Saturday, June 30, 2012


While the Chief Minister and Fisheries/Health/ Primary Industries / Easter Egg Juggler Kon Vatskalis were giving people indigestion by announcing in the Casuarina Square food hall that Myer would be opening in Darwin in 2016, across the road there was the usual Banana Republic scene at the banking precinct. Fallen fronds from palm trees caused obstacles for customers . The same offensive stains were on the footpath outside the Westpac entrance and inside CEO Gail Kelly had obviously failed to INSTRUCT her Darwin staff to rectify the shabby branch office appearance by the outlay of less than a couple of grand . Litter piled up near the Commonwealth ATM accumulated over a long period of time could well go up in flames during the next six months of fireworks.


Scattered about the perimeter fence of the Tiwi Masonic Homes residential village and nursing home there used to be signs warning that the place was under surveillance. The passage of Cyclones Carlos and Grant blew some of those signs down. It took a long time for some of the signs to be relocated and tied back on the fence , which raised questions about the nature of the surveillance if the signs could disappear from public view and not be promptly replaced. Gradually, the warning signs disappeared completely except for one near the nursing home which lay flat on the ground in the bushes for many months , gradually being covered by leaves . The last of the Mohicans warning signs seemed to proclaim it was from a reputable international security organisation , even active in war zones , which has major responsibilities in the NT. On April 28 the Masonic Homes HQ in Adelaide was sent an email and asked to explain how the Tiwi Masonic Homes Security operates, how much it costs, etc . There has been no reply . The nursing home has been taken over by another organisation and there have been some staff changes .

Friday, June 29, 2012


Bulldust Diary rolling stone, Peter Burleigh, soon to take refuge in Ecuador to escape Grey Nomads baying for his blood , kindly sent us this stimulating collection of Goonster Spike Milligan reading his own books to help us through the sleepless, freezing tropical nights .

"YOU CAN'T HOARD FUN, IT HAS NO SHELF LIFE."-Gonzo journalist ,Hunter S.Thompson, in Kingdom of Fear: Loathsom Secrets of a Star Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century . I disagree with this statement because you can hoard Thompson's books and those of Spike Milligan, John Hepworth and others who massage your funny bone in moments of despair . In the case of our dear departed John Hepworth , I have just reread , with delight, the wonderful piece he wrote for Nation Review about the reaction in The Lobby restaurant , Canberra, the day Gough Whitlam was done in by John Kerr . It speaks of the splendid looking Ms wearing a Shame, Fraser, Shame badge on her left tit. This femme with the tit adornment cannot believe what has happened , nor can other gluttons in the popular eatery , and look like stunned mullet. That entertaining political funster,Mungo MacCallum, with a grand command of English, assures her in no uncertain way that the sky has indeed fallen, reportedly addressing her as "love," a wee bit sexist . The bewhiskered Hepworth, his book illustrated by the great Leunig, then went on to describe what was about to happen to the nation, usurped by the Coalition,working with that "sabre-toothed " Queensland guppy, Joh-Bjelke Petersen . It is a dismal setting similar to the present political imbroglio, but the current Governor-General, surely, would not defrock Julia Gillard? Despite not agreeing with Hunter's funny assertion, Little Darwin announces that as we approach the end of the financial year ,one in which the Marines have landed , a feast of great reading has been lined up for the rest of the full frontal calendar year -some of it funny, some serious , some hard to define . This during a period when Darwin damsels, their heaving bossoms plastered with political badges, will be spreading fear and loathing in the casino city , now under threat from fireworks and Myer. Never fear, relief is on the way. Peter Burleigh's magical mystery tour of the Top End of Australia is ready to resume in the brave new (almost bankrupt ) financial year.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Ferocious West Australian warlord , Field Marshall Krupp,  above , awarded 13 iron crosses and 20  gunmetal Rolex watches , has been instructed by Gina Rhinemaiden to make a full frontal attack on the Sydney Morning Herald . She has ordered him to boot out the board and flog articulate reporter, David Marr, who prevented her first proposed board member, Lord Monkey-Nuts, from coming aboard . The fierce warrior is shown here in full regalia , the sash across his chest is either Gina’s garter or her money belt . His Yak wool adorned hat held under his sweaty armpit, when worn , makes him look as aggressive as John Howard in an Akubra. The Field Marshall insists that his batman , Fondeau Volte, be placed in charge of Dutch courage supplies during the assault on Broadway, which promises to be a long, bloody affair, strongly resisted by bibulous editorial staff . Rose Marie , a well- known Perth belly dancer, will be in charge of the invading army’s camp followers


Take the long walk between the Darwin Private Hospital and adjoining Royal Darwin Hospital and you cannot help but wonder about infectious disease control and the asbestos throughout RDH. On the RDH side of the corridor you come across swinging doors showing large areas of grotty hand marks, chipped paint on walls , other signs of wear. Surely basic hygiene, disease control and management demands that a situation like this not exist in a capital city hospital.

Little Darwin walked this way many month ago and nothing much has changed since then . Not far from the outside of the tunnel , there has been an extension near the area warning that radioactive waste material is stored therein .

In RDH there are numerous small signs, probably unnoticed by many , along the ceiling line warning that there is asbestos above and no work should be carried out without consulting the maintenance section. Large numbers of patients sit in waiting areas where there is asbestos in the ceilings above them. Some of the ducting looks rusty, almost water strained . The question has to be asked: What is more important , a hospital or a prison ?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


When News Limited recently announced changes to regional newspapers in Queensland , former Townsville Bulletin reporter , Malcolm Weatherup , was interviewed by Emily Bourke of the ABC, part of which follows :

EMILY BOURKE: Job losses are also hitting News Limited publications, especially across regional Queensland. As part of the media group's restructure, 17 positions will be lost from the Gold Coast Bulletin and Gold Coast Sun, with more jobs to go from the Townsville Bulletin and Townsville Sun, and the Cairns Post and the Cairns Sun. Malcolm Weatherup is a retired journalist and a former reporter with the Townsville Bulletin. He resigned in 2010 in disgust at the new direction of the newspaper. I asked him what the job cuts will mean.

MALCOLM WEATHERUP: It's a disaster. The journalism at the Bulletin has been a disaster for a little while now under a series of editors, because they've trivialised it and they've gone down the tabloid road. Now people in a small community, relatively small, we have a readership area of about 280,000, they're not used to that sort of thing and nor do they want it. These, all these changes are being made from the way we cover news to now the digitalisation of everything, are being made on metropolitan whims and taste.

EMILY BOURKE: Does a relocation of the sub-editing process from the regional town centres to Brisbane really make that much of a difference to the journalistic output?

MALCOLM WEATHERUP: I would think it does because you're robbing a community of its history and its community memory if you take people away from here and the paper is actually sub-edited 1,500 kilometres away.They will have reporters up here. But there's always that thing in newsrooms, which you may or may not know yourself, that somebody will have a thought about something and you chat and you talk and newsrooms were vibrant, interesting places about information.That won't exist anymore and the people who know the local scene just simply will not be here to do it and I also know how the sub-hubs work down there. I know several people who work in them in Melbourne and in Brisbane and it's really the first cab off the rank, you'll be doing a story about the Gold Coast, then you grab the next one, which might be about Toowoomba, and then you might do one about Townsville. Sub-editors' knowledge has been legend in newspapers and we've lost that.

EMILY BOURKE: What do you make of this push, given the growth corridors into Queensland regional areas, I mean, there's still a population base to be catered to?

MALCOLM WEATHERUP: Therein lies, in the facts and figures, therein lies how the disconnect happened, between the community and the paper. When I arrived back here in Townsville in 2002, in the following eight years, the masthead of Saturday, which is the flagship of course, was steady around 41,500. And it remained that way year after year after year, but in that time, we gained 40 or 50,000 people, so in essence, the paper was losing even by standing still.Now, that continued and now they're in a nosedive, as far as the circulation goes. And that, in itself, says what it's about. People are very disparaging about the way the paper's gone in its tabloid area.

EMILY BOURKE: What's the feeling within the community?

MALCOLM WEATHERUP: They're not happy with it, but the dissatisfaction is pretty widespread, especially since it's gone down-market. And this is a wealthy, well-educated town, it's a great place to live as we all know and that's why we're here. But, there is an element that they're trying to wrong-headedly get to buy newspapers, and that is the, sort of, down-market and, what you would call, bogans, I guess. And they try to appeal to that readership and of course they're exactly the people who do not read newspapers.

* Malcolm Weatherup was a news producer at SBS from 1997-2002; at the Townsville Bulletin, among other rounds, he covered courts and wrote a lively weekend piece , The Magpie . Readers will notice that bogans have been getting a lot of attention in the NT News of late. It would be good if the local ABC asked the NT News exactly what the centralised changes mean for the Darwin paper , its pages made up in Adelaide, and under editorial control by one person in the city of (closed down ) churches along with several other papers, including one in WA .Obvious follow ups and questions are not very evident in Darwin reporting circles.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


The first of the three Fairfax Media board members demanded by Gina Rinehart was delivered to the Sydney Morning Herald’s tradesman's entrance by a Fly-In-Fly-Out Irish bog peat miner last night . Little Darwin’s ace cameraman, Ray Sharpe , was there to capture the historic event . Our alert readers will recall that the posh looking dude in the deluxe wheelbarrow is a prominent member of the Melbourne Club , Lord Monkey –Nuts, a great threat to the ozone by continually burping and breaking wind, who has not drawn a sober breath for the last four months , celebrating the looming demise of the Gillard Government. Fortunately, brave journo , David Marr , wearing a plastic raincoat borrowed from Barry Humphries, armed with a Sir Wocker high pressure ancient Greek fire hose , was able to keep Lord Monkey-Nuts from entering the building and urinating on the illuminated editorial independence agreement parchment . ODDITY NOTE : The message on the back of this old postcard, from Amy to Mark , says money has been included to cover postage and jelly beans , or some such things .

Monday, June 25, 2012


The horses in this old postcard printed in Saxony, bearing a New South Wales stamp circa 1920, had no cause to fear an encounter with a punchy Darwin man.

An usual story has surfaced involving a noted oldtime British boxer -Teddy Talbot- who once fought a prominent pug after whom a pub and pint of ale were named and kayoed a Darwin horse. A nuggety little man , the late Albert Edward Talbot, strolled about purposefully, with arms spread like a gunfighter.

He was a hawker who drove about Darwin in a van, mainly selling clothes to Aboriginal women, often seen outside Bagot . His face showed the signs of many professional fights in Britain between 1926 to 1932. On top of that, it was suggested that during WW11 he had fought many other bouts when serving in the Royal Navy , once stationed at Hong Kong. In 1958 he lived in Sandalwood Street ,Nightcliff, listed on the electoral roll as a traveller . He regularly attended rugby league matches at the Garden’s Oval, engaging in lively banter with coaches and supporters of various clubs.

At times he clashed verbally with rugby officials and footie fans ; an irate man hauled off and hit Talbot in the head . He responded by asking his assailant if he wanted to damage his hand as Ted’s cranium had been massaged many times in his boxing career and was rock hard.

Last week , in the lead up to Black Caviar’s appearance at Royal Ascot, a lively anecdote surfaced in a gathering of racing tragics who regularly meet at Casuarina Square to shoot the breeze and tell interesting stories about the past . One of these was the sad event in which Talbot accidently hit a racehorse near Fannie Bay with his van and sent it down for the never ending count . Part owner of the unfortunate horse , said to have been related to two time Melbourne Cup winner, Peter Pan , was Darwin businessman ,the late Ted D’Ambrosio, once deputy mayor.

The accident was the subject of much discussion among the gentlemen of the Darwin waterfront . Police , it was recounted , took notes at the scene of the mishap, and Talbot was asked to describe what had happened . He apparently said the horse had suddenly run in front of his car . The constabulary asked for an estimate of the speed at which the horse was, slow? Talbot paused , trying to find the exact word to describe the pace of the animal, eventually replied : "Put down lolloping ." Walkley Award winning journalist,the late Keith Willey , did some checking on Talbot’s boxing career , and said he came across mention of Talbot having taken part in what had been described as a memorable stouch , which caused the cheering fans to almost lift the roof off the stadium .

Regarded as a fierce man in the ring , Talbot in 1929 fought another tough British professional boxer , Percy Vear, who notched up 85 professional fights at a time when it was not uncommon for a boxer to have 30 fights in one year . Vear , well known in the British boxing boom years from 1926 to 1932 , started as a flyweight , became a bantamweight and later a featherweight. He is remembered by a "traditional real ale public house " named after him in his hometown , Keighley , which sells a special ale, Percy’s Pint, specially brewed by the Empire Brewery, Huddlesfield . An artist in 2009 also painted a watercolour of Vear sitting atop a chimney. It is doubtful if a photograph of Teddy Talbot exists anywhere in the Territory .- ( Postcard from Peter Simon Ephemera Collection.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Good morning kiddies! Our special treat for you today are two fairy tales–in Pidgin English-Liklik Retpela Hat (Little Red Riding Hood ) and Tripela Liklik Pik ( Three Little Pigs ). They are flexidiscs translated into Pidgin , adapted to a Melanesian setting by the Reverend Paul Freyberg of the Lutheran mission at Madang , and produced in the Port Moresby ABC studios, about the 1960s.

They are read by the officer in charge of Highlands police in the Royal Papuan New Guinea Constabulary, Superintendent Mike Thomas, in the ABC’s Daily Learning Pidgin Series. Another flexidisc was made - At Jack nau Rope Bean ( Jack and the Bean Stalk ).There is a suggestion that a similar one was made telling of the dangers of sniffing / drinking petrol.

Little Darwin discovered these two discs with their distinctive jackets, the artwork by June Lodge , in a Townsville op shop, about 10 years ago. Reverend Freyberg was the chief translator of Nupela Testamen , the New Testament in Pidgin, and had spoken about Japanese atrocities in New Guinea during WW11. A desirable find would be Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Pidgin which is said to have been made decades ago.

Friday, June 22, 2012


Toffee-nosed North Sydney Young Liberals P3 pin up girl,Fiona Frisby-Smyth, models the Coalition’s answer to global warming , the carbon tax, the NBN , the resources tax, gay marriage and the enlightenment . The solar panel on her head will not only reduce greenhouse gases , linked to her CWA knitted chastity belt it will provide 40,000 volts of electricity to keep her a nice girl , unadulterated under the Pure Foods Act . What looks like a mirror is exactly that- a mirror- which will be used as a semaphore to relay messages when the Coalition scraps the National Broadband Network. Incidently, the much faster NBN may actually help the collapsing media empires come to grips with the digital age –but the Coalition does not want the mug public to know this as it goes about spreading doom and gloom in the luckiest country on the globe. Fiona’s neck to ankle gown will be standard government issue under an Abbott regime as it will protect people from the sun’s harmful rays and provide warmth for the growing army of people forced to sleep in parks and down drains at night . The fancy dancing pumps worn by Fiona , made from the tanned hides of Australian workers ,will come in handy for appearances on Dancing With Celebrity Nasties,all the rage in North Korea . When the Barbarians sweep into power in Canberra , new legislation , inspired by the Queensland L-NP , will be brought in making it compulsory for all participants in Sydney’s Gay Mardi Gras to only wear wholesome copies of Fiona’s stunning dressage - instead of cavorting about in disgusting budgie smugglers .

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


To catch up on the latest fast moving Julian Assange/Wikileaks story, Little Darwin suggests readers view the DEMOCRACY NOW! online report of June 20 presented by award winning American investigative journalist, Amy Goodman, who with Allan Nairn was beaten by Indonesian troops while covering the East Timor struggle. It contains an informative interview with American attorney, Michael Ratner , of the Centre for Constitutional Rights , who says Assange would “ never see the light of day” if he went to Sweden and was extradited to the US. In the US he could face life imprisonment or execution for exposing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and the hypocrisy of the US State Department . The report is also available on the Nation of Change Progressive Journalism website which includes a video of the Ratner interview .

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Already partying madly at the thought of seizing power , this is how the new look Liberal Party may eliminate bad look biker party pooper .

It must be abundantly obvious to the Coalition czars that to many Australian voters Tony Abbott is like Victor , the grimacing male co- presenter in the Fast Forward TV skits - BACK TO THE USSR and GOOD MORNING MOSCOWa most unattractive man, according to blonde Soviet bimbo, Svetta Tutti Frutti. Repeatedly, the polls show that Tony Tubeless is not highly regarded as a potential PM. On the other hand , deposed leader , Malcolm Turnbull, is loved nearly as much as pioneer Red Cosmonaut , Yuri Gagarin.

And his latest newsletters show that he seems to be busier than Kevin Rudd , as if ready to launch another attack on Rasputin and his ambitious nay-saying Cossacks . Malcolm’s recent bulletin carried the sad news about the death of a pet dog . Kevin Rudd has an obstreperous cat. All the major vote winning issues are therefore covered . Incidently, who would you like as PM - a bloke who wears a snazzy leather jacket or some hairy bod, shaped like a pretzel who runs about in budgie smugglers?

The longer the Gillard Government hangs on in there , despite the massive media and mogul machines trying to crush it, the more unattractive the Mad Monk is going to become . The workforce will surely realise that under an Abbott Government workplaces will resort to gulags. As a result, the Coalition Kremlin may be forced to use a ruthless , but effective Russian method of solving political problems –sticking an icepick into Abbott’s front wheel- and proclaiming Malcolm as the new nice guy leader. Julia Gilliard would undoubtedly consider retiring to take up a new career as a gay marriage celebrant if such a coup took place .

Monday, June 18, 2012

FIGHTING FOR UNDERDOGS -The continuing saga of NT editor, Big Jim Bowditch , by Peter Simon

In his position as secretary of the Alice Springs section of the South Australian branch of the Federated Clerks’ Union , Jim Bowditch, above, had extensive dealings with the SA secretary, Harry Krantz . Krantz, born 1919, regarded by ASIO as a Communist because of his union and ALP involvement , in subsequent years served as a member or chairman of numerous South Australian organizations , dealing with matters as diverse as the university, labour , trotting and architecture , became a recipient of the OAM and was a justice of the peace . Krantz died on March 30, 2006,aged 86,and the Senate was told that he had been " a warrior for the workers ."

Krantz had served in Darwin and overseas during WW11 and expressed admiration for the Australian wartime PM, John Curtin. In an oral history recording he made for the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library, Perth, Kranz , in 1996, provided some interesting insights into the wartime PM.

One anecdote told how soldiers in Darwin in 1942 ,after being shown a Department of Information film about Curtin in which he was seen walking his small dog on a lead to his home at Cottesloe, a seaside suburb of Perth, rose and cheered . Curtain , he said , had impressed the audience as a sincere and humble man. While on a break from war service in the NT, Krantz stood for the ALP in the seat of Barker in SA in 1943 , secured a 15 percent swing to Labor , and had contact with Curtin.
Curtin, who had been a journalist , usually wore a hat and a dark suit, with a gold chain connected to a fob watch on one side and his Australian Journalist ’ Association medal on the other. Curtin , a reformed alcoholic, he added , had developed his oratory with the help of a visiting British Socialist by going down to the seaside and projecting his voice across the waves . In wartime film footage of Curtin he has a strong voice , his message strengthened by hand gestures .

Krantz said Bowditch took to unionism with great enthusiasm . As the union leader put it so eloquently, Bowditch “ imbibed it ( unionism ) in big mugs . ” Jim also contributed items to the FCU roneod newsletter The Clerk under the byline Doop the Snoop . Krantz explained that due to the disruptions caused by the war , the FCU had been the only union in the Territory . Krantz went to Darwin in 1946 on union business. During that visit he met author Xavier Herbert’s brother , David, and his wife . Mrs Herbert, a member of the union, was a nursing sister who worked and lived at the large Belsen Camp in Darwin. Her husband ran supplies in a smart looking vessel to Aboriginal settlements . Most things were in short supply , from food to building materials , and Krantz recalled arranging powdered milk to be sent to the Territory to feed children .

Krantz was in Darwin when the huge war surplus auctions were being prepared . Apart from much sought after cars, trucks and machinery , there were hundreds of thousands of shoes and about 30,000 gas masks . Buyers came from all over Australia and Krantz said rackets were worked which made a lot of money for some crooked people.

As union activities increased, Krantz visited Alice and Darwin from time to time and described Alice as a “ docile and conservative place”. Jock Nelson, whose electorate secretary was Bowditch's wife, Iris , had always been helpful; whenever Krantz went to Canberra on business he operated out of Nelson’s office in the House of Representatives .

Through keen involvement in union affairs , Bowditch began to campaign for people who were being treated unjustly in government departments and private enterprise . In August 1949 he wrote to Krantz in Adelaide asking if Phil Muldoon, the Alice Springs head jailer , could be covered by the union because he was working under unfair and anomalous conditions. Muldoon was the second longest serving officer in the entire NT public service , having been the Alice turnkey since the establishment opened in 1938. He resided at the prison , could not be absent overnight , and was on duty seven days a week . Bowditch said he had investigated Muldoon’s situation and felt that something should be done. “We all know how futile it is to fight a lone battle with the authorities ,” Bowditch wrote.

Muldoon sent many letters to the union and mentioned “ the vicious circle in Administration in Darwin,” adding : “ They do not want the honest truth in Administration . You have to be a BBBB liar or else a Yes- man to make the grade . ” After 30 years’ service, Muldoon was still classified as a senior constable and his salary had only increased by 48 pound in 20 years. Krantz wrote to Muldoon and said his treatment by the Commonwealth was a scandal and that he had been forgotten by the powers that be. Muldoon said a “ dirty plot ”had been hatched to dispossess him of his position as the man responsible for running the prison. In calling for action to rectify the situation, Muldoon said : “ I am tired of being fed promises ... Let us have some action . It is the only thing this rotten Administration appreciates ...This Dictator State has been ruled with a rod of iron long enough...

Bowditch also took up the case of a woman working for a lawyer who was being paid only seven pounds ($14) a week. She had two children and lived in a hostel. As there was no award for clerks employed in private enterprise in the Territory, her employer was able to get away with paying so little. Krantz responded by saying it was a disgraceful situation and if the lawyer did not come to the party some “discreet publicity ” such as a letter to Truth from a “disgusted employer” could be used , or perhaps the “blackmail ” column , Things I Hear . Bowditch also campaigned for the first cost of living allowance for women in the NT .

A controversial person who strongly influenced Bowditch’s outlook in politics and union matters was the golden voiced orator , John R. “Jack ” Hughes, secretary of the NSW Federated Clerks’ Union, and a president of the NSW Trades and Labour Council. Hughes had been elected to the the NSW ALP executive after the defeat of Jack Lang at the 1939 Unity Conference . He was a leading figure in the left wing group of the NSW party which took stands at variance with the official ALP line,supporting the republicans in Spain, aid for China and opposing the Chamberlain Munich agreement with Hitler . Hughes said the only war the nation should get involved in was one on poverty .

When Prime Minister Robert Menzies brought in the Communist Party Dissolution Bill in 1950, which would have enabled individuals to be declared Communists and prevented from working in the government service or a trade union , even when elected to office by a democratic vote, Hughes was named and said to be a member of the central committee of the Australian Communist Party . In an embarrassing error , The Sydney Morning Herald ran a photograph of the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation , J. W. R. Hughes, saying he was the Communist union leader named by the PM.

Menzies named 53 individuals as being Communists, but later he was forced to admit that information supplied about five had been incorrect . Bowditch met Hughes several times, once at a fiery FCU conference in Nowra , NSW, decisions from which were later declared null and void through a court ruling. At that stormy Nowra gathering Bowditch flattened a man in a fight at a social function . Present at the conference was another prominent unionist Ernie Thornton of the Ironworkers Union, who ASIO claimed also influenced Bowditch.

While Bowditch never mentioned Thornton to this writer, he did talk about Hughes , describing him as a powerful speaker intent on advancing the cause and conditions of the working class. Unions, Hughes told Bowditch, were the great vehicles to advance the cause of humanity , but they had to be dilligent and tough because the Establishment would use every trick it could to deny the average person a fair go. Bowditch became a member of the Alice Springs Progress Association and was given the task of handling its jubilee anniversary publicity. He was also appointed to a committee to draw up proposals for better working and living conditions for all government employees.

He even convened a meeting of butchers and pastoralists in a bid to have the price of beef reduced by as much threepence (three cents ) a pound . ASIO entered this in his file. Legacy and the RSL were other involvements ; he supplied the local paper with details of RSL activities, one being the sending of a letter to the British Prime Minister seeking to have Alice Springs included in a Royal visit. NEXT : More theatrical involvement in Alice Springs and named a wartime hero. {Photo of Bowditch by Kerry Byrnes .}

Sunday, June 17, 2012


To mark the historic fact that China has launched its first female astronaut into the wide blue yonder with the aim of opening a WalMart branch and a Fortune Cookie Factory in orbit, Little Darwin quotes a puzzling saying by that revered Chinese sage, Confucius , which could apply to the NT and only Kevin Rudd may understand . It goes : Man who bites lady on ankle at gathering of legal mandarins where rice wine flows freely destined to sink fangs into dingo.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


It is doubtful that Bob Santamaria would have used such forthright language to describe Dr Evatt, the ALP, evil Communists and banks as this placard did in Wall Street, one of the many Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that continue throughout the US and overseas.
Like so many influential players in Australia’s political recent past, the late Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria is now forgotten. A Catholic strongly opposed to Socialism and Communism, he was regarded as a hero by the Democratic Labor Party which split the Australian Labor Party. The son of Italian immigrants , he grew up in Mebourne .Late in life, however , he spoke out strongly about the dangers of monopoly capitalism. This, he repeatedly said, was as great a threat to civil society as communism. Santamaria was often heard on radio and TV and wrote for The Australian in the 1990s. He warned that the debt based credit creation system and private ownership of major banking institutions did not serve society and orderly government.

His comments about banks make interesting reading now that banks all over the world have had to be bailed out ,mostly with money from the public kitty with dire consequences for the social fabric .

Santamaria said international investment banks based in New York, London and Frankfurt had taken effective control of the levers of Australian economic policy since the 1970s. An interesting claim of his was that contractionary economic policies pursued in the "pro-market" 1990s had produced a long-term decline in real wages and forced mothers into the workforce, resulting in a breakdown of the family unit. The "market" was the greatest threat to the survival of the family and, more broadly, of Western civilization in the late 20th century, he added. UPCOMING : With Australian banks slugging customers for use of their bank cards, charging high overseas transaction fees and delaying the passing on of RBA interest cuts , a look at the warnings about banking down through the years .

Thursday, June 14, 2012


After sending an email to the Westpac head office PR machine , again drawing the attention of the bank’s CEO ,Gail Kelly, to the state of the shabby Casuarina branch , Little Darwin has received what passes for a reply in PR terms . It raises more questions about one of Australia’s big four banks. Westpac Regional General Manager , Northern Territory , Suzi Hullick, said “ we” ( the Royal we seems to be in vogue after all the heady celebrations in London ) are fully aware of the issues and the state of the branch. She had even been visiting the branch fortnightly as part of plans for a more permanent solution. Funds had been allocated to refurbish the branch “some months ago”. Unfortunately, there had been “some challenges with contactors and our obligations in terms of our lease.”

Her email went on to say had provided some valuable “customer feedback”. Shucks ! The bank was working through this as a matter of urgency . "I am positive of some action in coming months."

That Westpac is still dithering around , hoping for some remedial action as"a matter of urgency" in coming months when the Third World look has been extant for many months makes you wonder.

For a piddling amount, the spew/urine /Bombay Belly splash patterns etched into the footpath outside the main entrance could be washed away ; the customer chairs with plastic missing from the armrests and corroding metal showing through could be replaced by whipping out to Harvey Norman and buying replacements ; a signwriter could do a quick replacement for the large one at the reception desk from which letters are missing ; the well worn punch and stapler could be donated to A.G. Sims and turned into razor blades in Korea. Little Darwin could arrange this in one day without a board meeting or having to ring a call centre in Zimbabwe. No major refurbishment, just a bit of easy, prompt action .

Little Darwin cheekily asked if Gail Kelly was related to Ned , but received no reply . Ms Kelly attended the Business Summit in Brisbane at which the business community was urged by PM Julia Gillard to speak up for the Australian economy, show that the economy is strong . The economy does not look too flash when you judge it on the shabby appearance of the Casuarina Westpac branch , which portrays an image more like downtown Athens .The long running rundown state gives the impression that customers are being treated a la Goldman Sachs-as Muppets–and even ,God forbid, that Westpac is complacent like JPMorgan , who just dropped a cool 2 billion, for which they are sorry . Anybody for putting their dosh under the mattress ?

An angry bank customer, on being told of the Westpac response asks : How long does it take to connect a hose ? She ,too, is affronted by the shabby state of the Casuarina banking precinct. Recently she drew the attention of the staff at the SAO biscuit dipped in Vegemite to the growing constant litter and rubbish , with an occasional garnish of junk food glued to the pavement, near its ATM. Like Westpac, there has been zero base points response at the Commonwealth, and she is on the warpath . UPCOMING: A series on banks which have come close to bringing on another Depression.


In perusing a mass of Chamberlain case documents , a Little Darwin writer came across a scornful comment about the bizarre scenario that had Lindy Chamberlain , in the space of a few minutes , cut her daughter’s throat, without getting any blood on her clothes , hide the body, hide the matinee jacket , dash back to the barbecue area at Ayer’s Rock, with people standing nearby all the time . To achieve this amazing feat, the critic said she would have had to move faster than Sebastian Coe , the then great British middle distance runner of the 1980s who won four Olympic gold medals and set several world records. Lord Sebastian Coe is now the current  face of the  British Olympic Games .
An NT government insider told Little Darwin the jury’s guilty verdict had taken the corridors of power in Darwin by complete surprise as it was felt there was so little evidence on which a conviction could be returned . With the jury returning after 8pm , ministers who had gone home or were dining out , had to be frantically contacted with the sensational news.
In London in July 1988 , Wollongong University (NSW) historian , Dr Stuart Piggin, attending an Australia 200 bicentennial conference on Australia, sponsored by the British Australia Studies Association, said the Chamberlains had been the victims of a " raging inferno of prejudice " similar to 16th century witchhunts. An “appalling miscarriage of justice " had been carried out in which not one single fact pointing to their guilt was substantiated. Prejudice and ignorance , he was quoted as saying, had spread a tidal wave of rumor, much of it originating with lawyers, police, scientists and journalists . He referred to the "hurt pride"“of NT authorities who "became paranoid in their quest for revenge " after the Chamberlains had been cleared by the first coroner, Denis Barritt. He was also particularly scathing of the evidence given by forensic scientist, the late Ms Joy Kuhl, and was reported as saying Kuhl had told reporters in a bar : "She is, you know, a witch , I could feel her eyes burning holes through my back."
After the latest coronial inquiry, which attributed the death of Azaria to a dingo, Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton, spoke about the way she had been treated by reporters . She mentioned one in particular who used to fall asleep during hearings , wake up, and then go and ask the government what it wanted written up . Strange indeed . Little Darwin has been told that a person given to erratic behaviour and repeated fantasies had revelled in the Chamberlain case and undoubtedly played a large part in spreading tales about the Chamberlains. Another source said the belief – almost fear- that the death of Azaria by a dingo could cripple the tourist trade had not been followed up by reporters , but it was now too late . Another said it was a case of a Darwin clique over- reacting .

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


One of the many pieces of ephemera in the Chamberlain Case.

National Library of Australia manuscript librarian ,*Graeme Powell , delivered a fascinating speech entitled THE CHAMBERLAIN PAPERS, to a symposium at Macquarie University, Sydney, in 2005 . With Lindy Chamberlain in the audience , he said -

It may seem a bit far-fetched, but Lindy Chamberlain has something in common with Sir Henry Parkes. And also with Miles Franklin, Douglas Mawson, John Monash, Manning Clark and Peter Sculthorpe. They belong to a small group of Australians who have been good at keeping written records. In my experience, most people keep some of their photographs, but when it comes to written records it is a different matter. Legal and property documents may be carefully kept, but sooner or later most people discard the letters, diaries, notes, cuttings and other written records that document their lives and those of their families and friends. Even when good personal archives have been assembled, only a small number end up in libraries, archives or other public institutions. Of the many millions of people who have lived in Australia in the last two centuries, only a few thousand can be said to have had well documented lives. Lindy Chamberlain is one of the few.

Before I describe the Chamberlain Papers, I should say something about the National Library as a collector and preserver of documents. The Library has quite a lot of functions, but one of the most important is to document Australian history and society in all its diversity. It often says it does this comprehensively, but that is a bit of an exaggeration. It collects documents in the narrow sense –until recent times, nearly all its holdings were paper, paper which contained printed, typed or handwritten inscriptions.

Vast quantities of documents of this kind are created every day, most of them are destroyed, some end up in other Commonwealth institutions or in State and regional archives, libraries and museums. So in reality the Library, like every other institution, has to be selective and in deciding what to seek or accept it puts a lot of stress on the word “national”. Although it collects very widely, it focuses in particular on national events, national movements, national problems and issues, social change at the national level, and individuals who have achieved national fame, power or influence. The Chamberlain Case and the controversy and reactions it aroused throughout Australia for ten years or more were clearly national events and they had to be well documented in the National Library.

At first, the Library did not need to make a special effort, as a lot of Australian material comes to the Library automatically. Under the legal deposit provisions of the Copyright Act, it is entitled to copies of all items published in Australia. So from 1980 onwards law reports, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and eventually books referring to the Chamberlain Case poured into the Library and were dispersed among its collections. Much of that published material remains indispensable for anyone studying the Chamberlain Case.

Away from the mainstream, however, many publications were produced in small numbers, using cheap printing or duplication methods, by local organisations and individuals. Depositing copies in a library would not have occurred to many of them and libraries had to hunt for such works and cajole the publishers into giving us copies. In 1986, for instance, the National Library wrote to the Chamberlain Information Service at Cooranbong seeking copies of its Azaria Newsletter. [ Little Darwin specifically mentioned this publication in a previous post.] Nothing happened for a year or so, but eventually the Service sent copies and suggested the Library also approach the Chamberlain support groups throughout the country. It provided a list of 18 addresses and letters were duly written. Some groups had vanished, but several responded and the result was a series of acquisitions which have continued right up to the present day.

In seeking material from the support groups the Library unwittingly was shifting its focus from publications to archival records, including records of a private and personal nature. These bodies were willing to transfer newsletters, circulars, leaflets and newspaper cuttings, but they also offered correspondence, financial records and tape recordings. These collections documented not only the public campaigns, but also the internal workings of the groups, decision-making, the divisions and squabbles, and the relations with other groups and with Lindy and Michael Chamberlain.

Over the years, the Library received about a dozen substantial collections of Chamberlain support groups. In Queensland, for instance, Betty Hocking transferred the archives of the National Freedom Council, formerly the Plea for Justice Committee. In Melbourne Phyllis Boyd passed over papers that she and her husband, the sculptor Guy Boyd, had accumulated, particularly relating to their petition “A Plea for Mercy” and their lobbying of politicians and other public figures. Liz Noonan in Adelaide transferred many papers of the Northern Territory support group, including legal papers, correspondence, records of meetings of the group, tape recordings and publications.

These individuals and groups often suggested other people who might have retained records. An important personal collection was assembled by Norman Young, who is speaking at this conference. He passed over 51 volumes of transcripts of the two inquests, the trial and the Royal Commission, as well as correspondence, scientific papers and other material. Although the transcripts are not unique, the convenience for research of having all this material together in the Library is enormous and this collection has attracted an exceptional number of researchers to our reading room.

The archives of the Boyds and some of the other supporters contained letters of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain. However, for some reason the Library was slow in asking the Chamberlains about their own papers. It was Lindy Chamberlain herself who in 1992 phoned the Library and asked whether it had any interest in her papers. She said she had only destroyed a few papers and had kept a great deal of correspondence, material relating to the trial and hearings, papers relating to her autobiography and the filming of Evil Angels. She said it was a large collection, the equivalent of four filing cabinets. This would indeed be a large collection, as personal archives go, but in fact the collection finally acquired by the Library was three or four times larger.

A colleague and I visited Cooranbong in 1992 and did a quick survey of the papers. We did not really know what to expect, as personal archives are often much smaller or much larger than we imagined from initial conversations. In this case, we could see immediately that the papers were extensive. They were mostly on the floor, some in boxes, others just heaps of loose papers, with letters mixed up with cuttings, leaflets, and an array of objects, some of which were to end up in the National Museum. In a short visit it was hard to assess the value of such a disorganised archive, but it did seem to us that it documented in detail a family tragedy and in addition public attitudes towards the Chamberlains and the public campaigns to secure Lindy’s release and exoneration.

When I returned to Cooranbong several months later, I found that the archive had largely been transformed. A large quantity of the papers had been filed, each file had a sticker with a summary of the contents, and they had been put in alphabetical order in boxes. The files were colourful, as Lindy had colour coded her correspondence. Letters addressed to her were in blue folders, letters addressed jointly to Lindy and Michael were in red folders, letters to her parents were in green folders and so on. In addition, the files were divided into specials and ordinaries. The filing, annotating and classifying by Lindy Chamberlain and her parents involved a huge amount of work and greatly enhanced the usability and the research value of the archives. It meant that we now had a good idea of the range and content of the material that we were acquiring.

The papers were received in instalments over a period of five years. They form a much larger and wide-ranging archive than we had envisaged when we first visited Cooranbong. They occupy 179 boxes. The figure may not mean much, but as a rough guide about 600 letters can fit in a box, so the quantity of papers is considerable. The bulk of the papers date from 1980 to 1990, but there are a few from Lindy’s earlier years and a fair number from the 1990s.

At the heart of the archives are the letters, cards and notes exchanged between members of the family, access to which is restricted. There are many other personal letters from friends and associates, witnesses and lawyers in the case, and leading figures in the support groups. There are an array of special documents: notes written by Lindy during the trial and in gaol, prison memorabilia. The tapes and drafts of Through My Eyes are of considerable importance, as are Lindy’s annotations of a series of scripts for the film Evil Angels. Other papers include trial transcripts, correspondence with the Chamberlain Information Service, cutting books and other papers compiled by relatives and friends, and files relating to book tours and lecture tours.

Correspondence makes up the bulk of the archive. We have often said there are 20,000 letters but we have not counted them and the number could be much higher. Some of the letters are from well-known and influential figures, such as politicians and lawyers, or from scientists, park rangers and other kinds of experts. Some were written by people who had met the Chamberlains or known them in earlier years. Most were written by strangers, who felt forced to write because they were convinced of Lindy’s innocence, or because they were disturbed by the judicial process, or because they considered her guilty, or because they had originally thought she was guilty and had changed their minds.

Here are a few opening lines taken at random out of a couple of the boxes: I am not exactly sure how to begin this letter, as I have never been inclined to write a fan letter before... I am reading Bryson’s account of the events surrounding the loss of your daughter and I feel compelled to write to you to express my support and admiration...Myself and my Auntie feel you are not guilty, you were used to make a big story to sell papers...Here is one person who no longer believes you are guilty of murder.. I have just been watching you on Sixty Minutes...Our family was grief-stricken by the jury’s decision today...I feel like I already know you, I saw the movie, read the book Evil Angels (an American correspondent) .

Many of these letters and cards are short and simple and repetitive. Considered as individual documents, they could easily be dismissed by historians as worthless. But as part of a huge accumulation they achieve historical significance. Taken as a whole, they provide tangible evidence of the private arguments and discussions that the Chamberlain Case engendered, as distinct from the arguments and claims in the media. Moreover, some of the letters are lengthy and dwell on the writers’ experiences, ideas and prejudices in relation to the courts, the police, politicians, the media, churches, as well as less tangible matters such as family relationships, bereavement, and behaviour. The papers therefore say a lot about Australians in the 1980s, as well as about the Chamberlains and the Chamberlain Case.

Quite often correspondents began their letters by saying they hardly ever wrote letters but felt compelled to write. Collections of papers held in public institutions tend to have been written or assembled by people who were powerful, comfortably off, highly literate and with a fair degree of self-confidence. Such people are represented in the Chamberlain Papers, but so are people from humble background and remote localities, who often had trouble expressing themselves, but who had strong beliefs, fears and prejudices. They usually wrote by hand, or on old typewriters, using a great variety of stationery. I think in years to come historians and other researchers will be grateful that Lindy Chamberlain kept their letters, as well as all the other papers, and offered them to the Library. In 1989, the year after her conviction was quashed, the World Wide Web came into existence and over the next decade it drastically changed the ways people communicate with each other. I suspect that the Chamberlain Papers will turn out to be one of the last of the great collections of personal papers assembled in Australia.
*Graeme Powell, now retired , was manuscript librarian at the National Library of Australia, a position he first occupied in 1969. From 1979 to 1987 he was in charge of the Australian Joint Copying Project in London. While working in the Australian High Commission he was involved in the attempt to transfer to Australia the assent copy of the 1900 Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act. (Thanks to the National Library and author for permission to run this important document relating to a major Territory and national case.)

Monday, June 11, 2012


Screen grab shows Media pack reflected in glass doors of the Darwin Magistrates' Court. Mrs Chamberlain -Creighton said there had been some "skunks " in the media over the years of her ordeal and the ABC streamer said Rupert Murdoch had been branded a liar at the Leveson Inquiry .


At the end of the coronial hearing, a copy of Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton’s autobiography, first published 1990, the blurb stating it tells of the justice system that betrayed her, was produced from a plastic bag by her American husband. It was taken to the bar table and inscriptions penned by people involved in the marathon case. One of those who signed the book was her lawyer, Stuart Tipple, who wore a red tie with a dingo pattern . Another was former barrister , John Bryson, author of Evil Angels , made into the film, A Cry In The Dark, starring Meryl Streep. Bryson was one of those hugged by Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton.

Outside the court , Bryson said the appellate courts of the land –Federal and High Court- had failed the Chamberlains. There had been plenty of opportunities for the courts to have stepped in and prevented the ordeal from going on and on, he said .

During the long running saga, the Northern Territory News savaged Bryson in an editorial , on March 21, 1987 , responding to southern criticism of the Territory . Bryson, it said, had written a lurid and a patently inaccurate account which had been run prominently in several southern newspapers about “ the heartlessness of the Northern Territory’s politicians and police and the events leading to Mrs Chamberlain’s release.” It declared his book should be thrown into the nearest dustbin and forgotten. The paper vowed it would challenge his “fabrications.”

The editorial went on to say Mrs Chamberlain had been given every possible avenue to prove her innocence. “Fair go”, it continued, may not mean a great deal to southern critics of Territory justice, but it clearly meant something for Territorians. Never had there been such a vitriolic attack on the conduct of justice by a State or on the Federal Courts or on a police force as had occurred in this case.

The editorial said southern critics did not know what they were talking about and indicated they had been carried away by emotional hysteria or were plainly incapable of looking at the facts dispassionately . Looking through a mass of media clippings about the case , you see inspiration for more books, ideas for follow ups, new angles, odd comments and claims, indications of a growing xenophobic attitude to them thar southerners.

Blinking nervously, NT Attorney-General, Rob Knight, himself having been attacked by Territory wildlife- aggressive plovers outside the Wedding Cake - told the media the NT Government would not be offering an apology to the Chamberlains-then slipped into election mode. Strangely, CLP leader, Terry Mills , did not offer an apology to the family despite the fact that his party was in power throughout the bulk of the case. It was up to the current ALP government to do so, he said. It seems the affair could come back and bite a few people at the ballot box .

Sunday, June 10, 2012

RETURN OF THE BLACK KNIGHT -The Pete Steedman Chronicles

Veteran campaigners, innovative publishers and activists in Australia and overseas, Pete Steedman and Phillip Frazer, who have taken on powerful interests throughout much of their lives , recently reunited over a drop of red at Pete’s hideaway in the soggy hills outside Melbourne.

Steedman is back in town ! News of Pete Steedman’s return in late 1972 reverberated throughout Melbourne , Canberra and beyond , in academic , media , political, police and national security circles , no doubt resulting in a variety of reactions- surprise, twitching, muttering and delight. When he had left Melbourne for swinging London as a freelance journalist in 1969 he was almost a household name because of his strong stand against involvement in the Vietnam War and conscription when he was editor of the university papers, Lot’s Wife and Farrago , at the time supposedly studying economics and politics.

He had been railed against by the Right in parliament, received death threats , and the Federal government had even explored the possibility of bringing in special legislation to charge him with sedition . His editorship of a new national political weekly BROADSIDE had been too boisterous for its conservative backers, the Melbourne Age, which pulled and pulped two editions. Broadside’s stirring adventures in comic form of a whip wielding shapely damsel called FABULA in thinly disguised Canberra and other corridors of power had caused uproar, also intense reader interest.

Leaving the pyrotechnics and flak behind , Steedman took the overland route to the British capital , meeting up with his partner, Julie Reiter , in India ,their adventures and misadventures covered in earlier Little Darwin posts . Also covered was the hilarious and dangerous trip Pete and Julie made in a dodgy Bedford van from London to Morocco with architect Peter Burleigh whose Bulldust Diary , complete with his distinctive illustrations, is currently running in Little Darwin . After packing about five lifetimes of incredible adventures into a few years in London, Pete and Julie decided to return to Melbourne.

With Julie expecting and Gough Whitlam about to be elected, giving birth to a new feeling of jubilation in the nation , Steedman began work as Publishing Manager for Stockland Press , a conservative company whose shareholders were members of the farming community. With his extensive experience in publishing here and London , abreast of the new web offset printing system , he was brimming with ideas . In town was his co-editor from the university newspaper days , former medical / arts student majoring in politics , Phillip Frazer. Frazer had founded the weekly teen pop magazine , Go-Set ,which had a circulation of 70,000 , and a permanent staff of 25 in four capital cities . Other publications Frazer brought out were Revolution, High Times ,The Digger.

A major coup for Frazer was the Australian edition of Rolling Stone , first run as a supplement in Revolution in 1970, then as a separate magazine in 1972. (Frazer went to New York in 1976 and became an editor of Seven Days, a U.S. alternative newsmagazine, then worked on other U.S. political magazines including The Nation, the anti-nuclear power organization No-Nukes, and in 1981-82 edited Ralph Nader’s Multinational Monitor. In the 1990s he published the liberal Washington Spectator newsletter, and published, edited and wrote the environment newsletter News on Earth. In 1999 he founded, and has since published and co-edited the newsletter The Hightower Lowdown with Texan Jim Hightower. The Lowdown, with more than 100,000 paying subscribers, is one of the biggest circulation political publications in the US, notable for its criticism of the Bill Clinton , George W.Bush and Barack Obama administrations for being beholden to corporations and a corporatist ideology. Little Darwin has carried a Hightower profile and intends to post further interesting comments by him , many of which appear on Nation of Change - Progressive Journalism for Positive Change - that are relevant to growing issues of importance to Australia , ranging from Afghanistan to banks and Monsanto . )

Frazer had recommended Steedman to the Stockland Managing Director , Mike Woods, a farmer ,who was wanting to expand the business and needed new ideas and someone to implement them. He had grown to like Frazer and was infatuated with the characters Frazer introduced. Woods and Steedman drew up loose plans for changes in the company and how to move Stockland on to bigger and better things. Frazer and Steedman considered they had “captured” a company that gave a chance for the expansion of Frazers operations.

When Steedman started at Stockland he did an audit of all their operations and found it was a good company, but too small to survive the consolidations that were about to happen. They didn't believe him, within a couple of years of him leaving they were taken over. The printery basically consisted of two businesses-one using the old style hot metal letterpress production, the other the versatile new web offset technique. There was no way he could rationalise this situation as it would mean the end for the half dozen employees working with metal. To keep them in work , he devised a scheme of getting out of print and copyright Australiana , regional histories ,that would appeal to the 20,000 subscribers in the rural paper, Stock and Land, that was the major publishing task of the company.

At the same time, he made increasing use of offset, a process that Stockland were only just learning about. Steedman got rid of small run print jobs and some religious publications that the company had carried for years and brought in university papers, ethnic publications , Frazer's The Digger. The political and satirical weekly , Nation Review, called The Ferret (lean and nosey), was also printed at Stocklands , launched in 1970 by independent publisher Gordon Barton who opposed the Vietnam War along with Steedman. Contributors included cartoonist Michael Leunig, Germaine Greer, Phillip Adams, Mungo MacCallum , Sam Orr. A separate company- Peelprint – managed by Steedman, was set up to print all the “radical publications.”

Monopolistic distribution companies made it difficult for new publishing ventures to establish themselves in Australia , greatly reducing their circulation and profitability.
Steedman put a lot of thought and effort into trying to create a new distribution network. His grand plan was to have publications come off the Stockland presses , pass through a hole in the wall to an adjoining property where they would be bundled up and picked up by trucks using a rear lane , eventually delivered to outlets other than newsagents –milk bars and other shops. He bought the terrace house next to the printery but the plan did not come to fruition.

Gregarious, he mixed with people from all walks of life- journalists, DJs , actors , politicians ,musos , unionists , even Anglican minister Peter Hollingworth , later a bishop and a Governor –General of Australia . Hollingworth , in the Brotherhood of St Lawrence , consulted Steedman when he approached Stockland to print a book he had written about the poor and underprivileged in Melbourne. It was to be called Always With Us, reflecting the saying that the poor are always with us. Steedman strongly stated the title meant nothing and would not sell. It was renamed The Powerless Poor , went into two editions and then paperback. Forthright, with a kind of crash through or crash attitude similar to PM Gough Whitlam, Steedman was larger than life, interested in fast cars , motorbikes and black leather jackets.

ENTER CYCLONE TRACY . On December 26, 1974 , Steedman received a call from a friend who had been seconded to the Social Security Department to set up systems to cope with a disaster which at that stage nobody knew much about. Steedman was specifically contacted because of his expertise in communications and was asked to design a system to service the thousands of people that were expected to be evacuated from the cyclone destroyed city of Darwin. As a result, he was made a welfare officer and brought out a paper called the Darwin Newsletter , at first printed at Stockland Press , for refugees scattered throughout the nation, with an eventual circulation of 20,000.[See THE CYCLONIC NEWSPAPER PAPER in Little Darwin , December 10, 2010.] The Darwin Disaster Welfare Council also asked him to write a report on the social , economic and political effects of the cyclone and the response of administration to the disaster.

After spending nine months in Darwin , during which he said he went a bit “troppo”, he returned to Melbourne and enrolled at Latrobe University to take a post-graduate degree in media and communications . While in Darwin, Steedman’s wife, Julie, had enrolled as a mature age student in Ceramics at the Caulfield Institute of Technology (CIT). Steedman planned how, on his return to Melbourne, he could fit in with Julie’s new involvement . As all jobs at academic institutions had as a prerequisite- a degree- and since he had spent many years at two universities without picking up a piece of paper, he figured that he may have to upgrade.

The newly opened LaTrobe University had a special entrance into the post graduate B.Ed that took into account subjects passed as well as industry experience. On this basis he was accepted at the university . Since the course was basically what he’d been doing for over 10 years, he was able to do the two year course in one with high distinctions. He commented at the time that he had either suddenly gotten a lot smarter, or the education system had deteriorated significantly. He opted for the latter.

When the opportunity arose , he applied for the position of Promotions Officer for CIT and was soon made the head of a new Department of Information and Promotions, with a brief to increase student enrolments and develop a corporate image . In the first year, the intake increased by 43 percent and subsequent increases made CIT one of the most preferred places in the Victorian tertiary system. Steedman segmented his market and aimed literature at potential students, parents and the business community. He had an intense fight with many academics, especially those from Science and Engineering who felt they were being “cheapened” as academics and were being “sold like cornflakes”. Bluntly, he told them it was his way or they would have no jobs in the new year as enrolment numbers in those disciplines were minimal and decreasing. His three year campaign consolidated CIT as one of the major educational institutions in Victoria and it later merged with Monash University. He had saved jobs, revitalized an institution and created a new method of “selling’ education.”His approach was not to just "get bums on seats " but to educate kids and line up job prospects . His drive and forthright manner of expression perturbed some, but he achieved remarkable results.

At last month's launch of University Unlimited, the history of Monash University , thinly thatched Professor John Sinclair and Steedman were photographed with a page open showing them working on the university magazine, Lot’s Wife, back in 1966. Young Steedman , the editor, in black T-shirt, is described as a mixture of James Dean and Elvis. Sinclair , assistant editor, looks studious and more kempt. During the launch , playwright David Williamson recalled having once tried in a pub to “save” a girl upon whom Steedman was putting the hard word –but she did not want to be saved . NEXT : Steedman’s new baby the Labor newspaper.