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submitted by Peter Makarthis on 25.01.2005

The Timber King- Spiros Notaras

Spiros Notaras - Grafton NSW

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submitted by George Poulos on 01.01.2005

Alex Tzannes. Master Architect.

The vestibule looking east.

This Cooper Park, Sydney, NSW residence, was featured in the two previous entries.

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submitted by George Poulos on 01.01.2005

Alex Tzannes. Master Architect.

The north elevation looking into the living areas. The outdoor terrace is visible in the foreground.

This Cooper Park, Sydney, NSW residence, was featured in the previous entry.


Alexander Tzannes Associates
- design architect Alec Tzannes;
project architect Phillip Arnold; assistant architects Anna Power, Ben Green, Sara Stace, Alister Coyne. Structural Consultant Taylor Thomson Whitting. Mechanical Consultant Bill Nappin & Partners. Hydraulics Consultant DCH. Landscape Sue Barnsley Design. Contractor P & L Brandon Building

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submitted by George Poulos on 01.01.2005

Alex Tzannes. Master Architect.

Architecture Australia.
September - October, 2000


Sydney Civility

Mannered sophistication meets modernity in Alexander Tzannes's elegant development of the urban townhouse typology.

Text by Philip Goad. Photography by Bart Maiorana.

The spectacular setting overlooking Sydney's Cooper Park inspired the design of this residence. The most important architectural experience is created by a large private terrace, extending from the principal living areas and overlooking the park.
The design of the house was developed from a detailed study of two major considerations: site and context. The form and street arrangement of the existing adjacent buildings gave the site a distinctive character. The site itself was a larger block of land, which provided scope for a courtyard and private landscaped area. Entry from the street is via this courtyard, which also contains a water garden and indoor/outdoor living areas. This courtyard has informed the design of the surrounding built form, and has led to an external form that is similar and sympathetic to the adjacent buildings.
Within the house, character is given by special interior elements such as moving walls, the stair, skylights and fireplace. These elements also complement the range of artefacts and art on display – an essential component of the brief.
The other major site issue was the spectacular elevated views over Cooper Park. The building design was developed around these views, with careful room arrangement and the detailed design of fenestration, terraces and balconies. Elsewhere slot windows, and the use of timber, steel or glass in response to particular constraints or environmental effects, also relate the house to both site and context – Alexander Tzannes.
Above Street elevation showing the U-shape of the house around the central entry courtyard.
The urbane townhouse has a venerable tradition in Australian architecture. It is, however, a tradition which does not necessarily court any fetish for the new, nor is it one which those seeking to bestow accolades wish to currently acknowledge. That was not always the case. The 1930s houses of Marcus Martin and Geoffrey Sommers in Melbourne, and John D. Moore and Leslie Wilkinson in Sydney; the 1950s and 1960s houses of Roy Simpson, Roy Grounds, Neil Clerehan and Guilford Bell; and those of the last decade from Espie Dods, Alex Popov and Allan Powell were and still are widely admired for their mannered sophistication. The perfection of a type was considered a worthy goal, as were the notions of respect for the street, the rituals of entry and of receiving guests, and the etiquette of the salon. All were seen as proper aims for the maintenance of the city as an institution of civic decorum, a term which is now almost in danger of becoming overused in Sydney, thanks to the persuasive rhetoric of Peter Kohane and others. However, the irresistible twentieth century rise of the mythologised architectural genius, and the accompanying cult of originality, has meant that to applaud or practise such architecture too much is to risk being labelled conservative or unoriginal, or of bowing to the so-called Georgian rule of taste. In the case of houses, such a dignified architecture seems to reek rather too openly of class and privilege. Such opinions are shortsighted. They overlook one valid architectural position among many and, more importantly, they disregard the invariable subtle nuances in the development of a type. Continuity and tradition rarely shape up to the "architecture wow" factor. This is, instead, a quiet architecture, serious and equally worthy, susceptible to bad copies and prone to ponderous but unquestionably solid good taste. Its perceived safety (if done well) threatens.
In Sydney, the office of Alexander Tzannes Associates has been designing urbane townhouses for more than fifteen years - in addition to free-standing houses on bush sites that celebrate the landscape and mediate the Australian climate, and the grafting of formally innovative works onto existing buildings. Tzannes is open about his office's design trajectory. It is a relentless and conscientious pursuit of the refinement of a series of types, an obsession with fine detail and a love of craft, and the pursuit of placemaking that is archetypal rather than one of critique, calm instead of ironic, formally austere rather than image rich, accomplished rather than dangerous.
In the design of a family residence on Cooper Park in Sydney, Tzannes has orchestrated the U-shaped townhouse with a courtyard entry as a highly controlled sequence of vistas and subtle spatial and axial shifts. It is the sort of house that Lutyens would have enjoyed. It plays his "high game" - the setting up of an order and its constant and subtle deferral. There is also the added and strangely complex vertical sliding shutter detail. It is the traditional shutter made difficult but more interesting. This is what Coderch might have done in Barcelona in the late 1950s. Tzannes's clients had lived for some years in the tropics and they had enjoyed the sense of the house as a box that could filter light and air. The louvred shutters enabled this house to become entirely self-ventilating and private. In Sydney's benign climate this tactic makes eminent sense. Upstairs, one can slide the shutters closed at night and the bedrooms expand in scale with an internalised skirt of timber decking. The verandah has been brought within the envelope of the house.
The strength of this house however lies in its understanding and response to its site. Cooper Park is one of those hidden pockets of Australian bush that surprises one suddenly in inner Sydney. From the street, one is only just aware of the Dupain-like silhouette of eucalypts beyond. Studying the section, one realises that this house is a series of designed thresholds, a progressive series of platforms stepping down the site. The prize, once one passes through the entry vestibule (which itself entices with an axis immediately to the right), is the formal salon. On its transverse axis, this long rectangular space has a centrally located open fireplace on one wall and, at the other end, a symmetrically located island bench. Ahead is a giant landscape panorama of silver trunks and a filigree of leaves. It is as if the open space in front is a Fred Williams painting stretched across the entire face of the house. This feeling is accentuated by the fact that one is elevated high above the park. The final threshold of the house is the outdoor terrace whose outer edge sits on a cliff-like embankment. Looking back to the house, the long horizontal space of the living/dining room echoes the generic shelf-like open living space so characteristic of Sydney Modernism - the space sought by so many from Utzon to Leplastrier to Murcutt but with its basis in work by architects like Ellice Nosworthy, Derek Wrigley, and Walter Bunning in his own home at Mosman. This is a space which can be opened up entirely to the elements, a space which could be the cleft in arock face. Tzannes overlays such a space not with the aura of holiday good-times but with gracious urbanity and a palette of enforced material and chromatic restraint. Like Adolf Loos's Viennese interiors of marble veneers and pale walls, this interior becomes the white flesh backdrop for the clothes, furniture, paintings and personality of its owners. This house risks being almost too cool, too serene, in its resolution. It is, however, the next logical step in the inevitable process of the Sydney townhouse where manners now meet modernity. Tzannes has reached a point in this house where, like Guilford Bell before him, the seamless notion of the good citizen without conceals a wealth of complex architectural intention within.
Dr Philip Goad is a senior lecturer in architecture at the University of Melbourne

Cooper Park Residence, Sydney

Architect Alexander Tzannes Associates - design architect Alec Tzannes; project architect Phillip Arnold; assistant architects Anna Power, Ben Green, Sara Stace, Alister Coyne. Structural Consultant Taylor Thomson Whitting. Mechanical Consultant Bill Nappin & Partners. Hydraulics Consultant DCH. Landscape Sue Barnsley Design. Contractor P & L Brandon Building.

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submitted by George Poulos on 19.12.2004

Ed Psaltis. Sydney to Hobart Ocean Racer.

Ed and Sue Psaltis.

Ed Psaltis – AFR Midnight Rambler

In 1998, Ed Psaltis and his partner Bob Thomas created history when they countered the severity of the cyclone that hit the fleet to be named overall winner of the Sydney Hobart Race with their tiny Hick 35 AFR Midnight Rambler. [See Ed Psaltis entry at kythera-family, under Photography Diaspora, subsection Sporting Life, for more details].

“Notwithstanding the tragic circumstances, no one on AFR Midnight Rambler that year will ever forget the severity of the storm, and how the seven crew worked together in overcoming those huge odds,” said Ed.

When asked why he competes, Ed responded: “For three reasons; the incredible friendships you develop with crew via battling together in such a tough race; The competitive spirit, in wanting to prove to ourselves that we can mix it with the best in long ocean racing and that we are up there in ocean racing standards; this race forces you to forget about all the day to day problems that we all encounter. The race puts everything back into perspective and convinces me that maybe the problems I thought I had aren’t that big after all!”

Ed and Bob are now campaigning a Farr 40 and following this year's Sydney Gold Coast Race, where they finished third Overall and first in division, they modified the boat to have another crack at an Overall win in the 60th anniversary race.

The modifications, while only temporary to allow continuation in Farr 40OD racing, involved optimising the boat for the type of weather Ed and Bob have experienced in "the average " Hobart. Six of the seven crew who won in 1998 are back again this year

Outside sailing, Ed, a veteran of 23 Hobarts and son of respected offshore yachtsman Bill Psaltis, is a chartered accountant. He is married to Sue and has three children.


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submitted by George Poulos on 19.12.2004

Basil ("Bill") Psaltis. Sailor and Benefactor.

From: BoatingOz -
November 15, 2000


A contingent of 75 Australian sailors recently returned from an extremely successful assault on the Blue Cup sailing regatta conducted by Vernicos Yachts in Greece. Vernicos is the Greek importer of Beneteau yachts and this year was the 10th. Blue Cup regatta conducted by the company.

A Beneteau 50 chartered by Brian Marshman from the Geelong Yacht Club won the Oceanis Class and the trophy for the highest scoring Australian yacht, donated by Beneteau Vicsail Australia. Australian crews also finished 5th, 6th and 10th in this class, which totalled 26 yachts from 14 countries.

In the class for First yachts, the Beneteau cruiser racer line, Australian crews finished 2nd. 3rd and 5th.

The regatta, sailed in the Saronic Gulf to the south of Athens, was held in amazing summer conditions with day temperatures in the mid 20's and clear blue skys. Winds were very light, however, which taxed the skills and patience of competing crews to the limit.

The Australian contingent was organized by Sydney charter specialist Mariner Boating. In 2001 Mariner Boating will orchestrate Australian participation in the Aegean Rally in July, with a three yacht Australian team competing for the inaugural Meltemi Cup being donated by Sydney sailing dignitary Mr. Bill Psaltis, who originates from the Greek Island of Kythera. [Village of origin: Mitata.] (Meltemi is the prevailing wind in the Aegean Ocean.)

In September next year Mariner Boating will also conduct its own regatta in Greece, the Greek Island Odyssey 2001, which will incorporate a lay day between each of of 7 short passage races from island to island. This concept was very successfully used this year in the inaugural Tahiti Cup, also run by Mariner Boating, with the lay days providing ample opportunity for race participants to relax, enjoy the islands and spend time enjoying world famous Greek Island hospitality and food.

A fleet of 20 up to the minute Beneteau yachts, which includes the Beneteau 50, the new First 47.7, First 40.7, Oceanis 473 and Oceanis 393 have been chartered from Vernicos Yachts in Greece. Details are available from Trevor Joyce at Mariner Boating, telephone Sydney 99669014.

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submitted by George Poulos on 18.12.2004

Conomos, Judge. Swearing in.

Swearing in of new District Court Judge Conomos, by His Honour the Chief Judge of the District Court.


[Another 27 photographs of Judge Conomos's investiture are available at this site].

Date of Work : 19/4/85
Type of Material : Pictures
Frame order no. : GPO 4 - 38003
Physical Description : Photographs - 35mm
Notes : GPO original locations or series - 85-46(1-16)
From NSW Govt Printer series - Attorney General. High Court
Main Record : NSW Government Printing Office : collection of copy negatives, 1870-1988

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submitted by George Poulos on 07.09.2005

Cane gang at Childers, c.1918.

In the back row, third from the left, is Minas Logothetis holding a kitten. Fifth from the left is Anargero (Arthur) Megaloconomos, Conomos holding an accordion. In the front row, second from the left, is Nicholas Logothetis. Fourth from the left is Peter Motis. All except three people of this gang were from the Greek island of Kythera (Description supplied with photograph).

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submitted by James Gavriles on 09.11.2004

Nick Gavriles and George Barris with the original Batmobile

My son Nick and his partner in crime ,the famous Greek custom car builder ,George Barris with the original "Batmobile" at a car show here in Detroit. Although George is nearing his 80's he is a very active man and still works a full day either in his shop or doing promotional shows. He travels around the country a great deal and makes frequent visits to Nick's shop to discuss projects and business.

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submitted by James Gavriles on 08.11.2004

Nick Gavriles custom car builder in Michigan

This is my son Nick ,who is partners with noted Greek custom car builder, George Barris, of the Batmobile fame
Topless Tailgater
Legend George Barris of Barris Kustoms and modern-day marvel Nick Gavriles team up to create a Mustang pickup with production feasibility.
By Vinnie the Hit Man
Photography: Peter S. Linney

Several weeks of careful sheetmetal work, fabrication and composite body panel forming resulted in this super-clean integration of a GT convertible and Ranchero. Check out the notched rear bumper cover that makes room for the tailgate when it goes down.

If you've never heard of George Barris and his operation, Barris Kustom Industries, well, you've probably been living in a hole, under a rock, next to a blind rat for the past 40 years. From his creative mind came iconic hot rods such as the Little Deuce Coupe of the Beach Boys, K.I.T.T. from the TV show Knight Rider, the Munster's Koach, the original Batmobile and our personal favorite, the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard. These cars are just a smidge of what Barris has put together over the years as his automotive resume runs as long as DaVinci's tablets.

Working with both his mind and his heart, he has created cars that you have always wondered about as a kid, a teen, and an adult. Fortunately for us, the Great One has laid his magical hands upon our favorite ponycar, the Mustang, and has created with intent for production, what he calls the Mustang Ranchero Sports Pickup.
Although we're sure nobody would want to carry any cargo in the near future, you can bet the attention that this car commands is all anyone behind the wheel should be concerned with. The entire bed area is covered with 16-gauge stainless steel and is mounted to a dedicated framework underneath. If all goes as planned, this Mustang should be approved for production by the time you read this. The new 2005 cars are also scheduled for a similar makeover by Barris and Gavriles.

Now you're probably wondering why did he, the god of all Kustoms, come about with such a design and creation? To find out, we called the man himself at his shop in North Hollywood for the skinny. Once we got him on the horn, we discovered that he not only is one of the most entertaining conversationalists out there, but he is a man who speaks a lot (no offense George) and with authority. As he relates, "I jumped on this project because pickups are popular now, as we know, but not because of farming. It's because it has a unique design and popularity with the consumer. I spent a lot of time touring with Ford during the Iacocca days by building several Mustangs--a chopped fastback and a Mustang convertible. "Since then, I thought it would be a unique piece to have a stylish pickup. I chose the current Mustang because it has good power and it's a groovy-looking machine itself."
With the groundwork laid out to create such a car, Barris was in search of a person who could help turn his idea into a reality. But he wasn't looking for someone to throw a few welds here and there. Nope, to live up to the Barris name, it had to be a functional, premium product when finished. Now all he had to do was find the right person to turn his sketches into a drivable, certifiable production car.

That's when he decided to take a ride to the SEMA convention in 2001 where he would look for a prospective teammate. Once there, he found a show car that was assembled by Nick Gavriles of Auto Innovations in Walled Lake, Michigan, which immediately caught the eye of the great Barris. Gavriles, as you may or may not know, was one of the very few people involved in the '89 Turbo TA and the '91-93 Syclone/Typhoon programs. Those factory GM transformations, and several other Big Three limited-production cars, would never have come into being had it not been for Gavriles.

As Barris went on, "After seeing the car (a PT Cruiser with a Viper V-10), I felt that Gavriles had the knowledge and experience to do a limited-production Mustang pickup. Since he works closely with manufacturers, he would know what Ford would look for as we looked to make this a production car. So, I did the artwork and the basic ideas of engineering, and got Nick. Then, I went to Beau Boeckmann of Galpin Ford in North Hills, California, and bought three cars and promptly built a hardtop prototype."

Once Gavriles got on board with the project in Michigan, things happened fast. Starting with an '03 Mustang convertible, Nick began prototyping the Mustang pickup, taking into consideration not only what would look good, but also worked well from an engineer's point of view. To start, Nick removed the convertible top assembly, decklid, rear seats, full carpeting and then gently removed the rear package tray. Next, he cut a notch into the rear bulkhead, aft of the spare tire well to effectively create a bed floor.

Nick adds, "We then installed reinforcements around the perimeter of the cut area, closing it off with plates that are tied into the reinforcements. It winds up being much sturdier than the car was before we started." Nick then tells us that the mechanism for the tailgate goes on next. Not to be confused with the cable-type setup on your F-350, this self-contained hinge mechanism stops the tailgate at 90 degrees of opening and offers a tidy package that devoids the tailgate jambs of cables, chains, barbed wire or whatnot. Next, the bed is installed. This trick assembly utilizes 16-gauge stainless steel sheetmetal that is fastened to a cradle that attaches at several factory-mounting points that by design, can collapse in the event of a rear impact, preventing injury to the two front occupants.

This proves that Gavriles was thinking of everything for true production, even what would happen should the unthinkable occur. Lastly, the overhead rollhoop, bedrails and tailgate (all manufactured from sturdy and lightweight composite material) were fastened to the rear portion of the Mustang.

Although not shown, a one-piece targa-top panel, normally hidden underneath the rigid tonneau cover, offers overhead weather protection for the two riding up front. A rear window slides up electrically into the "hoop" section of the rollbar and transforms this open-top party on two wheels into a pleasant coupe that protects you from the elements.

Nick Gavriles poses proudly with his handiwork. It's stock under the hood.

On this Mustang pickup, Nick decided to leave the GT powertrain alone, and concentrate on the appearance. The car's exterior looks more aggressive through a mix of readily-available aftermarket components. To set the proper stance for such a unique ride, he installed an Air Lift air suspension all around to offer the tucked-in look when parked, and to provide safe and practical driving on the motorway. To roll deep, 17x9.5-inch Colorado Custom billet wheels match the newly-lowered suspension and fill the wheelwells nicely.

From Classic Design Concepts, Nick sourced its Shaker hood, side-exit exhaust and sequential taillights. The remainder of the bodywork consists of a Cervini's Stalker front bumper cover and at the rear, a custom apron that Gavriles molded himself. It should be noted that in the production versions, the cars will come equipped with the aforementioned body components. Once the pickup conversion was complete and all the body panels were precisely fitted, Nick called Kent Gardner of Matrix Systems Paint in Walled Lake, Michigan, to mix and apply a super-neat paint job. But the color, as Nick was told, wasn't exactly what the car deserved.

With the help of an adjustable air suspension by Air Lift, this GT sits low for the show, and high for the ride. Billet Colorado Custom wheels (German Iron Cross anyone?) and Goodyear Eagle F1s add presence and grip to this Mustang with a bed.

As he explains, "Peter Linney, your photographer, saw the car and said that if I painted it bright red, he'd shoot the car for Muscle Mustangs. I then brought the car in and had it painted again in Porsche Guards Red. Basically, I repainted the car just for him."

So there you have it--a car designed, engineered and built by a team that not only knows what it's doing, but how to get it done. Of all the Mustangs we come across, this certainly is a knockout. Next on the agenda is a similar conversion for the new '05 Mustang. Although it poses to a major challenge, they intend to make a production-ready prototype to present to Ford within the next year. Perhaps a Mustang with inspiration from a Ranchero is what you need to be distinctive.

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submitted by George Poulos on 21.10.2004

Claudia Karvan. Kytherian Acting icon?

An article by Tim Blair in the Bulletin (Dec 2003) confirms that "Karvan’s family emigrated to Australia from Greece".!open

According to the web-site at

during a recent (September, 3, 2002, Channel 10, 8:30pm, Sydney) televison forum on What Women Want Claudia Karvan revealed that her family came from Kythera.

Claudia was born on May 19th 1972, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Claudia has worked in film since she was 14 years of old.

Her Filmography includes:


Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) (scenes deleted) - Sola Naberrie
Risk (2000) - Louise Roncoli
Strange Planet (1999) - Judy
Passion (1999) - Alfhild de Luce
Paperback Hero (1998) - Ruby Vale
Two Girls and a Baby (1998) - Catherine
Flynn (1996) - Penelope Watts
Natural Justice: Heat (1996) - Asta Cadell
Dating the Enemy (1996) - Tash
Lust and Revenge (1996) - Georgina Oliphant
Exile (1994) - Jean
Broken Highway (1993) - Catherine
The Nostradamus Kid (1993) - Beat Girl
Touch Me (1993) - Christine
The Heartbreak Kid (1993) - Christina Papadopoulos
Redheads (1992) - Lucy
Holidays on the River Yarra (1990) - Elsa
The Big Steal (1990) - Joanna Johnson
High Tide (1988) - Ally
Echoes of Paradise (1987) - Julie
Going Down (1983) - Disgruntled Child
Molly (1983) - Maxie Ireland

Television - mini series

"My Brother Jack" (2001) - Cressida Morley
"The Violent Earth" (1998) - Jeanne

Television - series

"The Secret Life of Us" (2001) - Dr. Alex Christensen
"Natural Justice" (1995) - Asta Cadell
"The Last Resort" (1988)

Television - film

Never Tell Me Never (1998) - Janine Shepherd
Touch the Sun: Princess Kate (1988) - Amanda

Television - guest appearances

"Rove Live" (2000) - "Herself" (episode # 2.11) 1/5/2001
"The Bob Downe Show" (2000) - "Herself" (episode # 1.17) 1/4/2001
"Farscape" (1999) - "Natira" in episode: "Liars, Guns and Money: Part 3: "Plan B" (episode # 2.21) 19/1/2001
"Farscape" (1999) - "Natira" in episode: "Liars, Guns and Money: Part 2: "With Friends Like These..." (episode # 2.20) 12/1/2001
"Farscape" (1999) - "Natira" in episode: "Liars, Guns and Money: Part 1: "A Not So Simple Plan" (episode # 2.19) 5/1/2001
"The Big Schmooze" (2000) - "Herself" (episode # 1.12) 29/7/2000
"The Lost World" (1999) - "Catherine Reilly" in episode: "Time After Time" (episode # 1.14) 12/2/2000
"Fallen Angels" (1997) - "Yvonne" in episode: "Baby It's You" 4/4/1997
"G.P." (1988) in episode: "Sing Me A Lullaby"

A great Claudia Karvan Photo Gallery, can be found at,

Since the release of the television series, The Secret Life of Us, Claudia has become an Australian televison icon.

Does anyone have any further information about her Kytherian origins?

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submitted by George Poulos on 21.10.2004

Diamantina Roma - First Governor of Queenslands' wife. A biographical note by, the current appointed Governor of Queensland, Ms Quentin Bryce, AC.

Speech by Her Exellency Ms Quentin Bryce, AC

Governor of Queensland

Clem Lack Oration
for the Royal Historical Society of Queensland
hosted at Government House, Queensland

19 August 2004

[An entry already exists for Diamantina Roma, in the section People, subsection, High Achievers. That entry was written by Dr Owen Harris.

Other entries can be located by placing Diamantina in the internal search engine.

I have placed this in the working life section because this is a speech by a Governor about the working life of a prior Governess, who happened to derive from another Ionian island. This entry is designed to compliment the High Achiever's entry.

Biography from,

Bryce biography:

Queensland's 24th Governor, Uuiversity of Queensland graduate Quentin Bryce, came to the position in early 2003 after a long and successful career in legal education, human rights and community advocacy.

She has forged an amazing career since graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (1962) and a Bachelor of Laws (1965) from UQ. On returning to Australia from living abroad in the United Kingdom following graduation, Ms Bryce spent 14 years teaching Introduction to Law, Criminal Law, Administrative Law and Legal Aspects of Social Work at the University.

Other career highlights include: Principal and Chief Executive Officer, The Women's College within the University of Sydney; founding Chair and Chief Executive Officer, National Childcare Accreditation Council; Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner; Queensland Director, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission; and inaugural Director, Women's Information Service Queensland, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Her community and professional memberships include: member, Australian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Geneva; US State Department visitor; National President, Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital; President, Women's Cricket Australia; Chair, National Breast Cancer Centre Advisory Network; Director, Australian Children's Television Foundation Board; Vice-President, Queensland Council for Civil Liberties; and member, Legal Committee, Childhood Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia (CAPFA).

We thank Her Excellency for permission to reproduce her speech.

Quentin Bryce

President of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland
- Doctor Ian Hadwen
Members and friends of the Society
Ladies and Gentlemen

I want you to know what a pleasure it is to welcome members and friends of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland to Government House for the Clem Lack Oration.

It is fitting that the Society has dedicated its annual lecture to this distinguished writer.

Clem Lack, a dedicated member and official of the Society, began his journalistic career as a cadet on the Gympie Times in 1918, and joined the old Brisbane Courier four years later. In eleven years with that journal he was a Supreme Court reporter, sub-editor, a specialist writer and political columnist.

In 1940, Mr Lack joined the Brisbane Telegraph and subsequently became lead writer and book reviewer. In
mid-1944, he moved to The Age, Melbourne as lead writer.

He returned to Brisbane to join the State Public Relations Bureau, and ultimately was director from 1953 until his retirement in December 1966.

Mr Lack’s writing and analysis on Queensland’s history has provided Queenslanders with ready access to aspects of the State’s past, and I am certain that the topic of my address would have been one familiar to him.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, this year’s oration came about following a discussion with Dr Michael White. Last December at the Supreme Court I honoured a commitment to my dear friend, Justice Margaret White to speak on the publication of Queensland Judges on the High Court and to unveil a model of the QGSY Lucinda.

Dr White had an idea, no doubt springing from my speech on Lucinda Musgrave, the yacht’s namesake and wife of Queensland’s sixth Governor, Sir Anthony. He invited me, as Patron of your Society, to speak at another time, suggesting I might consider expanding on the Lucinda Musgrave story.

On reflection, my inclination was to explore further the life and times of Diamantina, wife of Queensland’s first Governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen.

I wanted to know more about this captivating, exotic woman, of her serenity and kindness. And like many others who have read of the Bowens’ time in Queensland, I wondered about that couple’s relationship - the differences in upbringing and cultural traditions - yet encouraged by the impetus they gave, in partnership, to Australia’s northern colony, newly separated from New South Wales in 1859.

I was reminded too of the seeming contradictions in their temperaments. I am not the first to have considered this. The opening lines of a poem attributed to Jim Potts, currently with the British Council in Sweden, whose work Diamantina Roma and the Postings of Governor Bowen begins thus:

that selfish brute Bowen,
got Corfu, then Brisbane,
New Zealand and Melbourne!
Missed out on New South Wales!
Twenty years down under,
Sir Gorgeous Figginson Blowing…

Potts’ use of the word ‘brute’ and the sarcasm inherent in the corruption of Bowen’s name are taken directly from 19th century writer and natural history artist, Edward Lear, known the world over as the author of The Owl and the Pussycat.

Lear met Bowen on the island of Corfu and had lived there for some time in rooms near the Metropolitan’s Palace. He wrote of society under the British Protectorate as “having all the extra fuss and ill-will produced by a Court and small officials.” Apparently Lear’s particular loathing of Bowen appears in his personal correspondence.

MY FRIENDS, I wanted to use this occasion to satisfy my desire that the good works initiated by Lady Bowen should not be taken for granted, that we should recall her influence in the ‘salons’ of Brisbane, meeting people in its dusty streets, encouraging music and culture, establishing hospital facilities, motivating her peers, and charming foreign and local visitors.

I especially wanted to learn about Diamantina’s concern for her contemporaries, in particular families and pregnant women - a sharp focus for her personally as we recall her three pregnancies while in Queensland - Zoë, Agnes, and George born in Brisbane.

I agree with Penny Russell’s view that ‘the public representation of governors’ wives was threaded though the cultural terrain of colonial feminity.’ Lady Bowen was ‘a first’ in the new colonial entity. And as I thought more about Diamantina, I supported Russell’s observation that:

the governor’s wife was an important symbolic figure in – but not of – Australian society, and carried the particular burden of representing the Queen: not only as the wife of the viceroy, but (also) as herself the embodiment of a female sovereignty.

In this capacity, she presided over organisations and institutions that reflected the social constitution of the colony and the chief preoccupations of its elite women.

She could certainly promote ‘pet’ charities and causes of her own, but her particular function was as the ‘social apex’ of a world that often seemed both alien and insular.

My view is that Lady Bowen discharged this role with grace, elegance, and determination, and softened the ‘alien’ and the ‘insular’, and that her efforts were appreciated and reciprocated in the genuine feelings of disappointment and sorrow when she left Queensland in 1868. (I shall refer to this later.)

In 19th century Australia, philanthropy of the English variety saw the role of the Governor's wife as central to a charitable society or institution. A woman of status added solidity and respectability to a charity. Her contacts among the rich attracted financial support. The possibility of being publicly associated with such a woman drew useful, practical support.

Although the role often but not always demanded little more of the patroness than her name, many of the Governors’ spouses gave of their time and management skills to encourage and elevate community endeavours. I think of them as ‘enablers’.

‘It is somewhat disconcerting to find that women of independent means, who were nineteenth century voluntary welfare workers, are not uncommonly and patronisingly described with such phrases as driven by Victorian religious values or plight of the poor pricked the conscience of the affluent.

No doubt these were influencing factors, but the aims of these women were purely altruistic. They received no monetary reward, yet they were the founders and sustainers for decades of a number of essential services in the community.

‘For example, the Lady Bowen Hospital has grown into the Royal Women’s Hospital, there is the Royal Children’s Hospital, All Hallows’ School, the Creche and Kindergarten Association, the Playground and Recreation Association and numerous others.’

(It should be remembered that the State played little or no role in the services that we now ascribe as State responsibilities, such as public health and social services.)

A publication by the Royal Historical Society of Queensland in 1959 described two categories of women - The Lady and The Toiler. Considerably different ways of life, yet both classes crucial in managing the growing pains and aspirations of a young colony.

When I recall images of pioneer women, I am moved by their stoicism born perhaps of inevitability - thinking immediately of Russell Drysdale’s profound painting, The Drover’s Wife - the solitary woman standing on a featureless plane - women engaged in so much practical work - establishing homes scattered in the remote bush - coping without medical services - clearing land - raising, educating, and in many cases burying their children - managing properties while husbands were away for long periods about their work in the scrub.

And yet women, within their varying means, maintained the accoutrements of civilisation.

We have access to the reminiscences of George Leslie’s purchase of a piano from Sydney for his wife, Emmie: transporting the instrument by small coastal steamer to Brisbane, transferred to a bullock dray, and hauled unsteadily up the range and on to their property, “Canning Downs”, outside Warwick.

And Mary McConnell, piecing together her husband David’s extravagent collection of oversized silk handerchiefs to make curtains for their ‘rude frontier shack’ in the Brisbane Valley.

MY FRIENDS, expectations were high, fuelled by great enthusiasm for this, as yet, untested self-governing colony.

A contemporary source has noted that:

‘The heat and dust of a Queensland summer greeted Lady Bowen as she stepped ashore with her husband, Sir George on the 10th December 1859.

A temporary landing stage had been erected off the Botanic Gardens, there was a triumphal arch and fireworks, welcome banners carried by groups of working men, a 21 gun salute, and twelve young ladies, all dressed in white, presented Lady Bowen with a bouquet of flowers. There was much waving of Union Jacks and Greek flags and cheering from the 6000 citizens, one of whom had already named his yacht, Lady Bowen.’

From the balcony of the temporary vice-regal residence (now the Deanery of St John’s Cathedral) Diamantina held high her child (the 16 month old Adelaide Diamantina, known en famille as Nina) for the crowd to see. Finally, having endured agonies of sea-sickness (possibly morning sickness now that she was four weeks pregnant) and several hours of speeches and proclamations, Lady Bowen was allowed to rest.

No matter how broad and boisterous the welcome, Brisbane must have been a culture shock for the slim, 27-year-old Greek noblewoman.

The town was dusty, lumbering, and humid. It boasted an unreliable supply of water sometimes the consistency of pea-soup, unsanitary conditions were common, the roads rough, and infant mortality high.

Brisbane hardly presented as a jewel in Queensland’s natal year. And we recall Sir George’s early plea for funds, having allegedly inherited just seven pence halfpenny from the Treasury with which to run the new colony.

Rosa Murray-Prior (later Campbell-Praed) was one of the group of young ladies who presented Lady Bowen with a bouquet on landing, and later wrote of her as ‘a young and beautiful Greek fairy princess who seemed to have stepped straight out of a poetry book to dazzle the eyes of a pack of rough bush children.’

Rosa’s words caused me to think more deeply about Diamantina - her background, her family heritage, her life before Queensland, other influences that shaped and guided her approach to her family and duties - her kindness and clear sense of service.

I turned for some answers to her birthplace, the Greek island of Zakynthos, frequently referred to in its Italian form, Zante, one of the seven Ionian islands off the west coast of Greece, stretching south from the present Albanian coast to the southern tip of the Peloponnese.

The Islands prospered under the Romans and then its successor, the Byzantine Empire. In the 14th century the Islands passed to the Venetian Republic and remained part of “La Serenessima” until 1797.

The Ionian islands provided an ideal naval station for the Venetian Republic, from which to keep an eye on the Peloponnese. And its strategic value would later be recognised by Napoleon. In 1797 he extinguished the Republic and ceded Venice and all its possessions, except the Ionian Islands, to Austria. Writing from Milan, Napoleon explained his decision:

The islands of Corfu, of Zante, and of Cephalonia, are of greater interest to us than all Italy put together. I think that if we were obliged to make a choice, it would be advisable to restore Italy to the Emperor, and for us to keep the islands, which are a source of wealth and prosperity to our commerce.

The Turkish Empire is crumbling from day to day, the possession of these islands will enable us to keep it together, if that is possible, or, to take our share of it.

The time is not far distant, when we shall feel the necessity of taking possession of Egypt in order really to destroy England. The vast Ottoman Empire, which is daily perishing, forces us to take measures in good time for the preservation of our commerce in the Levant.

When French rule ended in 1798, a brief Russian Protectorate gave the Greek Orthodox population of the islands for the first time in over four centuries - political masters of the Orthodox faith.

In 1807 the Islands returned again under French rule as a result of the Tilsit Agreement between Tsar Alexander I and Napoleon. The French were expelled, and in 1815 a British Protectorate was established over the Islands until 1864. Greece did not attain its own national independence until 1821.

And as Jan Morris said in her history of the Venetian Empire, the islands ‘were the bastion of Hellenism, the place the Greek dimension kept it in being.’

These seven Greek islands - the ‘United States of the Ionian Islands’ - became a British protectorate through the Treaty of Paris (November 1815). Although the administration of the islands was placed in the hands of a
bi-cameral legislature, real political authority was held by the High Commissioners.

The Ionians, like their contemporaries in far-off New South Wales, resented such direct rule and sought real participation in their government.

The British Government introduced policy changes from 1841. The ‘year of revolutions’ in Europe in 1848 echoed in the Ionian Islands.

In a letter published in London that year addressed to the Secretary of State for War and Colonies, an Ionian (N Zambelli) protested the absence of freedom of the press and an elected legislature.

Support was growing in the islands for a political union with Greece.

While the topic of the Ionian Islands enosis [union with Greece] is beyond the scope of this paper, it is important to note that it was a debate that included the active participation of Sir George Bowen and members of Diamantina’s family.

Sir George Bowen published in 1851 a defence of the British Protectorate in his work, Ionian Islands under British rule, which was promptly answered by Ionian, Georgios Drakatos Papanicolas.

In 1863 the High Commissioner, Sir Henry Storks, laid before the Ionian Parliament the conditions of cession to Greece. Although these were rejected by the legislature, Great Britain and the European powers signed a treaty on 29 March 1864 that ended the Protectorate.

Sir Henry, the last High Commissioner, left Corfu on 3 May 1864 and King George I of Greece entered the islands’ capital on 6 June that year.

Zakynthos was famous for its beauty since the Roman author, Pliny, described it: an island full of the thrust and colouring of natural beauty; flaming sunsets; romantic moonlight; luxurious vegetation; magnificent, colourful flowers.

And other highlights: centuries-old olive groves and vineyards; scented lemons; lagoons; coves; springs; golden sands; and turquiose, emerald seas - the sweep of the great bay.
Known as the ‘Florence of Greece’, the island was also long accustomed to the title, ‘Flower of the East’. Edgar Allan Poe wrote his charming, mannered Sonnet to Zante, after visiting the island in 1837.
Fair isle, that from the fairest of all flowers,
Thy gentlest of all gentle names dost take!
How many memories of what radiant hours
At sight of thee and thine at once awake!
How many scenes of what departed bliss!
How many thoughts of what entombed hopes!
How many visions of a maiden that is
No more - no more upon thy verdant slopes!
No more! alas, that magical sad sound
Transforming all! Thy charms shall please no more -
Thy memory no more! Accursed ground
Henceforth I hold thy flower-enameled shore,
O hyacinthine isle! O purple Zante!
"Isola d'oro! Fior di Levante!"

The island took special pride in its own opera house, now since vanished. Zakynthos gave birth to three major Greek poets - Cavalos, Foscolo, and Solomos who wrote the famous Hymn to Freedom, the first three verses of which would become the Greek national anthem. Solomos’ lyrical work would later be sung in far-off Rockhampton in 1862 when Sir George Bowen attended a reception in that city.

It was the British Protectorate that brought George Ferguson Bowen to the island of Corfu as Rector of the University and later, Government Secretary, to assist the High Commissioner. Corfu has been immortalised by Homer under the name Phæacia (taken from the name of Neptune’s son):

Then swelled to sight Phæacia’s coast,
And woody mountains, half in vapours lost;
That lay before him, indistinct and vast,
Like a broad shield amid the watery waste.

In his work of 1837, History of the British Possessions in the Mediterranean, Montgomery Martin speaks of domestic Corfu city - its labyrinthine layout, the tolerably good-looking houses, the piazzas, the narrow streets and straggling lanes, the skulking market rats, - the Corfiots passionately attached to smoking tobacco - their favourite amusement, dancing or enjoying listless idleness - the countryside abundant with plover, water-fowl, wild duck, and teal - the surrounding seas producing skate, whiting, and the beautiful sea-horse.

Corfu had served as ‘the Gibraltar’ of the Venetian Republic, and is where Bowen met and married Diamantina, daughter of Count Candiano and Countess Orsola di Roma. Her father was President of the Senate of the Ionian Islands.

The family enjoyed a long history of service to the Republic of Venice - their origins in 13th century Rome and 14th century Vicenza began their involvement. The di Roma motto “Respice Finem” (look upon the end) well characterises the family’s many moves. In 1548 one of the members took prudent steps to leave Vicenza to escape the long arm of Venetian law. Ultimately, some of the family settled in Corfu, and others in Crete, a Venetian colony for 450 years.

In 1610 Candiano di Roma left Crete to settle on Zakynthos, and was enrolled in that island’s nobility. One of his sons commanded the island’s armed forces in Venice’s twenty-three year defence of Crete against the Turks. And one of his descendants was granted the title of Count in 1721 for his part in the defence of Corfu against the Turks.

Diamantina’s grandfather, Dionisio di Roma was the Consul-General of the Venetian Republic in the Peloponnesian Peninsular, then like the rest of Greece under Ottoman rule.

After the fall of the Republic, he would devote his energies and a large part of his wealth to promoting the union of the Ionian Islands with Greece. He would later be nominated as Greece’s first President. Following the establishment of the Greek monarchy, he was appointed a member of the King’s Council of State, was tried for conspiracy and condemned to death but later pardoned, and lived on to see Diamantina married.

When the British Protectorate was set up, Diamantina’s father became President of the Legislative Assembly and then President of the Senate. He was one of the first recipients of the British decoration, the Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.

His son-in-law, George Bowen had been secretary of this Order, and I delight in the deep sense of connection, seeing on the collar of the Order, the Lion of Saint Mark, the symbol of the Venetian Republic.

Sir George’s own insiginia of knighthood is on permanent display in the foyer here at Fernberg, through the courtesy of the Queensland Women’s Historical Association.

The historian, Hugh Gilchrist, in his Australians and Greeks, highlights the roles played by other members of Lady Bowen’s family in public life and in the politics of Greece - a brother married the aunt of the Queen of Italy, another married Princess Sofia in Romania, a niece married a Greek prime minister, another niece married a Greek general, and a third niece married a member of the Greek parliament who was a grandson of the Greek War of Independence (1821-33), Markos Votsaris.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, in his 1960s work, The Ionian Islands, Arthur Foss captures a sense of the Roma family home on Zakynthos, claiming it to be the capital’s one remaining mansion, only partially destroyed by the earthquake of 1953.

The house, originally built in the seventeenth century, is situated close to the Church of Our Lady of the Angels which stands to the north of St Mark’s Square.

Originally of three stories, the top one was destroyed in 1953 and had not been replaced. The garden ran down to the sea where there was a boathouse. We walked down steps between a fenced-off garden which was alive with flowering trees, into the hall which runs the full length of the house.

On the walls were portraits of ancestors going back nearly four hundred years, one of the earliest being that of a dark lean man, stern and unbending, who had commanded the Zakynthiot naval contingent at the siege of Candia during the 17th century. In the background is depicted his great galley, its long oars striking the sea off the island of Crete. Close by were his helmet and sword.

At the foot of the staircase, facing into the hall, was the portrait of another Roma in frock-coat, cravat and all the sartorial embellishments of the mid-Victoria era, who was President of the Ionian Senate during the Crimean War.

I shall return to this home on Zakynthos later.

As Gilchrist notes, ‘under the British Protectorate, from 1815 to 1864, the leading Ionian families led a gracious, civilised and highly privileged life, enjoying most of the amenities of the capitals of Western Europe and suffering few of their disadvantages. Music, opera, the theatre and the arts in general were promoted.’

It would be fair to say that these descriptions could not apply to infant Queensland, when the Bowens arrived in December, 1859. Brisbane, suddenly elevated as the capital of a self-governing colony would be their home for eight years. These were challenging times. And, as Bowen claimed, he found himself in the position of being ‘an autocrat; the sole source of authority here, without a single soldier, and without a single shilling.’

Queensland was unique amongst the six Australian colonies in that it received responsible government at its creation.

Bowen faced the difficulties of establishing the executive government and the legislature. Elections for the Legislative Assembly had to be called, the first Queensland Parliament meeting in the former convict barracks in Queen Street. This grim reminder of the convict past remained the seat of the legislature until it moved to the present Parliament House in 1868.

The Bowens lost little time in hosting the people of Brisbane and surrounding districts. Lady Bowen effectively raised the ‘tone’ of the rugged pioneer colony, her graciousness and open approach to citizens inspiring confidence and warmth.

This can be seen in place names including the Diamantina River, Roma Street (Brisbane), Lady Bowen Park, the town of Roma and, Diamantina Shire - not forgetting Queensland’s first passenger railway engine, named in her honour; and the marvellous 140oz Lady Bowen gold nugget, dicovered west of Brisbane, which Sir George and Lady Bowen were shown on their first visit to Ipswich.

A contemporary tribute to Lady Bowen was unveiled in 1989 at the Greek Community Centre, South Brisbane: the memorial figure of Diamantina by sculptor, Phillip Piperides.

During her years as Queensland's first lady, Diamantina took a special interest in the welfare of mothers - generating outstanding support for the founding, in 1864, of the Lady Bowen Lying-in Hospital. A personal message from the members of the hospital committee to their patroness highlights not only the esteem in which Lady Bowen was held, but also reveals her direct contribution to the hospital’s formation:

This institution owes its origins entirely to your benevolence ... charity which will always continue to bear your name, and from within whose walls we feel convinced many a deep felt prayer will arise for God's blessing on the head of her who devised it.

In the hospital’s first year of operation there were 41 births: 27 to married women and 14 to single women. The committee worked hard, meeting weekly, organising and fund-raising, and always arranging for one of their members to be available as a hospital visitor.

It is clear that Lady Bowen's interest in the hospital and in women’s health was genuine, brought about by a sincere desire to use her influence for people when most in need. She said:

I have great satisfaction in feeling that that institution has proved as successful as it was needful. I have much pleasure in thinking I was the means of commencing so useful a charity, and I shall always feel a pride in having my name associated with it.

I rejoice to think that we have in Queensland so many women who love to do women's work, and who show such ready sympathy for those who so strongly need a sister's help.

I earnestly beg that you will always try to assist and comfort those poor women, not only while they remain in the institution, but as long as they are in want and distress.
Lady Bowen was personally associated with the Diamantina Orphanage that opened at Greenhills (now the Roma Street Parklands site) - it re-located to Woolloongabba and became the Diamantina Hospital for Chronic Disease in 1901, the South Brisbane Auxiliary Hospital in 1943, and finally the Princess Alexandra Hospital in 1956. Her name was also associated with the Diamantina Home for Incurables.
Lady Bowen spent considerable time and energy helping with the formation and running of the Sunday School attached to St. John's Pro-Cathedral where her Brisbane-born children were christened.

As well as being an enthusiastic patroness, Diamantina was a gifted musician who made it her special interest to encourage others, especially young musicians. She regularly gave her patronage and attendance to public performances.

One of the few places in Brisbane of the 1860's where you could go to enjoy "culture" was All Hallows' convent, founded in 1863.

Lady Bowen and many others enjoyed concerts there, people of all denominations being welcomed by the Sisters. Before she left Brisbane, Lady Bowen paid a farewell visit to the school and the girls presented her with an Irish harp brooch, made from Queensland gold and set with Queensland pearls and emeralds. She had previously given the school her portrait done in pastels.

The girls told her that her presence had always gladdened their hearts, and that because she was a gifted musician her approval was more than once a cherished reward.

And another dimension to Diamantina’s warm relationship with the Sisters of Mercy - in 1865 agreeing to be patroness of the nuns’ first fund-raising bazaar in Ipswich, an event designed to defray costs of the purchase of the sisters’ residence in that town.

It is well documented that this was a period marked by sectarianism. Lady Bowen was prepared to rise above it.

“Brisbane’s first Roman Catholic bishop, James Quinn, came up against a bias in his dealings with Sir George Bowen, and the first Premier, Robert Herbert.

The Governor’s antagonism was not usually displayed in public. It was disguised largely by the exceedingly friendly relations between his wife and the Sisters at All Hallows, an association that afforded the bishop much satisfaction especially … to attract pupils (to the school).

Whenever it allowed, Diamantina set an admirable example of popular accessibility, her advertisement in the Queensland Daily Guardian notifying the public that she was available to receive callers at Government House every Monday and Thursday between noon and 2pm.

Katie Hume provides an example. After visiting Brisbane from the Darling Downs, she wrote:

I have been presented to Lady Bowen at last! "Duckems" took me to one of her Thursday morning receptions from 12 to 2 o'clock. There was no one else there when we arrived (except visitors in the house) so we had all her ladyship's attention. She is very ladylike and agreeable in her manner. She has just a slight foreign accent in speaking which sounds very pretty.

‘Perhaps the least self-conscious, though not entirely unbiased glimpses of Lady Bowen and her family are found in the letters of the young bachelor Premier, Robert (later Sir Robert) Herbert, to his mother and sister in England. The family’s activities are described regularly over a three year period. At various times he wrote:

“Yesterday we entertained Lady and the Misses Bowen. We gave them a large dish of figs, an immense one of peaches, bananas, biscuits, and what was most appreciated some peach water ice, which I made and which was very successful.

“We killed a calf last week. Half bred buffalo. It was excellent. We gave head, feet and a leg to Lady Bowen.

“Lady Bowen still looks young and pretty, but is not very strong. The summer heat and her husband’s eccentricities are trying to her health.

Diamantina also engaged in a full schedule of civic duties. For example, in 1865 she turned the sod for Queensland's first rail line from Ipswich to Grandchester.

After addresses by the citizens' committee, reply by the Governor, the Mayor of Ipswich, and a further reply by the Governor, the Minister for Land and Works asked Lady Bowen "to turn the first sod of the southern and western railway, and for the purpose, and in commemoration of this auspicious occasion, I beg your acceptance of this spade".

Lady Bowen was then handed what was described as a very handsome silver spade, suitably inscribed.

One of Diamantina’s greatest loves was gardening, no doubt stirred by her childhood on the lush island of Zakynthos, and to which she returned to visit once during the ‘Queensland years’.

After the family moved to the newly constructed Government House in 1862, Lady Bowen began intensive work on the estate. In a letter to botanical enthusiast, Sir William Macarthur of Sydney in 1865, she revealed her delight in the transformation of the grounds of Government House.

Many thanks for the beautiful collection of flowers that you were kind enough to send me. I shall take good care of them. My garden is the place where I spend all my spare time, and it is a great pleasure to me.

I wish you would come and pay us a visit. Sir George and I will be very glad to see you at Government House.

If you come to Brisbane we shall be very glad to see you after April, as it is too hot before that time for anyone to enjoy the elements. From May to September the climate here is perfect.

MY FRIENDS, such were the sentiments of admiration for Diamantina, kindled by her kind-heartedness and thoughtful style, that one hundred and twenty women subscribed to a farewell presentation to Lady Bowen.

We are indeed fortunate that the very fine bracelet, set with local emeralds and crafted from Gympie gold, is on display this evening. I note that the discovery of payable gold at Gympie came at a critical time in the colony’s economic history.

The married women of Queensland wrote a heartfelt account of Diamantina’s stewardship, her friendship, and her generous participation in the life of the colony:

We express to you the deep regret we feel that the time approaches for your departure from our shores. Eight years ago you came amongst us as a stranger and a foreigner, you leave us having won the hearts of many, the good will of all.

You have become endeared to us by your ever ready sympathy in our joys and sorrows.

But not for us alone, dear Lady Bowen, who now tender you this token of our love and esteem, have your thoughts been occupied. The poor, the destitute, the afflicted, and the orphan have alike shared your sympathy.

And it will be a pleasing recollection to many of us that you have taken a lively interest in our charitable institutions, for we know that to your benevolence and kindly patronage they owe much of their success.

Diamantina equally regretted leaving Queensland. The Brisbane Courier reported that as she walked from Government House with her family, she ‘was utterly overwhelmed with emotion at parting from home and friends of eight years. She never raised her head all the way through the gardens, sobbing bitterly, scarcely able to walk. On reaching the jetty, she broke down entirely and had to be carried into the cabin of the Platypus.’

The Bowens took up a succession of vice-regal duties: New Zealand 1869, Victoria 1873, Mauritius 1879, and Hong Kong from 1882 to 1886, after which they retired to England. Bowen’s final assignment was a report on the Constitution of Malta.

Sir George and Lady Bowen settled in London where he was an occasional speaker at meetings of the Hellenic Society. Diamantina and her two unmarried daughters became regular worshippers at the Greek Orthodox Church in Moscow Road.

I here revert to the description of the family home on Zakynthos to illustrate a not infrequent hazard to the historians’ research. Hugh Gilchrist laments that:

Unfortunately, Diamantina’s impressions of Australian frontier society can be only distantly imagined, for the hundreds of letters which she wrote to family and friends in Zante are now lost. Preserved for more than 80 years in the Roma family villa, they were destroyed as a consequence of the disastrous earthquakes in the Ionian islands in 1953.

The earthquakes struck Zante on a Sunday morning, and fires cooking the midday meal spread through the town to the Roma estate. When the flames were only 200 metres distant a change of wind saved the 300-year-old house from incineration. Its structure, however, had been badly damaged, and during efforts by her grand-nephew, Count Dionysios Roma, to repair it, the contents of the library were stored in a nearby hut.

They were still there two months later when a torrential rainstorm flooded the hut, and many historical documents, rare books and engravings and family papers, including Diamantina’s letters, were reduced to pulp.

Diamantina Bowen predeceased her husband, dying of acute bronchitis at their home in Cadogan Square, London, on 17 November 1893, aged sixty years. She is buried in the Bowen family grave at Kensal Green cemetery, Harrow Road, London.

Sir George made a final visit to Athens to attend a lavish reception in his honour, given by Diamantina’s niece Lina, who was married to Kiriakoulis Mavromichalis, later to become Prime Minister of Greece in 1908.

When Bowen was over 70, he married a clergyman’s widow, but his second wife was not well received by the younger Bowens, who had adored their mother. Sir George lived on for another five years and died at Brighton in 1899.

The continuing interest of Queenslanders in their first ‘first lady’ can be seen in the Brisbane Courier’s publication of an obituary written in an Athens newspaper:

Bowen had a faithful and very clever associate in Diamantina, his beautiful, graceful, good and intelligent wife consort, who everywhere gave honour to the Greek name which she dignified by her true Greek conduct.

She was a type of woman who will never be forgotten by those who had the good fortune to know her. In the prime of her life she united grace with goodness, and preserved a certain aristocratic dignity in her manners which was founded on the sincere and simple benevolence of her nature.

In England, in Australia and New Zealand, and in the East she was the good and powerful champion of Greeks who are not rare in those parts of the world, and with whom she was always accustomed to speak the language of their fathers with deep sympathy and emotion.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I have just touched on aspects of the life of Lady Bowen from the Ionian Islands and Queensland. I have not referred to the contributions she made in her other official postings in Australia and overseas. I leave others to further the research into the substantial and lasting impact that the wives of the Governors have made to the societies where they were briefly resident.

Finally, I return to the words of Rosa Campbell-Praed, an eye-witness to Lady Bowen’s time in Queensland:

Never had we ever seen anyone faintly resembling this gracious being with her kindly smile, and soft foreign accent, about whom everything from the bow of ribbon in her hair, to the filmy pocket handkerchief with its coroneted monogram, seemed to exhale an odour of romance.

Strange indeed must have been the crudities of Australian life to this gifted Greek lady whose brilliant acquirements and delicate charm might have seemed somewhat out of place in the primitive colony just given a name and an existence of its own.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by George Poulos on 06.10.2004

George Miller. THE APOCALYPSE AND THE PIG: OR THE HAZARDS OF STORYTELLING. 1996 Larry Adler Lecture to the Sydney Institute.

The Sydney Institute is a privately funded current affairs forum which enjoys good relations with both sides of Australian politics.


The Institute holds weekly forums, an annual dinner and occasional international conferences. All papers delivered to the Institute are published in The Sydney Papers which has a wide and influential circulation - including university, college and school libraries. The Institute also publishes The Sydney Institute Quartlerly incorporating Media Watch (which commenced publication in 1988 and was first into the field of media watching in Australia).

The Sydney Institute holds a major annual dinner. The lecture is given by a speaker who has made an important contribution at an international or national level.
Speakers in the 1990's included: 1990, John Spalvins; 1991, Michael Charlton; 1992, Wang Gungwu, 1993, Shirley Hazzard; 1994 David Malouf; 1995, Helen Garner; 1997, Jill Kerr Conway; 1998, Peter Doherty; 1999, Simone Young; 2000, General Peter Cosgrove.

The Larry Adler Lecture for 1996, held at The Regent, Sydney, on Wednesday 11 September, 1996, was given by Australian film maker George Miller.

Best known as the co-producer and co-writer of the award winning film Babe, George Miller is also a partner in the Kennedy-Miller production company. His long list of successful films includes the Mad Max films, The Witches of Eastwick, and Lorenzo's Oil.

[Search under "Miller" on the internal kythera-family Search engine - for numerous other entries, and links to other sites.]

George Miller was introduced by Sydney Institute Chairman Rob Ferguson, and the vote of thanks was given by playwright David Williamson. MC for the evening was Meridith Hellicar, a member of the Board of Governors of the Sydney Institute.

The 1996 Lary Adler Lecture was proudly sponsored by Telstra.

This is the first time the lecture has appeared anywhere in the world in electronic format, and I thank George Miller for his kind permission to reproduce it.

In 2001 George Miller also delivered another paper, A City that Works
Republished in, Sydney Papers, Volume 13. No. 4 Spring, 2001.

This lecture can be purchased from the RMIT e-library website:



The situation is not without its risks. You are sitting there, attentive. And me with a chance to put some ideas forward in a much longer form than usual. So each table has been issued with a whistle.Gerard Henderson suggested that if the going gets a little haevy, I could throw in one or two snappy anecdotes about Hollywood. So if you feel your eyes glazing over, you know what to do.

Meanwhile, I'll take you through some of my adventures in story-telling in the hope that a few notions might be useful.

Visual music and public dreaming .

When I first took to film-making, my approach was very straight forward; I was interested in the pure plasticity of film. I was struck by Jimmy Stewart's lovely phrase when he described film as "pieces of time", and each length of celluloid, cut to cut, running at 24 frames a second is like that, a little piece of time you can hold in your hands. I was intensely curious about how to join these pieces together like notes on a piano. To me, films were virtual music.

My first movie, Mad Max, was pure and simply a piece of visual rock and roll. What I didn't know at the time was that there were larger impulses at work.

As the Mad Max films made their way around the planet, they seemed to resonate somehow, culture to culture. To the French, these were post-modern, post-apocalyptic westerns and Max was a gunslinger. In Japan he was an outlaw Samuari. In Scandinavia, a lone viking warrior. The movies had tapped into the universal hero myth and I was given a taste of what Carl Jung was on about when he described the collective unconscious.

Here it was, first hand. And I, despite my creative vanities, was its unwitting servant. I was reminded that films, like all storytelling, have deeper dimensions. And I learned to look beyond the obvious, to feel out subtext where one is likely to find some elemental truths. Films are like dreams. When we congregate with strangers in the darkness of the cinema, it's a kind of public dreaming, where we process, mostly unconsciously, the more insistent concerns of our lives.

Further connections.

Jung might have described the terrain, but Joseph Campbell is the consumate guide. Until Campbell, I often wondered why I was mucking about in the film industry, indeed why any of us have this urge to communicate through narrative.

I learned from his dazzling scholarship, for instance, that the same stories arise spontaneously across time and space and are to;d as a way of connecting ourselves to all that had gone before and all that will come after.

Because I'm a storyteller, I sometimes have a privileged view. In the mid 1980's we wanted to shoot one of the Mad Max movies at Kata Tjima (that place previously named after someone called Olga.) Now, to the Aboriginals of the central desert, this place is sacred - every bit as holy as a cathedral, a temple, or a mosque. We were required to sit with the tribal elders of the Pitjamtjatjara and present them with our story. We described the scenes, and showed them our storyboards, and they responded with a short dance. They were excited; they had heard the Mad Max story before. Many of its motifs and archetypes corresponded to some of their own.

So here was this popcorn movie sage, and here were the custodians of a culture 40,000 years old, and once again the connections were being made, but now across the expanse of time.

The narrative imperative

Somewhere in our neurophysiology, we've been hardwired for story. There is a kind of narrative imperative - we can't be without stories and we find them where we can.

Out there in the calamitous give and take of life, we look for coherence. Patterns. beliefs, signals amongst the noise. It's one of the things humans do. We strive instinctively to instil meaning out of life.

So all of us carry highly personalised narratives. They make up the mosaic of who we are and what we believe. Most of the time they are implicit or subliminal, because we don't apprehend life by the intellect alone. Woody Allen was right, sometimes the cerebral cortex is a highly overrated organ. So we have this lovely mechanism to weave the ineffable, the mysterious and diffuse into stories. We suck them out of the zeitgeist and carry them like a set of tools to help explain the world and to guide our way through it. When there is an interconnected set of stories, we call it mythology. When it's shared by a group of people, it becomes a culture.

Sometimes, it's just a culture of two, shared with a friend, a lover, a mother. Sometimes, it's corporate, an institution, a multinational, a football team, a city, a nation, and at its most potent, it connects the entire expanse od space and time.

That's one of the depest functions of mythology, to give us context, to connect us. To help us embrace the numinous - that sense of dread and awe we feel when confronted with the immensity of space and time. These kinds of mythologies are so potent, they become the great religious movements.

Storytelling is a force of nature. There should be one of those warnings stencilled on the container "Hazardous material" or, at the very least, "Handle with care".

The lost tribe

You may remember that extraordinary event in the early 1970's when they discovered a tiny clan of about 30 cave dwellers deep in the forests of the Philippine Island of Mindabao. Their life was astonishingly simple, they hadn't yet learnt to hunt, they just gathered.

And they had no rituals, no marriages, no funerals. And for a while, we thought that we'd come across an authentic comminity from the middle paleolithic age, a tiny cul-de-sac of human evolution. As it turned out, these stunted naked people were the descendants of a coastal tribe who fled from pirates to the sanctuary of the forest 400-1,000 years ago. The natural historians and the antropologists were va little let down, but the mythologists discovered something thrilling. This small group of frightened individuals had created a mythology de novo. Just a few simple stories that explained their universe to them. And their universe was tiny, just three limestone caves on a cliff, 400 feet above a creek and the immediate surround of forest.

Into their mythology, they had woven stories of danger, instructing them how to forage safely and warning them never to leave the caves at's probably the reason they survived hidden away so long.

And one of these stories even provided for a messiah. When they were first discovered, they promptly deified the person who led the expedition....a gentle Filipino official called Manuel.

The gift we take from this huddled clan in Mindanao is this - you find your mythology where you can. If it's taken away from you, you'll work with what you've got to fill the narrative void. Think about where you get your narratives from. It comes from your experience, from your affiliations and your shared histories, and mostly it comes without you having to think about it.

So what happens if you are suddenly without them?

The dispossessed

In some parts of the world they are experiencing a bewildering incidence of violent crime. The ghettoes of America, post-communist Russia and post-apartheid South Africa are most often in the headlines right now. And it's not hard to see it's pathogenesis.

In South Africa, we have the appalling example of Sofiatown. Sofiatown was a cultural accident that happened on the outskirts of Johannesburg earlier this century. A developer couldn't shift his tracts of land because the council built its sewarge disposal next to it, so he sold it to the blacks and coloureds. It was the only place in South Africa where blacks could own land and it developed into a close knit community of extraordinary vitatlity. During the 1940's and 1950's it was a cultural hothouse, giving rise to a remarkable generation of journalists, writers, musicians and politicians.

And there was also the prostitutes, the shabeen queens and the gangsters. It spawned the likes of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, and even DEsmond Tutu. It drew the Athol Fugards, the Alan Patons and the Trevor Huddlestons.

Its spectacular success as a community was a direct threat to apartheid, and so, in 1953, the bulldozers moved in, and Sofiatown was threatened. The rubble was cleared, the area fumigated and the 60,000 inhabitants were packed into government trucks and moved on.

In its place they put up a glutinous, Afrikaaner suburb, and, infamously, they named it...Triumph.

The crushing of Sofiatown was, one way or the other repeated all over South Africa for decades.

It doesn't take too many generations before you are completely dispossessed. It is one thing to revisit, or even recover, a piece of geography. But you cant retrieve your culture, not even when it's being systematically destroyed.

If you are an African American male, for example, only a few generations removed from slavery, and trapped in the ghettoes - from where do you take your guiding narratives, your codes of conduct, and your sense of honour?

In South Central Los Angeles, they don't all troop off to Emma Thompson movies. They take it from what is nearest at hand....from the street, from television. You know the statistics......we've heard them so often now....the average child in the United States has seen eight thousand murders, and a hundred thousand other violent acts on television before he or she leaves primary school.

The disaffected

Let's look a little closer to home. You're a disaffected white male, seething with free-floating resentments, with not much in your life to give you cohesion or a sense of competence.
You like to watch television, play video games, go to the movies.
You lose yourself up there in the world on the screen. A world which has little or no moral complexity. Just the rudimentary notion that guns, big guns, are the answer to almst any problem. And the notion is reinforced, not this once, but by hundreds, if not thousands, of similar vicarious experiences.

Notice, by the way, how often in the last half century, movies have been touted by posters of men pointing guns.

Then one day you're disinhibited by some mind-altering chemical, by alcohol, psychopathyor some other reality perception problem. This is not too long a bow to draw to Port Artrhur, Dunblane and all those MacDonalds stores and post offices in the United States.

Mad Max and Babe

How then do you approach censorship? I think we shouldn't even try. To withold any information or idea from anyone goes against human intelligence and the curiosity that got us here in the first place. Some people argue it's easy to see the distinction, say, between Platoon and Rambo, or even Taxi Driver and Natural Born Killers. But, quite honestly, I can't even choose between Mad Max and Babe.

The Mad Max trilogy is ultimately about the redemption of a lost soul. The first movie is pretty much a one-dimensional revenge fantasy, but in the second and third, Max is the closet Imman being who, in the end, rekindles his compassion. Furthermore, by relinquishing his self-interest, he becomes the agent of renewal.

The world we must survive is dysfunctional and full of dread, but then, that is exactly what is in Babe. The very beginning of the film is set in a death camp, with Babe's mother being taken off to slaughter. For two thirds of the story, the lead character has but one destiny - that is to be eaten by a serial killer, the farmer's wife.

It's an old argument, but who makes the judgement call? And where do we start? At the more brutal passages of the Old Testament? Euripides? Shakespeare? Which fairy tale? Hansel and Gretel? Which nursery rhyme? "Three blind mice.....see how they run....they all run upo to the farmer's wife, who'll cut off their tails with a carving knife."

Censorship is ultimately impossible. As each day goes by, technology sees to that. It should be no surprise that the fastest growing use of the Internet is to be found in high-censorship states, like Iran.

Broadcast television and the internet

But there is a difference between Worldwide Web and broadcast television, for instance. On the Net, the selecting intelligence is with the individual user; its more like real life in the sense that it mirrors the normal distribution of conerns; it allows us to join little ghettoes of like interests.

It can take you into the Sistine Chapel to study the detail of the refurbishment. You can share the latest joke with your cyber-neighbour Poland, or you can surf down into the nether world and sample some of the more profound evils.

Broadcast television is an entirely different matter. The selecting intelligence is localised with the broadcaster. When it comes to television, Marshall McLuhan was dead right. The medium is the message. TV is that ubiquitous amd familiar window, that allows us to watch the outside world from the safe haven of our living room. The received message is this...."Here is the larger world as it actually is, and these are the ways you might respond to it."

Broadcasters are very priveileged; whatever they choose to show adds powerfully to the mosaic of our mythology. Censorship might not work, but prudence sometimes does.


The discourse on media violence is reminscent of the debate on tobacco. It wasn't until the 1960's that we were alerted to its harmful effects, and we'd been smoking the stuff for centuries. Even then, it took a decade or two to do something about it.

Cinema itself is just a hundred years old; broadcast TV not much more than fifty; video and computer games even more recent. Culture, and the technology which facilitates it, is in rapid evolution. To say that there is no hard evidence of the harmful effects of the media violence seems to me to be as disingenuous as the cigarette companies and their medical scientists, who for so long defended tobacco with the same cries.

Its tough for the behavioural scientists. There are no mathematical certainties. You are trying to establish a direct causality but the process is organic, it won't lend itself easily to reductionism. But as a practising storyteller, I could hardly fail to notice that movies and TV impinge on behaviour. As a film-maker you receive some unusual feedback.

One day a man parked across from our office. Now not only was his costume identical to Mad Max's, but so was his car. He didn't want to talk, or engage in any other way. He simply sat there staring ahead, each day, nine to five, for a whole week. Then he left.

A woman called from Ohio after she had seen Babe. She wanted the words of the song that the farmer sandg to revive the spirits of the pig. She said, her horse was depressed.

An Israeli physicist, diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, was planning the details of his suicide when he happened to see Lorenzo's Oil. Inspired by the struggle of the Odone family, he changed doctors and became proactive in the management of his disease. So far, it has gained him four more years of productive life.

I notice how I modify my own behaviour as a result of the movies. As a younf doctor in the emergency ward, I was suddenly required to tell a woman that her husband had just died, when I realsied that nobody had even given me advice on how to do it, so I resorted to all those behaviours that I learnt from the movies. I shook my head in that slow, sad way and muttered all the cliches.
But this was also her first time, and she did the same.
How many of us, as kids during the 1950's, jarred our ankles badly when we jumped off the roof of the garage trailing a bed sheet thinking we were superman?

Watch kids in the playground as an index of how much we take from American street culture via the movies and TV. The caps worn backwards, the high fives and the gesture "yes!" from Home Alone. Indeed, I was was working with traditional women in an ancient Muslim village in the North of Kenya, their black bui-buis covering everything but their eyes, and when they had finished an arduous day shooting as extras, they, too, started to give each other high fives.

If movies and television influence what we wear, the way we talk, the way we move, the way we play as children, how can we say with conviction that it also deosn't influence our behaviour at a cognitive and moral level? The analaogy to cigarette smoking, of course, we can't take too far. As a doctor, I only had one or two patients who tried to convince me that smoking actually improved their health. On the other hand, the narratives we experience through our media have the ability to cohere, amaze, inspire, and to heal.

The privilege of the storyteller

If it's your privilege to be a storyteller, be aware that it's a force of nature. Don't treat it casually. Don't be afraid to address the darkness, or to shock or disturb. Like nightmares when we dream, these stories often have the greatest capacity to heal. They alert us to our pathologies and allow us catharsis.

Think of stories like food, try to provide nourishment. Don't serve up empty calories...the mindless can be toxic.

Apply all your wisdom to your work. If you're game to enter the debate, be broad and holistic in your approach, avoid static reductionist concepts ...what I like to call "noun" thinking. The process is dynamic - a verb. So try and see the dynamics of the whole. Narrative practioners are in a vigorous feedback
loop with the cultures they are trying to explore.

Look beyond the obvious. Challenge assumptions. Never foreclose on your understanding. Furthermore, storytelling exists because often it deals with what is beyond the immediate reach of the intellect.

Stories are also experienced in the middle and early brain, so if you approach them with your intellect as your only tool of understanding, be careful. There will be great yawning gaps conundrumsm and the reptilian brain will be waiting, ready to bite you.

Culture rich, culture poor

There are some societies, like Japan, who have a high tolerance for violence in their entertainment, who at the same time have almost no violence in the street or the home. But then the Japanese are culture rich. Their unifying narratives are prodigious and resilient, and surprisingly adapative to the upheavals of the technological age. So the violence on their TV and in their movie theatres is less likely to promote behaviour, rather, it helps them let off steam.

For societies which are culture poor, it's a different matter. California is a place where you go to reinvent yourself. Post-war is was a great locus of social experimentation. So whatever culture it has is constantly shifting. It doesn't have a chance to lay down deep roots. These culture poor societies are suspectible to the quality of the media from which they replenish their myths.

So tentatively, I offer this equation: If you're culture rich, violent media provides catharsis; if you're culture poor, it also provides instruction.

Mytholgy and sport

I don't want to suggest that all our myth making is confined to the media, the arts, or the church. There are two other arenas where high mythological content goes largely unrecognised. The first is sport.

Sport is the great secular ritual. It ritualises conflict and endeavour, and again, provides catharsis, "make sport, not war" is its catchcry. Finally, it suggests how we may conduct our lives with honour abd courage. This is what Campbell calls the "pedagogic" function of mythology.

The heroic figures in sport are not merely those who win, but those who win in circumstances where it is easier to give into despair.

Greg Luganis's career came down to one final dive. Knowing that he was HIV positive, having cracked his head on the diving board early in the competition, he is required to execute a platform dive, rated the highest degree of dufficulty. It's known as the "death dive." One chance - and he pulls it off so exquisitely he becomes the first back to back Olympic diving champion.

These are sports transcendent moments.

And then there's the pageantry. The ticker tape raining down on the parade of the returning champions, the trophy, a chalice or shield, held high above the head of the victor, the laps of honour, the dancing maidens, the affiliation to tribal colours, the obsessions with statistics - great deeds transformed into folklore.

This is why we find some of our best writing at the back of the newspaper.

Mytholgy and science

Now for science.
There is a lovely interplay between mythology, with its impulse towards all encompassing metaphor on the one hand, and the slow small steps of objective elucidation that is science.

Let's take an ancient culture well before Copernicus, for example. How does it explain the weather? Why did the wind generally blow in one direction? What causes the seasons? Why does the temperature change depending on whether we travel north or south? Compelled to explain their universe, they rely on mythology, their stories are created from the known.

So there is a god for each of the four seasons, and a god for the prevailing winds.

Now time moves on. With the help of Copernicus and Kepler and Newton we manage to take some representatives of this polytheistic culture to a vantage point deep in space, when suddenly it all becomes obvious because we see that the earth is tilted on its axis as it orbits around the sun.

Because of this tilt the northern hemisphere receives less sunlight during one part of its orbit than during another. So we have a winter and a summer. And since the earth spins in only one direction - that is clockwise to someone sitting on the south pole - it helps explain the prevailing winds.

So myths lose their power when they are no longer necessary. They evaporate to be replaced by metaphors more relevant to the time.

How amazing then is the resilience of Aboriginal Australian "dreaming", that it endures after 200 years of European settlement. This was the worlds oldest living culture, reaching back at least 40 millenia. After they were done in my disease, despair and outright genocide, there was a systematic attempt to de-tribalise them, to make them invisible. And yet fragments of the culture endure. Its resilience is a measure of power.

Joseph Campbell had a wonderfully mischievous definition of mythology. Mythology is simply "other peoples religion", and religion he described as as "misunderstood mythology". What he was getting at was the danger of concretising the mataphor. Taking the virgin birth, for example, as a biological anomaly...or the promised land, a tract of real estate in the Middle East. When you concretise the metaphor, you take all the juice out of it. It loses its poetry, becomes static and brittle....then we get into all sorts of trouble.

It may even end in war. IN the 1970's in Beirut for example, the promoters of three differing inflections of the same idea of a single paternal God, began unloading bombs on each other. As Campbell wrote, it all comes of misreading metaphors, mistaking denotation for connotation, the messenger for the message.

But back to science.

You may remember this from primary school. When you apply energy, in the form of heat, to a block of ice and we watch it transform first into water, and then into steam. These shifts are called phase transitions - a solid, a liquid, and then a gas. Before this century, that's as far as the story could go, but continue to apply heat, and the molecules are ripped apart into hydrogen and oxygen gas.

Go even further to 3000 degrees Kelvin until those atoms in turn are ripped apart and the electrons are pulled from the nucleus. At a billion degrees Kelvin, the nuclei break up into individual neutrons and protons like that in the interior of the neutron star. Now we need the physics of the middle to late 20th Century, because we go to 10 trillion degrees Kelvin and the sub atomic particles become a gas of quarks and leptons.

Then we apply fabulous amounts of energy - 10 to the power of 32 degrees Kelvin, and all the forces known in the universe, the electromagnetic, the strong and weak nuclear force, and indeed gravity, will be united. That's when the symmetries of the ten-dimensional superstrings appear.

We are now deep in the quantum realm, and this is the prodigious energy that was the state of the universe at the "Big Bang"....beyond which everything is unknown, and the origin of the cosmos becomes the purview of mythology. Science has given us a simple story of the melting ice cube but is sure takes us a long way.

Mythology accounts for that which is beyond the known, while science, cautiously, in its own good time, probes the borders and with each success claims a little more territory.

I agree with those who say "science is a slower but surer path to God".

As we know the growth of scientific knowledge is exponential. The more we know the faster we can know more. We have acquired more knowledge since World War II, than we previously amassed in the entire two million year history of our evolution. No wonder the worlds great religions are fragmenting, retreating into fundamentalism, or being replaced by new fads that exploit our innate spiritual questing and compulsion to ultimacy.

For most of the time during the dialogue between the scientists and the theolgians, they've tended to talk past each other. But now, more and more, their discourses intersect.

Even the earliest tribes had "origin" myths that explain where they might have come from. And the scientists have got us as far as the big bang. They tell us now that we are children of the stars, that the atoms within our bodies were forged in the cauldron of nuclear synthesis in exploding stars long before the birth of the solar systems. We are literally made of star dust. And, what is so extraordinary, those atoms that make up you and I have, in turn, coalesced into intelligent beings capable of understanding the universal laws governing that very event.

The dance between science and myth is a gem to watch. Cosmology and theology. You're never quite sure which is leading the other. A final quote from Joseph Campbell:
"Indeed the first and most essential service of mythology is to open the mind and heart to the utter wonder of all being. The second service then is cosmological; of representing the universe and the whole spectacle of an epiphany of such a kind that when lightning flashes, or the setting sun ignites the sky, or a deer is seen standing alerted, the exclamation "sash" may be uttered as a recognition of divinity."

If you think that this stuff is a little too intangible, I offer the fact that, as a storyteller, my tools are not as simple, unfortunately, as the the word processor, ot the artists' tell my stories, I use the great lumbering machine of film-making - so I'm big on praxis. To the extent that the road warrior and the pig may have impinged on global might say, I'm giving away my best industrial secrets.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by George Poulos on 03.10.2004

Nick Politis. Rugby League Administrator par excellence.

Nick Politis.

Rugby League Administrator par excellence.

[Nick Politis was born in the town of Karavas, Kythera, in what was then the Agricultural School. His father George was the agricultural teacher at the School. Nick attended school in Karavas. The Politis family emigrated to Australia when Nick was still a young boy.
The family settled in Brisbane.

Nick has since become one of Australia's more successful and wealthy businessmen, Soccer Owner's and Adminstrator's, and Rugby League Admistrator's.

This article outlines his prowess in the latter capacity.]

How Roosters laid a golden egg

Sydney Morning Herald, October 2, 2004, page 63.

Once ridiculed as the transit lounge of rugby league, the Roosters have now been upgraded to first class. Brad Walter reports.

For suspended Sydney Roosters lock Luke Ricketson, missing the grand final against the Bulldogs tomorrow is even more devastating because he knows what it was like to have played for the club before its latest golden era.

Ricketson, whose 279 first-grade appearances since 1991 are the most by any player in the Roosters' 97-year history, is the only on-field link to the period when the club was nicknamed the "transit lounge".

While the Roosters - playing their fourth premiership decider in the past five years - have now qualified for the finals series every year since 1996, the previous decade was one in which they did not feature at all.

"In 1992 we just missed out [on the play-offs] by one point and in 1995 Norths got in ahead of us on for-and-against, but it was a long time since the club had been successful," Ricketson said.

"I remember we used to go to functions and they'd always play the 1975 grand final and talk about Jack Gibson and Arthur Beetson."

Until the premiership success of 2002, the Roosters did not have any other silverware to put in their trophy cabinet and during that time no less than 10 coaches came and went, including Beetson - who had three stints in charge.

The turnover of players was even more dramatic, with many big names such as Bob Fulton, John Harvey, Noel Cleal, Paul Vautin, Joe Lyon, Martin Offiah and Gary Freeman accepting big money to play for the club, but few stayed for long.

"They used to call it the transit lounge because there was a player at every other club that had played for the Roosters," said former Test prop Paul Dunn, who played for the Roosters in 1985-86 and again in 1996. "It was a good place to play but it wasn't really a professional place. The second time I was there, that was the direction they were heading. I suppose they got fair dinkum about their football."


Hand-picking his own team of directors, which now includes James Packer, Channel Nine boss David Gyngell and Mark Bouris of Wizard Home Loans, the Roosters have not had to hold board elections for more than 10 years, as there have been no disgruntled members to challenge them.

"There's no doubt that the current success of the club is the result of 15 years of hard work by Nick," said former ARL general manager John Quayle, a member of the Roosters' 1975 grand-final-winning team. "If you go back to the mid-1980s when the league was looking very closely at its struggling clubs, Easts were one of those ... so to turn things around the way they have is a tribute to Nick and his board. The changes he introduced brought stability and a professionalism ... which is now the benchmark of how a football club should be administered and coached."

Former teammate Russell Fairfax, who now works for Fox Sports after a brief stint coaching the Roosters in 1989 and 1990, agrees. "Back when it was affectionately known as the transit lounge the club was run basically by the leagues club and it wasn't a football-orientated management team," Fairfax said.

"Perhaps the buying [of players] could have been better handled and they wouldn't have got that tag but it wasn't administered by people that knew how to handle sport. They got professional people in to run the club; before it was basically run by one man, Ron Jones."

Beetson, whose second stint as coach preceded Fairfax's reign, set up the development and recruitment structure that has ultimately led to the Roosters getting all three teams to the grand final tomorrow after filling in in an interim capacity when Mark Murray was sacked in 1994.

But it was undoubtedly the poaching of Phil Gould from Penrith the following season that set the club on course for the success it has achieved in the past nine seasons.

Coinciding with the outbreak of the Super League war, Gould - as NSW Origin coach - was able to give the Roosters a profile they had not previously enjoyed, and when the Panthers became the last club to defect from the ARL, Brad Fittler and Matt Sing followed him to Bondi.

"I think that was the reasoning behind getting Gus, to attract good players," said trainer Ron Palmer, who joined the club as a member of Beetson's coaching staff in 1987.

Yet under the direction of Beetson, the Roosters' recruitment has been more selective - with the focus on developing talent rather than buying big-name stars. "They've probably got one of the best recruiting systems in the game and the quality of the coaches they have had over the past 10 years has obviously had a lot to do with it," Dunn said. "Ricky Stuart has added his own touches but I think he has also reaped the benefits of what was done the preceding six or seven years under Phil Gould and Graham Murray."

Away from the field, the Roosters have exerted greater influence through Politis's position on the NRL partnership committee and Gould's involvement in the media with Channel Nine and Fairfax newspapers.

Incidents such as Politis's attack on the judiciary system in the wake of Ricketson's suspension have led to criticism of the club as being self-centred and not interested in the overall wellbeing of the game.

But Quayle said the Roosters' image as the "new Manly" was due largely to jealousy of their success.

"I think it's the same as has happened in the past to the Canterburys, the Parramattas, the Brisbanes and, of course, the Manlys," Quayle said. "Being envied by other clubs only comes with success and the Roosters are going through a golden era at the moment to rival the ones they had in the 1930s and the mid-1970s.

"But golden eras don't last forever ... you've only got to go back 10 or 15 years to realise that."

Just ask Ricketson.

[Luke Ricketson was suspended for 3 weeks for striking an opponent in the Preliminary Final against the North Queensland Cowboys.]

Photos > Working Life

submitted by George Poulos on 27.06.2004

Australian Academy of Science – Sectional Committees - Professor Harry Poulos

Sectional Committee 5 [2004].

Applied physical sciences, such as materials science, industrial innovation and engineering sciences not covered elsewhere

Professor G J Jameson (Chair)
Professor H G POULOS
Professor Y Mai
Professor E Rizzardor
Professor P G McCormick
Professor T Sridhar


Photos > Working Life

submitted by George Poulos on 23.06.2004

Sugarcane cutters, Childers, Qld, c.1917. John Comino (right) with a Greek-Cypriot co-worker.

Sugarcane cutters, Childers, Qld, c.1917. John Comino (right) with a Greek-Cypriot co-worker.

Quite a number of Greeks, and Kytherian-Greeks, labouried on the Queensland sugar plantations during the early decades of last century.

See article published in Neos Kosmos newspaper, Monday 21-6-2004, at:

Photos > Working Life

submitted by George Poulos on 21.06.2004

A Guide to Greek-Australian, including Kytherian-Australian, Film-makers.

Bill Mousoulis.

A Guide to Greek-Australian Film-makers.



The Australian film industry is a curious beast, never quite sure of itself, and always struggling to survive. It kept pace with the rest of the world early in the century, but from about 1940 it went through a long fallow period, where features were made only sporadically, until the late '60s. In the '70s, thanks to government support, Australian cinema regenerated itself, in the process producing quality mainstream directors (Weir, Schepisi, Beresford), tough-minded independent directors (Deling, Cowan, Tammer), and a swag of brilliant underground/experimental directors (the Cantrills, Lee, Winkler). In the '80s, complacency set in, the 10BA tax scheme took over, and many unbelievably bad films were made, with even the underground scene being affected, thanks to rising production costs. Now, in the '90s, thanks to those costs, the underground scene is near-dead, but the feature film arena seems to have rejuvenated itself, with such "quirky" (as they say) films like Strictly Ballroom, Muriel's Wedding, Shine, Love And Other Catastrophes, The Castle, proving hits both here and overseas.

Now, Australia prides itself on being (and being seen as) a "multicultural" country, thanks to an immigration policy which has welcomed numerous refugees and others into its land over the last five decades. According to statistics, Australia's current population is around 18.5 million, with 4 million of these people being NESBs (people from a non-English-speaking background). And, of these 4 million, 300,000 (or 1.6 % of the total population) are Greek NESBs (either born in Greece or 2nd [or 3rd, etc.] generation Greeks, born here).

Now, the question is: what impact have these NESBs had on the Australian film industry? Have Australian films reflected their lives, their stories, their points-of-view? And have many of these ethnic people actually ventured behind the camera, to write, produce, direct these films? Before attempting to answer these questions (if only in a brief way), here now is a list of Greek-Australian film-makers (to focus on this particular ethnic group), and their filmographies.


The following is an alphabetical listing of Greek-Australian film directors, and not writers or producers or anything else, the director usually being the one recognised as the "author" (or certainly the "personality") of each film.

Where the information is known, the year and country of birth are then given, together with the film school they went to, if any.

A filmography is then supplied, listing films in chronological order, with their year of completion, duration, gauge (for the video works, however, the specific format is not listed), and genre (with sometimes more than one category cited). Where a film-maker's filmography is particularly extensive, only a selected filmography is supplied. Feature films are in upper case, short films in upper-and-lower case. (For the record, short films are those which are 59 minutes and under, whilst those films over 59 minutes which are finished on video or Super-8 are not officially recognised as "features". The same applies to documentaries over 59 minutes long.) The filmographies are restricted to what we normally think of as "films": individual, artistic entities that are somewhere in the field of the narrative-documentary-experimental spectrum (even if shot and/or completed on video). Excluded from the filmographies are TV series, tele-features, ads, music clips, training/corporate videos, multimedia works, etc.

If there is then anything pertinent to say about the director, either on her/his biography or on her/his work, some notes are provided. Finally, there is a quick mention regarding whether or not the director is exploring Greek themes in her/his work. (i.e. exploring them in a direct, obvious sense, by utilising specifically Greek subjects or stories.)

I have listed as many people as possible as I could find information on, but obviously it is an incomplete list. There would be quite a few more emerging and/or underground figures (especially outside of Melbourne) working away out of the spotlight, and detailed research would perhaps also be able to unearth some figures from the '60s and before. Also, some of the details below are incomplete, the film-makers not being easily contactable in some cases. Despite that, I include several film-makers who seem to have made only the one film before then disappearing out of view. Anyone who has ever made a film knows that these film-makers deserve to be listed.

If you would like yourself or someone else listed here, please email Bill Mousoulis.

Acknowledgments to: firstly, Eleni Bertes, for her database on Greek-Australian film-makers; secondly, the AFI Research and Information Centre, for access to their files; thirdly, Vicky Tsaconas, Liz Burke, Sarah Zadeh, Ray Argall, John Cruthers, Corinne Cantrill, Melissa Juhanson, for useful information; and, lastly but not leastly, the film-makers themselves, for providing details about themselves.

[What follows is a long list of Greek-Australian filmakers.

I can immediately recognise 2, as having a Kytherian heritage.

Other researchers may be able to determine that others on the list at

also possess a Kytherian heritage.

Please advise if, upon perusal of the list, you find this to be the case.]

George Miller, &

John Conomos.

George Miller's entry:

George Miller (USA) b. 1945, Australia.

Filmography: Violence in the Cinema, Part 1 (1972, 14 mins, 35mm, mocko), Devil in Evening Dress (1973, doco), MAD MAX (1979, 91 mins, 35mm, drama), MAD MAX 2 (1981, 94 mins, 35mm, drama), episode of TWILIGHT ZONE - THE MOVIE (USA, 1993, 101 mins, 35mm, drama), MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985, 106 mins, 35mm, drama), THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (USA, 1987, 118 mins, 35mm, drama), LORENZO'S OIL (USA, 1992, 135 mins, 35mm, drama), BABE IN METROPOLIS (1998, 35mm, drama).

Notes: A child of Greek migrants. Studied medicine and was then a doctor. Currently in Hollywood.

Greek themes: No.

John Conomos's entry.

John Conomos (NSW) b. 1947, Australia. Film school: self-taught.

Filmography (selected): Autumn Song (1997, 23 mins, video, essay)

Notes: Has an MA, currently teaches film and media studies at Sydney College of the Arts, and is also a film critic.

Greek themes: Yes, on and off.

[John Conomos's achievements in film and art are much more extensive than indicated here.
I hope to explore those achievements in more depth in the near future (mid-2004)].

Bill Mousoulis' concluding, BRIEF OVERVIEW.

Firstly, have Greek-Australians been given "a fair go" as directors in the Australian film industry, in terms of numbers represented? Let's look at some statistics, for the feature film arena. In the period 1978-94, 341 feature films were theatrically released. In the period 1995-98, 117 feature films were produced (i.e. this includes those which did not/will not get a release). Of these 458 films, 19 were directed by Greeks. (Or: 4.1 %.) There is a difference between the two periods. Greeks directed 11 out of 341 films (3.2 %) in '78-'94, and 8 out of 117 films (6.8 %) in '95-'98. In the first period, the mainstream directors Miller, Tass, Proyas, Marinos, Tatoulis account for 9 of the 11 films, the other two being by the independents Vellis and Pavlou. In the second period, Tass and Tatoulis account for 3 of the 8 films, the other five being by Vellis (his 2nd feature), and by more independents in Tsilimidos, Efthymiou, myself and Kokkinos (their 1st features). This is all very understandable: most 2nd generation Greeks were born in the '60s, and so they are now the right age to be making an impact. Which means that there will certainly be more features coming from Greek-Australian film-makers in the next 5, 10, 20 years. Of the short film-makers listed above, Kannava is poised to make her debut feature over the next couple of years, with maybe also others to follow (Gogos, Goularas, Heristanidis, Stamatakos, Tsialos). (Sorry if I have left anyone out of this list - prove me wrong!)

I would suggest that, overall, seeing as Greek NESBs make up only 1.6 % of the Australian population, Greeks are well-represented behind the camera in the Australian film scene. A brief comparison with other NESB film directors highlights this even more. Australia has always had mainstream NESBs like Mora, Amenta, Schultz, Schepisi, Safran, etc., but the names to present here would be the more independent-minded directors: Cox, de Heer, Mueller, Hoaas, Chan, Law, Acquisto, Pellizzari. And that is as far as the list goes, for feature films. Which means that all of Australia's ethnic groups can only boast one or two feature film-makers at most, whilst we Greeks have all the aforementioned ones. Or how about another comparison, with another "minority" (51 % that is), women? Of the 458 feature films since 1974, only 53 (11.6 %) were directed by women. As with Greek directors, however, the situation is getting better: women directed 33 of 341 films (9.7 %) in '78-'94, but then 23 of 117 films (19.7 %) in '95-'98. Slowly but surely, Australian cinema is becoming more interesting, reflecting both cultural and sexual diversity in terms of who gets allowed to be behind the camera.

Now, what about in front of the camera, within the films' frames - are Greek characters, stories and viewpoints represented? Are themes such as identity, migration, assimilation, cultural dislocation, racism, etc. explored? Do the directors in question uphold and celebrate their ethnicity (their family customs, their religion, their mores), or are they indifferent, or even antagonistic, towards it? The results are, of course, a mixed bag.

The first wave of Greek-Australian film directors - Miller, Tass, Proyas, Tatoulis - seem to have assimilated themselves (name changes and all) quickly and successfully into mainstream Anglo-Australian culture, leaving barely a trace of Greekness in their work. John Papadopoulos, also from that first period, likewise does not explore specifically Greek themes in his films. Of the second wave of directors, those hitting their straps from the mid-'80s onwards, the following also have an almost total absence of Greek subjects/themes from their films: Efthymiou, Goularas, Kotsanis, myself, Stamatakos, Sideris, and several others.

At the other end of the scale, quite a few of the directors listed in this article do tackle specifically Greek subject matter. Karris especially seems to have a deep and genuine passion for Greek issues. Kannava also has an ongoing preoccupation with Greek issues, in particular the issue of bi-culturalism. Heristanidis, Desma Kastonas, Linou, Nedelkopoulos, Skiotis, Spanos and Viscas also portray and/or explore Greek ways/problems/results in their work.

But there are film-makers problematically in between these two camps. Kokkinos' work, for example, seems to be wholly about Greek characters, but I believe the ethnicity of her characters is secondary to the actual human drama taking place (apart from in Antamosi, which definitely has a Greek "atmosphere" to it - more on this below). The same for Vellis' work - the Greek characters that appear here and there are simply part of the whole tapestry Vellis is interested in presenting. As for Pavlou and Tsilimidos, their respective features are not Greek at all, but Pavlou's short The Killing of Angelo Tsakos is about a Greek youth, whilst Tsilimidos' short Man of Straw is a devastating portrait of a particular Greek male type (the gambler).

Now, there is a more complex way approaching the question of whether or not all these Greek-Australian film-makers are "Greek". Direct, literal subject matter is only one way of attacking this question. The other ways are: thematically, but metaphorically; aesthetically; stylistically; and, more nebulously, according to "sense", or "philosophy".

For example, the metaphorical way: Stavros Efthymiou's films, all of them about geographical dislocation, can quite easily be read as films about cultural dislocation (reflecting Efthymiou's own story). Or look at a character like Vellis' Harry Dare (a blackfella): isn't Harry an underdog, an outsider, trying to put his life together, just like many Greek-Australians?

As for aesthetically, what I mean is a love for and/or understanding of the specific looks, surfaces, textures, faces, etc. of Greek life. As mentioned, Antamosi has this, and so do Heristanidis' The Icon, Nedelkopoulos' expanded home movies, Karris' work, and, especially, Kannava's Ten Years After ... Ten Years Older. (I find this "aesthetic" quality even stronger in Italian-Australian work, for example, the films of Monica Pellizzari, Ettore Siracusa, Nicolina Caia.)

Stylistically, I think Greek-Australian film-makers have much to offer Australian cinema. Of course, "style" is always a vague concept (unlike form or structure, for example). I believe it is related to other hard-to-pinpoint quantities such as "feel" and "tone", and that it is really these things (rather than plot, characters, themes) that provide the real meaning (and pleasure) of every film. I think Kannava heads the list here. Her The Butler (like Tahir Cambis and Alma Sahbaz' Exile in Sarajevo) has a free-wheeling style that is both personal and analytical, and that eschews many of the conventions of documentary. I get a similar sense when watching the films of Vellis, Tsilimidos and Kokkinos (although Kokkinos, for me, veers towards convention) - there is a sense of adventure, looseness, yet also seriousness, in the styles employed. The same can be said for Monica Pellizzari's Fistful of Flies. Compare these directors with the bland, "good taste" style offered by other so-called "independent" Australian directors recently (Lang, Nowlan, Mahood, Ruane, Flanagan, etc.) (People criticised Efthymiou for the extended shots of Miranda Otto singing and dancing in True Love and Chaos, deeming them "extraneous", but it is that type of "taking off" that is the hallmark of great, risky cinema á la Godard or Ruiz.) Of course, the short film-makers (being free from executives looking over their shoulders) have style in abundance. The experimental work of Goularas and Kotsanis, for example, is totally exhilarating and meaningful.

And as for "sense" or "philosophy", one can view certain directors' work according to either traditional or modern Greek "qualities". For example, Pavlou's Angelo Tsakos, Tsilimidos' Everynight, Kokkinos' Head On - these display the modern Greek quality of confrontation, wanting to point out injustices, wanting to politicise (one of Tsiolkas' main aims). John Papadopoulos suggested to me that his work veers towards melancholy and seriousness, qualities he considers Greek. And, of course, we all know about Miller's obsession with notions of "the hero", "the journey", etc. One could say that Homeric/Olympian qualities characterise all dramas, but I think one can still differentiate between peculiarly Greek qualities and the bastardisation/colonisation of such (by American soapies, for example). This genuine "Greek" quality can be seen in the work of Linou for example (the dance films), Spanos' Vicious Mink, Kanlidis' Dog Film, Sideris' The Guitar Hero - films which celebrate performance, excess, music, dance, in other words, "Dionysian" films. At the other extreme, my own work, which is very minimal and still, can be seen as representing the "Apollinian" qualities of calm, control, grace.

One final question: how does the work of these Greek-Australian film-makers compare with the work of other film-makers in Australia, when all is said and done? A purely subjective judgment: Goularas and Kotsanis as our best, and the equal to the non-Greek Michael Lee, followed then by more non-Greeks in Argall, McKenzie, Cox, followed then by Kannava, Vellis and Tsilimidos, followed then by the non-Greek Sue Brooks - that would be my list of Australia's ten best film directors.

As for the general consensus in critical opinion, Kokkinos (for Head On and also Only the Brave) is rated very highly, Kannava likewise (but with far less fanfare), whilst Efthymiou received an inexplicable savaging for his film True Love and Chaos (I reckon Kiss or Kill should have got that savaging). As for Tsilimidos and Vellis, I get the feeling that they are liked, but also tolerated, by the critics and the film industry, for they come across as (pardon the politically incorrect cross-cultural reference) "Young Turks", having a bit of an edge to them.

And why not? To quote John Conomos from his article "Cultural Difference and Ethnicity in Australian Cinema" (Cinema Papers, 90, Oct. '92): "The fundamental value of multicultural films is that they typify a healthy, sceptical response to orthodoxy and dogma; they represent an incisive critique of the narrowmindedness of monoculturalism articulated from the site of marginality or contrapuntal existence."

Ah, that good old "contrapuntal existence". Vivé la differénce!

I would like to thank Bill Mousoulis very much for permission to reprint from his web-page.


About Bill Mousoulis

Bill Mousoulis is an independent film-maker based in Melbourne. Since 1982, he has made over 80 films, including five features, the latest of which is Lovesick (2002). In 1985 he founded the Melbourne Super-8 Film Group and in 1999 founded the online film journal "Senses of Cinema".

For a detailed biography of Bill Mousoulis, see the web-page at,

Photos > Working Life

submitted by George Poulos on 18.06.2004

George Miller - lamenting the loss of Australian identity and culture

Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Late night news & current affairs


LOCATION: > Lateline > Archives

Broadcast: 30/7/2001

Australian culture fades from screens

Tony Jones discusses the future of Australian film and television with two of Australia's best-known producer/directors, George Miller and Hal McElroy.

Compere: Tony Jones

TONY JONES: Joining me in the studio is one of Australia's best-known producer/directors in both movies and television, George Miller.

He's had a string of international successes, including the 'Mad Max' trilogy, starring Mel Gibson, the two 'Babe' films and a variety of TV miniseries such as 'Bodyline' and 'The Dismissal'.

George Miller has been nominated three times for Academy Awards and he's presently working on 'Mad Max IV'.

Also joining me is another giant from Australian film and television industry, Hal McElroy.

He's produced films including 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' and 'The Sum of Us' as well as some of Australia's most enduring and successful television dramas such as 'Blue Heelers' and 'Water Rats'.

He also recently produced an interactive drama series for SBS called 'Going Home'.

Welcome to both of you.

Hal McElroy, let's start with you and the Australian television drama crisis.

It seems obvious from everything that we've heard that there definitely is a funding crisis.

How serious is it?


I don't want to be too alarmist because there's a passion in the industry that will always keep us going but the truth is that the costs are rising, inevitably.

The market that we're facing is dominated by the American product and the networks in Australia have been paying reducing level of licence fees for the production that they're putting to air.

What that means is that the production values that you can put on screen for Australian television is effectively reducing and it makes it very hard, therefore, if you're competing on those same screens with American product which is sold here at very low costs, to compete for that desirable target, particularly the younger demographics.

The younger demographic like American product and they like that expensive look and we just can't deliver it to them and that's a problem for us.

TONY JONES: So when I ask how serious is it, what would be the consequences if the situation we're in now continued?

HAL McELROY: We wouldn't have the mirror that Australian content on Australian television represents to the audience.

We would have our young people growing up watching American, primarily, popular drama and music and film and we would have lost the battle for their minds.

Now, that's not a battle I'm prepared to give up on.

I have three relatively young children and I care about what they see.

And I think we should all care about that.

Australian content protects us, as parents and adults, against an invasion, a flood, of American, English and, to a lesser extent, European product that is sold at a fraction of its production cost, so the content regulations are crucial to our survival and have been the underpinning of the film industry that George is such a hero in.

So the two industries, film and television, are hand in hand.

So, if television is suffering, so is film.

TONY JONES: Alright, we'll come to that in more detail in a little while.

George Miller, you've made some of Australia's best-known television miniseries, sticking with television for a moment.

We mentioned some of them -- 'The Dismissal', 'Cowra Breakout' and 'Bodyline' for example.

Could you do that today under the present funding arrangements?

Could you even hope to make those miniseries?


I mean they were -- what was interesting about them is they were very parish-pump stuff.

When we made them, we weren't required to sell them overseas.

They did, ultimately, but they were for Australia, to reinforce or amplify Australian culture.

TONY JONES: How were they funded, though, because it's clear that these days you can't get the money to make that sort of stuff?

GEORGE MILLER: They were funded in two ways.

Basically, legislation which still exists and also, at the time, a network which was very keen to get good product.

It was started by Rupert Murdoch when he started Channel Ten and basically, whatever you say about Murdoch, he gave us one brief, basically, and that was to make really bold television, no strings attached, no creative controls.

And we said, "We want to do 'Dismissal'" and despite many of his executives saying, "No-one's going to watch it," I think it rated incredibly highly.

I think that was back in the early '80s.

So it came from the will of the proprietors to push for something bold and secondly, we had the legislation.

We were able to fund it and they were done reasonably effectively and efficiently.

TONY JONES: Hal McElroy, that will among the networks -- does it exist even anymore?

I mean the sort of thing we were hearing about Rupert Murdoch there.

Does anyone running a television network in Australia have that sort of sensibility these days?

HAL McELROY: I think producers recognise that running a network is a very big business.

They pulled in $3.2 billion in revenue.

They have obligations to shareholders to maximise their return and, if they can get the cost of programming down, then that means their profits increase.

Unfortunately, too often they think of the Australian production as the weakest link in the chain and so they want to squeeze us because they want to protect the bigger suppliers -- Warner Brothers, whomever -- at the expense of the Australian production.

What we have to say as an industry is that there is a price you pay having control of the -- Australia's spectrum, broadcasting to Australians.

The price you pay is Australian content and, if you want good content, you must put up the right amount of money for it because it would be a very sad thought if we contemplated a history of Australian television that did not include 'The Dismissal' or 'Bodyline'.

If they are absent, then there's something wrong.

We have to do something about that and, if the ABC chooses to spend more than a commercial network on a production such as 'Changi', then good luck to them.

I hope it's a fine production.

It's a wonderful story and I encourage people spending good money to make quality production because, if we can make quality, we've got a chance of selling it internationally.

TONY JONES: But, Hal, how are you going to encourage these hard-headed businessmen and their accountants, if you like, that run these networks, to take a risk with drama when they now know that, for spending a lot less money, they can get something like 'Big Brother' which has other spin-offs -- you know, they can get people paying money to dial in and vote.

They can get money on the Internet.

HAL McELROY: I think, for start, let's correct a misapprehension.

It is no longer a risk to put good Australian production on air.

I think that 'Blue Heelers' every week, 'Water Rats' every week, 'All Saints' every week, 'Home and Away', 'Neighbours' every week demonstrate that a good Australian production will get an audience and hold that audience better than any other form of television programming, better than current affairs, better than comedy, better than sports and, if they're prepared to pay $450 million for five years worth of AFL shared amongst three networks, then spending $110 million a year on Australian production is, I think, relatively cheap.

And so I think -- we shouldn't also speak of networks as being all the same in their attitude.

Channel 7 may have five television drama series -- Australian television drama series on air next year.

Now, I applaud that.

There's more work for all of us and more mirrors we're holding up for both old and young.

Other networks have a more aggressive attitude in regard to the bottom line but I just want to encourage them, not threaten them, to say that there is an audience out there.

We must meet that audience need and help us by giving us the money to do it well because, if we do it well, you'll be proud, you'll achieve your ratings goal, your revenue goal, we will achieve our goals and we'll have something worthwhile to sell internationally.

TONY JONES: You say you don't want to threaten them but would you consider what the US screenwriters did, which is a strike, industrial action.

They figured they had industrial muscle.

Now, they may have been proven wrong in the end but would the Australian industry ever be in a position to do something like that?

HAL McELORY: I think there's sufficient feeling amongst people that we've got to address this issue.

If the networks turn their back on us, I don't know what's going to happen.

What I do know will happen --

TONY JONES: By "turn their backs on you", you mean continue with the status quo?

HAL McELORY: Correct.

They have to do something about it.

And I think they're beginning to recognise it.

TONY JONES: But let me move back very briefly to that point -- you believe there is scope for industrial action?

You believe there's a possibility that might happen?

HAL McELORY: I think that there is always that sort of possibility alive when the level of passionate commitment that is common in the industry is invested and we're denied opportunities so, yes, there is that, but I don't want to be alarmist.

I want to work to solutions.

I want the networks to listen and to respond because the audience out there will say "thank you" when they do.

TONY JONES: George Miller, how do you put pressure on the networks and the network heads to think like Rupert Murdoch thought when he said to you, "Do what you need to do in order to put that Australian drama on?"

Well, I don't think you can because even someone like Rupert Murdoch was looking to make a name for his newly acquired network.

I think you have to appeal a little bit more deeply than the bottom line.

I think it's about Australian culture.

As Hal said earlier, basically, nearly all our culture has been filled up by American culture.

We have to get our narratives from somewhere.

It's what defines who we are as a nation and that's a very, very significant thing and, when you have people who run networks, people who run policy not even understanding how important that is, it slowly fades away, falls away and, pretty soon, no-one even knows what Australian-ness is anymore.

TONY JONES: How important is the ABC, for example, and the SBS as breeding grounds for talent for this industry?

GEORGE MILLER: I think you cannot underestimate what has been done by the ABC.

Going back decades, traditions not only -- virtually every major talent in commercial television and most of it in the cinema and television business in Australia, here and overseas came out of the wellspring of the ABC.

TONY JONES: What about the ABC now, George?

I mean, a lot of those people, those budding cameramen, they no longer work here?

GEORGE MILLER: It's tragic, this brutalisation that's happening in the name of I don't know what -- economic rationalism.

I have no idea what is happening in the management here.

It is tragic.

And it's something -- it's very easy to destroy something, it's very, very hard to build it up.

It has taken decades and to see it sort of thrown away by sort of lazy thinking and really not even understanding the problem is actually shocking.

A great resource and it has nothing to do with politics.

It's a resource that transcends politics.

It's the means by which we have been able to tell our stories.

You take that means away, that void will be filled and we'll all become American.

I can see it with the kids around me.

They're more influenced by American culture.

They don't know what it is to be Australian.

TONY JONES: What about the broader problem, though, Hal McElroy, of selling this material overseas?

I mean, one of the most successful television drama series the ABC's ever done, 'Sea Change', took a $5 million loss.

Is it that what we're doing is too quintessentially Australian and doesn't sell overseas or is there some other problem?

HAL McELORY: Is that so bad?

If we're telling stories that really mean a lot to Australians then that's a very, very valuable achievement and I think that 'Sea Change' is one of those programs that we can all be very proud of.

The fact that they may not be interested in Israel is not necessarily of concern.

TONY JONES: But the producers of 'Sea Change' and the people who took that loss, they're not going to do that again?

HAL McELORY: No, that's true.

And we should understand that.

The Government should understand.

Australians should understand.

The voters should understand this next election that there may a price we pay to see 'Sea Change' on air and that is we have to put a little bit more money up.

GEORGE MILLER: Which is perfectly reasonable when you look at what has been spent on sport and I think -- I'm a big sports fan but, when you see what's being spent on sport per, say, gold medal at the Olympics, it's a loss leader but the symbolic power of that, the potency of that, is exactly what happens in our film and television.

And it doesn't matter if 'Sea Change' loses.

What the nation gains in something like 'Sea Change' is much more.

TONY JONES: What sort of stories, then, should our film makers and television drama people be telling?

I mean, should we be telling generic stories or quintessentially Australian stories?

GEORGE MILLER: Well, this is a very big question and I think, without giving a bit of a lecture on it, I think you've got to see it in two parts.

There's the world hyperculture, basically dominated by America and there's a kind of parish-pump culture that's to do with the local culture.

Virtually, what Australian cinema and television has used up over the last three decades is virtually all its history so movies are moving -- and television -- are moving into the more contemporary culture and the problem is a contemporary culture tends to be fairly small because it's borrowed.

If you want a powerful story set in -- if you want a story about drugs, for instance, or police corruption, sure, you're going to get it in NSW, Queensland or whatever but you're going to get a much more powerful story out of Dade County, Florida or Bogota in Colombia and so on.

We have to find ways of retelling the story.

I personally think, you know, we're behind -- we're falling so far behind because, if we've mined all the great sort of epic stories, we now have to move into vernacular.

I think we start dealing with things like 'Moulin Rouge'.

Basically, they're old stories told with new style.

TONY JONES: In the end, how do you compete -- in television terms first, Hal McElroy -- how do you compete with glossy Hollywood miniseries or Hollywood dramas like 'ER' for example, which cost, to make, millions per episode when we simply don't have that sort of money here?

HAL McELORY: Competition is very difficult so what will help is if the networks agree to pay a larger proportion of the costs rather than half or less than half -- sometimes as little as 15 per cent or 20 per cent on a television movie which, to my mind is ludicrous -- or 20 per cent of the cost of production.

That just doesn't figure in my view.

So the licence fees should go up.

Maybe to encourage that the Government should introduce, in its content regulations, some allowance for the licence -- the size of the licence fee.

We should be supporting the Government organisations and increasing their financial support -- that's the FFC, the AFC, Film Australia, SBS Independent and the Children Film and Television Fund.

And we should be trying to create an environment where so-called foreign production -- in other words productions made in Australia using foreign money -- example 'Matrix' -- can, and Australian productions can, co-exist with each other and complement and support each other.

That may mean that we should look at the legislation about tax incentive for film and television production and look at variations there that would make it easier to attract investment or to include television series.

They're the sort of range of options because it's all about, in television terms, reducing the deficit to a manageable level because, otherwise, what will happen is, if the deficit is too large, we'll simply have to make generic stories which have little to do with Australia and then the value that they could provide us with in terms of teaching our children who we are will be lost.

TONY JONES: George Miller, we've covered a lot of ground here but I know that you do have at least one big idea.

Could you let us have it?

GEORGE MILLER: Well, actually the big idea is to first of all recognise the problem and all be party to its solution.

I think to even recognise there's a cultural problem in this country.

The way to do it -- sure, financing and funding and quotas and so on are fine.

I think they should be a given.

I think our politicians should simply do it.

That's not even the issue.

It's how do we generate the stories we tell.

And as Peter Weir called that, the creative gymnasium of a kind of cinematheque, a national cinematheque, which I've been an advocate of down at Circular Quay for over a decade now, a place where you can gather together like minds accessible to everybody in Australia, where ideas can be thrown around because how do you generate the new ideas?

How do you, first of all, throw up the mirror to your culture and then throw up the stories that somehow are significant?

You need to formalise that process in some way.

TONY JONES: So it's like a university of film and television?

GEORGE MILLER: These accidental informal campuses that happen.

They're no longer happening at the universities.

Tropfest is a fantastic example.

It started, you know, in a coffee shop, formica-tabled coffee shop.

It was run purely on enthusiasm.

We started making films in television.

There wasn't a buck in it.

It was run purely on enthusiasm.

But you need to create those spaces for them to happen.

Another virtual creative gymnasium was the ABC and I'm really gobsmacked at how that's been lost on the people who are sort of picking over its corpse at the moment.

TONY JONES: We're going to have to leave it there, I'm afraid.

We could talk all night.

And we'll hold our hopes that the ABC will once again become a wellspring for creative culture.


TONY JONES: There's still a few people here who believe in that.

George Miller, Hal McElroy, thank you for joining us tonight.


HAL McELORY: Thank you.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by George Poulos on 18.06.2004

George Miller. Lessons from Reel Life. Movies and reel spirituality

Lessons from Reel Life

Movies, Meaning and Myth Making
Review by Paul Arnott

"In Lessons from Reel Life Michael Frost and Robert Banks assert that 'the best films tap deep into our private and public consciousness and establish a genuine connection to truth and reality.'

They suggest that films hold a mirror to real life or remind us of what life could be like. Film maker George Miller, creator of both Mad Max and Babe, believes that the cinema storytellers have become the new priests who are doing the work of religious institutions: 'I believe cinema is now the most powerful secular religion and people gather in cinemas to experience things collectively the way they once did in church.' Miller accuses the church of having 'so concretised the metaphors in their stories, taken so much of the poetry, mystery and mysticism out of religious belief, that people look for other places to question their spirituality.'"

Lessons from Reel Life: Movies, Meaning and Myth Making,

by Michael Frost and Robert Banks,

Open Book Publishers

229 pages,

rrp $32.95

Published: 2001.

Photos > Working Life

submitted by George Poulos on 18.06.2004

Mad Max 4 - on hold.

Road rage. Mel Gibson as Max Rockatansky.

Mad Max vehicle comes to a dead end

Sunday, Herald Sun, Melbourne, Victoria.



THE long-awaited fourth Mad Max film, Fury Road, has collapsed after three years of development, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Sets have been locked away in warehouses, the film's production offices have shut and the caterers have been cancelled.
It appears Mad Max: Fury Road director Dr George Miller has turned his attention to making the third instalment of the successful family movie, Babe.

Mad Max: Fury Road was due to go into production last July in Namibia, but was stalled because of security concerns following the outbreak of war in Iraq.

A year later, the $100 million Fury Road has been shelved indefinitely.

Miller said he could not move the film to Australia, where the previous three Mad Max films were made, because he feared the cars used in the new movie would become bogged in the Australian desert.

"Unfortunately, we won't be able to shoot in Australia, although I'd dearly love to," he said.

"We need some real big stretches of desert where the cars don't get bogged.

"Those deserts in South Australia would do, but it's not practical for the cars."

And, as for Mel Gibson, who was signed on to revive the role of road warrior Max Rockatansky, well, his enthusiasm for the project seems to have waned in recent months.

"I'm too old and I can't deal with the action stuff any more," he said. "It's getting to the point where they'll start calling it Fat Max."

Miller has apparently written and illustrated a 400-page storyboard/comic book of the proposed film.

The original Mad Max, released in 1979, was filmed outside Broken Hill for $500,000 and returned more than $100 million at the box office.