In December 2007, a crowd of 500 people outside Victoria’s Parliament building gave a lengthy applause as of one of Australia’s most unusual statues was unveiled. The bronze figures of a husband and wife stand arm in arm – he with a welcoming smile, an open stance and a hand extended – she, erect beside her man, looking at him with an expression of love and pride.
Sculptor Louis Lamen had gifted Australia with a warm and lasting image of one of the most unique teams in its history. A journalist dubbed them ‘a compelling double act’ and he was right – they were! The memorial describes them as,
‘River People who turned the tide of history and injustice to progress the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
This is the first memorial statue in Melbourne dedicated to two Aboriginal community leaders, Pastor Sir Doug and Lady Gladys Nicholls. They vigorously fought for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across this country and are an eternal symbol of our ongoing history and commitment to human rights in Australia.’
If you asked an ANZAC returning from the Western Front in France in 1918 what a ‘telling a furphy’ was, he’d tell you it was the kind of yarn you heard being swapped when the soldiers gathered around the watercart behind the front lines.
The news was always supposed to have come from reliable sources, but when received second or third hand, it was usually drained of truth. So, the Furphy family name eased into Australian slang as a way of describing suspect information being passed on by dodgy people.
Oddly enough, the Furphy watercart itself is linked with a couple of brothers fiercely dedicated to speaking truth and encouraging people to live at their best.
On Friday 1st August 1980, a simple three-word message broadcast on 6000 Flying Doctor transceivers sent a ripple of sadness across inland Australia. ‘Traeger is dead.’ Alfred Hermann Traeger died as he had lived - with quiet dignity behind the scenes. He shunned praise, but he has as many memorials as Nobel Prize winner and inventor of wireless telegraph, Guglielmo Marconi.
He was a revolutionary, but just didn’t know it.
Painfully shy electrical mechanic Alf Traeger was working at his bench in an Adelaide workshop in June 1925, when a thin, bespectacled man burst in and asked, ‘Have you still got that generator?’ The surprised ham radio enthusiast sold his homebuilt machine to the preacher, who immediately strapped it to the side of his heavily-loaded Dodge Buckboard and set off on a rugged 2400km trek to Alice Springs. That startling moment launched of one of the most important partnerships in Australian history.
Last weekend Cornerstone members and friends met in Orange. Listen in here to three stimulating conversations I had with some teacher-mates that showed how inspiring faith-stories have been breathing fresh air into Australian classrooms.
Les Follent has been a comrade who has taught me many things. Mates like that are rare and I owe him big time for his shared wisdom and insight. Not bad for a Queenslander!
Mick Kennedy and Ben Johnson have been strong team members who have loaned me their strength. Authentic community gathered under the Cook Park canopy. Go to Read More to watch the video.
On the bookshelf in front of me I can see several rare books I hunted down in VINNIES shops as I travelled around the bush. The thrill of chasing a bargain blinded me to a richer story hidden in those humble stores. Behind those kindly, ageing volunteers who serve you, stand two gifted young men who challenged poverty across the world with robust Christian faith.
Europe was torn by revolution, war and crippled by disease in the early decades of the 19th century. The streets of Paris had flowed with blood as the ruling aristocracy were guillotined in the name of Liberty, Equality and Brotherhood. When a brilliant young student named Frederic Ozanam arrived at University in that city, he found religion on the decline and atheism increasing.
He had struggled through doubt himself and was confronted by sceptics who demanded more than the intellectual proofs for the Christian faith he presented. The challenge jolted Frederic and a group of friends to start providing food and firewood for starving people flooding in from the country, even as a cholera epidemic swept through the slums. They saw themselves following the example of a priest named Vincent de Paul who had left his mark on France two and a half centuries earlier.
This is the story of a humble teacher who turned a wooden building on the Murray River into a kind of bush university – one that grew leaders who changed Australia. Thomas Shadrach James, was born in 1859 in Mauritius, an island off the coast of Africa known for its diverse racial make-up, mixed cultures and variety of religious faith. His parents were poor people determined to educate their children. His father worked his way from being an indentured labourer to serving as an interpreter for the British colonial government and a teacher in the Anglican Church. So, it’s no surprise that at the age of fourteen, Thomas was tutoring other boys and fluent in French, English and Tamil.
Discouraging family events drove 20-year-old Thomas to leave home to seek his fortune alone in Australia. His obvious ability saw him enrolled in medicine at Melbourne University in 1880, but a bout of typhus left him with shaking hands. The new immigrant made a disconsolate figure walking Brighton Beach on Port Phillip Bay on January 3rd 1881, his aspiration to be a surgeon shattered. READ MORE ...
I first met David Bussau in Narromine in the Far West of NSW. He was flying in the Outback Patrol Cessna visiting isolated inland towns. I was impressed that this successful entrepreneur would make that kind of effort. Quietly spoken and unassuming, he sat for an hour sharing his story with 20 or so local men over dinner in the RSL Club.
A friend was working with Opportunity International, so I was keen to meet the man who had dreamed up the radical idea of micro-enterprise in the first place. Simon was advising people living in the rubbish tips of Manila on starting their own businesses and I’d heard moving stories of people being liberated from crushing poverty. Hearing David tell the story of his single-handed climb out of a difficult past showed me the beating heart of the movement he pioneered.
A friend and I later had lunch with him in Centennial Park in Sydney and he gave himself freely to discuss entrepreneurial plans we were making. I felt honoured that he gave us time. It was the measure of the man – maintaining a vision for the world and having time to focus on individuals.
In late January 2022, a single headline dominated papers across Australia. People reading the Blue Mountains Gazette, Townsville Bulletin, Naracoorte Herald, Port Stephens Examiner, Bega District News and Deniliquin Pastoral Times and even the Manjimup-Bridgetown Times, learned of the passing of an elderly nun in Adelaide on Australia Day.
AUSTRALIA’S SINGING NUN, SISTER JANET MEAD, DIES AGED 84.
Most focussed on the remarkable fact that in 1974, this young music teacher had scored a hit on the pop charts with a rock-version of what is known the world over as ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ The single was distributed to 31 countries and sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. Janet Mead became the first Australian recording artist to have a gold record in the United States and it was the only Top Ten hit in history with lyrics entirely taken from the Bible. The humble singing nun from Adelaide was nominated for a Grammy Award, but lost out to Elvis Presley!
This photo tells a story.
This week my son Chris presented Riverbank Frank Doolan with an artwork he’s done of Bill Ferguson – he’s the bronze figure in the picture. The painting is Chris’s version of the famous photo taken of Bill standing in Elizabeth street in Sydney on Australia Day 1938 with a group of supporters. His quiet but forceful protest called attention to the sad fact that the Aboriginal peoples of our country were yet to be recognised as citizens.
There are other stories hidden behind this photo. READ MORE ...
The Ashes Test series have generated endless dramas since the tiny urn was first presented to the English cricket team in 1883 in Victoria. If you examine the fine print on the trophy, there’s a name there that’s a clue to a remarkable story. When you follow the thread, it takes you on a journey around the world and all the way back to Australia. It began with one man making a bold decision about priorities in life. His name was Charles Studd. READ MORE and WATCH to learn more of this man's amazing story and the way his legacy has continued.
Join The Outback Historian, Paul Roe, on an unforgettable journey into Australia's Past as he follows the footprints of the Master Storyteller and uncovers unknown treasures of the nation.