Monday, May 31, 2010


Above is the badge from Cammeray Primary School, Cammeray, a northern suburb of Sydney. In the top left-hand corner of the badge is an image of the Cammeray Bridge, also known as The Suspension Bridge, Northbridge Suspension Bridge, Cammeray Suspension Bridge, The North Sydney Suspension Bridge and even The Long Gully Bridge. The suburb of Northbridge takes its name from the structure and it is a well known and loved landmark for those familiar with the area, however to many Sydney-siders it is a well kept secret. The bridge is a magnificent structure and the area underneath contains playing fields, boating facilities and bushwalks along the creek and through beautiful fern filled gullies.

A photograph of one of the many walking trails in the area under the bridge.

The original inhabitants in the Northbridge/Cammeray area were the Cammeraygal and Wallumedegal. Governor Phillip in a dispatch of 1790 reported: “... About the north-west part of this harbour there is a tribe which is mentioned as being very powerful, either from their numbers or the abilities of their chief. This district is called Cammerra, the head of the tribe is named Cammerragal, by which name the men of that tribe are distinguished ...". They are recorded as being a very powerful people and by far the most numerous. They were also the most robust and muscular and had the extraordinary privilege of extracting a tooth from the natives of other Bands and Tribes inhabiting the sea-coast.

The first grants of land made in the area by the crown were in 1837, however little was done until the public auction of land in 1855. One of the first settlers was Henry Hocken Bligh who bought land in 1856. He helped petition the government for the incorporation of Willoughby as a Municipality and he later became Mayor of Willoughby in 1869 and 1871. Another early settler was William Tremlow. Tremlow was a Sydney jeweller who built a house at Fig Tree Point. It was not accessible by land and he had to go to work by boat every day.

An early photo of the original suspension bridge.

The North Sydney Investment and Tramway Company was formed to take advantage of the demand for land in the 1880s. It purchased much of the land in the area around Northbridge and planned to build a bridge and tramway to open the area up and make the land more attractive as residential blocks. The bridge was designed by W H Warren and J E F Coyle and took two years and nine months to build at a cost of 42,000 pounds. It was opened for use in January 1892. The suspension span of 500 feet was considered an engineering marvel, being the fourth largest in the world at the time, and became a tourist attraction for Sydney residents who were charged three pennies a time to be taken across the bridge and back. The span was supported by steel cables, which in turn were supported by two sandstone towers and then anchored into bedrock on each side of the gorge. The deck was made of wood and designed to carry two lanes of traffic, two tramways and two pedestrian walkways.

Economic conditions in 1892 were such that the North Sydney Investment and Tramway Company went into liquidation and the tramway was never built. In 1912 the bridge was given to the Government with the conditions that the tramway be extended across the bridge and that no tollway be charged for people using the bridge. The tramway was built across the bridge in 1914 and ended in Sailor's Bay Road.

An early view of the suspension bridge.

However the bridge was used less and less and needed repairs done to it. In 1935 it was transferred to the Department of Main Roads. An inspection found that the bridge was badly corroded, this was partly due to a design fault which had water accumulating around the suspension rods, and many of the cables were badly corroded and needed replacing. The towers were in good condition and it was recognised they held considerable historical significance. The suspension bridge was replaced by an arch. The main span was 344 feet supported by two concrete ribs rising to 167 feet above the stream below. The roadway was supported on the arch by columns holding up 14 reinforced concrete beam slabs. When rebuilding the bridge a walkway was cut through the towers and the roadway widened. The new bridge was opened in September 1939.

A view of the magnificent bridge towers today.

During World War II tram services were started to Vale Street, Cammeray. This continued until 1948. In 1992 floodlighting was installed on the bridge by Sydney electricity.

A view of the bridge from the playing fields below.

The reputation of the bridge was damaged when a 37 year old man committed suicide by jumping from it. The man had narrowly missed landing on a jogger in the park below. Following the tragedy the Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon recommended that safety barriers be installed at the bridge. The coroner had noted that the bridge had been the site of a number of suicide and base-jumping attempts in the past.

A view of the bridge showing the barriers being erected.

The RTA investigated various designs for these barriers amidst much public discussions. A design was decided upon and the barriers are currently under construction. In the meantime security guards are patrolling the bridge 24 hours a day to discourage any further attempts to jump from the bridge.

A view of Middle Harbour.

If after crossing the bridge from the Cammeray side a person takes the first road to the right they wind down to the water at Middle Harbour and playing fields at Tunks Park. These are set in lush bushland. Walking up under the bridge a person soon enters bushland and can follow trails along the creek or wind up through the bush where they can hear birds or find small lookouts. It is the ideal place for picnics or bushwalks. I have found similar places in Melbourne around Templestowe where I have seen kangaroos and even a platypus in the river......but this is a different story.

The area under the bridge contains many well defined bush walks.

The walkway cut through the towers can be seen here. The security guards are standing inside the walkway.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Local school children take an excursion to the beach.

Woolgoolga has been called "the missing piece of paradise". Located on the north coast of New South Wales, 25kms from Coff Harbour, Woolgoolga is a popular holiday village with magnificent beaches, whale watching from the headlands, kayaking, bush walking, playing golf, horse riding, bowling, mountain biking and all the while turtles still come ashore to lay their eggs. There are numerous coffee shops, restaurants and fresh seafood outlets. The local council takes pride in providing facilities for the traveller or the holiday maker with free covered barbeques, playgrounds and the best maintained (and sweetest smelling) toilets. The local population is full of characters and are very friendly and welcoming. Woolgoolga is the centre of the bannana growing industry in New South Wales.

Prior to European settlement Woolgoolga was home to the Gumbaingirr people. The name of the town comes from the Aboriginal word "Weelgoolga" used to describe the area and the lilly-pilly trees which grew there. According to the 2006 census 159 of the inhabitants still identify themselves as indigenous.

The first European settlers were timber cutters. Although it was never one of the major centres, a mill was built there in 1883 and a long jetty for loading timber was constructed in 1892. The town was also linked to the Jesse Simpson forrest by a light railway. The jetty and the railway have both disappeared. The town was officially gazetted in 1888 as Woogoolga, but changed to Woolgoolga in 1966. There were some early attempts to grow sugar cane but these proved unsuccessful. There were also early attempts to grow banana but it wasn't until the 1930s that this industry in Woolgoolga took off.

The remains of the Buster sticking through the sand. Sometimes storms and shifting sands will reveal more of the wreck.

In 1893 the 319 ton, 39m long timber ship, the Buster arrived at Woolgoolga to take on a load of timber for shipping to New Zealand. The Buster was at anchor near the Woolgoolga jetty when a storm struck and snapped both her anchor cables. The ship was set adrift and battered by "a wall of water" for nine hours before being pushed up onto the beach stern first. The ship was never removed from the beach and its skeletal remains can still be seen jutting from the sand.

Guru Nanak Gurdwara.

In 1900 a number of Indian migrants were attracted to the area to work on the banana farms. Although most were single males who came to Australia to make money and then return home to their families many found they liked the Australian climate and countryside and they became permanent settlers. Other Indian Sikhs hearing of the community growing in Woolgoolga were attracted to the area. Today the Sikhs represent over a quarter of the population. The 2006 census lists the population of Woolgoolga at 4,356people. 421 (9.7%) speak Punjabi at home, 423 practice Sikhism and 221(5.1%) were born in India. There are two Gurdwas(temples) in Woolgoolga, the Sikh Temple Woolgoolga and the Guru Nanak Gurdwara (the Temple on the Hill). Today nearly 90% of the banana plantations in the area are owned by Sikh families. One of the biggest event in the area is the annual Curry Festival held in April. The event attracts over 10,000 people to the area.

Woolgoolga beach.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Photo from:

After teaching for many years, and teaching in Special Education, I guess it is this story more than any other which sums up my philosophy of teaching. It has, and still is one of my favourite.Whenever I present professional development activities to teachers I read this to them and more often than not I get choked up by the end. It is a simple, yet powerful story from a book by Robert Fulghum, called “Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. If you haven't read any of his books than I recommend them. The story:

Giants, Wizards, and Dwarfs was the game to play. Being left in charge of about 80 children 7 to 10 years old while their parents were off doing parenty things, I mustered my troops in the parish hall and explained the game. It's a large-scale version of Rock, Paper, and Scissors, and involves some intellectual decision-making. But the real purpose of the game is to make a lot of noise and run around chasing people until nobody know which side your are on or who won.

Organizing a roomful of grade-schoolers into two teams, explaining the rudiments of the game, achieving consensus on group identity -- all this was no mean accomplishment, but we did it with a right good will and were ready to go.

The excitement of the chase had reached a critical mass. I yelled out, “You have to decide now which you are: a GIANT, a WIZARD, or a DWARF”.

While the groups huddled in frenzied, whispered consultation, a tug came at my pant leg. A small child stands there, looking up, and asks in a small concerned voice, “Where do the Mermaids stand?”

A long pause. A very long pause. “Where do the Mermaids stand?” I say.

“Yes, you see, I am a Mermaid.”

“There are no such things as Mermaids.”

“Oh yes there is, I am one!”

She did not relate to being a Giant, a Wizard, or a Dwarf. She knew her category – Mermaid – and was not about to leave the game and go over and stand against the wall where the loser would stand. She intended to participate, wherever Mermaids fit into the scheme of things, without giving up dignity or identity. She took it for granted that there was a place for mermaids and that I would know just where.

Well, where DO the Mermaids stand? All the Mermaids – all those who are different, who do not fit the norm, and who do not accept the available boxes and pigeonholes? Answer that question and you can build a school, a nation or a kingdom on it.

What was my answer at the moment? Every once in a while I say the right thing. “The Mermaid stands right here, by the King of the Sea!” So we stood there, hand in hand, while the Wizards and Dwarfs and Giants rolled by in wild disarray. It is not true, by the way, that Mermaids do not exist. I know at least one personally. I have held her hand.

Photo from: Lil-Mermaid.php

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Nearly 20 years ago I travelled from Narrabri to Moree on a bus full of Kamilaroi community members. In Moree we watched a performance of the play "Bran Nue Dae". The musical was performed on a stage which had been built outdoors on one of the ovals at Moree. That night there was a thunder storm, and although the rain held off there was thunder and lightning and the sky was ominously dark. There was a huge crowd there to watch the play, and I was one of the few 'white people' in the audience. Although I have seen many live plays this remains one of my favourite. I used to have the soundtrack on a tape but I played it so much it broke (or one of the kids cut it up?). For years I tried to get a replacement copy but it was never available. However on the 14th January this year the film version of Bran Nue Dae was released in Australia and finally I can get a copy of the soundtrack.

The original musical was written in 1990 by Jimmy Chi and Kuckles. It is set in Western Australia in 1969 and tells the story of William "Willie" Johnson who is studying for the priesthood but runs away from his boarding school in Perth intending to make his way back home to Broome so he can win back his girlfriend Rosie. Along the way he teams up with 'Uncle' Tadpole, a lovable rogue who offers to help him. Together they get a lift with some German tourists/hippies in a kombie van. Along the way they sing and dance while all the while being pursued by Father Benedictus, the head of Willies' boarding school. They run into trouble with the police, meet some unusual characters and find out about life.

The film is directed by Rachel Perkins and has an unusual lineup of stars. Willie is played by Rocky McKenzie, Uncle Tadpole by Ernie Dingo and Father Benedictus by Geoffrey Rush. Missy Higgins and Jessica Mauboy make their film debuts in Bran Nue Dae. Interestingly Ernie Dingo, Stephen 'Baamba' Albert and Ningali Lawford who play parts in the film were also in the original 1989 stage production. Magda Szubanski also makes an appearance in the film.
Though the film has recieved only luke warm comments from crictics it has been loved by audiences and won audience award for best feature at the Melbourne International Film Festival, and the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. Internet comments about the film are generally favourable, enjoying the period and the issues raised. Most found the film a good laugh and very light-hearted, with good hum along tunes. Those that didn't like the film mostly complained about its PG rating as the film often deals bluntly with sexual issues.

I have not seen the film yet but deliberately write this beforehand so that I won't make comparisons. After I have seen the film I will add a brief postscript.

Well I did finally get to see the film. I loved it. It was a good reflection of the Aboriginal culture and sense of humour in the communities I have come to know. It should not be taken too seriously and was a fun musical. I play the sound track constantly and sing along in the car. Recommended.