It is unusual for me to watch TV for six hours straight – meaning merely the duration of the marathon of course. Last night was such a time, beginning with a documentary on ABC1 about the artist Jeffrey Smart, then moving via the news and At the Movies on ABC News 24 back to ABC1 for an excellent documentary about Macquarie Island and a thought-provoking Compass on philanthropy in Australia – or rather, noble exceptions aside, why we don’t have too much of it from the top end of town in this country.
Then at 7.30 over to NITV for another great documentary about Badu Island in the Torres Strait.
So already I had been learning new things about this vast country of ours, broken only by a phone chat with my brother in Devonport Tasmania, which I guess just added to the coverage!
At 8.30 there were several good options but I settled on episode 2 of The Time Of Our Lives.
The show revolves around the extended Tivolli family – Ray (Tony Barry), his wife Rosa (Sue Jones), and their three children Matt (William McInnes), Luce (Shane Jacobson), and Chai Li (Melissa Vergara Moore).
Matt, the eldest, is in a moribund marriage with Caroline (Claudia Karvan), a capable lawyer who has suspended her career to raise their son, Carmody, with forensic intensity and misguided determination.
Her unrealistic approach to motherhood fuses guilt with innocence and hope with determined rectitude. Consequently the couple’s relationship, with its sustaining veneer of comfortable achievement, has become an illusion. A house divided.
In sharp contrast is the united front evident in the household of Matt’s younger brother Luce who, after divorcing Maryanne, has started over with Bernadatte (Justine Clark). They have twin daughters and share custody of 12 year-old Georgie from Luce’s previous union…
Very well done.
Then came a very pleasant surprise: an excellent Australian history series with a strong Wollongong connection: The Years That Made Us.
WALKLEY and Logie award-winning journalist Chris Masters delves into his family history in The Years That Made Us.
The former Four Corners reporter presents the events he believes shaped the nation in the 1920s and ’30s in his three-part documentary series.
“The first episode is really about the 1920s post-war period, the second is about the Great Depression and third is about the prelude to the second Great War,” Masters told The Guide.
“It was such a grim period that didn’t instantly lend itself to those uplifting television moments. I found the best way to make it engaging was to tell the story through family history.
“Australians are more interested in the lives of their parents and grandparents rather than prime ministers.”
Masters explores the life of his great Uncle James “Judy” Masters, a First World War veteran who worked as a coal miner and was one of the country’s top soccer players, and the coming of age of his mother, a respected writer, during such a tumultuous time.
“They were humble, working-class people who are representative of all families,” he said.
“When I compare her (my mum’s) life to the lives of my kids, it’s a story that is well worth telling.
“This era when they had nothing is when they gave the most and delivered the most for the future.”
Masters believes the struggles of everyday people and families are what gave Australia its national identity, rather than the battle of Gallipoli.
“There was this war meant to end all wars that was going to deliver them a freedom and then it was just more and more struggle (during the Great Depression),” he said.
“Then, of course, they had to face up to the next war. It was a very tough period. I think this battlefront at home was more influential in the shaping of the nation than our part in either of those wars.
“Australians, like Americans, were measured and sensible in the way they deal with this hardship. We didn’t resort to the political extremes of communism or fascism.”
My mother writes from the NSW South Coast about a1928 election in The Sydney Mail October 31 1928.
That can’t be S M Bruce vs Scullin as that was November. Nor can it be the NSW General Election – a defeat for Lang — as that was 1927. So I thought it could be the 1928 by-election for Wollondilly, which then included Milton, but that was in March! Perhaps it was a local government affair? No, but after much Googling and Trove-ing, I have found the answer:
ISSUE: Are you in favour of Prohibition with Compensation ? (Liquor (Amendment) Act, 1919).
Returns from 90 electoral districts. Issue decided in the negative.
So NSW rejected Prohibition.
The fabulous Balgownie Pub
The 1921 Balgownie Rangers: “Judy” Masters 3rd from the left in the front row.
Where my father was at the time – a few miles further south
So much of The Years that Made Us resonated with things I heard from my family and half remember. Of course it can be criticised as focussing exclusively on the south-east corner of Australia, the Sydney/Melbourne/Canberra triangle, but the local and Masters Family hooks do correct that to a degree, and country areas do figure – as in the Soldier Settlements in the Mallee for example. There was some footage, though not announced as such, of the building of Daceyville in Sydney too – at least I am pretty sure that is what I was seeing.
Illawarra District: Whitfield family photo from 1940s/1950s
It was very interesting too to be told about the life of Harold Edward (Pompey) Elliott (1878-1931).
Looking forward to next Sunday’s episode.