Tuesday, February 21, 2017


An item in Fran Kelly's  breakfast show  on ABC Radio Nation contained the  disturbing news that more and more children are  being  encouraged to  take an  interest in politics  and  watch parliament  in  action  in  Canberra . Heaven  only  knows   what  this  exposure  will  do  to  their  minds .

 Fran  revealed   that  one  kid  whose  life took a  dramatic   turn   after a  school trip  to parliament   was  none  other  than   Joe Hockey , now our  gilded ambassador in  America   ,  a  former  Treasurer   and  a sock-it-to-me  friend of ousted  PM   Tony Abbott  .   Joe  , we  were  told ,   said   he  poked  his  nose  over the  balcony, saw  the  politicians  in  action ,   and   made  the   fateful  decision  that  he wanted  to  become  one  of   them .  
Hands up  all  those smart  politically  minded children  who  know that one of the   world's last cavalry charges ,  in which the  4th Australian Light Horse Brigade  played a big part ,  on  the Turks ,  at   Beersheba ,  in 1917 ,  subsequently  involved  Joe Hockey's "mysterious " grandfather, Joseph Hokeidonian.

He was an Armenian Catholic ,  said  to have been a  "spy "  sent  by the Catholic Church in  Jerusalem  to  keep  a  watch  on  Ottoman  Palestine  during the war . 
After capture of  Beersheba ,  the British sent in  one eyed  Hokeidonian as   deputy  town clerk  to  help rebuild  the  badly  war  damaged   town.   In  1927 he moved  to  Jerusalem where   his   Palestinian wife  gave birth to a son , Richard. 
According to Paul Daley's  book, Beersheba * , Victory Books , Hokeidonian was a less than  perfect  father and  disappeared after the birth of  the child. Many years later, Richard , who had never met his father , was informed  that he had  been  killed  in  a  road  accident in  Egypt . 

After serving with the British Army in Palestine in  WWll , Richard   came to Australia with his mother and  a  brother , where they  anglicised  their name to Hockey . Here they ran a successful  continental deli at  Bondi .  Richard   married   an  Australian  and they had  four children , the  youngest  named  Joseph   after  the  " mysterious " paternal grandfather .   

On winning the safe Liberal seat of North Sydney in  1996, Joe Hockey mentioned the  charge on  Beersheba  in his maiden speech , describing his grandfather as   the  deputy  district  commissioner  .     
 ***Daley's  book, surprisingly , does not mention  Charles  Aubrey  " Strawberry " Abbott , who  took part in  the charge  on Beersheba ,  became a  politician , Administrator  of   the Northern  Territory  at the time of  the bombing of  Darwin by the  Japanese . Abbott said he only ever  fired  one  shot during the charge on Beersheba and almost reluctantly asked a Turkish general to hand  over his sword ,  kept   and   hung on  a   wall   of  the  garage he and his wife, Hilda,   lived in late  in life  at  the back of  their son-in-law's house in  Point  Piper , Sydney .  


Cairns , North Queensland . Abra photograph .

Monday, February 20, 2017


Occasional  items of  interest  from  James  Cook University , Townsville , Australia .
Carving in Mackay cedar  by  Ben (Gerhard )  Trupperbaumer , of  Atherton , North  Queensland . He came  to Australia   from West Germany in 1976,  becoming  a  leading artist  in the Cairns and Port Douglas area, using recycled  timber  to  make statements  about   the  Australian  landscape .


The  longtime activist , journalist and author, Jill Jolliffe , shown here  in  1969 in the  Melbourne magazine , Broadside , edited by Pete  Steedman ,  has  been   enfeebled . Apparently the tragic development   took  place  about  a  year ago in  Melbourne , news of the situation only received here  in recent  weeks. This  courageous  woman  relentlessly   covered  the  US approved  Indonesian invasion of   East Timor and its aftermath   ,  wrote  Cover Up :The Inside Story of the  Balibo Five , the  Australian news team murdered by the Indonesians ,  from     which  the  movie  Balibo, starring  Australian actor  Anthony LaPaglia in  the  part  of  veteran   journalist    Roger  East,  who had worked  in  Darwin  and  was shot and  thrown  into  the  harbour  at  the  East Timor  capital,  Dili .

As a  result of  her  tireless campaigning , the Yale University  magazine  Globalist  named  her  the 2006  Journalist of  the  Year  for  her extensive writing on  important  matters .

In her 2008  memoir , Run For Your Life , Jill revealed her  birth mother had adopted  here  out , she  had been  brought up in  a  violent  household  and  ran away as a teenager , going to Monash University  and  becoming involved with activists . She lobbed in  East Timor  in  April   1975  as a Reuter's freelance  correspondent with  a  student  delegation  ,  evacuated  on  the last  flight out  of  Dili  in  December ,  Roger  East  refusing   to   leave . 
From 1978 to 1999 she was based in Portugal where she  interviewed refugees  from  East Timor , covered   the war  in the former   Portuguese  colony of  Angola   and  reported on  matters  in  other colonies . Documentaries she  was   involved in   included   European  prostitution  rackets  which enslaved Portuguese , Spanish and  Third World women  , the East Timor  guerrilla   war  which involved  a highly  dangerous journey  inside  the occupied country seeking the Revolutionary  Front  commander Nino  Konis  Santana  , the subject of  a  book  she wrote  ,  and  a   Foreign Correspondent    special   with  Jonathan Holmes   about  the  Balibo  Five.   When  East Timor  achieved  its   freedom ,  Jill  ,who had been banned from entering the country  by  the Indonesians , came to  Darwin and  resided  , went  to East Timor where she launched the Living Memory Project , a video  archive  of  testimony by  East Timor   former  political prisoners . In 2010,  she was   a  Northern Territory  finalist   for   the   Australian  of   the  Year  Award .   
While in Darwin , Jolliffe   came to this  writer's residence and  discussed a  wide  range of  subjects  and  people , including   Roger East  and   prominent    Darwin  reporter  John  Loizou   who   started   the  online  South East Asian Times ,  still  running  . Now  this  relentless  fighter   is  suffering   from  loss  of  memory .  

Sunday, February 19, 2017


The  syncopated  beat  of   Cairns  . Abra photographs .


The  replica dwelling  of   Shakespeare spouting, rum swilling  eccentric , Otto Bottiger,  in the grounds of the   Magnetic Island History and  Craft Centre at   Picnic  Bay, is  undergoing a  makeover  to  repair  the  ravages of   time . Bottiger , a  retired  Burns Philp  Shipping   officer,  lobbed on the island  in 1890  and lived in a crude hut on poles  under  which  at very high tides he could dangle his  feet in the  water .  It was built  from  corrugated iron sheets , palm  fronds  and  grass . 
In  a  box  shaped boat  in which  he kept books , he would drift about the bay  reading, sipping either  rum or mango wine , an  umbrella protecting him from the sun .  

Despite being  called  the    Hermit of Nelly Bay , he became the island's  first postmaster ,  mixed  with  residents , shared and  sold  his rum  to people , recited  poems and  Shakespeare to groups . He regularly attended  School  Board  functions  in  tattered clothing  , barefooted , unshaven .The 3/4 replica  of  his airy  abode,  built by artist Tony Cuthbertson  , is  in the grounds of  the old  Magnetic  Island  School . It  is  being  rethatched  by  Davide  Ede , a volunteer member   of the Magnetic Island History and Craft Centre  and Magnetic Museum .   
Bottiger , right ,  at the  entrance to his  house, which seems to be roughly in the shape of The Globe  theatre . 

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Wide  ranging information   is  being sought  about  the  Australian  coastal   vessel  Zealandia  which  was  bombed  and sank with  the loss of three lives  when  the  Japanese  attacked    Darwin  on  February  19, 1942. An article in   Progenitor , quarterly journal of the Genealogical Society of the  Northern Territory ,  contains   the  request  and  mentions   the  contents of   boxes   which  had  not  been looked at  for more than 100 years , outlining  the life of shipping engineer   William Cumming  who died in Glasgow in 1914, involved in construction of  the vessel .

Cumming,  a draughtsman , manager, engineer  and  naval architect, built up a wonderful  shipping  archive  which accompanied him  back and forwards between  Melbourne  and  the UK  between  1894  and  1914. During this time he was  responsible for overseeing  construction of many vessels for the  Huddart  Parker  line  as  the  superintendent  engineer  .

The  SS  Zealandia  ( 1910-1942) , the article states, was  perhaps the most advanced and  the largest ocean going  ship , more than  400 feet  , which  Cumming built , reputedly  the  first Australian steamer  fitted    with wireless . Cumming  also  had  10 years  with the  Adelaide Steamship Company  during which time  he  refitted  many ships on  the South Australian and Western Australia / Nor'West trade  .  He was  also on the UK to New York  run for a year on the SS Bolivia .

His grandson , Bruce Cumming ,  who lives in  Victoria , wants  to hear  from anyone who has  any  information or personal stories about the  Zealandia  or William Cumming , no matter how small . Bruce, a writer  and maker of community documentaries, grew up  hearing family stories  about   Australian history , lighthouses , ships.

His father , Bill ,  who  died last year,  was  in Darwin during the war  with the RAAF Catalinas. Together  they  had  intended   to   write   a  book about  William   Cumming . The journal article includes  a photograph of a SS Zealandia  serviette  ring .     

 Bruce  can be contacted : Bruce.cumming1@bigpond.com .  On Youtube  search for  Bruce Cumming , or Bruce  Cumming videodocs.