John Stokes is a poet of light and water and the sound of women’s cries. He has a thing for the Australian landscape.
Even with the slightest of vision – just four percent in one eye – Liz continued to work tirelessly on community projects that would make a difference to many lives.When faced with a future measured in months, not years, she wrote a book that would help others in similar situations.
It offers a helpful, practical guide to people with impaired vision and bleak outlooks for the future, as well as their family and friends. It confronts difficult topics head on and gives advice from many perspectives.
The indefatigable Liz Dawson, OAM, has since passed, but her campaign continues through her work.
She was well-known in the ACT; a former teacher, she successfully lobbied for a reduction in the pupil-teacher ratio in ACT schools. As a tireless worker in the community, she was the driving force behind Common Ground, an initiative to provide permanent supported housing for homeless people, and thus aid them in getting their lives and employment prospects back on track. She was also the driving force behind three dental care programs for disadvantaged people in the territory.
Mapping Australia’s riches
Even today, spending weeks in Australia’s outback is not for the faint-hearted, even if you were in search of the riches that lie beneath Australia’s soil.
Somersaults in the Sand tells the story of that time. Canberra author and geologist Alastair Stewart was among a group of intrepid explorers tasked with mapping the complex picture of Australia’s geology. From the early 1960s they headed out into the middle of nowhere, often spending weeks at a time in remote, inhospitable areas, to do their work.
Survival was an important consideration too; in starkly beautiful terrain they had to deal with heat, dust, fire, wind and snakes, not to mention the ever-present problem of mechanical repair to vehicles when far away from convenient garages, or the trials of field kitchens and tinned food.
Alastair Stewart went on field missions until 2000 and his book tells of colourful outback characters, dangerous moments and funny times. It is a wealth of geological information and discoveries, explained in a way both laymen and scientists can appreciate, and it’s a testimony to the pioneering efforts of the people who mapped the country.
As much as it is a story of discovery and adventure, it is also a story of outback Australia in decades past.
The story of Alexander Bunyip
In the late 70s adventure bus journeys were the most exciting form of international travel. Buses crossed continents to the fabled cities of Asia, Europe, Africa and South America, carrying adventurous travellers across scenic lands and harsh deserts. Many of the passengers were Australians, going to and from Britain and Europe.
Faraway Places with Strange Sounding Names brings this magical era of travel back to life, thanks to Gerald Davis’s determined efforts to gather people’s stories, photos, maps and memorabilia. His book tells the story of the leading operator of the time, the Penn Overland Company, which pioneered the overland travel routes in the 50s, and spread to five continents and 50 countries, as buses crossed the world with passengers in search of discovery and adventure.
Penn Overland, Indiaman and other companies traversed scenic lands and harsh deserts, tours lasted weeks and months and crossed borders freely, until unrest and warfare put a stop to it, and the golden era of overland travel came to an abrupt end. Operators disappeared, and even the records of the Penn company have been lost.
This book is a window into that time, and for the thousands who travelled, a chance to relive their journeys of a lifetime. Drawing on memories and mementos of former Penn staff and passengers the world over, Gerald Davis has saved the story from disappearance, and told it in this evocative book.
At 8 o’clock on Monday morning, 13 June 1887, Ellen Thomson was hanged at Her Majesty’s Brisbane Gaol for the murder of her husband. She is the only woman to be executed under Queensland law.
But did she receive a fair trial, and did she deserve the ultimate punishment?
Author Vashti Farrer’s latest book reveals a tropical Queensland alive with goldrush excitement, and the hard lives of pioneering communities in Port Douglas, from English immigrants to Chinese settlers, all looking to make a better life.
Into this world stepped a young widow, Ellen Thomson, who married an older farmer, Billy Thomson. After many years of working the farm on the Mossman River together, on the night of 22 October 1886, Billy Thomson was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head.
The book outlines events of that fateful night, the subsequent trial and executions and gives a fascinating insight into life at the time.
It also raises the question, was Ellen Thomson guilty beyond reasonable doubt?
Wife and Baggage to Follow contains first hand stories of overseas postings in the words of Australian diplomats’ wives.
It offers an eye opening journey through the early decades of the service, starting with the experiences of Australia’s first wife of a Head of Mission in Washington, and continuing to the likes of Beirut, Moscow, Rangoon, Cairo, Tokyo, Dili and Saigon.
Author Rachel Miller tells her own stories and those of many others, the unacknowledged leading ladies whose “stage was was the world”, and the unexpected privations and adventures which befell these women. They were the pioneers, often travelling with young children in tow, who had to adapt to difficult, often dangerous, and inevitably unusual circumstances.
There are stories of watching Saigon burn from the roof of the Embassy at night during the Tet offensive, or having a brown snake fall from the ceiling and onto the dining room table during a formal dinner in Dili, and living in Jakarta in the early Sixties, when the British Embassy was burnt during unsettled times after the Federation of Malaysia was formed.
Some of these intrepid women, leaving Australia for the first time, arrived in world trouble spots and places where it was hard to find basic family necessities, such as food, toiletries and even soap. It is the story of mothers trying to ensure the safety and health of their young children as well as the smooth running of their households and the day-to-day domestic life in the Missions, of formal entertaining in unusual circumstances, of friendships formed, and long journeys travelled. Continuing to more recent times, it traces the evolution of a young foreign service as it became better organised and increasingly professional, and the evolving role of women within it.