Sunday, November 30, 2008

New England's beauties - A bottlebrush (Calistemon sp.) in flower














Just an end month photo from Gordon Smith.

Many of New England's beauties are subtle. Gordon wrote:

A bottlebrush (Calistemon sp.) in flower outside our house. I had to desaturate this photograph a little - the flower is so colourful.

This may not sound subtle, but this is not a very big flower. Walking through the bush, you have to look to see!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tamworth Floods November 2008


Tamworth has been struck by sudden floods after a heavy downpour.

This photo from Leannes World shows the Peel River in flood. The link will carry you through to a good description of the evolution of one storm that contributed to the flooding.

In combination, storms dumped more than 160 millimetres of rain in less than 24 hours sparking several rescues. A young boy clung to a tree for several hours after the car he was in was swept into the river.

In face of the flooding, Andrew Galvin of the Namoi Division of the State Emergency Service (SES) stated that property owners in several low lying areas were being asked to leave their homes ahead of the flood peak at 9:00am, 29 November AEDT.

"We're strongly recommending residents in King George Avenue take the opportunity to evacuate. The flood at this level will inundate this area and impact on it," he said.

"There's always an element of uncertainty and of course that flood level could go higher, which is why we're recommending evacuation."

Mr Galvin said that several homes have already been evacuated

"Most of the roads will be cut. We expect Tamworth will be cut in half. The main access between east and west Tamworth, Bridge Street, will in all probability be closed for several hours," he said.

The flood peak did indeed cut Tamworth in two.

According to the State Emergency service's Namoi division controller Kathleen Caine, the SES received more than 130 calls for help including several from motorists who became stranded in floodwaters.

The Department of Community Services opened two evacuation centres to help people who might have to leave their homes.

"At the moment we're accommodating about 16 people in motels in Tamworth that were stranded here," stated DoCS Bob Solley.

There were fears that businesses owners in the low lying industrial area of Taminda might not escape flooding because of the city's partially completed levee bank. However, these initial fears do not appear to have been realised.

Tamworth has been declared a natural disaster area by the NSW State Government to assist in reconstruction.

Check the Northern Daily Leader for more details.


Friday, November 28, 2008

TAS Old Boy Michael Fussell killed in Afghanistan

The Australian Defence Force has confirmed that 25-year-old Lieutenant Michael Fussell, has been killed in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device (IED.

The statement said Lieutenant Fussell was a member of the Sydney-based 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (Commando). Their HQ is in fact just a few kilometres from where we live.

He was killed by a roadside bomb during a dismounted patrol in Oruzgan province, southern Afghanistan. Two other members of his unit were wounded during the attack, but have since returned to operational duties.

Michael was born in Coffs Harbour and then attended The Armidale School (TAS), my old school. He was a keen rugby player.

Michael enlisted in 2002, graduated from Duntroon in 2005 and was posted to artillery. He served in East Timor in 2006 and 2007.

Michale's decorations included the Australian Service Medal clasp, Timor-Leste and the Australian Defence Medal.

Michael was unmarried. Brother Daniel is also in the army, serving with an artillery regiment presently located in Brisbane.

Army Chief Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie extended his condolences to Lieutenant Fussell's family and friends.

"Our hearts go out to Michael's family during this very sad time. I hope the knowledge that they are in the thoughts and prayers of so many Australians will be a source of comfort for them," he said.

"Michael died while serving his nation and his sacrifice will never be forgotten. This loss is felt heavily by the wider Defence community, and particularly by members of the Australian Army."

TAS headmaster Murray Guest said Michael was still remembered as someone who made a solid contribution to school life and the local community.

"A very bright young man. He was a scholarship winner here who performed well through his HSC in 2001," he said.

"He was involved in a lot of things as well, a great giver to the community.

"He was a cadet in his early years and then a surf lifesaver a little later on and gave in lots of other forms as well."

He was also, apparently, a bit of a rascal at times!


I have updated this story with further material drawn from the SMH plus some additional personal comments. I also wrote a personal perspective, Saturday Morning Musings - TAS Old Boy killed in Afghanistan, that may be of interest to those interested in the history of TAS, Michael's old school.

The Defence Department release on Michael's death including the PM's statement can be found here.

Postscript 2

Michael's family has now released a statement on their loss. Apparently the funeral will be held in Armidale next Thursday. I am sure that the local paper will cover it in full - I will provide information here later.

Postscript 3

Three of Michael's friends and colleagues have left comments on this post. If you knew Michael and would like to leave a comment, I will ensure that they are all passed onto to TAS in advance of the funeral.

Postscript 4

TAS Head Murray Guest has advised that Michael's funeral will be held at Armidale's Old Teachers' College at 10:00am on Saturday 6 December.

For those who do not know Armidale, the TC stands in a prominent position on South Hill. There is plenty of parking around it. It is also in easy walking distance from the town centre.

Postscript 5

TAS Deputy Head Grant Harris provided the following update:

"Michael's body arrives at Richmond at 11.30am Wed (today) where there will be a Ramp Ceremony for family only. There will be a Military Service at the 4 RAR Barracks on Thursday in Sydney. His funeral in Armidale is at 10.00am on Saturday at the Old Teachers College Auditorium."

Postscript 6

The Armidale service was not covered in the local media, perhaps because of the family's request for privacy. I found one short general report. The Sydney military service on the Thursday was covered by the media as the main funeral. For reports see here, here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New England Writers - Tales from New England launched

John Ryan

Tales From New England, has been launched by Richard Torbay, Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly and Member for Northern Tablelands. Written by John Ryan, the book is a collection of essays that gives a New England context to aspects of the lives and works of several famous authors.

The book focuses on nine important writers, including Rolf Boldrewood (author of Robbery Under Arms) and D’Arcy Niland (author of The Shiralee), who have enriched their novels with imaginative re-creations of New England society and landscapes.

Associate Professor John Ryan (pictured here), the Armidale scholar and well-known regional and cultural historian, said the texts he discusses “tell us what we are in a way that history or the newspapers never do”. Dr Ryan stated that his aim in writing Tales From New England had been “to help readers appreciate the rich and accessible heritage content of these literary texts of the region, as they illustrate many aspects of our distinctive local identity”.

The other authors (and particular novels) given lively context in the book include Thomas Keneally (The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith), Dymphna Cusack (Picnic Races), Gwen Kelly (in various reflective works), Geoff Page (Benton’s Conviction), David Crookes (The Light Horseman’s Daughter), Robert Barnard (Death of an Old Goat and Cry from the Dark), and Gabrielle Lord (Bones).

Dr Ryan said that the title of the book reflected the emphasis on “tradition – i.e., the passing on of stories” – in the explorations and publications of the Heritage Futures Research Centre.

The eight larger tales that Dr Ryan tells link the lives of the authors with the topics treated in the novels and their rich evocations of New England life and environment. There are dramatic stories, such as those encountered by Thomas Browne (Rolf Boldrewood) during his eight months in Armidale as Police Magistrate – including the attempted shooting and stabbing of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Armidale, Elzear Torregiani. And there are stories with a quieter rural and domestic focus, such as those connecting Dymphna Cusack’s New England nurture to her novel Picnic Races. These stories illuminate, in Dr Ryan’s words, those “timeless moments of quiet savouring of Australia’s colonial past and landscapes” that the text of Picnic Races contains.

Dr Ryan points out that these novels often give life and colour to historical events – for example the pursuit of the Governor brothers that inspired Thomas Keneally’s novel and the later film-based myth. “A number of the writers have created very effective historical vignettes,” he said, “such as Geoff Page’s local treatment of the 1916 conscription issue in Benton’s Conviction.

In the work of all the writers he discusses, he finds “a large measure of autobiography” and “much investigation of societal/educational processes as they affect individuals”. “The trials of education, as supplied at the primary, secondary, and – even more quirkishly – at the tertiary level, are explored both with some exasperation and also with a more profound investigation,” he says in his “Introduction”.

The 68 illustrations in Tales From New England include many rare photographs, as well as reproductions of original or early dust covers to remind readers of the books they knew they should read one day. Tales From New England provides a witty, wry and compassionate guide to such reading.

Monday, November 24, 2008

UNE passings - death of Erle Robinson

My thanks to Gordon Smith for drawing my attention to the passing of Erle Robinson. Erle's death on Tuesday 18 November 2008 at the age of 84 marked the severing of another link with UNE's past.

I did not know Erle well, although he has been a familiar figure for much of my life. For that reason, the story that follows is largely drawn from the report in UNE News and Events with some additional comments.

Erle Robinson was born and educated in New Zealand, where he gained a law degree and practised law before developing – through a Master of Arts degree – his vocational interest in philosophy.

In 1954, the year the University of New England gained autonomy, he arrived in Armidale as a lecturer in Philosophy. From then until his retirement in 1989, he devoted his academic career to the education and welfare of his students and the health of the institution.

The UNE report notes that he is remembered by his former colleagues at the University of New England for his untiring pursuit of justice.

“He was the sort of ‘thorn in the side’ of Administration that every administration should be grateful to have,” said UNE’s current Professor of Philosophy, Peter Forrest.

I grinned at this. Erle could be a very serious person, although he also had a very broad smile and a characteristic shift of his glasses. Once he decided that matters of principle were involved, he could be remarkably stubborn. He also liked dissecting things. This sometimes made him a very difficult person at meetings!

Those who remember Erle will find the photo heading the story very familiar. It appears to be a student demonstration, with Erle standing there in characteristic clothes and stance.

Professor Forrest said he had encountered former students whose most vivid memory of their university days was “Erle teaching them ethics”. And Mr Robinson’s colleagues – even those who were his antagonists in one or other of his campaigns for institutional justice – all remember him with fondness and respect.

I was one of the students who studied ethics as part of my Philosophy I course. This whole course was one of the most profoundly influential courses that I did. It taught me to dissect and clarify issues. The ethics course itself with its focus on different ethical schools made me cautious about absolute external ethical values of any type - the derivation of values was central.

As a leading figure in UNE’s development of philosophy programs for external students, Erle upheld the principle that external students should be taught and examined according to the same standards as internal students. It was his “pragmatic advice” (as one former colleague put it) that “helped to shape the University’s external Bachelor of Arts degree”.

This principle of equality of standards was deeply held within the University and important in gaining broader acceptance that external degrees were as good as internal. At the time there was considerable opposition to external studies in Australia's older universities including Sydney, centred on the argument that a university education required continuing on-campus contact. The UNE approach combined external teaching with direct staff-student contact through things such as residential schools.

In 1957 Erle was elected to represent undergraduate students on the UNE Council, and he continued to serve in that role until 1960, when he took a year’s study leave. From 1976 to 1980, and then again from 1982 to 1984, he served as a member of Council elected by the academic staff. He served as President of the UNE Teachers’ Association, and was active in the Student Christian Movement, another organisation that I was a member of as a student.

Erle retained is interests (and causes!) following his retirement. He continued his interests in ethics and ethical issues, participated in forums and was a member of the Council of Civil Liberties.

In 2003 he delivered a paper at the 50th annual Australasian Association of Philosophy conference (photo), just as he had delivered a paper at the first one in 1953!

The UNE story suggests that his life-long pursuit of justice was remarkable for its integrity: his determined opposition to what he believed to be wrong was balanced by a lack of personal rancour. “He never bore malice,” one of his colleagues recalled.

I think that that's right from my own experience.

Erle Robinson’s unique contribution to UNE over 35 years was a product of that integrity.

He is survived by his wife Marcia (whom he married in 1960), their daughter Christine, and their grandchildren Timothy and Genevieve. Their son Stephen was killed in an ice avalanche on Mount Cook, New Zealand, in 1997, something that I had not known.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New England Sheep Stations - Warrah Station

I noticed that someone found this site through a search on map of New England Sheep stations. There isn't one. However, that search led me to this photo of the Warrah Station woolshed from the Powerhouse Museum collection. The Curator added this note:

Warrah Station (c. 1824 - 1969).

First taken up by the squatter Thomas Parnell around 1824, Warrah Station is situated near Willow Tree, about 60 kilometres south of Tamworth in northern New South Wales. The area itself remained virtually unoccupied by Europeans until Henry Dangar, of the Australian Agricultural Company, explored the region in the
late-1820s and extolled its virtues as a potential pastoral property. The Company, which applied for and received a large rectangular block of 249,600 acres at Warrah, thus began occupying the gentle rise of forest land above Parnell’s hut in 1833.

Under its auspices, Warrah Station emerged as Australia’s finest pastoral property during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. It was predominantly a wool-producing station, carrying a flock of almost 200,000 sheep during its heyday, but at various times Warrah also ran as many as 20,000 head of cattle. Despite the depression and prolonged drought of the 1890s, the Company enjoyed unexampled prosperity during these years. In 1908, however, the push for closer settlement resulted in the Company’s decision to voluntarily subdivide Willow Tree.

The following year, the government publicised its intention to resume a further 45,000 acres on Warrah Station. After a lengthy court case, which the government won, the land was eventually sold in 1911. And although the Company
continued to prosper, these events began a process of resumption (further subdivisions occurred in 1914, 1935 and 1967) which saw the gradual withdrawal of the Company from Warrah Station to properties elsewhere (especially Queensland).

In 1969, the homestead itself was sold, leaving the Company with about 33,000 acres on ‘Windy’ Station in the north-west corner of the original grant. It remains today the only New South Wales property of Australia’s third-largest beef cattle producer.

Source University of New England archives, accessed 11/11/08

Media Hunter's new address

I am very slow, but I have only just caught up with the fact Media Hunter has changed its URL. I have tried to amend links on this site, but there will be some that I will miss.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New England Story - Stockton Beach

Normally New England Story series focuses on people. However, browsing the on-line edition of The Newcastle Herald I came across a story about University of Newcastle communication honours student Thomas Hancock who has set his sights on introducing a new generation of people to the history of Stockton Bight and in particular Tin City by means of a documentary.

Now I knew Stockton and Stockton Beach, but I had never heard of Tin City. So I decided that I shouldNewcastle to Port Stephens do this New England story on Stockton Beach.

The attached map from NRMA shows the long sweep of Stockton Beach. The beach starts at Stockton on the northern side of the break wall that protects the entrance to Newcastle.

Stockton itself lies on a narrow peninsula and is the only Newcastle suburb on the northern banks of the Hunter River. This was an area I knew quite well at one point because I used to take out a girl from Stockton, driving up from Canberra sometimes to stay there, crossing over the river by ferry.

The town was founded around the same time as Newcastle and at first was known as a nest of pirates. It then became an industrial180px-Stockton_Beach_-_southern_end and mining base. In 1896, in one of those accidents that marked the lower Hunter, the town was struck by tragedy when a gas leak at the local colliery killed 11 people. Today it has become a working-class dormitory marked by a relaxed life style and love of the sea and fishing. The photo shows the southern end of Stockton Beach near Stockton.

Sadly, the beach north of Stockton is also known as the location of the 1989 rape and murder of Newcastle High School student and nearby Fern Bay resident Leigh Leigh. The play, Blackrock (written by Australian playwright Nick Enright) and a subsequent movie of the same name starring Heath Ledger, were inspired by this event. In another New England connection that I did not know, Nick Enright wrote the original book of the Boy from Oz, the Peter Allen musical.

The play is a good one, although I have very mixed views about it because of its popularity with school drama classes. This means that I have had to sit through one version or other, both extracts and full productions, many times. It is a dark play, and I find it quite depressing.

From Stockton, the beach stretches for 32 km (20 mi) in a north-easterly 300px-Stockton_Beach_-_north_eastern_end direction to Anna Bay near Port Stephens. The photo shows the beach looking south near Anna Bay.

In some areas the beach is as much as one km (0.6 mi) wide and has sand dunes over 30 metres (98 feet) high.

I have not researched the geological history of the beach itself, although it is relatively recent in geological terms. Based on the history of the Macleay Valley further north, around 125,00 years ago the sea level was around 25 feet higher than it is now, so what is now Stockton Beach would have been underwater.

In the fourth ice age beginning around 100,000 years ago, the sea level began to fall. This moved the shore line out about six to ten miles, creating a large coastal plain that stretched along the current New England coastline.

Then the sea level began to rise again around 20,000 years ago, submerging the coastal plain. This rise continued until about 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, before slowing down. It seems likely that sand deposition created spits that then grew into the present dunes.

I do not know when the first Aborigines arrived in this area, although the Wikipedia article already cited suggests as much as 12,000 years ago. In this event, the original Aboriginal inhabitants would in fact have probably seen the evolution of the beach over multiple generations.

At the time the Europeans arrived, Stockton Beach fell into the territory of the Worimi people. The Worimi gathered pipis and whelks along the beach forming middens, shell deposits. The constant shifting of the beach because of wind means that some middens are concealed, while new ones are revealed.

I don't know about you, but to my mind wind driven sand is not pleasant. I imagine the Worrimi would have camped in the dunes back from the beach where there was some protection from the wind.

The power of the wind is not to be underestimated. If you look again at the map, you will see that the long stretch of the beach north of Stockton, a stretch also known as the Stockton Bight, is directly exposed to the winds and waves. Ship wrecks were common as ships tried to enter the port or were simply driven onto shore. The Pasha Bulka (photo) is only the most recent example. Ship Aground, Nobbys Beach, Newcastle

On 13 June 1928, for example, the North Coast Steam Navigation Company's Uralla was approaching Sydney Heads from Coffs Harbour when a gale forced it to run north. On 14 June the steamer ran aground down the beach from Anna Bay. There was no loss of life. After one failed attempt at refloating, the owners sold it for a thousand pounds. The new owners did refloat the vehicle, but it then drifted ashore and broke up. The remains can still be seen sometimes at low tide.

The collier White Bay suffered a worse fate during the same gale. Also driven ashore, all five crew lost their lives.

The most visible wreck is the MV Sygna, a 53,000 t (52,163 long tons) Norwegian Bulk carrier that ran aground during a major storm on 26 May 1974. Attempts to refloat the ship were unsuccessful. It broke its back and the stern now lies approximately 8.8 km (5.5 miles) from the southern end of the beach.

There is a direct connection between these wrecks and Tin City.

By the late 1800s shipwrecks on Stockton Beach were so common that two tin sheds were constructed on a part of the beach to hold provisions for ship-wrecked sailors. During the Depression a group of squatters constructed a series of tin shacks at the site, which is around 11 km (6.8 mi) south west of Anna Bay. Tin City Shack

The shacks were torn down during World war to make way for an Army camp, but then rebuilt. Eleven of the shacks known collectively as Tin City remain on 99 year squatter's leases, although no new shacks can be built nor can existing shacks be rebuilt if they are destroyed by the elements.

Tin City was used for several scenes in the 1979/80 Australian movie Mad Max.

Tin City remains a unique community that cannot be reached by road, although it has become a popular four wheel drive destiMaking history Thomas Hancock on setnation.

History and location attracted Thomas Hancock to make his film on Tin City. He stayed at Tin City for two days, interviewed residents, built his own sets (Herald photo)and used experimental techniques and dramatisation to create historical context.

"I just wanted to make an interesting film about an interesting place," he told the Newcastle Herald.

War is another element that has left its imprint on the Beach.

RAAF Base Williamtown., now also Newcastle's civil airport, lies just to the north of Stockton. Military jets are a constant presence. Remains of tank traps built during the Second War can be found, as sometimes can unexploded munitions since the Beach was used as a bombing range.

Vehicular access to the Beach is limited. There is no vehicular access at the southern end of the beach. Vehicle entry is via Lavis Lane in Williamtown or one of the two entrances in Anna bay. A permit needs to be purchased before entering the beach.

A number of operators run four wheel drive tours of the Beach, and this is one of the best ways of exploring the area. Details can be obtained from Port Stephens or Newcastle Tourism.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rugby League's confusions over Green

My thanks to North Coast Voices for pointing me to this story.

The story is a simple one. The National Rugby League wanted to celebrate the contribution of indigenous players to the code. To this end, they established the George Green Medal. Each year the medal will be awarded to a rising star of indigenous background playing his rookie year in the NRL or the Toyota Cup.

The move is to be applauded. However, as Andrew Moore pointed out, they should have checked George Green's ancestry. Now here my interest is not in the NRL's mistake, but the fact that the mistake drew out another thread in New England's history.

The critical problem lies in the question of George Green's ancestry. Was he an indiGreengenous Australian?

Andrew notes that the surviving photographs of Green, a highly regarded hooker-forward with the North Sydney RLFC in their premiership years of 1921- 22, establish that he was black, as well as extremely handsome, with immaculate hair always parted neatly in the middle.

Andrew also states that almost every sports historian and rugby league website, from Wikipedia to  Colin Tatz and Douglas Booth, claim that George was Aboriginal. In fact, Andrew suggests, his pedigree is a little murky.

According to Andrew,  Edward George Green's birth certificate shows that he was born on December 17, 1883, the son of Thomas Green and his wife, Hannah McMahon, of Bulli. The place of birth is given as Dalmorton, a locality near Grafton on the old Glen Innes Road (photo), not in the strongly indigenous Emmaville, as some Grafton Dallmorton Road Powerhouse have claimed.

While being born near Grafton may add credence to the view that George was Aboriginal and a member of the large Bundjalung community, Thomas Green's occupation is given as a master mariner. This is not surprising given that in the 1880s Grafton was a major port.

Further, on George's birth certificate Thomas Green recorded his birthplace as St Kitts, West Indies. Though Thomas was not consistent in recording his personal details - on his marriage certificate he suggested he was born in England - Andrew suggests that it is likely, nonetheless, that George Green was of Afro-Caribbean background.

Now this struck me as a fascinating story in its own right. How did Thomas Green become a master mariner. how and when did he arrive in Grafton?

Andrew also notes that George's maternal line did not establish any claim to Aboriginality. Hannah McMahon arrived in Australia from Ireland in 1860 as a 13-month-old baby, part of a Donegal family emigrating in the wake of the Great Famine.

George himself muddied the issue further by telling various people he was a Pacific Islander or Maori.

Andrew claims that mystery can be solved. It seems there were two George Greens from northern NSW, born six months apart. Andrew suggests that the NRL named the medal after the wrong one. Another George Green was born at Emmaville, north west of Glen Innes, on June 24, 1883, the son of Chas Green, a miner, and his wife, Annie Coltern, formerly of Ipswich. This E.G. Green secured work as a mechanic with the Postmaster-General's Department in April 1911,

This George Green was indigenous. Andrew notes that the Green family is still well known among Bundjalung people around Emmaville.Grafton to Inverell

Now here a number of things puzzle me.

To begin with, I was struck by the reference to the Bundjalung people at Emmaville. I have no reason to doubt this, but Emmaville is 188k north west of Grafton. How did Bundalung people end up in Emmaville?

I ask this question because the exact relations between the coastal, Tablelands and Kamilaroi language groups to the west is one of the interesting issues in New England history. I would have thought that Emmaville was on the edge of Kamilaroi territory.

Unless Mr Green from Emmaville was a known Rugby League player, I can also see no reason why he should even have entered the equation beyond pure coincidence. I suspect that here are far simpler explanations.     

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sons of Mathew 2 - Charles Chauvel (1897-1959)

Charles Chauvel

Back in October I put up an introductory post on the Charles Chauvel film Sons of Mathew. In this post I want to look at Charles Chauvel himself, one of Australia's pioneering film makers.

I have drawn the story especially from the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry on Sir Charles. Full references are provided at the end of the post.

Charles Edward Chauvel was born on 7 October 1897 at Warwick on the northern edge of the Queensland extension of the New England Tablelands. Chauvel was the second son of grazier James Allan Chauvel, and his wife Susan Isabella, daughter of Henry Barnes.

Glen Pringle records that the Chauvels were originally French but fled in 1685 to escape the bloodshed that destroyed the rest of their family during the French Revolution. I think that this is misleading since the revolution took place the following century.

It seems more likely the family were Huguenot, French Protestants, who fled France when Louis XIV Louis revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and declared Protestantism to be illegal. Between 200,000 and 1,000,000 French Protestants are estimated to have fled to nearby Protestant countries at that time, many going on to the US and what would become South Africa. Chauvel is in fact recorded as an Australian Huguenot name.

The Chauvels set up home in England with several becoming officers in the Indian army and later emigrating to Australia in the late 1830s. They were pioneers on the land, initially in the Northern Rivers area of New England and later also in Southern Queensland. This pioneer period was very important to Charles Chauvel - Sons of Mathews is in part a celebration of his own family history.

Educated at Ipswich Grammar School, Charles initially worked as a jackeroo on a sheep station. In 1916 he was called home when his father, aged 53, joined the Australian Remount Unit as a lieutenant. James Chauvel served with the Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, ending the war as a temporary major. Again, this family experience with the Australian Light Horse was to be important in Chauvel's work.

Following his father's return, Chauvel studied commercial art in Sydney and also attended drama classes. Then from 1920 he worked as a production assistant, primarily responsible for the horses, with R. L. ('Snowy') Baker and other film-makers.

Pringle records this story from Charles Chauvel's wife. Desperate to enter the movie making business, Charles begged for any job.

"Where in the world could you fit in, young man?" Snowy asked. "Horses," the determined young Queenslander replied, "you will be using horses and I know all about them and can ride."

In April 1922 Chauvel followed Baker to the United States of America. He survived in Los Angeles by writing articles about Australia and taking small jobs in Hollywood studios.

In late 1923, Chauvel returned to Australia to try to set up his own production company. With cash from friends and Queensland businessmen he produced The Moth of Moonbi (released January 1926), a romantic melodrama based upon Mabel Forrest's novel The Wild Moth. Pringle notes that Chauvel chose to use genuine bush settings in this film, something that would be a feature of many of his films.

The Moth of Moonbi was followed by Greenhide, released in November 1926. The heroine was played by Elsie May Wilcox, an actress known professionally as Elsie Sylvaney (Silveni). Chauvel had to work hard to get her to participate, but he was successful at several levels, On 5 June 1927 he and Elsa (as she became known) were married

Elsa and Charles Chauvel were to work very closely together throughout his career, sharing production and writing. Beyond the films themselves, I first came in contact with the Chauvels as a child when I was given a copy of Walkabout as a present, a book they jointly wrote.

Chauvel was an effective publicist and the first two films were modest commercial successes, although he found great difficulty in getting local distribution. Later Michael Bruxner, his first cousin on his mother's side and then Deputy NSW Premier and leader of the Country Party, would introduce legislation to try to force distributors to show Australian films, the first such legislation in Australia.

In 1928 Charles and Elsa went to the US to try to promote the two films, but arrived at the time the industry was turning to sound. Elsa did get a stage part, but they then returned to Australia where Chauvel worked first as a cinema-manager in Melbourne before settling at Stanthorpe on the Queensland extension of the New England Tablelands. The Chauvel house still exists and is now on the local tour list. 180px-Errol_Flynn1

In the Wake of the Bounty (released March 1933) was Chauvel's first sound film. It was also the film that marked the start of the career of Errol Flynn (photo) who was to become one of the heartthrobs of Hollywood during the 1930s.

The film merged merged a dramatic reconstruction of the Bounty mutiny in 1789 with documentary footage of life on Pitcairn Island nearly 150 years later. To achieve this, Charles and Elsa plus a camera man spent three months on Pitcairn shooting material for the film. The end result is an odd mixture of drama and travelogue.

scene Heritage In 1935 Chauvel won the Commonwealth government's film competition with Heritage (still), a sweeping pioneer story from first European settlement to the present time. I enjoyed Heritage, although it is a somewhat clumsy film.

In 1936 Chauvel made aSir Henry Chauvel jungle adventure, Uncivilised, then visited Hollywood.

In July 1937, he began work on Forty Thousand Horsemen. Inspired by the distinguished war records in Palestine of his father, his uncle General Sir Harry Chauvel (photo) and his cousin Michael Bruxner, the film follows a group of Australian light horsemen, culminating in the cavalry charge across open ground that over-ran the Turkish positions at Beersheba.

The film was shot in around Sydney, with sand-dunes at Cronulla representing the Palestinian destill 40,000 horsemensert to considerable effect (photo).

Released in December 1940, the film was an immediate success in Australia and overseas, helping to form popular American and British attitudes to the Australian 'digger'. Its financial success gave Chauvel a strong base for later production.

in 1944 Chauvel released another very successful war feature. The Rats of Tobruk , while also producing several short propaganda films for the Department of Information.

Rats of Tobruk was followed by Sons of Matthew (19Sons of Mathew still49), the subject of this series (still).

Produced at a cost of around £120,000, an enormous amount for the time, the film is a saga of pioneering life from a struggling farm in New England through to the rugged mountain forests of south-eastern Queensland. Filmed on remote locations under very difficult physical conditions, the film is considered by many to be his finest work.

Chauvel's final feature, Jedda (1955), was Australia's first colour feature. It was also the first to be part funded by means of a public float, with Jedda listed on the Sydney stock exchange.Scene, Jedda

Shot largely in central and northern Australia, the film tells the story of a young Aboriginal woman torn between her own people and her white foster-parents.

Jedda was the first Australian film to feature Aborigines not just as central characters, but also to address emotional relations between them, as well as the attitudes of whites.

Following Jedda, Chauvel made thirteen half-hour films entitled Walkabout for BBC TV. Then, on 11 December 1959, he died of coronary vascular disease. He was 62

Charles Chauvel was one of the dominant figures of the Australian film industry, a man who kept making Australian films despite the small size of the local market and the overwhelming competition from imported films.

Introductory post in this series. Entry page for films about or produced in New England here


Don Aitkin, The Colonel : a Political Biography of Sir Michael Bruxner, Australian National University Press, Canberra, 1969.

Don Aitkin, 'Bruxner, Sir Michael Frederick (1882 - 1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, pp 468-469. Accessed on-line edition 10 November 2008.

Australian Screen, Heritage. Accessed 10 November 2008.

Australian Screen, Jedda. Accessed 10 November 2008

Australian Screen, In the Wake of the Bounty. Accessed 10 November 2008.

Australian Screen, Sons of Mathew. Accessed 10 November 2008.

A. J. Hill, 'Chauvel, Sir Henry George (Harry) (1865 - 1945)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, pp 624-628. Accessed on-line edition 10 November 2008.

A. F. Pike, 'Chauvel, Charles Edward (1897 - 1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, pp 623-624. Accessed on-line edition 10 November 2008.

GLen Pringle, Australian Silent Star of October, 1998. Accessed 10 November 2008.

Wikipedia, Errol Flynn. Accessed 10 November 2008.

Wikipedia, Huguenot. Accessed 10 November 2008.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Why I remain a New England New Stater 13 - the fallacy of the NSW economy

Note to readers: This post is one in a series using personal examples to illustrate why I continue to support both agitation for New England self-government and self-government itself. Agitation, because its very existence forces forces the Sydney Government to consider New England interests. Self-government, because there are some things that we cannot achieve without this.

Just at the moment, the NSW economy is a complete mess. However, there is a problem. There is no such thing as the NSW economy.

I say this for two reasons.

The first is the sheer dominance of Sydney in the statistics. If Sydney is sick, the NSW economy appears sick. And vice versa. You simply cannot see how the rest of the state is going from the numbers.

The second is a more fundamental complaint.

Talking about the NSW economy implies that there is such a thing. In fact, NSW is no more than a constitutional construct lacking any real form of economic coherence. NSW is in fact made up of a number of sub-economies linked to the national economy and international economies in a variety of complicated ways.

Does this matter? Yes, I believe that it does because the Sydney Government's economic policies are based on state aggregates, on the belief that there is a NSW economy. Further, it is almost impossible to form a coherent view on the state of economic activity in New England because

The first twists policy, the second ensures that there will be no specific focus on New England's problems and performance.    

Return to introductory post.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

New England Australia - most popular posts 4

It is now well over a month since I looked at what is popular on this blog. The six most popular posts in the last 100 visits have been:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Welcome to Visitor 17,000

Welcome to visitor 17,000 to this site. He/she came yesterday (2 November) via a Google search on Peter Allen, Armidale. This led them to Peter Allen, Armidale and Claire and Eileen Napier - an attack of nostalgia.

I hope that this post was of some use.