Friday, 31 August 2007

Postcards from Marburg

There are days when you feel that the top of your head might blow off, not from pain or even frustration, but from the sheer effort of keeping everything and everyone going in the right direction. Apparently my efforts are failing because I entirely forgot to take my scheduled turn at the historical society’s open house. For your reference, they are open the first and third Sunday of the month from 1.30 till 4pm, provided of course, that volunteers remember.

As a sort of mea culpa, I shifted one of my projects from the back to the front burner and went out to take some photographs that might be suitable as postcards for the society. For myself, I wanted to get some photographs of what the countryside looks like with a week of rain followed by a week of sunshine. Where grass has been grazed or slashed, the green is springing up although the dams are still dry. Forthwith, here are some postcards from Marburg. All the pictures are taken from Tallegalla looking northeast towards the township. And least I offend the rest of the Rosewood Scrub, I hope to post some pictures at another time of other local sights.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

A political detour

I fully intended to write something serious and historical, perhaps even erudite, but have been entirely sidetracked by the recent Republican dramas in the US. Why it is that sordid political stories are so fascinating? Is it because you just can’t believe that people in public positions would behave so stupidly in public? I don’t know why I am surprised as there are ample historical precedents in both the United States and here. I refer of course to the whole Senator Larry Craig “airport restroom incident.” What amazes me is that this whole thing took place in the Minneapolis airport, a place I know well and where I can’t imagine anyone would think of trying to get some action. Perhaps it is just my clean mind and living.

I read the New York Times story yesterday where the earnest Scandinavian-named policeman talked about how Craig tried (apparently ineptly) to solicit him and I just want to giggle. I can imagine Garrison Keillor doing a piece on it and the audience rolling in the aisles with hysteria. Minneapolis of all places. Perhaps Miami, or Los Angeles – those airports have a seedy enough air of decay showing through the constant rebuilding. Even Dulles, though that would be too close to work. Maybe it is just that the senator is from Idaho and Minneapolis seems like a thriving sin city.

At least the leader of our opposition only went into a strip club drunk, realised in his befuddlement where he was, exclaimed “this won’t do,” left and phoned his wife to confess his sins. His approval ratings have slightly improved though he is at pains to point out that this is based on policy, not on the fact that people like having seen his human side. This is the country after all who took Bob Hawke to their heart after he cried and confessed to adultery on television; who like a bit of swagger and venom in their politics; who consider the term “political correctness” to be an insult.

On the subject of venom, I read with astonishment that a visiting American political consultant (“international pollster Frank Luntz”) was surprised by this aspect of Australian politics. He’s quoted as saying that “There is this image of American politics being the most negative, being the most personal and hostile, but it’s nothing compared to the comments that the party leaders make against each other … You’re already over the nasty and vicious level that most other countries would define …”

Doesn’t he realise that politics is only one of the many contact sports played here? And has he ever observed British or Taiwanese or other Asian politicians and politics? At least in Australia, we rarely stoop to physical violence in parliament.

And after this digression ... back to thinking about German migration and life on board ship.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Water, water everywhere

The 1855 act that governed shipping conditions for migrants to Australia stipulated that each adult was to be allocated 130 gallons for the voyage. Queensland regulations required 214 gallons per adult. If the ship carried a water distilling device, this amount was halved. What this came down to was 3 quarts of water “exclusive of water for cooking” per adult per day. People were allowed higher allocations in the tropics if the supply was sufficient. However, German ships usually didn’t carry distilling equipment (which could produce 8 to 10 gallons per hour) and had a quota of one bottle (1-2 pints) per adult each day. Apparently the water wasn’t of good quality having been drawn from the Elbe.

130 gallons equals 591 litres.
214 gallons equals 973 litres
3 quarts equals 2.8 litres
1-2 pints are 0.5 to 1 litres

Compare this to the latest news that Brisbane water users are now the most frugal in the world beating out cities in Germany to “claim No. 1 spot.” Residents of Brisbane are averaging 123 litres of water per person each day. According to the article, US statistics are 380 litres a day and Britain’s 150 litres a day per person. This does include all water use, but can still be used as a simple comparison.

Consider the fact that we are urged to drink eight 250ml glasses of water a day, which is 2 litres. Consider that the passengers would be people unaccustomed to hot weather. Consider that the wine ration allowable under German maritime law was banned to the passengers “except for medicinal purposes.”

Feeling sorry for the passengers yet? Without downplaying the difficulties and hardships of the voyage, Woolcock argues that the “liberal dietary was probably far superior to what the majority of immigrants were accustomed. ‘It is like living on first class rations to a lot that are here’, observed one young man; while another declared they were eating ‘like Fighting Cocks.”

Tuesday, 28 August 2007


At a meeting this morning, someone commented that I was behind on my blog writing. On my return home, my inbox reminded me that the Woolcock book is nearly due. I didn’t actually need either of these reminders, as my research and book are heavy on my mind at the moment. Unfortunately consciousness doesn’t always translate to real world action. Some of it is just busyness, some from dealing with life, some just from tiredness and some a combination of all the above.

Mortality has brushed its trace over my family recently. Family illnesses have reminded me to grasp the moment and spend time with people. Yesterday and today, instead of writing, I took my son to the park; picked up the telephone and spent some long-distance time with family; played on the floor with my children; baked cookies for old and new friends. I spent the time thinking about how you make plans then never get to see them fulfilled.

Imagine packing up your entire life, stepping onto a ship and travelling over what one writer called 12,000 miles of “unfenced salt meadows” then dying on board ship before making it to your new home. One family packed their possessions, children, and elderly mother and set off on the trip. The mother never made it. When I think about it though, I think that would be better than having to leave her behind and hearing news of her death months or years later. Other migrants made the long trip and died shortly after arrival of heart attacks, cancer or the other diseases of late-middle and early old age. I don’t think the voyage hastened their end, but it does seem difficult to have come so far to die so soon in a new land.

The image of unfenced salt meadows stays in the mind though. It conjures up the very definition of adventure – stepping out into the unknown and accepting whatever may come with the belief that it can only be better, or different, from what one already has.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Grist for the mill

Reading the ABC headlines yesterday, the following statements leapt off the page at me. First, “The weather bureau says the current low pressure system over south-east Queensland is “a freak event” that has not been seen in Australia since the 1800s.” And the self-same bureau “says the rain in Queensland's parched south-east is a one in a 100-year event, making it the wettest August since the late 1800s.”

I imagine the Jaeckels leaving Hamburg in mid-April, glad to be departing in one of the more favourable sailing months. Standing on deck shivering in the early spring drizzle, they might have imagined the scene on their arrival. They would have heard tales of the heat, the tropical-seeming humidity and sun, perhaps even of the dry, westerly winds of August. Instead they arrived in pouring rain and howling gale, their ship scudding down the inlet between the offshore islands and the mouth of the Brisbane River. Shivering in the cold, wind and rain, they felt at home, thinking perhaps that this new land might not be so different.

But there is the oddity of a hot Christmas on the horizon and the blazing heat of January and February come in their turn. By this time, excitement has changed to the knowledge that they really are in a new country.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

A storm in a teacup

Day three of gusts and showers. Any rain falling is blowing away to the northwest so it is not actually very wet. With the wind at half strength to yesterday, I ventured to hang my still wet washing outside. At times like this I curse my frugality and environmental conscience and vow to just buy a drier. On the other hand I could simply take the advice given to the migrants boarding ships: “…wear old clothes during the voyage and consign them to the deep when dirty or worn out, keeping the new for arrival.” Simply disposing of dirty clothes would save water, electricity, wear on the machine and my time. However, you would go through more clothing so would need to factor in the costs of clothing production, transport of material, production costs, water used to grow the cotton etc. In terms popular today, I’m not sure that one’s carbon footprint would decrease. Another problem would be deciding when the point of arrival was – when the children are grown up; when we run out of old clothes; when the neighbours start complaining about old clothes arriving on the wind?

Looking back on the previous sentence, I am reminded that Verlyn Klinkenborg suggested last week that the emoticon “especially the winking happy face…offers the only legitimate use of the semicolon outside academic writing.” Does the use of the semi-colon in my writing affirm or negate his claim? Have I yet to break free from my academic past? Excuse me, I must go chase that laundry ... I must have decided to stick with washing and keeping my clothes.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Voyaging well

A third of all voyages from Europe began between April and June. 20% left between January and March and the rest left spread over the rest of the year. That means that a little over half of the voyages began in the first half of the year.

Why would this be of interest to me? Well I am wondering about the trip itself and also what the weather would be like on arrival. According to Woolcock, April to June were seen as the most favourable months for departure. January through March were the least favourable because of the winter storm conditions of the southern latitudes.

Sailing ships had to pay more attention to the weather. Once steam ships began plying the route, the weather was of less concern – a matter more of comfort than safety.

The Queensland government advised migrants to arrive in the winter months of June, July and August so that they could settle in before the shock of a southern hemisphere summer.

The average passage for a sailing ship was 109 days with the speed record held by a trip from Greenock, England to Maryborough completed in 69 days. The record for the longest trip was a journey from Liverpool to Moreton Bay that took 196 days. Apparently none of the passengers and crew were happy about this. Mean passage time for German ships was 112 days.

So the average trip was Hamburg to Moreton Bay was a little over 3.5 months. Leaving between April and June would mean arriving between July and September. Leaving in the less favourable winter months would mean arriving between April and June. So if you survived the trip (and remember that 94% of all ships arrived without incident and there was only one case of a ship going down with all hands), a winter departure would mean a winter arrival in Brisbane. A spring departure from Hamburg would still mean pleasantly cool temperatures on arrival although August and September temperatures can reach the high twenties and low thirties. And if they arrived in weather like this week’s, their ship would be stranded off the coast struggling not to be blown northwards and unable to tack against a southeasterly of 87kph around Cape Moreton into Moreton Bay.

Any departure later in the year would mean arriving in the hottest times. And anyone whose ship left Germany in October or November would have quite a shock arriving in the often blazing heat of January and February. I shall have to consider whether to make the Jaeckels’ journey and arrival more or less pleasant.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Small things and damp connections

Yesterday we had rain and mud. Today we have rain, mud and strong winds (“fresh to strong and gusty” according to the weather service). I just brought in my laundry wetter than when I put it out, but I didn’t want my neighbour having to return “intimate items.” We’re not on such close terms that they could return underwear, or us receive it, with equanimity.

So we’ve had rain, mud, wind, intermittent power failures accompanied by loud bangs from the transformer…what is still to come? When I called the power company again this morning, the gentleman wearily told me that I didn’t need to spell the name of my road as he was quite familiar with it already. There was a team out here complete with cherry picker and lit up like an alien spacecraft at 10.30 last night and another team here before 9am.

We never fully lost power but seemed to lose certain circuits with each bang. When one neighbour rang last night to check, we thought we were fine as we were watching a DVD without interruption. Investigating further, we found the oven, stereo and various lights out of action. Fortunately we were able to finish off our dose of West Wing.

Things seem to have settled down enough to fire up the computer. But if I disappear between one word and the next, you will know why – either power failure or we have blown off the hillside.

Wrangling damp, recalcitrant children into the car this afternoon, I looked up to heaven and rolled my eyes in frustration. What caught my eye were not the heavenly hosts, but a Hapag-Lloyd container whisking past on the highway. Snugged up to an Evergreen container, the truckload seemed to illustrate two parts of my life – the Taiwan and German connections. It is amazing that a company that made a great deal of money out of shipping migrants from Hamburg to colonies north and south, still shuttles around the world. Even more amazing is that it still has a presence in this part of the world.

And by the way, today is a small milestone in the history of this blog – the 100th post.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Becoming my father

This morning the top of Two Tree Hill was swathed in mist. Rain alternately fell in soft waves and intense bursts. Bare paddocks turned into mudbaths. I had to work out how to adjust the wiper frequency again and the knack of driving on wet, gravel roads. We got 34mm in the last 24 hours. It was glorious but all of a sudden you had to think about things like getting children into and out of cars without getting soaked, parking in the right spot and how to get laundry dry. Drought does have a few advantages.

Our last significant rain was June 26/27 when we had a combined total of 28mm. The last time we had the 50mm or more which is needed for runoff to start entering dams was June 6. Before that it was February 12 last year.

You become obsessed with rainfall when you are dependent on it, or if you are naturally obsessive. The local newspaper publishes an annual chart on which you can tally your rainfall. Some people prefer to write it on calendars. Others have Excel spreadsheets by which rainfall can be compared to Bureau of Meteorology averages for the areas. Hey, I never said that I wasn’t obsessive. In fact, I found that I have turned into my father, going out in the rain to check the gauge so I can enter the evening figures and even the other day, shifting the thermometer outside to compare internal and external temperatures. Really -- I just wanted to see whether the insulation does make a difference. I have even eyed those fancy weather “stations” at the Australian Geographic Shop. Where does all of this leave me? Well, perhaps more knowledgeable about local weather, but generally still without water.

My other obsession, trying to find out historical population figures for Marburg, Germany, isn’t going very well. I have found many interesting historical facts including some fabulous photographs of Marburg at the Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz. This is the photo agency of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation which claims to have 12 million images on the topics of fine arts, culture and history. For the images of Marburg, simply type "Marburg" into the search box.

I also found an image of the migrant dormitories at the port of Hamburg, but can’t post it here for copyright reasons. Go, browse, enjoy.

And if you know how to obtain historical population information for specific towns in Germany, (well I really just want to know what the population of Marburg was in 1870 so that I have a sense of the size of the town) please feel free to email me.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Those “aha” moments

“The shippers employed an immigrants’ cook, or more than one depending on the numbers, and a baker; such appointments were subject to the surgeon’s approval and control...the baker issued fresh bread three times a week…many of the rations were supplied directly to the immigrants to prepare pies and puddings, cakes and buns according to their favourite recipes; these were delivered to the cook or baker for the final state of production. While no passengers were allowed in the bakehouse, the galley fires were available for their use at several times of day.” (Woolcock, p.97)

This is definitely a way to work Michael and Anders into the story of shipboard life. They can have an important role on board ship that will give them a start on their new life in Queensland. Having useful skills is often a way to fit into a new society and having useful relatives gives the rest of the family social standing and personal security on board ship.

And on a more frivolous note, amidst my research, writing, erudition and hard slog, the post most commented on by family and friends, turns out to be the one on jogging. Apparently I surprised even my sister who probed gently to find out if I had jogged more than once or if it was a one-off event. Researching and writing a book seems no great surprise – jogging does. Another “aha” moment.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Shipping details

Helen Woolcock’s book is stuffed full of information. Reading the chapters on ships and accommodation arrangements, I am overwhelmed by the details. Most interesting to me has been her analysis of the patterns of migrants and of the varying conditions encountered by different types and classes of migrants.

Over 41 years of migration and 1,317 voyages from Britain and Europe, only three Queensland-bound vessels were wrecked (one German and two British). Of course, there were incidents on many other trips. Of these three ships, only the German one lost passengers with 257 of the 282 passengers perishing in a storm off the coast of the Netherlands. The other two ships were able to transfer passengers to other ships.

This highlights the fact that German ships tended to be dedicated migrant ships carrying mostly passengers. Many British ships carried a majority of cargo with a few passengers.

German ships were mainly iron ships with single decks. Passengers often shared a large open dorm room, which gave rise to comments such as those mentioned in The Long Goodbye of the loose moral standards of German ships in contrast to the British.

German ships did prove harder for the Queensland government to regulate, because they were bound by German maritime law and not by British law shared with its colonies. Thus, Queensland government regulations concerning supplies of food and water as well as amount and type of space allocated to migrants could not be enforced on German ships.

However, the 35% of British migrants were single men in the 15 to 29 year old age group. 82% of the migrant population were under the age of 30. Apparently Queensland had quite a reputation as a “marriage mart.”

A higher proportion of the German migrants were family groups. Woolcock’s conclusion is that: “Those who sailed from Hamburg were poorer, older, and included more married couples and children and fewer single people than did their British counterparts. Among the 90 per cent from the United Kingdom, the English and single men predominated. On the whole, it was an influx of young adult manual workers who travelled to the colony wholly or in part at government expense.”

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Migrant bureaucracy

Although Queensland ended up with the majority of German migrants to Australia, there were official regrets that European recruitment was not more successful. European migrants had all the ideal qualities mentioned in an earlier post, but were also used to farming in poor conditions and were “energetic, law-abiding and Protestant.” Apparently men with an “intellectual education” and female governesses were discouraged from migration as they showed an unwillingness to work with their hands. Between 1861 and 1893, 45% of migrants to Queensland were agricultural workers or miners, 19% were industrial workers including artisans, mechanics, and labourers, 32.5% were domestic servants and 3.5% were unclassified.

According to Woolcock there was intense competition between countries for migrants with these characteristics, especially from the United States whose unconditional entry and ‘pull’ factor of earlier generations of migration were hard to resist.

British migrants tended to be attracted by the inducements offered by agents such as Henry Jordon. German migrants were more sensitive to the home political climate. Woolcock says that the strategy followed by Jordon in Britain and by Heussler in Germany was to contact men of influence, write articles for newspapers, give public lectures, publish handbills and pamphlets about Queensland and also to answer many enquiries in person. Germans were in general more ignorant about Queensland, there was more official resistance to migration, fears existed about sending female migrants and that migrants would end up as slave or semi-slave labour in the colony.

These concerns were addressed by government involvement not only in the selection of migrants but also in the shipping process. Although official policy was that migrants simply had to be under the age of 60, in order to take part in the land-order system, male migrants had to be under the age of 40 and female migrants under the age of 35. If you paid in full for your passage, you did not need to be screened, but you could not get a land order.

German migrants specifically had to have a character reference from an official who had known them for three years saying that they did not have a criminal record of “riot, assault or drunkenness”, that they hadn’t received “parish relief,” that is, that they were not on welfare and that they were physically and mentally fit. A medical certificate was required for the latter.

Many of these policies are echoed in migration selection today. Governments choose the type of migrant wanted, for example, our current emphasis on skilled labour, and build the requirements around that. In general, migrants are expected to have certain skills, be willing to fit into their new society and to be of good character. Exceptions are made in extenuating circumstances, but the idea of a government picking migrants who will benefit their society continues today. And there is always an element of controversy about such selection.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Linguistic heritage

The Rosewood Scrub does not have many overt signs left of its German heritage. To the passing traveller, it may be possible to discern the area’s antecedents from street names. On the other hand, both Rosewood and Marburg have chosen fairly colonial English names for their streets. In Rosewood there are Albert and John, even a King George Lane. Marburg’s main cross streets are Queen, and Edmond. Other names are more prosaic: Railway, School, Hospital Roads. Or the mouthfuls of connecting roads: Marburg-Rosewood Road, Haigslea-Malabar Road, Rosewood-Thagoona Road and so on. Newer areas have names of local flora: Blue Gum, Boronia, Bottlebrush, Paperbark, Wattle…though I have not seen a Sturt’s Desert Pea Road yet.

It is when you get out into the area surrounding the townships that the German flavour comes through. These are the roads named after the original settlers, many of which have descendents living on them, or moved away in the last few decades. Here are the Neuendorfs, Steinhardts, Stuhmkes, Kickbuschs, Schumans, Kuss’, Berlins, Saverins, Krauses, Schubels, Verrenkamps…the list goes on.

One clear linguistic heritage though is the number of older women who turn around at a function when a child calls “Oma.” My children call my mother-in-law “Oma” because she migrated from Germany as an adult. They also have a Nonno, a Grandma and a Grandpa. Many local children who don’t speak any German, call their grandmothers who also don’t speak German, Oma. You rarely hear “Opa.” If you speak of your Oma, most people know to whom you are referring. It is as if there is one strand of linguistic DNA that has survived colonial permutations.

Friday, 10 August 2007

A shift in perspective

Driving eastwards towards Marburg yesterday, I was struck at how with the light striking the smoky hills, the d’Aguilar Ranges looked to be immediately behind the Little Liverpool Range. If I had not known better, I would have thought that I was driving towards a land of hills and mountains and not flat plains intersected twice by mountains, bracketed by the sea on the horizon. Can you imagine what a surprise the valleys and floodplains were to the early explorers? Cunningham and his colleagues must have been continually astonished as they pressed westwards. And then, finally cresting the steep escarpment to discover the surprise of the rolling lands of the Darling Downs. Even today, driving at night, it is amazing to climb so sharply and steeply through the darkness to the bright clusters of light all along the escarpment and to find a town waiting there, perched and solid.

I was thinking about the explorers again today when we had no power for seven hours. The quietness was amazing. You learn to ignore the background noises of electrical equipment – the refrigerator, freezer, computer, even the pressure pump. Without these familiar sounds, the wind was dominant. It’s Ekka time (the Brisbane Exhibition, our equivalent of a state fair) and it means that the westerlies have started. August is often the windiest month – dry and windy with grass and trees crisping even further.

I thought that the sound of today was what the explorers and early settlers would have experience with the exception of the hum of the highway in the distance. I thought about living here without electricity, telephone or water. I wondered what it would be like if you had been used to the closeness of neighbours, the higher density living that is Europe and many other part of the world.

A friend of my parents bought a four-bedroom house in suburban Sydney when he and his family migrated here from Taiwan. For many months, the whole family slept in one room, terrified by the quarter acre of space around their house. Imagine having forty or eighty or more acres of space. Owning land, a long time dream for many, could have been very frightening in reality. No wonder every town, no matter how small, has its pubs and cluster of buildings. No wonder neighbours often built their houses on the corner of land closest to each other. If all you could hear were the wind and the crows, loneliness would crowd close to the windows.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Twilight miracles

Last night I went running in the twilight. As the sun slipped behind the hills everything went golden for a moment and then it was as if a light had been switched off. As I jogged along the road the air was balmy and I was surrounded by the smell of sun-warmed grass. Then suddenly I would plunge through a bubble of chilled air and emerge out the other side to warmth. It was almost surreal and not just because I was finally out jogging again after so many months.

Late afternoon and evening are my favourite times to be outside. The light, the soft focus, the hills fading into not darkness, but darker haze. All these come together in a kind of perfection. Then across the hills and in the valley the lights springing on – each one representing people living their lives.

I think you really need these times of perfect solitude, times to reflect on the physical world, to concentrate only on placing one foot in front of the other and breathing. Somehow they provide internal breathing space.

Out of breath I slowly climbed our long steep driveway. At the top our house glowed. I could have been anyone returning home after a long day. I wondered if Sophie Jaeckel had ever come home in the darkness or if she would always have been the one waiting inside for her men to come home. I thought about Helen Woolcock’s argument that Queensland immigration policy resulted in a modern society that was aggressive, fearful, reckless and conservative – remnants of the frontier mentality. Illustrating this, only that day, I had been told that the role of women was to be wives and mothers. I wonder how Sophie, and her daughters, Emilie and Anna coped with the frontier mentality. Did Michael, Carl and Anders epitomise this mentality? How did the family cope emotionally and socially with the colony?

I opened the door and stepped back into my life: out of breath, aching of muscle but bursting with ideas.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

The right passage

I always write using Word then cut and paste to blogger. I know that my life is getting hectic when my current personal writing file is at the bottom of the list of recent documents. Last night, reading and writing got relegated to after 9.30pm. It was 10.30 before I was ready to post. I felt like I was in graduate school again trying to force my eyelids to stay open as I ploughed through Helen Woolcock’s Rights of Passage: Emigration to Australia in the nineteenth century. This isn’t fair to Woolcock, but then I was unfair to the writing of many people in grad school. I remember one political science course whose reading load was two 400 page books per week. I don’t think I finished a single book on the course list and I have always read greedily and rapidly. It was one of my less stellar academic interludes.

I really don’t want to be unfair to Woolcock because her book is fantastic. I’ve only read the preface and one chapter and I am hooked. She gives a great overview of government policies and their impact on the everyday realities of migration. Basically her argument is that the government of Queensland wanted a particular kind of migrant – healthy, hard-working, good breeders – and was willing to implement policies that would ensure this. Whether this meant careful selection or strict rules about shipboard life or land grants, they were willing to do this. Of course, it wasn’t always successful, but her conclusion is that overall, government policies had largely the intended result.

My goal is to consume the rest of her book more fairly. Now I have to work out how to do this.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

“Imbeciles, criminals, and other objectionable characters”

Foreshadowing John Howard’s infamous 2001 declaration that “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come,” the government of the colony of Queensland had very clear ideas about the type of migrants they wanted. Money was invested and policies created to select who could come to the colony. In parliament in 1865, it was declared that “If we are to give away our land…we have the right to choose to whom we should give it.”

Appropriate qualities for migrants included strength, youth, high moral standards, willingness to work hard and procreate rapidly and well. Queensland was determined not to take the cast-offs of Britain, Ireland and Europe, but instead to attract willing workers strong enough to survive pioneer life. According to historian Helen Woolcock, assisted passage and land was denied to anyone helped by guardians of the poor or charities as well as discharged military officers who through “previous training and lifestyle [were] poorly prepared for the demands of pioneer life.”

One important criterion was “social solidarity and acceptability”, that is, overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon. Woolcock describes the notion of a “white man’s land” with coloured labour a “temporary expedient, the Chinese…as hostile invaders, and the aborigines…either ignored or exterminated.”

In 1870 the decision was made by the government to focus efforts on recruiting in agricultural areas of Britain and Europe. Migrant recruitment of young male workers by Queensland was overtaken by the demands of the Franco-Prussian war for these self-same young males. Ports on the Elbe were blockaded and for the period of about a year, direct German-Queensland migration had to be suspended. From 1875 to 1877/78 direct migration from Hamburg to Queensland again took place.

The end result of all this government activism in recruiting migrants was that by 1881, only 40% of the population of Queensland was born in the colony. From 1855 to 1900 the population had soared from not quite 25,000 to close to half a million. (23,520 to 498,249 to be precise). According to Woolcock this was a growth rate six times that of the entire continent of Australia in that period. Most of the migrants were British and the total percentage of “continentals” was about 10%. It is suggested that many of the Europeans came to avoid political unrest rather than just to improve their socio-economic status.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Eggs and country living

Cartons of eggs stretch out on either side of me. An egg factory perhaps? No, just the egg section of my local supermarket. Back in the “old days” you could go to a store and get eggs. Then different sizes were introduced. You got to pick from regular or large. Sometimes you got brown eggs, sometimes white. Next came extra-large. Now my recipes all specify the weight of egg used. I am directed to use two 700g per box (or 59g each) eggs and I have to do complicated sums in my head to work out what happens if I use smaller eggs, or one 59g egg and the leftover egg yolks of different sized eggs.

Free-range eggs became de-rigour in certain shops then permeated the supermarket. Now you stand in front of the selection trying to work out the difference between the way each chicken is treated which leads to 20 or so different egg options. There’s “barn-laid” which I think is trying to tell the consumer that though the chickens were in a shed, "no way nuh-uh were they crammed into battery boxes." There’s “vegetarian eggs” meaning that the chicken was not fed animal by-products. There are eggs from chickens guaranteed to be fed only non-genetically modified vegetable products. There are your standard free range eggs and there are organic free range eggs. There are even Omega 3 fortified eggs and some which I haven’t yet worked out their USP (unique selling point).

Last week I picked up a box of Woolworths’ own brand free-range eggs and next to a picture of eggs nestled in green grass read the caption “Our Free Range eggs have been laid by hens that are free to roam outdoors during the day and nest in boxes at night.” I wondered out loud if they got doonas, classical music and massages as well and startled my neighbouring shopper into a laugh. Mainly I just look for the cheapest free-range eggs or what’s on special that day.

For the first time in my life, a lot of the people I know don’t buy eggs. Some of the kids at school have never eaten a shop-bought egg or drunk pasteurised milk. At least two of my children’s classmates drink milk straight from the cow and more have their own chickens. I find it amazing that people still have a level of subsistence on the land. They find it amazing that I buy eggs and milk and suggest that I try having a house cow, outlining how little work it really is. I decline bottles of fresh milk with thoughts of brucellosis and fat content. I understand now why it was nearly a crisis when Education Queensland made rules about serving healthy food at tuckshop including low-fat milk. I thought it was a good idea. Heads nearly rolled at the P & C at the thought of the potential brain damage to our children.

I avoid keeping chickens myself with thoughts of animals dependent on me on a daily basis and their attraction value for snakes and vermin. I love that I can grow some of my own vegetables and herbs but anything further seems like a lot of work for little return. I wonder if I would think differently if I were poorer, more dependent on the land or if I hadn’t been raised in million-person plus cities. Instead I drink my pasteurised, homogenised, fat-removed milk and cook with my neatly washed and cartoned eggs, living a life in the same location but far removed from that of the early settlers.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Modern restlessness

IT people are a very strange breed. Generally pleasant and helpful, they however seem to occupy another world and look with some disdain on this one and those who inhabit it. I consider myself reasonably bright and slightly tech-savvy but I have spent a good portion of today talking to, or maybe around, IT people and have got no-where very fast. My task seemed fairly simple: find a company to design and host a website for our community association. Apparently we are very small fish in the big pond of the technology community and no-one seems that interested. However, I have had some interesting discussions and have come away websiteless but somewhat illuminated. A bonus for me is that I am also looking for someone to host a website for myself so I was able to kill two birds with one stone or rather, gather dual purpose information even if I emerged empty-handed. I will engage in the fray another day better informed.

My seemingly endless to-ing and fro-ing led me to think about this connected world in which we live. I’ve been keeping up with the breaking news on the bridge collapse in Minneapolis via CNN, the Star-Tribune and the Pioneer Press. I also was able to look at photos posted by former classmates of the boarding school I attended thirty years or so ago. It is amazing to be able to grab this information but it can be emotionally overwhelming.

Would it be better not to have access to all of this? To be ignorant of tragedy on the other side of the world? To not have my heart wrenched by a familiar scene from my childhood? To not see my pictured face of so many years ago?

On the other hand, with the click of my mouse and tap tapping at the keyboard, I have requested an array of potentially useful reference books, some via the local library, some from the university library through an useful "source." I hope to find them more useful than previous reference books.

Left with a sense of restlessness, I am led to reflect on a quote from a friend’s sig “Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.”

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Messing around

On a busy day tinged with concern – the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis is one that I have crossed many times and that many of my friends and former colleagues regularly use – I am posting some “messing around” pictures that I did recently. We’re searching for a logo for the Residents’ Association and I wanted to play around with some ideas. Someone with professional expertise is now guiding us and I am looking forward to seeing their proposals. These photos fortunately tie into a series of photographs on which I’m working of local architectural features so they won’t go to waste.

The first is a picture of the community hall, which was originally the local bank building. It is on one corner of what I recently saw grandly described as the “business centre” of Marburg. This “centre” comprises of a pub on one corner, antique store/post office/real estate on another and general store on the last. The community hall has recently been repainted in heritage colours which some people hate, but which highlights the architectural features of the building.

The second image is of the back of the community hall. I like the clean lines of this and the distinctive veranda uprights. And the third image is a cutout print of the back of the hall.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Telling tales

School gates and occasions where cups of tea are served are often good spots for gathering information. Tales told at these locations are often of the gossipy sort – who is running around with whom; whose children are up to what; why local houses are for sale; which social function or fundraiser is going to be a failure and why; the best spot to buy hay or children’s toys. The conversations can be convoluted and full of pitfalls for the ignorant newcomer. Hint: never ever say anything bad about anyone as there is sure to be a distant relative of their’s in the group.

Sometimes gems of history float to the surface on such gossipy occasions. Reading over a local historian’s outline of aboriginal settlement in the Rosewood Scrub, I was reminded of a playgroup meeting a few years ago. One mum was talking about her mother-in-law’s memories of going to Rosewood by wagon as a child with her family to get supplies. They would use the track over Tallegalla and return home warily least supplies be lifted from the wagon. I do not know if thefts ever took place or if the fear of theft was the motivation for wariness.

According to my correspondent, the primary Aboriginal camping spot was on Black Snake Creek east of Berlin’s Road. This is very close to the Tallegalla road and such proximity might well be enough to raise local fears. Early settlers in Tallegalla also had tales of hearing Aboriginal ceremonies at Kunkala and Cabanda.

A more sobering tale told by the same mother was that a blacksmith at Lowood had memories of the leisure activity of the apprentice blacksmiths being chasing and shooting Aboriginal youth in the scrub outside of town.

Today, little evidence exists of pre-settler scrub history other than some artefacts and tales. Other than brief mention of pre-European settlement, local written histories gloss over the transition from migratory land use to migrant settlers. There must however have been a significant period of overlap and tension over land use. By 1840 white squatters were in firm possession of the land. Would the Jaeckels even have encountered any of the original owners of the land?