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April 2006

 

REUNION DIARY


HENRY BODMAN [Fig Tree Pocket QLD] - On a balmy Brisbane autumn day (26°C) the Bohlens, Margaret McKenna's sister Therese, Dennis Burrell, Bill Welbourne, Col Huggins, Barry Flannery and I met in leafy Fig Tree Pocket to further develop plans for the Class of 62/63 Event No 3.

Before getting down to business the social side inevitably got a hammering most notably wondering how Brian Smith is faring these days and whether Molly (Lishmund) Kreidl had retired or not. There was no authoritative information forthcoming on either person. Does anyone know?

Discussion on Event No 3 was lively, following in depth information packages being circulated. The Gold Coast was again given the thumbs down, though the accessibility of the airport and geographic compactness of the attractions suggested there were aspects that put it ahead of the Sunshine Coast.

Investigations of Rydges and Twin Waters Resorts on the Sunshine Coast provided the focus around which an event under one roof might be held. With supporting comment from Diane's Group Tour friend, Ruth, the chapter decided the Sunshine Coast was out also. A resort with the facilities needed for all proposed functions proved to be outside our cost limits. There was also seen to be a chance of isolation from other Coast attractions and the distance from a small airport and the limited flights into it were the final sinker.

Col Huggins' very extensive and thorough proposal for the Brisbane city centre as the site for Event No 3 is now accepted as the basis for planning. The Accor Group has four properties, all within easy walking distance of each other and which cater to all price ranges (budget to five star). The budget end (very comfortable, clean and bright) sees current daily rates of under $90 each for a shared unit while the five star class takes the well heeled to whatever levels they wish to soar. There are also stages in between. Accor has facilities for all the proposed functions and has proven amenable to negotiation. The facilities have an ambience which should appeal to all 62-63ers.

The broad plan is pretty close to the proven formula adopted for Events 1 and 2. Laid back 'meet and greet' in a very nice bar at the Sofitel and food available similar to the Sydney Friday night. Saturday lunch will be at a Mecca similar to The Oaks but lacking that magnificent tree. The Saturday evening will be the formal segment but, true to Queensland inclination, not heavy (more on this later).

Sunday lunch could be on water - depending on numbers attending. And Sunday evening - Asian.
I have heard a few whispers of, "What, not another of the same!" and put to the meeting that Event 3 be expanded to introduce new blood - some new faces which shared the ASOPA experience and have a different range of memories and stories. Initially, the 61-62ers and 63-64ers were thought to be able to provide the likely stimulus but as Dave Keating is organising his group for an August function that doesn't fit our October date.

Keithy was at an Education Officers’ function at Jindalee in Brisbane late last year where over 70 attended. It was a most successful function with attendees ranging from bifors to new chums of the 80s and 90s PNG education experience. Apart from the excitement of discovering that that old bloke over there was a young bloke with us when we last saw him, the shared highlights of each individual's PNG memories saw the afternoon flash past. Using that experience as a basis, I looked into the ASOPA story on a broader scale for the means of freshening up the Event.

EOs started going through ASOPA in 1957 and most of us know members of each of the years till it folded as the PNG EO training establishment in the early seventies. I found a mover and shaker of each year and I am encouraging each of those years to be in Brisbane for the weekend of 12-14 October, 2007. The suggestion is that each year organise its own event and that the Saturday night might be a gala one to which all ex-EOs in town might be invited.

Just recently, at an ex POs get together at the Irish Club, Brisbane, Will Muskens suggested a night when EOs and POs might be invited to a function which might be addressed on the significance of ASOPA by someone like a past Minister for Territories. In a more recent discussion Will suggested that didimen might also be involved - though the ASOPA connection there would be tenuous as didimen usually were confined to a 10 day orientation course.

What our Saturday night show might finally turn out to be is somewhere between another 62-63 exclusive or an open to all past Asopians with a suitable speaker. There are those for and against both the exclusive and the major production. The Queensland Chapter has agreed to give me four months to see what proposal of the grander scale I might be able to present and to decide at the next Chapter meeting in August. In the meantime let The Mail involve all who might have an opinion on the options.

The grand event would be a very difficult and expensive operation so if the numbers appear to not be there be assured it will not be pressed. So, people, we have a date and place. The specifics of the various lunches and dinners will be developed for commitment at the August meeting.
In the meantime, Les Lyons has the job of lining up the golf morning. A suitable course will be organised when Les gives the nod. Obviously, any other year groups in town that weekend would be invited to participate. Let's hear from anyone on anything which they would/would not like to see at Event No 3.

 

 

PEOPLE


JOHN HEY [Carramar NSW] - Just saw your site. Congratulations on a great job! You probably don’t remember me from ASOPA 1961-62. I married Valasi Sparks (ASOPA 1960-61) in 1967. We are still married and both still working albeit in a reduced capacity. My web address is www.johnjhey.com.

RICHARD JONES [Bendigo VIC] - Just back from a 10-day Easter family holiday on the NSW south coast. The Jervis Bay precinct, to be precise. This time last year, on the net spotted a pleasant 4-bedroom/3 bathroom house for rent over the Easter period, with views facing onto St George's Basin. Family booked the place pronto and we motored up there on the Tuesday before the Easter break.

Also found a delightful little place named Huskisson (akin to a smaller edition of Victoria's Lorne). Townspeople there had cottoned on to the fact that people crave quality coffee in the mornings.

But the purpose of this missive is to inform Asopians that despite the siting of a town called Vincentia right next door to Huskisson there were no sightings of our own Barry ‘Cenz’ Vincent.

And the Sydney Telegraph hasn't yet realised that there are 15 other teams in the AFL competition, apart from the Swans. Their coverage of AFL matters on Easter Sunday, Easter Monday and the Tuesday was atrocious. No wonder Dubdy reads the Sydney Morning Herald, although I feel it could be only marginally better. I gave up when I read about Joey Johns describing the game he plays as footy. Only about three blokes out of the 13 in his team actually kick the pill.

 

 

FEATURES


Up Mataranka way

HENRY BODMAN [Fig Tree Pocket QLD]‘Ten kilometres south of Mataranka on the Stuart Highway and to the right you will find two gates together. Ours is the one on the right’. With that lead Janelle and I headed for O'Brien Country and a memorable home stay.

The Territory has had enormous rains and Katherine was thoroughly flooded but in the streets were signs saying "Yesterday we were under water - today we're in business". This is so typical of the people out there. Characters abound everywhere and particularly in the roadhouses which are dotted around the place and service road trains (90 tyres) that thunder up to the unsealed truck bays in a flurry of red dust.

But when you have taken the right hand gate be ready for an experience you will never forget. Having weaved your way along a red mud drive (1 or 2 kms) and through the enormous machinery dotted around the home paddock, the horses slowly move aside to let you approach the biggest veranda I have seen on any house in Oz. The floor is all ironwood (nails cannot be driven into ironwood), beautifully milled and immaculately screwed into place by Rory's brother, Mike, This supports another piece of ironwood I defy most people to pick up - this is the table around which all the important things happen - like drinking beers with Rory's brother Mike, nephew Felix, woofers and employees (who are honorary family members) while sister in law Claire and special niece Moira tinker around the kitchen. A carton or three later we are invited to drop into the kitchen (frig is 12' x 8') where an enormous plate of barramundi and another of delicious pickled lamb is waiting...can't believe this will ever be eaten but a couple of hours later - clean as a whistle.

Then the real stuff starts. Mike, Claire, Moira, Felix, and Rory (and all others present as honorary family members) get into life in general, (particularly on the land and more particularly Northern Oz). The door to life as a member of The O'Brien Family (this is the phone book entry) opens up and it isn't until you are on your way back to Darwin and have time to realise that you have just been treated to the unique pleasure of hospitality as only special people on the land can dish up.

It is then that you find out that leafy Fig Tree Pocket was settled by an earlier O'Brien family member, the O'Brien dairy farm was where blue ribbon Toowong and Wests Footy Club now attract the yuppies and blue rinse set alike.

Rory bailed out of New Ireland to join his father and brother Mike on a large Queensland property, developed it and moved to the next challenge and slowly seeped into the Territory where they now operate a couple of properties measured in square miles. It is then that we discover that, with a number of grandchildren, Claire is at last building her first home after bringing up her family in caravans and demountables/sheds and the like. And is it a home - it has been built to cater to the Gold Card holders on the Ghan Rail Experience who will overnight in homestay a la Family O'Brien. These well heeled tourists will pay well to share a night as a member of the legendary O'Brien Family. And if any of them have any experience of land management they will be shown the latest in cattle raising in a sustainable and intense cycling system which not only ensures maximum pasture production and top beasts for sale to the Asian live market but aids nature to resist the ravages which often go with a potentially fragile environment.

And there's more. It turns out that Moira was invited to join that august and exclusive group who met in Canberra to promote the debate on the Republic. She owns the only photo of that group complete with every signature of each participant - priceless. What a heritage for her grandchildren. Moira is the genuine article - a true Aussie Girl of the Land - focused and committed to the O'Brien high tech land management, completely informed on the vagaries and intricacies of light country farming, knows who owns every beast within a hundred kilometres, can tell you its herd history, breeding aims and successes and, in the case of her own herd (hundreds) can name them for you and tell you their relationship to each other.

Moira did her degree with three days per week at Uni in Darwin. One day for travel and the other three days as a full time property operator at home - 450 kms away. And do you think Rory is devoted to this girl? They both agree that he, who really wanted to teach (not be a headmaster), guided Moira into the community activities which took her to Canberra to rub shoulders with Prime Ministers, Mandarins of the public service, national religious leaders and First Australians (with whom the O'Brien Family spend a lot of time in establishing acceptable land management practices and corporate growth).

And out on that veranda, you get a peep into the laconic humour of Rory's younger brother Mike (there's a 'bloody' between every two words and he wouldn't feed a lot those who hold high office around the country) the enormous drive of sister in law Claire who manages the home and the dream which will be realised - despite those cockroaches who live in the dingy cities and seem to spend their lives finding reasons why people shouldn't have glorious dreams of what can be done in the bush (and it is very clear that these dreams will become reality), there is nephew Felix who is a real doer and as big a part of the regular O'Brien Family management meetings as any other. An older nephew has produced grandchildren who have - from the power point presentation delivered at midnight - clearly grown up in the saddle while Dad develops his fencing business - a trade which has stood Rory and Mike in good stead as they built up their equity in their various properties.

City types are treated gently but are the brunt of jokes every time they let their guard down and you know those stories of the B and S Balls are certainly true when pigs are slipped into the many one man tents used as accommodation when a really big show is on at the homestead. Such was the case for Claire's 50th. They came from miles around and in their hundreds and still don't know that Mike was pulling their legs.Claire still isn't 50, but what a party.

One of the better sights according to Rory was a relatively new boy to the scene who responding to a call of nature let out a yell of fear and alarm having been bitten on the bum by a snake. In fact he sat on his spurs. Are you getting the picture?

This Rory belongs to a tribe whom I thought was extinct. What a marvellous experience to see it thriving and to be allowed to share a night with The O'Brien Family. Real Aussies.

 

A consuming interest

BILL WELBOURNE [Mt Cotton QLD] - March was consumed by my sporting interest in the Commonwealth Games. I teamed up with Richard Collinson, another sporting psycho who is sports reporter for the BBC at Radio Jersey in the Channel Islands. Not that he had much to report about because the brightly attired Jersey team returned home with nothing but their red uniforms and memories of the Advance Australia Fare reverberating in their ears. I wear my heart on my sleeve, so I had to look away from Richard at times when our never-say-die sporting heroes brought a tear to eye. The proudest moment was when Kerryn McCann the 38 year Aussie mother of two and Kenya’s Hellen Cherono, going head-to-head and both fully buggered, entered the MCG after their 42 gruelling kilometres. The electrified stadium of almost 100 000 Southern Cross flag wavers was enough to carry McCann to gold in the 300 metre sprint-to-line duel in the opening athletic event of the Games.

And so it was, time after time, the very young and old Aussie sporting stars giving their all to make Australia the envy of other nations … for the 71 Commonwealth nations that is, for in the US we do not count. We are often criticised for being too parochial but the Americans couldn’t give a stuffed fig according to one Aussie stuck in New York and lamenting the fact that he is not in magnificent Melbourne…:

In the self-proclaimed capital of the world … Despite hundreds of Cable TV channels at my disposal, the Commonwealth Games are not even a blip on the radar … I can watch high school and college basketball ad nauseam, or world series poker, or rodeo sports from some obscure part of this vast country, or classic baseball replays. … The sporting vision of American media interests generally end at the shoreline.[Alan Wright in The Age, Tuesday, March 21, 2006]

Are we parochial? The following also appeared in The Age…

All credit to Kerryn McCann … Her performance was superb and memorable. … Kenyan Hellen Cherono rated scarcely a positive media mention either during the race or after it, so appallingly chauvinistic was the televised commentary. [Serge Liberman]

There are 71 teams in the Games but the Channel Nine music director, Eddie McGuire, only knows the tune of Advance Australia Fair … Patrick Gorman … and I heard a rumour that another country won gold in swimming [Lesley Black]

On the other hand:

Congratulations. … the way the people of Melbourne cheer and clap athletes from other nations reflects the ethos of the Commonwealth Games. … Brian Lewis, Trinidad and Tobago Sport is an icon for all Australians, demonstrating the benefits of living life with purpose, setting goals and striving to achieve them. [Alastair Isherwood]

The Grand Opening Extravaganza was over-the-top local parochialism as Melbourne vented its parochial culture upon a quizzical world. Where else would you see a flying tram? Who and why were there so many footballers passing the Queen’s baton to one another before it entered the stadium? Who is Ron Barassi and how was he able to walk on water safely carrying the precious baton across the muddy Yarra on the last leg of its round-the-world trip from London? And to top that a young boy, carrying a live duck, appeared centre stage, causing much speculation about its significance. Wot-da-heck! Apparently it was the brainchild of The Age cartoonist, Michael Leung, who loves ducks more than sport and hopes that one day our nation will be duck mad rather than sport mad. I think our sports mad shooters will have something to say about that. For those who believe where there’s duck there’s hope and are inspired about ducks as Michael this is what he says:

A Little Duck
With a bit of luck
A duck
Will come into your life
When you are at the peak
Of your great powers
And your achievement towers
Like a smoking chimney stack
There’ll be a quack
And right there at your feet
A little duck will stand.
She will take you by the hand
And lead you
Like a child with no defence;
She will lead you
Into wisdom, joy and innocence
That little duck.
We wish you luck.

Thankfully the athletes soon appeared with the most thunderous welcome reserved for the green and gold. Smiling politicians watched a poker faced Queen Elizabeth get her baton back from Governor John Landy. I nudged Richard as Dame Kiri Ti Kanawa sang an operatic rendition of Happy Birthday to Her Majesty... “Do you think she will say thanks or give a gracious wave or crack a smile?” No, no and no. She opened the Games and departed. The grand finale began with Delta Goodrem appearing on a rising centre podium singing her spine-tingling anthem, Together We Are One. Speed skaters with flashing fire trails whizzed about and soon Delta’s virgin white evening gown was engulfed in smoke and spiralling light. Somewhere in the noxious cloud her voice rose triumphantly.

All the while the opening ceremony was extending beyond the stadium with the River Show extending over 5 kilometres to the thousands on the banks of the Yarra with its pontoons, surfboats and a line of 36 sculptured fish with changing light effects. From the MCG to the heavy drinkers at Melbourne’s G Spot, we all waited for the cataclysmic Big Bang as the extravaganza reached its climax. All over Melbourne for the next 15 minutes an eruption of sky rockets to rival the Battle of Armageddon brought forth a kaleidoscope of colourful galaxies. Thankfully Delta had been rescued from the smouldering cauldron, but her pure white dress may need a good wash. Sensing their achievement the 15 000 happy volunteers and officials were high-fiving as many doubtful locals queued to buy the few remaining tickets for the next 11 days of competition.