Sunday, January 30, 2011


A touching and unusual tale about an angel delivering a feather to announce the death of a Darwin woman, once known as the Duchess of Duke Street, emerged at the funeral service for Jill Graham , of Nightcliff, pictured above .

The celebrant told the small gathering that a woman living in Queensland had found the feather in her house and believed it had been delivered by an angel to announce that Graham had died .

Little Darwin attended the service and followed up the story . Jill had a friend with whom she had worked in the NT Government’s Protocol section . They had discussed life after death . Graham, an atheist, said it was finito once you died and were buried or cremated . Her friend, now residing on the Gold Coast , having had a long illness , firmly told Jill there was life after death.

They regularly rang each other to see if they were alive or “upstairs" . A kind of a pact was made to let the other know if they were no longer around. After hearing that Jill was in hospital , a feather suddenly appeared in her house which was taken as having been brought by “an angel” announcing Jill had departed her mortal coil. And so she had .

A highly efficient , low level clerk in the public service , Jill Graham used to be one of the most powerful people in Darwin. She compiled ,updated and had published for several years what amounted to the A-List, called WHO’S WHAT WHERE . You were a nobody, even if your were on the Readers’ Digest ubiquitous mailing list, if your name did not appear in its pages. People clamoured to be included in the publication, which she irreverently called WHO’S UP WHO .

At her funeral service , it was revealed that she deliberately left out some people from the directory because she did not like them, probably with great justifaction . A shorthand typist from London, Jill worked in the Information and Public Relations office, later in Protocol, playing a prominent part in both .

In the chaos after Cyclone Tracy , she helped produce a daily information sheet which was run off and distributed at centres where people went for meals in the wrecked city . Soon after , she went to Sydney to help conduct the Northern Territory stand at the Royal Easter Show with the head of Information and PR , Dick Timperley , and the “White Hunter “, Allan Alexander Stewart , of Nourlangie safari camp fame.

Stewart , an old PR hand who handled the Humpty Doo rice account, once stood for parliament in NSW and later in the NT, took up a position in the members’ bars at the show where he hobnobbed with old military mates and captains of commerce.

He arranged for the Royal Australian Naval Band to frequently march up to the NT stand and play deafening music for Jill Graham and Dick Timperley . While Timperley was furious, Jill thought it hilarious. Timperley said he would not have been surprised if the White Hunter arranged for a Scottish pipe band playing Amazing Grace to be parachuted onto the stand, which would reveal what was hidden beneath the kilts. Through her work she met many local, interstate and overseas journalists .

At the funeral, a longtime friend , Shirley McManus,recalled that when Jill lived in Duke Street, Stuart Park , being a good cook , she entertained friends with fancy meals at which the wine flowed. Because of these grand evenings, she became known as The Duchess of Duke Street, after the British TV series, centred about the renowned female hotel owner, highly regarded for the wonderful table she kept.

Jill liked a punt, and each Melbourne Cup she held a party in her small unit ,which was decorated for the occasion , her catering lavish . She was also a dab hand at billiards and snooker.

Cockroaches terrified her from the moment she first encountered them in her Sydney bedroom and screamed blue murder , soon after she arrived in Australia. On being told that cockroaches would be numerous in Darwin, she went to the library and got out every book she could which had information about them. When a librarian asked if she was making a study of cockies, she said no, she just wanted to know how to kill them. Her unit was sprayed every three months to achieve a cockroach free zone .

Two of her great nieces , Louise and Clare , raised in Darwin, came up from Sydney for the funeral , and told how Jill had a magical influence on the household each time she visited when they were children . They loved her visits so much they made a sign WELCOME QUEEN JILL , placed on display near her coffin, along with family photos and a teddy bear or two .

Jill, 75, died suddenly in the Darwin private hospital on January 4 and was cremated .

Saturday, January 29, 2011


During business hours, a person recently rang the Chief Minister’s Office and got an answering machine . Is there a staff shortage or is the place still in holiday mode? Seems so going on another encounter with the same office .

There having been no reply on a matter, the Chief Minister’s office was contacted . Oh, yes. That was handed to somebody who is now on holidays .

From the Wedding Cake came a wordy ,unsatisfactory –annoying - letter from a ministerial adviser apologising for not having replied to a letter sent to the minister more than a year ago! How does the slogan go ? Real ideas ...Real action.

Here are a few impertinent ideas. Get a real human being to answer your phone and if somebody is going off on hols get them to clear the in basket before departure

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


A truck which has played a large part in the social history of the Northern Territory is being considered for heritage listing and restoration. It is a 30cwt Bedford owned by longtime Darwin activist, Brian Manning.

Over the decades it has been used to advance Aboriginal rights, provide the official platform for speakers at May Day Parades, carry bodies after Cyclone Tracy , run supplies to strikers at Newcastle Waters and the Gurindjis who walked off Wave Hill , maintain radio contact with East Timor after the Indonesian invasion and scores of other causes.

Manning bought the truck from the Darwin Workers’ Club when he was its manager . The Aboriginal footballer and actor , Robert Tudawali , was involved in running supplies to the Gurindji on the truck. Manning has a photograph showing Tudawali loading supplies onto the truck shortly before he was diagnosed suffering from TB.

Federal Police commandeered the truck after Cyclone Tracy to convey bodies to the morgue. Sandblasted by the fierce winds, the green duco on the vehicle had been cut back to the red undercoat.

Manning had the truck fitted with a special public address system operated from the cabin which enabled official speakers to be heard at May Day Parades. A Communist and an official of the Darwin Watersiders , Brian has taken part in many campaigns, including ones with former NT News crusading editor, Jim Bowditch, at whose funeral he paid a lengthy tribute.

An advertisement in the NT News recently announced the truck, parked next to Manning’s Stuart Park residence for 20 years , now in the old Qantas hangar , has been recommended for heritage listing and restoration and called for public comment . It would be inconceivable that this vehicle with all its associated history, including the part played by Manning in the NT and East Timor , is not thought worthy for restoration .

Manning would like to see the faithful vehicle put on display at the Gurindji homeland.


Pandanus, the gifted anonymous political writer who penned the popular BEATING THE BULLDUST column in Darwin’s independent newspaper, The Star , in the 1970s , sadly no longer in existence , has come in from the cold down south . Little Darwin has received coded emails from the mystery writer as a result of our media series ,REWIND THE PRESS !

While showing obvious signs of memory loss, Pandanus still has a whimsical streak and frequents the hallowed halls of academe from time to time, relentlessly attempting to discover the meaning of life and furtively scratching Socratic sayings into the sandstone foundations on campus.

Somehow, Pandanus spotted a blooper in the NT News report that TOT night-Tits On Tuesday-at the Discovery nightclub in Darwin could come to an end. More attentive than us , Pandanus noticed the News said this event sees “scantily clad ” female patrons dancing on stage- “often bearing (sic) their breasts.”

Obviously interested in mammaries from an academic and anatomical point of view , pedantic Pandanus was titilated , so emailed us saying it was good to see that in swinging , modern Darwin the nightclub allows girls to take their breasts along to the premises. But what about the damsels not bearing gifts and breasts ? I hear you ask . They also cavort on stage , their lack of front, no doubt due to a bad case of rickets and shortage of starch during puberty , hidden from view by a coarse Pandanus frond, a cheap Territory imitation of the Dance of the Seven Sherberts.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Two veteran Darwin reporters -John Loizou and Peter Murphy- are on the sick list. Loizou , hospitalised in Vietnam last year, has undergone a series of tests in Darwin. Murphy , in Victoria , is suffering lung cancer and hopes to be back in Darwin in a month’s time. We wish them well .

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Newshounds in Darwin and elsewhere be aware that arrangements are being made for a possible three way link on February 4 in the latest development in the attempt to get justice for Darwin Aboriginal art gallery owner, Shirley Collins, financially ruined by her involvement in the Bank of America Down Under Tour in an inflated pavilion which was a replica of the Sydney Opera House, part of the build up to the Sydney Olympic Games.

At this stage, the proposed Darwin hook up will be made between the Supreme Court building here , Collins’s Brisbane based representative, accountant Barrie Percival ,and a magistrate in Perth .

This matter was drawn to the attention of the Federal Ombudsman after a strongly disputed rejection by the Department of Finance and Deregulation of her application for an act of grace payment .

Little Darwin has seen assorted documents which indicate she was made the “ scapegoat” for shortcomings in various government agencies and other organisation in what was to be a major promotion for Australia in America .One document sighted was from John Morse , the 2000 managing director of the Australian Tourist Commission , the year of the Bank of America Down Under promotion . In it he says he was based in New York and it was a hectic time. Word came through that there was a problem with the Aboriginal Art exhibition organised by Shirley Collins but it was being handled by Los Angeles .

After the Olympics, on visits to Kakadu as part of a review of tourism for the then Minister for Tourism, Joe Hockey, Morse met Collins and she told him her story about the Bank of America fiasco and produced documentation to back up her claim . This had led him to the conclusion that “Shirley had been used as a scapegoat for the mistakes, and misinformation of others .”

Further informal investigations by Morse had confirmed his initial belief. “There were many factors involved, including an unrealistic commercial assessment by consultants, a naivety on behalf of Australian Tourist Commission officers in the USA as to the commercial opportunity, change of policy by the Bank of America , and subsequently a hard line,unsympathetic approach by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.”

Continuing, he said: “Having seen Shirley’s gallery in operation , and recognising the importance of the fact that that it was one of only two Aboriginal owned galleries operated successfully in this country,I felt strongly that a different approach was necessary ,rather than confiscation of the unsold art (from the US tour ), and recovery( by ATSIC) of all investment monies. "

Morse even took it on himself to visit Canberra and speak with the deputy CEO of ATSIC, without any positive result. During further visits to Darwin,he saw Collins go from a vibrant, successful Aboriginal businesswoman, running an Aboriginal art gallery, to someone who lost everything ,including her business, her health , her home and her dignity. Summing it up in two words - “grossly unjust.”

This local, national and international story has received scant attention by the media in Australia .

No doubt the NT News is gearing up to supply the Wall Street Journal , one of the Murdoch chain, with a feature on this long running sorry saga which involves the Bank of America , an international business and accounting firm, shortcomings in the Australian Tourist Commission operations in America , questionable NT legal advice and much more. Collins worked at the NT News in the 1950s.

On October 23, 1995 former NT Chief Minister and federal president of the Liberal Party,Shane Stone, praised the work Shirley Collins, daughter of a stolen generation woman, had done for Aboriginal arts and craft in the Territory. He congratulated her on the recent opening of the Raintree Gallery in Darwin.

Strangely,trying to get an audience with Aboriginal Affairs Minister , Jenny Macklin, to discuss the matter is proving difficult .

Collins , a pensioner
, is not well after a recent operation in Darwin and has had many blood tests.

Friday, January 21, 2011


One of our roving culture vulture reporters, Charles Dickens, reluctantly tore himself away from a CBD patisserie where he usually lolls about reading Le Monde , noisily sipping latte and nibbling truffle impregnated Anzac biscuits, to try and gauge the disposition of Darwin rural area peasants who labour in the gamba grass infested fields.

From conversations with dyspeptic members of the CBD bourgeoisie , especially the Smith Street Mall and Cavenagh Street shopkeepers, our dilettante scribe had formed the firm opinion that there is immense unrest among the citizenry, verging on revolt .

Smith Street Mall shopkeepers want to tar and feather the Darwin City Council over the loss of business they blame on the refurbishment project. The Cavenagh business people, says Chas, are furious with the Darwin City Council’s proposed plan to turn the street into a tree-lined imitation Champs Elysee , wiping out 100 parking places in the process , as well as guillotining the financial well being of a considerable number of businesses.

From these soundings, he is convinced that if Danny the Red rocked into Darwin in a battered Citroen with a pack of long-haired, unwashed backpackers and defiantly declared that they would not pay Council fines for parking overnight at East Point there would be a massive uprising against all authority, equal in ferocity to the storming of the Bastille .

Our reporter says the Cavenagh Street burghers are so angry he has not heard such abusive language uttered since he was ejected by Inspector Clouseau from an Alliance Francaise party one July 14th after drinking too much free champagne/absinthe/ cognac , loudly braying that real men don’t eat croissants, and draping the tricolour about him like a berka.

Donning a Panama, much loved by members of the legal fraternity and bowtie wearing members of the literati , our man hired a charabanc and ventured out to the darkest depths of Darwin’s rural area to gauge the pulse of the rustics.

From past experience , he knew what to expect : wild stories about the Labor government in Canberra going to treble the GST; Pauline Hanson is the reincarnation of Mother Mary MacKillop; the emperor has no clothes; a well known Federal politician had a different name when he worked in the Territory and a Russian man ( or was it the Captain of a UFO?) pretended to be the father of a widowed Latvian woman to scare off the pollie who had amorous intentions ; the *#/*!United Nations in the Yew Nited States is plotting to take over the world, etcetera, etcetera.

As our intrepid observer travelled about the backblocks, deep in our equivalent of the Bois de Bologne ,the green sward running between Howard Springs and Humpty Doo , he detected evidence of civil animosity towards the bewigged establishment.

Several signs warning the NT Government not to rezone the land caught his eye. One read GREEN BEFORE GREED . Clearly, this is not the motivating force of Wall Street. Another plugged for no clear felling of trees. Henderson was instructed to back off . Australian flags fluttered on several properties and boxing kangaroos stood guard , ready to pounce on any surveyor or person with a chainsaw and kick the bejezus out of them . A missing young dingo was the subject of another sign.

FOOTNOTE: After experiencing all the pent up anger throughout the Top End , Dickens suggests those able to take advantage of the rising Aussie dollar should flee across the English Channel to France before the tumbrils begin rolling along the Stuart Highway .

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Darwin Port Corporation has become ultra security conscious. Staff need swipe cards to get in and CCTV cameras hang about like fruit bats in a mango plantation during Xmas. Why? All this comes after an internal communications audit which,we understand,found nothing untoward.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Dubbed the Black Knight, the Lone Ranger, a whiz kid, a lifelong rebel and the enfant terrible of the Australian Labor Party, Pete Steedman (top) has repeatedly stated he just wants to change the world. Nobody can accuse him of not trying to get our troubled geoid to rotate on a different, more equitable axis.

Today, from his close to nature rural abode at hilly Hurstbridge, out of Melbourne , previously owned by celebrated playwright , David Williamson, author of the boisterous political epic, Don’s Party, Steedman , now 69, works the phone and sends out emails , occasionally signing off with Viva La Revolution !

Down the line come details of exceptional political episodes and battles , mention of his first D-Notice (involving a Territory event), a statistic about the number of CIA agents at Pine Gap ( more than 400 at one stage ), and other glimpses of an extraordinary, action-packed life in Australia , Asia and the UK.

He’s taken on media barons , ASIO operatives, bureaucratic manipulators , captains of commerce, helped save London’s historic Piccadilly Circus from developers, played a part in airing the truths about the murderous Northern Ireland conflict and mixed with pimps, prostitutes, professors, priests and assorted irritating right wing pundits.

Contrary to that famous Uncle Sam poster , Steedman was not wanted in the US when he applied for entry to attend the California Berkeley University. (There must surely be files on him in the security organisations of at least three countries ).

During his time at university , he edited and transformed the Melbourne university magazines Lot's Wife and Farrago into typographically adventurous , highly political, controversial publications , railed against in various quarters . His connection with publishing saw him involved with innovative magazines like Go-Set, Rolling Stone , High Times, Nation Review and Oz , the latter the subject of punitive court action in Australia and the UK.

While the well dressed and groomed multi media personality,Eddie Maguire, is known as “Eddie Everything”, there was a time when long haired Steedman , in a leather jacket, jeans and wearing dark sunglasses , either in a Porsche or astride a motorbike and looking like Marlon Brando in The Wild One , seemed to be everywhere -in the newspapers, with no less than three regular radio spots, on the streets protesting about the war in Vietnam , swapping verbal and physical punches on campus and appearing in federal Hansard, usually being bucketed by right wing politicians.

Capable of taking a big picture view of issues and economic matters, he has compiled well researched reports on subjects of national importance .

Over the years he has been an adviser to numerous Labor ministers, both federal and state, and has seen many secret , confidential and for your eyes only documents, which would have gladdened the heart of Julian Assange. Bob Hawke’s door was always open to Steedman- even though Hazel Hawke reportedly said Pete had a chip on both shoulders.

Steedman’s deep involvement in the Victorian ALP Socialist Left brought him into close contact with the now Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in her early days in Melbourne . When his wife, Julie Anna Reiter , a former model, (pictured above ),died from leukemia, August 4,2009, Deputy PM Gillard was one of those who paid a tribute at the funeral service.

Although Steedman now drives a stately Bentley and may end up like a shirt advert , a distinguishing patch over one wonky eye like Lord Nelson, his demeanour is not that of a frock- coated, mealy-mouthed , weasel- word- spouting diplomat. Forthright, combative , determined , abrasive to some , with an immense capacity for work , he can shock , inflame and wear down individuals. To those who know , respect , and understand him, he is just being his distinctive self, the one and only Pete Steedman, a passionate believer in a fairer distribution of wealth.

Of Steedman it was said that during his short time in the House of Representatives he achieved more in one year than the average politician does in 10.

Little Darwin first introduced its readers to Steedman in connection with Darwin’s lively independent newspaper, The Star , followed by the special report on the Darwin Newsletter , the newspaper he edited after Cyclone Tracy to provide information, hope and help for thousands of Territorians scattered throughout the nation. In this latest REWIND THE PRESS ! series about the media , we attempt to pack at least three lifetimes of Steedman’s activism- on this planet- into just five parts , maybe more .

It is fitting that we launch this highly condensed dossier on Steedman at a time when playwright David “ Lofty “ Williamson’s sequel to Don’s Party, with a cast including Garry McDonald , called Don Parties On , the action taking part on another election night in August 2010, has hit the boards. Discussing the new play on the ABC, Williamson , an engineering student when Steedman was at uni, deplored the present political brand of Australian politics, saying the major parties were virtually the same , mainly interested in management, with no real policies to cope with the burning issues of the day, except the Greens.

NEXT EDITION . Wild university days in the Vietnam War period during which it was said Steedman should be charged with blasphemy, sedition and also shot!

Friday, January 14, 2011


At the end of Ray Lawler’s ground breaking 1955 Australian play ,Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, which was a hit in London but bombed out in New York, the two male characters , itinerant cane cutters from Queensland, Roo and Barney, after a row with their two Melbourne “floosies”- barmaids , raise the possibility of going north to the Rum Jungle uranium mine where you can earn big money . For 17 years during the cane lay off season, the two men had spent the period whooping it up with the women in Melbourne, and bought them a kewpie doll each time .

A layabout member of Little Darwin’s staff read the play while recovering from a cardiac operation in Flinders Medical Centre and, suffering an obvious brainstorm, thought it would be great to give The Doll a Territory epilogue .

While in Adelaide he conversed with a theatrical antique dealer and collector , with a talking budgie called Billy , who provided him with an Alice Springs connection to the Summer of the Seventeenth Doll . It is interesting to note that one of the cast that played London, Richard Pratt, became the cardboard king of Australia ,a great patron of the arts and worthy causes, fined millions for alleged price fixing .

Over a latte at Fannie Bay’s Cool Spot , our man discussed the Rum Jungle connection with talented artist/cartoonist , Royle Salt , the man responsible for our brilliant Little Darwin masthead illustration .

In a flash , he sketched an outline , not only capturing the elements of The Doll , but dressing her up in some zany Territory accessories , including UFOs, aliens and canetoads. The drooping UDP FALLS signpost is another inspired addition.

Big- bellied Roo is only armed with a sickle , not a hefty cane knife, because he understands spear grass is tall at the Rum Jungle mine. Of course, the two rustics each carry a rather bedraggled kewpie doll when they arrive , perhaps hoping to impress local floosies . NEXT DOLL EDITION : The Alice connection and items from our theatrical files.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Bowditch believed the art of public speaking should be taught so pupils learn to marshall facts and debate issues. Close family friend, Hilda Muir, is closely listening to every word . - Action shot by ace photographer,Barry Ledwidge,of 422 Images.
During his travels , Jim Bowditch sent home exciting letters to his family in London . His sister ,Mary, remembered one in which he described killing snakes by grabbing them by the tail and cracking them like a whip.

There were many other people on the track seeking work and food. Rations were doled out by the government in those days . The travelling dole was a little more than five shillings (50c)worth of rations a week - tea, sugar , flour, maybe a can of meat. To be eligible for the dole , you had to have travelled at least 20 miles from the last point where you received assistance. As towns in the outback were a long way apart it kept the jobless on the double . It also stopped the unemployed from getting organised and making a stand against authority . At Moree ,Jim and Jack joined a large number of unemployed men . Because it was so hot , many of the men who were on foot did not want to continue on .

This is Bowditch’s account of what transpired : “ We were fairly tired and yarned about the lack of money and the injustice of the dole system . We decided to go en masse and ask the sergeant of police for permission to stay on and collect the dole instead of having to move off again. I was a bit opinionated in those days and had my bit to say . As a result , I was elected to be the spokesman.

"I had this firm belief in the basic kindness of the human race . After a feed of damper and treacle, about 80 of us marched up to the police station . The police had been warned in advance about our coming . We trudged up to the station and there was a gigantic red- headed sergeant who came out and confronted us with a revolver and a rifle . He demanded to know what we wanted .

" I gave a speech in which I said that we were tired, that it was more than 20 miles to the next town and we would like to spend another week in town, so we would appreciate him handing out 5/7 worth of rations. He refused in a very belligerent and emphatic manner. Lurking behind him were two other police with rifles.

"I kept on talking , arguing ,you might say , with all this crowd pushing behind me . Finally , the copper did his block , stepped forward and drove his fist right into my face, breaking a tooth in half . Other teeth were damaged and had to be eventually removed. I went down in a welter of blood . Everyone scattered. You have no basis from which to argue when the police are armed. I staggered to my feet and made it back to the camp. Fellows there patched me up and advised me not to stand too close to a policeman in the future.”

Battered Bowditch and his mate Jack rode off on their bicycles . They headed for Jack’s hometown -Miles - in Queensland . There they obtained contract work ringbarking wattle and ironbark.

Times were so tough the going rate for ringbarking was 2/7 an acre. They were able to get a contract for 2/8 an acre for a large area , but that was only because it was a more difficult block to cut. It was hard, grinding work. His friend Jack could handle up to five and a half acres a day. In Jim’s case he was hard pressed doing half an acre at first. There was plenty of water and the area abounded in wallabies which were trapped with wire loops . However, they ate so much wallaby , johnny cakes and treacle, Jim developed spots before his eyes. A doctor told him this was due to grease in the johnny cakes which affected his liver.

Occasionally they were able to vary their diet with eggs and poultry from Jack’s parents. One thing he learned while roaming in the outback was to always wash your dishes at night, never leave them overnight with food attached as they were hard to wash in the morning. It was a habit he followed for the rest of his life.

When war broke out ,Bowditch felt certain the British would surely stop the Germans. He , however, wrote to his parents and suggested he should come home and join the army. When the evacuation of Dunkirk took place , he knew the situation in Europe was very serious and that he should do something about the situation because his family was under threat. In fact, his brother John, a pacificist at heart, was at Dunkirk when the German blitzkrieg swept the British into the sea. John went on to become a parachutist with the Red Devils commandoes . Peter went straight from Colfe’s Grammar School into the RAF as a tail gunner and was badly injured when his plane , returning from a bombing raid , crashed and burst into flames at Lincoln .

Young David was evacuated to a safe area with his school and when his mother rang up to ask after him she was told that he had run away five days previously . He had joined the merchant navy by telling them he was 17 instead of 15 . On a ship which was dive bombed , he was so shocked by the experience he told officers his real age and asked to go home. He returned to the family in great disgrace and the school and other people were reprimanded. Buildings near Grandpa Manning’s printery were hit by bombs. Mary looked after her grandfather in the Lewisham printery premises . During an air raid he took shelter in a small room instead of going into the basement and was trapped in there because the lino lifted and the door would not open .

Deciding that he must join the conflict, Jim jumped the rattler to Brisbane intending to enlist. He travelled in a railway truck with some swagmen in a load of stinking hides. The train pulled into a siding and he could hear the sound of something striking canvas. It was a policeman with a truncheon trying to flush out the bums . The whacking noise got closer and closer ; occasionally there was a yelp. Fearing he would have his head split open, he revealed himself to the policeman, a large smiling man, who took him and others to the lock up .

The officer proved to be friendly. Jim chopped some wood for the policeman’s wife and received bacon, eggs and toast for breakfast. Cell doors were left open. And the officer told Jim where he could catch another train, a mile down the track, where it had to slow down. Another bit of advice from the cop was that he should jump off the train before it got into Brisbane because of further police checks.

Acting on that advice, he jumped from the train just before Brisbane and spent the first night camped in a park. The next day he went to the Redbank Recruiting Centre and enlisted on July 1, 1940. He was nearly 20 years of age and 5ft 81/2 inches tall. During his medical examination the military men remarked on his physical development- the hard life had made him lean and muscular . NEXT : At War.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


We shook out our Christmas stocking intending to stow it away and out fell this about 100-year-old postcard of a South Australian Christmas scene with an odd looking Santa. The child seems unhappy about not having received a computor and her own IPod

Sunday, January 9, 2011


One of our roving reporters in the backblocks of Thailand was surprised to find an activist musician with a STOP URANIUM MINING AT JABILUKA sticker on one of his guitars .The muso and his partner run a small café up near the Laos border which is like a trip back to the 1970s, photos of Willie Nelson and James Dean on the wall.

The owner, our man says in a postcard showing a 1907 view of the Communications Minister riding an elephant across the Ping River , runs Michael Moore style campaigns against the local authorities, trying to protect the “small fish” in the café and guest house trade against the”big fish”-package tours and resort brigade. His wife provided another surprise when she produced homemade wholegrain bread for breakfast .

Saturday, January 8, 2011


There must surely be a limit to the number of Sydney Harbour Bridges you can cram into a Darwin unit. I bought an interesting view, a print by G. Dixon, of the famous bridge from a garage sale at Tiwi during the weekend because it brought back early memories of my hometown– diving into a pile of rusty cans while chasing a kitten and being rushed to hospital with blood streaming from both hands , a one-legged grandfather , Luna Park, the North Sydney Olympic Pool and my recently deceased mother who dashed home to Kirribilli across the bridge the night the Japanese midget submarines attacked.

The print has joined a painting and other coathanger memorabilia, including the pylon lookout souvenirs and photos. One of the more unusual items in the once much larger collection is the above photograph, circa 1960s, of an Adelaide backyard , Albert Park ?, with a model Sydney Harbor Bridge over the fishpond . Also visible is the wonderful local invention , the Hills Hoist, converted into a sunshade shielding steamer chairs , the cane recliner lounge , water tank , paving probably made from Mintaro slate,and distinctive brush fence,typical of Adelaide.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Paul Keating became the subject of a musical, so why not our double-breasted PM, Sir Robert Menzies ? An apt title for the toe tapping show would surely be Pig Iron Bob, the name the wharfies gave him when he insisted on shipping pig iron to the Japanese while they were raping China in readiness for the extended tour of Pearl Harbour , the Pacific, Darwin and other venues.

Little Darwin would be happy to help Andrew Lloyd Webber or any local entrepreneurs put this Aussie show on the road by making available from our files the rare March 1934 program for PIG IRONY, a musical revue, which includes the score for catchy songs inspired, in part, by Gilbert and Sullivan .

This unusual entertainment was staged by the BHP Younger Set ,a theatrical group, in the once great smelting town of Newcastle, NSW . A perusal of the program seems to indicate that all the “girls ” in the show were actually males. The jaunty opening song admits to the fact that all actors were male.

There is an indirect Territory link to the show in an act billed as an Eccentric Dance (Tondeleyo) , performed by a male . Sultry Tondeleyo featured in plays and movies about white men in topees going to seed in tropical climes. Author Xavier Herbert got the idea to write a book about such a situation in Australia and out of it eventually developed Capricornia.

for the cover of the program was done by Jim Cowie who was in charge of the show’s scenery. All writs resulting from the show were to be served on the BHP boss, Essington Lewis.

The 1938 Pig Iron Bob episode
was recently subject of a short film clip by Wollongong film maker Sandra Pires. According to the Maritime Union of Australia it could be a prelude to a full length docodrama covering the event. On November 15, 1938 the steamship Dalfram berthed at Port Kembla to load pig iron ore for Kobe,Japan. Waterside worker branch secretary ,Ted Roach, addressed the labour pick up and told them the iron ore would obviously be made into bombs against the Chinese and eventually Australia.

As a result the men walked off which resulted in a nine week lock out .The men were subjected to government pressure and threats, the attorney general and future PM Menzies branded Pig Iron Bob.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Collecting first day covers and gemstones interested Jill Graham .

Without any fanfare ,the lowly public servant responsible for compiling and printing Darwin’s WHO’S WHAT WHERE ,once the official guide to anybody of note in the Territory , has died. She was Jill Graham, in her mid seventies, who worked in the Information and Public Relations Branch , later Protocol .

She laughingly called the guide WHO’S UP WHO , and said of all the many responsibilities she had in the Northern Territory, maintaining that publication caused her the most trouble .

Some people would almost kill to be listed
, it being great for their ego and self esteem . One fanatical person , of religious persuasion , complained bitterly in correspondence to government about not being mentioned many times in WHO’S WHAT WHERE. Jill had exercised her editorial prerogative to restrict the number of times a person got a mention in one edition and received official approval for her action.

From London, a capable shorthand writer and typist, she came to Australia with her second husband , a time and motion study expert, in a bid to save the marriage . Here the husband encountered the aggressive attitude of Australian workers to “Pommie” time and motion experts ; the marriage founded as a result.

Stranded in New Zealand ,wanting to come back to Australia, she literally went sobbing to the bank authorities to get approval to transfer money to Sydney and pay for her fare . At the time , you almost needed written authorisation from the Queen to transfer money out of NZ.

An adventurous gal
, she went gemstone prospecting in the Emerald, Queensland, area, and described how she had nearly burnt down the camp just on dusk when she accidently set fire to kerosene. She wore a large cut semi precious gemstone as a souvenir of that episode. During an Asian trip she was pursued by an amorous gentleman, whose name may have been Sabu, in some sacred elephant caves.

She survived Cyclone Tracy , however was missing , feared dead, because she had been invited to a bush wedding, followed by a strange encounter at the Adelaide River War Memorial Cemetery. After the cyclone, she was sent to help run the Northern Territory stand at the Sydney Royal Easter Show with the government PR officer, Dick Timperley, and Darwin's colourful White Hunter , Allan Alexander Stewart. The brave hunter Stewart spent most of the time with old comrades and captains of commerce in the members' bar , but did arrange for the Royal Australian Navy Band to frequently march up and play deafening music outside the Territory stand.

Timperley was furious , and said he would not be surprised if Stewart arranged for a Scottish pipe band in kilts playing Amazing Grace to be parachuted onto the Territory stand, which would have revealed a thing or two about Highlanders. .

Her position in the Information and Public Relations Branch brought her into contact with many Darwin and interstate journalists and photographers .
Involved in several royal visits , she kept an official photograph of Prince Charles in full regalia , across which an office colleague had scrawled something like : To Jill, with love and kisses ,Charlie . It was suggested News of the World would pay a fortune for the pic .

A faded family photo of hers showed a plump relative dressed as John Bull . Because of her many experiences and misadventures , described with much gusto and hilarity , it was frequently suggested she should write a book called The Perils of Jill . A member of Little Darwin’s research team began doing genealogical research for her.

It was discovered that one of her ancestors had been a bookseller who published catalogues from 1760 to 1796 . It seems fitting then that Jill Graham became responsible for the compilation and publishing of Darwin’s all important Who’s What Where* Suffering from abdominal pains ,she was admitted to the RDH and then the private hospital where she developed pneumonia , and was preparing to come home to her Nightcliff unit with its teddy bear collection when she died suddenly.

Sunday, January 2, 2011



Political comment, well written and provocative , was a strong selling point in the independent Darwin Star. Beating the Bulldust , a regular column by the pseudonymous Pandanus , had a big impact from the start ,resulting in howls of anger, critical letters and comments from conservative politicians who ruled the NT Legislative Assembly 17-2 .

The initial Bulldust column in the first 1976 edition of the paper made all the politicians sit up . It said it was time to axe some of the Executive members , Roger Ryan, with transport responsibilities, being singled out for perceived failure to pursue preservation of the North Australian Railway . Who is Marshall Perron ? asked Pandanus.(This implied criticism may have breathed some life into Perron because he rose from the silent to become the leader.)

In the case of Paul Everingham ,Pandanus branded as selfish and politically damaging his resignation from executive member status, but said he must be brought back as he had professional skills and intelligence to bolster the ministry .( Pandanus obviously knew how to pick a winner as it is now history that Everingham became the Chief Minister.)

The Member for Elsey , Les MacFarlane, was unhappy in his position as Speaker, Pandanus wrote ,and despite a penchant for extended telegrams that must have made him in the running for the Guinness Book of Records, he should be considered for a ministerial post .( MacFarlane once described a public toilet in Katherine as a sacred site and started a chain of protests .)

Roger Ryan not only copped flak from Pandanus but Canberra as well , and sent a letter of complaint to the Star editor ,as did Majority Leader , Dr Goff Letts , the latter making it clear that the peppery prose of Pandanus had the same impact as a dose of castor oil on some readers.

Under the heading MYSTERY MAN ,in another well read Star column ,STARSPOTS , it was reported that Ryan said all his clothes were flak-proof, but he would still like to know the identity of that “unprintable “ Pandanus. It continued: He’s not the only one . It should be obvious to anybody, even Roger, that the male or female Pandanus is or has been a pro writer, and has an intimate knowledge of local politics . We raised eyebrows when we saw his/ her copy for this issue , knowing that Mayor Ella Stack, will raise Hell. But in it went , because a curbed Pandanus might lose its sting.

MAYOR STACK IS WHISTLING IN THE WIND was the heading on the column in which the impertinent Pandanus took the civic mother to task for what was described as a “one woman” campaign against the use of marijuana . There were provocative statements throughout the piece which painted Darwin as being almost "knee deep " in the stuff. It went on to declare:There are Darwin teachers who smoke marijuana-and lawyers,architects, engineers, doctors , journalists and trade union officials...Pandanus made a point of asking Dr Stack, a smoker, how many doctors gave up cigarette smoking as a result of anti-tobacco campaigns .

When Star proprietors Kerry and Sandra Byrnes
were doing the business and heady social rounds of the throbbing metropolis they were frequently asked to confidentially reveal the identity of the mysterious columnist who seemed to be everywhere , all knowing , like the Scarlet Pimpernel , but never unmasked . Some confidently said they knew the name of the person responsible for penning the pieces -adding a few colourful expletives or praising the sniper, depending on their political leanings.

In a blast from the past, Little Darwin recently came into the possession of a 30 year old typescript for a Pandanus column which illustrates his /her writing style . Held together by a now rusty glider clip, with some suspicious, unsightly brown marks ( hopefully not the result of a swig of castor oil ?) on the creased pages , the article reads as follows :


If ever the chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, Mr Justice Else-Mitchell, feels like going into the entertainment business he should start his gig in Darwin. While in Darwin , the learned judge attended a special dinner for the commission which was hosted by the NT Treasury. (Incidently, no minister of the Everingham government was present ,oddly enough).

Mr Else-Mitchell reduced the gathering of some 100 persons to giggles and tears when he imitated the Chief Minister’s well known-drawl. Paul’s drawl act by Mr Else - Mitchell broke up the audience , which included one usually stony faced local judge. People were holding their sides , and one prominent Darwin accountant had tears running down his face.

At first, the stunned audience could not believe their ears-here was the judge sending up the Chief Minister ! Then the titters started , and an avalanche of mirth followed as Mr Else-Mitchell droned on. The judge’s amazing performance started off in usual speechifying fashion. Mr Else-Mitchell said ,"I was talking to your Chief Minister this morning and he said---.“Then he lapsed into the Chief Minister’s drawl.

Pandanus suggests that Treasury invite Mr Else-Mitchell back again soon for another dinner but charge an admission fee of $50 a head. I reckon the revenue from a prawn night with Mr Justice Else-Mitchell and his now famous Chief Minister’s act could raise enough booty to allow the halving of Territory taxes.

While on the subject of the Grants Commission ,Pandanus believes the NT Government should read Dale Carnegie’s work about winning friends and influencing people. The NT Government put up a case to the Grants Commission for a mere $20million extra in the kitty, but couldn’t arrange to give the commission sufficient copies for it submission.

Seems an odd way to convince people that you need an extra 20 million. Then again,it may have been a way of saying "Look, we have so little dough,we can’t even run off enough copies of our begging submission for an extra $20million." Still, thats showbiz.

Pandanus sprang to the defence of Goff Letts after he was tongue lashed-called “a bloody fool”- by the Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives, Ian Sinclair, for voting against the conservative line at the Australian Constitutional Convention in Hobart , in respect to a move to empower the Senate to block supply. Sinclair was reported as saying Letts had set back the Territory’s bid for statehood by 10 years by not following the party line .Three “rebel” Tasmanian Liberals had voted the same way as Letts.

expressed the view that David (Letts) had “massacred Goliath (Sinclair , Sinkers for short) in the matter . The column ended : We can do without men like Sinclair-without his views, without his interference , without his arrogance , and most certainly without his presence in the Territory .

In the interests of balanced reporting, the Star ran a profile of Roger Ryan which came to the conclusion that he was a nice, ambitious bloke , who just wanted to tie Pandanus to the railway track in the same way as the dastardly villian ,
Oil Can Harry, had done with poor Pearl Pureheart in the silent movie days.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

UFO CRASHES IN DARWIN (World Exclusive Silly Season Report-Now in X-Files )

Remains of wrecked Mitchell Street UFO

A gleaming white UFO crash landed during the New Year celebrations in Mitchell Street.Its crew of two was arrested by police and thrown in the space junk locker. The weird looking aliens gave their names as Wallace and Gromit .

Wallace has been charged with flying an unroadworthy and unregistered space vehicle while under the influence of crackers and passing counterfeit Bunnings Christmas vouchers to obtain vast amounts of nuts and bolts from which to make strange gadgets. Gromit, who looks like your average Darwin flea –ridden mongrel, demanded to be taken to the RSPCA to be de-wormed .

Police say the beings from another galaxy claimed to have run into mechanical trouble after a trip to the Moon to gather cheese . The hazardous lunar expedition was made after Wallace read in the Cheese Monthly, one of the latest dreary gourmet and corporate lifestyle publications , that the moon is made of tasty fromage .

This appears to have been a beat up as the cheese turned out to be yet more celebrity frog shit. Yuk! Wallace became ill after digesting so much of the fake fodder and was being rushed to the nearest planet for a stomach pump when Gromit lost control of the spaceship and it crashed outside the Discovery nightspot, scaring the mounted police , Dog Squad, SWAT brigade, the Salvation Army,five slobbering Lady Gaga impersonators of mixed gender and Paris Hilton .

Police Commissioner John McRoberts
, disguised as a penguin with a smelly sardine in his beak in a vain bid to prevent tipsy female revellers from kissing him, pulled Wallace from the wrecked UFO then frog marched him along Mitchell Street to the lock up. Wallace was wearing strange techno trousers which made him walk like a ruptured Magpie Goose.
Gromit was eventually placed on a leash and taken to the pound, full of stray Nightcliff Boxers.

The police chief has urged all spaced out travellers to go easy on crackers, finger food and misleading gourmet books during the remainder of the year long madness season in the Territory