Six rewarding hours

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:

1 September 1928

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. bugs0abugs0abugs0abugs0a


Mandela–great viewing on NITV, and more tonight on SBS and later on ABC

I wasn’t drawn to QandA last night at all, so instead I watched NITV from 8.30: The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela. Definitely a wise decision.

I must mention in passing the death of Margaret Thatcher. See my post Back to The Iron Lady. A lot could be said of course, much of it bitter, but I will merely quote her at her very best.

Meanwhile back here in Oz.

I am a sucker for Who Do You Think You Are? (Aussie series 5 on SBS tonight.) Last week’s episode on Adam Hills was fascinating. A great way to encounter social history, and to learn new things about our diverse population and its past. In the nicest way too it is a  corrective to the threat of Culture Wars Redivivus currently being played by Tony Abbott — as filtered to me on The Drum by a very enthusiastic Christian Kerr from the Murdoch Menagerie who kept rabbiting on about The Western Canon, Cultural Relativism and sundry other barely examined cliches. However, let us judge Tony’s comments directly rather than as filtered by a camp follower.  Well, Let’s Do The Time Warp Again!

The IPA, I want to say, has been freedom’s discerning friend. It has supported capitalism, but capitalism with a conscience. Not for the IPA, a single-minded dogmatism or opposition to all restraint; rather a sophisticated appreciation that freedom requires a social context and that much is expected from those to whom so much has been given. You’ve understood that freedom is both an end and a means; a good in itself, as well as necessary for full human flourishing.

I particularly congratulate the IPA and its marvelous director, John Roskam, for your work in defence of Western civilisation. Contemporary Australia has well and truly – and rightly – left behind the old cult of forgetfulness about our indigenous heritage. Alas, there is a new version of the great Australian silence – this time about the Western canon, the literature, the poetry, the music, the history and above all the faith without which our culture and our civilisation are unimaginable.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the foundation of our justice. “Love your neighbour as you love yourself” is the foundation of our mercy. Faith has weakened but not, I’m pleased to say, this high mindedness which faith helped to spawn and which the IPA now helps to protect and to promote.

I want to say of the IPA that, unlike some other bodies dedicated to the promotion of an ideal, the IPA has never been too proud or too pure to campaign for its beliefs or to take sides in a good cause. Your campaign against the bill of rights caused a bad government to capitulate. You campaigned against the bill of rights because you understood that a democratic parliament, an incorruptible judiciary and a free press, rather than mere law itself, were the best guarantors of human rights.

You campaigned against the legislative prohibition against giving offence and I’m pleased to say that the author of those draft laws is now leaving the parliament. Well done IPA! And, of course, you campaigned against the public interest media advocate, an attack dog masquerading as a watchdog, designed to intimidate this government’s media critics and that legislation was humiliatingly withdrawn. John, whatever you did to persuade independent members of parliament, please, give it to me!

OK, nice one on Indigenous Heritage, but what a cunning move to appropriate W E H Stanner’s (PDF) great Boyer Lecture phrase to something completely different. Go to the Prescribed Texts for 2009-2014 (PDF) for the NSW HSC to see just one example of the frustration I feel at Mr Abbott’s mouthing the boring generalisations that Bloomed, you could say, twenty or thirty years ago.

… Poetry
Students choose one of the following poets for study. All listed poems for that poet constitute the prescribed text. YEATS, William Butler, W B Yeats: Poems selected by Seamus Heaney, Faber/Allen & Unwin, 2005, ‘An Irish Airman’, ‘When You Are Old’, ‘Among School Children’, ‘The Wild Swans at Coole’, ‘Leda and the Swan’, ‘The Second Coming’, ‘Easter 1916’ HARWOOD, Gwen, Selected Poems, Penguin, 2001, ‘Father and Child (Parts I & II)’, ‘The Violets’, ‘At Mornington’, ‘A Valediction’, ‘Triste Triste’, ‘The Sharpness of Death’, ‘Mother Who Gave Me Life’ SLESSOR, Kenneth, Selected Poems, Angus & Robertson/HarperCollins, 1994, ‘Out of Time’, ‘Five Bells’, ‘Sleep’, ‘Five Visions of Captain Cook’, ‘Sensuality’, ‘Elegy in a Botanic Gardens’, ‘Beach Burial’…

Or maybe look at my 2007 post The HSC English moanings of Miranda…, which I referred to yesterday. Are we going to have to go down this path again? So annoying…  I really can’t be bothered. I will leave the issue to younger and more energetic people to rehash/thrash out.

Over on ABC there is a new series of Who’s Been Sleeping In My House?  Friday’s episode will deal with a house in Gunning, NSW.

Adam Ford heads to the small NSW town of Gunning where he investigates a home that played a key role in the history of rogue bushrangers.

At the time of its settlement, Gunning was a frontier town, a remote rest stop on the old Hume Highway that linked Sydney and Melbourne. The rolling hills made the area a perfect hideout for bushrangers and the highway brought wealthy travellers straight to their doorstep.

Jay and Kerry Gribbin now live in Gunning’s lockup that was built in the late 1800s to help police the banditry. The original cells still remain intact underneath the building, and the Gribbins are keen to learn all they can about what role the house played in the town’s lawless past, and who exactly the cells may have housed.

But the stories of the Gunning house don’t end with bushranger legends. Adjacent is a grave that bears testament to one of the colony’s most brutal murders. Lucretia Dunkley was convicted and sentenced to death for the slaying of her husband Henry Dunkley in 1842. Could it be that the infamous female killer was also incarcerated under the house? The answer lies in determining the exact age of the building and Adam calls upon an archaeological team to dig into the truth.

Were my mother still around she would have watched with interest. See her account of her early childhood in the area.

My brother and I were given the job of “going for the milk”, which meant a daily walk to our nearest neighbour about a mile away [my mother was born in 1911, and this is 1914-1915!] where an old lady in a bonnet and red flannel petticoat sat always alone in her rocking chair in the kitchen ready to give us the quart we asked for. Someone else must have milked the cows, but we never saw anyone else. [My mother mentions elsewhere that this old woman, who made quite an impression, also smoked a pipe.]

To get mail, papers, and any fresh meat or food we needed Dad had to hike the six miles to Dalton, crossing and recrossing three creeks on the way.

He still gave of his best to his pupils; they were very much harder to teach than before. Most of them came to school barefooted and often with patched pants. They were not the graziers’ children, who were sent away to boarding school at an early age, but mainly the offspring of share farmers or owners of small holdings where they worked long hours under appalling conditions for little return.

Food and TV

And why not?




This hotpot really was hot! See the steam in the centre pic? Yes, lunch yesterday at Steelers.

And on Sunday on NITV 34 at 9.30 the movie is Vincent  Ward’s  Map of the Human Heart (1993).

The film, set mostly before and during World War II, centres on the life of a Canadian Inuit boy, Avik (played as a child by Robert Joamie and as an adult by Jason Scott Lee), who joins the Royal Canadian Air Force and eventually, as a crewmember of a Lancaster bomber, participates in the notorious firebombing of Dresden. Throughout his life, Avik is haunted by love for a Métis girl, Albertine (played by Anne Parillaud), and by a belief that he brings misfortune to those around him.

The film also stars Patrick Bergin, who plays a pivotal role as both surrogate father to Avik and his primary rival in Albertine’s love. Jeanne Moreau has a minor role as a Québécois nun. John Cusack also has a small but important role as the mapmaker to whom Avik relates his incredible tale.

The film’s re-creation of the firebombing of Dresden is one of the most graphic and powerful sequences in the film. On the day Ward finished shooting those scenes, he received word that his father, who had actually participated in the historical firebombing of Dresden, had died. This is why Ward chose to dedicate the film to him.

There are two other scenes in the movie which received much attention. The first one is a pivotal love scene that takes place on top of an English military blimp (not in a cabin or gondola but actually on top of the blimp), the other is the final scene of the film which has a twist ending.

The scenes in “Nunatuk”, the region of Northern Canada where Avik’s people are from, were filmed on location in what is now Nunavut, using local Inuit as extras.

The script was written by Australian author Louis Nowra, using a 10-page treatment Ward had written a year earlier as his guide.


What a cultural mix! I haven’t seen it but am looking forward to it.

Last night on ABC a very good episode of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, set in Ballarat in 1959. Only jarring note is that no-one smokes. 1959 and no-one smokes? See also 1959 revisited.

And on Thursday on ABC2 I caught up at last with Please Like Me. Love it!

Microsoft, God, and one of these really stupid things governments do…

Microsoft: yes, one of those days – and later on I have to update Baby HP too.


God, well Dawkins really – and probably not the man himself but rather some underling at his Foundation for Reason and Science. But this is really silly.


Why is it silly? First, I do not believe God has ever written or dictated a book nor does he now have or has he ever had an infallible representative on Earth of any kind or to any degree whatsoever. Got that? But this poor specimen of bad history and lazy scholarship just won’t do, Dawkins.

Where to start? First off, no 21st century Christian, no matter how fundamentalist, with some minor exceptions under rocks or up trees in the USA, seriously believes that the 1611 version of the Bible is itself the actual Word of God down to every comma or fly speck or, let it be admitted, instance of erroneous translation – the latter remarkably few given the advances in textual criticism in the centuries since 1611.  There are many who love this version, and that includes atheists who love English language and literature. The late Manning Clark, for example, apparently read it regularly.

True there are no original texts of the Bible, just as there are no original texts of Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Julius Caesar, Cicero, Tacitus, Pliny  and so on.  And even very few, if any, of Shakespeare. There are none of the Koran either, though arguably its textual tradition may be just a bit less murky than the texts I have already named. And of course the great distinction of the Book of Mormon, in my view, is that there never was an original text. There are on the other hand, no doubt, original texts of L Ron Hubbard, which is neither here nor there when it comes to whether his space fantasy is of any real worth. The Bible’s various books are in varying degrees authentic, but one thing is sure: the texts are as well or even better attested than the Greeks and Romans I have named.

Third, it is simply wrong that the KJV was the work of eight people. Where did the writer get that from? There were 47 actually engaged on the task though 54 were nominated. One of those was a William Dakins, and given the variability of spelling back in 1611, you never know… Behind the KJV was a long history of earlier translation and textual scholarship. In some ways you could see the KJV project as a culmination of the Humanist tradition via people like Erasmus of Rotterdam.


Erasmus’s Greek New Testament

Again, leaving to one side whether there really are 8,000 whatevers – and I suspect the writer is confusing things here – it is more remarkable that the various main extant  MS copies or fragments of books of the Bible agree much more than they disagree. You might like to check some of my earlier posts.

Sydney Anglicanism still follows suit: see for example articles posted by MatthiasMedia.  I, rather, see much merit in The Bible and Interpretation: Dedicated to delivering the latest news, features, editorials, commentary, archaeological interpretation and excavations relevant to the study of the Bible for the public and biblical scholars. I might add that around the time I was listening to Broughton Knox I had also studied the Ancient Near East in Ancient History I at Sydney Uni and maintained an interest. Later experience teaching Ancient History, especially in an Orthodox Jewish school, augmented that journey.  — 22 January 2013

So I am, after all, unimpressed with the juvenility and poor scholarship masquerading as “reason” on Dawkins’s site in this particular “poster”. Try again, and do your homework next  time.

I am also unimpressed with this. Talk about stupid pollies!

This is a story I saw on NITV News last night, but not on any mainstream news. Not that I saw them all, of course, but Google can’t find the story either, except on ABC Radio.

TIM PALMER: A mentoring program that’s greatly reduced crime in Sydney’s Redfern is on the verge of collapse.
The Clean Slate Without Prejudice program focuses on boxing and fitness and claims to have delivered an 80 per cent drop in juvenile crime in the area.
But as Lindy Kerin reports, one-off federal funding has run out and the program could close its doors.
LINDY KERIN: Getting teenagers out of bed early can be difficult.
It’s even harder at 5am.
BYRON: Chris! (whistles)
LINDY KERIN: But a short time later, they’re in the gym in Sydney’s Redfern working out.
(Sound of boxers training)
LINDY KERIN: It’s part of the Clean Slate Without Prejudice Program, set up to keep young locals out of trouble.
Seven-year-old CJ is one of the youngest taking part in today’s boxing session.
CJ MUNDINE: I come here with my cousin and my brother and my dad. I like when you do left, right, slip, slip.
LINDY KERIN: The program was set up Shane Phillips, who was recently recognised in the Australia Day Awards as a Local Hero.
SHANE PHILLIPS: Alright here we go, give us five push-ups!
He says some kids are here under court order, while others just want to be part of it.
SHANE PHILLIPS: It’s really simple. It’s about routine, it’s about getting up in the morning, it’s about the network of police, community, the young ones, families and any professionals who want to be a part of, you know, a change – it’s about them working together.
LINDY KERIN: The program is also led by the commander of Redfern Police Luke Freudenstein.
LUKE FREUDENSTEIN: In 2005, there was something like 98 robberies in one month; in December, we had three robberies. Last month, February, we had six. The kids just aren’t committing offences, they aren’t committing robberies.
LINDY KERIN: But the future of the program is uncertain. One-off federal funds have run out and approaches to the State Government for money have been rejected.
SHANE PHILLIPS: I don’t want to have to make a decision that we have to get our mentors to find some other work, because we’re gonna lose the momentum and you know, I don’t want Redfern to go backwards, while we’re continuing to work together to go forwards.
LINDY KERIN: so how close is that point where this program could collapse?
SHANE PHILLIPS: It’s imminent.
LINDY KERIN: A Senate Committee Inquiry looking at the issue of justice reinvestment is taking submissions til the end of the week.
It will consider the economic and social costs of imprisonment, the over-representation of Indigenous people in custody, and the cost and availability of alternatives to imprisonment.
Shane Phillips says his program is a good example of justice reinvestment.
SHANE PHILLIPS: We’ve case studied 12 kids who were committing offences weekly and we saw those 12 kids no longer offend.
But not only that, it changed their lives, so that they actually became workers. They’re now, some of those have become mentors within the program. It’s saved the government over $8 million for one year.
We know this is a pure example of justice reinvestment so we need to sustain it.
TIM PALMER: Shane Phillips from the Clean Slate Without Prejudice program, speaking to Lindy Kerin.

So get this:

  • 26 January 2013 – Shane Phillips made Local Hero of 2013 at the Australian of the Year awards.
  • 12 March 2013—program about to collapse as Feds end funding and NSW shows little interest.

Can any of you figure this out?

Update 14 March

Good to see the Sydney Morning Herald catching up with this story:  Swing and a miss: funding gaps hit scheme slashing crime rates.