Captain of Solitude

I am delighted to announce, after more years than I can tally, that I now have the first published copies of my book, Captain of Solitude, in my hands. I only ordered a small number to begin with, (for checking) but I have fifty more on the way, and will be re-ordering some more soon. The books are ‘publish-on-demand’ through Amazon U.S., the answer to my pointless attempts to get funding over the years.

The book is also available as an e-book in Kindle, ibooks and other on-line suppliers. Interested parties can order their own print on demand through Amazon, but I suggest that they purchase directly through me, as it is cheaper (no Amazon royalty) and nets me a little more in consequence.

I can be contacted at desertdreams@mac.com and I can process credit cards or take pay-pal payments. The book tells the story of Captain Collet Barker’s time in Australia, and ends with the dramatic confrontation at the Murray Mouth in 1831. It is approximately A4 in size, with colour photographs taken during my research. It sells for AU$40, plus any postage and packing required.

This section of the book reproduced below explains the journey I undertook to arrive at this satisfactory conclusion.

The Search for Collet Barker

My fascination with Collet Barker’s story as an officer of the 39th Regiment in Australia began in a primary school class, in 1956. It was Grade four, at Grange Primary School. Mrs Renfrey obviously loved her history. A large relief map of South Australia would be displayed at the front of the class, and Mrs Renfrey was able to relate the exploits of Captain Flinders as he mapped the southern coast in 1802, and to point specifically to the locations he observed and named on that expedition. She also told us about Flinders’ meeting with the French expedition of Captain Baudin, at the place they named Encounter Bay in commemoration of the occasion.


The next exciting chapter of South Australian history she related to us concerned Captain Charles Sturt’s journey down the river Murray, in 1828-29, and again we were able to follow Sturt’s adventures on the giant relief map. We learnt of the exhilarating journey of discovery as the party boated downstream, and a little of his interaction with the Aboriginal tribes during the trip. We also learnt of the laborious return upriver, rowing against the current for a thousand miles, all but blinded by the reflection of the sun off the water.


We then heard about the death of Captain Collet Barker, by spearing, at the mouth of the Murray. The details were sparse, but we were told that Mount Barker Summit, in the Adelaide Hills, was named after him, as was the town which sprang up in its shadow.


This was where my interest was really fired up, as I had been born at Mount Barker, and lived in the nearby village of Littlehampton for the first year or two of my life. We had moved to Whyalla for a while, and then to Grange, but were gradually circling our way back to Littlehampton, where my mother had inherited a fifty acre farm.


I excitedly told the class of my contacts with Mount Barker, and how I lived on Sturt Street in Grange, and I was fascinated to learn of the way some places get their names from the historical figures of the past. I remember doing a drawing of Captain Barker struggling up the steep face of Mount Barker, in the mistaken belief that he had done such a thing.


We moved to the Littlehampton farm during mid 1956, and the crown of Mount Barker Summit was visible from the front verandah. The wooded reserve of the summit became everyone’s favourite picnic spot and look-out over the years.


In 1983 the Mount Barker Council commissioned Bob Schmidt, a local high school teacher, to write a history of the Mount Barker district. The book, Mountain Upon The Plain, gives a brief summary of Barker’s death in the opening chapter, including Charles Sturt’s moving summation of Barker’s death and his tribute to him.


It was Sturt who named the mount after his friend. Sturt had spied the mount during his journey downstream, but because he had no working chronometer, he thought he was looking at Mount Lofty, as named by Flinders. It was Barker who proved that there were two mountains, when he climbed Mount Lofty and saw the other mountain blocking the view to the lakes.


Although Schmidt referred to Barker being previously involved with duties in Western Australia, and of having a good relationship with the natives there, little more was shed on the background or origins of Barker.


In 1984 there was a bitter and protracted battle about a decision to place a communications tower on Mount Barker. I was opposed to the tower, as were other local environmentalists; and Aboriginal activists and the union movement also got involved. A compromise, which still saw the intrusion of a large tower on the summit was eventually reached. Although the result was disappointing, the revelation that Aboriginal people have had, and still have a cultural association with the summit was firmly established.


In 1988 on a trip through the Northern Territory, I wandered into a remote Aboriginal Community to visit a nephew who was working there. I stayed for two years, and became the Arts Administrator. It was a wonderful experience to work with the traditional Anmatjerre and Warlpiri people of the Yuelamu Community

at Mount Allan Station. I still have links with the community, and my website, desertdreams.com.au has information and artworks about this period.


In 1992, back in the Adelaide Hills, I heard a radio interview on Radio National, with a Western Australian academic called Neville Green. He and prehistorian John Mulvaney had transcribed the journals of Collet Barker, written during his eleven months as Commandant of the Raffles Bay settlement in the Northern Territory, from September 1828, until August 1829; they also transcribed his journals from his time at King Georges Sound in Western Australia, (modern Albany) from November 1829 until March 1831.


These journals languished in the vaults for over one hundred and fifty years, unread, because of the almost illegible scrawl they were written in. Green and Mulvaney projected the microfiche of Barker’s journals onto a screen as they laboriously transcribed the entries.


Finally they produced a fine book, called Commandant Of Solitude: The Journals of Captain Collet Barker, 1828 – 1831.


Needless to say, I immediately tracked this book down. I thought that the story was so fascinating that it was worthy of a film script, and I set about researching what I could about the places Barker had spent his time at during his Australian duties. I spent time on Croker Island, with the Iwaidja people, and hired a small boat to journey across Bowen Strait to find the remnants of the Fort Wellington settlement on the Coburg Penninsula.
I flew to Albany in Western Australia, and familiarised myself with the places Barker describes in his journals. I spent time in their history centre, and met members of the Noongah people there.


Eventually, I decided that Barker’s story was more suited to a historical novel, and this book is the result of all that research.


Barker’s obvious rapport with the Iwaidja of Coburg Peninsula and the Mineng, (a subgroup of the Noongah people of the south-west) comes through strongly in his journals. I have drawn on his descriptions, and on my own adventures with my friends in the centre to tell hopefully, an entertaining and educational story.


I have taken some obvious liberties with dialogue, self reflections, and ‘dream like’ perceptions, (some of which I have taken from my own experiences) and I have invented some scenes because of there being no written account by Barker, but which are of obvious importance, such as farewells to the people when he departed.


As well as the Mulvaney/Green book, I have drawn on some other invaluable sources in compiling my story. Surgeon Braidwood Wilson became a close friend of Barker’s when he made his way to Raffles Bay after being shipwrecked in Torres Strait. He accompanied Barker during his transfer to King Georges Sound, and named Mount Barker in Western Australia after his friend when he spent a week exploring with Mokare, later to become Barker’s closest guide and conduit.


Wilson had served on convict ships, ensuring that the prisoners arrived in Australia in good health, and he wrote up his memoirs in a book called Narrative of a Voyage Round the World. His time spent with Barker includes incidents Barker has not included in his journals, such as the children on Croker Island calling “Comm’dant, Comm’dant” even though they had never met him, reflecting the high regard in which Barker was held.
I have also drawn on the memoirs of Edith Hassell, the wife of a grazier in the south-west during the 1870s and 1880s. Edith wrote a book called My Dusky Friends, which provided more invaluable information about Noongah lifestyle and beliefs.


History in Portraits, Biographies of nineteenth century South Australian Aboriginal people, edited by Jane Simpson and Luise Hercus, and Kangaroo Island, 1800 – 1836, by John Cumpston provided important information about Aboriginal people and white sealers on Kangaroo Island. The voyage to Marege’ : Macassan trepangers in Northern Australia by C.C. Macknight provided valuable information about the Macassan trepangers.

The statement by “Fireball” Bates to the Advertiser concerning the investigation into Barker’s death is not verbatim, but is true in its content.
The massacre described at the beginning of the book is in my own words, but true in every respect as witnesses attested to at the enquiry held at the time. The story of the raid, revealed at the inquest held days later, was obtained from Historical Records of Australia.


In general, most of the events described in this book are taken directly from Barker’s journals.


Finally, I have attempted to tell the story of Captain Collet Barker and his accomplishments in Australia, in particular of his enlightened relationship with the Aboriginal people he engaged with; but if I have also conveyed something of the rich culture and relationship to the land of the Aboriginal people, I am sure that it would please Captain Collet Barker very much.

Statement From The Heart

The Uluru Statement From The Heart is  the most important, and most certainly the most unifying document ever to emerge from the Indigenous people of Australia. Following the profound disappointments of the past 15 to 20 years, which included John Howard’s abolishment of ATSIC, (aided and abetted by right-wing thug Mark Latham) and his subsequent ruthless application of the ‘Intervention’, the treatment of Indigenous people in the country seemed to have taken some giant leaps backwards.

Howard was delighted when Latham, as the leader of the opposition,  demanded that the Government abolish ATSIC, and he did so soon after. ATSIC was established by the Hawke Government and passed into legislation in 1989 under Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gerry Hand.  It was of course, opposed by the Conservative opposition of the time. ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Commission) was not perfect, but it gave a  voice to Indigenous people throughout the country. I have covered the history of ATSIC and the Intervention in this previous blog https://wp.me/pDrbM-gl  so I will not go into these subjects here, but suffice to say that Aboriginal Australia has few friends in the conservative side of politics, and that the Labor Party  did little to nothing to reverse Howard’s destructive policies when it governed from 2007 to 2013.

Back into the hands of the  the Abbott Government, the contempt continued, and I was fast losing hope as the continuation of the intervention, cuts to the Indigenous budget, and the withdrawal of support funding for remote homelands settlements peppered the Abbott period. Malcom Turnbull’s overthrow of Abbot gave some hope for a more enlightened approach, but whatever Turnbull stood for personally was never revealed publicly, as he kow-towed to the right wing rabble in his party.

I was not hopeful, therefore, when the summit at the Yulara Resort was convened in 2017; not only because of doubts about support from the Liberal Party, but because of internal divisions within the Indigenous people themselves.

One of the main divisions for example, emanates from the wish of a considerable body of the Indigenous voice for a declaration of sovereignty from white rule. I thought this division would prevent any consensus emerging from the conference. To my delight the eminently sensible and sober Uluru Statement From The Heart emerged.

Within days it was dismissed by Malcolm Turnbull as a ‘third voice to the Parliament’, which was not true, as it asked only for an advisory role on any legislation which could be construed as having an effect on Aboriginal people. The most comprehensive statement, issued by the most eminent gathering of Aboriginal people in the nation’s history, was slapped aside with contempt.

To their credit, the Labor Party had promised to accept the Uluru statement had they won the recent election, but their unexpected loss sees the country stuck in the same old condescending morass towards the indigenous people they have been relegated to for the past two hundred plus years.

Here is a link to the background and the process leading up to the Uluru Statement, it’s release, and the subsequent reaction.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uluru_Statement_from_the_Heart

In an upcoming blog I shall draw on research to illustrate the deep spiritual connections to Uluru as recorded and documented by Charles Mountford from the 1940’s to the 1960’s.

 

The Creation Stories of Uluru.

From the mid 1940’s until the 1960’s, Charles Mountford spent time with the Pitjantjatjara, travelling extensively with camels across their land, documenting their way of life, and collecting examples of their art. His crowning achievement was the extensive research he did at Uluru with surviving initiated elders, who were familiar with all the stories. He photographed the important sites associated with these stories, and his efforts now provide the most comprehensive and thorough documentation of the Uluru creation stories.

The creation of the southern face was brought about by the battle between the Liru (poisonous snakes) and the Kunia, (carpet snakes). The sand lizard Linga, and the sleepy lizard Metalunga were also involved in adventures which shaped the Rock’s creation.

Most of the northern and north/west corner was formed by the Mala, (hare wallaby) along with the Linga, Tjinderi-Tjinderibi, (Willy wagtail) and her children the Yulanya.

A ‘spirit’ dingo, called Kulpunya also contributed to the creation of the north-north-western face when he attacked the Mala men there, despite the efforts of Lunba, the kingfisher woman, to warn them of the approaching danger.

TOMMY

It’s been nearly thirty years since I lost Tommy. Despite that, I still have dreams about him. I dream that he hasn’t come home. I fret about him, but then he turns up; and strangely, it’s to the home where I now live, and Tommy never lived here. I get this wonderful relief, and wonder why I was so worried. Tommy always turns up. Then I wake up, and my old mate is long gone again. Despite his spectral presence, I haven’t told his story. Here it is.

I used to run a taxi service from my little country town. I’d pick up regular and irregular passengers from various spots in the Adelaide Hills, and I was always keen to see who I would meet, and what adventures might unfold. It was when I was picking up a regular, a lady who I used to ferry from her little dot on the map, to another little dot on the map, where she would do a fortnightly clean of her elderly parent’s house, when I first laid eyes on Tommy.

“Wow. What a great looking dog.”

“He’s been hanging around here for a couple of days now,” Margie told me. “Perhaps he got out of someone’s car, and they’ll come back for him.”

He certainly was a special example of dogdom. Possibly a cross between a labrador and a kelpie, he was black and trim, with feet that barely  touched the ground; a pair  of gravity-defying ears providing the magic force which kept him suspended between earth and sky.

“Give me a call if he’s still here in  a day or two.”

And that’s how Tommy, (somehow I knew straight away that was his name) after a little coaxing, jumped into the back of my cab, and into my life.

As well as having a wonderful inquisitive and friendly nature, it soon became apparent that Tommy was a dog of boundless energy (although bounding is what he did plenty of). He would race for a thrown tennis ball at lightning speed, often catching the ball on the first bounce, at the top of the bounce, with a snap of his jaws, and returning it soggily to his trained servant.

If there was no ball available, a stick did the job. Tommy also enjoyed a challenge. I could throw a ball into the longest grass, with Tommy unsighted, and he would criss-cross the terrain at lightning speed with his nose radar, and return panting for more in no time. (We fortunately had a large yard).

As much as I liked to walk with Tommy, what he really loved was the evenings I would trundle along the nearby dirt road up a steep hill in my battered old four wheel drive Toyota ute, with him running alongside. There were a couple of dams along this track, and a decent throw with a stick or ball saw Tommy leap into the water and power to his target with the same enthusiasm as his land based fetches.

This was a dog with a zest for life. No workmen could tarry on the footpath without Tommy inserting his friendly vibe. These were the days when a dog in a little country town had some freedom, so Tommy soon got to know most of the neighbours. He particularly befriended a couple who lived on the other side of the road to us, who had a couple of young girls.

When I was out with my taxi, Tommy stayed home or visited this couple. It was also the place he escaped to when I upset him, as I did one day. It hurts to recall this day, but firstly a neighbour told me that Tommy had been chasing her chooks. Then Tommy killed one of our chooks. Obviously this had to be nipped in the bud.

I read somewhere that you could hang the dead chook on their collar for a few days to cure them. I also read that if you gave the offending dog a good belting with the dead chook it would cure him. Believe me when I say that it hurt me as much as it hurt Tommy, but that’s what I forced myself to do. He ran off to sulk with the neighbours, and an hour or two later came home as pally as ever. From that day on, he never even saw a chook.

Tommy also liked to go for a ride in a car. It didn’t really matter whose car it was. If a visiting friend paused when opening their car door as they were about to leave, Tommy would leap in; and if they were true friends they would take him for a little drive before they departed.

One day Tommy disappeared. We fretted for days, thinking we had seen the last of him, when he reappeared  with a large gaping wound in his haunch, possibly indicating that he had been caught up in a fence. The vet attended to him, and we had to subject him to that great ignobility of wearing a bucket around his neck to stop him licking the wound. A dog’s life indeed.

My parents owned a small farm nearby, although they did not live there, and we used to go there to throw hay out to their cattle, much to Tommy’s delight. Here too was a variety of things which could be flung, and Tommy would clear fences with a single bound chasing sticks, with not the slightest awareness of the barbed wire wounding him as he passed. It is salutary that a dog doesn’t feel pain in such a situation.

Children were added over the years to the family which Tommy began, and one day as we were returning from the farm, I got a bright idea. We were crossing the unused railway line which ran past the farm and continued around the bend, eventually running behind the house where we lived.

“Why don’t you and Tommy walk home along the railway line Douglas? I’ll meet you at the other end.”

Off they went. But halfway back home, I remembered that there was a portion of the line which crossed a creek, a considerable distance below; and that this crossing had sleepers with gaps between them. We raced to where the line met the road, and I walked quickly to the crossing from the other end. There was no sign of Tommy or Douglas. I ran back to the car and drove towards the farm, when we spotted Douglas at a house beside  the line they had found their way to. A kindly couple were about to run Douglas and Tommy home and Tommy was ensconced on the back seat ready to go. He was so pissed off when he had to get out and ride back with us.

One day I realised that something very strange was happening to my mate. His appearance was changing, so slowly that it was unseen, until the day it suddenly hit home. One half of his head was slowly wasting away. One side had all the muscle and flesh as normal, while the other was down to the bone. The vet said that he had probably damaged a nerve when fighting with another dog, and that the damage was probably permanent.

This was very sad. There was no change in his personality, but he was a very strange looking dog indeed. Then imperceptively, as the problem had developed, one day I realised that it was going away, and gradually, his head was back to normal.

These were different times, and I can quite understand the controls on free roaming dogs which apply these days; but it was not unusual in those days for me to return from an early trip to the airport, and while passing through the nearby town, spot Tommy and a collection of other dogs answering the ‘call of the wild’ and vying for its affection.

I’d give him a call, he’d jump in the car and be chauffeured home.

The greatest trauma of all was still to unfold however. One day I heard a shot, followed by a series of yelps. I looked out the rear window in the direction of the sounds. From the house on the other side of the railway line in the slope below the house, I saw Tommy making his way towards home in an erratic course. When he arrived I could see that one of his eyes was a bloodied pulp.

I put him in the car, and raced to the nearest vet, expecting him to drop dead at any moment, but encouraged that he didn’t. The vet said that it appeared the bullet had smashed the eye then glanced off without entering the head. It was a traumatic time for all, but fortunately the neighbour moved on, and despite Tommy misjudging the occasional ball and having it bounce off his nose sometimes, he was soon back to his old self, though disfigured somewhat.

Over the years, despite changes in lifestyle, Tommy was the reliable and constant companion. He grew older, as dogs do. When circumstances led to me renting out the house, and taking off for the red centre, of course he had to come with me. But the outback, beautiful as it might be, is a harsh place, and a friendly loving pooch like Tommy suddenly finds that every other dog wants to kill you.

It was at William Creek, a corrugated iron pub, a phone box, (is it still there?)  a road used for a landing strip, and a population of six where the first outback dogs circled the campfire menacingly, teeth flashing, and their deep-throated growls signalling their resentment to intruders. Smaller and older than these mulga-muscled beasts, I was very careful to see that Tommy was kept at a safe distance from them.

Out from Marree we explored the amazing Mound Springs, where water bubbles up from under the ground from the Great Artesian Basin. Tommy had no hesitation in leaping in for a warm swim in this magic place.

Eventually we rolled into the bright colours of Alice Springs, and after a couple of weeks, out to visit a nephew of mine where he worked, at Mount Allan, a remote Aboriginal community some 300 kilometres out of town at the edge of the Tanami Desert. I was to spend the next two years there, as the arts organiser.

The nearby (only 70 kilometres) Aboriginal township of Yuendumu holds an annual sports week-end every year,  and a week after I arrived at Mount Allan, this event was due. I took Tommy along, and we slept in the back of my van at nights. Incredibly, I met up with some Aboriginal friends I had made some years earlier, when I had picked them up in the Hills in my taxi. I never thought I would ever visit their home of Yuendumu, let alone become a near neighbour.

The sports week-end was a mixture of traditional skills, (firelighting, spear throwing) and athletics, along with softball for the women, basketball, netball, and the big one; Aussie Rules Football. There was also a ‘Battle of the Sounds’  whereupon bush bands  from various settlements would play their mixture of electronic country and rock, hoping to win this coveted award.

Visiting communities would come from hundreds of kilometres away to compete, and the population of Yuendumu would swell from one thousand residents, to ten thousand; including white spectators, for a few days.

The visiting communities would each camp on the edge of town nearest to their home country. On the second day, I was walking among this huge gathering, and I realised that Tommy was no longer with me. There were hundreds of dogs to be seen, and I was at a total loss as to where to even begin looking for him.

After a half-hour or more (I had even asked a couple of cops if they had seen my dog, much to their amusement) I heard an outbreak of frenzied barking, and I spotted Tommy running for his life with a pack of dogs after him. Tommy saw the open door of a bus, and leapt in, and fortunately his pursuers didn’t follow. Unfortunately, the call of the wild, or a bitch on heat, was a life threatening scenario for this new dog in town.

Poor Tommy. We slept in my van, and I cuddled the poor old fellow  as he trembled throughout that long night. I was careful to ensure that Tommy was never in such danger again.

On the way back to Mount Allan a couple  of days later, I stopped to boil the billy. Tommy found a little clearing, where a couple of white people were sitting near their little fire.

“Shoo. Go away!” The woman said to Tommy. I approached, and told them it was Tommy, and he was nothing to worry about.

“We thought he was a wild dog.”

I looked at my old mate. Chewed up, one-eyed, and greying, he was many years away from the spritely fellow I had picked up from the road so many years ago. His friendly nature was still there, but this couple couldn’t see it.

Over the next couple of months, Tommy grew weaker. It was all he could do to follow me around. On a trip to Alice Springs, I took him to the vet. The vet convinced me that he was suffering, and that the kindest  thing to do was to put him down. I buried Tommy in the front yard of a nephew in Alice Springs.

Driving back to Mount Allan a couple of days later, there was a graded track creating a diversion from the main dirt road, under repair. As I drove along the diversion, a young black dingo darted out of the scrub. It ran in front of my van, leading the way for three or four kilometres at least. I harboured thoughts of him flopping down with exhaustion, and picking him up and taking him home with me, but eventually he deviated from the track.

I came to the conclusion that it was just Tommy, saying good-bye.

POOR BUGGER ME: Bill LEAK

 

When I heard about Bill Leak’s death, I felt a little guilty. I didn’t like the man he had become, but I certainly didn’t wish him dead. Then I heard or saw reports from numerous people I have respect for, saying what a wonderful caring and witty man he was, and in deference I removed the blog I had written about him a year ago. Then I saw The Weekend Australian, which devoted six and a half full pages to him, including the whole of the letters section and the whole of the editorial. A stranger to this country reading the Oz for the first time this week-end would be in no doubt that we had lost a figure akin to, – nay, exceeding the reputation of Nelson Mandela. Mandela’s suffering over twenty seven years in prison? Piffle!

What about the suffering of a man who had the means to attack whoever he liked (or disliked) on a daily basis, with the option of writing in his defence in that same daily, and with the editorials of the only national newspaper in the country staunchly in his favour. This poor man I will have you know, was willfully attacked for depicting Aboriginal men as ugly drunken no-hopers. He hated the Greens, the Human Rights Commission, and the Trade Unions/Labor Party. He never ever made a cartoon on behalf of refugees, or anyone on the lower rungs of life. Practically all of his cartoons over the past few years were designed to offend, rather than inform. Worse, they were not funny. Here’s the restored blog.

Poor Bill Leak. Now I’m not going to say that he was on the piss with one of the great dickheads of our time, and fell off a porch as pissed as a parrot  and damaged his brain, (particularly the bit which makes one funny) because that might not be true. It is a worry however, to see someone who is really struggling with their craft kept in the employ of the only national newspaper in the country, pouring out the drivel which he does, day after day after day. The poor man demonstrates the seriousness of his struggle when he latches onto a single idea, which he trots out for weeks, if not months on end. For example, he gets the idea that Kevin Rudd looks something like Tin-Tin, so he draws him like this for a couple of years. Hilarious!

And of course those who might or might not get on the piss with multi-millionaire wankers and fall arse-up off the toff’s porch would naturally hate the Labor Party and the trade union movement. So what could be funnier for someone who might or might not be suffering from irreparable brain damage, than to depict Bill Shorten as a puppet, operated  by a thuggish trade unionist with CFMEU stamped across his shirt. So funny! Especially the first time, and perhaps the second time and maybe the third and possibly the forth, and struggling the fifth, and perhaps not quite so hilarious the thirteenth or fourteenth time. This was Leak’s attempt to destroy Bill Shorten in the lead-up to the recent election. It failed miserably.

But would you believe it? After Malcolm Turnbull was left with egg on his face after the election, Mr Leak was so pissed off with his hero that he depicted him as King Louis XIV dressed in his fine regalia for day after day after day after day. So funny! Alas our hero was running out of funny, but then came the perfect opportunity for someone who might just be a wanker who gets full of piss at his rich mate’s mansion and falls off the porch and lands on his head to demonstrate just how superior he is to trash like the working people of Australia and those who fight for their rights, and those even lower, the Blackfellow. For it doesn’t matter how big  a wanker you are, you can always attack the Blackfellow if you need to convince yourself that you are superior to someone. And with the power of the most widely distributed newspaper in the country, it is just so easy.

Ah, but poor Bill. He has now depicted himself as the victim, being cruelly dragged off by a policeman, and delivered into the arms of a a vicious lefty (you can tell he is a lefty, because he has a beard) who is armed with a noose and a club, with a big nail in it. Almost as thuggish as those CFMEU terrorists. Keep it up Bill. Show us your pain for the next week or two as you try to think of something fresh, and new, and perhaps even funny to say.

Who knows, you may yet convince us that the real victims in our society are not the poor, not the dispossessed, not the imprisoned, but the upper class snobs who get pissed with their millionaire mates and fall off the porch and damage their brains. Not that this is what happened to you of course. I have heard you state that you were not drinking at the time, and I have no reason to doubt you. After all, that could be stereotyping.

Turnbull vies with John Kerr for drunken dummy-spit.

I was one of many Australians of the left, who really felt for Malcolm Turnbull when he was stabbed in the back by the repulsive thug Tony Abbot, and when he had the shit kicked out of him by Beetroot Barnaby as he lay bleeding. The Neanderthals in his party just couldn’t tolerate a leader who actually had some principles, so on behalf of the fossil fuel lobby the assassins brought out their daggers and bovva boots, and installed the most repugnant tool ever to sully the Australian Parliament. Eventually, owing to the self devouring antics of the Labor Party, this embarrassing imbecile was elected Prime Minister.

In no time, the Australian people realized what a cretin they had elected, and the man we had felt for, and feared we might lose those years before, had his sweet revenge. No-one felt sorry for the victim this time. It was more like the Atticus Finch moment, when he shoots the ravenous dog frothing at the mouth as he staggers down the road threatening all and sundry. Our lovable Malcolm of course, was a much nicer assassin. His money and charm had already ‘nicely’ done for Peter King, the sitting member for Wentworth when Turnbull decided he wanted that seat, (after all, his big house is there), and Brendon Nelson barely felt a thing when Malcolm glided up behind him and slit his throat with a thin blade.

But even though it meant almost certain defeat for the Labor Party, the whole country, (except for Eric Abetz, Andrew Bolt, and The Australian) was able to breathe in some fresh air after the great stench was removed. The Labor Party went from being ten points in front, to ten behind overnight, but at least we had a decent man in the Liberal Party for a change. The country waited for the sweep of change our hero would bestow on the country, but something happened. Nothing. And then nothing happened again. And nothing with a nice smile kept happening, until finally our hero thought he had better do something.

Suddenly he had an idea! He would manipulate the stupid Greens into changing the voting rules in the Senate, (those rat-bags on the cross benches had the temerity to stand up for the poor!) kick the trade unions with draconian legislation,  dissolve both Houses of Parliament, and with nothing but a smarmy smile, a three word slogan, and his manifest destiny, consolidate his birthright. But what about all those nasty policies the stench brought in? Well, our hero had actually made a Faustian pact. Refugees could still rot in the gulags. Cuts to health, education, legal aid, women’s shelters, renewable energy, climate change, (the principle he lost the leadership to all those years ago) and everything else the stench brought in, was still there.

Meanwhile, the Labor Party under Bill Shorten was doing what parties are supposed to do. Actually develop policy, put those policies forward, argue for them, and don’t assume the voters are stupid. A lot of people wrote Bill off, but I didn’t. He argued his case intelligently for eight weeks, and at the end, hit those sanctimonious pricks where they were most vulnerable. They had always hated Medicare. They tried to bring in co-payments, they froze Government support to force GPs to end bulk billing, they stopped support for pathology tests, then they boo-hooed when they were called out on it. So the party who ran a whole election in the past on an interest rate scare, another on a refugee scare, and another on the invasion of Iraq are crying foul. This brings us to the latest election ‘result’.

As much as Malcolm Turnbull knifed his opponents in the party with a degree of ‘niceness’ he was as ruthless as any other politician, particularly when he forced Peter King from Wentworth. And as much as Malcolm Turnbull has a nice smile, he has shown that he is willing to jettison all of his principles for the sake of holding the top job. And as much as Malcolm Turnbull fought against the monarchy all those years ago, he has emulated the most reprehensible representative of the monarchy, Sir John Kerr, and his red-faced drunken rant at the Melbourne Cup all those years ago, with his ill-tempered whinge on election night.

Good-bye Malcolm. You broke Australia’s heart. Welcome Bill. You showed how to run a decent campaign, and you didn’t treat us like idiots.

Crossing the Nullabor, 2014

Phew! The appropriate one-word summary of a journey across the Nullabor Plain. Our crossing was done from a Sunday to the following Saturday; i.e., seven straight days of driving, averaging something over 400 kilometres a day. There’s a lot to see on such a crossing, but as we had a week to do it in rather than a fortnight, most of it was observed rolling past. I should however, start at the beginning.

I was in ‘the west’ because I had a tale to tell about Captain Collet Barker; a presentation incorporating slides, a talk, and some songs. The venues were Albany in the south-west, where Barker had served as the Commandant of a rag-tag settlement for 16 months from 1829-31, and at Mount Barker, where a ‘mount’ and a town were named after him, a similar situation to the naming of a mountain and town in South Australia after the same man; the place where I make my home.

I had visited both places in 2006 as I researched Barker’s life, and thought it would be a fun challenge to take my presentation, which I have been fine-tuning for a couple of years, to the west, where they love their history, and then to ‘do’ the Nullabor on the way home. I had flown from Adelaide to Perth a couple of weeks before our return journey, and had my newly renovated 1989 Jackaroo shipped to Perth via the Indian Pacific train. Jan joined me, flying from Melbourne, where she had been with her son Skye, to celebrate his 40th birthday.

Perth was mild and sunny. Jan caught up with her cousin, a lonely lady in her late middle age who lives in isolation in a Perth suburb, and we met a niece of mine, Penny, and her fiancee Jim, at the Subiaco Pub, and went for pizzas afterwards, along with her workmates, who are all in the exploration side of the mining industry. Penny was working at the Granites Goldmine in the Tanami Desert when barely out of her teens, and has also worked in Botswana. She is a talented and beautiful lady, who juggles her career with the raising of two teen-aged children, at her house in Hobart Tasmania, while also living and working with Jim in Fremantle on the other side of the continent. Don’t know how she does it, but she do. They’re getting married in Freo in late December. Would be nice to make it.

A visit to King’s Park, the wonderful breathing space which overlooks the capital, and a journey to Fremantle (before realising Penny was in town) and a potter about Perth, and we were off to Mandura, 100ks south, to stay with Jan’s cousin, Ira. Husband Steve was in Kalgoorlie supervising a Karate tournament for the week-end (Steve is an accomplished teacher and exponent; a black belt I believe) so it was a pity not to catch up with him on this trip. We did, however have a pleasant evening with Luke, Ira’s son, and his wife Lisa and the newly born Isabelle. Ira’s daughter Elyse, partner Ryan, and son and daughter Taj and Em were also there.

On the Saturday I showed my presentation to Ira, sister Jenny, and Mum Iris, an eighty year old who still heads off into the bush in her camping van, and who is having a new house built in Mandura. It was limited to my laptop, but was a good run through to get the bugs out, and the audience seemed to enjoy it. A snack by the waters of Mandura in great company, and Sunday rolled around, with high winds and rain accompanying us on the 300k journey to Albany, where Ira and Steve had made their holiday house available to us for a week. We paused for a prize winning pie at the Mount Barker Bakery, eaten at the summit overlooking a cloudy wet day, before rolling into Albany in mid-afternoon.

The house is on Emu Point, the  headland leading out to the narrow entrance to Oyster Harbour.  From here it is an easy ten minute drive into Albany, on the road  skirting Mount Clarence, whilst providing spectacular views of King Georges Sound to the south. On Monday we  met with Malcolm Traill, curator of the Albany Museum, and did a test run with the equipment in preparation for the presentation the following Tuesday morning. I had met Malcolm in 2006 when he was in charge of the history section of the Albany Library.

On Tuesday morning I did my Barker presentation to a gathering of 87 people, many of whom are members of a historical group who meet weekly. They seemed to enjoy the talk, although I chose to drop the third song in my presentation as it went on for over an hour. Often when I do the talk I have a half-time break.