Friday, April 30, 2021


 Many and varied are  the   notices  , posters  and   leaflets   that  are  displayed  in public places in  the Northern Territory capital . The  plight of  refugees   is  raised   in  the   following  one  on  a  wall  at  the Parap market  ,  mentioned   in discussions  with  locals  about  the Tamil   family  from   Biloela , Queensland,  locked  away  on  Christmas  Island . 

At the popular and busy Nightcliff Sunday  market there is a stall highlighting refugees  and  other causes .The  activist Stuart Highway, who changed his name to that of the main north south road ,ran a Nightcliff stall  for years  from which he championed many causes ,including anti-uranium mining and people being locked up locally and  in  America on drug charges. 

By  Peter Simon 

He was also a  fan  of  the   Townsville  teenage  punk  rock activist  ,  Ruth Rebel ,  who  in the early 1980s  carried a  pet rat, Woof,  wrote much street  poetry, provoked  skinheads ,  supported  freedom  for   East Timor .

 Known as the Queen of Punk in the north , she sang in a wild band , Noise .Other members of the group were Ned Kelly, Stew Spew, Dennis T. Menace and Andy Anarchy . The band put out an unusual  cassette - Like A Stain On Your Toilet. Ned Kelly hanged himself , police blamed Ruth for his death and she went  through  an  emotional, despairing time.

There was a dramatic change in her life when she became involved with Townsville's  community radio station , 4TTT-FM, helping present the late night show , becoming  a  regular presenter. The  following, condensed   text is  from  an  article I  wrote about Ruth Rebel .

Also known as Rebel Ruth, she was the punk scene in Townsville. She presented a Saturday night show at 4TTT called Slash Slamming and Safety Pins , a name she disliked, so renamed it Punk and Disorderly . On air comments and swearing  sparked  complaints to the Australian Broadcasting Authority .

Some of Ruth’s poems appeared in newspapers and magazines . She regularly contributed poems to an American punk magazine and became known in international punk circles. Photocopies of her poems, stapled at the corner, were put on sale for $1.50 in a Townsville music shop run by Gary Hunn , now on Magnetic Island ,and whenever there was a sale she was elated to think somebody wanted to read her work. The poems , with associated text , gave an insight into Ruth’s past , her lifestyle and her attitude to  modern society.

Her first collection of poems bore the title As Seen Through the Eyes of a Rebel ; her second, Oi ! The Cause is Lost !, dedicated to people who show their tits, have fun and are a general nuisance, carried the message not to give in , be yourself and watch out for McDonalds, even if their chips and burgers are nice.

 In an explanatory note, she said most of the poems were an outlet for “ my frustrations on wot I see goin on around me ”. She hoped the poems would broaden peoples’ minds- “not as  in preaching and shit”- but to learn about the  other side of  the coin .

 Giving brief and bizarre biographical details, she said she had been born in Brisbane in l968 where she had lived in “ a biscuit tin ” until 12. Now she was in Townsville, which she called Clownsville, a “ vast black hole ”, but better than Mareeba . In addition, she wrote that she been unemployed for about six years because her only experience had been with biscuit tins . The unusual biography continued : Ruth hopes to be a novelist and a beauty consultant one day . I also like crocheting ...

The poems dealt with the Clone Employment Service ( Commonwealth Employment Service ), divisions caused by religion, the isolation of the individual, trying to survive on the dole, greedy big business and inner thoughts of despondency in a flea- infested, rented house, with a leaky roof.

In the cover poem, Oi! The Cause Is Lost!, Ruth took skinheads to task for bashing people, saying they were neo-Nazis , cowards without balls , who went about in gangs . She wrote that the skinheads would probably “kick me to my knees ” for speaking out against them . There was no copyright claim on her poetry, just a request to acknowledge that she was the author and not to just rip her off .

When Ruth left Townsville for “ the south ”, she surmised that some of the “old crones” at the radio station , who strongly objected to her , threw wild parties to celebrate her departure. After two years in Sydney she returned to Townsville . When she went along to 4TTT , under new management , hoping to once more contribute to the airwaves , she found the welcome mat had been well and truly withdrawn as far as she was concerned . Furthermore , she was shocked to learn the station broadcasted greyhound racing .

Once more , she departed the Townsville scene , and nothing more was heard of her ; people speculated she had come to a tragic end . However, her name appeared from time to time in contributions to several punk “ zines ” , this being the name for cheap cut and paste magazines . The October 1993 issue of the punk zine APITO , produced in Rockhampton, Queensland,  listed a Ruth Rebel poem dealing with sexism on the cover. That issue also covered the plight of East Timor , whaling and called for independence for Tibet.

I became interested in Ruth Rebel   when researching the history of 4TTT-FM, an extraordinary community radio station which would make a great TV series or a film . Through its portals passed individuals who became influential in law , politics, music , broadcasting , Aboriginal and Islander advancement , environmental protection , nuclear protests , union activities and other fields of endeavour .

A woman doctor connected with the radio station was even blamed by some northern religious fanatics for Darwin’s Cyclone Tracy because she had promoted birth control and abortion so God had punished the nation as a result . Today 4TTT-FM , operating with limited funds, knocks the socks off many radio stations , parts of networks owned by conglomerates whose content  is compiled  and dictated from afar.

Extensive inquiries eventually led me to Ruth , with two sons, struggling along in Queensland , still writing poetry and full of fond and unusual memories of  her  time  at  the  radio station.

 When I recounted some of the colourful anecdotes I had gathered about her and her rodent at the radio station she branded me Big Ears , addressing me as such in emails. Did I know , she asked , that a manager at the radio station had a coffin and slept in it ?

 My large ears had picked up that titbit. Ruth told me that during her travels she had teamed up with her birth mother , but this reunion had not worked out . Her adoptive mother , a Christian , had died in her sleep before Ruth had a chance to thank her for having persevered with her .

A person from the University of Central Queensland, hearing I had been researching Ruth, contacted me and asked if I knew where she was as somebody was interested in doing a documentary about the punk rock scene and dearly wanted to speak to her. That film , called A Piss In the Ocean , included a male punk rocker, Bollocks, and Ruth Rebel is listed in the credits.

An email Ruth sent me dealt with the plight of women in Papua New Guinea where sexual assault and the spread of aids was rampant . Much to my surprise, Darwin activist  Stuart Highway had  been in contact with Ruth Rebel in connection with several campaigns over the years.  

He first became aware of her in punk magazines in the 1980s and said  her poems helped  her cope with the boredom and stresses in her life. More than that, she was able to draw attention to injustices in the world.


  Goat track , Magnetic Island  in distance  


One of its many interesting exhibits is a B-52  bomber . Vallis  photograph .


Dramatic sunrises and  sunsets in Darwin during the Wet  turns residents  in  tall  towers  and tourists  into  sunworshippers . Large numbers of  people gather  on  the Esplanade to  see the sun settle, a burning bloody ball in the  mighty harbour, one woman seen in a yoga position gazing westwards  .  Sunset  harbour cruises are  popular, hardy members of  the  rocksitters club  even  gaze  at  the  sky  on  Saturday evenings.

Thursday, April 29, 2021



With all this talk of war and  peace , US Marines  arriving in Darwin , you  could not be blamed for thinking the above  gleaming,  standout  vessel  in  the port of  Townsville  is  part  of  a  modern day  US  Navy  Great  White Fleet ,similar to the 1908 armada   sent out  by President Theodore Roosevelt  to circumnavigate the world .It  included 16 battleships and escort vessels,  to   show  America's growing  might  and its capacity to  deploy in the  Philippines and the  Pacific. Australia and New Zealand were  visited  by  the  fleet, attracting huge crowds, covered previously in this blog,a Kiwi postcard ,below, issued to mark the event . 

The  ship in Townsville  is not a warship or a floating  hospital, it is the  Panama registered  livestock carrier  ,Polaris 3 (not a  nuclear armed  submarine tender  of  that  name ) , unnoticed  by  the  local  media herd.  

On the same  day ,the following   activity in Cleveland   Bay  provided   another  interesting subject  for our Shipping Reporter, , the  only one north  of  Oyster Bay . He was informed  it  is an operation  to prepare  the   shipping   channel to  be    extensively dredged   to  widen  and deepen it  to enable entry of   larger vessels , including cruise ships .  It  is a barge   towed about by tugs  on  which there is a large crane   being  used  to "pull up  a  stump " . The  impact of  dredging on  Magnetic  Island  ,especially on the coral  and  beaches,  is  a  matter  of   concern.  

Other vessels   in  port included the container ship  Hansa  Freyburg ,flying under the Liberian flag  and Belle Ocean  ,a bulk carrier  built in 2014,flying the flag of  Panama .

The  port's new  huge super crane ,said to be able  to lift two containers  at a time ,  below , towered  over  a  vessel .

Monday, April 26, 2021

Sunday, April 25, 2021



Faded , out of focus , part of a notice for a smoke social  on  April  22, l915   for   residents of   Darwin  to  farewell the  local contingent,  listed ,  going  to  war. 
The above  1915  postcard is addressed to the  Red Cross , Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia .

Spotted in the diverse collection at the   Darwin Museum and Art  Gallery , Bullocky Point,  was another 1915 postcard  addressed to Miss E. Stephens, "Afton", Victoria  Road , Ermington ,New South Wales ,Australia , sent by  George  Woods, who  explained it  bore  no  postage stamps because he was on active  service .

This postcard was of particular  interest as the writer of this article  had  gone to  primary school  in  Ermington  in the early l950s  , knew Victoria  Road  well , a fruit  stall on  that  road  at  Ermington  run  by relatives  of  the Darwin journalist  and activist Jessie Litchfield who, with author and publisher  Glenville  Pike , started  the  North  Australian  Monthly .

 George wrote that he had  received   five  welcome  letters  from  Miss Stephens  in  the  mail , mail days  being big events . He indicated  it  might be some time before she  again heard  from him , signing  off : Ta Ta . 

 The  puzzling  above   photograph ,  showed  what appears to be a  travelling  band , The  Darwin Knuts , on a joy ride  on a horse drawn cart , Easter  1915. Hanging from  the neck of a man at the rear  is what looks like   a drum bearing the message : Superior quality made in Germany  . 

A quick check revealed the man with the drum -home made- was Jack Kelly , who had  sung Ginger, You're Barmy , at  the smoke social  farewell for the NT contingent   that   went  to  the  Front  in 1915.  



Abra photos.


 The sea monster dropped from the popular ABC TV show Shaun Micallef's Mad as Hell  because of savage  cuts to the national broadcaster by the  creepy ScoMo  government , has found a new career in Darwin as a model for a  new  spiced  rum  and also  hires  his  tentacles  out  to  terrify and  entertain   people  at  birthday  celebrations  and after  match  boozy  footie  nights.

It is reliably  reported that the Royal Australian Navy has hired the terrifying  Kraken to  maraude  about   the Chinese  owned  Darwin port  facilities  to  frighten  them  into  giving  back  the  gateway  to  Australia ,which the dim sims  in   Canberra's Coalition   border security club  leased out, without alerting  America .



Saturday, April 24, 2021






Vallis photographs.



Magnetic  Island  celebrity hound . Vallis photograph .



Vallis photographs.


 All   aboard  for  a   flight   to   fabulous  Darwin  on  a  safari  in which you  will  encounter gorillas ,  crocodiles , Tarzan , colourful  outback cooks , drink rum  and  Coca-Cola  with  visiting  US Marines , feed man-eating silverfish , cuddle  an alien from outer space, witness  the neglect  of  more important  historical  monuments , scan a  collection  which   rivals  the treasures  of   King  Tut's  tomb , loot  Op shops in the hunt  for interesting  books and  ephemera  and be given the  privilege of viewing  the  latest  gimcrack   finds  of  the  Darwin  Detectorists  who  now  have  an  underwater  metal detector in their quest to find  the Aussie equivalent of  a fabulous  Saxon  treasure trove .  

Plane over  Darwin, Inpex gas  plant  in  background. 



Vallis photos 

Friday, April 23, 2021


 On a day when it felt as if the Dry season  had  arrived  along with dragonflies in  the Northern Territory capital of  Darwin , it was  wet  and  windy  along  the  coast  of  far  North  Queensland .  It  was  raining  so much at Townsville that  the  commercial  flight   this  writer  was  travelling  on  had   to   change  course and   come  in  from  another  direction ,  sheets of   water  visible  on  the ground  at  the  airport. 

From  the  ferry  to Magnetic Island much of  Townsville  was  obscured by low  cloud  and  rain , as  was   the  island . 

Our Aviation Correspondent Abra flew in from drenched Cairns ,  photographing   the   wet  scene  along  the way  , some  of  her  shots  follow.