Replies to your responses...
If you don't want you thoughts to be accessible,
then write `private' on the top of your message.
There are also other conversations
Reply to Darren Wardlaw Dec 21, 1999 subject: Subject: Dr H. Wardlaw



He worked in the Anatomy Department of Sydney University with Prof. Davies. A fragment of their paper about the central Australian experiments is at:

In the photo (below) - he's the man in the middle (long pants) next to Maurice Joseph (shorts)

In the back of my mind I seem to remember hearing about some tragic event that touched him or his family.

Are you related ?


Simon Pockley

Reply Dec 21, 1999

Reply to Bob Smith Dec 10, 1999 subject: Subject: bullroarers


Many thanks for asking. You can certainly have my permission to use this text. As best I remember, the use of the terms Namatwinna or Namatuna came from T.G.H. Strehlow's book `Aranda Traditions'.

Is your novel an historical fiction?

Regards Simon Pockley

Reply to Kirsten Nijhof Nov 7, 1999 subject: Subject: communication?


Keeping in mind that my interest is in central Australia and that other Aboriginal language groups had quite different practices and equipment here is some more information. In 1927, Spencer and Gillen wrote in their 2 volume book `The Arunta':

`The only other musical instrument known to us is the primative conch called Ulpirra. The use of this in connection with obtaining wives by means of magic charm has already been described (included below). Each is simply a hollowed-out piece of the branch of a gum tree. The hollowing out has been done by white ants, but the external crust which the insects left is very hard. Of two in our possession the length of each is about 60 cm. and the diameter slightly more than 5 cm. The external surface has been first of all smoothed down with a flint, leaving shallow longitudinal grooves. Then a coat of red ochre has been painted over the whole length, and at each end the rim has been covered with a circle of resin so as to make the margins smoother. In the one case the exterior is decorated with alternate circles of yellow ochre and white kaolin, between which narrow circles of the underlying red ochre can be seen; in the centre is a space measuring 7 cm. in length, and between the yellow circles at either end of this, yellow lines run across each in a slightly spiral direction. In the other specimen two rings of white kaolin, about 11cm. distant from each other, are painted at each end, and between these run five longitudinal lines of the same colour. When used, the conch is simply placed to the mouth, and by singing through it the sound is intensified. Conchs such as these are, apart from the interesting use concerned with magic, are generally used in corrobborees.

A woman will also be charmed by the use of a native conch of very primitive construction called an Ulpirra. A small fire is lighted and a body of smoke made by placing green bush on it; the Ulpirra is then held over the fire so that the smoke passes through it . The man charms it by singing, whilst he thrusts his head into and swallows some of the smoke. That night at the corrobboree ground while the dance goes on he blows the horn, and at once the woman becomes Okunjepunna oknirra, or much infatuated, she alone feeling the influence of the charmed Ulpirra. '

I'd be interested to know what your research has uncovered. Regards

Simon Pockley

Reply to David Kirkby Nov 4, 1999 subject: Subject: Mt Liebig - a poem


Thank you.
I feel humbled and honoured that you have trusted me with these gifts
and seek your approval for the way in which they have been given context
within `The Flight of Ducks'.

You have brought an understanding of the layers of meaning
that few have had the time or the experience to appreciate.
I know exactly what you saying
when you say the hills of Kaltukatjara became a part of you
long before you saw them.
I had the same experience with the Warrumbungles (my real home).

I have questions to ask,
but I need to savour your words for a while
before I respond some more.


Simon Pockley

Reply to Kirsten Nijhof Nov 4, 1999 subject: Subject: communication?

Hi Kirsten

Thanks for this very interesting question.

I'll have to hunt around for a deeper answer. All I can say to you (right now) is that the didgeridoo was/is a ceremonial instrument used in central Australia. In this regard, it was a profound means of communication - as are all musical instruments in the hands of expert players. If you mean, was it used to send signals across country - then I doubt it.

Smoke was used much more effectively.

These days aboriginal communities lead the world in the use of video conferencing and are becoming great users of the internet.

I have to go away for a few days but when I return I'll send you a more detailed and researched reply.


Simon Pockley

Reply to Karen Orr Vered Oct 27, 1999 subject: Subject: doco conf


I've just returned from a four day metadata workshop in Frankfurt and am very jetlagged.

The warnings have always been present but have evolved and continue to evolve like the rest of the site.

I'm tired of the kind of controversy that makes me a target for the tight lipped thought police. If you are looking for background, you might like to skim over


Simon Pockley

Reply to Garnet Oct 10, 1999 subject: Subject: dora cornelius

Don't think I can help you with this.

Why are you asking me?


Reply to Emmy Oct 5, 1999 subject: Subject: Aborigine vote


It depends which State you are talking about because
Aboriginal Australians in New South Wales were never officially prevented from voting.
However, welfare and protection acts together with residential requirements and prevailing attitudes
effectively denied most of them the vote.
In 1949, all Aboriginal people who had served in the military forces
or who could vote in state elections were able to vote Federally.
In 1962, all Aboriginal Australians gained the right to vote in all states and in Federal elections
but voting was not compulsory for Aboriginal people until 1984
when it was made compulsory for all Australians.

Hope this helps - good luck with your assignment.



Reply to Peter Sept 29, 1999 subject: Subject: First Impression


>A very poetic and nostalgic journey! (An amalgam of realities - facts, memories, insights etc)

If you are referring to `The Flight of Ducks', []

then thank you.

I'm interested to know what you found in it?

Regards Simon

Reply to Sheila Sept 24, 1999 subject: Subject: You did it you marvel


My pleasure.
Thought you might be disappointed.
Never know what I think until I read it or hear myself say it.

If you have any further questions
ones that you don't think have been answered
just fire away.

Regards Simon

Reply to Brenda Sept 23, 1999 subject: Subject: Pond Life


Thank you for your interest in pond life.
The ducks on this waterhole
came from an ancient Aboriginal song
that my father heard in central Australia 1933.
However, I suspect you are more interested
in little wriggly things
than in this form of metaphorical pond life

If you are interested, then have a peek at:

Regards Simon

Reply to James Larnach Sept 21, 1999 subject: Subject: Stanley Larnach


I've been meaning to include some of Stanley Larnach's writings. When I do I'll let you know.



Reply to James Larnach Sept 21, 1999 subject: Subject: Stanley Larnach


Thanks for your question.

Stanley Larnach was an animal and skulll collector
with interests in sea shells and book foxing.
He was a member of a central Australian expedition with my father in 1933.
He was an extraordinary man
who lived and worked in Sydney in the Dept. of Anatomy at Sydney University
where he was one of the few people to be awarded an honorary Master of Science.

His two volume work on Aboriginal Craniology is the most complete of its kind.
His wife had no interest in his work and burnt or sold off his papers when he died.
I think some of them ended up in the SA museum.

I can tell you more and have a contact who remembers him well
if you are interested.

Do you think you are related?


Simon Pockley

Reply Sept 21, 1999

Reply to Sheila Sept 20, 1999 subject: Subject: Nearly time for those pesky questions


I replied immediately but it bounced back.
Hope you get this one.
Looking forward to your questions.

I'll be away in late October.



Reply to L.R Fox Sept 17, 1999 subject: The White Root

L.R. Fox

Yep - looked at The white Root but not sure what you want me to say or ask ?

Maybe I'm missing something...

Regards Simon Pockley

Reply to Noel Sept 5, 1999 subject: silica 'bound


Many thanks for your thoughtful message.
The richness of the contacts that the internet affords are a real treat,
especially when such messages arrive unexpectedly .

I'm not so sure that Victor Hugo was right in his lament for cathedrals
I look around me in Melbourne and see that they (cathedrals) are still being built (casinos, malls etc.)
different gods, similar functions, as vibrant and as full of iconography as ever .
The most natural business merger of the next decade would have to be the Catholic Church and MacDonalds.

Silica is another matter - a great story.
Years ago there was a series on ABC radio by a hard talking man (whose name escapes me) :

One was on salt
Another on rubber

both revealed amazing connections - through time.
I love it when whole new perspectives are revealed through the singular pursuit of a line of thought.
(journeys through datascapes)

>What I want to do is to put on-line a story
combining visual, oral and written text together
and to try to search for a publisher to do this.

Why don't you do it yourself?
The web seems to suit people who know how to work with their hands
it's such an incremental medium
where you continuously shape - bend - twist - snap - add - take away - adjust - fiddle - stroke...

From my perspective,
it doesn't seem to be a medium that lends itself to `publication' by someone else.
Publication is about finishing, completion, drawing lines, ownership, contracts, rights...

> It is also about going back to the old world with a bag of tricks.

In 1988, I took my family to live in Italy and France for a couple of years.
and had the opposite experience,
I was struck by the freshness of its past.
Like Australia, the evidence of history was everywhere
but Europe's seemed more recent - less ravaged by time
I felt as if I had come from a much more ancient world
where the ruins were not architectural, but whole landscapes,
deserts and even mountain ranges.

The story will be about a journey or a pilgrimage to Chartres.

What is it about Chartres that casts such spells?
When I was in Europe I became obsessed by the patterns of mazes on the floors
when I recognised that the same designs/patterns were on some of the central Australian tjurunga
that I had played with as a child.

I guess you've read the book `Sarum' that locates Salisbury cathedral in space and time?

>For too long many of us try to find ourselves through other cultures,
but that is another story in itself.

A very important story, have you thought of telling it?
By way of consolidating your experience.

Regards Simon Pockley

Reply to Jessi July 25, 1999 subject: suggestion


Apologies. You sent me an email in April but somehow during a server change it lodged itself in cyberspace and somehow has only just come through to me along with 57 others. You've probably forgotten all about this by now:

>I was interested in reading the journal, but I suppose I am not a very patient person. I finished one page. If there is any way possible to speed up the process, I would encourage it. Or if you could have another section that had it typed out in regular script making it easier to read and to rid some of the timely graphics. For those that are patient enough to wait on the downloading the journal is fine, but I'm sure I am not the only one who feels this way.

Yes - quite right.
Such a version (of the 1933 journal) does indeed exist.
However, I think it is a navigation problem that you
were unable to find it - easily:

The duck (top left) always takes you to an index
and I have assumed that if its words you want
then words you'll find.
Looks like I'll have to think again.

Thank you for taking the time to make a suggestion.
Sorry this is so late.

If, on the other hand you are talking about Lasseter's diary
the problem is more difficult
because it is much more graphic in content.

Simon Pockley

Reply to rachael July 25, 1999 subject: info needed please


>If it is possible could you please send me some information
on the Aboriginals in the time of when the Europeans landed and how they were disrupted.
Also could you send some information on how they were Hunter/Gatherers and how they got disrupted in that aspect.

If you mean the Aborigines in Sydney,
the best collection of related material (that I know of)
is a book by Willey called `When the Sky Fell Down'.

`The Flight of Ducks' (the site you have emailed from)
is about a journey into Central Australia in 1933.
In a small way this is a record of the end of the frontier period,
or what you might call `disruption'.

This is Primary source material
you might like to have a look at

Good luck with your research.


Reply to avi Wed Jun 9, 1999 subject: shields and boomerangs
> tell me please about the aboriginal spears and boomarang for a project thank you

You might like to look at the screen below and then press `proceed':

From this list you will find rare 1933 photographs
and journals showing and describing the use of
spears and boomerangs by Australian Aborigines in the `wild'.

Let me know how you go
I hope this helps.

Regards Simon Pockley

Reply to Stephanie Britton Wed Jun 9, 1999 subject: Disintegration


> I found your site absolutely fascinating, printed it out and read it all!

I've tried to discuss these issues with Marcia Langton
but she does not reply to my email.
I guess she's too busy
or feels I'm not worth talking to.

From another perspective, if you go to screen:

and stick to the right hand links
you will find a short looping 23 screen piece
about disintegration and fracture.

Regards Simon Pockley

Message to Stephanie Britton Wed Jun 2, 1999 subject: Disintegration


I've been asked by RMIT (AIM)
to respond to your request for screen art
related to issues of disintegration.

The Flight of Ducks provides you with an example
of the way in which new media can shape itself into an on-line documentary.
This work has been running since 1995
and is accessed by over 4,000 people per week.
It is a complex evolving work,
but there are areas within it
that may be of interest to you.
Particularly in relation to the handling of disembodiment
and Aboriginal representation.

Because this work is so large (over 1,000 screens)
It's hard to know exactly where your interest might lie
or what would be of use to your article.
You might like to look at

(press proceed)

Encrusted around this image are some words
examining some of the issues of disembodiment
in relation to the re-integration and re-presentation
of historical archival material.
The issues are difficult and complex:

For a general overview of the work

Hope this is of use.
I am only guessing at your needs.
Please do not hesitate to contact me
if you have questions.

My apologies
if this is outside the zone of your thinking.

Regards Simon Pockley

Reply to film makers Sun May 30, 1999 subject: Still photographs, Hermannsburg, etc

Lindsay, Billy, Nigel,

Good to hear from you.
Your documentary sounds interesting tell me more
about its scope?

The photographs you refer to
are part of an on-line documentary
entitled `The Flight of Ducks'.

You can find out more about this work at:

In 1933 Albert Namatjira had not begun to paint
but the presence of Arthur Murch in 1933 and 1934
may have had some impact
or prepared Albert for the arrival of Rex Batterbee.
I have not been able to find Albert in any of the photographs
taken around Hermannsburg.
I'm sure he's there somewhere.

`The Flight of Ducks' is also an archival site
and many of the photographs you will find here
have only a tenuous existence
- other than their shimmering pixellated displays.
As physical objects,
many are the size of postage stamps
and are far clearer in their digital form than in analogue.

If you inspect the metadata for these images you
will discover a `rights' statement.
There are protocols you need to be aware of
in relation to Australian Aboriginal material
so please read this statement:

You will also find that the photographs will be clearer
if you increase the screen resolution of your monitor.

A thumbnail index of all photographs can be found at:

You must also understand that on-line work requires
small file sizes because of band width.
But I can provide you with high resolation formats
of any photograph you choose
but you would have to let me know which ones.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Simon Pockley

Reply to Sheila Mon May 24, 1999 subject: Honors thesis - Investigation of 3 diverse forms of documentary 'filmmaking'


Thank you for your kind message.
Honoured that you think `The Flight of Ducks' is of interest
and am happy to help in any way you think appropriate.
So please don't be shy about asking.

However, I'm afraid that you may have the wrong idea about me
and I hate disappointing people.
I am not a bright academic.
Just a slow learner - bumbling along - enjoying myself.
I guess that's why the web suits me
as a medium to work in.

But I am looking forward to hearing from you again
when you have time.

Simon Pockley

Reply to Di Bingham Thu Apr 8, 1999 subject: Journal 1976


Many thanks for your message

> Have just been visiting your page - great evocative writing -
have added a link to my Australia page (S)
Di Bingham

Your own site gives the impression of boundless energy.
Good luck with your efforts
Might I suggest you limit the byte size of your opening screen.
It has taken a full 5 minutes to download at this end.
(less rotating things might help)

If you have only looked at the 1976
section of `The Flight of Ducks'
you may not have realised that this is only a very small part
of a 1000 screen site - an on-line documentary
built around a camel expedition into central Australia in 1933.
A better description can be found at:

All the best

Simon Pockley

Reply to Chris Holden Tue Mar 2, 1999 subject: Typo?


Many thanks,
your feedback is appreciated.

This is the raw spelling as it arrived.
If I correct spelling, should I correct grammar?
Where would I stop?

The URL you mention is a redundant unauthorised capture
and I am surprised that it is still accessible
The Flight of Ducks is actually hosted by Cinemedia
as well as the National Library of Australia.
The live URL of the screen you refer to is:

If you are interested in more recent conversation

What do you think about The Flight of Ducks?

Simon Pockley

Reply to Fay Smith Tue Mar 2, 1999 subject: childs school report


The Flight of Ducks is about an expedition into Central Australia in 1933
and examples of most of the things you are looking for
can be found in the site.
Both journals and photographs.
However, the site is very large (1000 screens)
and my feeling is that your year 5 daughter
may find it difficult to extract exactly what she is looking for
because of the sheer volume of material.

There are any number of books available in public libraries
that simplify Aboriginal life as it was - and now is.

The reality of Aboriginal life in central Australia
is quite unpalatable.

I took my son to Central Australia when he was in year 5
to retrace his grandfather's expedition.
An on-line journal of this trip is available at:

> information on tools in early use e.g. hunting spear, fishing spear,
woomera,nulla nulla, boomerang,

I have not yet got round to digitising all the artefacts
from the expedition but some are available at:

> an explanation of Ceremonies and Dreamtime covering
corroborees, didgeridoo, clapping sticks, dances, art, painting
stories, decoration and spiritual.

My father's experience of corroboree
at the tail end of the frontier period
when there were still Aborigines who had not seen whites:

> effect of losing tribal lands, diseases, fighting,

My family was also involved in the largest massacre
of whites by Aborigines at Cullin-la-ringo:

> the effects of European settlement on the Aborigines

Some of this material has been a source of contoversy
discussion of the issues can be found at:

The secret to navigating the site is to press the duck - top left
this will always take you back to an index.
Alternatively you can see the copntents of every screen
by going to the overview (top of index).

I hope this helps you and your daughter.

Good luck with it.

Simon Pockley

Reply to Robert Windsor Mon Mar 1, 1999 subject: FOD


> I think it needs to be acknowledged
that the incrementalism of a community is embodied,
and consequently very difficult for an outsider to read.
It doesn't simply function as amendments
in response to new data
but is a constant becoming of intersubjective moods and intuitions.
It is a kind of anti-methodology.

but it is also a methodology of control.
Whereby authority is maintained by assertion of control
I think Eric Michaels was on to it
in his description of:

`a capacity for oral truths to respond to change
without ever appearing to be changing.'

Michaels, Eric, Aboriginal Content:
Who's Got it - Who Needs it? Art & Text 23/4 P.61.

What would you do to fix it ?

From what I could see
the major problem was the solutions
that well meaning people from outside the community
had tried to implement.

What shocked me was the oppressive power of dependence.
How quickly a people without power
could lose the dignity of self-determination.
It is not just an Aboriginal problem
I see it everywhere - even in myself.

The only place I saw
where there appeared to be hope
was a community where, through sheer strength of character,
one woman had said NO
and stuck to it.

Regards Simon

Reply to Tracy Spencer Sun Feb 28, 1999 subject: UAM


I'll cast cast around.
With your permission
I'll put your request for info on the `News 'screen
about 4,000 individuals access `The Flight of Ducks' each week
and it is not uncommon for people to answer.
Sometimes they will just contact you directly
and not go through me.
If this happens I would be interested
if you remember.

Good luck in your search
How permanent is this email?

Regards Simon

Reply to Joe Heinrich Sun Feb 21, 1999 subject: Lasseter's diary...


> Is it on public display somewhere? It piqued my interest
because it's similar (in a way) to various
Donner Party diaries famous in
this locale (Silicon Valley).
Also, Hammond Innes wrote a book (The Golden Soak)

As far as I know
the original diary is now in the hands of the Lasseter family
and not on public display (other than the copy I have on-line).

What are `Donner Party diaries' and why are they famous?

Will check on the Hammond Innes book.
Ion Indriess wrote a book called `Lasseter's Last Ride'
I have another more factual account
of the search for Lasseter by Errol Coote,
`Hell's Airport, The Key to Lasseter's Gold Reef',
(Peterman Press, 1934)

Thanks for the link to Joseph Squire's work.
Actually, I was directed to it a few years ago
Found it extremely compelling (tough stuff).

> I liked the neurological feel of both

Could you eleborate on this
Very interested in your perception of the work.

What do you do?

Regards Simon

Reply to Robert Windsor Fri Feb 19, 1999 subject: FOD


Returned last night after
a week at home in the Warrumbungles (bliss).

Your experiences in central Australia sound fascinating.
Few people would have such insights into the workings
of Aboriginal Communities.
I would be very grateful to know your reactions to
`Blinding the Duck'.

> you welcome any amendments that are technologically possible (am I right?)

Yes. All input is included,
that which is not private or restricted
even if it's hostile.

> Free spaces for the meeting of ideas,
no matter how marginal, confronting, controversial
or unpopular those ideas may be, must always be welcomed.

I have found that this is NOT true.
In fact, transparency is a cultural value that many
(Anglo-Celtic Australians)
take for granted
but it is not shared by some Moslem, Aboriginal, legal, or business groups.

> Does `The Flight of Ducks' constitute such a space?

I believe that it does, because I do not leave anything out.

I have attempted to accommodate the cultural impasses
(previous) by


* placing culturally sensitive information in a protected area
* providing warning screens
* providing adequate metadata
* building a filtering architecture (PICS)

> I did not realise when I e-mailed you that my communication would be private.

Most people don't realise it will be public
they react to it like they would a phone tap.

>Is there actually a way that I can communicate directly to the site?

I tried to answer this in my last message.
The answer is, technically, yes
but such spaces have to be so tightly
restricted (password controlled) that it is an illusion.

Direct contact by email
would result in the site being clogged up
by junk mail and ads.

Have a look at any form of public `guest book'
and you will see the nature of controlled public access.


At this stage, I mediate the arrangement of all inputs.
Some people have written that they think that I compose it
like a score.

That may be true.
But I try to remain faithful to the intent.

> If in your reply you could explain how I can make
my correspondence public that would be terrific.

For the flip side of the web coin - go to:

I you press `view' (top of browser window)
then `document source'
You will see your messages in HTML (the markup language).
This may not be what you are asking
but then again - it might be.

> I felt that research into the origins, forms and functions of such (mis)understandings could be fruitful.

Marcia Langton's question is: Who gets to eat the fruit?

> ideas developed by Martin Heidegger and further developed by people such as Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze.

Lots of people I know find these people interesting
and I wish I could say something insightful about them.
But for some reason,
when I try to read them (and others)
they always send me to sleep
or make me sigh with resignation and feel inadequate.

I'm a bit simple minded.
I like to work with my hands - incrementally
rather than with the hubris of abstraction.
I'm not surprised that you feel
as though you are `drowning in a sea of words'.

> Can the new technologies of writing open up a `clearing' for Aboriginal people, providing an easily accessible environment in which they are able to freely show themselves, or is there simply an increased danger of further subjection, even more being spoken for and being spoken of?

In `Blinding the Duck' (section 3)

Strange Uses - new paradigms of appropriation. I wrote:

`Ironically, I suspect that this incremental method of working
is far more in tune with the very local community'
land based methodologies working against hierarchy and paternalism
in central Australia.
But it will not sit well with the privileged elite
who scratch at the sores of official regret
with their own form of cultural imperialism.'

You know these people, what do you think?

> It would be invaluable to hear the viewpoints
of relatives of the people your father met on his expedition
(are they Pintubi and Loritja people?)

The descendants (that I have found - so far)
think it (The Flight of Ducks)
great - wonderful.
But they also say,
"Don't tell anyone that I said that."
And, they have not really experienced the use of the web.
Only paper versions.

The people my father met were Arrernte, Loritja, Ngalia & Pintubi.
I'm told that it was the last great gathering of these groups.

I'm not sure if I have answered your questions
or even provided adequate response
to your project or your experiences.

I'm sorry to hear that your health is not good.

How did you live when you were with the Anangu?
Did you sleep on the ground?
Did you make good friends?
Did you fall in love?
What did you eat?

I was shocked by what I saw in central Australia in 1996
when travelling out to Mount Liebig.



Reply to Joe Heinrich Fri Feb 19, 1999 subject: Lasseter's diary...


>Were there more than 24 pages to Lasseter's diary?

Yes - heaps more.

It's just that I got sick of scanning etc.
I've had several requests for the rest.
Will let you know when I get to it
if you are interested.
As usual - time is the problem.

Regards Simon

Reply to S. Wilson Mon Feb 8, 1999 subject: none
> I'm doing a paper for school its due Monday,
I was wondering if you knew of any poems or sonnets related to "Shall I
compare thee to a summers day", or "How do I love thee"

Try Andrew Marvell's

`To his coy mistress'

Hope this is time...



Reply to Robert Windsor Mon Feb 8, 1999 subject: FOD


> The thing that interests me most about your site
is the potential to overwrite.
Does this mean that the material
you have gone to the trouble of preserving,
such as the journal and the photographs,
can be replaced or deleted,
or does this just apply to the supporting material?

A very interesting question.

The answer enters several inter-related areas
to do with preservation strategies (in a digital environment)
and cultural propriety.

By way of background (and context)
I'll have to point you to an on-line paper
about Aboriginal representation, censorship and restriction
in `The Flight of Ducks' entitled `Blinding the Duck':

1. The technical [on-line] viewpoint:

That the material might be corrupted/deleted/altered
in some way automatically by the overwriting process
like a cave painting?
The answer is not yet
at least, not without me as an agent.

In fact, this was my original intention.
because I wanted to demonstrate that this was a two way medium
in which there were responsibilities on both sides.
I was hoping for graffiti even vandalism.

What you see now is a mere shadow of that intention.



* The browser (Hyperwave)
that permitted public access to private file structures
was unstable and never quite lived up to its expections.

To the best of my knowledge,
with existing browsers (Netscape & Explorer),
overwriting can only be achieved
by severely limiting the kinds of formats that can be submitted.
Otherwise the host's (Cinemedia, National Library of Australia, RMIT) root directories (other peoples files)
might be compromised.
This is considered (by most people) to be unacceptable.

* Mediation prevails. (of course, the medium itself is mediated by machines)

I've been forced to take on a kind of editorial role
in mediating any overwriting or electronic submissions.
I've taken this role very seriously and
have been reluctant to offend or betray
people who might have placed confidence and trust
in my ability to maintain some form of cultural propriety.
Most submissions are either additions or corrections.
Demands for deletion
(such as that which came from RMIT Ethics Committee)
were quickly shrouded in the words `Private and Confidential'.

2. Proliferation:

In practice there is no difference
between core material and supporting material,
as far as preservation is concerned.
Such distinctions are more to do with point of view.
I could argue that what you consider to be
supporting material is, in fact,
core material (other people's input).
An interesting phenomenon has been
the emergence of a proliferation strategy as a means of
protecting the all material against short-term political attack
and deletion.

This applies equally to the parts
as it does to the whole.
One vulnerablility (yet to be properly addressed)
is that restricted files (tjurunga, email & letters)
are not so easy to capture
and are therefore less likely to proliferate.

The intention is that all material
(restricted or public) will find its way into the future.

Snapshot captures are taken at regular intervals
in order to maintain some record
of material that might be disgarded along the way.

3. Cultural propriety:

Within this mediated environment
all messages are sorted and incorporated.
Most ethically demanding are private messages
(sometimes sent by mistake).
Many of these are not labelled as such
(Unlike the RMIT Ethics Committee demands).

Of course, the nature of propriety
(in this binary environment)
is not quite as clear as some people might wish
(see `Blinding the Duck').

It might interest you to know that messages of this kind (private)
are now the majority.
Most of them are about intercultural problems and experiences.
However, such is the politics or `correctness'
(when it comes to Australian Aborigines)
that few people are prepared to be publically identified
even for innoccuous statements.
It is a sad reflection on the public debate,
(or lack of debate of these issues),
that this should be the case.

I continue to do my best to make the site transparent
and challenging.
Not everything is accessible but nothing is left out.

Aboriginal people have been very supportive.
But when it comes to Aboriginal representation
there is yet to be much electronic evidence of this support.
Aboriginal people are very wary of being identified.
I have had more difficulty with non-aboriginal people
who are filled with passionate intensity
and little understanding.

I hope you don't run into the kind of invective
that I have experienced during my research.

Happy to answer any other questions.
Would like to hear more about your research?

And hope you don't just vanish. Please answer.



Reply to Doug Baum Wed Feb 3, 1999 subject: camels


Back in the mid 70s
I was living out in the bush
in the mountains
Shooting my food
Building a tower

I heard a stange noise
and looked up to see two camels
and an old friend
who had walked them up about 150 miles
from a property called `No-name'
near Gulgong.
I think he had swapped them for an Austin Champ (car)
They were quite wild.

He had welded up a riding saddle
and a pack harness.
We put nose pegs in them
and spent two weeks trying to train them
to stop and sit down etc.
We must have looked like idiots.
They sure know how to kick and spit.

The lighter coloured one accepted this training
but the darker one would have none of it.

Then he left
and walked to Oodnadatta
which was more than half way across Australia.
In desert country.
Last I heard he was in Paris working for
a US company called Intergraph.

His name was Robert Patience.

Soon after this
a woman called Robin Davidson
walked from Alice Springs to the coast.
She wrote a book called `Tracks'
and became famous
I think she lives in London now.

I've never heard Robert's story
but I did hear that he had to shoot
quite a few marauding male camels.

Back in 1933 my father
who was 20 at the time
never grew too fond of camels.

Good to hear from you.
If you need higher resolution images
just let me know.



Reply to Doug Baum Wed Feb 2, 1999 subject: questions


>Please give me some background on this site,
and the nature of the photos (when, where, by whom).

`The Flight of Ducks'
has been described as a transparent on-line documentary.
There is plenty of explanation if you are interested.
The secret is to press the duck (top left)
then press [about]

I hope you enjoy it.
I'm always happy to answer any questions
and hope you will feel free to add
your impressions and/or stories.
Almost every screen carries an email envelope at the bottom.
Just fire away.

Some of the photos have been a source of controversy.
If you are interested,
a fairly comprehensive explanation
can be found at

Which photographs were you asking about?



Reply to Abby Wed Jan 20, 1999 subject: query


Please forgive the delay in replying to your thoughtful question.
I have been away in the bush and only returned last night.

The practice of destroying all the possessions and any
reference to the dead is a central Australian custom
that can be rigorously enforced or ignored
depending on the circumstances.

In general it is good practice to obtain informed consent
from descendants - if possible.

I ran into similar problems in 1995 when I put my father's
1933 journals and photographs into an on-line documentary called
`The Flight of Ducks'.
There is nothing simple about any of these issues.
If you are interested you might like to have a glance at:
`Blinding the Duck'

Emily Kame Kngwarreye's work and photographs and videos
of her
are freely reproduced in Australia because she is a superstar.
That this might cause her family grief
is rarely, if ever, considered.
But I guess this could apply to any person of note.

In my opinion Emily Kame Kngwarreye is important
because her work transcends her Aboriginality.
Too often
Aboriginality has become a prison
from which many artists can have trouble escaping.

Good luck with your book.


Reply to Ian Tinney (restricted message) Wed Jan 20, 1999 subject: FOD & Lasseter


Please forgive the lateness of this reply
I've been in the bush for the last month
away from screens.

As far as I know
the original diary
is in the hands of the Lasseter family.
My memory (like the rest of my brain)
is like a sieve but I think
one of the family emailed me a few years ago.
I'll dig around and see what I can find.
There are letters too.

I have a copy of the diary
and have put some of it on-line
if you can read it at:

I'll do the rest of it - if you like
but it might take me a few weeks
Its quite long - it rambles and repeats.


Reply to Sandra Shrubb Wed Jan 20, 1999 subject: 3 hours of fascination


Many thanks for your kind words
about `The Flight of Ducks'.
Forgive this overdue reply
but I have just returned
from my home in the bush
where I have been away from screens for a month.

What is this remote island off Antarctica?
Why are you there?


Reply to Melissa Wed Jan 20, 1999 subject: The Flight of Ducks


I've just returned from the bush after a month away
a pile of emails waiting.
Nothing [on-line] comes to mind immediately
about Aboriginal adoption
will dig around for you
There are books that will interest you
a list will follow in a week or so
when I am more up to date.

Keep in mind
that the children taken
were not
regarded as `Aboriginal' - at the time
because of their mixed descent.
The politic of Aboriginality has now
expanded its base to include these children.
Hence the concept of `the stolen generation'.
There were thousands of non-aboriginal children
taken from families in England too.

This is not to condone the practice but
to put it in context.

More to follow.

You mention that you find `The Flight of Ducks'
`dark'. Could you elaborate?

Regards Simon

Reply to Alan Golding Tue Jan 19, 1999 subject: strehlow-BBC WALES TV SERIES


I have only just returned from the bush
after a month away.
I have a mountain of email
forgive this brief reply to your question about
the where abouts of the Strehlow collection.

I could talk for hours about Strehlow
He joined my father on a camel expedition in 1933
The story is now an on-line documentary
called `The Flight of Ducks'
The title comes from the content of a song:

Strehlow was a controversial character
and his work is now `politically problematic'
in Australia.
A fair chunk of his material is housed
in the Strehlow Research Foundation (Alice Springs)
You will need to talk to David Hugo


Some of his material was taken by force
from Strehlow's son in 1985 (I think)
and found its way to the South Australian Museum.
Your two best contacts there are
Chris Anderson []
Philip Jones []
They have different points of view.

The whole area is a politcal minefield.
If you want to read about some of the problems I had
see `Blinding the Duck'

It might also give you some context for the Chatwin book.

Anyway I hope these contacts and references are useful.
I'm happy to answer specific questions.