Chapter 2
Alice Springs

We arose, gathered our gear together and stepped out on to the platform, all a bit self conscious. I had no sooner appeared than I heard someone call my name. It turned out to be Dr David Brown, the only medical man in Central Australia as far down as Hawker. He has been in China and has lived in the Territory for some time before coming down to the Alice on a Government job. He was the elder son of a family living in an old stone house in Berrima, near the bridge across the Wingecarribee, where we went on our holidays at Christmas around 1920. He tried to teach me to swim, without much success. He served in the First World War and came back with the rank of Major. I had not seen him since he came back from the war and started off on his medical course. He debated the wisdom of doing medicine with my father at length and found it hard going. He had a younger brother Jack. He insisted on taking me home and putting me up while we were in the Alice. The others went off to the pub which happened to be next door. He is now married with a six month old child called Micky, his wife comes from a cattle station in the territory, near Catherine, which most call CatherINE. She was younger than he, slight, attractive and told hair raising stories of buffalo shoots, and by all accounts rode and shot expertly. At that time she had only once been to Adelaide, though they planned to move on before too long. We had tea and then talked for a while before going round to the local ice-cream vendor, whose place seemed to be the centre of town life. Here they introduced the solicitor, the bank manager and several others, including a lady newspaper reporter, Ernestine Hill3, left over from the Granites boom.

The population of the Alice was about 600, officially, give or take the influx of drovers with mobs of cattle, jockeys, (mostly rubbed out in the south), destitute fossikers, conmen, and miners who come and go.

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The manager of the Granites, Brayynall, was there. He came up on the train with us, with a newly aquired wife, at least 30 years younger than he was. He is taking her out to the Granites.

Alice Springs street scene

Next, we strolled over through wide sandy streets with huge white ghost gums, to the administrators place to see the head man of the town, one Carrington. He was a very decent chap. He told us he had just been out a couple of hundred miles to trace a chap who had been reported by the natives as having been behaving strangely. After searching all day, he found him dead about a quarter of a mile from his own place.

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Adelaide Advertiser 8th Jan 1933

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Last night was beautifully cool after yesterday and towards daybreak I got so cold that I had to draw up a blanket. It appears that most of the population have departed to Barrow Creek (240 miles) for the races, though there still seems to be a fair number about. I walked over to the pub after breakfast and Murch, Barry and I went for a walk round the town, which did not take very long. It was a bit bigger and a whole lot prettier than I had expected. All the Government buildings (the majority) are built of cement blocks, with a large fly proof verandah all round. There is a big hall right across the middle from verandah to verandah which is used as living room and dining room. Each house has its own well, and they are relatively airy and cool. When we had been all round the town we ran into the rest of the party at Johannsen's on the verandah with Albrecht.

Alice Springs street scene

Johannsen is a carrier and mail man and mission superintendant. Albrecht is head of the Hermannsburg Mission. We talked there till lunch time about Lasseter's 4 problematical gold reef and then Murch and I went off to lunch with the Browns.

In the afternoon Murch and I went up to the half-cast home5 a couple of miles north of the town, at the original springs, where a person called Freeman had charge. He whistled up the inhabitants, showed us all over the place and gave us a look at the kids. There are quite a number of quadroon and octaroons amongst them, the latter bordering pretty closely on white. The infants, (up to about two) show no appreciable colouring at all, developing it later, but they can generally be picked by the eyes, flattened nose and the legs. Even many pure Arundta babies are little coloured in infancy. The whole place seems to be neat and clean, but the standard of education is very low. When they leave, the inmated go out as stockboys and domestics around the Alice. Freeman said many interesting things about education and the difference from the first cross on.

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Half-caste orphanage

In the evening the Granites man came over to have a chat and told us just what was the strength of the Granites gold boom. It wasn't very flattering to the mine.

9th January 1933

H.W.D. saw the police and the administrator about doing some physiological tests on the Granite murderers last night, but was, thank goodness, turned down.

This morning we started loading the gear for the trip from the train on to a three ton truck which has also come up on the train from Adelaide and has only run about 300 miles.

Maurice Joseph with truck

The load seemed mountainous with all our personal luggage on top as well. As the loading went fairly quickly it was decided that we should make an early start, so we got away about mid-day. Murch, Maurice and myself started off in front with the driver, with Albrecht and a mechanic (Course) going out to the mission on top.

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Adelaide Advertiser 9th Jan 1933
3: Ernestine Hill (21.1.1899 - 22.8.1972) was one of Australia's most popular writers. Concentrating on travel or landscape writing, her published works include The Great Australian Loneliness (1937), My Love Must Wait (1947) and The Territory (1951). As a zealous journalist, she contributed for almost 30 years to most magazines and newspapers in Australia. The Granites boom was a gold rush fueled by wishful thinking and wild speculation. It centered around a small mine discovered 30 years before.

4: Lewis Hurbert Lasseter, born in 1880, claimed in 1929 that 18 years earlier, he had discovered a vast gold bearing reef in Central Australia, at the western edge of the Macdonnell Ranges. He later changed his story, giving a date that would have made him 17 at the time. In 1930 he accompanied an expedition that turned back after finding nothing. Lasseter remained with one man, with whom he quarrelled. Left alone, he watched his two camels bolt into the bush. He lived with Aborigines for the next four months but died of starvation. Rescuers found his body and buried it. His diary claimed that he had rediscovered his lost reef and pegged his claim.


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5: Earlier this century (until 1963) thousands of part-descent children were separated from their families (sometimes by force) and placed in government and mission institutions. Government policy reflected prevailing genetic theories. Occasionally parents placed their children in these institutions by choice. Sometimes the mother would also enter the home and work as a domestic.

In the Northern Territory many of these children were placed in two 'half-caste' homes - The Bungalow in Alice Springs and The Kahlin Half-caste Home in Darwin.

After protests about living conditions at the Bungalow the children were moved to Jay Creek in 1928 and from there in 1932 to The Old Telegraph Station, 5 kilometres from Alice Springs.

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