conducted. Just about "every" food outlet reported using MSG, even in the preparation of steak.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) cites "overwhelming evidence from a large number of scientific studies" to explicitly deny any link between MSG and "serious adverse reactions" or "long-lasting effects", declaring MSG "safe for the general population". It does, however, describe that in less than 1% of the population, sensitive individuals may experience "transient" side effects such as "headache, numbness/tingling, flushing, muscle tightness, and generalised weakness" to a large amount of MSG taken in a single meal, which became known as the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome . People who consider themselves sensitive to MSG are encouraged to confirm this through an appropriate clinical assessment.

Standard 1.2.4 of the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code requires the presence of MSG as a food additive to be labelled in packaged foods. The label must bear the food additive class name (e.g., flavor enhancer), followed by either the name of the food additive, MSG, or its International Numbering System (INS) number, 621. Out of respect and concern for customers, the person who conducted the Darwin survey suggests all food outlets should clearly indicate in menus or by signs on stalls if MSG is used in preparation of meals .

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


After slipping on a banana skin and banging his head on a life -size , souvenir, stuffed Panda Bear , former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, this morning recovered his memory about that mysterious night in a New York pole dancing joint. As everybody knows, Rudd, strangely, could not remember much about that evening with NT politician, Warren Snowdon , and New York Post editor, Col Allan. There was a strong suspicion that the forces of darkness had slipped him a mickey finn while he innocently sipped a schooner of Queensland pineapple juice.

Despite hypnotism , electric shock treatment , assistance from the New York CSI and interrogation, which included waterboarding by Mrs Rudd , he had what amounted to total amnesia.

This morning , however , Mr Rudd went for a skate on an imported Filipino banana , banged his noggin and blacked out . Police are working on a lead that a man in a suit wearing a cowboy hat set the disappearing Foreign Minister up for a fall by scattering the banana skins about his front door. Coming to in the arms of his ever loving wife, Rudd said ," I’ve just recalled what happened during that study tour in the Big Apple." Naturally, Therese , was more than somewhat interested. Reaching for a shillelagh , she urged him to tell/confess all.

When he told her he had had a Pauline conversion on the road to New York, she eyed him suspiciously , raised the club higher and asked for more info about this Pauline. "Truly ," he stammered. "I wanted to emulate Australia’s highly respected Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, a former Territories Minister , who on a visit to New York wowed the locals when he played the bongo drums at a nightspot. "

If it was good enough for Sir Paul , a conservative individual who showed incredible self control when , while watering the garden with a hose, was asked by a bone headed reporter if he had a sense of humour , it was okay for Kevin O7 to repeat the drumming event. This morning, Rudd vividly recalled playing a bracket of Salvation Army songs on a tom –tom at the gentlemen’s club. An anorexic woman wearing a loose bikini and a grannie bonnet , a Paris Hilton look alike , had jumped up out of the audience , with a tambourine , and joined in .

Wielding the tambourine with great gusto, she accidently hit him on the head and our Kevin lost his memory. It seems Snowdon and Allan took up a collection from Christian gents in the club and the money was donated to a good cause : a brain transplant for President George Dubya Bush.


Intrepid author/artist Peter Burleigh starts out from Canberra , above, on his marathon outback trip of discovery in his honourable Pajero pulling a spartan camper-trailer. In the national capital he narrowly escaped a tsunami of mudslinging from the corridors of power. Then it was on to Dubbo, Bourke , Charleville and Blackall for a pit stop. The first part of the startling diary , using many anthropological expressions and making quaint observations , begins thus-

Picture this: at 5.25pm your correspondent finds a table in the empty dining room at the Barcoo Hotel in Blackall, Queensland. The table has a lace tablecloth, somewhat out of place in a one-street town filled with dirty utes. I am tapping at my little computer, attempting to ignore the clamour of races on TV, football on another TV, dinging slot machines in the Dining Room and a crowd of men saying “fuck”. It’s outback Queensland so they say it slowly and say it often.

The bar is located right beside me (there’s no difference between the Bar and the Dining Room except for the lace tablecloth) and when I came in the blokes stopped saying “fuck” for a moment, stared at me then started saying “fuck” again.

I ask the barman: “Which red wine have you got?”
Fucked if I know,” he replies. “It’s in there.” I follow his jerked thumb into a pantry and choose a Brown Brothers Merlot, the best red they have. Clearly , they only stock wine which is offensive to wine lovers. I now have a bottle of red wine and the patrons are staring at me again – a guy on his own using a computer and drinking wine? Prob’ly a poofter - but dinner doesn’t start until 6pm.

Here is my steak. “Number eight is you, love?” “Yeah, thanks.”
I ordered salad with my steak and so my slab of meat (as big and black as a flattened-out gumboot but tender and exactly as I ordered it) is surrounded by the outback version of salad, always with chips , which hasn’t changed since I first travelled here as a student:
•A slice of canned beetroot.
•A slice of canned pineapple.
•Slices of real cucumber.
•Some raggedy fragments of lettuce.
•Slices of raw onion.

I’m sorry to say steak is about the only food of any quality you can get out here. Everything else is frozen, remanufactured, crumbed or battered. After a while you develop an aversion to meal times. No matter how much you like it, you can’t eat steak every night. Larger towns sometimes offer a store which sells almost-fresh vegetables, but villages like Blackall? Forget it. If it’s not frozen first, pre-fried and re-fried, it’s not available. I am able to find this situation amusing because I know with certainty that sooner, not later, I’ll return to my usual eating standards but the guys who say “fuck” have to live and eat here.

In Bourke, of all places, it rained all night. The rain started lightly, like a clumsy painter dripping Dulux on the roof. It wasn't long before it was roaring, a roar which turned into a lullaby. I slept like a stone and woke only when a branch fell out of the adjoining tree and crashed onto the camper. It may have been overloaded with rain-shy birds for all I know. The waterproofing stuff I sprayed on the canvas worked; it doesn’t leak.

The road was a worry . It’s narrow at the best of times, and after the rain the steep sides were slick with mud. Make a miscalculation and you’ll slide into oblivion. No way you could get yourself back up onto the road. My uneasiness about the lack of human traffic – as opposed to kangaroo and emu traffic – turned to thankfulness. Lucky for me road trains are rare in this particular area, and being pushed over the lip of a slope greased with mud more lubricious than Vaseline when you do pass one would be no picnic.

In a “lay-by” where I stop to pollute the landscape I find three huge pigs with spotted skins lying dead, neatly arranged side by side. Feral domestic pigs breed with the smaller, tougher Timor Pig. A mystery. Jonestown for porkers.

Yesterday is repeated: the road runs under the car all day, generally in good repair but occasionally frightening; for example, a Road Hazard turns out to be a 300-mm deep car eater with sharp edges. Janey and I once hit one of these in Portugal with interesting consequences for our car, so it is lucky I’m alert enough to slow down.

I’m listening to Talking Books and although I’m in the outback I’m also in His Majesty’s Ship Surprise in 1815, fighting the perfidious Bonaparte. Pat Mickey O’Brien wrote 20 of them (including Master & Commander) about a Captain and his friend Stephen, a surgeon-spy. Brilliant. The best books about the English Navy I’ve never read – or listened to. NEXT : Dust, dust, bulldust and Qantas .

Monday, February 20, 2012


Bigger than a three-ring circus, punchier in its literary expression and comments about the outback than Jimmy Sharman’s touring boxing tent , the fabulous , highly illustrated BURLEIGH BULLDUST DIARY roadshow is back on the gravel after a valve grind , rebore , oil change and new gudgeon pins . The unique series , in the style of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson , but without a Samoan attorney and loathsome killer bats, will entertain and inform many readers with lurid pictures of far flung parts of the nation , especially the Top End. It may upset and infuriate a small number of yokels , but it will be too late for them to organise to tar and feather the author because he will have departed on a slow boat to China. Burleigh has been a keen observer of the changes taking place in the Australian outback since way back . The front cover illustration , above , drawn by him for the trail blazing 1969 national magazine –BROADSIDE –portrayed the growing Americanisation of Australia , signposts pointing to American bases at Pine Gap, near Alice Springs , North West Cape and Honeysuckle Creek . Pointers to Canberra and Sydney are on the ground and some misguided fool is singing Waltzing Matilda from a nearby billabong. A fierce bidding war against a media mogul saw Little Darwin secure the world rights to the BURLEIGH BULLDUST DIARY . We paid by cheque and will also be on a Panamanian registered bumboat fleeing to a foreign port by the time the poultice bounces. There are more than 20 parts to the Diary , dear readers, so tighten your seat belts for a magical mystery tour .

Sunday, February 19, 2012


The rampaging Red Terror and evil Doctor Death limber up for their looming seat- gripping , no holds barred , match of the year , the loser to take up residence with a Yeti in a cave in Tibet . The winner will be invited to a full ceremonial reception at the White House Rose Garden and given a bouquet of cacti and Republican poison ivy .

Saturday, February 18, 2012


The likelihood of a nuclear attack on Darwin was raised during the 70th commemoration of the bombing of the city at the special Stokes Hill Wharf ceremony to honour the 23 waterside workers and 48 seamen killed during the raids. Brian Manning, with 35 years involvement on the Darwin waterfront, grimly reflected on what the next attack on Darwin might be like ."I don’t think anybody would be left to talk about it," he added. His "message," to prevent such a terrible event , was that people should be prepared to do something to stop the arms race and the terrorism taking place in the world

Standing with the aid of a walking stick , an activist involved in many campaigns , such as freedom for East Timor, Aboriginal advancement and social justice , closely associated with crusading editor Jim Bowditch , he said he wondered how the people of Iraq and Afghanistan felt about the bombing of their countries. Later, he told Little Darwin he regarded the separate , larger commemoration events on the Esplanade , attended by the PM, the Governor-General, the Leader of the Federal Opposition ,the US Ambassador , the Chief Minister of the NT , military officials , and other dignitaries as perpetuating the old king and country attitude, glorifying war and feeding the industrial military complex, about which President Eisenhower had warned.

Addressing the gathering , organised by the Maritime Union of Australia , Ms Dorothy Fox (Cubillo) spoke of the heroism and confusion that took place on the wharf the day of the attack. In particular , she mentioned a person who repeatedly dived into the water to rescue men. It was unfortunate, she said , that objects connected with the defence of Darwin had been removed as the city grew.

Ms Fox said she believed the commemoration should have started at the wharf and then moved up to the Esplanade . With all due respect to the PM and other elected politicians and officials , the day belonged to the people of Darwin . She said she would take the matter up with the NT government representatives at the ceremony –Chris Burns and Malarndirri McCarthy , with apologies from the Chief Minister, who was attending the Cenotaph function–to press for such a change at future commemorations. Wreaths were thrown into the sea and later a permanent memorial on the wharf was blessed.

Tiwi dancers who had been left out of the Esplanade commemoration by planners performed, above , in front of the memorial, one dance being the Bombing of Darwin. A member of the group recounted how Darwin had failed to act on advice that Japanese planes were heading its way. He also told how islanders had captured a downed Japanese pilot, telling him to stick up his hands, the way cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy instructed in movies*


(The continuing biography of the Northern Territory's great crusading editor, the late James Frederick Bowditch, recently offensively described in the NT News as an "eccentric " who could throw a "hissy fit".)

While running to catch a train at Sydney's Central Railway Station for another dangerous wartime operation , Jim Bowditch was stopped by a military policeman who said his jacket was not done up properly . Jim had an angry exchange with the MP and , surrounded by a ring of cheering soldiers , slugged it out with the officious man, eventually knocking him down.

Bowditch was then arrested by police and a burly detective , a renowned knuckle man , took him into a room and beat him up. Each time Bowditch fell to the floor, the tough detective said to onlookers , “ There’s the brave Digger .” Bowditch had enough sense to realise he was in serious trouble did not fight back .

After that episode a Z Force officer told Bowditch he was more valuable behind enemy lines and not to slug it out in Australia. Jim replied that he did not go looking for trouble and that the MP had chipped him over a trivial thing , a button.

The mission involved gaining pre- invasion information on Tarakan , Borneo, including the position of a well hidden gun which had been a problem for Allied shipping. Two parties were flown in by Catalina on April 24 , 1945 . The plane had to touch down a long distance from the island so that it would not be seen by the enemy and some hard paddling followed in folboats . One group became lost and returned empty handed. Bowditch and his offsider Ali bin Salleh , however, got ashore. Leaving the boat with bin Salleh, who had instructions to pull out if he did not return by a certain time , Bowditch then proceeded alone .

Apart from the fact that he was on an island with 2000 fanatical Japanese , anti tank mines were strewn about the place . Tarakan, 24 km from north to south and l6 km from east to west, was a strategic location with some of the world’s highest quality oil and an airbase from which the Allies could provide support for larger operations in Borneo. The Japanese knew an invasion would come soon. To prevent native slave labour from escaping their feet were mutilated .

Fortunately for Bowditch , he came upon a party of Japanese soldiers who had been out either swimming or hunting pigs , and he shadowed them. They eventually took a path which led to the gun emplacement area . Stealthily following, he came around a bend in the path and was suddenly confronted by an armed guard. Instantly , he smashed the butt of his carbine into the startled guard’s chin and cut his throat ... “ I could have shot him , but it would have given the game away . The butt of my carbine took half his head away. I panicked, and carved up his face , back and thighs with my knife in the hope the Japanese would think that he had been killed by a native . The guard seemed to be a young boy who looked no more than 14 ; he could have been a Korean. Although I killed lots of people, the mutilation of that boy stuck in my mind .”

His revulsion at the grisly work
he did on the guard did not stop him from completing the mission. He discovered that there were two guns, not one , hidden under a limestone cliff and was able to get within six metres of them . A map he drew pinpointed the guns . At the end of three days he and bin Salleh withdrew from the island. Unfortunately , a radio failure prevented the invaluable information that Bowditch and bin Salleh gathered being passed on until three days after the invasion began . The May 1945 invasion was the most ambitious co-ordinated operation undertaken by Australian forces in the whole Pacific war. During the battle 225 Australians were killed and 669 wounded . Japanese killed were 1504 . Flame throwers were used to burn the defenders out of bunkers and foxholes.

Between April 24 and June 2 1945 ,Bowditch saw action in British North Borneo and took part in an enemy deception plan in support of the 9 Australian Division’s Operation Oboe V1. This involved launching raids to mask Brunei invasion plans, particularly that of Balikpapan . As part of Operation Stallion , Prentiss, Bowditch , Carter and bin Salleh , were flown out in Catalinas to pick up intelligence from the locals .

Soon after, July 6, Bowditch was a member of a party which parachuted into the Mahakan River Lakes area of Dutch Borneo for a special operation . As the leader of a sub party of two white men and 30 native guerillas, he organised raids against the Japanese falling back from the Balikpapan invasion , harassing them and blowing up their food and ammunition dumps.

Inspired by Jim's profile-a "Bowditch Monkey"

The party had many dealings with dyaks who lived in long houses and used blowpipes. When the people of a dyak village thought one of their own had given information to the Japanese about Bowditch’s party, they beheaded him. Monkeys with large noses , proboscis monkeys, were common in the area and they became known as “ Bowditch monkeys” because of his rather prominent nose , which caused many jokes among his colleagues and the local tribesmen .

A holy man who claimed he could not be killed attached himself to the group. This revered man raised the alarm when some Japanese barges came into view . Bowditch’s friend Stan Taylor fired his bren gun from between the legs of the holy man who just stood there pointing at the enemy. In the fierce battle which followed the holy man plunged into the river and was never seen again . As a result of this battle Taylor later received the Military Medal .

One of the guerillas was a political activist who said he wanted to see the Dutch out of his country and Bowditch had a lot of time for him. They had long talks and became close friends. On instructions, Bowditch was sent in to reinforce another commando group at the mouth of the Kahala River which was being heavily engaged by a Japanese patrol sent out from Moentai to destroy them. Official records stated that Sergeant Bowditch was mainly instrumental in killing 30 of the Japanese and pinning down the remainder until they were destroyed. On that occasion Bowditch said he got the jump on the Japanese who were in canoes and quickly killed about 15 of them with a sub machine gun . He pursued the survivors and wiped them out in fierce battles.

During that operation a plane was called in to shoot up the Japanese but began to fire on Bowditch’s party . He sprang behind a coconut tree and a bullet from the plane split it wide open. He immediately jumped to his feet, grabbed a mortar and fired off a smoke shell into the area that the plane should have been strafing. The pilot realised his error and turned his fire on the enemy.

Aircraft, unfortunately , often shot up the wrong village. Bowditch went to one which had been mistakenly raked by Allied planes and found several people dead, a woman with a hole in her arm and a young boy who had been shot in the foot. The boy’s foot had been split in two ; it had turned gangrenous . In a bid to save the boy’s life, Bowditch took a knife and cut off most of the foot , leaving only the big toe intact. Then he called in a Catalina and had the wounded boy and woman evacuated to Balikpapan . Doctors amputated the boy’s leg at the thigh, but he lived.

A Dutch captain was parachuted in as the fighting died down and he caused tension in the party because of his arrogance . Bowditch had many dealings with native chiefs in Borneo and it was clear that they disliked the Dutch intensely. While he had found the continental Dutch he met on submarines in which he travelled easy to get on with , the colonial Dutch raised his hackles by being arrogant and harsh on the natives. Colonial whites-Dutch and English- were a problem , he stated.

Before the commandoes were taken out by flying boat , the Dutch captain insisted they dump all their ammunition and supplies in a place where they could not be used by the locals. Bowditch alerted villagers with whom he had been working and made arrangements to dump the supplies , which included American carbines, mortars, bren guns, pistols , hand grenades and thousands of rounds of ammunition - in a stream from which they could easily be retrieved. Said Bowditch : “ I don’t suppose the Australian Army leaders would be happy to know that some of our weapons were used to oust the Dutch . No doubt some Dutchmen bit the dust because of what we did. ”

Apart from being sympathetic to the cause , Bowditch thought it would have been wrong to leave people without weapons in an area in which there were still many desperate, armed Japanese . In Balikpapan his dislike for the Dutch intensified when he heard that the political activist whom he had liked had been shot by Dutch police. I don’t know why he was killed, “ said Bowditch, “ but I suspect he probably said something against the Dutch. ”

Even when Bowditch was brought home to Australia and the war was over, the Army insisted on delaying his release into civvy street. He was made into an “escort sergeant ’’, charged with keeping troops in order who were returning home to Tasmania by ship from Melbourne. The troops making the voyage were told by an officer at the start of the voyage that Sergeant Bowditch would handle any trouble makers . They were also advised not to misjudge Sergeant Bowditch because of his size as he had been in Z Force. Bowditch spent a lot of time in his cabin boozing and brooding about the way the Army had treated him.

The tame task of escorting soldiers home made him feel bitter about being kept in uniform for so long. Rightly, he felt he had done his bit for the war effort and each trip to Tasmania involved a bout of seasickness. He felt the Army was acting in a malicious way , getting at him right up to the very end for bucking authority throughout his military service.

At war’s end many commandoes were offered jobs as security men on wharves and industrial sites. Bowditch would not have any of this as it sounded too much like working for the army . During the war , said Bowditch, unionists had often been portrayed to Servicemen as communist traitors. NEXT : Free at last- eventually interested in the Northern Territory.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Painted pearlshells were sold as souvenirs of Darwin , some aboard ships.This one, sent to Lil, bearing Christmas greetings from the city, soon to be bombed by the Japanese , was bought in an Adelaide antique shop 20 years ago . From the Little Darwin Collection of Oddities and Rarities. Another old decorated pearlshell in the collection is from Broome, also attacked by the Japanese .

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Front page of the Army News , produced in Darwin, for circulation on that fateful day- February 19,1942. Costing a penny, it carried the advice on its masthead to MEMORISE THESE AIR RAID SIRENS! Of course, there were no sirens because the warning from the Tiwi Islands was not acted upon , with catastrophic results .

A report on the fall of "impregnable" Singapore contained an extract from a speech by Prime Minister Curtin in which he said the nation must now resist an enemy which threatened to invade Australia. "Our honeymoon has finished ," he said . "It is now work or fight as we've never worked or fought before. The hours previously devoted to sport and leisure must now be given to war duties. Every citizen has a parallel duty to that of the man in the fighting forces. As things stand today in Australia , brains and brawn are better than either bets or beer for the unflagging resistance which would enable us not to become a people governed by others."

In Chicago, eminent writer and journalist, H. R."Red " Knickerbocker , booted out of Berlin by Hitler, was reported as saying that with the fall of Singapore, Java would go and there might be an attack on Australia, followed by an attack on continental USA. It was, he said, the bounden duty of the US to strain every nerve and effort to send to Australia every available fighter bomber and masses of army marines and navy. The Lieutenant -Governor General of the Netherlands, Dr Van Mook, in Sydney , said that Australia was safe from immediate attack.

* The Australian naval officer on the front page of Army News was Captain J.A.Collins , recently promoted to Commodore, skipper of HMAS Sydney when it was lost in action with the disguised German raider, Kormoran .


The long drawn out emergency involving the Singapore based cargo ship Eline Enterprise , with its leaking flammable ethylene gas cylinders being moved in and out of Darwin Harbour, action delayed by the drawing up of a recovery contract- PAPERWORK!!! - must surely ring alarm bells . Once again, it showed the Territory is neither properly prepared or equipped to handle an emergency . The Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, remained exceptionally quiet throughout , early in the piece saying on TV he preferred to leave the matter in the hands of the experts. Can you imagine the premier of any state in which a ship with the potential to explode at or near the capital’s port of entry would maintain such a low media profile?

The media coverage of the situation was patchy, shallow, the obvious follow up questions never asked . Where are the news editors, chiefs of staff ? Incredibly, there were days when the NT News hard copy did not mention the drama , one day on page 9 , further evidence that the town would benefit from another paper, one not obsessed with crocs, cyclones , cocks, bonking , low flying UFOs. If , as the News described the vessel as being “stricken”- overcome or strongly affected by an illness, grief, fear ,etc,according to the dictionary , then it was surely a story that demanded close attention , investigative reporting , daily coverage, a major follow up when the drama was finally over.

How did the crew feel throughout the drama, who was the skipper , what was the storm like which dislodged and damaged the gas cylinders, how many of these cylinders are shipped into port, how is the gas used , what is the anticipated number of cyclinders that will be required when the Inpex project kicks off, where and how will the cylinders be stored ? -just a few questions that the media could have asked. No follow up,however, is evident at all by the scribes. So far, the matter has not been raised in the current sitting of the NT Legislative Assembly .

The ship vanished rapidly from ABC TV’s news radar. Channel 9 gave better coverage and extracted the fact that there was other possibly explosive cargo in the hold . The Sunday Territorian, P8, quoted Port Corporation’s acting chief executive Melissa Reiter as saying she could not legally disclose details about the ship’s movements. The Maritime Union of Australia statement about ships flying under flags of convenience, not abiding by conditions and requirements of Australian vessels , plying Australian waters and getting involved in scrapes got little coverage by the local media.

If Darwin intends to become a major gas hub, it had better ensure that its capacity to cope with emergencies in the harbour are far better than has been exposed by this latest fiasco. ( See earlier Little Darwin post for details of Halifax shipping disaster which caused the largest man- made explosion before the advent of the atomic bomb).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The African election shoot out continued in the Legislative Assembly . While the Zebra-mobile had vanished from outside the Wedding Cake, there were suspicious stains on the carpet in the south gallery , where hordes of visiting schoolchildren capered about noisily like chimps in a cage at the zoo. As if bitten by a swarm of Tsetse flies, feverish members charged each other with being stooges of Canberra . Chief Minister Paul Henderson accused the CLP of being a mouthpiece for the Mad Monk, Tony Abbott , stripped down to his very bare essentials in the above caricature by one of our growing team of artists and correspondents who intend to put some much needed life into local reporting .

During some lively exchanges, the strains of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly were heard in the chamber ( actually recorded in Hansard ) . It came from the direction of the Chinese dragon and baby lion wrestler, the Member for Fong Lim, Dave Tollner.

Attorney-General , Rob Knight, wearing a differerent suit to the one the day before (who said the emperor has no clobber?),quipped that somebody was the Ugly One, which is hurtful and possibly actionable at law .

Little Darwin , having mentioned the great Swahili nation in a previous post, influenced the debate as Minister Knight told The Elf that it was good that the CLP had a Swahili speechwriter sitting upstairs . The Elf denied that a literate tribesman , mission trained no doubt, had been used to compose another great tale out of Darkest Africa ; it was all his own work .

Having threatened to use the slipper on unruly, ejaculating members, Speaker Jane Aagaard said imputations , epithets and ironic expressions were out of order. Somehow, the Chief Minister mentioned Planet Triton, Tollner demanded to know the impact of the carbon tax on the cost of a litre of milk and a metre of concrete , he probably capable of talking under a lorry load of the sloppy stuff.

Having been called a bozo by the Member for Greatorex, Matt Conlan,the Chief Minister retaliated- not with a custard pie-but with a retort about a cubic yard of marshmallow.*


Is there going to be an outbreak of Underbelly violence in the Legislative Assembly ? Dressed in black , like a member of the dreaded Black Hand Gang, Speaker Jane Aagaard, wielder of a mean gavel, who can cut off your capacity to speak , has threatened to use the slipper on troublesome members of the house.

The shock news came during question time when she became angered by interjections. In particular, she warned the Member for Greatorex , Matt Conlan , CLP, and reminded him , and others, of Standing Order 51 which says answers should be given without loud interruptions , interjections, raspberries , sniggers and so forth.

If members did not comply with this provision , Ms Aagaard said she may "take a leaf out of fellow colleague , Speaker Slipper’s book." Peter Slipper , affectionately known to his former Liberal Party colleagues as The Rat , and so depicted in News Limited blats , its rabid reporters writhing and writing under the influence of Rupert’s Rid Rat and Ranga , is the new umpire in the House of Representatives .

Ms Aagaard said Slipper’s refreshing new habit of asking members to withdraw from the chamber without a warning was a " very good idea. " Blustering gasbag Joe Hockey, Shadow Treasurer, was the first to be booted out of the House of Reps without a warning , a move which endeared Speaker Slipper to many right thinking Australians. Slipper has also added to the majesty of parliament by doing a parade , the mace going ahead , born by the Serjeant–at- Arms , so that the public get a closer look at democracy in action , here in the l8th century .

It is sincerely hoped that Speaker Aagaard emulates this walkabout idea of comrade Slipper. A stroll through The Mall , preceded by someone hefty enough to carry the heavy mace , pausing to dong a few cane toads along the way with the weapon, would impress tourists. It could be our equivalent of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

Monday, February 13, 2012


There could surely be no stranger way to mark the first election shots fired in the Legislative Assembly this year than by parking outside the Wedding Cake a well- worn Commodore station wagon resembling an African Zebra. It came complete with an elongated Zebra main made from three large yard broom heads , in line , attached to the centre of the roof ,painted in black and white , adding to the safari shoot out atmosphere. In the bay on the Bennett Street side of the Assembly, without a parking ticket, the car , bearing a NSW numberplate, registration soon to expire, minus all hubcaps , with mud or elephant dung on the bodywork, made this reporter think he had been transported to the great African rift, instead of the Berrimah Line.

Some passing tourists stopped, laughed and admired the Zebra . A woman said that down Mexico way they paint the donkeys up to resemble el cheapo, ersatz Zebras .This is probably done to mislead those unworldly Gringos from across the border who are notoriously ignorant of geography or anything other than Whitney Houston’s tonsils, Michael Jackson's missing glove and his pet chimp,Bubbles.

Inside the Assembly, the Leader of Government Business, tom-tom beating Chris Burns , seen during the Christmas break sporting facial fungus, not contesting the next election, was doing his usual imitation of a Laughing Hyena. His visage frequently conveys the impression of a cross between a grinning Cheshire cat and a pensioner breaking in a new set of false teeth. He let fly with a broadside from his White Hunter special, a Mauser , claiming that there was a" paucity of policy" in the CLP Swahili camp.

A shudder went through the Assembly- on both sides-when he intimated that there were 180 days to go before the election , during which time he would spruik , comment on CLP policies and bellow like a Wildebeest grabbed by the snout by a Nile crocodile during the great Serengeti trek.

As usual, the public galleries were almost devoid of any sign of life. You are more likely to see a copulating Dodo in the special press gallery area than an actual member of the local media. A member of the Assembly staff suddenly came into view and was seen apparently checking to see if there were any stray Zebras , Occupy Wall Street placards or evidence of gunpowder plots in the public galleries.

Looking every inch an Attorney-General , in a suit , Rob Knight , slipped in and out of the chamber to exercise his writ of habeas corpus or reroute a flock of angry Plovers.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


In 1928 , Bert Hinkler , above, was the first person to fly solo from England to Australia – Darwin- and was rewarded by the government with a cigarette case and a cheque . Songs such as this one, from the Little Darwin Ephemera Collection, were written about him ; he married in 1932 at the age of 39 and died when he crashed in Italy a year later attempting to break another Australian record.
With so many people coming to town for the Bombing of Darwin 70th anniversary it is hoped that somebody in authority arranges to clean up-before the weekend - the neglected Victoria Hotel Arcade site highlighting early aviators . The display, headed VICTORIA HOTEL-THE AVIATORS' HOME AWAY FROM HOME, has an associated showcase , with names of pioneering aviators scratched on the stonework, festooned inside by cobwebs, gecko droppings and dead insects.

There are exterior cobwebs and when Little Darwin inspected the site on Saturday there was even an unrelated picture of children attached to the front of the showcase. In the planter boxes at the foot of the display were more empty cans and a wider range of rubbish than sighted on a previous visit, indicating the area is neglected and apparently rarely given any attention by Darwin City Council. Leaves and cigarette butts were roundabout .

Some of those whose names are on the wall took part in the two world wars , so that it is also a war memorial , neglected by Darwin authorities who incredibly failed to detect that there are bad spelling errors in the Esplanade war memorial ,which cannot be rectified by the weekend .

One of the famous aviators and inventors who left his mark there was Australia’s Lone Eagle, Bert Hinkler ; Charles Lindbergh being America's Lone Eagle. Hinkler's contribution to the advancement of aviation was so great that a tiny piece of a glider he built as a young man was given to Astronaut , Captain Dick Scobee , aboard the last, ill-fated Challenger mission. Retrieved from the wreckage after the explosion , the piece of wood was returned to the Hinkler Memorial Museum, Bundaberg ,Queensland. Hinkler Crescent,Fannie Bay, perpetuates his name as does a Qantas Airbus .

Saturday, February 11, 2012


A few shirt buttons open, News reporter Jim Kelly, in the Buffalo Club, shows how hot it can be in the Wet . Photo from reporter Keith Willey's book, Eaters of the Lotus, Jacaranda Press, 1964.

The rehashed and trite article about crusading editor Jim Bowditch in the NT News special 60th anniversary feature contained extraordinary claims , none more ridiculous than that Bowditch wore thongs in the newspaper . I had the wonderful experience of working with Jim from 1958-1962, followed by a further close relationship from 1972-82 . Never once did I see him in thongs. Jim Bowditch wore a short sleeve shirt , shorts, shoes and long socks , as did most people in Darwin. Being an Englishman, sandals also interested him, rarely worn in the office.

As for him sitting shirtless at the desk with sweat running down his front, it is obvious that the News got the wrong Jim. There was a rotund sporting journalist , Jim Kelly , above, who used to sit next to me , often sans shirt, sipping a cold libation, puffing on a Temple Bar , in the sweaty NT News reporters’ room at the tin bank premises, Smith Street. Kelly had a nickname ,Flannel Foot, because of shuffling gait, but he never wore thongs. His footwear was more like black dancing pumps.

Saying Bowditch was an eccentric, likely to throw a “hissy fit,”I found offensive . Due to his war experiences , one being his deliberate mutilation of an enemy soldier to hide a pending invasion ( details soon to be posted in the Little Darwin ongoing Bowditch biography ) , which played on his mind, for which service he received bravery medals , one from the US, a doctor said that Bowditch , in effect, self medicated on alcohol , pot, eventually pills , the latter making him aggressive and irascible. Calling this a hissy fit , is thoughtless , trendy jargon- ideal for those catering for the limited mentality of a certain demographic, but it should not have been used to demean the memory of a great crusading editor.

The suggestion that reporters climbed under their desks to escape having a wrestle with Bowditch is hard to believe. Having wrapped my hands around the editor’s windpipe after a boozy night at the open air boxing on Darwin Oval , I find it hilarious that later wimpy journalists allegedly took fright and hid beneath desks.

In his cups, Bowditch threatened to kill , with a few blows, many journos and others. The point is that he never used his commando tactics to kill when it came to a scuffle and , being slight, he often received a thumping , none from his staff , as far as I know.

Rehashing an anecdote about Bowditch supposedly threatening to sack journalist Errol Simper after describing a kitten as a gorgeous , furry little creature instead of a “fucking” cat is surely open to interpretation. Bowditch had to be jesting if he made such a statement .

Another longtime NT News reporter firmly told me about a lost cat story, probably the same feline as above, in the paper which clearly showed that while Bowditch might forthrightly tear strips off people verbally and in editorials , he could be incredibly soft as well . If the News had chosen to contact the Bowditch family in Darwin I am sure they would have corrected the errors about his footwear , his wardrobe and the suggestion that he exposed his manly chest to the world while pounding away with three fingers on the typewriter . They may have also mentioned the fact that Jim was blown out of the house with the pet cat during Cyclone Tracy .

Overall, the special feature in the News look back at 60 years left a lot to be desired. The erroneous statements about Big Jim Bowditch could not be left unchallenged . There are a lot of knowledgeable cats in Darwin, Canberra , Sydney , New Zealand,New York and elsewhere who could have supplied the paper with interesting, fresh copy about the paper and other earlier editors and reporters not mentioned *


Attributed to possible engine failure , an RAAF Wirraway of No 12 Squadron, which had taken off from Batchelor on an anti-submarine sortie , crashed about 12 miles west of Anson Bay , near Mt Litchfield, October 3, 1942. The pilot, Flying Officer Peter Roger Forrest Hughes, 25, and observer, Sergeant S. V. Corcoran, were killed . Hughes , from a prominent Sydney Catholic family, was buried in the Adelaide River War Cemetery as was Corcoran. Soon after, Peter's grieving , widowed mother, Eileen Hughes, came north from Bowral , NSW, to see her son’s grave. In Darwin , she got a lift in a truck which crashed on the way to the cemetery and both she and driver were killed.

The pilot’s father, Roger , a classical scholar , had taken up medicine ,and enlisted in the 1st Field Ambulance of the Australian Army Medical Corps in WW1. Posted to the front in France, he had only been there less than a week when he was fatally wounded due to a direct hit by a shell on a dressing station in which he was attending a wounded soldier . The patient was killed instantly ; Hughes received terrible leg injuries.

His brother, Geoffrey , a pilot of No 10 Squadron, searching for him, found him near death , and was there when he received the Last Sacraments. Offspring of Geoffrey Hughes , an Australian flying hero, include Tom Hughes , who piloted Sunderland flying boats over the North Sea in WW11 , a former Federal politician who took a cricket bat to Vietnam War protestors who invaded the grounds of his home , now a prominent QC ; the renowned Time magazine art critic and author,Robert Hughes ,whose books include The Fatal Shore , Barcelona, Nothing If Not Critical, Heaven and Hell In Western Art ,Goya and an excellent memoir, Things I Didn’t Know, Knopf , 2006.

NOTE: In the Australian War Memorial(AWM) collection is a gold St Jean D’Acre Medal, awarded by the Sultan of Turkey to members of the British , Austrian and Turkish army and navy forces under the command of Sir George Napier, who took part in the 1840 liberation of the City of Acre , on the Syrian coast, after eight years of Egyptian occupation. The medal was part of a collection assembled by the Hon. Sir Thomas Hughes, Sydney’s first Lord Mayor and Member of the Legislative Council of NSW, presented to the AWM in memory of his son , Captain Roger Forrest Hughes who died of wounds in WW1, detailed above, and his grandson, Peter Roger Forrest Hughes , killed in the NT aircrash .

Friday, February 10, 2012


The Northern Territory's jellyfish from Hell – exclusive first picture, taken with a recently pawned special Kodak Box Jellyfish Camera .

There are so many dangers associated with Darwin’s fresh and salt water that every resident is to be given a bravery award just for having a weekly bath or dipping a toe into the backyard pool . The poo shooter pumps crap into the harbour , there are marauding crocs everywhere , feral woks are terrifying sunbaking nuns , drinking water has taken on the appearance of something strained through a swaggie’s loincloth, and recently the NT News reported that a jellyfish had bitten a bather. A marine biologist from James Cook University , Townsville , says Darwin’s monstrous fanged jellyfish could become a greater danger than white pointer sharks. It would be disastrous if the jellyfish spread to the Coral Sea and began attacking the Great Barrier Reef, soon turning it into talcum powder. The marine expert said the usual gummy Darwin jellfish sting their prey , but exposed to all the toxic pollution in Darwin Harbour had obviously mutated into fiendish Jules Verne monsters of the deep. He said the NT News should receive the jellyfish investigative reporting award for alerting the world to this new oceanic threat.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


This is the grim place inside Kilmainham Gaol, built in 1796, where people who took part in the 1916 Easter Monday Rising against British rule in Ireland were shot . The prison is the subject of an article by Ms June Tomlinson ,secretary of the NT Genealogical Society, for its journal, PROGENITOR . During a recent overseas study tour, she and her husband visited the prison and were taken on a conducted tour by a guide who suffered from claustrophobia, he having to remove himself from a narrow corridor because of an overwhelming feeling that he was being hemmed in.

Planned by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the uprising was originally intended for Sunday, but delayed till Easter Monday, April 24, in Dublin. The British decided to execute 15 of the leaders , 14 in Kilmainham Gaol, at the above site, during the period May 3-12 . A plaque on the wall lists those shot . Ms Tomlinson said the bleak site and the guide’s graphic description of what took place filled her with absolute sadness.

One of those executed , James Connolly , was so badly wounded he could not walk to face the firing squad. Because he was unable to sit upright ,he was tied to a chair, where the cross now stands . Two brothers, William and Patrick Pearse , were among those riddled by bullets. Others shot were Thomas J. Clark ,Thomas MacDonagh , Joseph Plunkett, Edward Daly, Michael O’Hanrahan, John MacBride , Con Colbert, Eamonn Ceannt,Michael Mallin , Sean Heuston, Sean Mac Diarmada . Another Irish Nationalist,Thomas Kent, was executed by firing squad in Cork ,buried in the grounds of Collins Barracks .

The tour included the area where hangings took place, the church where nobody was allowed to look at anyone or speak . “It reminded me very much of the Silent System operating in the penal colony of Port Arthur in Tasmania,” Ms Tomlinson wrote.

A "more modern " part of the gaol reminded her of scenes from stark American movies and the guide said it had been used many times in films .

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Tucked away in the public notices of the NT News , under one for LILI’S MASSAGE , she said to be new , nice and from Hong Kong , is this little gem : MYSTERY NUMBER- We wish to advise that the NT News mystery number competition has been suspended indefinitely due to a mechanical press breakdown. Readers will be advised when and IF the competition is resumed. Thank you for entering the mystery number competition... This is surely a situation which is tailor made for skit. There is a report that the Royal Darwin Hospital is run off its feet handling an influx of jibbering people exhibiting mystery number withdrawal symptoms. One presumes a southern Mr Fixit , a Bingo expert perhaps , is being flown in to solve this baffling mystery which defies the skills available in Darwin , unless Lili can be induced to massage the cogs in the press and get them rotating properly.