Monday, April 30, 2012


Rude expressions escaped the lips of this writer on reading an article about the late and great NT journalist, Jim Bowditch . The story was in an old clipping , written some time after his death in 1996, under the heading CRACKIN’ PICTURES AND CRACKIN’ YARNS –Images and stories which made the news. There was a picture of Bowditch late in life and the text wrongly stated he had a Cockney accent ; he was not born within the sound of London's Bow Bells and on lobbing in Australia soon found that Pommies were paid less because of their accent, so began to sound somewhat like Clancy of the Overflow, but more refined , not so slow . Instead of saying he had been a COMMANDO in Z Force Special Operations , it had him a COMMANDER

The dismal article then proclaimed that he had been one of the Rats of Tobruk in Tunisia .Wrong . Tobruk is in Libya . Wrong again was the statement that he had won a Walkley Award for journalism in 1957 for his support of the “Wave Hill walk off.” He received his Walkley some years later for coverage of the Sea Fox saga , about happenings aboard a yacht skippered by Hollwood actor –magician, John Calvert , who had a chain smoking chimpanzee aboard when the vessel sailed into Darwin.

Unfortunately, there was no info to identify the author or publication from whence this offending clipping came . Recently admirers of Jim Bowditch , locally, interstate and overseas , were irked to read a piece in the NT News which said that when Bowditch was editor of the paper he used to sit at his desk shirtless, wearing thongs, and threw “hissy fits” which caused reporters to take shelter under desks!. Balderdash is a mild response to this scenario . Little Darwin pointed out at the time that it was incorrect and that there had been a reporter at the News , also named Jim , who did shed his shirt / and type away , taking regular sips from a can to get the creative juices flowing .That Jim, however, never took his shoes off in the office. It was also pointed out that Bowditch had been a decorated WW11 hero , had nightmares about mutilating an enemy soldier to hide an imminent invasion , and self medicated on alcohol .

His name and contribution to the Territory , humanity in general, cannot be sullied by plainly incorrect reports in any publication.- By Peter Simon .

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Probably the only tribute to whistle blowers in Australia can be found in the Tasmanian tourist attraction - Tasmazia - which consists of a maze and the model Village of Lower Crackpot , started by spirited dairy farmer , Brian Inder , obviously unimpressed by what was going on in economic and political circles at the time . ( See previous post - CRACKPOT QUEENSLAND VOTE.) Whistle blowing is an honourable act and to be encouraged , but often those who lift the lid experience rough treatment , are ignored, punished .

At the present moment a whistle blower has made extensive allegations about a large number of doctors and other aspects of the Queensland health system. On the face of the sensational allegations, the Dr Jayant Patel scandal at Bundaberg Hospital , kept quiet for so long , exposed by brave whistle blowers, could be just one of many instances of malpractice and incompetence being hushed up .

Whistleblowers Australia’s website carries the Edmund Burke saying : All it needs for evil to flourish is for people of good will to do nothing. It is an association for those who have exposed corruption or any form of malpractice –especially if they were hindered or abused – and for those thinking of exposing it or wish to support those who are doing so .

There are various state and territories acts covering whistle blowing ; in the Territory there is the Public Interest Disclosure Act (2008). A recent report in Nation of Change , progressive journalism for positive action , an independent news and opinion website, which Little Darwin highly recommends ( ) cites massive court cases in which whistle blowers exposed corruption by banks including Bank of America , JPMorgan Chase , Wells Fargo and Citi in the housing mortgage "shenanigans " which almost brought the US economy crashing down, disdain for politicians and the political process.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


The Northern Territory News on March 21, under a heading FAULTY WIRING PROBE A MUST, said WorkSafe should fully investigate how the “ scandalous situation” regarding electrical wiring in the Masonic Homes villas at Tiwi came about and let Territorians know if this is common practice. Certification that the Masonic Homes wiring was up to Australian Standards was provided to Adelaide based McCracken Homes by an unnamed Darwin electrician subcontracted by Faith Constructions. Of course, both companies were deeply concerned and Faith Constructions is rectifying the situation described as "profoundly dangerous."

Little Darwin has been informed by various people, including tradesmen and home owners , that the Masonic Homes situation IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG in the Territory construction industry. One person , with interstate building experience ,inspected some houses under construction and declared they would collapse in a cyclone because of obviously inadequate bracing . There is talk of intense cost cutting by some resulting in shoddy, sharp practices . Others speak of people “dragged in off the street” to become instant painters and carry out other work in which they have no prior experience , dodgy statutory declarations , apprentices left to do work unattended , “cowboys.”

The NT self certification system which enables work to be declared as meeting the required standards is not worth the paper it is written on in many cases , according to sources, as was shown in the Masonic Homes case.

WorkSafe has a small number of inspectors-five in Darwin , two in Alice and none in Tennant Creek and Katherine. The inspectorate is more involved in checking worker safety on large scale buildings . Work carried out in housing projects and private homes gets scant attention- self certification with a ballpoint . One critic made the allegation that some of the work carried out in "the bush"- down the track where there are no resident inspectors - would not pass inspection .

In the Darwin Magistrates' Court lawyer Peter Maley was reported as saying amphetamine use is “rife” in the Territory’s building industry . He was appearing for a 21 year old carpenter who was arrested with $41,000 worth of ice in his underpants. Maley told the court tradesmen took the drug because they worked long hours . If this be the case , then it is a matter of deep public concern as it raises questions not only about their capacity to carry out work, its quality , their own general health and safety , and possibly explains why so many trade vehicles are driven erratically on the roads.

Little Darwin has been made aware that electricians in Darwin , despite the so called asbestos safety code , regularly carry out work in buildings which contain asbestos , which endangers their lives. The public is entitled to ask what the NT Government, the building industry, WorkSafe and various trade groups are doing to protect the public, trademen. It is a subject you would expect to be followed up by an in depth probe by the media. MORE TO COME .

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


(Ace architect/columnist / illustrator, Peter Burleigh , recalls those jolly , carefree daze at his ivy-clad alma mater and a leather-clad travelling companion, Pete Steedman, when, like young lions, they prowled parts of the British Empire and other foreign deer hunting grounds . )

QUESTION: Which Pete has the Toni ?

Because it’s easy to predict the behaviour of school, university, office or reformatory inmates at their reunions: lame jokes about sexual prowess, falling hair, failing eyesight and general disgruntlement seem mandatory, the invitations are also easy to refuse.

Imagine your reporter’s angst when I discovered I’d agreed to attend two reunions on a single weekend in Melbourne, a city I publicly vowed would lie over my dead body before I returned; and this at a time when I vigorously ignore both my birth year of 1943 and my ex-girlfriends of that era, all of whom are now over 65 years of age.

The first is a reunion of the survivors of his “Class of 62” intake of the Architecture course at Melbourne University. The second is lunch with Pete Steedman, a radical politico who managed to stretch his student status into the eighties. Readers of Little Darwin may recall stories of our adventures at university, in England, Spain and Morocco. My friendship with Pete continues to defy definition, so the things we have in common must be its foundation - good wine, swearing and a shared missionary zeal in attacking polite societyor maybe it’s our determination not to mature.

In 1962
my evaluation of my Architecture classmates was that the majority of them were and still are of little interest to anyone. A quick troll through the room showed this hasn’t changed (and is reflected in most of the buildings they’ve created), although several people are missing or are dead. A couple of us have been murdered. Surprising that over the years more of us haven’t been slaughtered for crimes against design.

The “askance glance” works overtime as people compare my outward signs of aging to theirs. Reactions of personal dismay or cruel satisfaction can’t be concealed amongst the slowly whitening, wrinkling, squinting, stooping and limping crowd, cowed as always by Melbourne social convention and now by physical deterioration. They say their weight gain has nothing to do with beer or fast food, it’s due to watching McDonald’s and Hungry Jack’s ads on TV.

Exhuberance is hard to find but it radiates from a group of about ten people, the same people who energised our experience of the 60s and who were responsible for the outrages, pregnancies, arrests, fines, breaches of promise, exam failures, repeat years, and offensive behaviour towards earlier generations. They are – ahemmy friends. About half of them still pretend to be architects and the rest have gone into everything else, including psychoanalysis, theatre, veganism, retailing, child bearing and writing for Little Darwin.

The current Dean of the faculty works the room asking us for money. We can have our names on a plaque in the new building, he says. Think of your legacy, he says. Given that our most influential creative experience during our 5-year course was the annual Architects’ Revue, a stage show which was so consistently good it had a following among the theatre-goers in the City – and for a pretentious place like Melbourne this was really something – that is the legacy we would support. But there’s no theatre in the new building, so we don’t fill his hat with gold. No Architects’ Revue? Once again the lid comes down on exhuberance. Cued by our scowls he moves away.

I relate this to Steedman while we are underground in his concrete bunker in a trendy area on the edge of Melbourne’s suburbs. Once his house was surrounded by bushland and rolling hills but now the suburbs have caught up to him, like the creeping fungus from The War of the Worlds. The middle class has joined him, rather than the other way around. Pretend-farms are everywhere, with 2.5-hectare blocks dotted with token sheep, goats, llamas, Shetland ponies, trophy wives and other fashionable livestock. Meanwhile, new residential subdivisions are getting closer. They have lies for names: Fairview, Meadow Glen, Fern Dell, Farsee Retreat. They are “leafy” but you can see the power pylons marching over the hills.

Merc and Beamer owners
patronise the local supermarket, but once it was outlaw bikies, parolees and dysfunctional borderline psychotics who lived out here. Pete may be the last one in the area. He taught them the Steedman style of social interaction: keep advancing on your audience until they back away from you, then raise your leather-clad shoulders and loom. It worked for him as a member of parliament in Canberra.

He uses his bunker as a wine cellar and pretends it’s just a folly, but it’s a child of his paranoia. The bunker roof, he tells me, is two feet thick and obviously built to survive the Apocalypse or at least a direct hit from a neutron bomb. Pete has a compactus-full of secret files on everyone, but they haven’t been transferred from the house because the bunker leaks when it rains. He is expecting an attack from a secret Government agency at any moment, and is looking forward to it.

We remember friends who’ve fallen off their twigs or are still in jail. Pete knows many more people than I do, so their mortality looms larger. Friendships have become lists of victims of attrition. We wish we weren’t participants, but you’re only young once. Or in our case, twice. It troubles us that our delusions can’t bring back our younger days; they sustained us for decades, why not now? We get to work on a new set of delusions, but sound disturbingly like a couple of characters from the Pickwick Papers. After a few wines Pete tells me he’s planning to move house but doesn’t know where to. There is a town nearby called “Beveridge”, but it’s spelled wrongly.

Friends easily reach common ground by ignoring reality and so we easily agree that every one of our surviving contemporaries has sold out, some for impressive amounts of money. Steedman and I remain not-rich and therefore continue to hold the moral high ground – in this case, in a subterranean bunker –and that we are National Treasures.

I took my camera to record the event for Little Darwin but one look at Pete and I put it back in its bag. No one would believe the photograph wasn’t Photo-shopped. How youthful and unlined we are, and how we are still full of it! Potential, that is.

[LITTLE DARWIN ZOO NOTE : Burleigh recently stopped the traffic when he put a tiger in his tank at a service station -inserted the wrong fuel-and his wallet was savaged in the process .]

Monday, April 23, 2012


Billed as America’s Latest Novelty Revue, GLAD RAGS entertained Melbourne at the Tivoli in December 1942 . The eight panel fold out theatre programme lists the New Yorkers who provided acrobatic burlesque . Star of the show was George Wallace , whose Ocker-like humour was popular ; Clem Dawe and Eric Edgley, well known in Australian showbiz, also performed ; Elsa Stenning, known as the Australian nightingale, who had performed at the Royal Opera House, London, not only wowed the audience with her voice but gave a lunch hour recital in Collins Street during an Austerity Loan Rally .Comedy sequences were provided by Fred Parsons who wrote scripts for the radio personality Roy ReneMo McCackie of McCackie Mansions. Also on the card were the Tivoli glamour girls and famous ballet dancers. For the tenth year in a row, the Christmas pantomime MOTHER GOOSE , with 150 artists, was staged . Advertisements included " the world’s greatest counter lunch" at the City Club Hotel and there was no shortage of stockings at that stage of the war as Mignon hosiery , in all the newest and most glamorous shades- a thrill to touch , a joy to wear- were available from a penny less then six shillings (60c). (From Little Darwin Ephemera Collection.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012


David Scott, author of LAST FLIGHT OUT OF DILI -Memoirs of an Accidental Activist in the Triumph of East Timor , recently mentioned in Little Darwin in connection with telegrams sent to Interim Foreign Affairs Minister , Andrew Peacock, and Darwin agronomist Rob Wesley-Smith , has died. The funeral is likely to be held this Saturday at Christ Church, South Yarra. Scott was closely involved with Jose Ramos–Horta in the wilderness years .


( On the Renner Springs-Elliot-Dunmarra-Timber Creek stretch , intrepid Bulldust Diary columnist/illustrator, Peter Burleigh, experiences the Territory’s massive alcohol abuse problem. )

The Buchanan Highway was clearly named in jest by a vengeful employee of a Northern Territory council. Goat track it is, highway it ain’t. The grass changes to low, spiky scrub more accurately described as stubble, as if the land has been shaved by a hung-over abattoir worker who leaves cuts and grooves for floodwater.

Other desolate roads encourage introspection, but this road demands your attention stay exclusively in the real world. The talking book about the British Navy mutters under its breath and is left to its own devices; all your concentration switches to the road. It’s a tyre-shredder. It threatens to tear the wings off your metal fly, if you know what I mean. It’s sad, useless country. I can’t tell what treasure might lie underneath it, but you wouldn’t choose to stay on top of it like we are, driving as fast as metal fatigue allows.

The village of Elliot lies half-way to the Kununurra road. It’s built around the gas station. To get fuel you must go into the office and ask for the key to the pump but first they size you up; it doesn’t matter if you’re a minister of God or an axe-murderer, if you fit the profile of a pump-absconder you can whistle for it. All the windows and the door of the Roadhouse are covered in metal security mesh. The pale young man running the place is alone. He sells unidentifiable fried things so wrinkled by time that plastic surgery couldn’t help. (Fuel: $2.25 per litre –a new record). Here you can buy beer where you buy your petrol, but there are rules restricting what strength you can buy and when. Aboriginals sit in knots around the few trees, themselves waiting to be refuelled.

The settlements become fewer, and these not-even-villages are mere punctuation marks in the very long paragraph of the Buchanan Highway. The Top Springs Roadhouse is more extreme. New laws severely curtail the sale of grog. Big signs along the remote road shout: “Proscribed Area–no alcohol”. Unfortunately they should say “Watch Out for drunk Aboriginals”, because that’s what you get. Several men take it in turns to stagger over to my car. They try the doors, attempting to get in with me. They struggle to keep their cans from spilling.

“Hey Boss, take me down the road.”
“Boss, I need to see my brothers at the bridge.”

I wouldn’t give a lift to myself if I was drooling drunk; not only that, I have no wish to drive alone into an Aboriginal community. This is sad and dispiriting and it’s happening in our own country. If I feel alienated, how do they feel?

How you relieve the despair of Aboriginal people I don’t know. My feeling of Helplessness is unpleasant. It is part of the modern Australian experience and I wouldn’t avoid it – but I wouldn’t deliberately go out of my way to see it either. I do know for sure that we have as much of an idea of how to help them as they have about helping themselves.

Mickey, our token white Rhodesian, announces that he’s on a “pie quest” to find Australia’s best pie. It’s no good looking for such an example of the pastrycook’s art out here. You want a pie, you buy a Mrs Mac’s pre-packaged, pre-digested, de-flavoured cookie-cut handheld, sauce extra. The filling is mystery meat. The mere idea triggers my gag reflex so I won’t be going deeper into the details. My own quest to find the cleanest toilet in the country has taken a step forward. It began as a child when I was told I could catch leukaemia, elephantiasis, cholera and scurvy from toilets. In Longreach I found a toilet with a colourful paper sash across it saying that it had been ‘Hygienically cleaned and sealed for my protection’ so I knew my vulnerabilities had been addressed and I was safe.

We pass the homestead of Victoria River Downs, one of the biggest cattle stations in Australia. There are three choppers parked near the house.

LITTLE DARWIN FOOTNOTE: At last month’s sittings of the NT Legislative Council , during a CLP Matter of Public Importance debate over alcohol consumption and related problems , the member for Sanderson, Peter Styles, a former policeman , said he had recently driven from Darwin to Alice Springs . At Elliott , where there used to be four service stations, there was now one . After speaking to locals and travellers, some said they stopped coming to towns because of humbugging for money, cigarettes and alcohol , up and down the track . Many grey nomads travelling on their own or with children did not like stopping in towns, staying in caravan camps instead , to avoid being humbugged .

Another MLA , also a former police officer , Willem Westra van Holthe , of Katherine , spoke of the frustration the police force has picking up the same drunks . “. They take them to the cells at the police stations ; they take them to sobering up centres ; they take them home and leave them where they can be left at home with a responsible person who can look after them. That is frustrating, and it is annoying because you just become a street cleaner, cleaning up what is a mess on the street.”

Saturday, April 21, 2012


View of Alice Springs when Jim Bowditch moved there after WW11.

A pay clerk in the Works Department , Jim Bowditch and his wife, Iris, arrived in Alice , population about 2000, in 1948 . There was a severe housing shortage and they were allocated a tiny residence in Parsons Street and considered themselves lucky to have such accommodation. Resident in town was the wartime supremo of Alice Springs , Brigadier Noel Loutit, who ran a mixed goods store . During the war , Alice , with as many as 8500 men and 3500 trucks, had been a bustling military base for Australians and Americans and supplies railed to the town were transported in large convoys up the Stuart Highway to Darwin and the many camps in the Top End.

Australian troops became restless at one stage , a situation caused by boredom , a severe shortage of female company , unfavourable comparison with the conditions enjoyed by American troops and the unlikelihood of any contact with the enemy . The men rioted through town streets , smashing some shop windows ; a car was driven through the officers’ mess and stones were thrown on the roof of the nursing sisters’ quarters.

Officers were abused
and anybody who got in their way beaten up. Brigadier Loutit, a short man, bravely mounted a box and addressed the angry men , telling them how soldiers had endured terrible conditions in the trenches during WW1 . In times of war , he told the disgruntled men , they had to go without home comforts. To a man, the mob roared out that this was “ bullshit ” because he had a girlfriend in town , Mona Minahan . A military policeman stood next to Loutit and said he would shoot anybody between the eyes if they attacked the officer. This foolish statement resulted in about 50 men rushing in and knocking the MP to the ground.

Alice had unexpectedly become the civil capital of the Northern Territory in 1942 when the Administrator , Mr Aubrey Abbott, and his wife moved down from Darwin after the Japanese bombing and lived in a building called The Residency . The Administrator soon found himself up against Brigadier Loutit , nicknamed the “Busy Bee.

Loutit treated Abbott with scorn and proudly claimed to have cut off the Administrator’s chocolate frog supply from the Army canteen. A request by the Administrator to have an Army band play God Save King, when he was to appear at a function, was also vetoed by Loutit . Loutit wrote regular critical reports on Abbott which were forwarded to his superiors , who looked forward to them , finding them highly entertaining. Abbott also wrote reports critical of Loutit. Late in life, Loutit , living in Adelaide, told this writer he had written to the Governor-General during the war years trying to get Abbott sacked. “ He ( Abbott) was an obstructionist ,” said Loutit . “I could not tolerate that .” With obvious delight , he repeated how he had stopped Abbott’s chocolate frog supply

Jim Bowditch
almost took the Alice by storm , becoming involved in a wide range of activities-politics, debating, amateur theatre , cricket and union work. It will be shown that his actions attracted the close attention of ASIO . The Bowditches became “ foster uncle and auntie ” to some half-caste girls at the Anglican St. Mary’s hostel , took children home at weekends and bought them clothes. Iris worked as a comptometrist and helped a woman run ballet classes; she also assisted with debutante balls.

A major event had been the opening of the ABC radio station in Alice because short wave reception had been poor and added to the town’s feeling of isolation. The cost of living was high, there being little in the way of fresh fruit and vegetables and people made do with powdered milk . About the only commodity in abundance was meat which came from local cattle stations.

Always up early , Jim used to wonder at the morning glory of Alice Springs with its striking colours, crisp air and ranges . For a time, the beauty of the place mesmerised him and he was not conscious of the town’s less attractive social aspects.

Having developed an urge to write while working in the lighthouse on Moreton Island , he took to freelance writing , sending articles about the town to southern newspapers and also contributed items to the local paper, the Centralian Advocate . The Advocate had not been in existence for long and strongly represented and reflected the views of the locals. The first souvenir edition – 12 pages - had been published May 24, 1947. The commencement of the Advocate had led to the demise of a community publication - Dead Heart - which had run for seven months and ended with number 30 . Co-editors of that publication had been Les Penhall ,who in the year 2000 would be an important witness in the “Stolen Generation ”court case in Darwin , Miss Buchanan and F. A. Gubbins.

The proprietor and editor of the Advocate was a colourful person , Charles Henry “Pop ” Chapman, a gnome of a man with a foghorn voice , who had mined at The Granites in the 1930s . He used to drive from the mine in his Humber Snipe car into Alice with up to $30,000 worth of gold bars packed in powdered milk and treacle tins.

A dynamic individual , he wanted to start an air beef enterprise and build a hotel at The Granites but failed to get approval from the government.

He grew vegetables while at The Granites , had his own swimming pool and when he moved to Alice experimented growing a variety of vegetables and fruit trees, having much success with apples. He built himself a house in Alice at Heavitree Gap called The Pearly Gates which also had a swimming pool ; it later became the Pitchi Ritchi museum and sanctuary

Chapman had little respect for the sitting Independent Liberal Federal MP for the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives , Adair MacalisterChill Blain . As a surveyor , Blain had carried out much work in this field in the NT, including The Granites goldfield. In 1933 he headed an expedition into western Arnhem Land to the head of the Liverpool River to report on agricultural and pastoral possibilities. A veteran of both World Wars, he spent from February 1942 to August 1945 a prisoner of the Japanese in Changi, Sandakan , Kuching and Outram Road prisons.

After Blain returned to politics , Labor attacked him in parliament , claiming he had used his parliamentary gold pass to get special priviliges in Japanese prison camps. The attack rebounded because it was disclosed Blain had knocked out gold fillings from his teeth to bribe guards to get special concessions and treatment for sick and injured comrades.

The Advocate
demanded to know what Blain had done for the Territory , saying he seemed to be a “silent worker ” . An extraordinary article in the first edition said the MHR, under parliamentary privilege , had claimed that he had been run off a mining lease at the point of a gun. The “culprit” had not owned a rifle at the time , said the paper, so it must have been an imaginery rifle, nevertheless let bygones be bygones. It added : “ But remember, the imaginery rifle is still loaded and only attention to Territory needs will assure the temper of the villian who does not hold it.”

This was a clear warning to the sitting member that the new paper would fire paper bullets at him if he did not work for the benefit of the Territory. As well as warning Blain in that first issue , the paper also took the federal government to task for not giving the newspaper a commercial radio licence. The pioneers and early settlers of Central Australia were saluted in a lengthy article which said it was only natural that some of them had slept with Aboriginal women.

People wanting to improve the lot of Aborigines were sneeringly called “ The Goodies ”. Aborigines were commonly referred to in the paper as “ abos ”, “ black boys ” and “ lubras ”. In the European community in Alice they were also referred to as “ boongs ”,”niggers’’ and “ coons”. HOW ADELAIDE BRINGS ABOS UP was the heading on an Advocate account of a court case involving a drunken fight.

There were not many photographs in early editions , but one on June 7 showed a group of Aboriginal men lined up in front of a white man who had a round galvanised tub on a table . The caption said it was “ abos ” getting a free meal at a mission station . It asked what would be the future of “black boys taught to loaf ” and that the white man must feed him and “ act as his batman. ” An official planting a toe at times-where it was sorely needed- would be brought before the police and fined for assault. Clearly, the newspaper regarded Aborigines as lazy good for nothings who should, with impunity , be kicked .

The first full page advertisement taken out in the Advocate was for Loutit’s store and cost 40 pound ($80) . While the money was most welcome , it contained a lot of metal and took a long time to put together. NEXT : Crusading campaigns and a medal for wartime bravery.

Friday, April 20, 2012


British filmmaker and journalist , Max Stahl, whose coverage of Dili’s Santa Cruz Cemetery massacre of 270 protestors by Indonesian forces in November 1991 shocked the world and played a large part in the liberation of East Timor, is fighting throat cancer . The Timor-Leste Council of Ministers decreed that the Minister for Health , Nelson Martins , a medical doctor , should travel to London and support Stahl as a sign of solidarity and appreciation for what he did for the nation. Stahl’s videotape of the outrage was buried in the cemetery from the marauding Indonesians , retrieved the next day and smuggled out , details of which will be covered in a future post . Darwin agronomist, Robert Wesley-Smith, deeply involved in the struggle for freedom in East Timor , has been in contact with Stahl’s partner.


CANBERRA : The federal government will send in a battalion of battle-scarred grandmothers to straighten out Territory schoolchildren, hoons, barking dogs , piddling pussies , tattooed mothers , yobboes , bikies, parking ticket inspectors, lenient magistrates , crocodiles , the local media , balcony bonkers , joined at the hip spin doctors and any US Marines who play up in Mitchell Street after over- indulging on Coca-Cola and causing riots by shouting Wacko, Digger !

The first batch of hard hitting grannies, above , will be parachuted into Darwin from a C140 transport after they sort out the Duntroon Military College mashers. Many of the tough grans had parts as sly grog sellers, nightclub bouncers and arm wrestlers in the educational Underbelly TV series, which is an inspiration to the youth of the nation, resulting in an outbreak of shootings and hordes of swaggering punks. The decision to call in the grannie shocktroops was made after it was discovered that the 100 extra police promised for the Territory would encounter a situation like Custer’s Last Stand .

General Gertie Giles, a grumpy grannie on hormone replacement, a decorated veteran of six marital skirmishes , with 20 terrified grandchildren whose pampered and obese pets flee whenever she visits, is in charge of the attack group.

In an exclusive interview, she told Little Darwin that the Northern Territory is almost totally dysfunctional and her no-nonsense squad will unleash a campaign of shock and awe .

General Giles refused to give details of a special group of fearsome grannies which is undergoing exhaustive unarmed combat training in a secret location - disguised as an innocent bingo parlour- and is expected in Darwin next week . All the grannies will attract the special federal payment to encourage the employment of people over 50,plus a daily ration of gin and tonic to prevent dehydration.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Australia’s most successful political tot kissing machine ?

Royal Darwin Hospital is bracing itself for an outbreak of baby kissing now that campaigning is well and truly off and slobbering in the Territory Legislative Assembly August election.

Worried Dr Spock told Little Darwin that politicians cannot keep their hands off innocent babies in election years. Already the Monster for Mumps , Measles and Mucous had been seen juggling and kissing 10 newborn infants at once , two of which fell on their noggins , in the maternity ward . And a few days earlier another politician had interrupted bedpan duties , with disastrous results , while handing out yucky Easter eggs in the children’s ward as he flashed his kissing tackle at the never- been- kissed media pack . Twitchy Doctor Spock said 10 obstetricians had resigned rather than face the remainder of the year dealing with the strain of the inevitable spike in the number of cases of baby eczema and thrush –all due to pollies kissing babies and their mothers in supermarkets.

The Chief Monster
was recently seen in the company of a baby at Nightcliff, his lips salivating , promising a free bucket of Nappy-San and a giant serving of Chinese junkets for the mothers of all babies born this year.

Another pollie who looks like Satchmo around the cake hole is so keen to kiss anything which moves that he was seen pashing the bottom of the Mandorah ferry when it was pulled up onto the hard for barnacle and oyster scraping. As a result of this passionate obsession he was rushed to RDH with severely lacerated lips and is on a 44-gallon intravenous drip of castor oil and licorice . Not even his Mum would dare kiss him on the b*m in his present state.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


QUESTION: What is the connection between the 1937 coronation of King George V1 , a Sydney girls high school , the Queen of the Nightcliff Uniting Church Op Shop and the musical Oklahoma ? ANSWER : It is a bit involved, but follow the bouncing ball as we sing along .

It all began when Dr Vicki Beaumont , of Nightcliff , deeply involved in organising medical supplies for Timor-Leste , discovered at Humpty Doo an interesting pile of old Australian school magazines, some more than a hundred years old, assorted booklets and a souvenir programme for the 1937 NSW special ceremony marking the coronation of King George , father of the now Queen.

Knowing this writer’s interest in ephemera , Dr Beaumont produced the bag of treasures for a second opinion. Eureka ! The coronation pamphlet , above, for the Sydney Showground rally, attended by 40,000 children , listed the various dignitaries and others expressing loyalty and devotion to his majesty , one being a pupil from the Hornsby Girl’s High School, Miss Jean Levido , who spoke on behalf of the children of NSW . It just so happens that two of the longtime women involved with the Nightcliff Op Shop- Mary Penton and Shirley Downing are - to use an expression which now could be considered as politically incorrect- Hornsby old girls.

Mary Penton remembers Jean Levido, a small girl, who may have been in the debating club. Latin and science were studied at the time. Mary, who served in the WAAFS and made an early helicopter flight , celebrated her 90th birthday on December 10 . Shirley Downing , 80, said Miss Levido was a teacher at Hornsby when she attended the school. Shirley became an art teacher and married the late Reverend Jim Downing .

To mark Mary's birthday, Shirley composed and sang a special version of the Hornsby Girls’ High song to the tune of Oklahoma at the Op Shop.


Suddenly, Casuarina Square displays instructions on how to ride escalators: place hand on rail , the first directive . This posed a dilemma as I had just read a slim volume by Nobel Prize winner Patrick White -THREE UNEASY PIECES , Pascoe Publishing , Australia, 1987, and on the very first page was a warning never to touch the rail on escalators as you could catch something deplorable, possibly a bubonic plague mutation , with added MSG . Later, coming down the infectious escalator , pushing a trolley laden with bags of potting mixture (on special) , cow manure, a pair of el cheapo secateurs , a packet of butterscotch and a writhing , crocodile- infested copy of the NT News , the trolley wanted to take off like a V8 , threatening to mow down the small Asian lady in front of me, whose trolley she controlled with just one hand. Gripping the handle of the runaway with both hands, I leaned backwards , placed a foot against one of the wheels. Gravity , the forward thrust of the escalator and some demonic force added momentum to the trolley; the unsuspecting rider in front of me was in extreme danger of being repotted , turned into a Chinese money tree, and ruthlessly trimmed . With only a few millimetres to spare between us, sweat on my brow, the bottom was reached and the woman, unknowingly, narrowly escaped a rear ender . Next time I go shopping, I shall wear surgical gloves, a Japanese face mask and carry an Airbus nose wheel chock to prevent catching some horrific disease , as well as stopping the trolley from mowing down innocent shoppers. FOOTNOTE : There is an unusual story about warts in the book as well as a photograph of White and his companion , Manoly Lascaris, posing with three potatoes in their kitchen. Interestingly , soon after this book was published , White became involved in a 10,000 strong demonstration march against another form of transport -the proposed Sydney monorail , which nevertheless went ahead , now to be closed down in the near future , recently suggested as ideal for Darwin and at least 50 other places in this increasingly dumbed- down land .

Sunday, April 15, 2012


A conversation of interest via Skype recently took place with a friend in England who once lived in Darwin before and just after Cyclone Tracy . He recalled a woman in Nightcliff had a pet baby buffalo and also liked to punt , asking him to put a bet on a horse which won the Melbourne Cup. As a reward , she gave him part of the winnings with which he bought a frypan in Darwin which subsequently travelled the world to some exotic places with his family and is still in use . Other subjects raised included his nearby old village pub , Wooden Walls of Old England, which had been ransacked by Oliver Cromwell’s puritan troops , later restocked for a ridiculous sum, something less than a few pounds. A shout for the boys probably set you back a farthing in those days. Our friend , a collector and fixer of clocks, has three in each room, the latest acquisition an old long case which chimes like Big Ben and once kept time in a prison. While serving in Beirut , he repaired a magnificent old clock from the British Embassy which had stopped after the building was bombed . A son was away climbing Mount Everest as we spoke .

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Now that Queensland has gone completely bananas , there may be a requirement to extend an unusual Tasmanian tourist attraction- the Village of Lower Crackpot . It is part of a popular maze and model village-TASMAZIA- created by dairy farmer Brian Inder on his Staverton property , near Lake Barrington. Each building , built to one-fifth scale , is connected with a person and one states former Queensland Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen , is the Member for Lower Crackpot.

Represented as an ivory tower, it bears Sir Joh’s face on what is supposed to be his electoral office , open 9am to 5pm. A woman-Lady Flo?-can be seen through a window sitting at what appears to be a typewriter. Animal like figures can be seen in other windows, one seemingly a pig . The Liberal Party building adjoins . The Village of Lower Crackpot website could inspire the tattered remains of the Queensland ALP when it states :

The village is dedicated to all those in middle life who, in this new economic age, are “adjusted” out of their jobs, professions, businesses, farms, careers and thrown onto the economic scrap heap, there to start again, someway, as happened to its creator, Brian Inder at age 54. The village is meant as an inspiration to these people - you can pick yourself up and succeed in a new life, you can thumb your nose at the “new order” and still have a ball.

Friday, April 13, 2012


( Bulldust Diary columnist/illustrator Peter Burleigh clutches his four leaf clover and prays to Aussie saint, Mother Mary MacKillop, as he jousts with a road train and dodges lead-footed Territory drivers .)

Getting ahead of myself. I can’t keep this diary going at the same pace as the car. It whooshes past places worth noting, so this is an out-of-synch series of flashbacks.

Apres Isa
The hills of Mount Isa are clumsy piles of iron-coloured rock, soon left behind. We’re re-enveloped by the sunbleached grasslands again. The eucalypt scrub changes to a lighter green – probably due to an iron-deficient diet. By Camooweal the land has flattened even more and the grass is a beautiful mummified silver colour. Strangely there are no dead roos on the side of the road. The cost of diesel fuel is $1.93 per litre and rising.

The NT border
The road deteriorates instantly at the border but the landscape resolutely remains the same. There is no other way to measure any difference between Queensland and the NT except the activities of the local councils. Road maintenance moves at sub-glacial speed unlike the locals who have their boots superglued to their accelerators.

Lake Eyre flood plain
This country is desolate, still and empty. Think about it and you get the feeling that when it ‘awakes’ it’ll squash you like a fly...then you notice the frequent ‘dips’ and ‘floodways’ that your car bottoms on because you’re going too fast. Finally you get it: a sign says you’re in the Lake Eyre Basin. Nought metres above sea level. If this land is waiting for anything it’s another rain event like the one we had only a few months go. It may wait another hundred years.

You sense the floods
are waiting in ambush for your car to appear so they can sweep you away. It’s all in your head, surely. The evidence of violent floods is covered by grass growth but look closer the water-excavated hazards around the under-road drains. The red soil is damp. Miss-steer and you’re down in the mud and stones for the duration. Grass on the road edge is a brilliant green. There’s water somewhere and it’s watching you.Where the floodways have been washed away and repaired – and this is at least 20% of them – new pipes have been put in, big, about 700mm diameter, and often three at once.

Banka Banka
Camping at Banka Banka Homestead should feel different, because it’s not on my map. I hope I have not ceased to exist. My Camp-O-Matic camping trailer, a kind of folding bivouac tent on wheels, is stuffed with items absolutely essential to survival in the outback. I am devastated to discover I have not packed a potato masher, and suffer a serious loss of face.

Road trains roar past, towing four trailers at a time. For a hair-raising twenty minutes I am behind a wagon train which wanders across the road like a waving whip. It looks like it is about to flick off the rear trailer, and I try to work out its probable trajectory of destruction and whether it will include me.

The trees change from dwarf eucalypts to spiky acacia trees. How do they survive? Even your spit evaporates before it hits the ground. The plain looks exactly like parts of southern Africa and if I was the hallucinating kind I would have seen elephants. Fuel: $1.99 per litre and rising.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


The savage fighting against the Japanese along the Kokoda Track during WW11 has become increasingly etched into the nation’s psyche. Former PM Paul Keating kissed the ground at Kokoda in 1992 as part of the Anzac Day ceremonies and said that if the nation was founded at Gallipoli , then its “depth and soul” had been confirmed in its defence at Kokoda. In that conflict Australians had fought not for the “mother country” but to secure Australia and an Australian way of life. They had turned back the invaders intent on taking Port Moresby .

A Darwin resident, Gary Mills, 68, of Millner , believes a book which gives a grim account of the Japanese side of the Kokoda battle should be read by all senior high school pupils . Written by Australian journalist, Charles Happell, it is THE BONE MAN OF KOKODA ,Pan Macmillan ,2008, 272pp,illustrated, maps , acclaimed by the Australian Defence Magazine as an incredible story of fortitude and determination. It tells the story of former soldier Kokichi Nishimura, a private in the 144th Regiment , who fought at Guam, and in New Guinea at Salamaua and along the Kokoda Track . The Japanese troops, decimated, suffering from a range of illnesses , running out of supplies, resorted to cannibalism . Nishimura vowed that, if he survived , he would return and take his comrades bones back to Japan.

One of a small number of men evacuated , he made it to Japan, surviving the sinking of a transport by American submarines , was posted to Burma at the end of 1943 and lay enfeebled in a military hospital suffering from malaria at war’s end. After the war , Nishimura built up a thriving business and in 1979 suddenly announced , much to the surprise of his family, that he was going back to New Guinea to search for the remains of his fallen comrades.

During the next 25 years he toured overgrown battle sites , aided by a metal detector and probes, and recovered a large amount of bones and wartime relics . He also tried to atone for what the Japanese had done to the locals by helping start commercial ventures, even personally buying and sailing fishing boats from Japan to New Guinea.

One of his many finds was a skull with four gold teeth which enabled identification of a lance-corporal , which resulted in a sad event in Japan . The book details how Nishimura , carrying the skull in his car, sleeping rough, drove about Japan trying to track down the relatives of the soldier. The family of the dead man had not wanted to take possession of the skull because , as a young , wild man , he had been dishonourable and had sold off family heirlooms.

Having read many war books, Gary Mills , with a deep interest in Japan, was mightily impressed when he read about Nishimura's mission in THE BONE MAN OF KOKODA book . When he and his wife were visiting friends in Japan, they went to the Shobara City Cemetery and were shown about by the president of the Association of War-Bereaved Families, Masaaki Izawa. Gary was photographed next to the shrine , above, his copy of the book open at the page with photographs of Nishimura holding the skull and the goddess flanked by Nishimura’s daughter,Sachiko, and Izawa. He was shown the skull and the lance-corporal's name was visible on the statue's pedestal.

Mills attempted to contact Nishimura , who lived in a specially constructed perspex hut on the roof of his daughter’s home , Tokyo , so that , according to the book, he could sleep under the stars on a sheepskin rug and pretend he was back in New Guinea. Mills liked reading that Nishimura had built his hut without the required permit and during his unusual, demanding mission had often come up against official opposition both in Japan and Papua New Guinea , winning out against great odds.

FOOTNOTE : A Japanese adventurer who was riding a pushbike around the world inspired Gary Mills to ride a bike , carrying 130 pounds of gear , from Perth to Darwin, a distance of 2670 miles , in 1969 . The Japanese cyclist gave up his marathon ride about Port Hedland , apparently because the roads were too rough . Gary, 25, thought this was a real challenge , so set out for Darwin, more than half the roads unsealed at the time. He carried his own food, water and a shotgun. Pictured above at Hall’s Creek, his hand is resting on the shotgun, a tube of Maclean’s toothpaste part of his kit. Because he had to be careful with water, the toothpaste did not get much use along the dusty trail. "Boy Scout tablets " he carried to purify water were not effective when he used them in a container filled from a slimy green pool with bird tracks at the edge.

A daughter , Dee, studied Japanese and at the age of 13 went to Japan with a school group from Perth ; later she returned to Japan to work . On a visit to Japan , Mr and Mrs Mills stayed with a Japanese bank manager and Gary , an experienced concrete batch plant operator , sealed his hosts’ driveway. During their visits to Japan , Gary watched with interest the development of the Kure Maritime Museum , which includes a one- tenth scale model of the world’s biggest battleship, Yamato. - (By Peter Simon).

Monday, April 9, 2012


Northern Territory Cardiac Services is a surgeon"short." Patients with appointments to see Dr Georgy Chacko are being contacted and told that he left recently for Adelaide . It is hoped to have a replacement from England in June . Patients who have had their appointments suddenly cancelled without notice will probably receive a left over Easter Egg from Health Minister Kon Vatskalis .(See Brer Rabbit in briar patch dispute below .)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

ATTRACTED TO A TOWN CALLED ALICE . Biography of NT's crusading editor, " Big Jim " Bowditch, by Peter Simon ,#15.

Moreton Island lighthouse enabled Bowditch to unwind.
At long last , Jim Bowditch was discharged from the Army on April 24, 1946 , out of uniform and living in Melbourne . Politics became one of his new interests . For a time he was employed in the Repatriation Department as a clerk , but found it a soul destroying job with lurks being worked all over the place. He underwent a psychiatric examination and some friends advised him beforehand that if he put on a bit of an act he could get a pension. Apparently he was told , as if he did not already know , that he appeared to have a highly development antipathy to authority.

He made contact with some people in the Australian Labor Party and through them met Prime Minister Ben Chifley and John Dedman , Minister for Post-War Reconstruction .

While staying in a boarding house he met and became interested in another resident , redheaded Iris Nellie Neal Hargreaves, keen on ballet , daughter of a colonel . According to Bowditch, she had rowed with her mother and moved into the boarding house. She and Jim went out together and eventually married .

To escape the boredom of the Repatriation Department Jim went to Brisbane where he stayed in a boarding house and scanned the situations vacant looking for employment . The ex- commando then went from door to door selling Safe Way iron stands for 4/6 each , his profit being a shilling on each one . In one day alone he sold 32 iron stands . Sales were helped by publicity about several house fires started by hot irons.

Bowditch practised with an iron and a stand until he could just toss an iron from any angle and it fell into place on the stand. It was a bit like a gun fighter becoming dexterous with his shooting iron . So proficient was he at selling iron stands that the slick operator in charge of the distribution of the stands wanted him to teach other salesmen. Hearing that Burns Philp had a warehouse full of faulty floor mops that were being dumped, Bowditch went and inspected them. He discovered that due to a manufacturing fault there was not enough wire holding the mop in place , but with a bit of twisting they could be fixed. So he became the proud yet anxious owner of a large quantity of defective mops which he also offered from door to door for a substantial profit . While on the sales beat he wore his old Army boots which he found handy for kicking dogs which rushed out at him . One of his slick sales practises was to stand admiring some flower or shrub as the lady of the house opened the door. Willing to try his hand at anything , he also sold insurance and toilet chemicals.

One day Bowditch met an old Army buddy in Brisbane and they headed for a pub . Later they caught a tram to go to another hotel . His friend suddenly jumped from the tram , sprinted across to a man who was standing on the footpath and king hit him. When the man fell to the ground ,he was kicked. Then Jim’s friend ran back to the tram . When Bowditch asked him what had prompted the attack , he was told the victim had been a sadistic guard in a military prison and Jim’s friend had promised to get even with him if they ever met again in civilian life.

A position was advertised for a lighthouse keeper who could operate a radio , do morse code and read ships ’ flags on (Cape) Moreton Island, off Brisbane . Bowditch made a successful application . Iris came up from Melbourne and joined him on the island . Life on the three-man station helped Bowditch to unwind and he did much reading. During that time he developed an urge to write something but did not do so. Food supplies were received every 17 days . One of the lightkeepers used to drink rum neat saying it had cured a bad ulcer . During his time on the island Bowditch began writing letters to the ALP . Iris became bored with the isolation and they returned to Melbourne .

An ASIO basic report compiled on Bowditch in 1950 said that after the war he had worked as a salesman on his own behalf and then for C. Deakin and Co, Brisbane ,until November 1947 when he was engaged as a clerk for the Repatriation Commission , Melbourne . From there, the report, making no mention of his time as a lighthouse keeper , said he had transferred to the Department of Works and Housing.

According to Bowditch , Iris did not know much about politics and her parents were “ Tories”. Bowditch resumed contact with Labor people in Melbourne and was personally told by Minister Dedman that the government was planning a soldier settlement in Central Australia .

This information prompted Bowditch to take an animal husbandry correspondence course to achieve the long held desire to become a farmer. Through his father-in-law’s influence, he was able to obtain a job as paymaster in the Alice Springs office of the Works and Housing Department . The idea behind going to Alice was for Bowditch to get in on the ground floor of the proposed soldier settlement scheme and have a cattle station of his own. As originally outlined to him , the soldier settlement scheme would have involved spending a total of 10, 000 pound ($20,000) on properties of 500 square miles in size on which there would be an army hut . Time would show that he was not destined to be a cowpuncher. In any case , the soldier settler scheme for Central Australia did not eventuate. NEXT: Alice Springs -early impressions and characters.


The angry Easter Bunny has lodged a complaint with Fair Work Australia that NT Health Minister Kon Vatskalis repeatedly muscles in on his territory. Before the Easter Bunny got a chance to visit Royal Darwin Hospital to spread goodwill and cheer, Minister Vatskalis was seen hopping about the wards in front of a TV camera handing out eggs to startled children , warned never to take lollies from strange men, and hallucinating adult hip replacement patients . By the time the dear old Easter Bunny arrived some of the children ha d spewed over the bedclothes and nurses because they ate too many chocolate eggs, including the tinfoil wrapping , passed out by Vatskalis. Easter Bunny vowed he would set rabbit traps throughout RDH next Easter in the hope that the minister would put his foot in it . A spokesman for Fair Work Australia said it would take three years to investigate and report by which time the minister could be moonlighting as Santa and the Easter Bunny may well be part of a felt hat .

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Extending the hand of friendship to the unsuspecting US Marines who have lobbed in town, Little Darwin advises them not to follow the advice in this WW11 Coca- Cola advert from the popular Australian magazine, MAN, which claimed American and Australian soldiers got on famously drinking the beverage . And whatever you do , please do not say WACKO, DIGGER ! to any locals, be they in uniform or sporting T-shirt , stubbies and thongs , as it could spark an unintended international incident . Over the coming months Little Darwin will feature old theatre programmes and other pieces of ephemera from our kitbag with an American touch .

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


LONDON : There are strong rumours in the book trade that Darwin’s "Rubbish Warrior", Trevor Jenkins, has been hired to redesign the front cover of a reprint of William Faulkner’s controversial 1929 novel THE SOUND AND THE FURY. As seen above in this Penguin Modern Classic , the front cover is nowhere as artistic as the hundreds of creative sculptures Jenkins makes just about every day with rubbish picked up on footbaths and verges. The above cover is a detail from The Scarecrow by Andrew Wyeth in the National Collection of Fine Arts,Washington. In Darwin, it has been described by one dismissive Long Grass art critic, residing at Mindil Beach in a make believe attic , as consisting of an old Bunnings garden stake to which is attached a crooked stick or two used by Lady Chatterley’s lazy gardener, with shredded pieces of toilet paper being blown away by the knock 'em down winds. No Aussie bird would be frightened off by such a feeble looking scarecrow, he sniffed , using his beret to swat mosquitoes .

Monday, April 2, 2012


The 200th anniversary of the birth of novelist Charles Dickens was unexpectedly marked during last week’s sittings of the NT Legislative Assembly. Literary inclined Member for Port Darwin, John Elferink, who has quoted Little Darwin in his newsletters, said the Leader of Government Business, Dr Chris Burns, destined to become another Ghost of Christmases Past after the next election, reminded him of not one but two Dickensian characters, Uriah Heap and Ebenezer Scrooge

The Elf painted several vivid images of Burns shuffling about his office, Scrooge-like , a weakly burning candle holder to warm himself against airconditioning , glasses perched on his nose, pulling the wings off flies.

This lyrical comment was prompted by the latest hatchet job done by Dr Burns on the Member for Macdonnell, Alison Anderson. Knowing Ms. Anderson , she could handle Jack the Ripper without any trouble, so Dr Burns had better be careful should he ever wander at large on foggy nights in olde Darwin town. His attacks , said Elferink, were like that of a stalker. Warming to the Dickensian scene , he said "this Ebenezer Scrooge" shuffled about in slippers and nightgown in "this cobweb infected world."

Chas. Dickens would undoubtedly have been impressed by the Honourable Member’s use of powerful and pungent English expressions when flaying Dr Burns with tongue and birch : "old and bitter, twisted"... " a shambolic wreckage"... "strychnine laced criticism"... "jumping at spectres "... There was also the colourful " a vendetta which is entrenched in a black and withered heart"- the kind of language you expect in Harry Potter adventures. Phew ! Jilted Miss Haversham would probably have a touch of the vapours on reading the daily Hansard covering this exchange and collapse on the cobweb festooned wedding breakfast setting , enabling Pip to elope with a comely serving wench .

Sunday, April 1, 2012


(Another episode in THE UNQUIET AUSTRALIAN series about the action packed life of Darwin agronomist Robert Wesley-Smith- humanitarian, anti-war campaigner, true democrat, supporter of many causes , dogged campaigner, chorister who refused to be silenced . The series derives its name from the fact that Wesley-Smith and his wife, Jan-Marie, flew into Viet Nam during the war and stayed in Saigon’s Hotel Continental in which author Graham Greene wrote THE UNQUIET AMERICAN .)

Fearing that the Indonesians were hell-bent on invading East Timor ,Wesley Smith on November 25, 1975 sent a telegram to the interim Foreign Affairs Minister, Andrew Peacock : DEMAND EFFECTIVE ACTION TO PREVENT INDONESIAN INVASION EAST TIMOR. Receiving no reply, he fired off another telegram , below, on December 2.

The telegram was unearthed by former top Australian intelligence officer and author , Dr Clinton Fernandes, Senior Lecturer in Strategic Studies , School of Humantities, University of NSW Australian Defence Force Academy , and recently posted on the website run by one of Rob’s twin brothers , musician Martin Wesley-Smith, also an activist . It carried the caption: Indonesia invaded a few days later just after US President Gerald Ford and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had flown out of Indonesian air-space. Note the scribbled "No action required". If Australia had taken action, perhaps the disastrous - from most points of view - Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor could have been averted.

The telegrams are proof of Rob Wesley-Smith’s involvement in the struggle for freedom for the beleaguered country from early days, never waining over 24 years , his concern and help for the nation continuing to the present day.

Peacock’s approval for the flight is said to have been given against advice from Foreign Affairs and that of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta . That last flight from Dili to Darwin enabled Jose Ramos-Horta , Roger Lobato and Mari Alkatiri to escape and represent East Timor internationally. The importance of this gesture cannot be underestimated . If Ramos- Horta had not escaped to use his diplomatic skills in the UN the East Timor cause, incredibly , could have been lost and the country could still be under the jackboots of the Indonesians , Australia sharing in the plunder of the oil deposits .

Rob Wesley- Smith says Andrew Peacock must be be commended for enabling that flight to take place as the Indonesian forces were bearing down on Dili. Aptly named LAST FLIGHT OUT OF DILI-Memoirs of an Accidental Activist in the Triumph of East Timor, Pluto Press, Australia, 2005, author David Scott ,OA, humanitarian aid worker , detailed his dealings with Peacock during that tense invasion period . While Peacock has been derided over the years, that vital decision to allow the Fretilin leaders to fly from Dili to Darwin required guts , and lots of it .

The Cold War mentality with its associated domino theory belief was in play at the time and giant western corporations had carved up Indonesia . A warning was projected by various sources that a tiny , independent, left- leaning republic next to Indonesia and Australia could result in a "communist" base from which unrest could be spread throughout the region.

[While in Darwin in connection with the film Balibo, based on Jill Jolliffe’s book, Cover-Up, Australian actor Anthony LaPaglia , who played the starring part of reporter Roger East , reflected on the fact that the invasion had been justified, in some quarters , as denying Chinese a foothold in the region. Now, he said, everybody was there - China, Russian , representatives of many other countries and companies. All, it seems, keen to share in the oil revenues.]

Once the invasion
took place, Rob Wesley-Smith and others in Darwin, including the internationally known freelance photographer ,Penny Tweedie , voiced outrage, banded together and formed an action group.. On December 10,1975, in a publication, THE NEW DARWIN, edited by John Ball and Peter Hancock, they ran a page about the grim East Timor situation which included Roger's East's last dispatch . Tweedie had been to East Timor on assignment before the Balibo Five were killed .

From a secret location in Darwin's rural area, Wesley-Smith speaks to East Timor on the clandestine Radio Maubere ; with him is Laurentino Pires , whose daughter recently contested the first round of the presidential elections in Timor- Leste . ( Photo by Brian Manning ) . NEXT : Taking on the Australian government and what was the sniper on the roof doing in Darwin ?