Tatura, a small, but typical, central Victorian town, is an interesting mixture.

The region was home to many interred people of Italian nationality during World War II. Many of those Italians made Tatura home, and others brought their families back here in post-war migration.

Many people of German nationality died during the two World Wars in Australia, whilst held in camps. It was decided to honour them in a German cemetery, built just outside Tatura next to the main cemetery. The burials include 214 German people brought from cemeteries elsewhere in Australia, 36 from Tatura cemetery, and over a hundred missionaries.

Tatura, in common with many towns in this productive fruit and vegetable growing region, is supplied by a range of diversions of the Goulburn River, including the Goulburn weir.

To add to the continental flavour, many buildings feature impressive Italianate architecture, such as the Sacred Heart school and church buildings.

Michael Monaghan April 2022



The first newspaper published specifically for the ACT (then the Federal Territory) was, on 3 December 1924, the self proclaimed “unpretentious” Federal Capital Pioneer.

Printed by the already established Queanbeyan Advocate printer, A. M Fallick and Sons, the Pioneer’s editor was Alexander Kenneth  Murray of Sturtville, Eastlake.

Murray was no relation as far as I can tell of the famous Sir Terence Murray, former owner of what is now Government House in Canberra, as well as most of the rest of this area. Sir Terence was the son of Captain Murray, the first known European to explore Port Phillip, Victoria. Nor can I find a link to the bus company.

Murray had to advise his myriad readers to take care not to address communications to Sturtville, Canberra, albeit the correct address, because the missive would be first taken to the Acton Post Office, adding a day before he would receive their precious thoughts.

The editor promised a “bright, breezy and seasonable” Christmas number. We will check the validity of the claim in due course.

Appropriately enough, the political capital’s Pioneer kicked off with support for the assertion of the new Prime Minister, Captain Stanley Bruce, that he would govern for all Australians.

Similarly appropriate are featuring the apparent visionary brilliance of the then no-longer Prime Minister, W.M.Hughes, MHR; and a clarion call to “somnolent politicians” not to overlook the spreading of the subtle propaganda of the Communist Party (respectfully featuring capitals, before less respectfully identifying their views as “claptrap”).

The unpretentiousness goal was shaken a bit by “Billy” Hughes’ prediction that “Australians will speak of the ‘Pioneer’ as do the Americans of the first paper printed in Washington.”  Further undermining unpretention was Billy’s assertion that the Pioneer was “ the leader of the vanguard, the banner-bearer of the new order of things.”  The Pioneer repaid the favour with what any reader would term ingratiating fervour, but which we were assured was “not fulsome flattery, nor a eulogium”, just facts.

Like all good parochial journals, the Pioneer sought to educate the readership as to the state of their federal territory.

The Territory was then, and has been until the contemporary Strathnairn foray into State territory, 940 sqm in size and already had about 3000, probably largely unwilling, inhabitants.

Striking was the information that the five miles of the Main Sewer was almost completed – it not being clear if it was in use, albeit not completed. The soon to be ‘bush capital’ already featured 1.5 million trees planted. The soon-to-be famous Cotter Weir was already containing 380,000,000 gallons, and allowing an average flow of 70m gallons. Those impressed by the stated fact that there was 6 miles of 3ft 6in gauge railway, will be further pleased to know, mirroring the incompetence found nationwide, there was also 6 1/2 miles of 4ft 8 1/2 inch gauge.

John Gale, then a 94 year old Queanbeyan journalist of great repute, was acknowledged as the “Father of Canberra, the Federal Capital”, in recognition of his pivotal publication supporting the eventual site of Canberra over the then favourite, Dalgety. Those who have been to Dalgety, especially on windy winter’s day, and with all due respect to the many lovely people who do choose to live there, will be forever thankful. The brilliant description of Canberra’s wind in the wonderful Federal Capital Commission’s April 1926 publication “Canberra. General Notes for the Information of Public Servants”, which was aimed at enticing people to move here, was “the prevailing wind, which in winter is westerly – being snow-laden – is shrewdly searching.” In my experience, the wind in Dalgety doesn’t bother with the shrewd bit.

The first call for government action by the Pioneer, apart from waking up to deal with the insidious spread of communism, is to replace the bland names of the uninformed American designers, which “absurdities…disfigure” the map of the future national capital, with the names of the (European) men who explored and opened up the country.

Notable, because I have just bought a painting of it by a local Canberra artist, is the reference to the Australian Christmas Bells, the Blandfordia, which was the name given by Marion Mahony Griffin to what is now Forrest and, ironically, Manuka – the Pioneer would have blanched no doubt at replacing an Australian plant with a New Zealand tree.

Billy’s hope that the Pioneer would live a long life didn’t eventuate, it being wound up just a few years later, not saved by a change in name to the Federal Capital Pioneer Magazine.

The likely disappointment for those desiring a long life for the Pioneer was perhaps foreshadowed by those awaiting the “bright, breezy and seasonable” Christmas number – not only were those epithets inappropriate, so was the term “Christmas number”. It was 1 January before the next edition appeared, adding a call for a cemetery to those ongoing pleas to destroy communism before it ate all our children. More on 1925 publications in another article.

Michael Monaghan

May 2021

Another great flight: 2016 over the Bungle Bungles

In the Purnululu National Park, one of the many stunning highlights of the Kimberleys, the Bungle Bungle Range.

They clearly wanted me to fly the thing.

First over the Ord River and Lake Argyle. Much more successful apparently once they moved to Sandlewood. The freshies are in the Lake, but the salties are below the dam and not in the Lake – usually!

The Bungle Bungles are a testament to the power of wind and rain over millenia.

Michael Monaghan

April 2021

One of the great travel experiences

A couple of years ago, I took one of my greatest trips so far – a Par Avion flight from Cambridge (Hobart Tas) to Melaleuca, in the remote Tasmanian south-west.

The first leg was over the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, famous for being named after the second European who “discovered” it. Tasman was the first, most likely, but he was already going to have the whole Island named after him, so he couldn’t be greedy. Anyway, at the time French names were, to coin a phrase, de rigeur.

It is now most famous for famous Tasmanian scallops, and more lately, highly profitable and highly controversial, salmon farms.


Salmon Farms, with the seal’s own processing unit in the background.

Amongst the winners of the salmon farming business are the seals. The little rascals seem to think that free salmon is, well free salmon. So they do their best to free them. The farmers, being human and hence smarter than seals, catch the blighters and transport them blindfolded and obfuscated by super loud ACDC tracks, to the far corners of north-western Tasmania – being in a different State, they don’t have a licence to return. The seals, usually males, take the opportunity to frolic with the local females, and then hot tail it home in time to greet the farmers on their return back at the free salmon shop.

Next phase was right around the southern tip of Tasmania. Fantastic rugged rocks, around which the ragged rascals ran, and signs of the vain attempts of early settlers, like Charles Denison “Deny” (as in Den-ee, not den-i) King (more on him later) to tame the rivers with rail, to bring out mined stuff. Bits and pieces of the great southern track were also seen.

After landing at Melaleuca, still seriously remote, albeit a bit less so due to the marvels of flying machines, there was plenty of interest, including vainly searching for the seriously endangered Orange-bellied Parrots, checking out the late Deny King’s amazing home (including snake proof raised sleeping huts for his daughters) and steam driven saws, walks, and a boat trip right out into Port Davey. More on Deny below. Appropriately, no photos of his house, which is still used by his family.

We were most fortunate to have a crystal clear, wind-free day, and all day – the guides kept commenting in awe on the rarity of that.

Time to leave, and due to the fantastic weather, we were able to head west right out over the west coast.

Then back east right over the majestic peaks like Frenchmans Cap et al.

And, for the piece de resistance, back over the remote backblocks of the upper Huon. Close to my heart, because this is the land farmed by people like my great-great-great grandfather, William Fletcher, a convict, and his son born in England, my great-great grandfather, Charles Fletcher. Once married in Van Diemen’s Land, he and his also convict wife, Mary-Ann McBrine, lobbied her famous father, John Corrigan of the 6th Enskillen Dragoons and of Waterloo fame, to lobby the powers to bring various of their children out to be with them. Charles apparently got to know Mary-Ann’s daughter to her first husband, one McBrine, quite well on the way out, and they married in Huonville.

Here we come back to the really famous and amazing king of the wilderness, Deny King. Deny’s father, Charles, bought a remote property in the wilds above the Huon. The excellent biography of Deny King, “King of the Wilderness” by Christobel Mattingley, observes that the remoteness of this property was so great that “the only human habitation beyond was the cabin of the lone prospector, Charlie Fletcher, eight kilometres further out. (Everyone out there was called Charles, presumably to save confusion).

Mattingley further observes, having met Deny late in his amazing life, that the family was taught bushcraft, and the mysteries of the Weld, Arv and Denison rivers, by Charlie Fletcher. Up in the backblocks above Judbury and Ranelagh, are relics of the Fletchers’ fleeting fame – Fletchers Hill, Fletchers Road and Fletchers Swamp.

Deny lived out at Melaleuca with his wife and their daughters (safe in their snake proof quarters), mining and prospecting. Back then we are talking quite remote.

Coming down to land, and no doubt appropriately, we came in over the top of Bellerive Oval.

What an amazing trip.

Michael Monaghan

April 2021


Those following would, no doubt, be eagerly awaiting developments with the new 50 sq m native garden. Your nervous anticipation is, hopefully, hereby sated.

We left ourselves at the official three language opening of the new native garden, inspired by the opening of the new Post Office Box, in the famous Monty Python skit.

Re-live those heady days at this link:

A quicker recap can be provided. This was where we started:

Progess, requiring the digging up of some 80sqm of turf, was slow but determined.

By July, we had sufficiently progressed to meet a milestone, the official, albeit by force of event, a pat malone, opening, of the new garden:

Planting continued till in September capacity was reached. The plants at the end nearest the back door will be about 50cm round, with the two on the back corner, designed to hide the next view, will be about 2 metres. The plants gradually increase in size to be about 1m round at the middle path then 1.5 to 2 m high at the far end. The eye-line from the house end should take the eyes over the fence and the next house to Cooleman Ridge.

All plants have small-ish flowers to attract smaller birds, there being plenty for the extant Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos, the Red Wattlebirds, the Gang Gangs, Crimson and Eastern Rosellas, Galahs, Lorikeets, and the Currawongs. Also plenty for the Magpie family and the nesting Crested Pigeons.

Today, the first layer of mulch (10 shovels per barrow load, 10 barrow loads per trailer load):

Now all is ready for the official opening of phase two, and this time, all being well, the polyglot event can be attended by a massive BOB crowd. BOB, you say? Yes, it is a cul-de-sac, which is “bottom-of-bag” in la langue francaise – Hence BOB.

Phase three is to dig up and re-sow the last 15 sqm of turf along the back of the garden.

Watch this space… Proud sponsor of ArtSound FM.

October 2020

Re-visit 12: South-west Western Australia


I have been fortunate to get to the south-western tip of Western Australia a couple of times. A magnificent area for trees, rocks, sea and birds.

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Lots of photos in this re-visit with less commentary, or you will need another glass.

The isolated Little Penguin was unsuccessfully trying to scale this rock for the whole 20 minutes we were there. No idea why, and success looked increasingly unlikely. The slideshow shows the unlikely journey.

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Both Carnaby’s and Baudin’s Black-Cockatoos are found only down in this small area in far south-west WA. First the Baudin’s with the elongated beak:



Then the Carnaby’s:


There are also Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoos:

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This was the first sighting for me of the Bridled Tern.



Terns often mingle across sub-species so it can be hard often to distinguish them. This is a young Crested Tern.Tern, Crested juv

Of course, there were millions of sea- and shore-birds. In order right to left, then down, we have a juvenile and adult Pacific Gull; ubiquitous White-Faced Heron; Australasian Darter (3 photos); Little-Black Cormorant; Pied Oystercatcher; and Great Cormorants.

Heron, White-faced

Darter, australasian mat juv 2Darter, Australasian, mat juvDarter, australasian juv


High on a rock, rarely moving, and looking somewhat forlorn, was a Southern Fulmar, which would not normally be here at this time of the year, so perhaps lost and forlorn.

Fulmar, southern

Below, from the top,we have a Hardhead (a bit out of its normal range); Australasian Grebes (breeding – male is left, fem right); Hoary-headed Grebe; Chestnut Teal; and Grey Teal.

Hardhead m (unusual here)Grebe, Australasian brGrebe, Hoary-headedTeal, ChestnutTeal, Grey

This area is famous for its giant forests, and they certainly were impressive.

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The rocks were impressive, whether in the water or out of it. First, in the water, with various exposures to feature the water too:


With the forests and proliferation of wildflowers, there is a wide variety of forest birds, a number of which were first sightings for me.

First, lots of Honeyeaters, with Brown, then White-cheeked, and lastly the New-Holland.



Honeyeater, New-Holland ssp longirostris

Although the Australian Ringneck Parrot is fairly wide-spread, this sub-species, namely semitorquatus, is only found in this small area. It is colloquially known as the Twenty-Eight after its call, although I noticed that the Twenty-Eight tag was applied to the species more indiscriminately.

Wherever you go in Australia, you can count on being welcomed by the Welcome Swallows, although again the sub-species Carteri is only found in south-western Western Australia. Looks like there are more on the way.

One of my favourite birds (although the group is large) is the Spinebill. Reasonably common in my garden is the Eastern Spinebill. This was the first sighting of the slightly different plumage of the Western Spinebill.

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Another common bird in Eastern and Southern Australia, close to the coast, is the Silvereye. This sub-species Chloronotus is again only found in the south-west of WA.

Silvereye ssp chloronotus

Similarly, the Bilbali sub-species of the Australian Pipit, a bird found almost everywhere in Australia, is only found in this nook.



The wildflowers are also spectacular:

And almost finally, the pure quartz, rather than coral/shell sand with which we are more familiar, is remarkable. And treacherous.


And, finally, I love a good sign. We all know how hard it is to get it right. Tough luck though if it is through this closed at all times door that you need to make the emergency egress.


Michael Monaghan

Re-visited July 2020 Proud Sponsor of Artsound FM 92.7

The new garden/Le jardin nouveau/Der neue garten/


Today was the commemorative opening of the new native garden. Inspired by one of the most brilliant launches witnessed by humanity, a link to which is at the bottom of this article, it was held in three languages, with a suitably distanced crowd of one.

For those who missed the beginning, here’s a quick re-cap


One hundred square metres of what was, before the drought of 2000, lawn – but was now at best grass, but mainly weeds – was to be dug up, and turned into 50 sq m of native garden and 50 sq m of re-sown lawn.

Workers, well the worker, had to meet the watchful and exacting standards of the future occupants, such as the young magpie and the grey butcher bird.

Various paths have had to be constructed, walls built, and stone wall gardens extended.

The plan didn’t allow for discovering a dodgy brothers storm water pipe running right through the middle of the proposed garden, sitting just 100 to 250 mm below the surface.

20200701_134504Taking a punt that the drain, like another one running from the other corner of the back garden, was put there when the houses were new, and there were no gardens to absorb the rainwater coming off the ridge behind, I decided to take it out. We will discover next time it pours if that was a good decision – otherwise I might need that punt I mentioned. I have checked I still have gumboots.

In a very good sign, some prospective tenants couldn’t even wait till the first plants went into the ground.

I watched a couple of young resident magpies attempt, but fail, to remove the colourful labels from some pots, resulting in several being tipped over.


Then, after frantic last minute activity by the worker, the time for the official opening arrived.


Being a good employer, and wanting to offer choices to the worker, I offered myself, the worker – read Lee v Lee’s Airfarming to understand the corporate veil – his pick. All I could find, though, was this spade. (boom boom)

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The launch was conducted in English, French and German, as guided by the launch of the new postbox depicted in the attached documentary. Luckily, the Spanish Inquisition didn’t arrive, because I certainly wasn’t expecting it – well, of course, nobody does.

So now I have got only 20 sqm to dig up in the garden, and about 15 sqm to re-sow the last stretch of new lawn. Plus lots of bird attracting natives to be purchased and planted.



Make sure you watch the clip. One of the funniest things I have ever seen.

Michael Monaghan


Winter at the Jerrabomberra Wetlands

Pretty quiet in winter at the Wetlands, but over a few trips have spotted some new and some rare appearances.

The Golden-headed Cisticola, one of the so-called Old World Warblers, is apparently at the edge of its range around here, but the high reeds and water suit it. This was the first time I had seen one, and as best I could tell, there seemed to be only one.

Another rare sighting, although you often hear them here, is the Little Grassbird. Rarer still for it to sit still long enough for a photo opportunity – and true to form this one didn’t quite.

Grassbird, Little


The Red-Browed Finches are often around and are fairly unconcerned by human presence. They were certainly hoeing into the late autumn reed seeds.

Similarly, Superb Fairy-Wrens are common and tolerant.

Fairy-wren, Superb m

Rare visitors right in the Wetlands are Yellow-Tailed Black-Cockatoos, which normally hang about in huge Casuarina Pine stands a kilometer or so away.

The colourful Red-Rumped Parrots are also common here. The male is much more colourful than the female, she more sedately stylish.


Black-Shouldered Kites frequent and nest here. This looks like one of the youngsters checking out his home.

Spotted Doves seem to be another of the birds moving in greater numbers into new territory after the bushfires along the eastern and south-eastern coasts. I have also seen them in my garden in Canberra for the first time, along with huge numbers (70 at a time)  of Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos and (30 at a time) of Rainbow Lorikeets. Not before this year have they been in this part of Canberra in anything like those numbers.

Also it is the first time in many years coming here I have seen WoodSwallows here. These are Black-Faced Woodswallows, quite cuddly looking and so they are in practice.

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Quite common in the Wetlands are Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrikes, White-faced Herons,  White-Browed Scrubwrens and Straw-necked Ibis.


Ibis, Straw-neckedMore first sightings anywhere for me were the Yellow-Rumped Thornbill:

The Brown Thornbill:

Thornbill, Brown

And the Yellow-faced Honeyeater:

Honeyeater, Yellow-faced 2

So with a bit of patience, and time, the Wetlands always go from there’s nothing there to a nice collection.

June 2020


Re-visit 11: West MacDonnell Ranges (west of Alice Springs; visited 2016)

Generally, this is a post where the photos of some of the oldest rocks known on the planet just speak for themselves.

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There are moments, such as this entry into Palm Valley, where you really really hope the rangers who stuck in the guiding posts do know where the underwater boulders are. For the most part, they are well more than wheel height below the water. Good for me, the intrepid driver had been before.

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It was well worth his effort – the scenery inside was sensational.


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Another great spot in this area is Simpson’s Gap. Again, the rocks do the talking.


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There were plenty of gorgeous gorges in the area, including Jessie Gap, Emily Gap and Ormiston Gorge. Geologists (a very recent profession and knowledge – look up William Smith or read Simon Winchester’s ‘The Map that changed the World’)  say that yesterday, well around 400 million years ago, the top layer of quartzite was about 2 kilometres north of the gorge, and something thrust it south, so now there are the two layers. It was all sand on a shallow sea once upon a time too. Don’t anybody raise that this is just this universe.

There are many highlights including these very ancient paintings:

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and an easy to tread on grasshopper, with magnificent camouflage:


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Michael Monaghan

Proud sponsor of ArtSound FM

Re-visited June 2020