Whats in a name? (Episode No 1)

This story is about interesting town or place names that elicit a smile or a word association when you come upon them, that is, unless you are really grumpy.

Some town or place names can be nearly as amusing as many road signs are, at least to me. (Stay tuned for a road sign episode that is being proofed by the publishers, then it is legals turn).

It is perhaps good brain food when driving around to think about the names and what thoughts they evoke.

These tantalizing town title terms along with descriptive designation destination details, can help pass the time away when moving determinedly between one good coffee shop and the next. For example.

Foo hard at work in the absence of the owner. It is hard to get good help.

A few of these photo samples have made an appearance before in some of the Blog introductory pages, however there are always new ones that can appear on the scene



WELCOME to a journey through some delightful destinations and pleasant places.

Eulo a small town in southern Queensland. A place of mud springs and mud baths, plus many lizards. It is also situated on the mighty Paroo River so this river gets a mention also.

A saying “When the Paroo comes down” is embedded in our family lexicon. It originated many years ago when planning an outback trip in the “olden days”. At every turn, when inquiring about road closures and river levels we were warned time and time again that, “when the Paroo comes down”, no-one gets anywhere or goes anywhere, so check, check and check. Which we did of course and didn’t get stopped or bogged. I think the landholders would love to be around now “when the Paroo comes down”.

While on associations we have Stonehenge in central west Queensland. Not near Toowoomba or the UK. But, then Glen Innes has a replica Stonehenge. Apart from hosting a very, very secret radar base this Stonehenge has very few large rocks around the place. (Oops the redacting button didn’t work!!!!). However the town is located west of the Barcoo River which evokes another family story.

A flood-way on the Barcoo River. The older people may be familiar with the term “Barcoo Rot”. I believe it originated or was used during the WW2 era, a bit like “Foo was here” really. The term “Barcoo Rot” was very loosely applied to many afflictions that could not be explained or named. It was a term frequently used in our family. Yikes!! A further explanation is that the term originated in this locality in colonial times. Said to be related to scurvy resulting from poor diet which lead to a variety of skin infections that were hard to heal.

The Glen Innes version of Stonehenge.

Well, it would be hard to leave this one out of the collection. Located in S A, south of Burra. A great camping site but it can get a little crowded at times with Grey Nomads. I am not sure if that is a seasonal association with them or related to age factors?? There are however other location options if one is feeling a little poorly.

Such as Gravesend for those seeking a rest. Located in north east NSW. Best to let the horses chew on the straw.

Now, not wishing to offend, but here is another option for those ailing and not able to quiet make it through the Pearly Gates in one go, especially Catholics. They always wondered where Purgatory was? Near Lilydale of course!! Not the Lilydale I am familiar with, this one is up in North East NSW.

Some Names

Somewhere up near Dubbo there is Dunedoo. What a location and name to conjure up plenty of associations. In the absence of an obvious picture to illustrate this illustrious location I have employed a substitute. Refer to the next picture.

Ah, ……what a relief it was to find, …….a substitute. Pass the paper please!!!

I am not sure that “Bogan” and “Progressive” go together? However making allowances for the possibility of a sign-writers error, the latest census indicates that 199 of the current population of 200 are Collingwood supporters. Mmmmm?? I also note the graphics in the signage, not sure if the gates are to keep people in or out, so it remains tidy? Bogan Gate is near Parkes in Central NSW.

So how come Nyngan in northern NSW well to the north of Bogan Gate claims to be the home of “Big Bogan”? It appears the rivers get the blame yet again. “Big Bogan ” was the title given to the record flood, April 1990, emanating from the normally placid Bogan River that swamped all the Bogans, both large and small in this area.

End of Episode 1

Things may not always be as they seem???

Foo’s Comments:

I commend the following article to you to contemplate.

This article was first published in The Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland in 2015 (Vol 120, p 47-52).  It is reprinted here with the kind permission of both the Royal Society and the author.

My association with Ron (author) stretches back to the 1970’s when he was based at Fraser National Park (Lake Eildon) and I was stationed at Alexandra with the Soil Conservation Authority.  (Before constant name changes. BCNC).  He has an amazingly detailed knowledge of the Cooloola area, its history and its wildlife.  My first visit to the Cooloola area was in 2002 and I have been back on return visits ever since.

His previous Blog article was titled: ‘Correcting Some History’.





‘Don’t go!’ This was the advice of alarmed friends and family prior to our moving to Queensland.  It was both corrupt and a police State, they said, headed by the odious Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

He was the Premier of a government who declared a 30-day State of Emergency over a football match and used secret deals to ensure brute police force was used to break the anti-apartheid protests of 1971.  I decided to stay away from politics but, within two years I was to personally see a curious contradiction in the persona of Premier Joh.

After working for the National Parks Service in Victoria for 17 years I arrived in Gympie, in April 1978.  The Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service regional headquarters was based in Maryborough, but the Gympie City Council had somehow extracted an undertaking from our Director, Dr Graham Saunders, to establish a headquarters in Gympie.

As District Ranger, I was second in charge of a region that covered 35 national parks.  The two most important (and controversial) parks were Cooloola and Noosa.  Some 25,030 hectares of the Cooloola sand mass had been gazetted as the Cooloola National Park in 1975. The Forestry Department retained the more important commercial forests and most of the diverse rain-forests, all growing on sand.


Managed by the Queensland Forestry Department since 1925 as a State Forest, the Cooloola area encompassed two local authorities.  The Widgee Shire, centered around Gympie, was a farmer-based council concerned heavily at that time with roads and rates.  Much of the council area was non-ratable State Forest.  There is little doubt Council-and some residents-had developed a jealousy towards their southern neighbour, the Noosa Shire, with its developing coastal areas and seemingly unlimited potential for further expansion.  The official motto for the Widgee Council was ‘Develop and Prosper’, and they considered they had been treated poorly with declaration of Cooloola as a large national park.

One month before Cooloola National Park was gazetted, Council obtained the right to draw water from Teewah Creek (and Seary’s Creek) in the State Forest.   This led to a poorly located gravel road and overhead power lines across a treeless heath plain of considerable wildflower appeal after the National Park was declared.  Much of the water was destined to be used in the bay-side village development (now known as Cooloola Cove).

This former Crown Land had been developed for stock grazing, then converted into a 1600 block subdivision.  Council advocated a network of roads across the Cooloola area.  They obtained funds to improve an old logging track to Freshwater, ‘for tourism’, and created a maintenance problem for Forestry.

At the same time Cudgen Rutile RZ, a sand mining company, was exerting pressure on the Forestry Department initially to allow use of this track for egress of heavily laden trucks carrying mineral sands to the Gympie rail, then for delivery of bulk fuel through the rain-forest to the beach.

Widgee Shire Council sought approval for a 360ha housing development on State Forest above the coloured sand cliffs near Rainbow Beach.  They also surveyed an 8km road from Rainbow Beach to Double Island Point for Queensland Titanium Mines Pty Ltd, without the authority of the Department of Forestry.  Council intended to ‘restore’ the active Carlo Sand Blow to facilitate access to both areas.  Co-incidentally, the mining companies had found very rich deposits of mineral sands near Double Island Point.  An interstate interest had $5 million ready to build an international resort there at the conclusion of mining.  Council also foresaw an adjacent township development.

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A sample of the coloured sands, Rainbow Beach


Council were pressing for a 29,960 hectare Wallum Pastoral development scheme across the Western Catchment of the Noosa River, and southerly to their border with the Noosa Shire.  These treeless Noosa Plains and river catchment were prime habitat for the rare ground parrot, grass owl, southern emu wren and other locally uncommon birds such as the brolga, jabiru, emu and red-winged parrot.  Council’s 1981 town planning maps confirmed a proposed jet airport where Forestry had recently cleared and established a pine plantation on the edge of the catchment.

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The amazing stately Jabiru, mentioned in the bird list.


The incumbent Queensland Government Member for Gympie at the time, had previously given an undertaking to have a pulp mill built in the district.  The Forestry response was to stress the necessity of needing an additional 10,000 hectares of land on which to plant pines to guarantee the success of the mill.  The State Forest-controlled Western Catchment abutting and westerly of recently gazetted Cooloola National park was their obvious choice.  However the local District Forester preferred to see the area added to the park.  His second choice was to plant the area to pines to frustrate what he termed ‘beef barons’. or ‘grass pirates’.  Conservationists were pressing hard to have the Western Catchment area incorporated into the national park.

Its different soil type had been defined as the Womalah Landscape (Coaldrake, 1961).  A recent flora survey had listed over 100 different plants not recorded in the existing park.  Conservationists also argued that clearing the catchment could be disastrous for the existing park and lower reaches of the river with its system of shallow lakes, leading to increased siltation and possible closure of the river mouth.

A sister group of the Noosa Parks Association, known as the Cooloola Committee, was formed in Brisbane in 1970.  This group petitioned the Queensland Parliament and targeted marginal electoral seats, which caused a revolt of sorts within government ranks.  Nervous back-benchers demanded opposition to the sand mining in Cooloola and over-ruled the Cabinet.  The Premier used his casting vote to keep his position.


Given these competing arguments, the Premier now wished to inspect the area and make up his own mind, without the presence of any lobbyists.  He had almost lost his support in Cabinet over Cooloola a few years earlier.  I knew the area, and was on the spot-in more ways than one!  In September 1980, I received instructions to meet the Premier at the Gympie airport for an aerial and ground inspection of the Cooloola area, particularly the Western Catchment of the Noosa River.  The trip was to be kept absolutely secret; not even staff in my office were to know.  Threats had previously been made on the Premier’s life.

I contacted the Cooloola  Overseer and described the site I had started to clear for a picnic area.  ‘I know you are busy but you are to install a picnic table, fireplace and rubbish bin there.  This must be done before next Tuesday,’ I instructed!  The day appointed for the inspection duly arrived and , to complicate matters, it coincided with a visit by another senior Minister who was scheduled to inspect the police station and racecourse with the Shire Councillors on the same morning.

The Premier, his private secretary Peter McDonald and pilot Beryl Young arrived as arranged and I invited the party to accompany me in a vehicle borrowed from Forestry.  Approaching the Wolvi area I outlined the issue, especially the argument that Forestry needed an extra 10,000 hectares of land on which to plant pines.  As we descended the ranges and drove along the Wolvi-Kin Kin Road, I pointed out former private grazing lands recently purchased by Forestry for planting pines.

Considering the costs of clearing untouched native forests, these and further farm-land purchases seemed to me to be a better way to expand the pine plantations than incurring the costs and objections associated with clearing in the upper part of a river catchment, with many foreseeable problems.  Cost savings at that time were in the order of $200 per hectare.  Within the upper catchment, there were also large tracts of swamp lands unsuitable for plantations, and I pointed out that Forestry were disposed to demonstrate their multiple use of the environment by maintaining strips of native bushland within their plantations.  In reality, the residual ‘environmental reserves’ were managed as firebreaks between blocks of pines, with frequent and sometimes hot burning.

As we proceeded towards Harry’s Hut and the Noosa River, I was surprised at Premier Joh’s excited response towards a swamp wallaby the hopped across the road.  A little further he insisted we back up and have a look at a carpet python, again with that excited response to seeing the reptile.  The Cooloola Way, having not been long opened by Council as a tourist road, was still in a reasonable condition and it traversed across part of the land he was to inspect.  I was able to show him the chevron chew marks on trees along the route resulting from the feeding habits of the rare yellow-bellied glider.

Arriving at a brand new picnic area along Freshwater Track I saw with pleasure, the Cooloola Overseer had complied with my wishes.  Peter McDonald busied himself lighting the fire and prepared to barbecue the meat.  I prepared a Schwepps lime cordial drink I believed the Premier favoured.  Beryl Young unpacked the meal my wife, Yvonne had prepared.  The Premier, seated at the table and looking around, started to tell me how he had nearly lost his Premiership over the Cooloola area.


A sample of rain forest, near the picnic area where the “royalty” were lunched


Bags and bags containing some fifteen thousand cards protesting proposals to sand-mine the Cooloola sand mass had arrived at his office.  He had stared down his colleagues and narrowly won the day, and the area had become a National Park.  He had often flown over the area and now, at long last, here he was, right in the middle of tall, dense and silent rain forest.  He was ecstatic; it was ‘Beautiful, just beautiful’, he kept repeating during our stay.

I told the Premier how volunteers were helping to construct walking tracks in the area and of a previous visit by another of his cabinet colleagues, and how he had named the nearby picnic area ‘Quandong’.  I had searched Zachariah Skyring’s Kabi vocabulary and found the word ‘bymien’, meaning fig.  I pointed out several strangler fig trees suggesting it seemed to be an appropriate name for the area where we were sitting, hinting that he might care to emulate his colleague.

The Premier in true political style, rose to the occasion-and his feet-saying, ‘I, Joh, in the presence of Beryl Young, Peter McDonald, and Ron Turner, do hereby declare this Bymien Picnic Area open’.

After lunch, we all walked the two kilometres to Lake Poona with its fringing forest, at which point the Premier sat on the sand at the water’s edge and kicked off his shoes.  His shoulders seemed to visible relax as he enjoyed the pristine surroundings, so quiet and still.  There was not another soul about, just the four of us.

On the return journey to the Gympie airport, the Premier broached what I considered to be the very sensitive issue of the pulp mill asking, ‘What is your opinion?’ and ‘Do you think it is a good project?’  Neither question was particularly welcome for they were loaded with politics.  I tried to change the subject.  “No, No’ he said, ‘I want to know your opinion’.  I referred to a recent newspaper report in The Gympie Times wherein the engineer in charge of the local Water Resources Commission office had been reported as stating there was insufficient water in Lake Borumba-the only water storage in the Gympie district-to operate a pulp mill.

Describing the horrible tan colour and frothing of paper mill waste water from Rosedale pouring into the western end of the Gippsland Lakes in eastern Victoria, I posed two questions for any local mill: where would the water come from, and where would the considerable effluent go?  There appeared to be two choices: pump the effluent into either the Mary River with its localised and rare Queensland lungfish, or overland to the Sandy Straights with resultant problems in each area.

Arriving back at the Gympie airport, I was interested to note two policemen guarding the “Joh Jet’.  Their appraisal of the situation was that the senior Government Minister had arrived soon after my party had left.  Apparently that senior Minister flew into a tantrum demanding to know, ‘What is going on?’  he didn’t know why the Premier was in Gympie, not did the local member, nor did the Council, until they were undoubtedly told by workmen that the Premier had left with the local park ranger.

The senior Minister was not amused.  In fact, I was told he was furious and castigated police severely as the ‘Joh Jet’ wasn’t under guard!  Obviously, Council were not amused either.  On board the “Joh Jet” I gave Beryl a compass course to follow.  As the plane circled over the Cootharaba area, I outlined the recent logging and pastoral history of Elanda, stating my belief the Commonwealth Government, who owned the land, was about to hand the area back to the State for national park purposes on condition that the current lessee was granted a lease on a foreshore section.  I explained the area was heavily infested with the noxious weed groundsel, and that it would take a long time and a lot of money to revegetate.

I thought this area, if planted to pines in addition to the Wolvi lands, would almost reach the 10,000 hectares Forestry were seeking.  Additionally, the Australian paper manufacturing group had recently established extensive areas of pine plantation on former grazing lands just to the west of Elanda.  We flew north along the Noosa River valley, then started to circle lazily over the Western Catchment.

The land below was wet, very wet, and I made the observation to the Premier: ‘Looks very wet down there’.  There was something in his reply; something in the way he slowly said ‘Yeesss’ which caused me to ‘rest my case’ and say no more.  I was surprised to discover in my vehicle , after the plane bearing the Premier had departed, a memorandum written by the permanent head of the Department of Forestry to his Minister outlining the Forestry case for a pulp mill.

Forestry had, I noted, become very interested in a cattle property owned by the Tinana Development Company in the Neerdie area, just north-west of the Toolara Forestry headquarters.  This should satisfy their requirements should they not be allowed to plant pines within the Western catchment.

The Company was willing to sell 10,345 hectares at an average price of $517 per hectare, and a valuer’s report on the property was attached.  This price even included the cost of fertiliser recently applied to the land.  Forestry were seeking assistance with a $1.2 million shortfall to purchase the area.  Now what?  I telephoned the information, then posted the report to QNPWS head office for their attention, but the question remained in my mind: was the report left in my vehicle accidentally, or deliberately?

A week later I was informed the Western Catchment would be added to Cooloola National Park.  Together with other lands, the area protected in the park increased by almost 18,000 hectares, in 1983/84.

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Kilometers of surf beaches.  View from Double Island Pt Lighthouse



After the Widgee Shire my involvement with the Kilkivan Shire Council to the west of Gympie was both pleasing, and welcome.  The Chairman and Shire Clerk were cooperative, as were other Councillors, and staff.  Council actually wanted a national park or similar land tenure in their area to encourage passing tourist traffic to stay overnight in the town.  This was really a laid-back council, and I liked their friendly sincerity of ‘Come and have a cup of tea and a biscuit, Ron, and tell us what you think’ attitude.

I traveled with them visiting the different areas they considered had potential.  The best by far was the Mudlo Beauty Spot, just north of town and managed by the Department of Forestry.  I spent an interesting day there with two botanists.  They compiled the first detailed plant list for the area advising that these semi-evergreen vine thickets (or ‘dry-rain-forests’), were not well known botanically and contained a number of threatened species.

A major difficulty for conversion seemed to be the presence of two inactive gold mining leases on the north-western edge of the area.  I was aware of a friendly relationship between the local shire chairman and the Premier, and I broached this friendship with the Chairman on one occasion.  He was curious at my asking this personal question.  I explained that the Premier was scheduled to officially open a nearby gold mine along Rossmore Creek, then travel by helicopter westerly to open a feedlot at Cinnanbar.

He readily accepted my suggestion he try to get the Premier to fly over the Mudlo area en-route.  “Leave it with me’, he said, ‘I will see what I can do!’    Shortly afterwards I was surprised, but pleased, to receive an instruction to present myself at the gold mine for its official opening on 2 September 1987, then to accompany the Premier and Shire Chairman in the helicopter.  I felt uncomfortable in the presence of miners and other invited guests.  Eventually, I met up with the Premier reminding him of our previous day together at Cooloola.  He responded, with some warmth, ‘That’s nice!’

I strapped myself into the helicopter and gave the pilot directions to the Mudlo Gap, soon clearly visible.  From the ground this was an impressive stand of hoop pine, jutting up from and over-topping the semi-evergreen vine thickets below.  From the air it was both stunning and spectacular.  Sir Joh, sitting in the front of the helicopter was, again enthusiastic saying, ‘This is just beautiful.  We have got to have this area protected.  Have you got a map?’  He instructed the pilot to circle back for another look saying to the Chairman, ‘Get me a map of the area you want and we will have it protected’.

There are times when I confess to pleasurable work-related moments and, alighting from the helicopter after the Premier at the Cinnanbar feedlot, my feet seemed barely to touch the ground.  The support of a Shire Chairman to have the Mudlo area made into a national park had now won the enthusiastic backing of the Premier.

In the earlier example of Cooloola and now Mudlo, the scientific arguments were on hand for preserving key areas for conservation but, once again, I saw firsthand the invaluable impetus of quiet, behind the scenes diplomacy, to gain the vital support of key decision makers.

However , Premier Bjelke-Petersen resigned from Parliament a week after his inspection of Mudlo.  He became embroiled in the debacle which led to the Fitzgerald Enquiry.  His resignation and those two mining leases caused the action to declare Mudlo and national park to be delayed for some years.


My two associations with Premier Bjelke-Petersen in 1980 and 1987 allowed me to form my own opinion of his attitude to the environment.  Despite his public anti-green image- as portrayed to the country at large-he personally supported conservation when he was able to get away from lobbyists and advisors and make up his own mind.  I found it fascinating to recently read Paul Sattler’s account {Sattler, 2014) of  meeting Premier Bjelke-Petersen in 1972.  From a publicly hostile attitude towards conservation, the Bjelke-Petersen Government went on to support the creation of the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, and soon after, support major extensions to the national parks estate.


An example of an Aboriginal “Ring Tree” near a lagoon in the park.  A reminder of who was here first.  Refer to the book, “Code of Silence” listed below in footnotes.



COALDRAKE, J.E.  1961.  Eco-system of the coastal lowlands, southern Queensland.  (CSIRO Bulletin)

SATTLER, P.  2014.  Five Million Hectares: An historical account of the expansion of Queensland’s national parks, 1975-2000.   Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland  119: 53-62.


Ron Turner was born at Geelong, Victoria in 1936.  He completed trade courses and national service in the Royal Australian Navy.                                                                         

He spent three and a half years in the mountainous country of the South Island of New Zealand which focused his future years on national park management in Victoria and Queensland.

He was appointed as District Ranger, Gympie in 1978 with the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service.

One of the 35 parks he was involved with in Queensland was Cooloola.  His later years with QNPWS focused on wildlife management.

He is married with four children. Ron is retired and lives at Gympie.


Footnotes: (By Foo)

For those wishing to do further research and expand on this story the following publications are recommended.

A trilogy of books by Matthew Condon:

“Three Crooked Kings”, 2013.

“Jacks and Jokers”, 2014.

“All Fall Down”, 2015.

“Code of Silence”, 2017.  Colin Dillon.  

Colin Dillon is an extraordinary man. He was the first Indigenous policeman in Australia. But that is actually a very small part of his story.

He was also the first serving police officer to voluntarily appear before the Fitzgerald Commission of Inquiry in 1987 and give first-hand evidence of police corruption. He did this at a time when the Fitzgerald Inquiry was beginning and struggling for traction. His evidence at the Inquiry was instrumental in eventually sending some police, including Police Commissioner Terry Lewis, and politicians to prison.

For lighter reading and more of an  appreciation specifically of the Cooloola area:

“Cooloola Coast, Noosa to Fraser Island”,   Elaine Brown, 2000. 

Photographs used in the article by Foo



The Many Faces of Eve as well as DELWP & DEDJTR Plus Plus !!!!! (Updated with a comment 1/10/19). (Second update 7/10/19)

It appears we are going through as many changes, updates and reconstructions as the poor old jolly Departments.  However more information has come to light including another comment from the “avid” reader.  The “avid” readers accessing this site can easily be numbered in the ones.

This recent post evoked quite a response so it must have touched a nerve or two with some people.  

One of the comments received from an “avid” reader is printed below and is included with permission of the writer.  

As a disclaimer it must be said that absolutely no pressure, intimidation or even the slightest hint of possible blackmail or payback was used or intended, in order to obtain what could be said is a supportive comment.  It is also purely coincidental that the writer was recently subjected to a series of power supply cuts, water contamination and pension and taxation investigations. 

The relevant departments, if they still exist and have staff available are currently looking into these coincidental happenings.  They know who they are!!!!

Apologies have been issued with assurances that, “this will never happen again”.

The Comment: (Number 1)

“I have just waded through your latest “Foo” epic. I find myself in complete agreement. I have given up the prospect of  ever knowing the current titles of many of these quangos.  Even my current employer has changed its name since I joined it 18 months ago.

I would add: once we had “public” services, run by our own government (deemed to be a very bad thing), now we have “private” (I use the term loosely) “services” (even more loosely) owned and operated by governments from other countries (deemed to be a very good thing). How so, I ask? Egs: communications, transport, gas, power, etc, etc.

So much for all of that.”

The Comment: (Number 2)

The word “quango”. 

“It is ascribed to Petronious who was a mate of a certain Nero.  However there is a view that it is of more recent origin”.

“We trained hard – but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we were re-organized.  I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by re-organizing, and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while actually producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization.”

Quango:  (or sometimes written as QUANGO), ‘Quasi autonomous – non-government organization’.  “Designed to shield ministers from blame if anything goes wrong and also keeps them off the budget so they can pretend they have achieved control over it – or even achieved a surplus!.  Classic eg – the north east so-called railway! “


Moving right along:

Perhaps if blokes like Nero were aware of such things one could be forgiven for thinking that many things do not really change.  They just recycle under different guises.

It that a sign of aging or even the the gaining of a modicum of wisdom?

A couple of quotes from “The Saturday Paper”, Editorial. 5/10/2019, p14.

“It is a dangerous thing, a government that refuses to govern.  So much of the apparatus of governing is dedicated to the appearance of action: doorstops, press conferences, site visits, overseas trips and speeches; committees and estimates hearings: inquiries and royal commissions.

It is easy to see all of this general busyness and mistake it for the doing of something.  With some political sleight of hand, though, it can easily come to naught. …

… Some may argue a government in stasis is less dangerous than one intent on destruction.  But in our current moment, there is no doubt a government that decides to do nothing – while dedicating significant resources to the appearance of doing something – comes with its own perils.”


Start of original article:

Once upon a time when things were simple there used to be the SEC  (State Electricity Commission). Now there are plurry dozens of companies doing the same power thing.  We have companies producing the power, companies building poles and wires, companies billing us for power, (companies starting bush fires) and companies supplying us with power, most of the time.  

THEN!  In order to keep this rabble in check we have a Power Ombudsperson, a Power Regulator, AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator), ACCC, ASIC, & Consumer Affairs, Mr Dutton (The Minister for Everything) and so the list goes on and on.

Also once upon a time there used to be the Dept of Agriculture and even a Soil Conservation Authority and a few other erstwhile government organisations.  However it seems things have changed somewhat with letterhead companies making a mint and sign board mobs running out of room and having to enlarge their premises in order to accommodate the construction of the larger and larger signs required.

At the same time as this constant proliferation of  name changes and bigger and bigger signs it appears that many organisations and in particular public service organisations are gradually disappearing from the public’s view and becoming less and less accessible.  I use the term public service organisations with a grain of salt as they would be more aptly termed the MMIUTBD.  That is the More & More Invisible Used To Be Departments????

So, now we have :-   ????

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Is there anything else left???

Well, yes there is actually???

It is the…..

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Of course “The Committee” were then asked to investigate any possible confusion the general public may have had in working out who belonged where.

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A snapshot sample of a couple of “The Committee”


Following long deliberation with much “barking up the wrong tree” and obviously head butting, locking horns and the like, the following was submitted as the obvious solution to the dilemma.  Is that a bent sign or photographers tilt??


All reduced to a few letters.  Really????  Certainly saves space and materials.  But, what does it all mean???

I recently visited the old Wangaratta office where I had worked for a number of years for the Dept of Changing Names (DCN).  In the “olden days” there were over 50 staff employed there.

Having found a small sign on a very large complex directional sign indicating the presence of DELWP & Parks I entered a very large office complex full of expectation.  Alas the large office complex was really the Shire information  area with a plethora of signage and counters but few people.  Flummoxed I was finally “forced” to seek directions in my quest to locate DELWP etc from what I believe was the Shire Office counter.  From a very helpful lady I was able to learn that down the far end of this very spacious complex was an office front representing the said Departments.

3 201904 DEPI Office Wang E

This is what confronted me after following the directions of the helpful Shire lady.  Please note the spy camera upper top LHS, as well as other helpful means of communication such as a phone, a few pamphlets, and even a writing pad and pen.

The helpful lady also commented  that they had occasionally seen someone appear at the counter in response to a member of the public negotiating the counter communication complex.  They were unsure as to where these people actually came from but infrequent sightings of people in uniforms had been verified by various Shire staff members.

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A closer examination of the so called office front revealed the following sign with helpful directions.  The note pad and pen (chained to the desk), can be seen.  Along with those long names again.

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In order to ascertain if this was an aberration I decided to call in at the Wodonga Office to see what might be happening there.  Wodonga being another old watering hole of mine.

There it was again, another sign and security grill blocking my way from engaging with the strange creatures that may or may not frequent these sorts of offices.

However I guess one can excuse them in this case given they appeared to have other priorities at the time.

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Further research was obviously warranted to determine if this phenomenon was a Victorian thing or more widespread.  On a recent trip around NSW I had occasion to seek some information from the Kyogle Parks Office.

Wondering where Kyogle is?  Have a look at the area  just west of Lismore/Ballina, near the Q/NSW border.

2 201908 NSW Parks Door sign E

Again!!!!!  That dreaded apology for there being no-one there, in attendance, at work or alive even.

The conclusion???

Well, it definitely seems this is more than just a Victorian affliction and it has spread to NSW and Queensland.

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode as names continue to evolve, possibly lengthen and we have more and more fun with the acronyms.

Always remembering there used to be the SEC, The Dept of Ag and the Soil Conservation Authority.



For the artistically inclined I have found a collection of badges that have evolved over the years for the ACT National Parks, or whatever it was and is called now.

On good authority I have been told that Departmental uniforms in Victoria are  now being produced with Velcro patches.  Saves discarding lots of clothing I guess and one could play a multitude of roles by quickly changing IDs.

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Apart from the revolving door of name changes there is also a theme depicted in the graphics.  A prize is on standby for the first person to pick the theme.

A clue.  It has nothing to do with Border Force.  Yet !!!!!!

END (nearly)


I happened to visit an old departmental office at Tallangatta the other day, on official business.  I was able to find an incumbent hidden away in the complex even though the official minders at the security complex nearby had insisted that the person I had come to visit was not there.  That is, the electronic apparatus that informs mere humans of such things, said that he was not there.

I persisted by informing the minder that I had had very recent contact with the “missing” person by email (remember emails?), and that we had planned to meet that day.  Finally I was escorted through a variety of doors and corridors to find the incumbent busy at his desk.  Success!!!!!

Speaking of Tallangatta.  This was my first official posting as a young enthusiastic Soil Conservation Authority recruit, and I must say my first introduction to the wonderful wide world of the Victorian Public Service.

As an aside, would you believe that in those days there was a person who had the responsibility to measure up desks to make sure that they were of the correct size commensurate with your status or position in the hierarchy.  Wonderful stuff.  He determined that the desk allocated to me was well beyond my status and should be changed forthwith!!!!

I would love to show you my old desk, however that is not possible.  Instead a nostalgic picture below is of the office where my journey first began.  Note how it is hidden away among the trees and those dreaded signs are back.

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Military Vehicle Sign Solutions (Updated 12/02/19) (& again 01/03/19) (Note the green text!!!)

Interpreting Military Caution Sign

(Technical Consultant MM)

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WW2 Caution Sign (Copyright H McKenzie Esq)

You may wonder how to interpret this old WW2 sign from Nahe, Germany.

The arrows on the sign may be easily understood; however the numbers may need a bit of explaining.  Both the numbers and the arrows need to be considered together.

All military vehicles, trucks, tanks etc, have numbered signs attached to the front of the vehicles.  Also bridges and other locations used by the military where weight is an issue have similar numbered signs.

 The signs are used by the driver/operators and also military engineers who often direct traffic where convoys are involved.


In operational theaters and or where war games are conducted, the Engineers also calculate the total load bridges can be subjected too before another crossing or bridge has to be built.  For example if it is determined that a bridge can carry a total of 1000t, then 100  10t or 10  100t vehicles can cross the bridge before it is deemed unsafe.

The numbers indicate weight in tonnes and the arrows direction.

Top sign with truck graphic:  The 24 sign with arrows in both directions means two trucks of that weight (24 t gross) can pass each other on the structure. That is two vehicles can be on the structure, in this case the bridge at the same time.

 The 40 sign with one arrow means only one truck (40 t gross) at a time can use the structure.

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The pictured vehicle is a 1983 Series Unimog, manufactured by Mercedes for the Australian Defence Forces.  Note the 12 tonne sign.  Newer versions of these vehicles are still used by the ADF.


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Close up of 12 tonne sign


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Recently the Department Of Changing Names (DOCN), now Victorian Forest Fire Management Service (VFFMS)  purchased Unimogs modified for fire fighting purposes. (The number 4659 does not represent the number of name changes the Department has had.) See proof text & signs at end.

Bottom sign with tank graphic:   (Referring to the top WW2 sign)  The 30 sign with arrows in both directions (one arrow is unclear) means two tanks up to that weight (30 t gross) can pass each other on the structure.

The 70 sign with one arrow means only one tank at a time can use the structure. That’s a BIG tank.



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The tank pictured is a superseded Leopard Main Battle Tank on display at the Bandiana Army Workshops near Wodonga. Sign depicting 44 t is on the RHS of the photograph of the tank near the track.  Look carefully.                                Addition                                              You may also notice a number  (27710) on the opposite side to the 44 number.  This is an (ARN), Army Registration Number and is unique to this vehicle just as our civilian number plates are unique numbers.                                                More information  on all Defence Force numbering systems can be found, for example on the link below.                                                 www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1424610                                          


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Close up of 44 tonne sign



Man-Kat, ex German Supply Truck, 265 HP.  Recovery vehicle at Birdsville Servo.


Photograph Copyright AS

Mr Foo reverting to his childhood trying to coax this ex WW2 vehicle into action.  The first truck I learnt to drive at a tender young age.  I think the battery was flat.


A variety of Camper Trucks

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And still more signs???? Dept Of Changing Names !!!!!!!


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End:  Phew!!!

Cowombat Flat Mysteries ??? (Updated 4/03/19, scroll to the end.) (Updated yet again 12/03/19)

Cowombat Flat, a not very FLAT grassy area close to the very start of the Murray River. It is not the name for a new form or type of puncture. 

It is near where the NSW, Vic border is no longer designated by the river but becomes a straight surveyed line, stretching all the way from the “end” or the “start” of the river to the coast in far away East Gippsland at Cape Howe.

   A couple of years ago I, myself and me, “led” an expedition (myself and one other, that is two people not four) into Cowombat Flat in an attempt to reach the Border Cairn, the start of the Murray River and generally explore the locality.  Prepare for the unexpected is a good travel axiom as well as sometimes coming across local stories that can send shivers down the spinal column.  So it was with this journey into the Alpine National Park with some grey and threatening weather coming in.

Good planning is essential before such ventures, so the first port of call after the local coffee shop was to the Omeo Police Station to garner the latest up to date track information.  The very obliging policeman had some good and bad news for us.  The good news being that he had recently traveled the appropriate tracks and they were in reasonable condition.  The “bad news” was that the reason he had been in the locality was that he was involved in a search for possible body parts as a walker passing through the locality had come across some very suspicious and disturbing objects.  Another story perhaps?

  Slightly shaken but determined to proceed with Plan A, we pulled into a reserve at the famous Hinnomunjie Bridge on the Mitta River to camp for the night on what could be described as potentially a “dark and stormy night”.  As the storm clouds gathered and the sky darkened our efforts at setting up camp were interrupted by a road works contractor filling a water truck.  He was on for a chat, which turned out to be both good and bad news.  The good news being that as a local he confirmed the tracks were in good condition as the policeman had indicated.

The bridge, complete with “Where’s Wally” fish spotter.


Notice the axe marks

 However, the “bad news” was that a local story time ensured about certain “naughty boys” who were prone to “disappear” never to be seen again in this part of the country.  Now, the two stories were evidently not connected, however we moved from feelings of being slightly shaken to being fairly well shaken (but not stirred) after this gentleman’s somewhat convincing storytelling performance. Needless to say a somewhat interrupted nights sleep ensured as the imagination played around with the various night sounds that were heard  stimulating ones imagination.

  Somewhat “knocked for six” by now, we still proceeded on our quest to locate the two iconic landmarks, the start of the mighty Murray and the Border Cairn.  It must be said at this point that finding these two locations involves more than a gentle stroll through the wilderness.  It is a walk of some 9/10 km, first to Cowombat Flat, then a further 3 to 4 km to reach the river headwaters springs and the cairn.  That is about a 24 km return walk.  Success in finding the cairn eluded us, but we were satisfied in having reached a point of the Murray headwaters where we could jump across the river and/or get bogged in the springs where the river starts.  The weather was closing in and darkness approaching.  The tales we had heard from the story tellers may also have been a factor in the aim of getting back to our vehicle while some daylight lingered. 

Springs and soaks near the commencement of the Murray River.  Note the damage from horse grazing and watering.

The “Minute” Murray.  VIC on RHS, NSW on LHS.  Can you spot the difference??  Apparently the horses cannot read the signs.

   Although unsuccessful in the quest to locate the cairn, two other side stories emerged from this hike.  No, not related to the gruesome stories as we survived the trek in one piece unlike some other unfortunates.  Firstly the wreckage of a DC3 that still can be located on the open part of Cowombat Flat and also the brumbies that are alive and well in this neck of the woods.

       Further details on the fate of the DC3 can be located by using Mr Google.  The plane crash-landed on the flat while flying from Canberra to Sale in 1954.  It resulted in one crew member death which was remarkable considering the terrain.  Parts of the wreckage were later used to construct a small hut in the area which was burnt down during subsequent fires.  Other recognizable parts of the plane can still, be located.

ADF Serials Message Board -> Dakota A65-50 Crashed Cowombat 1954


A variety of remnants still in place at the crash site.  These pieces at located at the opposite end of the clearing to where the brumbies are pictured in the following photograph.

    With regard to the brumbies that inhabit this area it raises the controversial topic of potential environmental damage v’s heritage issues in National Parks around introduced animals.    The brumbies we observed were in significant numbers, were aggressive, obviously territorial about being disturbed and there were many signs of significant environmental damage to the springs and soaks in the area.  Another complicating factor is that currently NSW and Vic have different polices in regard to brumby management.  The NSW policy is more or less leave things alone whereas the Victorian policy is to try and heavily manage numbers.  As far as I am aware the brumbies are not able to neither observe State boundaries nor read warning signs and the like.

A view of the “Flat”.  The brumbies by this stage had resumed their normal programs after being interrupted.   The DC3 came in near the far treeline and ended up just past where the photo was taken.


Comparison of vegetation and erosion damage at an old grazing trial in the area.  Err, unfenced area RHS.

I have been a regular visitor over many years to  shared border areas and am becoming increasing concerned about the dramatic increase in brumby numbers together with their gradual “humanization” to the point where I consider they are a danger to visitors frequenting these locations in addition to the large amount of environmental damage they are causing.

Perhaps a “Trump Type” border wall may be worth consideration as a solution. It would certainly be an enormous employment boon for the regions, however it would not be likely to, “Make the Alps great again”, as they were before this problem got out of hand.

I can also categorically refute any suggestion that signs or more signs and still a few more signs will make any difference to the situation on two grounds. Firstly brumbies cannot read signs in spite of being highly intelligent animals. Second, humans who can read and who are supposed to also be “highly intelligent” take absolutely no notice of the various warnings, in particular the warnings about feeding the animals.

The pontification concludes.  Phew!!!! 

Addition!!! (4/03/19)

In the interests of allowing contrary views to those of the Fighting Foo the following comment is included from another publication in which I made comments about the brumby issue.

Cowombat Flat.

‘I have been to Cowombat Flat three times and have seen the start  of the Murray a post in the ground. We also followed a brumby trail from there to the cairn not burnt as your picture shows and have not had any trouble with brumbies. They are always taking off as soon as they have spotted us. Now some low life are shooting the brumbies  and leaving them to suffer as well as their foals. The pictures shown with fenced off areas shows what growth there would be if the horses were not there to keep it down. That much growth and a lightning strike there would be no bush left. Alan’


Well, there you have a fairly opposite view to my own.

What more can I add, or subtract???

Wild horses (brumbies) can be very aggressive and dangerous, particularly when mating and or when mobs are disputing their territory of their mob status.  Do not trust them to run away or be overly friendly particularly if “well meaning” travelers have been feeding them.

At Cowombat Flat and other locations I have seen horses grazing in peat beds or spring soaks up to their bellies in mud getting to the green pick found in such locations.  These springs and soaks are the perennial water source for alpine streams and are easily damaged by cattle horses and deer.  Such damage leads to erosion of the springs to the stage where they may only function during the wet season and dry up during the summer, hence reducing summer flows into streams.  Native species do not damage the springs when grazing.

The comment about more fire risk refers to the photograph above showing the grazing plots where taller grasses are shown contained in the fenced area.  The small plots were designed to illustrate the effect of grazing and totally exclude all grazing animals including native species.  To balance the argument I would suggest that many alpine areas are now completely overgrazed by domestic species gone wild leading to accelerated erosion and damage to many native plant species as well as the damage to soaks and streams.  Sensible balanced patch burning in forest areas combined with proper control of feral domestic species would greatly reduce fire risks. The comments and possible outcome from the current spate of fires in the Gippsland areas will again “ignite” this debate about the so call protective burning polices currently practiced.

An example of better polices in this regard is one proposed by a landholder who has just had his property destroyed by the Bunyip fire complex.  He was suggesting that many lightening strikes that occur during safe periods of the year should be allowed to burn out with minimum control, where  currently the policy seems to be extinguish all fire at all costs at all times.  This more natural approach to leaving lightening strikes is really a form of patch burning that occurred before we decided that we know better after only a couple of hundred years of experience.

Here endeth this pontification!!!!!

Latest updates 12/03/19

This series of comments were in the last edition of Westprint’s Friday Five, 08/03/19, used with permission. ( westprint.com)

Cowombat Flat. 

  • A reply to the notes on Cowombat Flat, I think the bush in most of Oz either is meant to burn for re-gen of a lot of seed species or was burnt by our First nations people for various reasons that only they should explain!

The upper Alpine areas are pretty contentious no matter how they are managed but it seems to me from the science that even they need fire, minor and localised and not intense, sporadically to remain healthy.

Horses up there – well I’m not a big fan but if their numbers are controlled to what is sustainable on the ecology and biology of the natural and native species, I think it’s Ok. Just got to keep things in balance. Xavier. 

  • I spend time in Kosciuszko National Park every summer including places that not many people go to, like the lower Snowy River near the Victorian border (and have done so for 40 years). The effects of the burgeoning feral horse population are not benign. Vegetated bogs, swamps, and wet flats such as Cowombat Flat hold the water, releasing it slowly over many months. Overgrazing and severe trampling result in lowered local water tables and incised streams draining the water away much more quickly, with erosion in higher rainfall events. Feral horse impacts mean that the country dries out more quickly and is more susceptible to fire. Horse numbers are growing exponentially. On parts of the lower Snowy, drought conditions have resulted in the horses grazing down to ground level the fringing Phragmites, the main habitat of the Australian Reed Warbler. Horse impacts are compounded by the effects of feral pigs and increasingly deer, but unlike the horses, they are not protected in NSW by heritage legislation. There are many scientific studies documenting feral animal impacts on high country wetlands including those by world renowned experts in that field. Kevin.

PS I spent a third of my working life preparing management plans for protected areas (such as national parks), as well as conservation strategies, and species management plans. 

I would like to add my own food for thought on this discussion. We were recently in a nature reserve that was reclaimed farmland and had seen evidence of damage by horses. I asked the Ranger. His reply was that they had been able to remove all stock and most feral animals (cattle, sheep, foxes, rabbits) but each time they tried to move the feral horses people protested and created so many hurdles it was impossible to relocate the animals. My question is this – would those same people be protesting if horses were not such beautiful animals. If they looked like water buffalo or feral pigs would there be the same outcry? Jo 

This next bit is what I have sent to the Friday Five Newsletter for publication:

Cowombat Flat stories, continued (12/03/19)

I feel I may have started something with my original comments about brumbies and the related grazing effects in my story and photographs published in FF in January.

I realise the issue of alpine grazing management is contentious and does tend to lead to a polarizing of opinions. Add to the mix the feelings, associations and experiences we have with domestic animals including the various debates about culling and we end up with many and varied, usually strong opinions.

Just to add to the mix in the interests of providing some detailed research information I would like to quote from an “old” publication.  A Study Of The Land In The Victorian Catchment Of Lake Hume: Soil Conservation Authority, 1967. Author: R K Rowe. p185-186.

…The areas producing the greatest quantity of useful water are those with the highest precipitation.  In general, these are well forested and in a suitable condition to achieve rapid infiltration.  The condition of the snow country above the E. delegatensis (Alpine Ash) forests is not as satisfactory.  Soil compaction, opening up of inter-tussock spaces and the destruction of substantial areas of bog, with resultant stream entrenchment, have all been attributed directly or indirectly to the grazing of cattle.  There seems to be no doubt that these conditions are detrimental to sustained stream-flows, but to what extent is not certain.  Improvement of the condition of the snow country will require the close control of grazing and conservative management.  Re-establishment of the extensively damaged bogs will possibly require small check dams on the entrenched streams to raise the water-table…


It may be argued that this is somewhat dated research, however what has now occurred is that whilst the curtailment of cattle grazing has been achieved, the numbers of feral domestic animals, horses, goats, deer and pigs, has increased exponentially. 

This study although carried out in the Lake Hume Catchment is applicable to most of the snow fields of Victoria and N.S.W. where similar and more recent studies confirm the above concerns.


That’s it for the time being.  Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

Horse Business or Funny Business

With apologies to the Man from Snowy River and others who have a very romantic view of the place of Brumbies or wild horses in National Parks.

A story from a recent adventure to Blue Waterholes in the Snowy Mts.  As the crow flies this location is approximately 20 km north-east of the Yarrangobilly Caves, past the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee River and approximately 7 km from the northern extremities of the Tantangara Reservoir.

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Sharing a campsite with some of the local inhabitants as one does.  Errr, not the gent setting up his tent.  I have been coming here off and on over many years when on fishing and exploring trips in the mountains.  One of the main attractions of this area is the many limestone caves and features that exist together with some spectacular gorges.

Part of a mob of horses that were determined to take over the camp site, scrounging for food scraps and licking and chewing anything that they could lay their chompers on.  There has been a steady increase in horse numbers throughout the mountains over the years with only on again off again attempts at proper ongoing control.  These critters were into full on mating and fighting mode.  Possibly the most dangerous state horses can be in.



There were also other more benign critters at the camp-site such as this female kangaroo and its youngster.  However male buck kangaroos that were present  should  be treated warily as they too can become aggressive.  Both the horses and the kangaroos have been “humanized” over the years by being fed by tourists either directly or indirectly  through rubbish that is left around camp-sites.  The drying socks managed to survive a chew or two.

The camp fire places were a source of food scraps and salt for both the horses and the kangaroos.  Several horses would start scraping at the fires even when burning or containing hot coals.  The rocks showing in the photo have been scraped clear of the fire place by the horses.

Examples of some of the rubbish from a fire-place that could be ingested by animals foraging around camps and an indication of how many people leave their rubbish around parks.  Lick marks can also be seen on the BBQ plate.

Licking and chewing damage done to my vehicle.  The horses were present in the camp ground during both day and night having a chew and lick of tents, tables even the kitchen sink.  Difficult to sleep well with the chomping and other action that went on all night.


If there is any doubt in your mind as to what damage horses and other grazing pest animals can do in sensitive vegetation areas, this demonstration plot illustrates the dramatic difference to grasslands when stock are excluded.  The plot is located at Cowombat Flat at the head of the Murray River.


Warning signs erected by the Parks People.  I suppose one could say that at least there is some funding for signs.  (an in joke) In my experience I have never seen nor heard  a herd of horses or other animals obeying such signs.  Even the so called superior race, that is us humans take no notice of such information.  In particular the no feeding section.


Currently Victoria and N S W  have different management policies in regard to wild horses in National Parks, even though they share common borders in many places and in spite of the rapidly increasing numbers of animals.

The policies in both states seem to be largely determined by political influence or philosophical views and not common sense.  That relates to many issues currently of course.  The land managers, that is the National Parks people appear to have their hands tied because of political pressure and are unable to implement consistent long term strategies to manage this problem.

It seems to me that the only short term solution to this issue is to close down many of the affected camping areas before serious injury or a death occurs. That is to a human person.  I guess then they will not be able to read the signs. 

In the longer term a properly organised, professional ongoing culling program needs to be implemented urgently, hopefully with the collaboration and cooperation of both states.  (Culling in plain English means killing.)








Correcting Some History


The item that follows, a book review by Ron Turner provides an insight into some of the Australian history that perhaps we are not familiar with or not interested in. This subject could well be described as “The Elephant in the Room” when it comes to understanding what really happened during the early settlement years.  That is it is not “fake news” but by and large contained in the diaries of early explorers, naturalists and pastoralists.
What has both amazed and educated me is that many accounts in these early documents have never really seen the light of day in our schools and other places of learning.  At a personal level, I grew up in the Dandenongs and frequently traveled in and around Healesville, chasing rabbits, fish, visiting the Healesville Sanctuary and  passing through this area on-route to other destinations.  However I do not remember my parents, relatives or other acquaintances ever mentioning that there was a significant Aboriginal Mission at our doorstep.
It may be that they were as ignorant of this history just as I was, or perhaps as was often the case in that era that such things were not discussed openly and if they were discussed it was in hushed tones.  Both Ron and I have been traveling a similar path in more recent years attempting to educate ourselves on this aspect of history.  Ron and I first rubbed shoulders with each other when he was Ranger in Charge of Fraser National Park on Lake Eildon  near Alexandra.  At that time I was the District Officer for the Soil Conservation Authority based in the township of Alexandra.  That was of course in the olden days, I first moved to Alexandra in 1971.  Yes, that was last century actually.
Ron and his wife Yvonne are now located at Gympie in Queensland and one of his particular skills is writing.  Amongst other things of course.  Apart from several interruptions we have managed to maintain contact and our friendship ever since our first meetings. Please take some time to read his review and inwardly digest some of the comments and implications.
Two other books you may consider having a look at along the same theme if this wets your appetite are: Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe. 1994.  Also The Biggest Estate on Earth, Bill Gammage. 2011.  I have recently attended talks by both these authors and they tell amazing stories.
Here endeth the sermon.

Book review by Ron Turner: BARAK Vs the Black Hats of Melbourne

ISBN 978-0-9871574-7-8     Gympie Library ANF 994.52 WOIW

Having lived and worked in Victoria for many years, it was actually the sub-title of this book that drew my attention: The untold story of how the Black-hats destroyed Coranderrk.

Mick Woiwood, the author, is a Koorie descendant of the Wurundjeri people who previously inhabited the south central Victorian area; they were formerly known as Kulin. He draws extensively on scores of official documents and photos held in Archives and the State Library of Victoria, but writes from an Aboriginal perspective. Maps are provided to help define lands granted to the Kulin

This book reveals new information on why and how the land permanently protected by the Victorian Parliament for use of the Kulin peoples at Coranderrk, near Healesville, was disposed of almost sixty years later.

Perhaps the most influential white person who brought about this destruction was Robert Brough Smyth, Secretary of the Board for Protection of Aboriginals, or, as the Kulin came to know it, the ‘Board for the Destruction of Aboriginals’. I knew of this man. He had written the two volume Aborigines of Victoria I had consulted whilst working in the Lake Eildon area. I now know his was not an altruistic approach towards the Aboriginals, rather being more interested in gathering anthropological and ethnological data. His desire was to stand tall among his peers in recording his scientific study of this ‘dying race’. Having obtained the required information he then dispensed with the man solely responsible for establishing Coranderrk.

I was unaware these Kulin people had moved onto the 1857ha Acheron Station, just south of Alexandra, where we lived in 1962, and later schooled our children. This station had been abandoned by the white owner as being useless for European stock. A deputation of seven of the Elders called on Thomas Mc Combie, MLA.) They had become aware of a Government enquiry into conditions of the Aboriginals and now actively sought this land. McCombie was one of the many influential white people who stood as a champion for the Kulin.

Nearby squatters were not positively disposed towards having Aboriginal neighbours. They succeeded in having the Kulin moved onto the higher, poorer and colder Mohican Station further south near Buxton.

John Green was appointed the first Manager of Coranderrk. He had studied medicine and religion. He was a God fearing evangelist, independent of established religions, a person who led by example. Living among the Kulin with his family, he fought for them to be allowed to settle at Coranderrk, moving with them through the dense forests. (The Blacks Spur was later named after their chance meeting with gold seekers cutting their way through trackless forests. As a family, we travelled this route frequently; our boys loved this road calling it the ‘Tree Fern Road’.)

Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve was gazetted in 1863, and enlarged three years later to 1959ha. Green was demonstrably successful in encouraging the Kulin peoples become independent using methods untarnished by class, caste or creed. His vision was to make the Kulin the equal of any in the settler world.

Motivated by Green and his wife and called by a bell at eight in the mornings, tasks were allocated and all able bodied adults who toiled collectively. At ten the bell again tolled; this time it summonsed children to school. Fridays were set aside for collection of firewood; Saturdays was for hunting in nearby forests. Almost 7ha had been cleared and cultivated by 1865 with ‘nine acres of wheat, two of oats, three of potatoes and one of cabbages, carrots and onions’. They had 50 cattle and calves providing milk, butter and meat. No outside European labour was used.

A village, school, church and flourishing crop fields evolved. In 1870, 4.5 tonnes of tobacco were sent to the Melbourne markets. In 1871 they commenced clearing river flats, preparing to grow hops. Ten thousand, six metre long poles had to be cut and transported to the site, where 30,000 cuttings were planted. By 1873, they had built two oast houses to dry the 11,000 bushels of hops the inhabitants picked. By this time, there were 61ha cleared plus 233ha enclosed by three-rail fencing for grazing. In 1876 their livestock numbered 331 mixed age cattle, plus horses and pigs. There were 23 slab and bark covered huts including dormitories for outside orphans, plus 13 other assorted farm buildings, and even a water powered sawmill.

Given a chance, the Kulin children were intelligent. School achievements were a 100% mark in 1872 and again in 1874, the highest in the Victorian school system. Other achievements were 93% and 96%. The Elders were described in1858 as a body of intelligent and industrious men. In 1876 they were described as ‘able to read, write and argue, and put forward their opinion on various subjects in a most intelligent manner’, and, ‘quite as intelligent as many members of parliament’. Many times they walked the 65kms to Melbourne to meet politicians, even the Governor. Editors of the two leading newspapers received them courteously and printed their stories. They had accepted Christianity; marriages and baptisms were celebrated; the dead were buried in coffins. Green was often congratulated on the prevailing standards at the station by a medico who visited four times a year; white people at nearby Healesville came to Green for cures and relief. The station was a demonstrable success.

Many other white people supported them strongly, not the least being John and Anne Bon of the Wappan Station, near Mansfield who received them hospitably, also welcoming them as shearers. (Once again, this was my ‘back yard’! My recommendation to add part of their former station to a national park where I worked was accepted.)

Smyth had initially been ebullient at the success of Coranderrk.  By the 1870’s he had, however, obtained from Green and the Kulin the primary source information required to allow him to proceed to have the Government print his books. Green was too good to be allowed to stay and disprove the accepted theory the Aboriginal race was dying out. Others were brought in to manage the station.

Smyth was found guilty at two government enquiries held into mis-treatment of his own white staff; this eventually forced him to leave Victoria under a cloud. He had close links with and was a supporter of the aims of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria. A century later, Smyth’s biographer referred to him as a half-mad bureaucrat, Woiwood claims.

Enter the Black Hats, the squatters who had become rich by grazing lands from which the original inhabitants had ‘disappeared’. These newly rich lived in mansions around Melbourne. They considered the Victorian landscape ‘dull and boring’ and formed the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria in 1857 to promote introduction of a wide variety of animals and plants. By 1875, deer they had introduced may have already become a nuisance in the Yarra valley. Adjacent white settlers rewarded the Kulin handsomely for stalking and shooting seven of the animals.

Among the members of the ASV was Albert leSouef, the Black Rod for the Victorian House of Parliament. Whenever there was a move to treat the Wurundjeri more equitably, the ASV was forewarned and moved quickly to thwart any proposals contrary to their gentlemanly aims. As Oscar Wilde once said, the gentry were unspeakable people in pursuit of the uneatable. Within days of confirmation of the deer being shot, senior members of the ASV sought appointment and were accepted to the BPA. The Kulin stood in the way of the ASV and were to be dispersed across Victoria.

The resounding success of the Kulin people at Coranderrk went into reverse. How the BPA achieved their aims makes sad and shameful reading.

I cannot say that I enjoyed reading this book outlining why Coranderrk was closed, and how and why the Healesville Sanctuary and Soldier Settlement obtained the land. Particularly disgraceful was the denial of the application of Aboriginal returned servicemen who had fought during the war, yet denied land to settle on; land that had formerly been given to them.

However, some light hearted moments appear in ‘Barak’:

Woiwood gives the account of a naturalist offering a large sum to the Kulin at Coranderrk for capture of a live platypus. The men were playing a game of cricket and – in the best English tradition – could not be dissuaded from completing the game.

I have long been proud to be part of the crew of a Lightweight Four, winning our rowing event on the Yarra in the first Moomba, in 1955. Now, I read Kulin descendants were asked for a suitable word to signify the spirit of ‘getting together and having fun’, as Moomba is still commonly referred to. Woiwood advises the actual meaning of the word is loosely ‘Up your bum’.

Another descendant, Burnum Burnum, was rowed ashore from a sailing ship on Australia Day, 1988, landing beneath the White Cliffs of  Dover, in England. Reading from a Charter, he said:

I, Burnum Burnum, being a nobleman of ancient Australia, do hereby take possession of England on behalf of the Aboriginal People.

In claiming this colonial outpost, we wish no harm to you …

Henceforth, an Aboriginal face shall appear on your coins and stamps to signify our  sovereignty over this domain.

We do not intend to souvenir, pickle and preserve the heads of 2000 of your people, nor to publicly display the remains of your Royal Highness, as was done to our Queen Truganinni for 80 years. Neither do we intend to poison your water holes, lace your flour with strychnine or introduce you to highly toxic drugs …

Coranderrk Pic
The Aboriginal Settlement at Coranderrk, 1865.  Photographer, carl Walter. Engraver Frederick Grosse.  Courtesy: State Library of Victoria.

Book review by Ron Turner: BARAK Vs the Black Hats of Melbourne.
ISBN 978-0-9871574-7-8     Gympie Library ANF 994.52 WOIW