May marks the annual South Australia’s History Festival. South Australia on the Eve of War was launched on Tuesday as part of the festival. Here we have an excerpt from book’s introduction, written by Melanie Oppenheimer and Margrette Kleinig.
Three individuals – David Unaipon, Catherine Helen Spence and Douglas Mawson – encapsulate the spirit of South Australia in the years between Federation in 1901 and the eve of war. All, too, have graced our paper currency at one point or another, an indication of their national importance. Catherine Helen Spence, who died in Adelaide in 1910, was described as ‘the leading woman in public affairs at the turn of the century in Australia’: South Australia’s Chief Justice further described her as ‘the most distinguished woman they had had in Australia’. At the forefront of the first-wave feminist movement, which included ensuring South Australia was the first Australian state to secure voting rights for women in 1894, Spence became Australia’s first female political candidate, standing unsuccessfully for election as a delegate to the 1897 Australasian Federal Convention.
‘Preacher, author and inventor’ David Unaipon was once described as the ‘best-known Aborigine in the Commonwealth’ in the early twentieth century. Born in 1872 at the Point McLeay Mission (now Raukkan) on the edge of the River Murray Lower Lakes, Unaipon was, on the eve of war, in his early forties. Interested in ‘philosophy, science and music’ and in recording his people’s oral stories and traditions, Unaipon had ‘led a deputation urging government control of Point McLeay Mission’ in 1912, and the following year gave evidence to a state government Royal Commission into Aboriginal matters.
In early 1914 Douglas Mawson triumphantly returned from the Antarctic, where he had led Australia’s ‘first scientific exploring endeavour beyond the Australian continent’. Lecturer in mineralogy and petrology at the University of Adelaide, Mawson was physicist on the Shackleton expedition (1907–1909) that aimed to reach the South Geographic Pole. While leading the Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911–1914, he made scientific advances in ‘cartography, geology, meteorology, aurora, geomagnetism, biology and marine science’.
These three remarkable people, who pushed the boundaries in their own particular spheres in unexpected and very different ways, point to important social, political and cultural developments in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century South Australia that had an impact both nationally and internationally.
Find out more about South Australia on the Eve of War here.
This weekend is the Robe Chinese Festival, and launching at the festival is a new book by Liz Harful, author of Almost an Island. Guichen Bay and the Chinese Landings incorporates material from Almost an Island with new research. Both books will be available from the foreshore pavilion on Saturday 6 May, and Liz will be signing books from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm.
After Victoria introduced a tax on Chinese passengers during the gold rush, some 15,000 migrants landed at the small, isolated community of Robe during a calendar year, from there walking over 400 kilometres to the Victorian goldfields. As this excerpt from Almost an Island shows, the local community made the most of this influx!
Wall mural, Robe Institute.
Many local businesses and residents seized the opportunity to make money. Robe had a reasonably new jetty but the water was too shallow for ships to dock there so passengers and cargo had to be ferried ashore in lighters or row boats. [Guichen Bay harbour master Henry] Melville records that boatmen charged exorbitant prices to land the passengers and their belongings, leading to a few minor skirmishes with the Chinese who knew they were being exploited. Thomas Drury Smeaton, who did not arrive in Robe until 1864 but is often mistaken as an eyewitness, claims in a colourful account that the intention was to ‘make them pay as much as they could, and even (it is said) take the money by force’. According to Melville, the amount ranged from five to ten shillings – a price so extreme the government resident sought new regulations to prevent such extortion.
Chinese miner in traditional garb relaxing with a long-stemmed pipe by Richard Daintree. (Courtesy John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland: Neg. 51355)
Once ashore, the Chinese had to pay guides and carriers to take them overland to the goldfields. These fees varied but were generally £50 per party, depending on the number and the terms. If the newcomers were able to secure the services of a carrier, heavier items might be placed in the carrier’s wagon. But most possessions were ported in the traditional Chinese manner, across the shoulders in bundles fixed either end of a stout bamboo pole. Once they realised how far they had to travel and the limited transport available, most objects too heavy or awkward to carry were left behind. Some of these ended up in Robe households and others were abandoned along the way.
Painting titled ‘Flemington Melbourne’ showing a long line of Chinese wearing coolie hats on their way to the goldfields, c. 1856, by Samuel Charles Brees. (Courtesy State Library of Victoria: H17071)
The Chinese ‘must have put in circulation at Robe not much less than twenty thousand pounds sterling in gold and silver’, wrote Melville 30 years later in his not-always-reliable memoirs. A flotilla of fine new boats emerged in the bay to cater for the new landing trade and local businesses thrived, with new stores opening up along Smillie Street. One newspaper report in May 1857 even claimed real estate had increased in value by 200 per cent within the past 12 months.
Chinese encampment by Charles Lyall, c. 1854. (Courtesy State Library of Victoria: H87.63/2/6B)
Find out more about Almost an Island here.
With Tasting Australia upon us, we can once again consider that ongoing and highly contentious debate: does Australia have a national dish? In her history of Australia’s gastronomic heritage, Bold Palates, Barbara Santich makes a case for the barbecue, more specifically the humble sausage sizzle. Howzat for gourmet?
The sausage sizzle is a uniquely Australian variant of the barbecue and almost by definition a public event—no one would ever invite friends to a sausage sizzle at home, even if identical food were cooked and eaten. It can be set up anywhere, from the beach to the supermarket car park, to feed large numbers of people cheaply, free from the annoyance of smoke. The ingredients and equipment are absolutely basic: a large hotplate, typically gas heated, plus a vast supply of sausages, sliced onions, sliced white bread and unlimited tomato sauce. Offering mustard, barbecue sauce and other nods to gastronomic fashion is considered to lift the status, but only by a notch. Although this style of barbecue—sausages cooked on a hotplate, wrapped in bread and doused in sauce—was familiar in earlier years, the particular term seems to have come to prominence around 1980, and in the past three decades sausage sizzles have proliferated like rabbits.
Keith Barlow, Princess Alexandra at a barbecue. Australian Women’s Weekly , 30 September 1959
On any weekend, all around Australia, tens of thousands of sausages will be sizzling and spitting for hundreds of worthy causes, as well as celebrating community camaraderie. To choose a day at random . . . let’s say Sunday, 2 August 2009, which also happens to have been National Tree Day, an ideal occasion to reward volunteers all over the country, in cities and suburbs and small country towns, with a free lunch. At the same time church and school groups and a miscellany of sporting fraternities are raising money for their own needs. The sausage sizzle is the simple, egalitarian communion that all know and share.
The sausage sizzle might be seen as catering to mass tastes at the lowest common level, but this collective appeal is in fact its forte— casual passers-by finding the seductive scent of sausages and fried onions irresistible. And like any simple culinary classic, it lends itself to countless variations—even soy sausages fit the standard formula. At the 2010 Writers’ Week in Adelaide, the refreshment tent offered a sophisticated and more expensive version with kranskys plus the usual onions and selection of sauces on a slice of wholemeal bread and, though they didn’t displace Vietnamese cold rolls in the popularity stakes, the kranskys proved their worth over six days of readings, debates and tall tales.
Mark Thomas/CIA , Advertisement for Australia Day, January 2010
The barbecue similarly has universal appeal, its versatility for all occasions matched only by its adaptability to all cultures and cuisines. Grilled meats—or fish, or poultry—are a feature of most cuisines, often as street food: Malaysian satays and Indonesian satés, Japanese yakitori, Turkish and Afghani kebabs, Greek souvlaki, Italian grigliata mista, Lebanese meshwi. The barbecue spreads its arms and welcomes them all on its multicultural table. Perhaps this is the single most important reason for the Australian barbecue to be regarded as a national symbol.
But there is more to Australian cuisine than barbecues. Find out here.
The Easter Bunny may be cute and cuddly, but he’s a real pest in Australia (which is why we recommend the Haigh’s Easter Bilby instead – see below). A century ago Australia was home to 10 billion rabbits, thriving in their adopted home. Storyteller Bruce Munday finds the rabbit saga irresistible, and has collected it into his new book, Those Wild Rabbits. The book features this excerpt from the Age in 1925, including a recipe for baked rabbit with apple sauce.
Rabbit, the Cheapest White Meat
Visitors from England often express surprise that rabbits, which are a delicacy in Europe, are often despised here. They are the cheapest of the white meats with us, and if properly prepared, yield to none, in delicacy of flavor. White meats are both more digestible and freer from those deleterious substances which in beef and mutton contribute to the rise of blood pressure and all its attendant evils. During the winter months first-quality rabbits are difficult to obtain, but the young spring ones are just coming on to the market now, and lend themselves to varieties of tasty cooking. Part of the unpopularity of rabbit here is probably due to the fact that methods of preparation are stereotyped, but the following recipes will give dishes which are both economical and appetising.
Baked Rabbit with Apple Sauce
Before cooking always soak the rabbit in salt and water for 30 minutes.
Take a moderate sized rabbit and spread over it slices of carrot, onions, lemon and bacon. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, mixed spices and a few cloves, enclose in greased paper and cook in a hot oven. Make the sauce from six apples, the juice and grated rind of an orange, sugar and a little water. Pour the sauce over the rabbit and serve hot as possible. N.B. – If preferred, the rabbit can be stuffed before baking with any ordinary forcemeat.
(Age, 20 October 1925, p. 6)
Find out more about Those Wild Rabbits here.
Hopefully the Easter Bilby will be bringing you plenty of Haigh’s chocolates this weekend. Here is the story of the Haigh’s bilby, which has indeed been Enjoyed for Generations – if only they were still life-size!
Wrapping moulded chocolate and eggs ready for Easter. Circa 1965.
The idea came from Erwin Shulten, a ranger at Bundaleer Forest Reserve at Jamestown, who asked Haigh’s and a couple of other manufacturers to create a chocolate bilby to replace the traditional Easter rabbit in support of the goals of the Foundation for Rabbit- Free Australia (RFA). Not only would an Easter bilby draw attention to the endangered status of this shy, long-eared Australian native marsupial but it would also promote a more realistic image of rabbits as destroyers of the environment rather than cute and cuddly pets. Alister had no hesitation in supporting the project, and Haigh’s supplied chocolate bilbies for the Bundaleer Forest Easter Egg Hunt for several years.
The first bilbies in 1993, almost life-size, were an instant success; stores ran out of stocks, and people even followed Haigh’s delivery van in their desperate bilby quest. Two years later Haigh’s produced a series of smaller bilbies, using a simpler, stylised design that made the chocolates easier to unmould. With demand for the miniature bilbies even greater, the chocolate bunny was abandoned in 1995 and Haigh’s made the chocolate bilby a permanent feature of its Easter range. Since 1993 Haigh’s has donated part of the proceeds of bilby sales to promote awareness of the threat to the environment posed by rabbits and to help fund research into the development of biological controls, and continues to support RFA. Twenty years after the beginning of the partnership, in 2013, Haigh’s had produced more than half a million Easter Bilbies.
Some years ago, two weeks before Easter, I was putting the sale of seven bilbies through for a lady. She told me it was her second purchase of seven bilbies in the same week. They were for her grandchildren but she had eaten the first lot. Jokingly I said I hoped she would not be back for another seven. Lo and behold, a few days before Easter she was back again. ‘The final seven,’ she told me, both of us laughing. Beverley Tripodi, Haigh’s employee
Find out more about Enjoyed for Generations here.
Australia’s Muslim Cameleers is back in stock (and on its way to Canberra to be gifted by the Prime Minister to some special visiting guests). Between 1870 and 1920 as many as 2000 cameleers and 20,000 camels arrived in Australia from Afghanistan and northern India; each has their own fascinating story.
Dost Mahomed was the son of Mullah Mohamed Jullah of Gaznee. A Pashtun, he served as a ‘Sepoy’ in the British-Indian army before being recruited by George Landells. At 45 years he was the oldest cameleer in the Burke and Wills exploration party. Burke included Dost Mohamed in his advance from Menindee to the Cooper Creek but left him there with Brahe’s party while taking some camels on his desperate dash to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Dost helped supplement the waiting party’s diet with ducks and fish and accompanied Brahe’s party when it left for Menindee on the very morning of Burke’s longoverdue return to the Cooper depot. During Howitt’s Victorian Relief Expedition, which recovered the bodies of Burke and Wills, Dost Mohamed was bitten by a bull camel. It ‘lifted him off the ground and shook him with great ease, as a cat would shake a mouse’. He permanently lost the use of his right arm, and was later awarded 200 pounds by the Victorian Government. After the expedition he worked in William Ah Chung’s market garden in Menindee, where he died in the early 1880s. [William Strutt album, State Library of New South Wales]
Abdul Wahid or Wade, a major camel entrepreneur. Originally from Quetta, he arrived in Australia in 1879. In 1895 he established the Bourke Carrying Company, importing his own camels and cameleers. He helped fund the construction of the Adelaide mosque. Abdul Wade was known for his adoption of western clothes, and later built a large house on Sydney Harbour. Photographed at the Mount Garnet mine, Queensland, 1890s. [13127, State Library of Queensland]
Under the Commonwealth’s Immigration Restriction Act 1901, intending or returning immigrants faced a dictation test (set in any language), established as a means of keeping Australia’s population ‘white’. [Juma Khan, 53 years, Afghan (1924) was one of the many cameleers who] obtained exemptions from the dictation text, enabling them to visit their homelands and return to Australia.
Find out more about Australia’s Muslim Cameleers here.
Launching this week is Never a True Word, the debut political thriller from Michael McGuire. The book follows Jack, a journalist who thinks he’s met every shade of nutter, narcissist and bully, until he enters the bizarre world of politics as a spin doctor. Perhaps Jack might have benefitted from reading John Hill’s how-to, On Being a Minister – here John discusses his experiences with Adelaide’s ‘best informed, most intelligent and, at times, most offensive interviewers’, Matt and Dave.
My first Matt and Dave interview, as a minister, happened on my second day in the job. They asked me why I hadn’t fixed some problem or other in the environment area. I think my response was along the lines of ‘Give us a break; I haven’t been in the job 24 hours yet!’ I don’t think either they or their listeners ever care what the minister’s reason is – there’s a problem and it’s your job to fix it, no excuses! Fair enough.
In almost 11 years as a minister rarely a week went by that I wasn’t cross-examined, poked, accused, joked with or challenged on their morning program. Many weeks I was the minister du jour two or three times – depending on the issue. The environment and health portfolios always had something of interest happening. That means that I did in the order of 500 or so live interviews with two of the best informed, most intelligent and, at times, most offensive interviewers in the business.
Matt’s and Dave’s specialty is what I call the ‘twist and turn’. They like to take something you say and then use it against you (the twist) or jump from one issue to another (the turn). The fact there are two of them against one of you makes these interviews a challenging experience. I can’t say I ever looked forward to these interviews, but I usually felt OK once they were over. To be honest, I generally enjoyed the contest – a seasoned gladiator in the arena with two growling middle-aged lions.
Some would argue that there is often little point going on these kinds of shows – relatively few people listen and the audience is generally older with established political points of view. Why go on and potentially make the issue worse? There is obviously merit in this argument; from a strict media management point of view it makes sense. And maybe my point of view is old-fashioned, but I think that if you can’t stand up to tough media interviews you really shouldn’t be in the job. It’s like wanting to be a top cricketer without facing fast bowling. Ministers should front for a variety of reasons: it’s part of their job, it toughens them (or destroys them) and helps build their reputation for openness (the public hates politicians who hide behind media management).
Quiet weekend ahead? How about building your own brick oven? Russell Jeavons channel his years of running a pizza restaurant on the Fluerieu Peninsula into his essential guide, Your Brick Oven. And once the work is done, Russell provides plenty of delicious recipe suggestions, like this Anchovy Special.
A version of the French Pissaladiere, this is how we deal with those kinky anchovy people. Anchovy haters should skip this one or leave the anchovies out. Anchovy lovers, read on. The sweet onions and salty olives and anchovies will bring out the best in your crisp white and sparkling wines. We use a fresh tin of anchovies for each pizza as they deteriorate very quickly after the tin is opened.
1 large onion, sliced
1 red capsicum
1 zucchini, small to medium
pepper and salt
250 g prepared dough
1/2 cup seeded black olive halves (good ones! with flavour!)
1 x 25 g tin of anchovies in olive oil
Sweeten the sliced onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a small pot over low heat. They should be soft, creamy and sweet, but not caramelised. Cut the four sides off the capsicum and slice the zucchini into 5 millimetre long ways strips. Toss the zucchini strips and capsicum in a bowl with a little oil and pepper and salt, then lay them on a roasting tray and cook fast over coals raked to the front of your oven. The aim is to use sufficient heat to colour them on both sides without overcooking. This is an essential brick-oven skill also used to cook vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, capsicums, pumpkin and fennel bulb. Tear the capsicum into strips1 centimetre wide.
Press out your dough and spread on the sliced onions. Place the vegetable strips with kinks and the olives pushed down into the onion. Open the tin of anchovies and lay them around. Season with salt and pepper. After cooking, sprinkle with chopped parsley for the essential fresh finish.
Brick oven and pizza dough, both under construction.
Hungry? Inspired? Find out more about Your Brick Oven here.
Publicist Ayesha is visiting Alice Springs at the moment. We’ve taken the opportunity to dip back into the history books, this time looking at the creation of the first permanent structure in Alice (or Atherreyurre, in Arrenrnte language): a ‘fortress’ telegraph station set against the ‘stunning backdrop’ of the MacDonnell ranges. You can still visit the Alice Springs Telegraph Station today. The following excerpt is from Stuart Traynor’s Alice Springs: From singing wire to iconic outback town.
The singing wire to the Alice wasn’t pretty but it worked. William Mills’s section took a crooked route through the MacDonnell Ranges but that could be straightened out later. The young surveyor had repaid the confidence Charles Todd and Gilbert McMinn had shown in him.
McMinn’s men actually strung up the last stretches of Mills’s wire so he and his crew could work on the unfinished northern section. Gilbert McMinn also took on the job of building a repeater station at the waterhole Mills had found on 11 March 1871. Daytime temperatures were climbing steadily by the time he got there on 18 November and there was no time to waste. His first priority was to get temporary shelter erected to protect the telegraph instruments and batteries. They were on their way from South Australia with the men Charles Todd had chosen to operate the stations at the Alice, Barrow Creek and Tennant Creek. He wanted them to establish communication with Adelaide as soon as possible.
Mills named the waterhole in honour of Todd’s wife Alice but it was Atherreyurre (a-tuh-ree-oo-ra) to the local Arrernte people. Of all the locations where Todd’s men built telegraph stations, this was undoubtedly the most picturesque. It’s nestled amid distinctive, rocky hills strewn with large boulders, and the majestic main range of the MacDonnells forming a stunning backdrop. The hills around the waterhole are remnants of molten granite that came from deep below the earth’s surface over 1.6 billion years ago. Gilbert McMinn’s men began stockpiling suitable pieces of this rock to construct the walls of a substantial stone building designed by Todd. It was U-shaped, with a galvanised-iron roof to collect rainwater. Similar-looking telegraph stations were built at Charlotte Waters and Barrow Creek.
The men had to go further afield to collect limestone to burn and make lime for their mortar. There was an extensive formation of this rock on the southern side of Heavitree Gap, eight kilometres away. They dug a limekiln in early December and laid the foundations for the building in the week before Christmas. The work proceeded slowly due to the absence of skilled stonemasons but they eventually produced an impressive structure that has stood the test of time.
It was built like a fortress with gun ports in its external walls through which the men could fire on any would-be attackers. This was never necessary because the local Arrernte people were remarkably tolerant of the intruders squatting on one of their prime pieces of real estate.Find out more about Alice Springs here.
While most of Adelaide has settled down for a well-deserved nap following the end of festival season, one favourite festival venue has no time to rest. Her Majesty’s Theatre is continuing its campaign to raise funds for its major upgrade, due to be completed in 2019. In 2013 Her Majesty’s Theatre celebrated its centenary with a beautiful book, Her Majesty’s Pleasure. What better time to look back on Adelaide’s beginnings as a ‘theatre town’ and the birth of what was originally to be called the Princess Theatre?
In 1913 Adelaide was home to around 200,000 people; another 210,000 lived elsewhere in the state. Electricity had lit the city’s streets since 1900 and, from 1909, powered the city’s tram network. In show business jargon, Adelaide was ‘a theatre town’. The city’s long theatrical history had begun in 1838 when the ballroom of the Adelaide Tavern in Franklin Street was transformed into a cramped but convivial playhouse. Many other theatres came and went until the city’s first major theatre, the opulent Royal in Hindley Street, opened in 1878, replacing two earlier, smaller theatres on that site. It established Hindley Street as the city’s main entertainment hub.
The Royal catered for the city’s thirst for ‘legitimate’ fare, hosting touring productions of drama, light opera, grand opera and pantomime. Meanwhile, minstrel shows and vaudeville found a home in what had originally been White’s Rooms in King William Street. In 1900 the Sydney-based vaudeville entrepreneur Harry Rickards transformed the 44-year-old venue into Adelaide’s first Tivoli Theatre, presenting there the same parade of international stars and upand- coming locals that were a staple of the other theatres on his busy Australia-wide circuit.
At the same time, Adelaide was quickly falling in love with the movies. Soon flickering films – silent, of course – were unreeling in any available hall, in tents, skating rinks or, in the warmer months, in the open air. One of the first al fresco venues was the Hippodrome in Grote Street, where movies were supplemented with vaudeville acts. Situated next to the markets, it was operated by entrepreneurs Lennon, Hyman and Lennon. In 1908 the American showman T.J. West leased the Cyclorama and transformed it into West’s Olympia, with seating for 2248 patrons. It was reborn in 1913 as the Wondergraph, the first of Adelaide’s grand picture palaces. It dominated Hindley Street, providing a provocative challenge to the Theatre Royal across the road.
There were new live theatres, too. In 1909 Lennon, Hyman and Lennon replaced their open air Hippodrome with a vaudeville theatre, the Empire, though it soon concentrated on films. Another vaudeville venture, the King’s in King William Street, opened in 1911, but it was an uncongenial venue, plagued by poor sightlines and inadequate ventilation. Meanwhile, the venerable Theatre Royal was looking decidedly shabby.
Clearly the entertainment business was booming – a fact not lost on Edwin Daw, a local identity best known as the man behind the city’s fish market and the associated ice-works. Mr Daw was the lucky owner of a large vacant site on the corner of Grote and Pitt Streets, directly opposite the markets and the Empire Theatre. A small stream meandered through the property, which became a favourite place for market stallholders to tether their horses and park their carts. In even earlier times a certain Richard George (better known rather unfortunately as ‘Flash Dick’) lived in a two-storey house on the site, and had stables there.
In those days the market didn’t just sell produce. There were amusements such as shooting galleries, hoop-la stalls and dart competitions, and a handsome first floor assembly room for weddings, balls and community gatherings. The market not only drew large crowds, it also attracted more shops, hotels and cinemas to the area. Canny Mr Daw realised that his empty block was an ideal site for a grand picture palace.
Daw discussed the idea with Albert (‘Bert’) Lennon, one of the trio running the Empire. Business there was booming, and the ‘House Full’ sign was out front most Friday and Saturday nights. A couple of years before, Lennon had gone into a new partnership with another showman, Bert Sayers. Sayers and Lennon Ltd were running successful shows in Broken Hill and were keen to expand to Adelaide. Daw offered the partnership a 30-year lease of the Grote Street site for the development of what was to be Adelaide’s finest cinema. The deal was signed in May 1912.
Three months later there was a change of plans. In August Adelaidians learned that the site was not to be used for a 2500-seat cinema, but for a 3000-seat live theatre to be built, they were assured, ‘on an elaborate scale’.
After that, things moved rapidly. By early October the partnership had commissioned designs from the prominent Adelaide architects David Williams and his brother-in-law Charles Thomas Good. Both South Australian born and trained, they designed everything from private homes to offices and warehouses – and the Majestic and King’s Theatres. Their other notable commissions included part of the Queen Adelaide Club in North Terrace, and St Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Wakefield Street. William Essery and John Hennessy were appointed contractors.
On 14 October 1912 Mrs Bert Sayers laid the foundation stone for Adelaide’s grand new theatre. She proudly announced that it was to cost £31,000, and that it was to be christened the Princess.