lynne strahan a history of the city of malvern

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lynne strahan a history of the city of malvern
A HISTORY OF THE CITY OF MALVERN
LYNNE STRAHAN
A HISTORY OF THE CITY OF MALVERN
To my father,
James McCleve Duncan,
and my son,
Lachlan McCleve Strahan
A HISTORY OF THE CITY OF MALVERN
LYNNE STRAHAN
HARGREEN PUBLISHING COMPANY
in conjunction with
THE CITY OF MALVERN
First published 1989
Hargreen Publishing Company
144 Chetwynd Street, North Melbourne, Victoria 3051, Australia
© The City of Malvern
All rights reserved.
Except as stipulated under the Copyright Act,
no part of this book may be reproduced in any form
without the written permission of the Publisher.
National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-publication entry
Strahan, Lynne, 1938Private and public memory, a history of the City of Malvern.
Bibliography.
Includes index.
ISBN 0 949905 41 0.
1. Malvern (Vic.) — History.
I. Malvern (Vic). II. Title.
994.5'1
Typeset in 11 on 12 Goudy Old Style by Town and Country Typesetters Pty Ltd,
Abbotsford, Victoria.
Printed by Brown Prior Anderson Pty Ltd,
Burwood, Victoria.
Cover design and painting by Brian Dunlop.
This publication has been partially funded by the
Australian Bicentennial Authority to celebrate
Australia's Bicentenary in 1988.
Contents
Illustrations vii
Acknowledgements ix
Abbreviations x
Preface xi
CHAPTER - 1
A Creek and a Corner 1
CHAPTER -2
Venal Iris, Tender Violet 30
CHAPTER-3
The Ubiquitous Villa 54
CHAPTER-4
The Deeper Work of Character Building 82
CHAPTER-5
That Subtle Element Called Atmosphere 105
CHAPTER-6
This Day of Memory and Hope 122
CHAPTER - 7
The Best He Could Get was a Trench Mortar 153
CHAPTER-8
Fighting for Our Homes and Lives 172
CHAPTER-9
Perfection of Combinations 187
CHAPTER-10
Moulded Opinions 218
CHAPTER - 11
A Sorry Mess of Cars 243
EPILOGUE
Community and Memory 265
Notes on Sources 274
Index 279
1 The most aristocratic of aristocratic suburbs' was the cry of the local press early in the
century: map of Malvern in 1911, the year it was proclaimed a city.
vi
Illustrations
Between pages
1 Map of Malvern, 1911 page vi
2 Tom Cathie and Joe Martin 18 and 19
3 Schoolboy excursion at Gardiner's Creek, 1920s 18 and 19
4 East Malvern Golf Links, c 1931 18 and 19
5 Gardiner's Creek Valley Association leaflet, 1974 50 and 51
6 Program for Malvern State Schools concert, 1898 50 and 51
7 Joyce Stanton in dancing dress, c 1923 50 and 51
8 Return ball, Malvern Town Hall, 1920s 50 and 51
9 Debutante ball, Malvern Town Hall, 1920s 50 and 51
10 Mayor Alex McKinley's smoke night, c 1914-18 50 and 51
11 Centenary ball, Malvern Town Hall, 1956 50 and 51
12 The first electric tram, Glenferrie Road, c 1910 82 and 83
13 Burke Road, c 1911 82 and 83
14 Auctioneer's advertisement for the Bruce Estate, 1938 82 and 83
15 Stephen Armstrong, c 1895 82 and 83
16 Hedgeley Dene Gardens, 1920s 82 and 83
17 Garden gathering, c 1900 82 and 83
18 Afternoon tea at Stokell, c late 1890s 82 and 83
19 Thomas Pockett and wife on their golden wedding
anniversary 82 and 83
20 Central Park, 1929 114 and 115
21 Stonnington and Moorakyne, 1935 114 and 115
22 Brynmawr 114 and 115
23 Valentines 114 and 115
24 The Gables, built in 1902 114 and 115
25 Arrival of Sir George and Lady Clarke, 1901 114 and 115
26 House, formerly near Lauriston site 114 and 115
27 Architects' plans for Carnegie Estate, early 1920s 146 and 147
28 Leaflet protesting against brick areas, c 1912 146 and 147
29 Korowa girls learn to cook 146 and 147
30 Novice housewives in the garden of Llaneast, c 1913 146 and 147
vii
Between
31 Malvern Harriers pack run, 1926 146 and 147
32 Malvern District Brass Band 146 and 147
33 Architects' plan for Baptist Church Sunday school 146 and 147
34 Sunday School, Malvern Presbyterian Church, 1955 146 and 147
35 International Order of Rechabites Temperance Physiology
Examination Certificate, 1930 146 and 147
36 Scholarship class, Spring Road School, 1913 146 and 147
37 Lloyd Street Central School shelter shed 146 and 147
38 Lloyd Street pupils, c 1923 178 and 179
39 Mothers' club, Lloyd Street Central School, 1931 178 and 179
40 Sacre Coeur's 1st class, 1921 178 and 179
41 Girls in the chapel at Sacre Coeur, 1965 178 and 179
42 Young ladies at Korowa, c 191448 178 and 179
43 Hockey team, Lauriston, 1918 178 and 179
44 1st eighteen football team, St Kevin's, 1943 178 and 179
45 Cadet corps, St Kevin's, 1970 178 and 179
46 Empire Day celebrations, c 1910 178 and 179
47 Golden jubilee exhibition, Spring Road School, 1922 178 and 179
48 Korowa girls form school's motto, 1950 178 and 179
49 British Commonwealth Youth Sunday march, 1958 178 and 179
50 Harry O'Mullane and his family, First World War 178 and 179
51 A postcard from France, First World War 178 and 179
52 Charles Crotty, First World War 178 and 179
53 Fund-raising concert for First World War 178 and 179
54 Flora Mullen's wedding, First World War 178 and 179
55 War service certificate, First World War 210 and 211
56 Malvern Air Raid Precautions fire squad, 1941 210 and 211
57 The City of Malvern's war memorial, 1931 210 and 211
58 Sister J Crameri and Sister M Holding, Second World War 210 and 211
59 Corporal Vernon Jack, Second World War 210 and 211
60 Mrs Cranstone and Mrs Pearsall, Second World War 210 and 211
61 Address presented to Alex McKinley, 1902 210 and 211
62 Zara and Harold Holt with Dudley Lucas, 1956 210 and 111
63 A gathering of leading politicians, late 1960s 210 and 211
64 Frank Beaurepaire, 1905 210 and 211
65 Staff function, Ripponlea, 1899 242 and 243
66 A swagman boiling his billy, early 1930s 242 and 243
67 Joan Child 242 and 243
68 Plan for Malvern Shopping Centre Free Car Park, 1958 242 and 243
69 Pamphlet 'A City Evil', 1922 242 and 243
70 Gardiner's Creek Valley Association leaflet 242 and 243
71 A street without cars, c 1910 258 and 259
72 Howson Street, destroyed for the Arterial Road Link 258 and 259
73 Arterial Road Link works 258 and 259
74 Map of Malvern, 1967 page 273
Acknowledgements
I particularly wish to thank Lachlan Strahan for his many
sensitive and erudite editorial suggestions, Sean Williams for his mastery of the
computer, Michael Jongen for his practical and moral support, Sue Davies for
her meticulous research and Brian Dunlop for the painting and cover design
that lyrically convey the animating spirit of the book's title. The members of the
Historical Sub-committee established by the Malvern City Council to oversee
the project have always been responsive and supportive, particularly Michael
Top, Councillor Janice Carpenter and Councillor Julius Pollack. Jane Nigro and
Di Foster of the Malvern Historical Society have made the society's holdings
available and lent photographs and other material for reproduction. Dr Ian
Britain and George Tibbits have read and commented helpfully on sections of
the manuscript. Elizabeth McCarty made available her work on the Australian
Women's National League. Tim Morfesse of Hargreen Publishing Company has
been an obliging and careful editor. The following institutions have provided
access to primary source material and the assistance of their staff: the University
of Melbourne Archives, the La Trobe Library, Melbourne, the Public Records
Office, Laverton, the National Trust of Australia (Victorian Branch), Malvern
Central School, East Malvern Central School, Malvern Primary School,
Malvern Girls' High School, Korowa Anglican Girls' School, Lauriston Girls'
School, St Kevin's College, De La Salle College, Caulfield Grammar School (for
material relating to Malvern Grammar School) and Sacre Coeur. The friendly
and zestful workers at the Malvern News Sheet were co-operative and made
available the bound copies of their valuable paper.
Many Malvern people have lent their memories, personal records and family
papers. Amongst these I would especially mention Tom Tyrer, Nell Priddle, W J
(Bill) Armstrong, Judith Dynan, Elaine Meyer, Hazel Morison, Marjorie
Shanks, Joyce Cowen, Enez Bazzocco, Rosemary Webster, Fred Houghton and
Mr and Mrs Norman Jones. A special privilege attached to meeting and talking
with veterans from the First World War, Harry Janes, Charles Crotty, and W R
Ward, whose autobiography, Sparks in my Boots, provided what was to me an
IX
awesome record of the way one man could follow the time's catastrophes and
emerge without acrimony. Many individuals associated with Malvern's
churches supplied information and booklets. L A Schumer has long held a
strong interest in Malvern history and has done meticulous research. Historian
and bibliographer Ian McLaren has added his research skills and spoke of his
experience as a politician who represented part of the Malvern area. Ed Duyker
offered a peephole into Malvern's Mauritian background. Jack Pretty not only
recorded his memories, but wrote his lively recollections on Malvern through
the undimmed eyes of a man who remembered how it felt to be a child. A fellow
gardener, he also sent me seeds of his own culling.
Photographs have kindly been supplied by the following people and
institutions: the Malvern Historical Society, the University of Melbourne
Archives, the Australian War Memorial, Regional Progress, the schools
previously mentioned, Nell Priddle, Charles Crotty, Bill Armstrong, Jack Pretty
and Joyce Cowen. Other illustrative material has come from the collections of
the Malvern City Council.
Abbreviations
M L A Member of the Legislative
Assembly
MMBW Melbourne and Metropolitan
Board of Works
M U A Malvern Unemployed
Association
N A L C M New Australians Liberal and
Country Movement
R C A Road Construction
Authority
RSL Returned Services League
RSSAILA Returned Sailors, Soldiers
and Airmen's Imperial
League of Australia
SEC State Electricity Commission
of Victoria
SERA South Eastern Ratepayers'
Alliance
T A G Traffic Action Group
U A P United Australia Party
UN United Nations
Y M C A Young Men's Christian
Association
A C F Australian Comforts Fund
A C T AG Anti C3 Action Group
A C T U Australian Council of Trade
Unions
AIF Australian Imperial Force
ALP Australian Labor Party
ARL Arterial Road Link
ARP Air Raid Precautions
AWNL Australian Women's
National League
CP Communist Party of
Australia
CRB Country Roads Board
DLP Democratic Labor Party
ERL Electoral Reform League
(Hollway Liberals)
G C V A Gardiner's Creek Valley
Association
GEG Gascoigne Estate Group
LCP Liberal Country Party
M A F A Malvern Anti Freeway
Association
MEA Municipal Employees'
Association
X
PREFACE
Coolgardie Avenue
A
fter I arrived in Melbourne from Dunedin, New Zealand,
at the age of six, I lived briefly in Cheltenham before moving with my parents
and sister into a rented Spanish Mission house in Coolgardie Avenue, East
Malvern. Most of the dwellings there had the typical features of that briefly
vogueish style: neutrally painted, rough-cast surfaces; leadlight doors and
windows, the latter often swelling into bays; verandahs and porches with poles
twisting into spirals like old-fashioned barley sugar sticks. The houses looked as
if they had been designed for people with middle incomes and middle attitudes,
people unlikely to rob a bank or write a masterpiece. Coolgardie Avenue was, to
adapt Graham Mclnnes' comment on Malvern as a whole, a very average street,
and it looked as if it had been average for a very long time. Actually, in the mid
1940s, the avenue was only about twenty years old, hardly mature enough to
have settled into anything definite.
As I search back, tantalising differences ruffle the averageness. Standing with
manor-like solidity, the house opposite ours covered two blocks, rose two
storeys, in an eclectic style that was vaguely Tudoresque, vaguely Desbrowe
Annear, vaguely swollen California Bungalow. On one side, cars could sweep
under a shadowy portico; on the other, inky prunus trees framed a carpetsmooth croquet lawn. The families who lived there — only two that I remember
— were well off, even rich, a condition that made us feel that they had dropped
down inadvertently from the more plutocratic parts of Malvern. Further down
the street, behind the house with the tennis court on a queerly irregular block,
men who played Davis Cup tennis — or almost played it — dallied with the
tennis ball on golden Sundays. Then there was the Catholic family next door to
us, who looked as if they would never do or say anything surprising, and yet they
were surrogate family to a vast gaggle of children whose parents had clearly
taken the pope's teaching on procreation seriously. And, among the men of safe,
average occupations, bank managers and insurance officers like my father, a
school inspector (a real power then) and a violinist in the Melbourne Symphony
Orchestra hinted at a more complex world of power and culture. The family on
xi
our other side owned a subterranean carpark in Flinder's Lane where they
serviced and guarded the limousines of Collins Street specialists whose grandeur
was beyond our ken. As for my father, although he wore the disguise of a
perfectly ordinary man, a distinguished eccentric sheltered behind the kindly
platitudes. Averageness is perhaps only a garment that people put on, mostly at
daytime, to help them cope with a mystifying world.
When a child first sights a house that is to become home, she does not
anticipate that, given a certain stability in life, her parents may well die there,
but my mother died in that house one stunning night in January 1976. Over the
decades, my father had become pre-eminently an East Malvern man, whose
mental topography was an area that stretched roughly from the golf links to the
municipal library, with a centre precisely at 18 Coolgardie Avenue. After my
mother's death, bereft in ways that he did not fully understand, he lived on
there, with the heart slowly draining from the house as he declined. He
intended to die between those walls, and he missed out by only three months.
When I left that house in November 1984, after disposing of the furniture that
my parents had brought from New Zealand, I supposed that it was for the last
time and hoped that new life would come to that pitifully deteriorated place. A
new family has taken over, breathing a new spirit into it and endowing it with
the imprint of their particular lives.
In writing this book, I find myself unexpectedly back there, lingering over the
flavour, bland, then lemon-sharp, of life in Coolgardie Avenue in the 1950s —
the biplanes of the golden poplars, uprooted soon after we arrived, the backyard
apricot trees where we practised domesticity in fruited cubby houses, the
children of the street, now long dispersed, the grown-ups who died while I was
still there, or who have since gone. There is something so blissfully fortuitous
about my involvement that it looks very much like design, and I come to the
writing as a memoirist as well as an historian. My dual status seemed to offer a
rare opportunity to write a different kind of local history, but it also presented a
thorny problem of integrating the personal reaction and the impersonal
observation. Contrarily, there was the difficulty of discerning when subjective
and objective appraisals were uncomfortably at odds.
Most of the local histories I had read seemed to be earnest attempts to include
everything and please everybody, particularly the councils for whom these
books were usually written. Boredom, all too often the outcome of an overzealous sense of duty, has been the curse of local history. Two were markedly
different: Janet McCalman's innovative history of Richmond, Struggletown, and
Hal Porter's eccentric History of Bairnsdale. I could learn from Struggletown, but I
could not emulate it. The book was structured around the author's intimate
conversations with a group of Richmond people and powerfully reflected the
experience of a community that was, despite its 'hill', tight and homogeneous.
One of those quaintly named dormitory suburbs, Malvern is often serenely
powerful and strangely secretive, and its building stock varies from the smallish
homes (now rather expensive) built in Carnegie for soldiers returning from the
Great War, to the Toorak mansions inhabited by chief justices and lord mayors
of Melbourne. After several appeals, most of the people who came forward to
xii
talk to me, friendly and helpful though they were, came from similar, 'average'
backgrounds. I used various devices to broaden the group, but I could see no
way, apart from possibly embarrassing cheek, of penetrating the fastnesses of the
posher areas. Besides, time did not allow the luxury of extending and deepening
contacts.
When Hal Porter's perambulation around his home town of Bairnsdale was
published, the Age reviewer predicted that the author's style would cause a
lengthy famine of commas in Victoria. Indeed, the book seemed packed with
commas, acting as gentle bridges between an abundance of adjectives. It was
also so wildly idiosyncratic that reading it was like entering a memory-packed
room and almost suffocating. Porter had, furthermore, taken the opportunity of
sounding off, sometimes rancorously, about his pet phobias, including a general
distaste for contemporary life. Even so, I appreciated Porter's honesty in
allotting himself a role in the cast. He may have dominated centre stage, but he
had announced that, of all forms of history, local history resonates in the daily
tempo of individual lives.
He also alerted me to a fact so obvious that it is often overlooked. Australia's
historical span as a European society is so short that living people have seen
their environment change from a sea of unkempt grass to a chequerboard of tidy
houses. There is little of the settledness of older countries, and the turmoil has
been exacerbated by a passion for alteration in the name of progress, a modern
blight to which frontier countries are, perhaps, particularly susceptible. Ninetyfour-year-old Mrs Hazel Morison — teacher, feminist, farmer's wife, and now a
fine instrument of memory — knew Hedgeley Dene when it was raw paddocks.
Speaking to her, I was struck by the immensity of the transformation. Although
their memories did not stretch so far back, others confirmed the startling shift
from the prettily rural to the hectically suburban. All this pointed to the more
universal principle that change, despite forewarnings, usually engulfs people
before they have noticed the onset. While small things seem constant, larger
matters are obscured by unobserved and unalterable movement. Metaphors
had to be found to show the impact of a metamorphosis that involved mind as
much as matter.
How was the book to be written? I rejected the strictly chronological approach
because, while it offers a tidy framework, it too often lapses into grinding
dullness and invites concentration on the well-known and powerful — or those
who consider themselves to be. The oral history method was intangible, while
Hal Porter seemed to have been trapped in a web of autobiography and personal
opinion. It seemed that one had to attempt to invent a different structure and to
have the courage to leave out some quite important matters and some arguably
important people. Given that I have little head for financial management and
only qualified admiration for men of civic ambition, I was as well probably being
kind to myself. People may find emphases and omissions that seem inappropriate. They may conclude that there is too little, in the august sense, about
local government, with all its acts, regulations, ordinances and impositions.
Rates are an obsessive preoccupation when they figure in an account; in
retrospect they have largely curiosity value. However, debates about them often
xiii
stir up communal grievance and provide good theatre. Drains, likewise, weigh
heavily on the minds of citizens; once there, they are taken for granted. Yet
drains, rights of way, culverts and private streets become part of structuring the
environment. I decided to opt for the significance of rates and drains, and go
lightly on the details, taking as a motto the words of a modern semanticist 'the
map is not the territory'.
In this I was fortunate in having a predecessor, J B Cooper, whose History of
Malvern 1836-1936 bristled with information about these crucial municipal
objectives, along with more sentimental matters. Although I did not realise it at
first, Cooper was a boon in another, more important way, because he gave a
perspective on a vast, if imponderable, mental shift. Why did his Malvern look
so different from mine? It was partly a question of time, but it was more a matter
of attitude that has little to do with me personally. Cooper came too early to
participate in a shift in thinking about human knowledge in general and the
writing of history in particular. Added to this, Australia was then a difficult, yet
flat proposition. For him, a Darwinian progressivism dominated, and, along
with this, went a slightly snobbish fixity in his decisions about degrees of
importance of people and events. Malvern ought to look as British (English and
Scottish) as feasible — an understandable prejudice at the time. With the menu
laid out in a manner determined to avoid offence, it became classless and bland.
Although they are still products of their time, historians are no longer
progressivists, and they do not see civic flattery as a reasonable objective. Apart
from benefiting from a less totemic attitude to history, I had a powerful
inclination of my own. I wanted, above all, to make people reflect critically on
their past, but also to feel affectionate towards it. As I had spent most of my
girlhood and young womanhood in Malvern, I was personally involved. In
writing for a community, rather than a council, several subjects and themes
irresistibly present themselves. Some of them, the obvious matter of local
history, belong peculiarly to Malvern: the land, houses, churches, schools,
gardens and parks. Others are Australian: the imprint of war and depression,
the disposition of power and the interplay of national, regional and local
concerns. Another dimension is a common human possession, though
expressed differently according to time and place: the eternal trinity of birth,
marriage and death, the rituals that surround these rites of passage, the forces
that bind and sometimes divide communities, the covenants that connect them
to a wider world. Time-bound, and yet reaching beyond that constraint, they
belong to private and public memory.
XIV
A Creek and a
Corner
When Reverend William Waterfield visited John Gardiner's
station in June 1838, fourteen months after the Gardiners' arrival, he rhapsodised about the country in the spirit of English romanticism, glorying in the
association of park-like magnanimity with the ruinous potential of nature:
Many of the mimosas were out, and appeared luxuriant. I perceived much rock by
the side of the river, which was deep and sluggish, tho' a strong current . . . On the
southern side . . . the road led through a thickly wooded country, with constant
alterations of gentle hill and dale.
His companion, Archdeacon Jeffries of Bombay and 'a warm advocate of
teetotalism', was likewise 'in raptures'. In her earnest, schoolgirlish sketch,
Gardiner's daughter, Anna Marie, showed the house — three-sided verandah,
shingled roof, detached kitchen — in a setting of skinny gums and poplarshaped trees, the garden planted, possibly with vines, and sloping to a body of
ill-defined water. Kooyong Koot or Gardiner's Creek provided nearly threequarters of Malvern's open space and was always regarded as the suburb's
supreme natural asset, a pre-eminence gained not only for its aesthetic appeal,
but for its symbolic significance, made of unspoken references to the untouched,
the pristine, the life-giving qualities of water.
As a culling of recollections shows, many Malvern childhoods had as a high
point blissful memories of whiling time away along the tangled and sinewy
reaches of the creek: 'swamps filled with rotting vegetation and livid fungus',
'scrubby stringy-barks, dull, but with orchids in the grass . . . flat land, boggy
and liable to flood — but rich in yabbies', 'tea-tree jungles', 'a good place to get
maiden-hair fern', 'minnows all along the creek', deep water holes 'infested with
the younger fry who were being initiated into the art of dog paddle'. Sometimes
the place seemed an Elysium:
Gardiner's Creek was never the Ganges — or the Mississippi of Malvern — but it was
the next best thing to me — a twelve year old boy . . . 'lost' in a land of swamp tea1
2
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
tree, golden gauze bush . . . mysteries of deep, dangerous holes . . . violent chattering
mini-rapids, dams, swirls and eddies . . . black fish . . . eels . . . an endless variety of
birds, frogs and nameless bugs . . . a brilliant cascade of colour from the clear,
rippling water . . . in complete harmony with my surroundings — not an intruder 'in
it' but 'of it'.
As Adelaide, daughter of Governor Arthur Stanley, recorded in her autobiographical People in Glass-Houses, the magic of picnics where the creek bordered
Hawthorn gripped English aristocrats like herself and the other little Stanleys.
The natural playground of Malvern's young, this innocent environment
offered as well a field for more formal school activities. In 1921, a serious fifthformer from Korowa evaluated a geographical assignment 'along the banks . . .
We encountered numerous meanders, billabongs, faults in the rocks and many
other little details which serve to make such an excursion a success'. Less
academically, boys from Tooronga Road learned to swim in the old sheepwash
by the water. Later, when the more suburbanised stretches had lost much of
their naturalness, the girls from Kildara Convent repaired to Ashburton Forest
for botany outings, and Malvern Grammar boys were introduced to the rigours
of cross-country running:
We reach Gardiner's Creek, and soon are running alongside its crystal clear (more or
less) waters . . . Up the hill we go, to be cursed heartily by assiduous golfers, but even
this does not daunt our zeal (?). We come to the densely timbered Ashburton
forest . . . Are we lost?
The meandering stream's allure is a theme throughout Malvern's history,
providing a focus for the clashing imperatives of the local community and the
state government, highlighting the uneasy relationship between utilitarian
developmentalism and civic environmentalism, reminding the city of its losses
as nature is subdued by manufacture. After decades of plundering, succeeded by
neglect, interspersed with salvage operations and sometimes flighty attempts at
embellishment, these aesthetic and symbolic qualities have recently been
urgently reinterpreted.
Apart from the generalised plaudits of the Gardiners' visitors, other early
observers mention grandfather River Red Gums, banksia, wattle, casuarina,
Messmate, Manna Gum and thickets of creek-crowding tea-tree. The picture is
still botanically vague, but Don Burns' History of Gardiner's Creek Valley (1985)
proposed a reconstruction of the area's vegetation from geological and
topographical information, old maps and reports of field trips published in the
Victorian Naturalist (1956 and 1976). These descriptions were based on
examination of two pockets where the original growth had survived: the
Ashburton billabong and the Alamein railway reserve. With the addition of
species remaining in similar areas such as Blackburn Lake, Mount Waverley and
Mitcham, 'an appropriate picture' of the original situation formed: Swamp
Paperbark interpenetrated with Swamp Gum, Black Wattle and Blackwood
near the stream, River Red Gum mixed with Manna Gum higher up, and 'a
Stringybark open forest perhaps mixed with Box' and dotted with other
A CREEK AND A CORNER
eucalypts on the inclines. The character of the secondary tree layer and
understorey can also be hazarded. Although the growth generally matches that
of the eastern suburbs, the reconstructed outline suggested an harmonious
environment of interdependence and interaction, from Yellow Star and
Maidenhair Fern, through Rice Flower and Hedge Wattle, to the quivering leafy
constellations of River Red Gums. Using the reports of residents and students,
the Waterways Environs Study Team of the Gardiner's Creek Valley Study
(1977) compiled a profile of existing fauna which showed that, although the
creek was not a unique refuge, it nevertheless harboured creatures that usually
shunned the urban area. Don Burns added inferences drawn from a 1975
observation of Dandenong Valley Park and produced a catalogue of over one
hundred birds, including twenty-six rare kinds. Native animals in the area
included possums, bats, snakes, water rats and the platypus, a low-key and
gentle combination.
Boroondara, the native name for 'shady place' adopted by surveyor Robert
Hoddle for the parish, was said to have been a favourite camping and hunting
ground of the Wawoorong tribe who found there kangaroos and wallabies,
koalas and possums, several kinds of duck, including teal. And yet their long
tenure has virtually been erased, only surviving in the lilt of Aboriginal place
names and occasional offhanded reference by early European arrivals. Gardiner
was thought to fear the firing of his homestead in retaliation for some grievance
held by the land's original occupiers, and his wife recorded that they were
interested in her dog's collar. If it mirrors a typical response, James Bonwick's
anecdote in his Sketch of Boroondara (1858) of the summary despatch of a band of
potato-stealing blacks by a posse of armed 'avenging whites' may explain the
Aborigines' reluctance to linger. By 1878, the 292 members of the two local
tribes counted forty years earlier, in a thorough act of dispossession, had been
reduced to twenty. The contrast between the guardianship of Aboriginal
occupation and the feverish pace of European interference is a sorry one.
The few graziers, too, were soon superseded as the auctioneers fanned out
from the settlement's centre at a slow pace determined by 1840s depression
conditions and the barrier of the waterways. The first land sales in Gardiner
comprised twenty lots sold in February 1854 for an upset price of £2 10s per
acre. A month later, auctioneers Symonds and Perry offered four garden
allotments 'once . . . part of Major Davidson's well known farm' near Gardiner's
Creek. The blurb for 198 acres with a creek frontage offered in October 1856
envisaged the life of an English gentleman: 'well watered, beautifully grassed,
and magnificently timbered . . . The Middle Dandenong Road . . . forms the
boundary, and the rising ground to the high lands affords a splendid site for a
mansion'. Extending from the junction of Toorak and Tooronga Roads to
Malvern Road, one splendid property was Neil McLean's Tooronga Homestead,
surrounded by several acres of gardens and a hillside vineyard where 'avenues of
trellis reached to Gardiner's Creek'. Also vine-clad and endowed with gardens,
including 'rare and handsome lawn trees', Rose Hill extended about 1300 feet
along the creek to Glenferrie Road. Its double-storied, slate-roofed house
contained every facility for the esquire's life, the usual living rooms, butler's
3
4
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
pantry, servants' hall, 'dressing or bachelor's room', brew-house, coach-house,
stables, cow-lodge, seed and fruit loft, even a detached bluestone building
appropriate for a private chapel. When it was put on the market in 1869,
aspiring purchasers were reminded that, should the place prove too small for
over-fertile inhabitants, the original plans allowed for enlargement.
An even more self-aggrandising residence was the Glen Iris stronghold of
solicitor J C Turner, with its one and a half mile frontage to Gardiner's Creek,
vineyard, orchard, gardens, commodious mansion, dairy, stables, coach-house
and vast out-house to accommodate farm hands. Despite the lure dangled to onthe-make plutocrats, much of the land disposed of in crown land sales of 1854
and 1855 went to syndicates and speculators who bought acres in anticipation
of slicing them into profitable allotments when times were opportune. The
affairs of some more permanent residents, too, went into decline. Turner's lands
were sold at a mortgagees' auction in December 1861, and his aspirations
towards gentryhood dissolved, except for donating the name of his house to the
suburb of Glen Iris.
The difficulty of fording the creek was a brake to development. Parched in
summer, the creeklands were usually a quagmire in winter. The first ford just
north -east of High Street quickly became impassable, and the bush track that
later became Toorak Road led to a crossing where travellers were confronted by
'glue pots' of mud. Established in 1856 as an offshoot of the Victorian government's Central Roads Board, the Gardiner District Road Board was continually
preoccupied with the hassle of bridging the creek and, with only moderate
success, kept pestering the government for funds. Nature's own turbulence
aggravated an endemically difficult situation. About every ten years (almost
yearly in the stretch beyond High Street) floodwaters rushed down, damaging
or destroying bridges, inundating creeklands and orchards, but the downpours
could be more frequent for the whole length of the creek. Floods in 1861 and
1863 damaged the temporary bridges. In the 1870s, there appear to have been
three periods of deluge. In February 1890, the Malvern Council dispiritedly
closed both Toorak and Glenferrie Road bridges. In July 1891, the valley was
overwhelmed by three and a half inches of rain over three days. The torrents
came in February and September 1904 and again the next year. During one of
the worst storms in September 1916, congestion at the creek's junction with the
Yarra dammed the waters back for miles, and the tributaries spread into a vast
lake.
The straightening of the Yarra under the Yarra River Improvement Scheme
allowed the build-up of water to escape more quickly, but flooding continued. In
1931, floods caused closure for the winter of the recently opened East Malvern
golf course. The 1934 level was said to have reached twenty-five feet above
normal at Tooronga, the Toorak Road bridge was washed away like so many
matches, the council nursery was drowned under four feet of water, damaging
700 cyclamens and other choice plants, and the mayor was forced to visit his
marooned constituents by boat. Work on the oval at St Kevin's College was
'ruined', the overflow covering the ground 'with feet of debris of all kinds'. The
havoc wreaked on the Chinese market gardens was so great that they were
A CREEK AND A CORNER
expected to be out of production for a long time, and a magnanimous rent-free
period of six months was considered, although there is no evidence that it was
granted. In the aftermath of the crisis, the pope's generosity in cabling one
thousand pounds to relief funds was used to urge openhandedness in parishioners at St Joseph's, Malvern, during the annual collection of Peter's Pence,
which helped to support the Vatican prince.
The municipalities that flanked the creek exerted themselves to restrain their
unruly stream. From May 1885, when Malvern and Hawthorn councils met to
arrange cutting a channel, probably at Glenferrie Road, they attempted piecemeal improving schemes: shifting the creek's alignment, cutting new courses,
shoring up embankments, squeezing the creek into a single flow, excising loops
in deference to the civilising spirit of the straight line. The councils' answer to
erosion was a stream-straightening campaign that was to see the creek realigned
over most of its length to enable floodwaters to escape more quickly.
Affected landowners and industries such as the gas company clamoured for
the improvements they felt a proper municipal authority should provide and,
when thwarted, undertook unauthorised betterments. Understandably, drainage was a ratepayers' preoccupation of nightmarish proportions. When Neil
McLean's Tooronga land was sold, its purchaser, William Woodmason, who
was to figure largely in ownership of the creeklands, declared that a gully
through the paddocks should be made into a barrel drain, and a subsidiary
stream was lost. Water was collected and directed by such drains to discharge
near Tooronga Road bridge. Two major tributaries, Back Creek and the
watercourse that became the Murrumbeena Main Drain, were imprisoned
underground. All these alterations to the creek's natural drainage meant that,
in one of J B Cooper's more biblical intonations, 'one by one, the landmarks of
various water courses . . . disappeared from the surface of the earth'. At the
same time, the councils' well-intentioned attempts to tame the waters
aggravated the problem of erosion.
The transforming spirit was not simply palliative and practical, but was also
directed to the positive and aesthetic. An ambitious early scheme was the
proposal, along the lines of the Round Pond in London's Kensington Gardens,
put forward in 1915 by the East Malvern Progress and Tramway League. To be
called Lake Waverley or, in deference to events at Gallipoli, Lake Dardanella, a
huge sheet of water was to be dammed by building an embankment over
Winton Road. Ornamental pathways, shrubberies, a bandstand and boatshed
were part of the renovation. The cost, including purchase of twenty-eight acres
from landowners Woodmason, Lowe and the Glen Iris Brick Company, was
said to be £5767. Leading a deputation, the president of the league, A A Billson
MLA, found Camberwell Council attracted to 'something outside the beaten
track of municipal affairs'. In accordance with the second part of its selfdescription, the league was as well exercised by the more pragmatic ambition of
linking the Wattletree and Waverley Road tram lines.
Initially unenthusiastic, Malvern councillors agreed to inspect the site and
were galvanised by the vision of securing 'a great lake at comparatively small
cost . . . stocked with fish, on which shall float yachts, with their large white
5
6
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
wings before the breeze and almost all descriptions of pleasure boats'. Action to
purchase the land was endorsed, but the lake was not mentioned, probably
because the times were ludicrously unpropitious. This premature attempt to
clothe a body of Australian bush in London dress disappeared into the vast
wardrobe of thwarted municipal ideas. In one of those ironies produced by the
cyclic nature of history, proposals for a lake were revived with more antipodean
trimmings in the early 1980s.
Despite Woodmason's proviso that he would only sell the land for the
specified scheme, the land purchases went ahead. Council's attempt to secure
the creeklands for parks dated back to 1896 when, with Boroondara, it
successfully applied to the government for the permanent reservation of two
acres by the creek near High Street, but years of inaction, disguised by good
intentions, followed. The first area to be improved was the Tooronga Reserve
which was ploughed, levelled and planted with trees in 1916, the year sixteen
and a half acres adjoining the creek and the Eastern Recreation Reserve were
bought from Woodmason. A further sixteen acres were purchased in 1918, and
soon after Glen Iris Park was prepared for the civilised game of cricket.
However, a concerted attempt to secure a continuous park was not ratified
until 1923 when the three affected municipalities announced that they intended
to buy all low-lying creekland under the Gardiner Valley Improvement Scheme,
sometimes in large blocks from major landowners, otherwise in small parcels of
land when opportunities arose. After T M Burke purchased the Malvern
Meadows Estate from the Woodmason family in 1923-24, he ceded about
seventy acres (the exact amount varies from source to source) to the Malvern
Council in preference to paying exorbitant land taxes. This gift enabled the
ground clearing and swamp draining for the beginnings of the golf course.
Predictably, the acquisition of creekland was not all plain sailing. An
approach to the Lands Department from a private entrepreneur for release of
the Winton Road Reserve had to be staved off. An oddly schizophrenic quality
emerged in the sale of Malvern Council land on the creek's north side to the
Metropolitan Gas Company in 1925-26. The move was unsuccessfully opposed
by Hawthorn Council, which understandably wanted the area retained as part
of their joint interest in the Gardiner Valley Beautification Scheme. There were
also occasional competitors in the field. O n e would-be land-buyer was the
Victorian Society for the Protection of Animals, who wrote of the possibility of
securing thirteen acres by the creek near Heyington Station as 'a Rest Home for
Horses'. In the event of the failure of this idealistic venture for world-weary
equines, would the council take over the facility?
Despite the hiccoughs, the object of a creek-following reserve slowly moved
from the realms of possibility to the corridors of actuality. By the time Cooper
was working on his history, 130 acres had been purchased, mostly in a four year
period, at prices that more than doubled to £588 an acre between 1925 and
1934, facilitating the creation of sporting grounds. A side benefit was prevention
of the building of 'ojectionable factories' and 'poor houses on unsuitable lands',
unsightly structures more suited to Melbourne's best-forgotten slums. The longterm aim was 'a boulevard from the River Yarra along Gardiner's Creek and
A CREEK AND A CORNER
Scotchman's Creek to Oakleigh'. These laudable objectives were slightly compromised by council's reply to the Metropolitan Town Planning Commission's
statistical enquiry in July 1924, which stated that a site for factories had been
fixed along the creek between Burke and Tooronga Roads and the railway. The
hiatus was overlooked, and the idea of constructing a boulevard continued to be
floated. This precursor of the South Eastern Freeway and the Arterial Road
Link (ARL) was also envisioned in 1929 by the Metropolitan Town Planning
Commission and in 1954 by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works
(MMBW).
By the mid 1920s, council had acquired the land and in the next few years
proceeded with work on its valley parks. However, the creek that ran through
their domain presented a dismal aspect. In 1911, T S Hall, a biology lecturer at
the University of Melbourne, speculated on the reasons for the creek's spreading
Canyon', which made every bridge a toy affair, and on the gouging of their
sandy beds by the tributary streams:
The thick tea-tree scrub has been cut down, though not so long ago it was dense even
down to Burnley . . . a heavy shower swells the creek to a raging flood, and as the
protecting scrub with its binding roots is gone there is nothing to prevent the loose
alluvium from disappearing at a marvellous rate.
A 1912 photograph looking south over the creek towards Glenferrie Road
shows a treeless landscape, denuded of all growth but patches of scruffy grass.
A 1934 assessment of 'How Malvern Grew. Cattle Run to Garden Suburb'
dubbed 'the turnip and onion era . . . one of rustic simplicity', but inherent
damage had been done even in those nostalgically attractive times. When
orchards and market gardens replaced the short-lived pastoral runs, the massed
stands of honey-scented tea-tree were hacked down for brush fences, and the
great River Red Gums were cleared by wood-carters for building materials. A
brick kiln was built at Tooronga on the very site of a famous picnicking ground
called Baker's Hill, and, in one estimation, 'this spelt the end of Gardiner's
Creek as a pleasure resort'. Horses and cattle wandered freely, trampling the
undergrowth and churning up the ground. Once upon a time the creek had
even been the stamping ground of the Melbourne Hunt Club, which set out
from Ranfurlie, the home of politician William Knox, on 29 May 1897, ending
its ninety-five minute dash in the wilds of Clayton with the offer of the brush to
a lady visitor from Government House who had been in at the kill.
Most of the exploitation was more practical and more persistent than the
indulgence in blood sport. Cooper was primarily in the business of extolling
progress and the Malvern Council as the main agency for the forward thrust,
but, when he wrote his history in the mid to late twenties, he could reflect on a
pattern of decline from the beguiling to the awful that prompted some
melancholy philosophising:
Gardiner's Creek was a pleasing waterway, through bushlands . . . Gradually as
settlement increased, the waters of the stream became tainted . . . used by many, as if
it had been a sewer . . . Picturesque spots were debased by litter heaps . . . Migratory
man, settling, pollutes streams, when he plants his pegs of permanency. Then, when
7
8
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
increased settlement brings more men, public opinion begins to form; to recreate, in
man's way, what of Nature has been destroyed. The aesthetic yearn . . . reasserts
itself, and man opening his eyes, sees in a stream the source by which he may create
pleasant places. Such reclamation work is usually the burden of succeeding
generations, after the pioneers have done their rough work, and 'departed this life'.
Cooper probably saw the creek at its pre-freeway nadir. Photographs of the late
twenties and early thirties show an eroded wasteland, with arid banks, a
sluggish watercourse, drain outlets and exposed sewer manholes, with the
occasional surrealistic over-arch of an electricity pylon faintly superimposed.
One shows the council nursery at Glen Iris perilously poised at the brink of a
moonscape. During the 1930s depression, sustenance workers were used to cut a
new path for the creek on the north side of the flood plain from near
Scotchman's Creek to Warrigal Road, to fill the old course which at that point
consisted of a series of streams surrounded by swamps, and to lay out the golf
links. Showing the unemployed as they shovel through the creekside rubble,
two panoramas snapped at the time could be stills from the film of a John
Steinbeck novel. Although the 'clear, limpid stream' of the past could never be
restored, the works were deemed by the press to have rescued the creek from the
condition of 'a dirty, foul drain'. When the fairways were laid and planted,
Cooper applauded the tailored Englishness of 'green sward' and foreign trees,
but a photograph showed the reality of unpleasing newness. By 1940, when the
MMBW, as controller although not owner of the creek, realigned the stretch
between Toorak Road and the junction of the Yarra, most of the major adjustments had been completed. Corrective works, primarily bank stabilisation, were
still required to rectify problems caused by the improvements, to halt erosion
and to restore vegetation.
After Cooper wrote his dirge for a vanished paradise, parts of the creek were
restored, at least to a rural prettiness that bore little relation to the hatched
layering of the original bush. The leafy surrounds of many bridges, particularly
the density of oak and elm near High Street, the gentle, pond-forming weirs and
drop structures, grassy verges and homely ducks would not have looked out of
place in Richmond, Surrey. The 'natural' section of the creek upstream from
Great Valley Road still held hints of a more Australian wildness, along with the
creek-hugging willows planted by council in the early 1920s, and even widened
into a fully fledged billabong at one point, while the chance for children of
launching themselves by dinghy into the waist-high expanse of water created by
the floods became a more regular possibility. With increased urbanisation of the
catchment area, the tempestuous creek flooded not every decade, but every five
years. In 1970, it overran its banks in January, March and December, and
repeated the performance five times more to December 1978. Parts of the golf
course were swamped yearly. The MMBW was later criticised for having spent
'over $35 million realigning Melbourne's creeks in concrete' because it was
animated by 'a simple obsession . . .' that aimed to 'improve the water flow by
concreting, canalling and straightening'.
A worse fate was reserved for Gardiner's Creek, an outcome that drove many
A CREEK AND A CORNER
Malvern citizens to advocate that the creek should, in those sections where such
a device was still possible, be returned to its pre-Fall condition. As the South
Eastern Freeway carved its way towards Toorak Road with a land-gobbling
capacity unimaginable to those early enthusiasts for a water-following boulevard, much of the creek between its junction with the Yarra and Tooronga
Road was encased in a concrete strait-jacket as if it were nothing more than an
irritating drain, while two concrete channels were built between Burke and
Great Valley Roads to protect the seemingly invincible State Electricity
Commission (SEC) towers.
The most serious threat to the creek and its parklands is of recent vintage,
caused by the state government's decision (initially Liberal, then, in violation of
pre-election commitments, Labor) to press ahead with a freeway, clothed with
the cynical euphemism of the tag 'Arterial Road Link', to join the South
Eastern and Mulgrave Freeways. A metaphor for a condition of simplicity and
authenticity that many urbanites felt was lost to them, the creek became a more
contentious issue than it had ever been. The response in the early sixties, when
the South Eastern Freeway reached its long ashen finger into Malvern, but
before the Los Angeles solution to the problem of the car had become
anathema, was far more muted. The citizens of the three municipalities that
bordered the creek armed themselves with the orb and sceptre of the Whitlam
era, community participation and quality of life, and took to the banks. In
October 1974, they were invited to a creekfest, 'taking kids in one hand and
basket lunch in the other, and setting off for a Malvern-long walk along the
Creek'. The upper reaches were traversed in a matching event held two years
later.
Coinciding with the first pilgrimage, a resident's letter in the Malvern News
Sheet had the rallying tone of a crusade: 'who will save us from ourselves? Who
will remind us that the land along our creek is irreplaceable in quantity or kind.
The possession of it gives us not only the right to use it, but also the responsibility of not destroying it'. The language used to establish the creek as the
choicest bloom in Malvern's bouquet was both moral and pastoral. Historically,
it was 'a beautiful inheritance', 'this precious heritage which has been
bequeathed to us'. The threatened past was personal as well as collective. One
resident invoked his distant boyhood with almost self-consuming nostalgia.
Aesthetically, it was 'an oasis of quiet':
I walked along this valley last Sunday morning . . . The creek bubbled over rocks,
and there was even a solitary golden daffodil flowering on the creek bank . . . If our
Premier, Mr Hamer is sincere in his desire to make Victoria a Garden State — with
all our cars carrying little green number plates, these same cars that will destroy our
valley — let him remember his promises made in 1973 . . .
The single flower could be interpreted as a ghostly message to the premier.
Another correspondent employed the Chinese proverb that advised
exchanging superfluous material goods for something that was simply balm to
the eye and spirit: 'We are lucky, we have our loaf of bread (the utilitarian roads)
so let us not disregard this wise proverb by selling our lily (aesthetic Gardiner's
9
10
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
Creek Valley)'. Anecdotes and photographs in the local newspaper, the
Southern Cross, underscored the fragility of rural simplicities in a voracious
metropolitan environment: a family musing on the creek banks, watching a
flotilla of ducks caught in glinting sunlight; an elderly woman and her dogs
wading through long grass; College of the Bible students contemplating the
drifting waters beside their Glen Iris sanctuary. The note of mourning became
an established motif. In a predictable borrowing from religious terminology,
mention was made of a plot to 'crucify' the area.
One of several pressure groups that sprang up to lobby government, the
bureaucracy, council, the media, any power in sight or imagination, the
Gardiner's Creek Valley Association (GCVA) formed in early 1977 and
adopted the D O V E (Defend Our Valley Environment) as its logo, thus
assuming a little credit from the peace movement as well as making their own
point. Once again citizens were exhorted to a penitential walk along the creek,
and, in a lavish, if inscrutable gesture of commitment, the group vowed to
measure the unfinished section of the Mulgrave Freeway. In its impressively
ecumenical mix, the Valley Festival featured a kookaburra call contest, giant
chess, a political farce 'Up the Creek', nursing mothers, Clydesdales and
German Shepherds, four varieties of dancing (Edelweiss, Irish, Morris and rap),
the Alamein Train Blues Band and a madrigal group, with a perhaps less diverse
offering in addresses by former senator Jean Melzer and union defender Ted
Bull. During the 1984 ALP state conference, the association ran a bus to 'VISIT
THE V A N D A L S . . . Why not inspect the largest privately-owned collection of
vandals in the Southern Hemisphere'. Abrasive challenges were issued to the
council to see that their civic guardianship was inspired as well as honest.
Urging public participation in the Gardiner's Creek Valley Study that had
been initiated by a government unnerved by the strength of opposition, the
News Sheet (May 1977) showed on its cover a menacing fist pressing down on a
vulnerable landscape. The paper's well-informed and public-spirited discussion
recognised the basic conundrum that 'it would be a relatively simple matter to
turn Gardiner's Creek into either a super efficient drain, or a deceptively
peaceful meandering stream', unsatisfactory alternatives that would involve
problems as well as solutions, losses along with gains. The G C V A ' s submission
to the study, 'A Progressive Concept for Valley Conservation', encapsulated the
widespread yearning for a reconstruction where an urbanised population could
feel at one with nature, rather than a destroyer or intruder: 'We should cherish
creeks . . . We should ensure that they remain natural areas where the order of
nature dominates, rather than that of Man'. The proponents of salvation were
not without opponents, who were often the victims of the peace-shattering
traffic chaos and who saw the much-ravaged stream as an 'eyesore' that would
be improved by the blandly pleasing and efficient landscaping of freeway
surrounds. Those who adopted this viewpoint could gesture to the truth that
much native vegetation was incapable of resisting the poisonous emanations of
the car.
However, by the early to mid 1980s, when the road link had gouged an aweinspiring swathe through parks and houses, the environmental fundamentalists
A CREEK AND A CORNER
11
had become more vociferous, agitating for a return to the tabula rasa in the
lands that had survived the destruction. The Malvern Council, which had been
soundly denounced in some quarters for its apparent capitulation to the forces
of freeway evil, was drawn into the renovators' orbit, recommending in March
1986 that future creekside planting, using indigenous species and regenerative
techniques, should aim to produce 'bushland', with consideration 'to incorporation of wetlands'. Carefully erased over a century, the swamps were to be
revived. The second report of the Malvern Valley Plan (1986) envisaged 'a
continuous area of aesthetically valuable creekside landscape from Great Valley
Road to Scotchmans [sic] Creek, a stretch which also has the advantage of being
continuously protected by cuttings or sound-mounding from the noise of the
Arterial Road and the railway'. As the authority responsible for the ten million
dollar redevelopment of the valley, council established the City of Malvern
Planning Unit, whose 1986 report assembled the opinions of various groups
involved in the project.
Having come full circle, the creek was to be edged backwards to its point of
departure through a highly artificial attempt to recapture the natural, qualified
by the realisation that 'much of the creek is not in its original bed and there is
little reason why parts should not be further altered'. The process of
determining the contours of this reformed arcadia involved an unconsciously
dichotomous attitude: trying to establish what people wanted, yet at the same
time working according to some pretty tight suppositions of what they ought to
want. To monitor the use made of parks, experts positioned themselves —
discreetly one supposes — and recorded the frequency of various activities.
Having confirmed some rather predictable patterns (for instance, public lovemaking was rare), they self-evidently concluded that 'the redevelopment of the
Gardiner's Creek Valley will have significant effects on the use level for both
formal and informal recreation'. Odd phrases were sometimes required to
describe ways of refashioning the land: 'contouring', 'amenity mounding' and
'battering back of the existing banks'. Art and science can partly supply what of
Nature has been destroyed:
The sequence . . . starts with the existing playing fields by planting trees around
them, so that they take on the appearance of partly cleared bush reminiscent of sheep
country. The treed section merges into more natural bushland . . . To be explored
within the bush is the creek and serving the creek is the track which periodically
leaves it and rejoins it . . . parts of the creek can be widened to form ponds, lakes or
wetlands.
Although this approach is 'a radical step away from imposing ornamental
beautification', problematic remnants from the past — exotic trees such as
splendid elms and poplars — could be regarded as legitimate occupiers of the
land, with valid historical credentials. Should they be retained with 'selective
thinning of some self sown thickets'? Should willows and desert ash be expunged
because of'management problems due to their ability to sucker and their form'?
Those whose childhoods enshrine memories of creek-bridging surges on
handfuls of willow straps might find this bureaucratic description of ordering
12
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
the natural world curious, and the recourse itself insensitive. The gardens of
houses demolished to accommodate the ARL 'pose a particular problem. Each
reflect . . . the preferences and personalities of past owners . . . a fine specimen
lemon scented gum [is] not to be lost . . . some valuable rarities . . . would merit
consideration for retention as a botanical collection'. The individuality of
displaced inhabitants might linger like bleached pressed flowers. With its selfconscious quotation marks, the injunction AIM FOR A ' N A T U R A L ' L O O K
showed connoisseurship in the ways in which the natural becomes the supernatural. The search for authenticity is a highly rigorous discipline.
Outlined in the Malvern Valley Plan's 'Landscape Manual' (February 1987),
an even more radical attitude aimed at a scientifically managed recreation of the
pristine environment, a Utopia fashioned by experts:
122 species of weeds were recorded along Gardeners [sic] Creek in August 1986 . . .
this list . . . will not be exhausted however because of overlooked species and summer
growing annuals . . . total elimination of 35 species is considered highly desirable or
essential . . . No level of these 'named' weeds should be tolerated.
Invaders marked for elimination included the roguish Europeans, fennel,
freesia, morning glory, cherry plum, hawthorn and arum lily, the South African
watsonia, and two species of wattle that had strayed from their rightful habitat.
The script contained the perhaps unfulfillable stipulation that seeds and
cuttings for the 'recreated bushland' were to be of 'local provenance . . . not
[from] outside the Lower Yarra River Valley or that of its tributaries'. The
dreaded tea-tree that perplexed generations of councillors would be welcomed
back without stigma, along with various wattles, river bottle-brush, she-oaks,
Australian clematis, approved gums, Guinea flower, tree violet, Christmas bush
(Victorian), kangaroo apple, purple coral pea, clustered everlasting, the black
anther flax lily and others in a concordance of acceptable species. These plants
would be disposed in three zones, with an infusion of artifice in 'areas [left] open
to the creek both for access and visual contrast and enhancement', mown only
'when the area is considered aesthetically unsightly'. 'Twisted gnarled forms'
would be encouraged in deference to an unplanned aesthetic. Frankenstein and
Dorian Gray have been assigned roles in the reclaimed paradise, along with
Snugglepot and Blinky Bill. Historically significant and 'of high amenity value',
exotic intruders such as the giant elms in Glen Iris Park would be salvaged, but
otherwise the intention was to create a paradise, untouched by demeaning
reminders of European settlement, one of the few avenues of salvation left: to
urban dwellers, and yet a product of painstaking manufacture.
The progression of Gardiner's Creek from natural watercourse to glorified
gutter showed the unfolding of nemesis on one section of metropolitan man and
established the stream as the symbolic core to which a mass of atavistic impulses
about the primacy of nature adhered. By contrast, the town hall, as the
architectural embodiment of Malvern's civic dignity, was the symbolic centre of
its aspirations towards a civilised and harmonious polity. It provided a focus for
the expression of communal morality and changing social attitudes. It was the
natural gathering-place for citizens at times of crisis, the venue for political
A CREEK AND A CORNER
debates and the airing of grievances, an office for organising civic effort in times
of national emergency, an entertainment hall, a hub of charitable enterprise
and a stage where noted citizens were honoured.
The conditions for hiring the hall provided a means of controlling and
directing the behaviour of citizens. Periodically, when a suitably sober man was
in office, the influential local temperance lobby congratulated the mayor on
keeping a 'dry cupboard'. In May 1914, a meeting of the International Order of
Rechabites was addressed by a fulminating wowser who announced a three-year
campaign to save the nation from 'the thraldom and curse of strong drink . . .
they were going to flood the country with literature — knee-deep if necessary
. . . they had to combat a mighty army safeguarded by the law, and pampered
by vested interests'. During the Great War, one quarter of opinion promoted
civic abstinence during the struggle, but the realists considered such an embargo
impossible to enforce. In 1923, a prize-giving ceremony for children who had
shone in the Temperance Examinations was held; Spring Road School, whose
headmaster was a steely abstainer, 'has done so well we are going to distribute
over 70 prizes'. Three years later, the forty-five conditions for hiring the hall
listed a catechism of bourgeois virtues tending towards sobriety, moderation
and conformity: no sale of liquor, no lotteries, no disorderly behaviour, no
spruiking, no streamers or confetti (the decorative items might be permitted by
the town clerk).
Council's control over its premises also provided a means of monitoring or
even curtailing distasteful forms of political activity. During the 1890 shipping
dispute, a volatile meeting in defence of the unions took place, but in 1923 and
1925, supporters respectively of the striking police and overseas seamen were not
allowed to take the floor. However, the mayor informed the Age that, during
the police strike, he had hosted a stern meeting at which over 300 Malvern men
had enrolled as special constables determined to prevent 'mob rule'. The hall
was rarely let to groups of radical orientation, especially during the Cold War of
the late 1940s and 1950s (the Melbourne Town Hall was similarly inaccessible).
In 1941, the Malvern branch of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) could claim
that, with the incumbent mayor as patron, it had hosted in the town hall the
first meeting in Australia urging aid for the Soviet Union; and yet, shortly after
the war, a blanket of suspicion descended and the spirit of eternal vigilance
became a domestic matter. 'Chifley's Bank Grab IS AN A T T A C K ON YOUR
LIBERTY', screamed a 1947 advertisement, 'Labour loathes liberty. Socialism
spells serfdom. Democracy doomed to die. THIS IS YOUR FIGHT Monster
PROTEST MEETING'. Other assemblages could not quite afford this overt
roughness, but politics had not yet become completely one-sided, and a rival
'Monster Protest Meeting', at which the Malvern branch of the Communist
Party of Australia (CPA) passed a resolution in Ben Chifley's favour, was soon
held. Only 'a dozen dissentients' interrupted while the audience of some two
hundred heard assorted speakers, including Victorian CPA secretary Ralph
Gibson, outline a case for the banks' role in fuelling depression, directing funds
towards anti-social purposes and favouring right-wing political movements.
The balance soon tipped violently against these destabilising rumblings. In
13
14
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
1949, the East Malvern Returned Servicemen's League (RSL) wrote asking that
council premises should be denied to 'any person or organisation for the
spreading of Communistic or subversive propaganda'. Given that they fearlessly
filled this description, the CPA and the Eureka League were refused permission
to stage events such as a lecture by Dr A H Dobbin on a 'National Free
Medicine Scheme', a 'social' evening or a discussion on 'peace'. In 1956, the
conservative 'Call to the People of Australia' opened its Malvern campaign,
with Sir Charles Lowe as main speaker, supported by parliamentarians John
Bloomfield and Harold Holt. Temporarily in abeyance, the military clash had
been replaced by 'the struggle for the souls and minds of men'.
The impost extended to organisations with less inflammatory aims than those
of the CPA, perhaps on the grounds that they were fronts for the real enemy. In
November 1949, the 'Malvern Civic [Civil?] Liberties Club' was prevented from
using the old court-house for a meeting to oppose the Essential Services Act that
had been introduced by the recently elected Menzies government. Given that
peace had become a discredited word, the Australian Peace Council was
disallowed both a public meeting and a deputation to debate the refusal,
although shortly afterwards pleas were heard from the Dogs' Home and 'the
Fishmongers of Malvern relative to the disposal of fish offal'. The peace
movement's local offshoot, the Malvern Peace Committee, exercised by 'the
object of enlisting support for the International Peace Movement', was no more
successful. In the early 1950s, the thumbs-down was exercised against another
possibly risky organisation, the Women's International Zionist Organisation,
which wanted to hold a variety concert. However, these same years saw regular
meetings of the Malvern Branch of the United Nations Association, of which
the mayor was traditionally the president. It was, said guest speaker Dr Ian
Clunies-Ross, 'the most vigorous and progressive Branch in Australia',
particularly admirable in its educational campaign in local schools. However,
the branch president also headed the 'Call to the People of Australia Movement', and the anti-communist tincture of some of its meetings suggested a not
wholly disinterested bias. Even so, peace promotion was not an entirely suspect
activity, for in September 1954 between four and five hundred people crammed
into the town hall for an anti H-bomb meeting sponsored by the Peace Quest
Forum, which was 'a committee of Christian ministers whose aim is to keep
open a platform where all problems can be discussed'. Meet they did, but behind
the scenes they often earned the derogatory tag 'Christian Communists'. The
crowd was even greater in 1959 when scientist Professor Linus Pauling and
author J B Priestley took the stage in the cause of peace. 'The people of the world
could be compared to all-night poker players', Priestley declaimed, 'longing for
somebody to say "Boys, let's pack it up" '.
By comparison with its wedding-cake, boom-time contemporaries, the civic
palaces in suburbs like Collingwood, Northcote, Fitzroy and St Kilda, the
Malvern Shire Hall was originally more of christening-cake proportions and
decorations. Before that degree of formality was attained, councillors had to be
content with something more along the lines of a seed-cake. The area's first
meeting place was a wooden hall hardly bigger than a reasonably sized drawing-
A CREEK AND A CORNER
room and lacking the appropriate mask of affluence. In June 1880, Councillor
A E Clarke moved that up to £4000 should be borrowed for a more fitting
structure, but the matter was deferred. By November 1884, the mood had
changed, perhaps on the rising tide of boom confidence, and Clarke's motion
that £5000 worth of debentures should be issued was unanimously approved.
Two months later the plans of architects Wilson 6k Beswick, to include a hall for
400, municipal offices, post office and library, were accepted. The Commercial
Bank, that glossy but hubristic institution that soared among the high-flyers of
the boom only to crash ignominiously 'at a human cost which is beyond
calculation', offered to take up all the debentures under favourable conditions,
provided council's account was transferred to that bank.
The shortfall between the building's cost and the loan was made good when
the Crown Law Department finally agreed to find £2000 for the court-house. As
well, a small grant came from the chief secretary on condition that room was
devoted to a library and reading room for the formidable tenure of ninety-nine
years, inaugurating for the municipality a brilliantly chequered career in
publicly provided culture. The circular to residents 'soliciting subscriptions to
the book fund' hinted at a longstanding attitude towards such matters as a
gratuitous, even tiresome aspect of charity.
On 22 September 1885, the Minister for Public Works, Alfred Deakin, laid
the foundation stone, and ten months later, dignified, restrained, lacking the
frozen cascades and fondant pillars of its inner-suburban counterparts, perhaps
a little dull in its rectitude, the place was opened with the obligatory civic
banquet.
Looking as discreet as a Florentine bank, the building may have been
relatively modest to begin with, possibly befitting a community that, at least in
its public utterances, favoured solidity before ostentation, but the aggrandising
instinct was soon apparent. In 1890, on the brink of depression, a scheme for
extensions was undertaken that the local press deemed would consign to 'the
shade the council chambers of either the Town of Brighton or the Shire of
Caulfield'. The structure was to be extended to the north, allowing an enlarged
hall, 'a fine public apartment' for the shire secretary, five committee rooms,
commodious cloak and supper rooms and a second tower with 'a commanding
outline'. The clock, a public-spirited donation by Alex McKinley, who was to
keep reappearing as first citizen until after the Great War, was to be 'as unlike
the Melbourne Town Hall clock as possible, in so much that it will be a reliable
timekeeper'. Later on, a local wit pointed out that McKinley's timepiece had the
unique horological quirk of showing a different time on each of its four faces.
The editorial mood also became caustic: 'there are many residents who would
have preferred to see their money . . . expended on their streets, roads and paths
. . . this they maintain would have tended more to induce settlement than
grand and gorgeous municipal buildings will ever do'.
The spirit of emulation with Melbourne gained a fillip in 1901, when the state
governors, ousted from their simulated palace in St Kilda Road by their newly
created federal superiors, moved into Stonnington, the Glenferrie Road
mansion built in 1890 by mining magnate and Cobb ck Co coachmaker, Robert
15
16
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
Wagner. Elaborate redecorations were undertaken in case the Duke of York and
the Governor-General 'may possibly find time amongst their various fixtures, to
pay a visit to the most aristocratic of aristocratic suburbs'. The interior, hall,
vestibule, corridors and staircases, was painted pale blue, with decorative details
picked out in amber, terracotta and green, 'pilasters . . . relieved in snuff colour'
(vases 'in leather tints'), capitals and dados to harmonise, and 'stencilled
ornaments in neutral green' at the back of the stage.
The splendour of the national and vice-regal events was magnified by their
coincidence with a purely parochial source of pride, the loss of Malvern's
'somewhat countrified appellation' and its elevation to the status of a borough,
then a town. The editor of the Malvern and Armadale Recorder mused on the
possibilities for the red-letter day:
It would be quite the thing to invite his Excellency the Lieut-Governor and his lady
to add eclat to the proceedings . . . It would also be a favorable opportunity for the
councillors to revive the old English custom of 'beating the bounds', and would
afford an opportunity of observing whether neighbouring and perhaps envious
municipalities have been assisting themselves to a collop of our territory. The day's
celebrations might very well be terminated by an entertainment — whether a
banquet or something of more interest to the gentler sex is a matter for
consideration.
The celebrations were felt to concern not only the business people, but all
citizens, including the 'numbers of wealthy "carriage folk" who claim Malvern
as their home', and would attract many of that omnipresent, if undefined
company of'representative men . . . accompanied by their lady friends', perhaps
even the odd member of the new commonwealth cabinet. The twenty-fourth of
April was declared a public holiday, and the nature of the festivities required
careful consideration. McKinley suggested 'a flower carnival . . . a thing . . .
never . . . seen in the colony before', and capped his suggestion with the
donation of flags (Union Jack and Duke of York's) to ratepayers. Councillor
Holmes predicted that 'some day their children would look back with pride to
the occasion when the natal day of Malvern was crowned with flowers'. The
attempt of two councillors to quash the commitment of £150 for celebratory
purposes was rejected as the suggestion of killjoys.
Led by the Malvern Military Band in new uniforms, and Chief Marshal
Major Rigg with sword drawn, the procession would link the vice-regal couple
and their suite, the mayor in his new robes, parliamentarians, distinguished
visitors, councillors, members of adjoining municipalities, state school cadets,
decorated vehicles, decorated bicycles, undecorated vehicles and the
'probability of about one hundred lady and gentleman cyclists'. After traversing
the main streets, the festooned crocodile would halt at the Malvern Gardens,
where Lady Madden 'will start the Minnehaha fountain'. The following day was
to be given over to the state school children for 'a day's unrestricted enjoyment'
at the Caulfield Racecourse.
In the event plans had to be altered when a deluge left the gardens sodden and
the marquees collapsed. The venue for the crowning declaration was shifted to
A CREEK AND A CORNER
17
the newly decorated hall, hastily yet handsomely decorated with flowers, flags
and greenery by curator Thomas Pockett and his lads, where the gathering
tucked into Mr Skinner's famous eatables and drinkables. However, a spate of
political eloquence compensated for nature's niggardliness. Local member Frank
Madden told his audience that he
could remember when hunting that the hounds had thrown off a kangaroo about
200 yards from the very spot where the town hall stood that day. It was remarkable
what had happened since that time. On every side houses had arisen, monuments of
taste, luxury, and prosperity . . . The fact that there were places like Malvern assisted
to set a seal on the national securities.
Even while they were in the flush of enjoying their dignified status, many locals
anticipated a further elevation to the apotheosis of becoming a city. In 1911,
when this step was achieved, the town hall was further renovated ('the Winter
Garden' and electric light for the stage were the outstanding new features), and
the festivities lasted from Empire Day (24 May) to 5 June (George V's forty-sixth
birthday). The same elements were revived in even more spectacular guise, alas
even to the threatening weather, with the presence of vice-regality, addresses on
loyalty and complimentary speeches from local politicians, parties for the
grown-ups and a fete for the children, a welter of decorations, described by
Cooper in a shimmering mood: 'High Street and Glenferrie Road were avenues
of quivering light . . . Towering above Malvern Hill was the illuminated outline
of a great Silver Cross . . . The "great torch procession" was over a mile in
length'. Novel touches were the presentation of a flag from Malvern School,
England, a procession of cars from the Prahran and Malvern Tramways Trust
followed by 'a drag wherein twenty-seven old residents of Malvern sat', a
platoon of veterans from various foreign wars and decorated floats, one of which
held T h e Mayor of Malvern, a Hundred Years Ago' in the guise of an
Aborigine in a mia-mia. Malvern had graduated by having old soldiers, old
citizens and a putative Aboriginal head. Three hundred rockets were fired off
from the cricket ground, thrilling the 40 000 strong crowd.
The outline of the town hall remained the same until 1923, when alterations
to the design of architects Hudson &. Wardrop transformed the building's
nineteenth century character. (An alternative scheme by Sydney Wilson was
abandoned.) Once again, civic aggrandisement was in the air. The two-storied
'porte cochere', it was felt, would give 'a more dignified and imposing
appearance' and render the building 'probably the finest in the State with the
exception of the City of Melbourne'. Indeed, the portico was a reasonable mimic
of Melbourne's, without the Victorian encrustations. The hall's capacity was
doubled, and the foyer, with corresponding upstairs lounge, was panelled in
Buchan marble. Appropriate furnishings were specified, with special
concentration on the mayoral dais and chair which were to be 'best quality
leather to selected tint . . . upholstering, webbing, springs, stuffing . . . all
buttoned, braided and shaped to approval . . . all grooved, tongued, blocked,
screwed and glued together in most workmanlike manner'.
Vice-regal and royal events always provided an excuse for icing the scene with
18
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
fervour and grandiosity. En route to Stonnington, state governors were lavishly
and loyally welcomed. When Edward VII came to the throne, Councillor J
Voysey read the proclamation from the town hall steps, and the building was
'suitably draped' in mourning at a monarch's death, only to be 'suitably
decorated' to herald his successor. When a new Duke of York dashed through
Malvern in April 1927, unfortunately without his duchess, the building was
shrouded in scaffolding, the lag partly caused by irritants such as a builders'
labourers' strike and a fire in the ventilating equipment. Despite its half-finished
condition, it was suitably festooned and emblazoned with a banner indicating
that the city 'WELCOMES THE H O U S E OF YORK', and soon after the
duke's Paul Reverish ride, its chic twentieth century touches were bared to
public gaze. 'Re-opening celebrations' naturally included an official benediction
from the governor, Lord Somers, and a civic concert. During council business
hours, the mayor, who promptly and effusively outlined the city's development,
was congratulated 'in taking the chair for the first time in the new Council
Chamber . . . now . . . the Municipality had a Meeting place . . . worthy of the
City'. The only spot on the apple of a perfect occasion was the feeling that the
mayor, in welcoming the Tongan choir, gave too much credit to his predecessor
for a transformation that was truly a corporate effort.
Given that the relationship between local and state politics was once
characterised by a closeness that can only be described as collusive, the town
hall was a political powerhouse, a confluence of water-tight mutualities. The
municipalities were the 'nurseries' of the state legislature, and councillors often
doubled as parliamentarians without the slightest suggestion that their dual
responsibility might mean two jobs done less than well or involve a conflict of
interest. Politics was a monolith of interlocking parts, and the lessons of power
carried over from one sphere to another. The Honourable William Knox's
frequent absences from council were tolerated with an indulgence that was not
extended to lesser men — not that lesser men often warmed the council
chamber's cushions. The men-only club that claimed the town hall as their
clubrooms involved much amiable gourmandising that boosted the spirit of
mutual congratulation. When Knox retired as shire president in August 1895,
he offered 'a most sumptuous repast' to a bevy of 'leading ratepayers' and blew 'a
shower of congratulations' to his successor, Donald Munro, partner of W L
Baillieu and son of the egregious Victorian premier, James Munro. All present
agreed on the pre-eminence of Malvern and Malvern citizens rather as if a new
Athens — or perhaps a Liverpool of the south — had been created.
Hardly intended for commoner ratepayers, and usually attended by
luminaries who graced those chambers of more substantial political power, these
occasions were repeated with little variation for decades. An exchange of
expensive testimonial gifts often took place at events called 'smoke nights' where
the assembled gentlemen were photographed, almost every one with some item
of the tobacconist's art drooping from his fingers or lips. When Councillor A F
Alway was presented with a purse to help defray election expenses soon after
Knox's feast, he repeated the refrain on Malvern's superiority, its healthiness
(the second lowest death rate in Melbourne) and its residential desirability: 'no
2 The architectural embodiment of Malvern's civic dignity and a natural gathering-place for
citizens at times of crisis and for simply peaceful exchanges. Tom Cathie and Joe Martin in front
of the Malvern Town Hall, 1956.
3 The natural playground of Malvern's young: schoolboys on an excursion at Gardiner's
Creek, early 1920s.
4 The reality of unpleasing newness: the East Malvern Golf Links, c 1931.
A CREEK AND A CORNER
sooner are the slates on than the premises are either sold or let'. T h e best cigars
to be obtained in Melbourne' were also offering at Mayor Frank Cornwall's
more ecumenical gathering in 1913, when both sexes feasted on 'genuine
chicken and ham . . . lands end salad . . . the best of bottled ales, wines and
whisky. Soft drinks and coffee . . . provided ad lib. Cakes and fruit in season'.
Although the political dye of most of these events was conservatively true
blue, the town hall was the ground where issues of the day, at least those that
transcended class lines, were debated. In 1900, federation was scone-hot, and, at
another function hosted by the sociable Knox, Deakin, as Victoria's federal
delegate, 'in a lengthy and brilliant speech, dwelt upon the larger ideals of the
Commonwealth'. Both supporters and detractors of the union gathered their
forces in the town hall. At a mayoral banquet in the aftermath of federation,
one of Malvern's state representatives took heavy-handed advantage of the
swollen political scene: '[federal parliamentarians] were making haste slowly . . .
It would no doubt be called in future the "Idle Parliament" . . . Mr Knox had
not told them what the Federal Parliament was doing — but doubtless that was
because he did not know'. The augmentation of the Australian political scene
was still contentious in 1913 when the Honourable A J Boyd derided the six
current referenda proposals that aimed to empower the commonwealth government to make laws relating to employment, conciliation and arbitration, and to
deal with corporations, combinations and monopolies. They were a cloak for
giving 'the Labour Socialists increased powers . . . The building of a Federal
Capital at Canberra, Yass or Ass or whatever they called it was a crime'.
The readiness for change that accompanied federation also provided an
exception to the rule of male dominance of town hall space. In March 1900, a
meeting to form a Malvern branch of the Women's Progressive League was
convened under the chairmanship of Councillor J Voysey, who condemned
arguments against women's suffrage as nonsense. He added that, from his
observation of training them as teachers, he found women incapable of
enforcing discipline, a deficiency that raised doubts about their legislative
capacities. However, their inadequacy as lawmakers did not reflect on their
abilities as voters. Suffragist Vida Goldstein was predictably less equivocal; she
defended working women's right to protect their interests and condemned
unequal pay. The message may not have had great appeal in the clime. In a
demonstration of co-operation unthinkable in later and fiercer days, a
committee of thirteen women and four men was appointed. Later meetings of
the league attracted illustrious advocates of the cause, such as South Australian
feminist Catherine Spence, who employed the moral uplift argument: 'If politics
were unfit for women decidedly they were unfit for men, and the sooner women
were admitted to equal political rights the sooner the political atmosphere
would be purified'. By contrast, in 1904 the deeply conservative Australian
Women's National League (AWNL) began a long, local career which mainly
consisted of ensuring that its preferred candidates (usually men of indelible
conservatism) were backed for political office. When Premier Watt presided over
its tenth birthday celebrations at the town hall, political wife and president, Mrs
Arthur Robinson, praised the group's mushrooming success; the original group
19
20
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
of twenty had swelled to almost a thousand. Thirty years later, their place was
taken by the beaver-like women's section of the local Liberal Party, and the
swan-like act of independent Liberal Mrs Mascotte Brown whose 'ability to
present an outstanding concert cannot be denied'.
For the most part, women were politically relegated to endorsing the bravura
performances of their menfolk, and their more solo activities were confined to
the social and charitable functions. Political life was mostly serene, and most of
the barbs hurled across the town hall floor were exchanged between those of
like-mind. By the late 1940s, the Vastly statesmanlike' R G Menzies had come to
dominate the political scene, with a reputation for oratory that mesmerised
entire audiences and a facility with the goad that transformed cheeky
interjectors into incoherent wrecks. Adding his kingly support to local Liberals
such as Harold Holt, Trevor Oldham and Henry Gullett, and outlining 'Great
National Questions', Menzies bestrode the town hall stage. The meetings were
sometimes rowdy, but the underlying consensus was barely threatened.
At the municipal level, fissures often appeared in the facade of unity, as the
unfolding political story will show. Ratepayers were not always content with
the quality of their local representatives, periodically combining to counter
miscreants or to deflect threats to their own interests. The outcome was sometimes rancorous in the extreme. An early ratepayers' organisation masterminded by one-time councillor James Lindsay as 'a means of awakening the
ratepayers to a sense of their duties' collapsed in disorder, leaving him to fire a
salvo at the local press from Healesville, where he had retired in disgust in 1901:
'I did not think it necessary for me to refer to the Malvern Council; 1 have had
nothing but abuse . . .'. Volatile matters could see debate slump into the
farcical. The 1906 municipal election was marred by a furore about the
contentious tramways question, when one Smith in the audience kept repeating
'What about the tramway accident at Rome?' and chanting 'We'll all be dead!
We'll all be dead!'. No reasonable reply could be found to either the question or
the chant.
More conciliatory, though not necessarily convincing in their assurances,
some groups strenuously avoided the odium of sectarian partiality that might
have carried subversive overtones. When Simon Fraser M L C , head of the Loyal
Orange Institution in Victoria, addressed a gathering of the partisans in June
1900, he was backed by large pictures of Queen Victoria and William III. 'There
was no harm in Orangeism', he said sincerely. 'They . . . were not forever tilting
against law and order . . . They did not interfere in politics, except for a specific
purpose.' A threat to the integrity of a Protestant England was the only matter
that made them troublemakers!
Economic threat could be a more powerful binding force than politics. In
1930, a large meeting to form the Property Owners' Defence Association
discussed the slump in valuations, the danger of a rent moratorium and
vandalism, an outrage that, thankfully, had not arrived at Malvern: 'In other
suburbs organised gangs were destroying vacant houses as a means of creating
employment . . .'. A n d yet, at the same time, the spirit of generosity survived in
the Tramways Band's 'monster concert' held to aid the unemployed. In recent
A CREEK AND A CORNER
times, armed with an arsenal of self-perceived rights, ratepayers' interest groups
have become ever more vociferous, demanding a courage and accountability in
their municipal representatives that would have been inconceivable in the past.
They have also demonstrated a frankly modern capacity for ideological
divisiveness.
In times of crisis, unanimity prevailed. When the Great War broke out, a
packed AWNL meeting vowed to 'stand shoulder to shoulder, and do their part
as women, whatever it might be in the struggle that was before them' and then
broke into stirring renditions of 'Rule Britannia' and T h e Old Hundredth'.
After the fall of France in 1940, the response was less soulful and more practical:
T h e collection of patriotic funds; gathering of waste paper and metal; a man's
work depot; the sales of War Savings certificates and recruiting for the AIF will
all receive their impetus from this meeting'. Even so, there were still ways of
combining business with pleasure — or perhaps a little culture. When Walter
Lindrum offered seven sessions in the town hall for the City of Malvern War
Fund and Fags for Fighters Appeal, it was admiringly noted that 'he sets up his
own table, brings his own marker and so makes it possible for every penny to go
to the funds'. More in tune with the sombre temper of the times was a sacred
concert by the Malvern Choral Society and Presbyterian Oratorio Choir, where
sublime harmonies were enlisted to boost a collection for the Australian
Comforts Fund (ACF). Once the trauma was past, thanksgiving provided the
occasion. At the Gardiner Central School's 'Victory Speech Night', the
quotation that headed the prize list was To follow knowledge like a sinking
star/Beyond the utmost bound of human thought'. The entertainment,
however, was less ominous. It was also vibrantly international, all the way from
a Russian vesper and an air by Mendelssohn, through the senior girls' physical
exercises ('Grace was in all her steps') to the play 'A Chinese Fantasy' which
was, it seems, rather imperial in its subject matter.
In normal times, pleasure — with perhaps a dash of culture — was paramount,
and it was up to the mayor to ensure that the right atmosphere was created:
'Various suggestions were thrown out . . . as to the form which the entertainment to be given . . . should take. Nothing definite was arrived [at]. I would
suggest, Mister Editor, a picnic to Frog Hollow would be the very thing, before
the weather gets too cold'. This barbed suggestion in the Malvern News (1903)
was ignored, but mayoral shebangs were part of the town hall scene; the spirit of
rivalry was confined to fashion, jollity reigned and snippets of political enmity
were only inserted as if they were germane to the festivities. As it was the
mayor's home away from home, he should, declared Mayor McKinley, 'exercise
his hospitality exactly as he would' on his domestic territory. The major event of
the civic social calendar was the mayoral ball where up to 900 invited guests
circulated to the music of bands with alluring foreign names in a hall decorated
to fantasy proportions with festoons of lights, flags, bunting and tumbling
examples of floral art. In 1904, 'guests were allowed the option of appearing in
twentieth-century garb', but most chose otherworldliness, appearing in
costumes that ranged from a tousled chrysanthemum to a sombre Lord
Dundreary. As the event coincided with Frank Madden's election as speaker of
21
22
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
the Legislative Assembly, he was unveiled to the Malvern populace in his new
dignity. At a Tlain and Fancy Dress Ball' in 1912, the mayor and mayoress, in
the guises of a high court judge and the Duchess of Devonshire (brocaded,
powdered, plumed and looking 'like an old picture'), led a grand procession
through garlands and showering bunches of pink roses, the whole illuminated
with pink lights. The usual military sets were noticeable, and a fondness for
exoticism surfaced in costumes inspired by the harem. Two years later, military
uniforms took on drastic meaning at the 'richly gorgeous spectacle' where even
the decorative motif of 'hectic-tinged foliage' seemed a taste of things to come.
Events moved so swiftly that at the return ball (the traditional ratepayers'
reward to the mayoral couple) a few weeks later, the dearth of uniforms 'grimly
brought to mind the reality of the Broadmeadows encampment'. As the war
dragged on, the event was curtailed in recognition of the untimeliness of wanton
display, and the hall became the hub of Malvern's patriotic enterprises.
However, the tenor of the times was not always a restraining influence on the
instinct for opulence. During the 1930s depression, the balls continued with
undimmed lavishness, despite the suggestion of 'A Regular Subscriber' to the
Malvern Standard that the 1930 ball should be cancelled and the savings
diverted to providing 'toys, also Xmas puddings, for the children of the
unemployed, making them happy and preventing the spread of Communism'.
This shrewd psychology was ignored, and the annual galas went on, reaching a
peak in 1936, when the worst was perhaps over:
suspended from the ceiling were long festoons of greenery concealing red and amber
shaded lights . . . Two bewigged and robed heralds sounded a fanfare of trumpets
which . . . announced the entry of the Mayor and Mayoress and official visitors . . .
The Mayoress was an elegant figure in a gown of lime gold tissue, with shoulder
straps of studded rhinestones; a Grecian cloak fell from the shoulders of the frock.
At the return ball shortly afterwards, the chairman of the citizens' committee
presented the first couple with no less than three timepieces, probably with no
intention of subtle comment on their punctuality, although they often received
clocks and watches (the year before the watches had been encrusted with
diamonds).
Proceedings were timed to the minute and incorporated instructions on
appropriate behaviour. In 1941, the code issued to participants dealt with
practicalities and advised on matters of decorum: 'When waltzing around
Mayor and Mayoress . . . don't cut across or get too near'. The command to the
orchestra was ' N O SWING &c NO SINGING'. To ensure that the occasion was
imbued with proper patriotism, the decor included 'a distant view of Windsor
Castle and the Thames River', while the electricians were instructed to direct
fans at the flag during the national anthem so that it streamed in an inspiriting
manner. After the war, more carefree attitudes came to the fore. Surrounded by
'a galaxy of begonias and poinsettias', 650 Malvernites, along with no less than
five local politicians, gathered for the 1946 mayoral ball which was praised as 'a
good omen for the post-war social era', a boast which seemed proved by the
return ball where 'uniforms were definitely in the minority, with evening dress
A CREEK AND A CORNER
23
for the men coming back into its own'. By 1952, Malvern's formidable political
power showed in the presence of a quartet of Liberal couples (the Holts, the
Oldhams, the Normans and the Warners), and the 'Xmas card' setting was well
up to standard. Dressed in Les Sylphides frocks and carrying '1830 posies', the
debutantes and their partners emerged onto the scene through a cute summer
house. Ball accoutrements might include a list of 'Prominent People present for
Reporter', programs on silk for the mayoress, and lesser programs (deckled edges
and embossed city crest) for the hoi polloi. The musical fare, perhaps 'You forgot
to remember', 'Brown eyes why are you blue', or, less paradoxically, 'Hugo, you
go where I go', was the same regardless of importance. From time to time,
exclusion from the 'Prominent People' category for the mayoral rort might
prompt one of the overlooked (even uninvited) to boycott occasions that carried
an entrance fee — proceeds to charity of course.
The mayoral balls were the most glittering affairs, but other groups ensured
that the goddess of the dance or 'the lovers of terpsichore' were propitiated in
accordance with the spirit of the times, with affairs for the Malvern War Fund
masterminded by the Himings Cabaret Dancers De Luxe during the Second
World War, RSL dances after that crisis was over, weekly square dancing in the
1950s, the Thursday night jollities of Capri Dance Promotions in the 1960s. The
rage for square dancing was so intense that, by the beginning of 1953, about a
dozen local clubs had been formed. St George's Anglican Church club grew so
quickly in two months that the fortnightly dances became weekly affairs, and
the venue changed from their own premises to the town hall, where caller
'American Jimmy Deane, who was responsible for introducing modern square
dancing to Australia', directed proceedings. Jimmy was also available to advise
on the purchase of the proper shoes, especially 'the latest tartan types', at a
newly opened local store.
Pleasure and duty might be lawfully married in events like the 37th Battalion
ball in 1923 which aimed 'to encourage a more Social Spirit among the boys
attending drills'; the dance held annually on the night before the Combined
Public Schools' Sports, with 1941 proceeds going to the Red Cross Prisoner of
War Fund; or the 'Back to Lloyd St' school balls where the profits of the foxtrot
went towards school improvements. The Tooronga Road School jubilee ball in
May 1935 was such a rip-roaring success that a reunion gala was held the next
year, while the students' own end-of-year dance allowed dispensations such as
permitting the girls to attend school with their hair in rags, so that they could
present themselves in the likeness of ringleted damsels from a Georgette Heyer
novel. Lauriston Girls' School's jubilee celebrations in 1951 saw the hall decked
out in the school's talismans, badges, flags, sports pennants, blue and white
balloons, with the humble touch of flowers in floor polish jars 'excellently
disguised inside painted strawberry boxes'. The older generation, it was
observed, were better dancers, and fashion extremes showed in the contrast of
girlish white tulle, a remnant of debutante days, and pencil-line black, a
harbinger perhaps of a freer future. However, liberation was usually not the
keynote of the beauty quest, which stimulated events such as a masked cabaret
ball in 1953 in aid of Miss Rats of Tobruk's bid for the Miss Teenage crown.
24
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
Training the young in the socially acceptable art of dancing was taken
seriously, until the days when training came to be regarded as a shameful brake
on the creative spirit. In March 1891, the Malvern and Armadale Express
announced that 'those well-known teachers of dancing and callisthenics, Mr
and Miss Roberts, are about to commence afternoon and evening classes in the
Malvern Shire Hall'. The lessons were not always confined to dancing. T h a t
horrible tendency to encourage children in vulgar ideas of flirting with one
another . . . goes on at the Dancing Class I have discovered', wrote the
governor's wife, Lady Margaret Stanley, in 1915. One of her daughters had
unfortunately attracted a 'stout apple-cheeked youth of 13' whose name —
Trevor — was 'so redolent of a Dancing Class somehow'. Her children learnt
their steps in a more select environment than the town hall, where from its early
days a succession of teachers, often single ladies, raised the standard of ballroom
dancing by conducting classes and also overseeing some unofficial manoeuvring
between the sexes. Astonishing longevity in the field was reserved for the Misses
Jennie and Eileen Brenan, the former willowy and dark, and the other plump
and fair, in hilarious complement to one another. After a stint in a wooden hall
off Toorak Road, they moved into the major dancing place in the early 1920s.
Thirty years later, at least one of them (probably the plump, fair one who had
become plumper and grey) was still trundling majestically over the slippery
floors, initiating gaggles of gauche public school girls and boys into the deadly
intricacies of the Pride of Erin. More classically minded, Mrs Mascotte Brown
funded free ballet classes. Four years after they began in 1949, about two
hundred little swans — and presumably a quota of ugly ducklings — were
pirouetting across the parquetry.
While Malvernites whiled away many dancing hours under the town hall's
stucco frills, they came as well for entertainment of more serious intent, often
with charitable purposes in mind. Puzzling contemporary references could be
put to effective histrionic use. Reverend Father Meagher opined that 'The
Transvaal Bazaar' had been so named 'because their fair auxiliaries [of fundraising ladies] had a desire to annex; and not annihilate their enemies', and the
Boer War was the focal point of another benefit in 1900 that featured 'an
exhibition of the latest war scenes . . . by the aid of the cinematographe . . . each
picture being greeted with "three times and a tiger" '. Local patriotism could
also be enlisted. William Knox claimed to have
great experience of bazaars, for he believed there were more bazaars held in the
electorate of Kooyong than in the whole of the rest of the Commonwealth . . . He
did not know whether the ladies who had made so many beautiful things had strictly
regarded the Factories Act as to the number of hours they had worked. The visitors
could, however, see that the minimum wage section was strictly observed.
Sometimes the humane impulse was directed to a purely local cause. Shortly
before Christmas 1898, the Malvern state schools presented a grand concert:
'the Charming Cantata "The White Garland", will be rendered IN AID OF
THE PICNIC FUND'. Formed four years before, the school cadets showed off
their drill, while the less militarily inclined showed their physical prowess in a
A CREEK AND A CORNER
series of exercises. The centrepiece cantata carried a didactic message that
seemed to hinge on the gender dichotomy incorporated in the old rhyme 'What
are little girls made of?' (sugar and spice and everything nice) and 'What are little
boys made of?' (frogs and snails and puppy-dog tails). Apart from the Queen, the
main characters were scholars; the Persevering, Punctual and Generous
Scholars were girls, while the Tardy, Selfish and Quarrelsome Scholars were
boys. Slight redress was made in favour of the boys by appointing the Dramatic
Scholar a female role, perhaps a comment on women's alleged tendency towards
histrionics. Each event added its own colour: a 1913 'Moorish Festival, or
Kismet Bazaar' for St Paul's Church (many of the buxom, orientalised vamps
were photographed smoking), an Irish Concert two years later where the
shamrock and the blarney were cultivated to reduce the debt on St Joseph's
Roman Catholic Church, or a performance in 1924 by T h e Twinklers Male
Entertainers' for the Church of Christ School Hall fund. Ten years later, a
performance of a comedy, The Best People, by the Young Malvern League
Dramatic Society aimed to assist the Church of England Babies' Home in
Darling Road; the star 'Miss Thelma Bleechmore was literally snowed in by
flowers'. Occasionally, the recipient of municipal largesse was a single soul, such
as Tramways Trust employee R L Buckley, a Malvern resident of thirteen years'
standing, who in 1925 was 'ordered away to a drier climate by his medical
advisers', or the widow of a dead veteran, who was discovered, after his death in
1936, to be in straitened circumstances.
Melbourne's chronically mendicant hospitals were often beneficiaries.
Proceeds from the event at which the audience was regaled with Boer War
scenes went to the Royal Melbourne, while forty years on a baby show for the
Queen Victoria Hospital was deemed a 'howling success', even though the
champion baby came from Flemington. Occasionally, it was possible to appease
the goddess of dance, the spirit of charity and the instinct for snobbery all at
once. A ball in 1934 for the Homoeopathic Hospital (later Prince Henry's) was
expected to raise profits of £600 and attracted the first official visit of the Mayor
and Mayoress of Melbourne, Sir Harold and Lady Gengoult Smith. As well, it
is presumed, dancing was enjoyed by all. Culture rather than the instinct for
social advancement was enlisted to assist Caritas when Lauriston School's
Memorial Building Fund was launched with a concert in 1949. The entree was a
rousing rendition of Bunyan's 'Pilgrim Song' and the post-prandial offering was
Lewis Carroll's 'Walrus and the Carpenter', but the in-between courses were
a demonstration of the breadth of the school's musical involvement: the
Minuetto from Haydn's Second Symphony, Schubert and Shakespearean
songs, a Boccherini quartet and a Handel sonata were part of the feast.
Sometimes the charitable cause was a state-wide matter, such as the 1891
floods or the Bushfire Relief Fund in early 1939 when, in unfortunate mimicry
of the disaster, fire broke out in the town hall during a concert. Often the call
came from the commonwealth government, usually in the form of a plea to
commit money to fight a war or to repair the economic damage after one. In
March 1946, 1200 people gathered for a radio program and pledged £6000 to a
'Security Loan': 'Particularly bright spots were . . . the gentleman vocalist who
25
26
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
had some difficulty making a choice between "The End of a Perfect Day" and
"Just a Prayer Away"; not to mention the Cowboy Singer who had an accident
with his guitar'. Occasionally, the humanitarian instinct spread to some
international crisis, the significance of which can have been only abstract for
Malvern people, such as the 1922 Armenian Relief Fund or 'the distress in
Japan' appeal in 1923. The publicity dodger produced for Meredith Atkinson's
lecture T h r o u g h Darkest Russia' in aid of the Armenians, although not exactly
their territory, assured donors that 'all Food sent is faithfully distributed
amongst famine stricken people'. An auction of Russian rouble notes and coins
after the talk must have looked like the intrusion of Mammon in bizarrely alien
form. Liberal Party functions for 'Food for Britain' in the wake of the Second
World War responded to a more immediate reality, just as in later days, when
television made disaster an uninvited guest in the living room, Hunger Meals for
the Freedom from Hunger Campaign achieved a personal meaning, probably
amplified and made tangible by Australia's experience of immigration.
There were always calls that could not be answered. In 1926, replying to
Digger S Jeffreys, an unpensioned associate of the Digger Strollers, the town
clerk refused his application for a concert on the discouraging grounds that
'Vaudeville Entertainments do not pay at all, several attempts have been made
but have all ended in failure'. Digger Jeffreys had several companions in
disappointment. Cecil Barrie's offer to give council thirty per cent of the profit
from his 'Sawing a Woman in Half Sensation' was rejected, and the plea of Joe
Davis to perform at the 1926 mayoral smoke concert was turned down, despite
some vigorous self-promotion:
Australia's Clever and Popular Representative Comedian, End-man, Negro Minstrel,
Delineator and Farce Exponent . . . None are more clever and few half so good . . .
Screaming Parodies that Dispel Gloom and Bring Happiness . . . To see him is to
laugh.
The accompanying photograph showed the visage, worn and rather sad, of one
whose capacity for joy had not, perhaps, found a large audience.
After its 1920s metamorphosis, the town hall's copha-block outline remained
unchanged apart from minor alterations — a parquet floor, a skin of refreshing
paint, the appearance of a playful classical apparition in the foyer in the form of
a statue of Cupid and Psyche. However, plans to improve staff conditions,
aggravated by the increasingly bureaucratic tenor of local government, dated
back to the 1940s. In October 1957, plans for an administrative block were
accepted in principle, a proposal that was watered down into a vague direction
'to investigate [the] overall scheme'. In 1961, a £23 000 tender for alterations,
including renovations to the hall and supper room and the erection of the
engineer's office, was accepted, and two years later a kitchen was built.
The major scheme of building a two-storied office block was not revived until
the early 1970s, when architects Yuncken &L Freeman were instructed to
prepare plans and costings for two possibilities, the new block and an internal
reconstruction. The second alternative, to cost $492 000 as against the $792 000
for the larger proposal, was favoured by council in March 1973. However, the
A CREEK AND A CORNER
desire for the more grandiose expansion continued and, in May 1975, the
architects were told to proceed. In March 1976, when council rescinded an
earlier decision to hold an informal ratepayers' poll on the project, opposition
surfaced and some councillors were condemned in the News Sheet for their
apparent fickleness on the value of consultation and their disregard of
conservation imperatives:
far from bringing the administration of the City into the twentieth century, the
lavish redevelopment scheme . . . is just another sad instance of the lag in thinking
and deficiency in vision which so often characterizes municipal government . . .
The two councillors who were the prime targets of this assault defended themselves in the same issue, claiming that the matter was 'the sort of decision which
[councillors] were elected to make', but that a 'statutory, and compulsory' poll
to validate loan proposals was, after all, required by the Local Government Act.
They rebutted the charge that council's intentions had been misrepresented to
the complainant. The debate was accompanied by photographs that showed
staff crammed in their cubbies like rollmops in jars, surrounded by the pickles of
copious files. To emphasise the awfulness of conditions at the town hall, a
sartorially superb Councillor Julius Pollack was tracked by photographers from
the Southern Cross as he rocketed in and out of various portions of the building
like the orb in a pinball game. The frustration caused by his mission was so
intense that, at one point, he was forced to divest himself of his jacket. The
search for a permit was, indeed, a pilgrim's progress.
Opponents of the redevelopment marshalled five per cent of registered voters
to sign a petition, thus forcing a poll on the discouraging date of 22 December
1980. The result (9004 against, 3151 for, a turnout representing over forty-seven
per cent of voters) was deemed 'quite conclusive', but frustrated proponents of
the scheme spoke of unearthing alternative means of obtaining finance, claiming that the thumbs-down came from conservatives 'engulfed by persuasive
arguments about the short term costs'. It might have been argued that radicals
can become conservative themselves when thwarted by democratic vote.
Replying to the charge that he appeared in the minutes as mover of the original
motion to proceed with the $1.35 million renovation, the leader of the NO
faction accused his challengers of 'trying to dig up skeletons'. When the Southern
Cross outlined her alleged contingency plan for securing the necessary finance,
the mayor, A n n Morrow, denied having spoken to its reporter.
The imbroglio threatened to develop into an explosion, but, despite
predictions of uproar, the first council meeting of 1981 was 'well controlled and
surprisingly placid'. A motion 'to "reaffirm the necessity" for a solution' was
passed unanimously, and the architect was posted back to his drawing board.
Although the term 'band-aid' was used to describe the solution, council was
resigned to a modest alternative. The three-storied office block was scrapped
and reconstruction of the south wing accepted, with a new floor linking the
town hall proper and the engineer's department. As partial compensation for
defeat perhaps, the council chamber was subjected to a 'facelift' to enable the
visiting public to enjoy its curious democratic right to see 'everything that is
27
28
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
going on', but externally the grand monument to civic enterprise at the corner
of High Street and Glenferrie Road remained substantially the same.
T h e ball should be over' advised the Southern Cross editorial (9 April 1980).
It was
a relic of the spacious and gracious days of formality and debutantes, of figurehead
mayors and councillors who had time to be concerned with pomp and ceremony and
other outward manifestations of civic power . . . [councillors were] no longer elected
from a limited franchise of well-to-do property owners and local tradesmen . . .
Today's councillors are young, well-qualified, professional men and women, who are
well aware of the needs of the city, who give their time and talents to managing cities
and spending city incomes in ways most likely to improve facilities and services.
The opinion was by no means a brand new one. Qualms about the financial
appropriateness of the mayoral gala went back to 1953, when Councillors R G
Moss and Ian McLaren tried unsuccessfully to convert the occasion into 'a self
supporting Charity Ball'. By the 1970s, its social fittingness was under fire and
the mayoral ball vanished from the social calendars of many councils. With
Malvern's first woman mayor, A n n Morrow, in office, the ball was indeed over,
to be replaced by 'fun days' and community receptions for all classes and all
ages, in an effort to 'decentralize civic occasions back to the wards and the
neighbourhoods'. Decentralisation and community were passions of the times.
The dispute about the town hall's redevelopment had been about securing
bureaucratic efficiency, not enhancing symbolic image. The town hall still
retained a ritual function, but that role had changed dramatically from the days
of all-male smoking orgies, political gatherings that might have emanated from a
one-party state, and boiling meetings where young men were urged to immerse
themselves in Flanders fields. In 1951, coinciding with the Korean War, the
Malvern Recruiting Committee made a brief come-back, but two world wars
had produced a scepticism about unthinking militarism that not even the
downward thrust of communism could dispel. In 1954, an Empire Youth
Sunday pageant was lauded, not very inventively, as an 'excellent portrayal'
with 'interesting and educational value'. A royal visit year, with a newly
crowned and appealingly fresh queen on native ground, it was probably the last
time such massive, ungoverned enthusiasm could be mustered, for the
predominantly Anglo-Saxon society, fiercely and reactively loyal to Britain, had
changed beyond recognition. The shift in symbolic focus was perhaps
exemplified by a note in the council minutes (21 August 1967): 'All future
naturalisation ceremonies to be conducted at City Hall: each new citizen to be
given copy of Bible on which oath of allegiance taken if they want it'. Some of
the initiates may have found the rite at variance with their own political and
cultural heritage, an obligatory stepping stone on which, as one new chum
described it, she 'completed and consolidated her "Australianisation" ' at the
Malvern Town Hall; but a vaster shift was being signalled from the other party.
Australia's overwhelming and obsequious Britishness had dissolved. By 1980,
the change embraced a further expansion of those who were to be accepted as
citizens. At Mayor Healy's naturalisation ceremony in October that year, the
A CREEK AND A CORNER
sixty Malvern residents who were admitted into the fold included a Vietnamese
girl, Lac Long Tran.
The recognition of Australia's irreversible cosmopolitanism was a dramatic
metamorphosis, but there were other shifts. A 'conversazione' and community
singing session where older residents were invited to take the microphone and
share their reminiscences represented another change in orientation. The community had grown older, and retrospection had become a popular pastime. In
1975, a public meeting chaired by Mayoress Healy to discuss the nature of the
city's International Women's Year celebrations was another innovation indicative of massive social change. Women had irreversibly entered the contest for
notice and power.
Although the town hall still hosts wedding receptions, dinner dances and
even archaic survivals like sales of work for the Gentlewomen's Aid Society, the
politicians have repaired to the television studios, with their tractable drycleaned audiences, and the fund-raisers mostly look to the largesse of the welfare
state. Sudden crisis could reconvert the building to its ancient function as a
centre where like-minded citizens gathered to toil for some humanitarian cause.
In February 1983, after the Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria, it became a
clearing-house for over 1000 boxes and cartons that contained 'a myriad of
items brought by hundreds of people as the enormity . . . unfolded to the
stunned but safe Malvernians'. As well, it still provided a stage for protest
against unpopular government policies, as proven by the fiery meetings of the
early 1980s against the ARL. However, the building has generally assumed a
commercial role as an indoor market. The British Antique Dealers' Association
and the government of the Republic of China use the floor to display their
wares. Private entrepreneurs hire the space to dispose of heaps of streakily dyed
jeans, rather cheap, or Australian paintings that range in quality from attic
leftovers to recycled masterpieces, all extremely pricey.
Over this long time, Gardiner's Creek and the Malvern Town Hall had been
passive observers of the city's formation as a community. They were rather like
a sibyl and a sphinx, the one divining the fates, the other observing the
processes, both symbolic of its earthly destiny. Their course had been determined by an obsession with change and development, stifling the unknown,
taming the unkempt, asserting order, expressing dominance. A century ago, to
make this outcome possible, prime Malvern lands, beckoningly empty, waited
to be claimed, dispersed, owned, built on. That process had combined instincts
that were mendacious and sincere, greedy and generous.
29
CHAPTER • 2
Venal Iris, Tender
Violet
(
lris was the Personification of the Rainbow in Grecian Mythology.
She was also said to be the Messenger of ]upiter, who had Deposed
his Father, Saturn, from the Throne, and Thence Became the
Supreme Monarch of Gods and Men, Were She Discharging her
Functions in the Present Day, She Would Convey to all the Tidings
that Glen Iris Park Is The Highest And Best Land Adjacent To
Glen Iris Railway Station.*
Malvern and Armadale Express 27 October 1888
This arch reference to mythology was the device used by one
boom-time auctioneer with a taste for classical reference. Other salesmen chose
a less arcane approach to tickle the appetites of buyers, but the inspiration was
still fanciful. It might be a cheeky colonial filch from Shakespeare. 'Describing
these desirable and choice sites . . . is like attempting to gild gold or to paint the
lily', raved one copywriter, before proceeding to the stranger boast that 'the
climate is thoroughly Tasmanian'. Occasionally, the lyrical was eschewed and
bad taste substituted. Publicity for the sale of the Darlings Estate in November
1888 included a free railway ticket voucher inscribed with a cartoon, Tour little
pigs, not knowing how to drive, Hired a colored coachman — that made 5', and
a baby-pink dodger festooned with the contorted faces of howling babies with
the family name of T h e Darlings'.
Beneath the varnished rhetoric and questionable wit, the emotion was frankly
and insatiably venal, and, with their help, the object was secured. On 11 August
1888, commenting on the price paid for a block opposite the shire hall (£30 000,
a rate of £6000 an acre), the Malvern and Armadale Express was drawn into the
euphoria:
People who thought the Malvern bookmaker mad when six months ago he laid the
wager of £500 to £50 that in less than five years High street, Armadale, land would
fetch £200 per foot, now look upon him as a person who . . . could see further
through a brick wall than most men.
The fever produced heady imaginings of civilising facilities — trams, banks,
30
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
coffee palaces (speculation and teetotalism often went together) — for which no
superlatives were adequate.
The boom may have produced a language, florid and fleshy, to match its
architecture, but the baroque style may be a trait to which the real estate breed
is periodically prone. After the trough of the 1890s, the scribes cleaned up their
rusty nibs and reached again for their thesauruses. 'Secure the substance ere the
shadow fade', crooned the advertisement of W V Bailey in April 1901, before
adopting a more robust stance. T a k e Time by the Forelock and Secure an
Allotment On the garden Estate.' A few years later, in 1912, when the Albion
Estate went under the hammer, a chord of flattery sounded along with the
fanfare of progressivism:
Every estate . . . subdivided in the Darling district has the same story to tell of
successful subdivisional and increased prices . . . Trams! Trams! Trams! have been
the motto of the most up-to-date and go-ahead council in the metropolitan group . . .
Malvern may well turn her eyes to the east . . . she is going to reap a rich harvest
from her forethought and pluck.
Given that it was only two years since the first trams of the Prahran and
Malvern Tramways Trust had trundled out of Cold Bio' depot in a civic
ceremony fit for an antipodean welcome to Cleopatra, the optimism seemed
warranted. However, pressing for the long-promised Malvern Road line, a hardheaded observer predicted that In the course of about three years all tram lines
will be taken over by a Tram Trust, created by the Government, after which
Malvern's chance of new lines will be nix'. Council inaction on the matter was
an added cause of deep gloom: 'many of us will be dead before the construction
of the line begins . . . the North Ward has had a very flaccid representation'.
When the line was finally inaugurated in April 1915, the swan song to
Malvern's tramway fortunes was sung by a prestigious flock, including three
mayors (from Melbourne, Prahran and Malvern) and their mayoresses, each of
the ladies equipped with silver scissors to cut the white ribbons strung across the
line at the municipal boundaries. Appropriately, and perhaps prophetically, at
the end of the trip the company lauded the 'immense amphitheatre of swelling
hills . . . fringed with many pleasant homes'. For the long-term reality was that
the fabulous east was to linger in semi-developed rawness for decades partly
because those rocketing civilisers, the trams, came so far and went no further.
However, in 1912, when the land beyond the Albion Estate to the Outer
Circle Railway line was auctioned, hopes were still high. On this occasion,
romantic hyperbole was foregone, and the bait was unabashedly commercial:
'Ridiculously Low Reserves. Upset Prices from 12/6 per foot. Attend this Sale
and participate in the inevitable increase in value'. As well as future prospects,
an immediate inducement was offered in free railway passes and cabs from the
tram terminus. In a busy auction, over £18 000 was realised. Even so, central
Malvern was a more reliable investment. Also in 1912, a record price of £100 per
foot was paid for a block at the corner of Glenferrie and Wattletree Roads. One
of the most lustrous plums on the tree was the Malvern Hill Estate next to the
Glenferrie Road mansion Stonnington, formerly part of Woodmason's immense
31
32
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
landholdings and exchanged by him for Melrose Downs, a retreat at Bayswater:
'Mr ADOLF J O H N S T O N . . . has no use for this land . . . Only Cure Attendance of Thirty people at the Auction, each of whom want and will buy one of
the best building sites in Progressive Malvern'. When another hill site,
Valentines Estate, was carved up, only the rudiments — drainage, water, gas
and electricity — were extolled, possibly out of deference to the sensibilities of
the Davies family, whose occupation of the Burke Road site had not been
untroubled. By July 1914, values were rising, but still far below the 'boom- time'
mark. A site in High Street had recently sold for £10 per foot, compared with
£30 twenty-five years before.
A more realistic comparison could be more heartening, for land in Scott
Grove had risen about £4 per foot between 1909 and 1914. Smoothing down the
realities or playing up the possibilities might also be spurs to investors. Houses
on the Mont Iris Estate, it was claimed, would overlook a 'magnificent lake . . .
57 acres in extent'. The sheet of water was to prove a mirage. When the
Gardiner Railway Estate was put on the market, the description made no
mention of the bad habits of Gardiner's Creek: 'Beautiful views. High and Dry.
Rich Gardening Soil. Perfect Drainage. Magnificent Frontages. Noble Depths'.
The inflated claims went unchallenged, but concern was voiced at obvious
sleight of hand, even if the attendant humour was curdled with racism: T h e
ways of some of the sub-dividers . . . are, apparently, like those of the heathen
Chinee, "peculiar" . . . streets were laid out in devious ways with the object of
increasing the number of blocks' (Malvern News 12 September 1914).
So immense that it seemed limitless, the land of Australia, whether on the
ramshackle fringes of settlement, the shadow-swallowing wooded plains or the
measly outback, had always been regarded as an exploitable commodity, a boon
to get-rich-quicks. 'Is this all men can do with a new country?' asked Harriet
Somers, newly arrived from England, in D H Lawrence's Kangaroo, surveying
the strung-out suburban awfulness, while her husband pondered gloomily on
the society in that new country: 'all . . . made in five minutes, a substitute for
the real thing . . . New countries were more problematic than old ones'. This
reality encouraged a profligacy with nature as if it were a bottomless barrel of
coin, easy to dip into and with no one around to call a halt. The settler
mentality was impatient and disrespectful, and the burgeoning cities promised
more in the way of instant profits than did the repetitious distances.
Malvern itself had always been a favoured playground for speculators, some of
them the most audacious in Victoria, and the times were so tolerant that no
disgrace attached to the title as a professional self-description. At three sales in
1855, most of the purchases were made on behalf of syndicates who bought land
by the acre. Barrister and speculator Charles Bruce Skinner was a major
purchaser, who subdivided Malvern's high lands into over ninety lots for
auction on 27 November 1856. The sale was a failure, but Skinner made a
lasting, if inadvertent contribution to the locality's history by preparing a plan
for a village, to be called Ledbury after the ancient English market town in the
Malvern Hills where his forebears had originated. In 1878, after a quiet process
of consensus had been achieved, the name Malvern, with its fiery historical
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
associations (beacons were lit along the hills as a danger signal for the English
when threatened by invasion) was proclaimed. A crown land sale on the same
day as Skinner's attracted several gamblers in acres, most of whom were lawyers
buying for syndicates. The legal profession loomed large in land ownership, two
of the most substantial being Edward Charsley and barrister-politician George
Briscoe Kerferd. Some of the prime lands eventually went to those whose
interests were more creative than a tight obsession with their own financial
advantage. All the eastern frontages on Glenferrie Road between High Street
and Dandenong Road went to the Fulton Land Syndicate. However, they were
soon sold to William Chandler from Peckham Rye, England, for a market
garden.
Many of the larger speculators were able to bide their time in realising on their
investment, and just as well, because poor transport facilities stood in the way of
lightning profits. The shire intermittently petitioned for consideration when the
Victorian government was extending the railway system. In August 1874, the
shire secretary wrote requesting that the proposed Gippsland Railway should
pass through Malvern to provide a fillip to the development of an area whose
'Altitude, Healthiness, Beauty and Fertility . . . are unsurpassed by any other
suburb of the City of Melbourne'. Four years later, when the line went through
south Malvern, the object was partially achieved, but the north and east were
still unserved.
The 1880s boom conditions stimulated an appropriately crazy tempo for
investors to divest themselves of their lands, sometimes at the expense of more
humanitarian services. In July 1885, the owner of land in Tooronga Road
informed the Education Department that he declined to sell the site for a
school: 'the rapid increase in value . . . in that neighbourhood must be my
excuse'. Inadequate transport still stood in the way of securing maximum profit,
and agitation for improved and extended railway services increased. In early
1888, a shire hall meeting condemned the awfulness of the Caulfield-Oakleigh
service: the blindless vehicles were no better than cattle trucks and ladies, even
the odd fair-skinned gentleman, had to open their parasols 'to prevent their
faces being flistered [blistered?] with the intense heat'. James Munro M L A
shared a carriage with a swarm of flies hatched on the seaweed at Frankston.
The railway commissioners were accused of gross neglect of the eastern suburbs
because they lived elsewhere: 'if they have not taken a long "nap" or a holiday
studying the Chinese . . . [they] will wake up and show they are equal to the
task of providing something . . . more in keeping with this enlightened
nineteenth century'. Deputations of irate constituents felt that they were
accorded only bland platitudes and flimsy promises. The accused pointed to the
staggering 1200 miles of track that had been laid in the previous four years.
Also, it seemed, the longed-for Glen Iris line was so much advanced that 'the
Commissioners think it scarcely necessary to trouble a deputation', an
assurance that allowed vendors of the Darlings Estate to claim that the railway
millenium would arrive before buyers had to pay their first instalment.
The last four months of 1888, the year when Melbourne's boom madness
peaked, saw a furious selling spree in Malvern: the Town Hall Estate, diagonally
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
across from the town hall; the Great Malvern Park Estate between Darling and
Burke Roads; the Triple Railway Station Estate in the same vicinity; the Bella
Vista Estate between Khartoum and Hawthorn Roads; the Station Estate
bounded by Wattletree Road, Station Street and Glendearg Grove; Glen Iris
Park, part of the Malvern, Darling and Waverley Roads triangle; Belmont
Estate, defined by Gardiner's Creek and High Street from Burke Road to
Tooronga Road. The Station Estate carried the imprimatur of the shire
engineer, T B Muntz, who praised it as the 'HEART OF THE DISTRICT'.
Railway passes, and comfortable marquees, with luncheon often thrown in,
were perks offered to aspiring purchasers. There was no mention of free
champagne, perhaps a superfluity in the already intoxicated atmosphere. Held
in September, the first four of these sales netted over £119 000. A few nit-pickers
suggested that the amounts were artificially bolstered by dummy purchases
instigated by the bevy of land companies that had swarmed into existence, but
the suspicions and the scrutiny did not spread far. At the beginning of 1889, the
local paper noted proudly that Malvern's rateable property had zoomed in value
by £62 000 in twelve months.
The sums were astronomical and the times were heady, but the balloon of
profit was made of perilously thin rubber. Even before the announcement of the
area's swelling rateability, the casualties were dropping from the sky. In January,
the report of the inquest into the death of David Smyth, High Street, was
melancholy reading: 'the deceased owns property in the district . . . recently he
had suffered considerable mental trouble, owing to speculation in land . . . the
deceased was heard by his son moaning in bed . . . he said he had taken poison'.
Likewise, Thomas Crisp, solicitor, sank into 'a condition of absolute
melancholy' which resulted in his suicide, when assorted syndicates in which he
had an interest failed. Hardier souls toughed out the discomfiture and survived
to recoup their fortunes or to lapse into woebegone retirement. Questioned
about his pennilessness, Harold Sparks JP set up a smokescreen of amnesia:
W e n in regard to a transaction which involved half a million of money, the
witness showed a surprising want of memory'. The embarrassment reached into
the council chamber in April 1891, the year the Voluntary Liquidation Act was
passed, when Councillor Percival Longbottom, builder and contractor of
Mercer Road, was declared insolvent because of 'inability to realise on freehold
property'. His resignation was circumspectly received, and the most exotic name
in Malvern's civic annals was erased. In contrast to these awkward exposures,
when the really high-flyers toppled from their cushioned seats in the balloon,
the local press was discreetly mute.
Longbottom was gentleman enough to vanish from the scene; others saw no
reason to be dislodged, nor did their colleagues see any reason to evict them.
Council's solicitors, Braham &L Pirani, negotiated many secret compositions for
their clients, a perfectly legal, yet morally questionable enterprise that disadvantaged investors. Shire Engineer Muntz, who had lent his name to some of
Munro 6k Baillieu's auctioneering blurbs and orchestrated many major Malvern
subdivisions, found land speculation more beguiling than engineering and was
implicated to the crown of his top hat — or perhaps to the tip of his surveyor's
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
rod. His office may well have been an ideal headquarters from which to advise
friends and prosecute his own advantage. His allegedly exorbitant salary as
engineer became an issue in the vigorously contested 1890 election, but his
accuser was defeated by the incumbent councillor, and the result was taken to
indicate approval of the shire's engineering arrangements. In 1892, when his
financial affairs began to sour, Muntz was said to have resigned, but the
departure seemed to have been a phantom one. In 1894, council rescinded a
decision to dispense with his services for reasons of economy and determined to
retain him until completion of a sewerage contract that was underway. Messrs
Muntz & Muntz continued to subdivide Malvern land for their clients into the
First World War, and the firm of Braham 6k Pirani stayed on as the city's
solicitors until 1972, when their legal role was reduced to conveyancing and
preparation of agreements.
Given that many of the balloonists had Malvern connections, council was in
a potentially delicate position. Alex McKinley, shire president for the crucial
years between 1891 and 1893, was an accomplished speculator in land and was
indebted to banks established by the Davies family for finance for his newspapers Melbourne Punch and the Daily Telegraph. Astute and hard-headed, he
must have been aware that the craft was about to collapse. In the event, he
made a secret composition with his creditors in 1895, paying threepence in the
pound on debts of £45 000, and yet his role as civic leader and man about
Malvern was undiminished. His creditors, the four Davies brothers, were also
deeply involved in Malvern affairs. George had resigned as manager of the
Australian Deposit and Mortgage Bank Limited to oversee the Gascoigne group
of companies for his brother Matthew, whose tentacles went beyond the
regulation eight, and extended to the grip of the odd marriage connection (his
brother-in-law, James Mercer, managed the Victorian Land Company). By
1887, Matthew Davies had organised a network of about forty speculative
companies, whose operations were facilitated by his recommendation, as
chairman of a royal commission into banking, that restrictions for lending
money on the security of freehold property be removed. When his Mercantile
Bank suspended dividend payments in early 1892, he resigned as Member for
Toorak and rushed to England in a futile attempt to stave off disaster. By the
time he returned to Melbourne, most of his other companies were in the mire,
and, after writs accusing him of fraud were withdrawn, he repaired to Colombo
in a state of 'severe nervous prostration'. Subsequently, a lengthy trial failed to
unravel his tangled financial transactions, and he was acquitted to resume legal
practice and Freemasonry. A fellow defendant, also let off the leash, was
Malvern's shire engineer, who was a director of the bank.
Having accumulated losses to the public of over four million pounds, Davies'
companies vanished like a string of bubbles, leaving behind, as the Bulletin
described it, 'a pitiable procession' of ruined grey-beards, servant girls, widows,
spinsters, shareholders 'red-eyed . . . paralytic . . . pious . . . who [had] practised
the great virtue of Thrift'. Perhaps the heart-rending sympathy was partly
gratuitous, for in his The Pleasant Career of a Spendthrift and his Later Reflections^
George Meudell, one-time manager of the Commercial Bank, noted that, out of
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
misplaced or submissive stoicism, the injured public failed to press its grievances.
Apart from gullibility in assessing the probity of society's managers, the solid
ridge provided by the political, legal and financial forces may have been an
impassable barrier. Meudell recalled Davies' demeanour — externally 'blithe
and debonair . . . withal sombre at heart' — in the precincts of the Athenaeum
Club over breakfasts of meltingly buttered toast and the Argus with its daily
news of collapsing companies: 'That breaking up of the small land jobbing
companies lasted about a month . . . And M H Davies became invisible'.
More visible was another lawyer and politician, John Mark Davies, lingering
in the servantless grandeur of his Malvern mansion, Valentines, begun in 1891
and costing an estimated £70 000; but left half used, half furnished and with
gum trees crowding the elegant portico instead of the carriages of his guests. Far
from being lord of the manor, he became the tenant of his mortgagees. His
daughters did the cooking, and, even in this state of diminished expectation, the
parties were jolly, if homely. Another victim of the crash — if the puppeteer can
also be described as the puppet — his General Land and Savings Company
Limited failed, but allegations that it had been formed to take over land already
owned by the directors were never investigated. He remained solvent, finally
discharging his debts in 1906. Fifty-nine years after its publication, a copy of the
Age of 4 June 1892 was found by electricians in the cellars of Malvern Grammar
School (formerly Valentines). It offered 'a detailed report of a meeting of the
Depositors of the Australian Deposit &L Mortgage Bank, then in liquidation . . .
an announcement outlining a plan of reconstruction was made by Mr J M
Davies, MLC, solicitor to the liquidators'. Preserved by chance and discovered
by serendipity, this 'buried treasure' was perhaps a sign that Davies had not
entirely buried his past.
The fourth brother of this extraordinarily active family, J B Davies, was less
fortunate — or perhaps, since he was the most colossally indebted, more
fortunate. In 1892, the Freehold Investment and Banking Company Proprietary
Limited, of which he was managing director, was liquidated. Two years later, he
went bankrupt with debts of £594 000, eventually paying a farthing in the
pound. Compassionately discharging Davies 'to make a fresh start in life', the
judge attributed his downfall solely to 'misfortune'. He had, however, lost his
Malvern mansion, along with a suffocation of contents that included Wilton
carpets, silk hangings, Japanese screens, a grand piano, a billiard table, assorted
bric-a-brac and paintings by now forgotten artists.
The pall of financial trauma that hovered over Malvern extended further. The
Munro family, whose involvement in the financial crisis was a very deep mine
shaft, had also made the aristocratic suburb their home. In the wake of his
father's abdication from the premiership and departure for England to the
agent-general's sinecure, and aware perhaps of the elder Munro's imminent
insolvency, Donald Munro manfully resigned from council on 6 September
1892. Apart from the burr of the paternal connection, his auctioneering
partnership with W L Baillieu, financed through his father's liberality with
other people's money, was a complication.
Munro was not the only councillor to resign that year. Four months earlier, in
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
an unprecedented and never-to-be-repeated act of self-relinquishment, three
others had laid down their civic duties within a fortnight: R G Benson, four
times shire president, A E Clarke, also a former first citizen, and R O'Donnell,
who had teamed up with Munro & Baillieu in auctioning the Town Hall Estate.
Perhaps, for varied reasons, they had had enough, but a climate of unease is
suggested. The elderly Benson was to die two years later, while Clarke, deemed
by the roving phrenologist of the Malvern and Armadale Express to have 'activity
and insight into coming events', may have read the writing on the wall with
trepidation. Only O'Donnell left a hint as to his motivation. He had failed to
have a resident engineer appointed, presumably a lone effort to squeeze out the
tenacious Muntz, whose resignation that year had seemingly been more gesture
than intention. As well, shortly before his departure, O'Donnell wrote
'referring to the unemployment question' and asking council to undertake
public works. He was informed that 'Council is doing all it can in this matter'.
Munro was the only one of the four to return, and he rocketed back swiftly,
for within a fortnight of his resignation he was re-elected after an extraordinary
election — probably simply restored by the consensus of his peers. After the
mud-slinging 1890 election, by 1893 all opposition had withered: 'Quietness
reigns absolutely in Malvern re-election matters', and the three candidates were
'blessed with a walk-over'. Just before the election, Table Talk had revealed from
its examination of the Federal Bank's overdraft book — a creation of 'The Clan
Munro' — that Munro junior was involved in overdraft debts totalling
£161 237. 'In any other city but Melbourne such revelations . . . would have led
to such a clamour for justice that no Government would have dared ignore', the
journal fulminated, but few wished to open Munro's Pandora's box. Silence and
apathy also characterised the 1894 contest, but fraternal sporting matters were
not neglected. Swashbuckling in towering top hat, hands tucked in his pockets,
Munro was photographed with his peers at a Malvern-Caulfield cricket match.
Probably without any intention of signifying his spotlessness of character,
McKinley stood with the group, dressed in a white suit. The next year, Munro
was unanimously elected shire president. In his acceptance speech, he described
himself as young and inexperienced, but also dutiful and a teetotaller.
In material terms, the family's fortunes had, however, declined. When James
Munro, a fierce abstainer and architect of many failed coffee palaces, attempted
political resurrection and stood for Toorak in the 1900 state election, his
enlightened platform embraced one-man-one-vote, old age pensions, technical
education, conciliation and arbitration, and women's suffrage (inevitable, he
said, because it was implicit in impending commonwealth legislation). He was a
genuine social meliorist, who had in 1873 offended his more draconian fellow
councillors by promoting the eight hour day for municipal labourers; but his
attitude to using invested money for speculative purposes seemed strangely
dissonant with his more radical postures. Defending his risky past, he referred
aggrievedly to his loss of Malvern lands: 'When he first lived in Armadale,
which he had named after his native village, he was the owner of 72 acres which
were free of encumbrance. Now he was the owner of a section 8 by 8 in the
cemetery'. Furthermore, he had spent 'hundreds of thousands of pounds there'
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
and paid his bills instantly. In his mind, the reduction of his holdings to the
dimensions of a gravesite was clearly someone else's fault. Perhaps his local
supporters were also of that opinion, because, although he was defeated, he
gained a majority in Malvern and Armadale. Malvern was Virtually
disenfranchised', groaned the local paper, boosted only by the thought that,
since the winner was a fading troglodyte, little harm would ensue. After a
peppery local election campaign in 1899, his son took a more voluntary rest
from political affairs. Following a stint in the Boer War, he was reported to be
doing well in South Africa, as partner in a 'horse bazaar' and stock and station
agency.
Malvern was not only the home of prominent casualties of the crash; many of
the ricketty companies were ratepayers. Always laconic, council minutes
became deeply inscrutable, almost Delphic, although on the surface the mood
was business as usual. The chief players had removed themselves temporarily
from prominence, recuperating for a come-back. True, circumspection was
required. In February 1894, council considered a letter 'From Freehold ck Invest
Coy & the matter of [James] Balfour. The President stated it better under the
circumstances not to vote on the question'. The matter stayed unexplained, and
perhaps wisely so, for the company was one of the Davies family's more
notorious facades and the first to suspend payment with liabilities of a million
and a half pounds. Politician Balfour was prominent in its management and had
lent his name to many Davies enterprises. The council meeting at which the
obscure reference was made was the first held after court proceedings relating to
his connection with the company had been reported in the press. Seemingly
more discreet, and certainly more sound, Sir Frederick Sargood instructed the
shakily reconstructed Commercial Bank to have his name removed from the
Malvern rolls 'in respect of their properties'.
Dignified silence was the best recourse. In accordance with the style of
unflappability, the 1894 'Shire Perambulation', conducted by the new president,
William Knox, concentrated amiably on more durable structures than jerrybuilt companies: 'After visiting the well-known Tooronga road drain and other
places of interest . . . the company were driven to the President's palatial
mansion [Ranfurlie], where they were sumptuously regaled at dinner'. Despite
the bonhomie, the problems were worrying, if not catastrophic. Early tremors
had caused a rash of appeals against valuations, and many individuals and
companies fell behind in their rate payments. Contributions towards roadmaking costs were even harder to extract, but resignation was often the only
attitude to adopt. Solicitors' advice about means of extracting £500 from the
Freehold Investment Company, whose manners were tougher than their
scaffolding, was that 'Council not being preferential creditors . . . must accept
whatever dividends are made payable'. A decade later, council was still
contemplating the best course for managing its interest there. Other companies,
including some Davies organisations, were equally elusive or temporising,
offering to pay overdue rates if interest were foregone and objecting to
construction works. Council was reluctantly forced to write some of these sums
off its books. Some ordinary — or perhaps extraordinary — ratepayers were
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
accepted as defaulters. W L Baillieu slipped up on three pounds odd for private
street construction, and the Equity Trustees wrote that the estate of the
redoubtable William Woodmason, who had died in 1894, was probably not
liquid enough to pay its share for the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue. By
March 1895, council was in overdraft, and the Public Works Committee advised
that a 'reduction can now be made in the staff of day laborers . . . Messrs King
and Coates [to] be informed that their services will not be required\
All this frantic speculation in land might have seemed to stymie the plans of
gentler souls who saw a vision of paradise gardens hovering over the raw acres,
populated by ladies with parasols, moppets with hoops or tops, gentlemen
benignly overseeing their human interests, all happily recreating in a clime that
was like old England. Australians might have seemed, as D H Lawrence put it,
to treat the land 'more like a woman they pick up on the streets than a bride',
but when the dressmaker was English the treatment was fit for a lady. Visiting
in 1871, Anthony Trollope found the colonials laudably addicted to public
gardens'. Even smallish country towns possessed parks with lakes, rotundas,
undulant avenues and curlicued entrance gates. The capital cities had grandly
landscaped and manicured botanic gardens, and suburbs like Malvern were
keen to acquire their own verdant retreats — provided the land companies
allowed them. 'It is by no means business-like to neglect to secure reserves until
a boom in building sets in' was the warning, but the over-confident editorialist
was not quite right. Malvern gained at least four parcels of parkland from the
remnant sales of the boom-company empires. One High Street strip came from
the off-loadings of the Federal Bank. A more substantial offering by the
Australian Deposit and Mortgage Bank (thirteen acres on Burke Road at £460
per acre) was narrowly lost shortly before that bank suspended payment in
March 1892. These formal approaches to sell land may only represent a portion
of the devalued assets offered.
No taint of financial opportunism attached to the opening of Malvern's first
public gardens, eight acres fronting Spring Road and High Street that had been
secured in 1885 after a public protest at the government's intention of
auctioning the land. On 12 December 1890, little dreaming of the crash to
come, the city was en fete when local parliamentarian and former premier,
Duncan Gillies, performed the christening ceremony, not before a font, but
with a gold key, set with a heart-shaped opal, to open gates padlocked with
silver and gold chains. The 'large and fashionable gathering' included Premier
James Munro and Shire President Alex McKinley, who alluded to the council's
farsightedness in securing the site: 'Malvern was going to be one of the most
popular suburbs in the metropolis'. 'Statuary', Gillies opined, should be added
to the existing adornments. To show that this was not a one-off tribute to the
recreational spirit, council had the previous year offered prizes for the two best
designs for its Eastern Recreation Reserve in the wilds of the municipal domain
bordering Gardiner's Creek, and shortly after it resolved to advertise for offers
of five acres for public gardens to the value of £6000.
However, the ripeness of the times had proceeded to rottenness, and there
were to be no more fetes like the grand baptism of the Malvern Gardens until
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
the years of gloom, embarrassment and stringency were passed. Lip service continued to be paid to the notion that preservation of open spaces as ' "lungs" to
the town' was vital and should not focus on the central area. Although Malvern
houses were felt to be botanically well endowed, a belief flourished that 'a purer
ozone' existed in larger garden spaces, drawing the population, especially the
children, 'not for the purpose of sporting "smart frocks", drinking tea, and
retailing scandal', but to imbibe its purer essences.
With the depression almost behind, council considered ways and means of
fulfilling its long-held promises in the matter of reserves. In October 1898,
Councillor Thomas Carroll favoured forcing ratepayers to purchase available
open spaces, perhaps the Olives Estate, available for £6000 and also 'picturesque
&L very accessible'. He was backed editorially by a suggestion that properties
adjoining reserves should be subject to a betterment rate. It was not perhaps the
best way of stimulating enthusiasm for public gardens. The avenging spectre of
gardenless future generations was summoned, along with some heavy
recrimination: 'Had there been a little more business-like dash in the past
Malvern would not now deplore the reserves of which she is so utterly destitute'.
The need for space for 'manly sports' was urged, and the Malvern Tradesmen's
Club joined the action with a decisive, if unenforceable motion.
Once again, council seemed to resemble a hen virtuously, but not very
productively, sitting on a stale egg. Its oratory was empty, the Malvern and
Armadale Recorder observed in November 1900:
Malvern Shire councillors wore a weary look as they filed into the council chamber.
It was thought the council in committee had been engaged in an act of incubation
concerning reserves . . . but . . . they had been polishing up the estimates . . . The
'hatching' of the reserves is now so long . . . that fears are expressed that the whole
affair has become 'addled'.
Altruism and self-interest might be satisfied at the same time. Acceptance of an
available rubbish dump in Union Street in the gardenless west riding 'would
also be a means of inducing owners of land . . . to erect a superior class of
buildings, and thus displace many tenements which are but little if any better
than rookeries'. Councillor Louis Holmes, an advocate of public gardens,
plugged away and succeeded in having a Land Purchase Committee appointed,
but his fellow councillors showed a languor that resembled indifference. A
deputation on the matter from enthusiasts in the west was loftily informed that
a decision 'would be conveyed . . . in due course'.
The public thirst for a pleasing combination of natural and manufactured
beauty could always be assuaged by contemplating the established glories of the
Malvern Gardens, 'a credit to the community . . . absolutely unequalled by any
other of their size in the metropolitan area, or elsewhere'. For those who liked
their ornaments domesticated, Robinette's fountain was styled like a hugepergne, while a taste for gothic decoration might be satisfied by the contorted
dolphins gazing dolefully over a gap-toothed grotto. Thomas Pockett's famous
tousled chrysanthemums looked small by modern standards, but to supply the
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
heavy demand for blooms for social functions, quantity and variety, rather than
size, tended to be the aim.
For more sporting matters, cricket matches and athletic contests, there was
the ground behind the shire hall, looking reassuringly village-greenish with its
backing of established exotic trees, spires, chimneys and roof-scapes of St
George's Church and vicarage. The Malvern Gymnastic and Athletic Club was
launched in mid 1890 under shire-presidential patronage, and quickly gathered
in 150 members. The gala opening was thought to be basic enough to require
the exclusion of women: 'no ladies will be admitted. Professor Miller will go
through some heavy weight lifting, while Professor English will bring a team
from the National Gymnasium, Jolimont, to go through a series of feats'.
Transmuted into the Malvern Harriers, the group could claim at its eighth
annual meeting in 1901 that it had 'proved to be one of the leaders of this manly
pastime . . . with careful organisation and judicious handling, the "Malvern"
could . . . annex a good share of the trophies offered for this branch of sport'.
Cricket was not only manly, but gentlemanly. Malvern had been 'en fete . . . a
high holiday from noon' for a jovial two-day tussle in January 1888 between
twelve English players under W G Grace and a Malvern team of twenty-two,
the locals fortified by members of the All Australian Eleven. It looked like a
potentially damaging inequality of numbers. In a confused outcome, the game
was either declared a draw or Malvern won by forty-eight runs; but the finale
was undisputed, a friendly glass of wine in the shire hall, perhaps representing
an exception on the part of notable Malvern teetotallers in the gathering.
The cricket club's fifth annual fancy dress carnival and sports meeting in late
1900 prompted some obscure reporting that showed a threat from the Malvern
Football Club to the club's exclusive occupancy: 'The leather-lunged fraternity
were again present. Why they haunt the Malvern cricket ground is incomprehensible, as the amount of business done by various metallicians would barely
pay for lead-pencils'. Denied use of the field, the followers of the leather egg
lobbied council to have the embargo rescinded. The reasons for their exclusion
were moral and practical: damage to the turf, the small space and the fear that
bad language might waft into St George's churchyard. The city fathers were also
plagued by tennis players and bowlers who argued for the creation of new
facilities to accommodate their enthusiasms, but cricket retained its civic regard.
The piecemeal purchase of land went slowly ahead. In 1907, the eighteen acre
reserve bordering Burke and Wattletree Roads was purchased for £5000 and
warranted the dignity of a title. A canvass of councillors failed to produce an
imaginative suggestion, and the banal Central Park was adopted. A few years
later, the Edwardian-Tudor kiosk was available for functions such as the grand
afternoon tea in celebration of the opening of the Malvern Road tram line, and
several cricket clubs vied for use of the new pitches. Council's responsibility for
ensuring the sanctity of the sabbath was a hot issue (the band was instructed not
to practise during church hours), and even minor moral matters were timeconsuming. The question of diversions appropriate for public parks was taken
seriously, if irreverently reported. In 1912, the question of a kiosk for the city's
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
premier garden foundered on the pebbles of indecisive debate: 'Cr Lewis . . . did
not believe in afternoon tea (and so are a lot more happy souls who can get a
whisky and soda when they want one) . . . [while] Cr Weller suffered much in
thinking the children might buy lollies there'. Twelve years were to pass before
this facility, deemed to be de rigueur in European gardens, was available.
However, these were peripheral matters, when parts of Malvern still lacked
public gardens. There was the vexed question of parkland in 'the most
picturesque [eastern] portion of the city . . . Then perchance our feathered
friends would . . . again charm us with their songs'. The reproaches of future
generations were again feelingly invoked, but the guilt arousal was hardly
necessary, for all were united in determination to purchase land along
Gardiner's Creek. Separate from the dictates of policy, the preservation of open
space sometimes had an element of the fortuitous. When the Hedgeley Dene
Estate came up for sale in 1911 as part of A S Baillieu's holdings, a section was
reserved for drainage, and a future garden became possible. The accumulation
of parklands was necessarily tortuous and haphazard, but, by the mid 1920s, the
city's annual report could announce proudly that twenty-seven parks and
gardens, ranging from the proverbial pocket handkerchief to spacious if not
extravagant pleasure gardens, accounted for 9.7 per cent of Malvern's total area.
It sounded like a handsome trusteeship, but the figure was less impressive when
the large reserve along Gardiner's Creek was taken into account. As well, much
of the land was still semi-wilderness.
Large-scale aesthetic improvement had to wait until after the 1918 armistice.
At Central Park, the fences were replaced by raised rockeries, the serpentine
walk was filled in and bamboos were planted around the band stand. The kiosk
was dignified by new uses; it was 'quite the fashionable thing to erect Hyman's
[sic] Altar . . . and join [in] holy matrimony the fair maidens of East Malvern
with their willing lovers', while those who had not formalised matters tried to
sort out their preferences by parading around 'the field, females clockwise, males
anti-clockwise'. The serpentine style was also adopted at Ardrie Park, where the
winding avenue was lined with twelve-year-old elms. Like Hedgeley Dene, it was
a park sandwiched between subdivisions. Lacking the amplitude of forethought,
they gained a bonus of eccentric charm from their unplanned origins.
To satisfy more utilitarian demands, the number of cricket pitches at Glen Iris
Park was extended from four to twelve, while, to fulfil an even more practical
obligation, seventeen acres at Tooronga Park were drained and planted under
repatriation work after the First World War. By the mid 1920s, the Union Street
gardens were a thriving tennis centre and the playground, with average
attendances of eighty children daily, had earned Sir James Barrett's accolade of
being 'the best organised playground in Melbourne'. Despite this endorsement,
the reserve became disputed territory in early 1933 over the issue of competing
claims between tennis players and children. As protagonist for the latter group,
the play mistress, backed by testimonials from irate mothers, won the day. The
existing committee resigned en masse, and more child-centred management came
into power.
The most picturesque scheme was reserved for the Hedgeley Dene Gardens,
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
where F L Reeves, who became curator in 1921, advanced a rusticated plan, the
chief dictates of which were sentiment and nostalgia. The focal point was the
transformation of the site's original pond into a lake with all the fanciful touches
of a European prototype — stonework, clever little bridges where sophistication
and artlessness intermingled, plentiful water plants. Shortly after the First
World War, the island was formed and sixty Turkey Oaks of gnarled and shady
habit were planted. Behind the scenes, however, council was considering the
proposal of petitioners from Glen Iris, who wished to dispel the area's 'Sleepy
Hollow' image and develop a complex of tennis courts, bowling green, croquet
lawn and club-house. A 1922 legal opinion put the onus on council to pay for
the program, and the enthusiasts were hastily diverted to an area of the Oaks
Estate. A year later, the Glen Iris Valley Recreation Club was in comfortable
residence, commending its own role in stimulating residential expansion in the
sluggish east.
Reeves' dream was narrowly saved, and soon his design was well advanced,
grassy verge established, lake filled, bridges looking like mock-ups for a Monet
masterpiece, water lilies blooming, raised beds in the lake planted with irises of
several nationalities: T h e miniature waterfall lends additional charm to this
pretty retreat . . . already a resort where visitors are induced to linger'. One
citizen was so enthusiastic that he offered £1500 to complete the gardens to
Malvern Road, provided council spent an equivalent amount. The mix of trees
was a judicious blend of the native and the imported: tamarisk, choisya, rare
grevillea, gums, Chinese elms, Lombardy poplars, English ash. A couple of years
later, the effect that the designer intended was virtually achieved. The emphasis
was exotic, archaic, the kind of beauty that stirred the spirit of joy almost to the
point of tears, ideal for summer picnics, a magnet for artists charmed by the fiery
tints of autumn. In an unintentionally ambiguous compliment, in November
1930, the Malvern Standard pronounced that it 'should answer to the synonym
"Cinderella of Gardens"'. Perhaps the artist in the creator led to discouragement of more rollicking activity. Paddling was banned, cycling was stamped out,
and a group of high-spirited young rowdies were curbed, for fear they would
drive away 'some wild fowl in the Pond'. The curb on excessive joy applied to all
the reserves. In an even more severe exercise of restraint, a member of the
curator's staff was said to have rebuked a child for playing in Malvern Gardens!
When Reeves died in early 1933, Hedgeley Dene was described as a
monument to his ability, but he had also applied his inventiveness to Central
Park, where the flourishes of garden-making art had been amplified by
decorative features: a marble fountain 'with sunken crazy path and encircling
masonry', a drinking fountain, also marble, both philanthropic gifts that
citizens were enjoined to match. The park's most appealing feature was a steel
and glass conservatory, rather brusque in outline, where rotating displays of
tropical and other plants attracted as many as 2000 admirers on a Sunday
afternoon. Despite the emphasis on variegated effects of foliage originally
recommended, the pattern became more floriferous, and councillors were
regularly encouraged to publicise the candy-coloured tuberous begonias on
display. Malvern, like Ballarat, virtually adopted these cosy flowers as its
43
44
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
parochial emblem. The turbulent, many-hued scene even attracted compliments from the Royal Horticultural Society and the award of their gold medal.
Reeves could not conceal his satisfaction: 'With advancing years the full scheme
will assume the character originally conceived by me . . . it will then be voted
one of Malvern's most beautiful assets'.
Apparently, his conceptions were costly as well as ambitious. A foible familiar
to all infected with the gardening mania was his propensity to overspend on
imported marvels. A disgruntled ratepayer claimed that he had bought three
bulbs for fifty pounds, a startling outlay suggesting that rates could be trimmed;
but allegedly they were bought by the curator for his own pleasure. Palms were
inspected to determine whether he had got good value, and consideration was
given to reducing the curator's department as a costly trouble spot (Reeves' own
salary was once reduced to the basic wage). A n d yet he had secured notable
coups: an 'exceptionally cheap' truck load of tree ferns and two bargain-priced
glasshouses for the nursery. Evidence of his skills was Malvern's rating in
Garden Week 1933 — second to Essendon — and a request for him to design the
layout for a proposed new civic centre at Mulgrave.
Another of his good services — and this was continuing a tradition — was
assistance to the keen and competitive members of the Malvern Horticultural
Society. At their twenty-fourth annual show in November 1930, the town hall
stage, laid out in the Reeves manner, was 'a splendid setting for Madame
Touzeau's Malvern Orchestra'. Exhibits of native trees and 'Australian handmade art pottery by the Koala Pottery Co, of Murrumbeena' were display
features, but most events were based on the principle that gardeners thrive on
innocent and peaceful rivalry. Miss Colley of Malvern won the amateur
challenge cup for an arranged bowl of lily-of-the-valley, and Mr Ricketts
scooped the pool of prizes for vegetables. Mrs West and Mrs Marston battled for
top honours in the Novice Class and for the 'Life Membership Trophy for
Arranged Basket of Flowers or Floral Design'. An indication of a bright
horticultural future was the fine exhibition in the school section. 'A day in
country akin to Merrie England [Macedon]' by charabanc was the society's next
advertised pastime.
In 1953, in a plea for council leniency regarding losses incurred during the
annual chrysanthemum show, reference was made to the society's history,
established in 1907 and now occupying a 'position of renown . . . the cultural
value alone . . . would outweigh any financial difficulties'. Soon restored to its
place in the calendar, the show was a sacrosanct event in the horticultural cycle,
because Thomas Pockett, the city's head gardener for thirty years from 1888 and
designer of the Malvern Gardens, was a famous breeder of this crinkled, diverse
species. He was
destined to become a formidable rival to some of those growers upon whom we have
hitherto depended . . . we shall this year give the first mention to the colonial
novelties . . . 'General French' is one of the finest . . . being a deep, solid-looking
Japanese, with twisted grooved curley [sic] florets . . . 'Charles Longley' is also one of
the big brigade, and of a velvety shade of deep rosy amaranth, with silvery pink
reverse.
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
Wreathed in the English paper The Garden (1901), Pockett's creations extended
into a lavish garland, but his home-ground fame was naturally more intense.
According to his son, each season he and his family planted out thousands of
seedlings at their Malvern Road home (the results stimulated, when the
conjunctions were right, by electrical disturbances and the phases of the moon),
and as many as three furniture vans were needed to transport the grown plants
to shows. Late in 1901, 'the leading horticulturalists of Melbourne' hosted a
send-off at the Port Phillip Hotel for Pockett and his wife, who were about to sail
to England, while at a separate function at the venerable hostelry, the Malvern
Vale Hotel, friends presented him with a silver-mounted pipe. On his return, he
reported that his seedlings were regarded as 'some of the finest . . . in the
World'. By 1907, his reputation had spread to America, and Boston gardeners
were told that 'Australian varieties . . . have swept our exhibition tables clear of
the older varieties . . . there would almost seem to be an infusion of new blood
into the race'.
Pockett's pre-eminence made him an unbeatable contender at local shows. In
1915, having won the Norman Bayles cup for the third time, he became its
owner. Much later, in recognition of the credit brought to Malvern by the
chrysanthemum, council created a Children's Prize Fund to encourage the
young to continue the tradition. 'Pot Plants including Chrysanthemums in Pots'
was the title of a lecture by a curatorial successor, who also donated his family
name to a new variety: 'Mr T W Pockett, OBE, will be naming a new
chrysanthemum in honor of Mr or Mrs Styles'. By 1949, Pockett's varieties of
the flower named after Horticultural Society members filled a whole table, and
when he died in 1952, aged ninety-six, he had notched up three-quarters of a
century of successes. One of his sons carried the line into the 1960s as 'sole
distributor' of his father's creations, with a letterhead for his Healesville nursery
featuring a photograph of three blooms of a variety named for a former Malvern
mayoress. In a life of 'ardent love of the chrysanthemum', the only disappointment seemed to have been the failure to produce a blue bloom.
However, Pockett's specialism was not completely exclusive (the sweet pea was
another favourite), and he was matched by experts in other branches of the
floral cult. The garden of St George's first vicar was 'the envy of rosarians', and
the glory was nurtured by another prize-winning cleric. John Tallent, president
of the National Rose Society and Malvern resident, infused a touch of
philosophy into his praise of 'The Queen of Flowers': 'the man or woman who
makes gardening a hobby has the best possible insurance against ill-health'.
Daniel Webley, whose nursery fronted Glenferrie Road, transformed the wild
erica into a garden subject and bred the spotted erica named after him. The
talents of his successor on the site seemed to run more to variety. At a floral
display 'Beautiful palms, adiantums, ferns, dracenes, neprolspsis from Mr
Williams nursery . . . were distributed all over the tables'. A more practical
contribution was made by William Chandler, who grew the Statesman's Apple
and developed 'mammoth cauliflowers by crossing cauliflower seed with the
seed of a giant drumhead cabbage'. Apart from a preference for giant vegetables,
another of his idiosyncracies was the habit of charging a sovereign for the
45
46
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
mound of seed that could lie on the coin. The canny William Woodmason was
another agriculturist, whose interest ran the gamut of the practical from mooneyed Jersey cows, through spare acres, to prize root vegetables.
The emphasis was not always on the biggest and the best. For sheer
relaxation, Horticultural Society members indulged in extra-mural activities,
such as a quiet lecture on native plants in 1916, well before latter-day ideologues
might have conceived such botanical nationalism possible; a visit to the
Alexandra Gardens to 'see the Japanese iris in bloom . . . a blaze of colour
ranging from the purest white to rich dark purple'; or a begonia show for charity
in 1924 to be opened 'by Wireless from another building in the Municipality . . .
the first time it has been done in the State'. Flowery events could also be the
occasion for the dispensation of compliments that mentioned the floral gifts of
the British Isles, and the seasonal differences between mother and daughter
countries. When Lady Helen Munro-Ferguson opened her first Australian
flower show (proceeds to the Red Cross) at Malvern in 1915, she gracefully
played on these possibilities: 'the season . . . corresponded with the Scottish
October . . . when it seemed a long time from the last rose of summer to the first
snow drop of spring. It was fitting that Australia with its autumn that was like a
second spring, should use flowers in so many good causes'.
As well as arousing refinement and sentiment, the garden was a useful
instrument for didactic purposes and a spur to civic responsibility, for the
pointing finger of Victorianism had invaded the rosarium. Horticulturists,
Victorian-era theorists were prone to point out, did not figure in the criminal
annals, just as English vicars were keen cultivators of the lily. The obligation
extended from the public to the private domain, and the aesthetic emphasised
controlled beauty and decent order: 'it has become a reproach if the citizen's
garden plot is not tastefully laid out and adorned with choice flower-beds,
abutting on a well-tended lawn' (Malvern News 25 April 1914). The bedded-out
annuals might be an aurora borealis of colour, yet the beds themselves provided
a reprimand to waywardness, and grass was to be sternly shaven. With astute
but doomed foresight, the wife of a local politician opined in 1917 that
gardening by children might counteract the baleful influence of picture shows.
As if to show that they were not solely pragmatic, politicians were often
Horticultural Society office-bearers, and they applied the principles of their
political lives to their floral activities. In April 1935, at what was allegedly
Melbourne's first competitive event for cacti, W H Edgar praised horticulture as
'a splendid influence for good in developing character and citizenship'. His
history lagged behind his oratory, for nineteen years before the group had
masterminded a 'competitive display of cactus, paeony-flowered and collarette
dahlias'.
Bridging the private and the public, the nature strip was a horticultural no
man's land that highlighted the relationship between citizens and council,
between one citizen and another. The Prahran Telegraph (6 April 1918)
described the dilemma and suggested one timely solution:
there is always the difficulty of getting the whole of the residents in a given street to
combine either in the necessary work or to agree upon a uniform scheme of
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
47
ornamentation . . . residents . . . should . . . employ a returned soldier, incapable of
anything but light work, to keep the footpath plots in order.
The vision of Malvern as a 'Garden City' conformed with the passion for the
concept — often bowdlerised — that raged in England and America. It had long
encompassed the appearance of the suburb's streets, but several practicalities
stood in the way of its realisation. Conditions had improved greatly since 1900,
when the local press had furiously rebutted the Herald's charge that Glenferrie
Road was 'swarming with rats' and renewed Malvern's claim to be as healthy as
a spa.
The rodents may have ceased to be a problem (twenty-two years later the 9773
rats apprehended in Malvern were deemed to be 'in a fairly healthy condition'),
however there were larger quadrupeds on the prowl. In 1915, described as 'The
Curse of Malvern', 537 wandering cattle were alleged to have been removed
from the roads. Five years later, residents were said to be defying a council
by-law prohibiting the keeping of cows in some localities and had, in fact,
augmented their herds which, tethered to front fences and in vacant allotments,
bellowed with frustration during the night. Using an appropriate post-war
metaphor, one improver in Brunei Street complained of the frustration of his
endeavours: 'A lawn planted on the unmade strip of footpath in an endeavour
to improve the street, now looks like "somewhere in France"'. Some residences
were set-up as mini-farms. The inspector's note on one complaint recorded that
the offending property housed a 'bull, 2 cows and 6 horses' as well as their
owners. In Karma Avenue — unmade in 1923 — the nuisances were compounded by the freedom with which residents dug drains and laced barbed wire
round posts. The incursion sometimes reached into the privacy of the front
garden: it was 'very discouraging to grow plants to make a good Autumn show,
and to have horses reach over the fences and eat the dahlias'.
The east ward was further troubled by inadequate drainage: 'most unhealthy
&. now that Diptheria [sic] is about this district something should be done to
carry the stagnant water away . . . I have a baby 6 months old 6k I am afraid to
leave it out in the backyard'. A petition from Craigmore Street contained a
catalogue of woes — lack of gas, lighting, water, garbage disposal — as well as the
state of the road: 'There is no encouragement for people to build and improve
the locality. I have just finished two villas in the street at a cost of something like
£2000, surely we are entitled to some consideration'. In the mid 1920s, the
public thoroughfares of whole sections of the city were deemed to be more fit for
a rough bush town with 'not the semblance of a City path . . . [only] stumps of
acacia . . . grass a foot high . . . no doubt [I] will someday . . . be required as a
witness on the inquest of some citizen'. Or the derogatory comparison might be
with inner-suburban Melbourne: 'one of the most commanding positions . . .
has been and still is a triangular desolation . . . as bad as some of the most
desolate parts of Port Melbourne'. Snobbery could be gratuitously invoked on
behalf of others. Rebuking the council for the filthy gutter in front of Sir John
Davis' (John Mark Davies?) house, a correspondent observed that they might at
least 'pay respect to the Gentleman that the King has so highly honored'.
48
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
Although better tarred and guttered, the more established parts of the city were
not sacrosanct, as one Toorak complainant pointed out: 'every morning
between 8 and 9 o'clock we still continue to see an Amazon riding about looking
for her cows . . . after having grazed all the night on other people's property'. A
few blocks from Stonnington, droves of animals wandered or stampeded,
damaging hedges and gardens, rousing the neighbourhood dogs 'to fury', while
the police were never closer than on leisurely guard at government house gates.
The complaints were many, constant and monotonous, and yet, in an added
trial of civic life, ratepayers often objected fiercely to paying for street construction. During the 1890s, a flurry of objections to paying for roads was heard in
the courts. Occasionally, the protestors found support from a subversive
element in council chamber. At the end of 1915, Councillor Louis Holmes, who
sometimes found himself at odds with his fellow councillors, criticised Malvern's
standards as excessive, 'fit for Broadway or Collins Street', an extravagance
particularly inappropriate for times that demanded 'public economy'. Once the
war was over, private street construction forged ahead, concentrated in the
years 1924-25 and peaking again in 1929.
Council's interest in street beautification went back to the 1880s, when it
offered to provide tree-minded residents with tree guards, though not the trees.
In early 1916, it had agreed to lay down nature strips, enabling a more
concerted attempt to establish street trees. By the late twenties, 118 miles had
been planted, especially golden poplars and ash. One stretch of jacarandas was
proudly announced to be 'the first street in Victoria (or may be Australia) to be
so adorned . . . all these trees are the products of your own Nursery'. The airy,
periwinkle-blue jacaranda was so favoured that it was preferred as memorial
trees to the funereal cypress, when the original currajongs were replaced.
The street was an extension of the private house, and as such a ground for
expressing the preferences of householders. No sooner were the trees dug in
than disputes about their suitability erupted. In 1926, when the trees were little
more than saplings, the people of Whernside Avenue offered to pay the cost of
substituting their golden poplars, and council considered adopting 'a smaller
type of street tree'. Apparently addicted to a leafy environment, residents of
Ranfurlie Crescent were permitted to plant gums between the existing trees,
even though the curator had submitted an adverse report on the national icon
for street planting. Nationalism spread to Milton Parade where a preference for
gums over plane trees was announced. In deplorable regression to English
county security, Anthony Street requested a privet hedge. The decorous privet
was also favoured by a lady elsewhere who, in one of those frequent, entirely
individualistic moves on the tree front, asked permission to plant a golden
hedge beside the public pathway to her house (her fancy was disallowed). Elms
in Great Valley and Kyarra Roads caused a rift. Were they an infuriating
nuisance to gardens, or should their invasiveness be tolerated because of their
nobly over-arching habit? Of all trees, elms caused a 'nuisance' and most
offended the suburban passion for order and control, but criticism spread to the
pine whose 'falling needles create a constant and unsightly litter'. Nature was
lovable as long as it did not offend with profligacy.
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
Few of the disagreements erupted into public debate, but the disappearance of
twenty-four peppercorn trees from Valentine Grove brought a rush of letters to
the Malvern Standard's editor. 'George Washington' pointed out facetiously that
the massacre would bring a boon in the form of firewood to residents, while
'Common Sense', with the acrid logic of his tribe, applauded the removal of
these grim, unkempt monsters: 'the street [had] resembled the entrance to a
Cemetery'. Looking ahead to Melbourne's centenary, 'Lover of Trees' laid on a
thick varnish of irony:
the Duke in his visit to Malvern will be sure to be invited to visit the old historic
cottage of one of our sturdy pioneers . . . and strolling along will see a treeless grove,
and wonder whether the civic fathers are perpetrating a huge joke on some
discontented ratepayer.
Often formulated in childhood observation of a loved specimen or in the
inculcation of a morality that decreed restraint and regularity, the preference for
a particular tree was troublesome on a wider front. In October 1932, a
conference on tree planting for Dandenong Road uncovered a great difference
of opinion about the right trees for that unfortunate thoroughfare, owned by
many municipalities and seemingly loved by none. Two years later, a stand of
elms was flourishing, just at the time when the elm, along with the plane, was
being questioned as a suitable tree 'in narrow City streets'.
Maintenance costs to keep these giants manageable became burdensome. By
the late thirties, for half the year eleven men, with horse and lorry, combed
Malvern streets on a mammoth pruning operation. The below-ground activities
of these umbrageous groves also proved troublesome, generating a rush of
complaints that focussed chiefly on the pavement-displacing golden poplar. At a
Tree Planters' Convention, the curator initiated a discussion which thoroughly
'condemned' them. About a dozen years old and coming into their golden
maturity, they were slowly uprooted, often to be replaced by the more malleable
liquidambar, which transformed in autumn into a maypole of shimmering claret
and coral. Although Malvern curatorial staff seemed to be maintaining their
English arboreal preferences, it was noted that other municipalities were
showing signs of nationalism — and perhaps some rashness — planting trees
such as lily pilly, grevillea and pittosporum, whose bushy habit 'might cause
residents to be nervous of undesirables'.
The possibility of unwittingly providing a shield for deviant behaviour was
only one moral problem. A 1936 article, 'Malvern's Civic Beauty. How the
Council Helps', urged tenants not to concentrate short-sightedly on their own
interests and to ensure that the nature strip was a province of unmarred
neatness. The good tenant was 'not benefiting his landlord alone . . . [but] the
whole of the little world he lives in and is making an unselfish contribution to
the general good'. Rowdyism, larrikinism and vandalism were far more serious
affronts to public morality. The days had long passed since 'telephonic
communication' at the Malvern police station was accounted unnecessary
because of the lack of business there, but Malvern continued to pride itself on its
commitment to law and order. 'During 1923 only seven boys from Malvern
49
50
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
were dealt with by the Children's Court', councillors were told. Shortly
afterwards, an outbreak of vandalism hit the parks, and complaints about lack
of police protection were made. The rot had spread to 'drinking' and
'immodesty of behaviour'. In the words of one Methodist minister, council was
'custodian of the moral welfare of the City' and obliged 'to prevent the Cricket
Ground becoming a scandal and a source of contamination'. In September 1923
— the year Malvern's youth were said to be in good moral shape — his fellow
minister at St George's wrote on behalf of 'the combined churches of Malvern',
inviting the mayor 'to inaugurate some movement to provide a better tone in
regard to moral questions'.
Whereas war tended to reinforce the pressure for a tight and dutiful code of
behaviour, periods of economic distress often sparked off an upsurge of
destructiveness. An outbreak of damage to parks coincided with the depression
of the 1930s and required stern measures. School children were read homilies to
discourage anti-social behaviour, barbed wire was tangled through shrubs in the
Malvern Gardens and a plainclothes policeman was appointed to patrol the
reserves. Several instances of riotous behaviour led to prosecution in the courts,
an outcome that could be profitable for the apprehending constable. The boy
who was found guilty of defacing the fountain in Central Park was fined 15s,
while his detainer was rewarded with £5. Some of the misdemeanours were
trivial — taking golf balls from the creek, riding a bicycle on Sunday (2s 6d fine
and 2s 6d costs against the boy Pennefeather) — and one showed a precocious
commercial instinct (selling Hedgeley Dene waterlilies). The fact that they
became police matters showed an anxious determination to preserve law and
order and avoid the depredations suffered by other suburbs.
The responsibilities of civic office were, indeed, onerous, amorphous and
unexpected. Nowhere were these questions more contentious than in the
management of the golf links that had been opened 'not without opposition' in
1931. Four years later, the spirit of democratic fairness was invoked to support
Councillor Gray's objection to the formation of a club: 'Golf clubs are
notoriously exclusive bodies and they take all sorts of precautions to keep
outsiders at bay'. The decision was confirmed for democracy, and Malvern
stayed with humbler suburbs in maintaining a public course. A much more
flammable issue was the question of Sunday golf, and it brought out the
contending forces in full persuasive fury. At the end of 1936, council received
rival deputations, whose petitions were so clever and well-mounted that
councillors must have repaired to their homes for a stiff whisky or a soothing
cup of tea. Proponents of Sunday opening pointed out the financial advantages
and 'claimed consideration on the score of equality of privileges of opportunity.
They should be able to enjoy innocent recreation in the open air'. Of all the 300
public links in Victoria, why should Malvern be the only one to require the
cupboarding of golf bags on Sunday?
Opposing, the Ministers Fraternal shrewdly highlighted the contradiction in
the doctrine of equality of privileges: others would be required to work to keep
the golf clubs swinging. The floodgates of Sunday sport would be flung wide,
allowing entry to hordes of lunging cricketers and booted footballers. More rest,
5 Citizens were exhorted to a penitential walk along the creek: Gardiner's Creek Valley
Association leaflet, 1974.
6 All the well-behaved scholars in the cantata were girls: program for Malvern State Schools
concert, 1898.
LEFT: 7 Being trained in the socially acceptable art of dancing: Joyce Stanton of Malvern in
dancing dress, c 1923. RIGHT: 8 The decor included 'a distant view of Windsor Castle and the
Thames River': return ball, Malvern Town Hall, 1938. The patriotic backdrop seems to have
been recycled in 1941.
9 The musical fare might be 'You forgot to remember' or 'Hugo, you go where 1 go': debutante
ball, Malvern Toivn Hall, 1920s.
ABOVE: 10 Gentlemen,
almost every one with
some item of the tobacconist's art drooping from
his fingers or lips: Mayor
Alex McKinley's smoke
night, c 1914-18.
LEFT: 11 In 1956, Malvern became a centenarian, and the citizens were
treated to an extended
program of festivities:
centenary ball, Malvern
Town Hall 1956.
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
51
not more sport, was needed to counteract the stresses of modern life. The linchpin of their eloquent case was the sacrosanct and historically validated nature of
the sabbath: 'We . . . do not claim legislative power over non-Church sections of
the community. We do, however, as leaders in things of the spirit approach the
City Fathers on the moral and spiritual issues involved'. Confronted with the
ferocity of the opposing forces, council took refuge in the curator's report that the
links could not cope with a seven-day week, a sanctuary that was immediately
toppled by a hurricane of words in the Malvern Standard, One correspondent
advised awarding 'a leather medal' for adopting such a pathetic excuse. 'Prudent
administration' of money entrusted to them, not moral policing, was the business
of council. Or were they, in fact, 'guardians not only of the property of
ratepayers, but also of their higher moral principles'? In a panic to consume their
ration of weekend golf, desperate golfers were pictured stumbling out of the late
Saturday afternoon gloom or forced to spend the night on the fairways.
Councillors were accused of squibbing when confronted by 'a lot of parsons'.
Why not close on Saturday to satisfy those whose sabbath fell then? Why not
extend leniency to other sportsmen whose conduct was superior to the
proverbially ill-tempered golfer? Why not use the revenue from Sunday golf to
substitute for the iniquitous railway tax then looming over the benighted east
ward? Was golf benignly individualistic, or wanly wishy-washy? A battle to hit 'a
tiny ball with a clumsy weapon', or simply 'a good walk spoiled'? 'Any councillor
who votes for Sunday golf is opening a road to hell for thousands of our young
people', predicted a doomsayer, to which the reply was, in that event, heaven
would be 'a very lonely place'.
The editor finally closed the contest, and council reaffirmed its embargo on
Sunday sport. The debate was revived during and after the Second World War,
when, according to the Malvern Young Workers' Club, the locality's law and
order status appeared to have deteriorated: 'In the period during the 10 years
1935 to 1945 the number of cases that had been handled at the Children's
Court at Malvern was 1183 whereas North Melbourne . . . only had 933 and
Port Melbourne 432'. These crime-moderate places permitted Sunday sports;
the inference was bald. No, claimed the ministers, Malvern was 'in 22nd place
for delinquency' and 'a City of envy for those who would wish to live there . . .
it would take more than sport to mould and guide the youth of Australia to live
the lives of good citizens'.
The ministers temporarily won the day, but two years later council was forced
by a petition of ratepayers to conduct a poll, and the battle was over. The
resulting by-law was tortuous, but limited Sunday sport was allowed. The
traditional day of rest, often enforced with ghastly Calvinist rectitude, but
nevertheless representing a staunch if wistful ideal, became almost as bland and
utilitarian as any other day.
Amidst these weighty and lightweight, serious and witty matters, the spirit of
contemplation, perhaps a little less than Zen in concentration, and the enjoyment of gardens continued. For those who were exiled by forces beyond their
control, there could be solace in the continuance of living things. 'The pansays
[sic] are from my little garden. I have some walflowers [sic] and forgetmenots
52
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
coming on weir, a Malvern man wrote to his small daughter from the trenches
in France; and then 'Have my chair ready. For I am coming home soon. You
will have to help me with the garden. Tell Dick to oil the mower'. Malvern's
public spaces were largely set, until the days of freeways caused a massive
dislocation. Small acts of desecration were committed in the name of progress or
fashion, or simply involuntary change. In 1926, the rusticated pavilion at the
cricket ground was replaced by a hard-edged concrete nonentity. The band
rotundas were dismantled as the taste for a pleasant Sunday afternoon in the
park, listening to the nostalgic airs beloved of bandmasters, waned. Fountains, a
temptation to vandals, fell into disrepair, and serpentine walks were no longer
the haunt of courting couples. Even the Central Park conservatory, with its
displays of flaunting hybrids, began to look unloved. The constricted suburban
mode that seemed likely to threaten the shabby, rococo bric-a-brac at Malvern
Gardens provoked at least one protest: 'if modernity in garden landscape art
means the removal of beautiful and rare trees and the introduction of square
(and bare) lawns in the place of picturesque curves and ever-changing vistas . . .
then thank heaven something old-fashioned remains' [Malvern Standard 18
April 1939). The writer failed to say what that something was, but the son of the
garden's creator, Thomas Pockett, returning in 1963, saw a ruined paradise:
'Well I got away as quickly as I could: The glory that there once was, had
vanished'.
The civic ethos almost invariably drifted with fashion, and the humdrummerie of Australian suburbia added its own banalities to the tight English
pattern. In the private sphere, a spirit that was eccentric and profuse could
flourish, creating a self-contained world and challenging the stultifying 'lawnand-roses tradition'. Such a one was Dave Hyslop, whose East Malvern home in
the mid thirties was a botanical and zoological marvel that embraced an aviary
stocked with ibises, peacocks, pheasants, an Indian mynah and a curlew,
'besides innumerable parrots, galahs, etc.', several fish ponds also brimming
with rare exotics, a fernery where 'the impressive rather than the rare' was
favoured, and a greenhouse 'quite out of the ordinary', containing the throaty
complicated forms of orchids and pitcher plants. 'Natural history would benefit
greatly if more of our citizens were to get off the beaten track and turn their
homes and gardens into "something different".' The praise neglected the fact
that a municipality-wide fad of this order might have brought anarchy.
Apart from the dismantlement of nineteenth century features in the parks,
another casualty of change was the violet farm at Gardiner which attracted
hordes of people in the winter months. Still lovingly remembered by older
residents, who believe that violets compulsively surface through the changed
landscape, it had never provoked controversy or given ammunition to
moralisers of the rear or forward guards. Though a modest commercial
operation, its function was primarily as balm to the unaffiliated spirit wrote the
Church of England Messenger in June 1914:
Nestled in a charmingly picturesque corner of the fairy like Glen Iris Valley is the
Violet Farm at Gardiner . . . Particularly on a Saturday afternoon do hundreds of
VENAL IRIS, TENDER VIOLET
53
folk of all ages gather here to spend an hour or two gathering 'the tender violet
wreathed in smiles' . . . for a small sum one can pick as many of the treasures as can
be comfortably carried away . . . During the months of May and June the air is
perfumed with the scent of the violet.
Picking 'the treasures' was not always sheer pleasure. One of Curator Reeves'
staff remembers the laboriousness of gathering violets to be sold at the mayoress'
charity function when the Gardiner Picture Theatre opened in 1925. Having
picked many bouquets of modest and lowly purple, he did not wait for the main
event, nor to see the inaugural picture. However, his gardening spirit survived
undaunted. 'Dear Doc', he wrote to me before Christmas 1987, 'am enclosing a
few freesia seeds for you to try. I think they are the best strain in Australia
today. They won me many awards & are well worth growing . . . They should
flower late winter or early spring. Good luck'.
The subdivisional pattern of Malvern, except the Chadstone area, was largely
determined by the cupidity of the landboomers, who, stoutly progressive in a
manner that seems appallingly myopic to later sensibilities, tended to see no
distinction between their own and the public interest. But, even if the colony of
Victoria had not experienced boom fever and the prostration that followed, the
suburb's appearance would probably have been little different, and the result
was similar elsewhere in Melbourne. Both the wavers of the venal iris and the
holders of the tender violet were looking towards the same outcome: the
creation of a proper suburb, loyally English, tentatively Australian, solidly
bourgeois. After the surveyors, speculators, subdividers and auctioneers came
the builders, architects, owners and tenants with all their fashionable or
perhaps simply homely perceptions of the way a decent domestic existence
should be fashioned.
CHAPTER • 3
The Ubiquitous Villa
(
Quite a lot of the big houses of the best residential suburbs have
been pulled down and cut up into the allotments that suffice for the
ubiquitous villa
"They say the lion and the lizard keep,
The courts where ]emshyd gloried and drank deep"
So it is with some of the mansions that forty or fifty years ago were
the useats of the mighty" of this State.*
Malvern News 19 September 1914
Even while the journalist was penning this lament, a few of
'the mighty' were still living in the extravagant manner to which they had
become accustomed, or a style with imperial trappings to which they had been
recently introduced. A few months before, Governor and Lady Stanley had
cantered through the imposing English wrought iron gates at Stonnington in
Glenferrie Road to be greeted by a mass of white-clothed schoolchildren, who
were dragooned by their teachers into forming the word 'Welcome', before
bursting into a hearty rendition of 'God Save the King'. Lady Stanley was soon
ensconced in 'her little boudoir at a Louis XVI-style desk', envying the
governor-general his more palatial quarters in St Kilda Road and deploring the
venue of her own particular exile: 'worse than any circle in the Inferno and no
art or skill can redeem it. Every wall and ceiling is decorated in weak cocoacolour relieved by sky-blue and heavy gold. The drawing-room is a horrid little
poke-hole'. She busied herself in trying to extract from the government more
congenial furnishings than the weighty horrors she loathed — and requested a
Bechstein grand piano for good measure. Confronted by a resistant head
gardener, her scheme to erase suburbanite traits from the grounds was
thwarted: 'for some time we gazed out on . . . scarlet geraniums'. If Guilfoyle had
— as is rumoured — participated in the landscaping, his ghostly genius may
have been ruffled by her misreading of his intention.
She failed to reform the stubborn colonials, and the 'monstrous' fireplace in
the drawing-room stayed, along with the geraniums. Carved by an Italian
imported to do the work and flanked by more of the same, it truly did look like
54
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
King V i c t o r E m m a n u e r s catafalque; b u t even despite its hugeness, in winter t h e
h o u s e r e m a i n e d ' d a r k &. cold 6k no a m o u n t of r o a r i n g fires will keep t h e hall &
passages w a r m ' . S h e failed to look at its m o r e agreeable features: t h e starp a t t e r n e d p a r q u e t r y , t h e stained glass l a n t e r n , s u m p t u o u s detailing, t h e beguiling c h a t e a u roof, lush o r n a m e n t a l lake, even t h e slight e m i n e n c e of t h e site t h a t
allowed some picturesque peepscapes of M a l v e r n . A c o n v i c t i o n t h a t she was ''not
at all fitted for t h e post' p r o b a b l y c o n t r i b u t e d to her dislike of t h e 'gloomy
m a u s o l e u m of a h o u s e ' a n d e n h a n c e d t h e appeal of g o v e r n m e n t h o u s e cottage at
M a c e d o n , w h e r e , nest-high, she was free from 'tin-potteries', a n d n a t u r e was
stylistically a n d meteorologically k i n d e r . A c c o r d i n g to an earlier observer, t h a t
g a r d e n held 'oaks a n d elms, cypress a n d d e o d a r a . . . h o m e a n d h a p p y ; filbert
trees . . . b e n d i n g with fruit . . . g r o u n d s . . . blazing with roses a n d g e r a n i u m s
a n d gladiolus'. T h e upswept magnificence of trees, t h e crew-cut expanses of
l a w n , t h e n o d d i n g a b u n d a n c e of flowers a n d especially t h e splendid isolation
were m o r e like E n g l a n d .
Lady Stanley m a y n o t h a v e b e e n t h e first c o n s o r t to find t h e facilities
offensive to personal taste a n d u n e q u a l to t h e d e m a n d s of official life, b u t she
h a s b e e n t h e only o n e t o h a v e her privately expressed views p u b l i s h e d a n d h e r
letters m a d e available for inspection. T h e first vice-regal i n h a b i t a n t s , Sir G e o r g e
a n d Lady C l a r k e , swept i n t o exile t o t h e strains o f ' H o m e , Sweet H o m e ' , a n d i n
an interview a year later (The New Idea D e c e m b e r 1902) t h e first lady did her
best to assure h e r audience t h a t she was, i n d e e d , at h o m e , c o m p l a i n i n g only of
t h e cold. Less r e s t r a i n e d , b u t still discreet, h e r interviewer c o m m e n t e d t h a t t h e
place was ' h a r d l y an ideal h o u s e , either in c o n s t r u c t i o n or situation'; t h e r o o m s
were also u n a p p e a l i n g from t h e p h o t o g r a p h i c p o i n t of view. Even t h e b o u d o i r
w h e r e Lady Stanley later p e n n e d h e r E n g l a n d - b o u n d criticisms m a d e ' t h e
sitter's face look like — well, like it does in t h e p h o t o g r a p h s on this page'. Poised
stiffly at h e r desk or on a settee, this m a n n e r l y English i m p o r t h a s t h e look of a
C o a l p o r t figurine in a colonial furniture m a r t .
S t o n n i n g t o n ' s interior m a y h a v e h a d practical a n d aesthetic p r o b l e m s .
O u t s i d e , t h e difficulties were chiefly a m a t t e r of insufficient space to e n t e r t a i n
t h e gaggles of people w h o were entitled to a t t e n d g u b e r n a t o r i a l occasions. In
N o v e m b e r 1912, G o v e r n o r a n d Lady Fuller's g a r d e n p a r t y b e g a n well. T h e r e
were c o m m o d i o u s m a r q u e e s , a lavish sprinkling of t h e g o v e r n o r ' s blue a n d
metallic colours, airs from t h e b a n d of t h e Scottish R e g i m e n t , eager guests —
i n c l u d i n g o t h e r vice-regals — being greeted on t h e n o r t h terrace. As usual, t h e
costumes were magnificent e n o u g h to e x h a u s t t h e observer's fashion v o c a b u lary. H o w e v e r , as n u m b e r s swelled, t h e scene b e c a m e u n p l e a s a n t l y congested,
a n d 'it was s o o n to be seen t h a t all t h e pleasure of an open-air fete was to be
a b a n d o n e d ' . As t h e guests r e t r e a t e d , in d e s p e r a t i o n t h e staff r a n g n e i g h b o u r i n g
stables a n d garages t o s u m m o n c o n v e y a n c e s t o disperse t h e c r o w d a n d allow t h e
foot-sloggers a n u n i m p e d e d exit. M a t t e r s were m a d e even worse w h e n t h e
w e a t h e r failed to co-operate, as it did in N o v e m b e r 1916 for Lady Stanley's
'great F r e n c h fete':
up to 3.30 all went well — when just as the Ballet on the lawn started the blackest
55
56
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
cloud you ever saw suddenly opened like a great umbrella and emptied rain in gallons
on the crowd. There was a regular 'sauve qui peut' and the verandahs were packed
with steaming, hot, wet human beings. All the little Ballet children were dragged into
the house dripping with tears as well as rain over their spoilt clothes.
Certainly, the limited facilities meant that plans for vice-regal functions could
be upset as easily as a basket of wool.
As twilight descended on Stonnington's special existence, the attitude
towards the building, though not the inhabitants, conformed more to Lady
Stanley's feelings and became adverse. By 1926, when The Australian Home
Beautiful paid a visit, Charles D'Ebro's heavy-handed Italian Renaissance design
was perceived as 'an outstanding example of the feverish mania for display' and
'the insatiable desire for extravagant effect which marred the architecture' of the
land boom. The hall, with its columns, cupola, stained glass dome and
windows, vaulted roof and oak staircase, was approved; but, relentlessly
dominating the scene, the Italian's wood carving was regarded as a depressing, if
not overpowering, aberration. The drawing room, sensible enough in its lower
reaches, culminated 'in a coffered ceiling which defies description', whether
because it was too awful or too awesome the writer failed to make clear. Despite
a liberal application of gilt, the colour scheme in confectioner's pastels was
fetching, and the frescoes provoked the splendidly vague adjective 'worthy'. In
her 'private sanctum' in this would-be Balmoral, Lady Stradbroke was pictured
struggling to assert 'the chaste touch of personality as expressed in a quaint
collection of highly prized diminutive china', books and flowers. Perhaps in
reaction to her deadly surroundings, she had developed 'decided views on the
subject of home-building', which included comfortable furniture, restrained
decoration and openness to the sun. Her predilection for enclosed, sun-bathed
warmth resulted in the glassing-in of one of the loggias, a development regarded
disapprovingly by later architectural purists.
At the time of Lady Stradbroke's occupancy, Moorakyne, another colossal
Italianate pile, stood next door, pedimented, colonnaded, in gloomy,
meticulously landscaped gardens and behind gates and entrance of ducal
grandeur. Built in the late 1880s for a reputed £40 000 by Sir John Grice,
Moorakyne changed hands in 1901, when mining magnate and Malvern
councillor Bowes Kelly bought it, with grounds intact, for a knock-down price
of half its original cost. However, most of Malvern's large houses, either
elegantly simple or showily grand, had disappeared, been institutionalised or
engulfed by suburbia, often with their original lands sadly reduced. Even before
this happened, another misfortune had befallen them — or rather their owners,
as Table Talk pointed out tartly in 1893: 'That suburb [Malvern] is specially
favoured by the land-boomers for the mansions they build themselves. Most of
the residences are now mortgaged to building societies or banks, but many of
the boomers still live in them, pretty well rent free, as caretakers'. The most
visible of these was John Mark Davies, lingering at Valentines with his large
brood, occasionally glissading across the parquet floor (the largest in the
southern hemisphere) and staring through blindless windows across a paddock
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
'over-run with heath, ericas and bracken'. His residence was a palace seen
through the wrong end of a telescope, but many of the larger houses had not
really been opulent or stylish enough to warrant the description 'mansion'.
More resembling overgrown villas, James Munro's Kooyong Road refuge was
one.
Along with change and destruction, the imprint of lives also disappeared,
leaving all too few memorable images to flesh out the facts. At the corner of
Elizabeth Street and Toorak Road, Longwood, low-slung, with double-pitched
roof and wooden posted and balustraded verandah, was an example of
unpretentious good taste, probably built in the 1850s. However, the house is
remembered largely for the exceptionality of one of its occupants, Kong Meng,
Mandarin of the Blue Button (Civil Order), merchant, farmer, benefactor and
gentleman, who lived there in the 1880s. His ability to be decently English,
while remaining thoroughly Chinese, made him a partly mythic character.
Married to an Englishwoman, he hosted a well-remembered picnic for the
children and mothers of Malvern at Longwood and diligently saw his wife and
pewful of children off to Sunday services at St George's, though he was not an
Anglican. Loyal to his exiled countrymen, he employed them on his tobacco
plantation and market garden. The spectacle of his cultured civility perhaps
assuaged some local resentment at the alleged malpractices of other Chinese,
who were regularly labelled 'the yellow agony'. Although there were offenders of
Anglo-Saxon background, the use of night soil for manure was usually
attributed to orientals and aroused a mixture of disgust and relish. Not far from
Longwood during Kong Meng's residence, the Inspector of Nuisances reported a
horrifying encounter with 'the Chinaman's gardens at the intersection of
Malvern and Tooronga roads . . . the whole emitting an abominable stench,
and sickening to behold'.
Of similar vintage and comparable architectural simplicity to Longwood,
Cold Bio' on Glenferrie Road was built by solicitor-general and member of the
original Gardiner District Road Board, Robert Sacheverell Sitwell, and
included Peter Lalor among its several occupants. When it was auctioned in
1861, the blurb referred a little apologetically to the modest proportions of the
house, 'somewhat concentre, better suited to the pretensions of a small family,
but the tout ensemble will be found exceedingly comfortable'. Perhaps the
addition of a few French phrases and the assurance that the place was 'the
sojourn of genius' softened the message of inconvenient smallness. After a
twenty-four-year ownership, gold broker A E Clarke put the house on the
market in 1892, coincidentally with his resignation from council. He may well
have been another casualty of the boom, perhaps in the role of victim rather
than offender. Several years later, Cold Bio' was demolished, along with its
garden of 'trees indigenous to the productive forest lands of Port Phillip', 'rare
exotics and choicest fruits', 'stomachics and asparagus', to make way for the
Prahran and Malvern Tramways Trust depot. A photograph of Mrs Clarke,
whose hat looks like a nesting dove, and her four daughters — two in boaters,
one bonneted and one bare-headed infant — sitting in the luxuriant garden in
front of the house is one of the few surviving images.
57
58
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
Brynmawr, too, was marked by the fleeting imprint of the children who lived
there. Built for Michael Keeley, though not named by him, the eight-roomed,
two-storied house in gothic revival style received its first occupants in early
1860. The parents and three daughters celebrated by 'singing and playing the
flute' until late evening, but tragedy struck several months later when the
mother died after giving birth to a still-born child. In 1861, on 'the worst day's
work I have ever done in my life', Keeley placed seven coffins in the vault, those
of his wife, the dead baby, and five other children who had died in infancy
before the move to Malvern. Later renovators found wallpaper with designs of
daisy-chains of children playing battledore and shuttlecock, which might have
come from a Kate Greenaway picturebook. By contrast with the wistful
simplicity of the Keeleys, at the height of the boom, Brynmawr was briefly
occupied by Frederick Illingworth, politician and speculator, who absconded to
Western Australia when his Centennial Land Bank failed, leaving colossal
debts. Apparently his appetite for speculative gain was not appeased, and in
1897 he again became insolvent. A sturdy resurrectionist, he became West
Australian treasurer four years later, showing how spectacularly forgiving, dullwitted or oblivious the electorate can be.
By the First World War, many of the early estates had lost all or part of their
extensive acreages (Haverbrack, Sorrett, Valentines, Myoora, Viewbank,
Ranfurlie, Rose Hill, Brocklesby), and after the war most of the survivors were
to be subdivided. Recently, in an ironic and, to simple souls, unpredictable
retrogression, a handful — or perhaps a mere fingernailful — of new millionaires
have been able to reverse the procedure, purchasing houses for demolition to
augment their allotments in accord with a vision that looks like the boom
revisited, with new players and new fortunes. As the speculative builders and
the architects for the bourgeoisie moved in, many of the houses disappeared as
well. By the mid 1980s, only nineteen Malvern buildings were deemed to be of
sufficient architectural or historic interest to warrant listing in any of the three
official registers. Contrarily, when the estates were carved up, the house was
sometimes retained, like a bunch of roses crammed into a specimen vase.
At the corner of Whernside Avenue and Albany Road, the most select wedge
of Malvern, Whernside was one of the very few that survived privately owned
and intact, although its original acres were eventually whittled away. Built as
Belcroft in 1876 for merchant and politician Sir James Lorimer, the property
took its accepted name in 1891 when it was bought by 'gentleman' Albert
Miller. Between 1918 and 1927, the mansion was owned by Ithaca-born
Anthony Lucas who had many strings to his bow. He was one of the founders of
the Greek Church in Melbourne, president of the Ulysses Philanthropic
Society, cafe proprietor, owner of Glen's Music Warehouse and creator o f ' T h e
Australia' hotel in Collins Street. The next owner was Sir Colin Fraser,
managing director of Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, who lived there until
1949, after which it moved through several company connections: General
Motors-Holden, The Myer Emporium, Dowd Associates and its principal,
Bernard Dowd, who hosted Miss Australia functions in the ballroom. The
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
pattern of ownership and occupancy suggests the wealth or backing required to
maintain such a grand old residence.
Used-car dealer and self-described 'trader of things' Dennis Gowing converted
the ballroom into an art gallery and introduced an element of abrasive honesty
into his occupancy: 'I can hardly be called nouveau riche in Toorak. I've been in
Toorak a long time, having had other houses here before this. If you've got the
money, you can live in the bloody area, can't you?'. Another of his introductions was the concept of tight security, unthinkable in more trusting days,
maintained through closed circuit television and patrols. The aim behind one
security feature, a tall brushwood fence, mixed the sentimental with the selfprotective: 'selected for its rustic appearance . . . reminiscent of the days when
"Whernside" was in fact surrounded by bushland'. It was an artless concept
doomed to failure, for, given that this rusticated barrier had been erected
without a permit, council was unimpressed by the blandishment. However,
Gowing was on the wave of the future. As the Age pointed out in February
1988, in recent times, when there has been a certain amount of battening-down
amongst the merchant princes, security has continued to be the keynote:
Just over ten years ago, when Tom Dowd lived at . . . Whernside . . . the house was
surrounded by a modest picket fence and the front gate was always left open. Now
that investment tycoon Solomon Lew lives there, the steel, remote control gates are
closed more often than not and the house is locked away behind security cameras
and an imposing two-metre high rendered solid brick wall. It is a sign of changing
times in a suburb which has always been home to a wealthy and now, it seems,
increasingly paranoid elite.
Several other long-term survivors with extensive surrounds probably owed their
unruffled longevity and domestic status to their position in the disadvantaged
east ward. Large sections of the ward had been snapped up by the land boom
specialists, especially the Victorian Permanent Building Society, the Australian
Deposit and Mortgage Bank, the Commercial Bank and the Great Malvern
Park Estate Company Limited, only to linger on their books until the return of
better times. Along Waverley Road, Nirvana House, Coronal and Weeroona —
all large rather than manorial — remained without apparent threat (the first two
are still there). In Malvern's outer darkness, at the corner of Belgrave and
Dandenong Roads, one-time shire president R G Benson's Belgrave House
continued as his home until his death in 1894, and thereafter was far too remote
to tempt even the most sanguine speculator. It gradually lapsed into woebegone
decay, until a recent salvage operation recovered a modicum of its former
substance. In the area that later became Dundonald Avenue, Irona (later
Aldene) was built in 1890 for the manager of the Sun Foundry Company,
George Waterstrom, whose firm designed and manufactured iron lacework for
Victorian houses. Of Gothic style with a curious, prominent gable that
prompted the description 'strange rather than beautiful', Irona was liberally
bedecked with cast iron ornamentation. Both the original name and the
decoration are, presumably, a tribute to the profession of the first occupant.
59
60
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
In the more prestigious parts of Malvern as well, several mansions survived,
but most lost their acreages early and were converted to institutional purposes.
Flete, the Italianate brick and stucco mansion with wide encircling verandah
built for Justice Hartley Williams in the early 1880s, retained its private status
until the Second World War, when it became Southern Headquarters for the
Women's Auxiliary Air Force and subsequently a hostel for the Melbourne
Bible Institute. Brynmawr, Brocklesby House, Valentines and Ranfurlie all
became private schools. Only Sacre Coeur, the Roman Catholic ladies' college
that was established at Brynmawr, took possession of extensive grounds. When
the state governors reclaimed their St Kilda Road abode in 1931, Stonnington,
too, was temporarily given over to private education (St Margaret's Girls'
School). In 1919, a section of the Northbrook Estate that adjoined the cricket
ground was purchased by the Malvern Council, which had to wait another
sixteen years before fulfilling its ambition to own the house as well. Donald
Munro's mansion, built but never occupied by him, was advertised, perhaps in
accord with poetic justice, as being 'admirably suited for a first-class Guest
House or entertainment establishment', and went to another bidder. Three
years later, the Moorakyne Estate next to government house was sliced into
T W E N T Y Choice RESIDENTIAL LOTS' to make way for the ubiquitous
villa. In April 1935, in a turn of events that would have been unthinkable
during the vice-regal high noon, part of 'that famous property', Stonnington,
was excised when '26 choice residential lots' went under the hammer. A road
through the subdivision was, as an epitaph on the glorious past, briefly called
State Street.
Even before this, the view from the upstairs windows at the vice-regal
residence was more middle-class patchwork than upper-class park-like: 'Lady
Stradbroke is keenly interested in Australian architecture, and, living in a
suburb of better-class homes, has seen grow up around her many examples of a
period that is as far removed from that of the boom as Dan is from Beersheba'.
As early as 1888, in one of those periodic and usually rhapsodic assessments of
Malvern's progress, the Malvern and Armadale Express had remarked on the shift
from 'market garden and dairy produce purposes' to a suburban landscape:
'syndicates are being formed and the broad acres of pasturage land rapidly
studded with buildings of almost all sizes and dimensions suitable for dwellings
and business establishments'. In 1899, after the terrible lull of the depression, it
was noted that Malvern's building stock provided a resting place for all social
types. However, as the Malvern and Armadale Recorder pointed out, a few at the
lower end of the scale were ungrateful:
Some people are hardly ever satisfied. He had spent a good deal of time wandering
around Malvern endeavouring to find a resting place for his goods and chattels. At
last he was directed to a terrace of houses where the frontage was by no means
extensive. 'I never saw places so cooped up', he sighed. 'Why,' he said, 'You couldn't
even box your wife's ears without all the neighbours knowing it.' And then, with a
smile and 'come along, darling,' to his wife, he passed along on his search.
Unfortunately, the darling's reply was not recorded by the reporter — or
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
perhaps she was, like a good, late Victorian woman, well trained in compliance.
The range of dwellings was shown in the 1901 advertisements of real estate
agent H Beamsley, who had on his books houses priced from £470 to £3000.
By 1917, the mix, touted by Dunlop and Hunt Proprietary Limited, was
offered with a clever lure: 'We have built Villas, Shops, Cottages (all sizes),
Factories, etc, to the value of £1 310 000 in 12 years, providing homes on terms
as easy as rent for thousands of people who would never have saved enough to
pay cash for them'. The nomenclature indicated without apology the class of a
building and its occupiers. A 'residence' usually belonged to the Toorak end,
given that fully-fledged mansions had slipped discreetly out of acceptability. A
Villa' sat solidly and expansively in the middle, though a 'timber villa' (one
living-room only) definitely represented a humbler variation on middle-class
respectability. The 'cottage' and 'semi-detached residence' were lower on the
scale, but still decent, although perhaps the cottage at the meanest end of 'all
sizes' would be frightfully pinched. Although they by no means approached
modern inventiveness, estate agents equipped themselves with a little kit-bag of
appropriate adjectives. 'Magnificent', 'splendid' or 'massive' (a description that
hedged its bets) applied at the top end of the market, while a more spanking
phrase might enhance the appeal of the median range: 'Malvern Natty New
Villa, 5 spacious rooms, mirrored overmantles . . .'.
Graham Mclnnes arrived three years after Dunlop &L Hunt's eclectic
advertisement and found 'a very average suburb'. Looking from the plateau of
adulthood, the scene was, in his affectionate though deflating estimation, 'one
which Mr Osbert Lancaster has wittily described as "By-Pass variegated" and
except for the prevalence of terra-cotta roofs one might imagine oneself to be in
the streets off the Great West Road, in Surbiton'. Even allowing for its
demeaning overtones, his observation of tight, bricked-in monotony was
sometimes justified, especially in streets at that time lacking the leafy canopy of
established street trees, where speculative builders had run up clumps of houses,
solid enough but in their sameness like early versions of Leggo constructions. In
relation to his own house, time's revaluation seems to have confirmed his
impression of irredeemable ordinariness. When a history-conscious enthusiast
submitted 4 Grace Street to the National Trust for classification in December
1970 as 'a building typical of thousands, in the years between World Wars I and
IF — a typicality given spice by the moderate fame of Mclnnes and the tarnished
popularity of his acerbic novelist mother, Angela Thirkell — the answer was an
unadorned negative. Not mentioned in the plea was the fact that Mrs Thirkell
found her exile as galling to her sensibility as had the better-housed Lady
Stanley up the road at Stonnington.
Particular features that Mclnnes noted were gables 'fronted with chocolate
barge-boarding', shingle dormers, red brick with roughcast wall finish above,
'machined fretwork in creamy wood', windows shaped like portholes, wooden
verandahs (sometimes sporting 'a Japanese "tori" or ceremonial wooden arch')
buffalo grass, pittosporum hedges — and class, 'for there is such a thing even in
Australia'. In Grace Street, where he lived, the degeneration from better to
worse was neatly, if inadvertently, marked by a kink in the road. In fact, the
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
panorama was only generically related to the Surbiton of Osbert Lancaster's
witticism, and the amalgam, though gathering together a host of imported
elements, was sturdily indigenous.
Although Malvern offered the full range of dwellings, the most expansive
publicity was devoted to the upper end of the market, not the boom
mausoleum, but the smaller mansion or larger villa, and for this class of building
variety was essential. In February 1900, W V Bailey, a councillor at the time and
mayor three years later, was reported to be building a commodious villa on the
Garden Estate, which faced Dandenong Road. Its innovative architectural style
challenged the observer's powers of accurate description — 'somewhat mixed
. . . Queen Anne with various improvements' — but his admiration was clearly
aroused. The drawing-room was embellished with the new features, square,
recessed windows, inglenook fireplace and ceiling 'enriched [with] cornices of
fruit pattern the work of Mr Hendy, modeller, of Gordon-grove'. For the dining
and breakfast rooms, only the breathless generalisation was sufficient: 'art and
comfort appear to run hand in hand'. The windows were glazed with 'muriel [?]
glass', which also featured in the 'semi-octagon conservatory'. The five
bedrooms were large, and extensive utilitarian facilities were clustered at the
rear: kitchen, scullery, servants' rooms, basement wash-house, store-room and
man's room. Designed for the solid bourgeois rather than the showy high-flyer,
this substantial house was to be 'the forerunner of 60 . . . they will not be
bunched together as each house will have an allotment of 60 x 130 facing Baileystreet'.
Along with other 'aristocratic' suburbs, Malvern was discovering 'the socalled "Queen A n n e " ' style that so enraged novelist Martin Boyd, who
favoured the cool elegance of Georgian England and wished to see its graceful
simplicities translated to his homeland. Writing pseudonymously, he lashed out
at the excrescences of the new mode, with its 'turrets, leaded stained glass
windows, bows, projections, gargoyles, and an excess of filagree woodwork. I. . .
hope [to hold] the type up to as much hatred, ridicule and contempt as possible'.
The fanatical tone contrasted dramatically with the limpid classicism of his
usual prose. The reaction against the supplanted Victorian manner was equally
fierce. American-trained architect, John Horbury Hunt, who practised in
Sydney, fulminated against the 'vile . . . false . . . reckless piles, revolting to the
cultural taste and demoralising to the public mind'. To purist Le Corbusier eyes,
both the queenly styles had their needless eccentricities and needless embellishments, but the new fashion triumphed in its playful eclecticism. Swept forward
on the tide of imminent nationhood, the new look — of disputed name but now
generally called either Federation Period or Melbourne Queen Anne — with its
curious admixture of Queen Anne, American Shingle, Art Nouveau and Arts
and Crafts Movement flourishes and Jacobean elements, definitely reverberated
more strongly with the overtones of the word 'Home!'.
By integrating porches and verandahs with the house in a continuous line,
the steeply pitched roofs gave a sense of enclosure and security, like a nut-shell,
or a tea-cosy. But there was no boredom in safety and cosiness, for the roof
blossomed into an amazing variety of shapes through the use of gables, hips,
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
ventilators, gablets, dormers and chimneys — sometimes further enlivened with
attic rooms and candle-snuffer towers. The whole repertoire of elements lent an
effect both vertiginous and disconcerting. Once established in its complicated
glory of shape, the roof was surfaced often with crusty Marseilles tiles and then
further encrusted with crested ridge-capping and terracotta finials: dragons,
griffins, Art Nouveau-inspired curves, or the national emblems of ram's horns,,
emus and awkwardly poised kangaroos. Glimpsed in lowering sections (perhaps
a cheeky eave and a ridged chimney pot) from an upper window, or seen in its
totality (more townscape than mere roofscape) from an aerial view, the effect
was all rather archaic in impression, carbuncled in shape and burnt orange in
hue.
Cosily contained by the roof, the verandah too was subjected to the
eccentrically romantic treatment, in the form of infinitely varied brackets,
balustrades, columns and porches. The verandah spaces, opening out then
attenuating, broken by bay windows, filtering and ordering the light, were an
extension of the house described by George Tibbits in The So-Called Melbourne
Domestic Queen Anne as 'in effect an open air room, a symbolic representation of
Australianness'. Mediating between the interior and the exterior, the windows,
especially those in the formal parts of the house, were more like jewellery than
honest windows — brooches formed into harp-like convolutions of greens and
rose, heraldic lozenges of blue and gold, or botanical fantasies attempting the
many colours of Jacob's coat. From the inside looking out, the leadlighted
windows brightened into stylised radiance, with motifs of leaves, flowers, fauna
and landscapes. A flurry of nationalism expressed itself in rigid waratahs, stiff
kookaburras or ruminating lyrebirds; but most of the motifs were from that
other continent — roses, convolvuli, tulips, often attached to leaves and tendrils
of other botanical species. The small windows near the front door and in other
noticeable positions also responded to the spirit of fancy, usually circular, but
also oval, semi-circular, bull's-eye, horseshoe and oriel. As variety found a new
raison d'etre, the houses were havens where bankers, doctors, accountants, small
manufacturers and 'gentlemen' could retreat to a calm domestic existence that
also admitted a touch of playfulness, like the ones depicted in Arthur
Rackham's more decorous fairy tales, ruffled up with a slightly anarchic touch of
The Wind in the Willows. Along with their English equivalents, the most
inventive of these houses were lifted right out of the confines of the ordinary by
a 'dreamful unexpectedness' that was liberating in ways that reached beyond the
physical. In his treatise on The City in History, Lewis Mumford saw the style as
opening the windows of suburban constraint and letting in a pixilated spirit:
What were all these artful domestic exhibitions but Suburbia's service to 'Every Man
in his humour'? . . . something that had been lost in the city was here coming back in
an innocent form — the power to live an imagined life, closer to one's inner grain
than what the daily routine imposes.
Although he was reported in 1901 to be in the process of completing fourteen
residences on the Garden Estate, Mr Bailey's dream of sixty such carefully
differentiated, modern villas in the area was probably never realised. The 1904
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
rate books show that he owned two houses in Bailey Street and thirteen in
nearby Valentine Grove, three occupied by the vague, yet enviable, category of
'gentleman'. (This category was also numerous; in 1904-05, 256 ratepayers so
described themselves, about twice the tally of the next commonest selfdescription.) Ten years later, only seven more houses had been erected in Bailey
Street, but Bailey now owned five there. At the time, he lived in Valentine
Grove in a house with a net yearly value of £100; most of his houses were
annually valued at about half that. The house that was probably his first
residence on the estate still survives, facing Dandenong Road and its barrage of
traffic. It is a sizeable villa, but it hardly matches the expectations aroused by the
fulsome press announcement of its birth, except perhaps in its elegant leadlight
windows — some with sweetly childish landscapes — ram's horn finials and
curving verandah brackets. Other Federation houses in the two streets suggest
that his villas were modestly proportioned, faithful, though not inventive,
examples of the style.
Although the profile of Bailey's vision for an estate of cunningly distinct
Federation villas and the reasons for its non-realisation probably cannot be
traced, the shift from sparsely built-on paddocks to garden suburb has been
followed through in two Malvern estates (Stephen Clements The Gascoigne and
Waverley Estates, Malvern — A Study of Suburban Land Development 1885-1915),
Bounded by Burke, Wattletree, Tooronga and Dandenong Roads, the
Gascoigne Estate was masterminded by the resourceful Matthew Davies, who
was the largest owner, although the extent of his holdings was obscured by a
smokescreen of companies and connections. The Gascoigne Land Company
was registered in February 1885, and the next month the first auction was
announced by Davies' brother-in-law, James Mercer. Planned by the ubiquitous
Malvern surveyor, T B Muntz, the allotments were mostly 66 feet x 150 feet,
with some larger corner blocks. The key word was 'salubrious', and the capping
phrase 'a character and stability rivalling T O O R A K and S O U T H YARRA'. By
October, after a dramatically short life span typical of the boom, the Gascoigne
Land Company was in liquidation, but its demise had been compensated for
three months before by the birth of the Malvern Land Company Limited.
Despite the rapid entrance and exit of companies, seventeen houses were built
on the estate between January 1885 and February 1886, mostly in the southern
sections. According to Clements, they were 'fairly typical of the High Victorian
domestic style', but the introduction of an asymmetrical layout in these
buildings represented a move away from classical balance. Even though the
boom was heading towards its maximum inflation, only ten more houses went
up in the next five years. In the trough of the depression, from 1891 to 1893, the
period when Melbourne's population declined by almost 50 000, only three
houses, all timber, were erected, and, gloomy about the area's immediate
prospects, Davies allowed 'permissive occupancy' to the Melbourne Golf Club
on part of the land. Development in the Waverley Estate, which was largely
owned by the Australian Mortgage Finance and Agency Company, and which
offered standard fifty foot frontages to increase the number of blocks, was even
more faltering. From then until the late 1890s, building drastically declined, but
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
towards the end of the century optimism reasserted itself, and Malvern was
deemed by the Building and Engineering Journal of Australia and New Zealand to
be in the forefront of progress: 'the favourite suburb Malvern seems to be at
present booming in the erection of better class residences. Quite a score of these
new buildings consisting of from seven to ten rooms have been either completed
or are in the course of erection within the last two months'. Along with
neighbouring Hawthorn and Camberwell, Malvern was becoming a popular
dormitory suburb for the affluent middle class who could afford to employ
architects.
After the depression, the first burst of building on the Gascoigne Estate was
mainly confined to Finch Street. In August 1899, the well-known architectural
partnership of Beverley Ussher and Henry Kemp called tenders for the 'erection
of six 6 roomed villas with tyled roofs . . . all of different designs' (Numbers 21 to
33 Finch Street). At the same time, other architects — Sydney H Wilson, one of
the original architects of the town hall, J Beswicke 6k Klingender and Howitt &
Godfrey — were working there. By 1904, the rate books show twenty-four
houses in the street, all but two of them constructed in brick, and occupied by
the solidly middle class: secretary, importer, sharebroker, lawyer (four), clerk
(two), traveller, draper, gentleman (four).
Ownership was tight; of forty-four rateable properties (land and houses) over
half were held by five owners: the Commercial Bank (seven), the Mercantile
Assets Company (three; it was presumably an offshoot of Matthew Davies'
Mercantile Bank) and sharebroker John H Butler (five). Six brick houses
belonged to 'gentleman' William Knox, and a further three to Charles Wood
(occupation unstated). Ten years later, about twenty more houses had been
built, and, in a shift from company speculation to individual ownership, most
were owner-occupied. The five major holders had disappeared from the rate
books, except for the Knox name (he had died in 1913, his properties had passed
to his wife). Most of the houses were described as having eight, nine or ten
rooms. Development was boosted by the council's purchase of the Central Park
site in 1907, the growth of shopping centres on Dandenong Road and at the
corner of Burke and Wattletree Roads, and the rumour of a tram route along
Wattletree Road.
The special lavishness reserved for the corner properties was outlined in the
Malvern Argus in August 1917, when Kia Ora, on a 159 feet x 260 feet x 133 feet
block bounded by Finch and Belson Streets and Central Park Road, came on
the market. Although the advertised dimensions of the site are hard to interpret
given the layout of streets, the facilities were clear enough. The house included
tiled verandahs, entrance hall, lounge, sitting, dining and morning rooms, linen
presses, two maids' rooms, kitchen, scullery, conservatory with Minton tiled
floor, billiard and ballroom, three open-air sleeping rooms with louvred
shutters, and two small rooms of unspecified function. The garden contained
choice plants and was landscaped to include grass mounds, lawns and a miniature artificial lake. For the solitary, there were summer houses and a fernery;
for the sporting, a grass croquet lawn and an asphalt tennis court. This small,
self-contained paradise was probably the ten-roomed house owned in 1914 by
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
solicitor David Herald. It adjoined the premises of draper Oliver Gilpin, whose
own sixteen-roomed mansion must have been opulent as well as colossal, given
its net annual valuation of £350 (compared with £110 for Kia Ora).
With its squared lattice-work and extensive use of half-timbered Tudor gables
in an all-embracing roof, one of the most distinctive houses in Finch Street was
The Gables, Ussher & Kemp's fifteen-roomed house built in 1902 for the Birtchnell family. Early photographs (probably First World War or early 1920s) of its
exterior suggest that the building was relatively severe, even stolid, with none of
the defiant idiosyncracies and architectural jokes often associated with the style.
There is not a gargoyle, Hansel and Gretel tower or whimsical window in sight.
Combining the symmetrical and the picturesque, the reality is much more
modish and borders on the eccentric, and the same photographs show that the
decorative scheme for the interior was decidedly exuberant, even though rather
thick-grained. Recessed in an alcove and surrounded by complicated fretwork,
the fireplace in one sitting-room is as elaborate as an altar, though without the
objects of piety; but even the Art Nouveau ribands are pinioned in a regular,
arched framework that suggests a spirit less than spritely. In the billiard room,
too, the sinuous tendrils are set in a squared-off window that is itself confined in
a heavily arched recess. However, judging by the concentration of the two
players, it provided a suitably serious environment for the game. From what-nots
to billiard cues, it all looks cosily though fashionably domesticated. In the 1930s,
when the place became a reception centre, its 'refined atmosphere of a private
home' was felt to enhance celebratory occasions.
Although the architect-designed, high-budget houses exhibited the peak of
kaleidoscopic inventiveness, the builder-developers were capable of an ingenuity
made more modest by financial limitations, but often stylish nevertheless. Also
active in Finch Street was William Parker, a bricklayer graduated to builder
status, who built several residences there between 1906 and 1911. Parker's
houses were characterised by fanning lattice-work and the Corinthian columns
that were his particular trademark. They also showed design simplifications
along the lines advocated by architectural teacher and writer Robert Haddon: a
simpler verandah line, thinner columns, more efficient use of roof space and
reduced corner emphasis. From the earnestly imitative to the prodigally
innovative, the style evoked the world of Tiffany glass, Liberty of London
fabrics and Edmund Dulac illustrations.
The preference for solid construction suggestive of bourgeois solidity was
widespread and provoked several petitions requesting the declaration of brick
areas. It was assumed that wooden houses would easily degenerate into slums, a
possibility that aroused municipal sensitivities and became a propaganda point
in the agitation to extend municipal recreational reserves (buying up cheap
lands would discourage builders of human rookeries). Residents of the
Gascoigne Estate were determined to avoid this distasteful eventuality. In 1896,
when development of the area was still in the doldrums, they favoured building
in brick, 'praying the Council to take such steps as would prevent the erection
of single fronted wooden houses fronting the Streets in such Estates'. The
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
prejudice against timber was probably partly fuelled by its taint of 1890s
depression exigencies. By 1904, Finch Street was heading for major growth, and
the preference firmed. Residents complained that wooden houses were being
built, but the question did not reach boiling point until shortly before the First
World War.
In July 1912, at Alex McKinley's behest, council passed a motion favouring
the declaration of further brick areas. The Malvern News regarded his impetus as
detrimental:
Workers who live in wooden houses of moderate values do most of their shopping
locally, whilst the classy folk, whom Cr McKinley would encourage, would mostly
sleep in Malvern and trade in the city. Surely the worker has a perfect right to a
foothold in the city . . . other suburbs will receive him with open arms.
The acerbic reporter felt that Malvern's mania for brick looked particularly
inconsistent when its council, purportedly influenced by 'the brick combine',
had rebuffed a proposal for a brick works at Glen Iris. Overkill and self-interest
were deemed to sully further an already suspect cause: 'Cr McKinley has shown
a feverish desire to surround his own residence with brick areas, and Deakin
and Gillman streets — amongst others — were to be reincarnated. Nothing kills
a serious project like excess'.
Auctioneers, estate agents and landowners met to debate this knotty problem,
which was primarily a matter of the best way to maximise profit. They observed
a chaotic situation: To follow this list [of designated streets] one would need to
be a past master in the geography of Malvern, and would be competent to start
business as an estate agent . . . If paddocks were made brick areas they would be
vacant for a long time'. McKinley was accused of being a snob who had 'no time
for men of smaller means', but the whole council was condemned: 'The workers
living in Malvern . . . are the people who are making the trams successful, but if
any of them had been present in the Council chamber on Monday last . . . they
could only have come to the conclusion that ratepayers who live in wooden
houses are not wanted in Malvern' (Malvern News 24 August 1912). The claim
was made that many councillors did not even know the location of affected
streets, which were not in demand for the erection of timber buildings, 'let alone
brick villas'. A blight was being put on development, disadvantaging shopkeepers, putting men out of work and killing the chances for success of the Glen
Iris railway line: 'But there is one fellow jubilant and ready to pat the Malvern
Council on the back — that fellow is the "Brick Combine" '. The debate
reached such a pitch that the town clerk was reported to be 'nervously unstrung'
and on vacation in Queensland.
However, the general mood was set for controls on unrestricted building. In
October 1912, the mayor attended the Minimum Allotment, Anti-Slum and
Housing Crusade conference at the Melbourne Town Hall, and the rush to
declare brick areas gained momentum. At the end of 1913, streets near
Stonnington were declared; three months later the provision extended to
Ranfurlie, Valentines, Hedgeley Dene, Olives and other estates. 'It certainly is
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
not in the interests of the poorer ratepayer', one who was presumably of that
company complained. 'I admit the owners of the estate are very often rich and
influential men . . .'.
The climate may have favoured the 'rich and influential', but one body, the
Closer Settlement Board, was 'emphatically' opposed to the extension of
compulsory brick into its area of operations. The upsurge in housing that began
with the new century had provoked the usual enthusiasm, but there was a
catch: 'Any person who saw Malvern ten years ago would hardly recognise it as
the same place . . . One of the disadvantages which it has to contend with,
however, is the scarcity of small cottages — or workmen's tenements . . . suitable
for families with small incomes' (Malvern News 10 January 1903). In particular,
'an enterprising builder' was wanted to throw up cubbies for workers at the City
Brick Company's new kiln. A few years later, the Closer Settlement Board
arrived to answer the deficiency, purchasing land at Tooronga, part of the
Belmont Estate that had been subdivided in 1901. '101 acres of beautiful sunny
slopes . . . [in] the most picturesque and hilly part of Malvern' were made
available, with all facilities guaranteed: 'Allotments in the vicinity realise 25 to
50 per cent more money than the Government are asking for this estate . . . We
strongly advise people of moderate means to inspect the estate at once'. As if to
reassure potential residents that they were not being offered second-class living
standards, mention was made of the appearance there of 'ornate villas'.
In July 1911, the first ninety allotments were offered to 'any person 18 years of
age who is engaged in any form of manual, clerical, or other work for hire or
reward, and is not possessed of real or personal property to a value exceeding
£350, or whose salary does not exceed £220 per annum'. Couples were pictured
tramping eagerly over the lots, building plans in hand. By January 1913, a
further 126 allotments were released, and the Tooronga Progress League came
forward to assist sales. Allowance for a state school was made, and council
purchased space for a recreation reserve. The stipulation that residences erected
there should cost 'at least £300' showed a contrast in concept from McKinley's
alleged preference for houses valued between £1500 and £2000, but the board
felt that its conditions would 'ensure this area becoming a model portion of the
city', as well as providing for those with modest bank balances.
Other opinion was less convinced of the board's purity of generosity, the logic
of its financial arrangements and its ability to keep its guarantees. The
questionnaire for applicants was certainly prying in a very modern way. As the
vision materialised, deficiencies were noticed, and inaction was deplored.
Building was delayed by the failure to make the promised Yan Yean water
connection. When the water arrived, it was evident how minor the obstacle had
been: 'This week a regiment of men put in an appearance, and made short shrift
of this puny job'. However, 'the question of sewerage' remained 'a very bitter
subject', and a state of treelessness, it seemed, was to continue for at least a
season. The promise of providing for the education of children on the estate also
looked illusory. While the Tooronga Road institution was packed to the gills,
the site reserved for a new school remained barren. Political favouritism was
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
detected in the construction of palatial schools elsewhere, including one
allegedly costing about £8000 in an unnamed northern suburb.
The severest criticism was reserved for the restrictions on transferring the land
once the purchase price had been paid. People 'whose only crime has been that
they were men and women of moderate means, a monopoly that is not theirs
alone' were being victimised, the Malvern News blasted. Tooronga Closer
Settlement Association settlers were urged to take an active stand in protecting
their rights and to avoid paying for facilities that were part of their expectation
as ratepayers. When the clause prohibiting transfer of the land was modified,
suspicion remained: T h e r e is one question that is still unanswered, and that is
why did not the Land Purchase Board explain . . . that the Socialistic expedient
was present'.
The 'Socialistic' attitude had apparently spread further, for in rejecting the
General Motor Omnibus Company's application to run its service along the as
yet tramless Malvern Road, council was adamant: T h e day was past for
handing over the roads to a private company'. The ideological situation had
become quite confused, but the editor of the Malvern News was untroubled by
doubt and found so-called socialism completely repugnant:
It is earnestly to be hoped that the Government will never purchase another estate in
Malvern under the 'Closer Settlement Act', as the Land Purchase Board, in
subdividing the T[ooronga] E[state], has not shown the intelligence that would be
expected of a polar bear at a ballet dance . . . If Socialism can give no better results
. . . then it should be avoided like the plague.
'Socialism' and private enterprise had combined to create a building boom,
especially in the Glen Iris Valley. In September 1912, it was reported that
'Malvern is now building at the rate of 800 houses yearly — a progress
unprecedented by any other suburb'. Less than a fortnight after the declaration
of war in August 1914, the local press listed forty-one new houses and shops
begun in the previous three weeks. The 1915-16 annual report enthused about
the brisk market in 'high priced villas' and proudly referred to a fifty per cent
increase in nine years, a result of council's 'forward tramway policy' and its
revised building regulations. Malvern was now classified as a primarily brick
area, with some streets scheduled for timber construction. Further, allotment
sizes had been fixed at a minimum area of 6000 square feet with frontages of at
least fifty feet. The next year, the mood of self-congratulation intensified.
Malvern was the 'first municipality to take advantage of the greater powers
conferred by the Local Government Act 1915 .. . Owners can now build with
security . . . The operation of the minimum area clause has had the desired
effect — the stoppage of the jerry builder'. The only dampener was a slump in
building activity 'traceable to war and strike influences'.
The condition of certified and regulated salubrity had not been achieved
without a struggle. Supporters of a theoretical working class argued that plot
ratio, not frontages, should be the deciding factor and that manual labourers
did not necessarily require 'a large garden to exercise their muscles', even if
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
'Public Works Ministers and leader writers did'. Plots 45 feet x 90 feet (as
opposed to the 50 feet x 120 feet stipulation in the proposed by-law) were
adequate for workers' homes. Councils were accused of granting 'the right to
appeal' and then quashing every case. In self-defence, the mayor pointed out
that a higher authority, the Minister for Public Works, had insisted on the
extensive frontages, and pointed out that some modifications to allow the
building of flats had been admitted. The council-in-committee had considered
the views of fifty-four representatives of the real estate and building trades and
the directive of the minister. Showing a mind of its own or perhaps in a quandry
as to where it should centre its support, it agreed with neither party.
These petty dispensations and empty assurances were regarded as insufficient.
In October 1916, anticipating the implementation of the minimum allotment
clause, the opposition galvanised itself and began to letter-box the populace. 'I
have just received a lurid document inviting me to attend an "indignation"
meeting', a ratepayer with clean hands wrote to the town clerk. 'I do not wish
you &L the councillors to think that I am mixed up with or have had any hand
in drawing up what I consider a most ungentlemanly ck ill-advised document.'
The town clerk may have wished his nerves were frayed enough to condone
another holiday.
The publicity was certainly inflammatory: 'Do you know that if the property
you occupy is burnt down the proposed Regulations would probably prohibit its
re-erection . . . [They] will encourage the erection of an inferior class of house
. . . on ridiculously large sized allotments . . . Preserve our Beautiful City from
Depreciation. Knock Out the Brick Area Bogey'. Photographs on the circular
showed cramped brick eyesores contrasted with a commodious double-storied
weatherboard next door. Costing a hefty £1000, the latter would be prevented
under the by-law. In the face of such apparent contrarieties, determining the
grounds of the quarrel must have been hard for the uninitiated. Unimpressed
and not holidaying, the town clerk informed the organisers that permission to
use the town hall would be withdrawn unless the misleading leaflets were withdrawn. Mayor Wilks objected particularly to the classification of the meeting as
an 'indignation' assembly and advised, perhaps futilely, that no censure of
council would be permitted. On the other hand, applying pressure to the
government was permissible.
In the event, the meeting took place under the mayor's aegis, but the
atmosphere was still stormy, as W H Edgar, former councillor, M L C and estate
agent, and other prominent speakers led the attack. Presumably, the target was
the alleged 'brick combine' on council, and possibly the defenders of the
working class included a few builders and estate agents who were able to marry
altruism and commerce. 'Builders and Investors', they thundered, were entirely
responsible for Malvern's Athenian elegance: 'The Council's Regulations have
never encouraged this one iota, and the credit of the best planned streets and
good class of homes are entirely due to the Subdividors [sic] and the Home
Builder'. The wide frontage would mean that a workingman's house and land
would cost a prohibitive £700. The source of the forces behind the agitation was
fairly obvious. In a dramatic and prophetic gesture
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
Mr Lawson sketched out the effects of town planning, which would stretch out
Melbourne to the Dandenong ranges, and London over the English channel to
France. In London many aristocrats lived in residences on 33-ft frontages, and surely
what was good enough for the aristocrats of England was good enough for the
working men of Malvern.
For visual impact, he illustrated his point with designs of ideal workingmen's
homes on plots 23 feet x 93 feet. An additional grouch was detection of the
dreaded foreign influence of the United States in the outrageous new standards.
Despite the mayor's ban on indignation, that emotion was paramount in
criticism of the minister's audacity in dictating to Malvernites the kind of'house
we shall build'. It was the old cry for democratic freedom, pronounced by selfrighteous, self-appointed sectional interests and inadvertently beneficial to the
constituency they claimed to speak for.
The debate was not completely one-sided. A motion that council should
postpone action on its building regulations until the Royal Commission on
Housing Conditions had presented its report was vociferously opposed by a Mr
Williams. He had moved to Malvern for 'a little breathing space' and now found
a sad deterioration in standards, especially in benighted Repton Road 'where
you could lean out of one window and shake hands with the people in the next
house'. The plea was disregarded, and the motion was passed.
A deputation of ratepayers and property owners to the Minister of Public
Works was led by the vice-president of the Builders' Association, who painted a
gloomy picture of the outcome of restrictive by-laws and high prices. Families
would be forced to live two to a house, sleeping in tents and on verandahs, and
the 'poorer classes' would be prevented 'from purchasing little homes of their
own'. The minister, otherwise described as 'the big Bashaw, who rules Victoria
from a chair in the Public Works Department', circumspectly advised that he
would also meet with council representatives, a conversation apparently held in
camera and unreported. The Tooronga Progress League continued its lobbying,
but their cause was doomed, for, in November 1916, the contentious by-law was
passed.
Parts of Malvern had been reserved for 'the larger and better type of
residence', but the debate was not dead. In May 1917, an application to
proclaim timber areas in the Woodford Estate was discussed. The 'modest
means' of many Carnegie residents was highlighted, but McKinley's view that
'nice little cottages could be put up in brick . . . He would not like to think that
any part of Malvern would become a slum area' won the day; and the proposal
was narrowly rejected. For McKinley, the pearly gates probably opened on to
brick paving lined by brick residences for angels.
However, there were other forces at work, threatening Malvern's tight
standards. In the wake of the war, which had seen a slowing in development, an
unusually large number of subdivisions were submitted in 1919-20, and 770
new buildings appeared, including 'very large mansions' in Yar Orrong Estate
and 'very fine villa residences' in Valentines Estate. Moreover, the catastrophe
had produced a new class of disadvantaged resident: returned diggers and
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
soldiers' widows. The War Service Homes Commission announced that it
intended to acquire land compulsorily for the erection of about 500 homes
between Serrell Street and Belgrave Road. The commissioner described a lowcost Utopia:
the plan of development will conform to modern ideas in regard to the general layout . . . the roads will vary in width to serve the particular purpose for which they are
intended — open spaces and play-grounds will be provided for recreational purposes,
the purely residential sections will be protected for residences only and special sites
set aside for shopping and other community necessities . . . each house would be
planned and set in such a manner that there would be an abundance of light and air
to each home.
Council announced that it was prepared to amend its building by-law to meet
the commission's requirements, and in October 1919 the first subdivisional plan
for 192 allotments, with 26 000 square yards set aside for reserves and playgrounds, was generally approved. The allowance of recreational space for the
intended population was probably more generous than that for anywhere else in
Malvern.
It was a noble and compassionate idea that quickly went wrong. No provision
had been made for drainage, and a ceiling of £700 had been put on the cost of
houses. In July 1920, council capitulated to the realities and allowed timber
construction 'within the inner portion of the Carnegie Estate', thus compromising its beloved brick principle. As a concession to the more modest
means of residents, a higher percentage of wooden buildings (thirty-eight per
cent compared with twenty per cent elsewhere in 1921-22) was tolerated in the
east ward. In fact, few timber houses seem to have crept into the estate, which
survives largely as a mixture of modest California Bungalow and Spanish
Mission houses, sparsely decorated and perhaps a little pinched in their
dimensions by comparison with more full-blown examples of their styles. A red
brick and terracotta pair, with woodwork now smartly painted cream and inky
green, are called Wimmera and Amiens, names that seem to sum up the
innocent Australia that went to war and the unthinkable reality that it found.
While the estate was being developed, more serious matters than acceptable
building materials impinged. In March 1922, the council's medical officer
warned the town clerk of unsanitary conditions in the area: it was 'only a
question of time before these drains become contaminated . . . the locality will
become a menace to the occupants of the houses and a centre from which
infectious diseases may become epidemic in the neighbourhood'. Shortly
afterwards, the town clerk wrote to the secretary of the commission outlining
the background to the Carnegie Estate and its problems. 'It was the desire of the
Commission to make a settlement on Town Planning Principles', but the plan
had been withdrawn: 'a new plan . . . cut out the Town Planning idea and was
practically the same as any ordinary subdivision. (This was done on account of
the excessive cost which the soldiers would have to bear)'. The wand of T o w n
Planning Principles' showed its touch primarily in the two small but pleasant
squares, Villers and Brettoneux, named with perhaps misplaced good intentions
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
after a shattered village in France where many Malvern boys had perished.
Inserted into the scheme without any obvious rationale, they look like a gesture
towards the 'Garden Suburb' ideal, which in any case had been thoroughly misunderstood by the time it reached this unexpected corner.
In October 1922, the Sun News Pictorial described a dream turned nightmare:
Whited Sepulchres! War Service Homes or What? Drainage and Disease. Undrained
land, cesspools, open drains, some of them running up hill, stagnant water, floods
after a rainfall — these are some of the conditions which the Diggers who live in War
Service Homes at Carnegie have been trying to get remedied for the last 12 months.
Some of the details may not have survived scrutiny (drains running up hill?),
but the overall message was unmistakable. Disapproving reference was made to
the commission's derelictions, and one of their subdivisional plans was rejected
'in the interests of returned soldiers'. However, council was not entirely
guiltless, and divided responsibility allowed both involved parties to shift blame.
Delay in connecting the water main, which necessitated 'the task of carrying
every drop of water', was blamed on council procrastination. A long-suffering
resident of Brettoneux Square found his streetless environs 'all right on a
moonlight night, but on a dark night we have to grope our way home'. Another
complained of the large gorse hedge on the estate and its status as 'a great
camping ground for tramps 6k swaggies'. After an exchange of letters, the
commission decreed that it was not responsible for weed eradication, and the
itinerants presumably stayed on unmolested. The law and order situation was
so precarious that, in April 1921, the commonwealth government was permitted to equip its pay clerks on the estate with revolvers and ammunition.
Lack of sewerage increased the discomforts; parts of Murrumbeena and
Carnegie were not sewered until late 1926, when the citizens relievedly
cancelled the delivery of pans.
The financial plight of some returned soldiers added to their misery and made
a mockery of the vow to compensate them for the sacrifices they had endured.
Appealing for a reduction in rates, one outlined the pressures on his family:
thirty-six pounds in rates, quarterly lodge and road construction dues (and yet
the road had 'never been touched'), weekly house payments, water rates,
monthly bills for gas and electricity, a debt to the Repatriation Department for
furniture, all on a weekly wage of £4 2s Od:
how much do you think one has left for food, there is nothing left for clothing. My
wife &L I are both careful, neither drink or gamble & we never have a penny left at
the end of the week, if this is the way you are going to help a returned soldier to get a
home, I am sure there will be very few of us ever have one, for it will drive us clean
out of our homes instead of helping us to get one.
This letter, touching in its punctuational heedlessness and catalogue of woes,
was a particularly sharp reminder of the cry that was reverberating at the time:
'to get a home'. At the beginning of 1914, the Malvern News had complained
that 'notwithstanding the steady advance which has taken place in wages
during the last few years there does not seem to be any increasing desire on the
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
part of the average worker to provide himself with a home. It may be that
uncertainty of permanent employment has something to do with this . . .'.
However, the writer noted, some who had achieved stability preferred to linger
reprehensibly in tenant status. The odium shouldered by the feckless tenant
continued to provide good copy. T h e worst excesses of the land-shark were
never perpetrated in Malvern', said the Malvern Spectator self-righteously, but
not very informedly, in November 1934 in a glowing review of 'How Malvern
Grew. Cattle Run to Garden Suburb', 'it is regrettable that this year of
centenary witnesses the amazing advance of the flat. No matter how attractive
the flat-builder makes his money-making device it remains a tenanted building'.
As the century advanced, a home of one's own was a passionate ambition.
The years after the First World War saw a rush to subdivide many of Malvern's
remaining natural lands, many of them in the eastern ward: Moonga, Myamyn,
Yar Orrong, Troys, Oaks, Malvern Park, Waverley Station, Malvern Garden,
Darling Junction, Electric Tramway Terminus, Yarrayne. Representing all
Malvern's social divisions, but concentrating on the expanding middle range,
these subdivisions were sliced up to meet the desire for a house, preferably
owner-occupied and detached on its own block, with a garden for the private
enjoyment of families. Although the language used to promote the virtues of
these estates did not reach the hyperbole of the boom (a knowledge of Greek
myths and a dictionary at hand were no longer required), the appeal was still
directed effusively towards the image that people liked to have of their lives.
When William Woodmason's Malvern Park Estate, East Malvern, was offered in
November 1922, the publicity showed houses in Malvern Road with the caption
'Malvern. The City of Real Homes'. It continued:
The General Slopes of East Malvern could not have been planned by human hands
better for the purpose they serve. These sunny, well drained eastern slopes, which
command such a lovely outlook, are being covered with beautiful and up-to-date
homes, for people who want up-to-date Metropolitan Traffic facilities, and the
amenities of suburban home life.
Promotion for the shop sites at the junction of Waverley and Malvern Roads
envisaged 'development of this great potential business centre' poised on the
'great natural artery . . . to the East and Gippsland'. Progress had taken on an
aggressive tincture of modernity.
Earlier on, advertising had promoted its real estate wares in essentially class
terms: the mansion, the residence, the villa and the cottage provided a wellunderstood descending scale. On the other hand, the home was a classless
concept, even if the reality determined otherwise. Practicalities partly dictated
this classlessness (or perhaps it was diplomatic vagueness), because many of the
great fortunes had dissipated, and the willing bodies who had formerly occupied
the man's room and the maid's room had decamped to a more independent
milieu. Perhaps, more persuasively, the years of horror had seeped into the
Australian psyche, producing a desire for shelter and normality that involved
repossessing the domestic virtues. In its extreme manifestation, the instinct
worked to create a private world where the individual could satisfy all private
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
needs and attempt to realise unexpressed dreams within the confines of his own
property. In the crude but appealing aphorism of real estate and subdivisional
agent Walmer E Coleman, 'EVERY LOT MEANS A H O M E , A N D A H O M E
MEANS A LOT'. The message was accompanied by an illustration of a
bungalow, a little pinched and pokey perhaps, but nevertheless sporting
fetching features: decorative stonework on the chimney and verandah footings,
and a triangular pediment and eaves facing the street. The homely touch was
emphasised by flanking cypresses and plants on the window-sills. Probably the
cypress could have been bettered as a tree that guaranteed reassurance.
The increased averageness of life-styles required a shift in attitude. The
condition of suburbia, a term coined in the mid 1890s that especially applied to
London, was now consciously accepted. The desirable and desired characteristics of suburbia spawned a new mode of description. As the advertisement for
the Malvern Park Estate acknowledged, the fresh approach demanded facilities
and amenties, and the overriding quality of these new requirements was their
up-to-dateness. Applied to the individual house, contemporary expectations
attached primarily to the interior where, as passages were reduced or eliminated,
nifty devices were introduced to economise on labour. Built-in fittings helped to
exorcise the dust demon: glass-fronted cabinets on either side of the fireplace,
windows seats with storage space, linen presses in the diminished back hallway.
Further streamlining of domestic life was achieved through serveries between
kitchen and dining room, service hatches for deliveries, even clothes chutes into
the laundry. The cunning interconnections were a little reminiscent of Squirrel
Nutkin's tree-house or Mrs Tittlemouse's subterranean abode in Beatrix Potter's
children's stories.
The superiority of the new way extended to the provision of labour-saving
devices that were intended to improve the lot of the beleaguered, servantless
female. 'Make her Spring Cleaning A Pleasure' one local appliance advertisement advised as the likely beneficiary looked on coyly from a sketch, complete
with apron, Peter Pan collar, wings and halo. In the 1920s, many houses converted to gas, and the spitting chrome cylinder over the bath took up a saintly
position, matched by the pulsating gas copper in the laundry. Those with extra
means replaced their dripping ice-chests with refrigerators, diminishing the
livelihood of the iceman with his cargo of opaque, icy wedges. For the few, the
all-electric dream became a reality because 'Your Electrical Servants ARE N O W
BECOMING MORE PLENTIFUL', while for those caught in the gas timewarp, the regular arrival of the Electrolux man, with his cargo of electric dream
capsules in the form of vacuum cleaners, was some compensation.
Up-and-coming housewives were also kept well-informed about the future
that they could, with luck, achieve. In 1934, the Korowa girls attended 'The
Better Housekeeping Exhibition', organised by the Housewives' Association at
the Melbourne Town Hall and were presented with the vision of an astonishing
labour-saved future, to be secured by an army of appliances: the electric washing
machine (the only manual chore was the ritual 'blueing'), the dishwashing
machine, automatic gas stoves (even a model of 'a fireless cooker') and, on a
humbler level, the 'Straineze' saucepan that eliminated 'the necessity of holding
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
the saucepan with both hands'. The latest radios from humble mantel model to
huge veneered console, a lounge suite hedonised with cellular rubber padding, a
'cream-making machine', Vacola bottling outfits and electric refrigerators ('a
great improvement on the old-fashioned ice-chests . . . the food is safely
preserved from the growth of bacteria') — all these extended the vision into a
housewife's bliss. Still in the future lay the aesthetic improvement of the home
telephone, presaged by demonstration of 'a working switch-board of a public
telephone'. The next year the school opened its new Domestic Science kitchen
and, during the christening ceremony, 'interested spectators' were shown 'how a
whole dinner could be done to a nicety in the New World oven in the space of
an hour'.
The question of the way in which the extra hours achieved should be
occupied was not addressed, and perhaps the expectation of grinding,
pernickety labour in the domestic area was so entrenched that the labour-saving
devices were as much concerned with technological self-admiration as housewifely self-determination. 'Make yourself a kneeling apron', the Malvern
Advertiser suggested well after the Korowa girls' excursion, the mat to be
composed of fragments of felt, old summer dresses, old mackintoshes and old
blankets: 'attached to [the inside of] your apron' it would be 'quite invisible from
the front'. Or else the duty-bound housewife might construct a mesh bag from
two knitted dish cloths so that handkerchiefs might be safely laundered. Or boil
eggs in a jam tin to protect the beautiful new aluminium saucepans from
discoloration. Then, if spare time weighed on the conscience, proof-reading for
a publisher might be adopted: 'A clever woman could plan it to fit in with four
or five other occupations, for the hand that rocked the cradle while the voice
crooned the lullaby could occasionally grab a pencil to make a correction'. Even
in the exciting new era the home front was a scramble of contrary impulses, but
the moral thrust was all in the one direction. 'Young women especially should
ask themselves very seriously', warned the Malvern Spectator (March 1941),
envisioning the hazards of independence, 'if a heap of cigarette butts and a pile
of empty bottles is an adequate substitute for a safe and secure home of their
own'.
The exterior of the house was slower to adopt a modern image, but the flag of
the future was raised over at least one Malvern roof, the Salter House, designed
in 1922-23 by Walter Burley Griffin in Glyndebourne Avenue, Toorak. It has
been described by one of Griffin's biographers, perhaps with the partisan overtones of an acolyte, as 'more important to the development of Australian
domestic architecture than any other house in the country'. Its extraordinary
economy and audacious individuality certainly did point firmly towards a new
vision of modernity. However, for the most part the between-the-wars house
resembled a shrunken villa, enlivened and individualised with stylistic
variations that ranged through Arts and Crafts Movement cosiness, Art Deco
jazziness, Neo-Georgian decorousness and Spanish Mission curvaceousness.
The pattern contained within the proliferating variety has been described in
Maisy Stapleton's 'Between the Wars' chapter in The History and Design of the
Australian House:
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
The bungalow was the ubiquitous housing form . . . a small detached, singlestoreyed, rectangular building with a jutting front porch, built of brick with a red
tiled roof that had evolved from the Federation villa. Its scale and compact size were
ideally suited to middle-class housing — fulfilling the Australian ideal of a home of
one's own.
After long lingering in paddocked rawness, sanguine about a domesticated
outcome, Malvern's east ward became a monument to the prevailing homely
mode. In the mid 1920s, just over the road from where the War Service
Commission Estate was developing within its decreed brick perimeter, William
Woodmason's Malvern Park Estate of 157 lots, a triangle bounded by Albert
Street and Waverley and Malvern Roads, was developing in obeisance to the
ideal of the ubiquitous bungalow. Crossing the triangle, with an awkward little
dog-leg going onto Malvern Road, Coolgardie Avenue became an image of
suburbia that has survived almost unchanged. Only its name seems a little out
of the average mould. Perhaps apocryphal, probably true, the story is that
Woodmason named it according to his belief that land represented a fortune
sound as gold. The family were not boom profligates and managed to retain
their lands until they bore fruit that were not simply phantasmogoric and were
gathered in without seeming to harm anyone. Five years after the sale of the
estate, the annual report noted that the area was experiencing the greatest
building activity in the municipality.
The past is there to recapture in its peculiarly insistent and imperious way.
Like Graham Mclnnes, I found my childhood street — Woodmason's pot of
gold — average; unlike him, and perhaps with the advantage of a different kind
of retrospection, I now realise that I always enjoyed, in an unexpressed way, a
certain fantasy in its largely Spanish Mission style, which embodied a restrained
aspiration for glamour and nostalgia, designed for people of moderate means,
even if the ideal was not necessarily understood by them. It now enjoys a
mellower reality and its affluent occupants have built roomy back extensions
onto most of the houses, but the unknown builder's tasteful variations and
thoughtful concessions to the instinct for variety are unaltered. Perhaps the
divergences amount only to variations on a theme, concessions to difference
encompassed without too much trouble within an easily repeated formula; but
the charm and liveliness are unmistakeably there.
Diversity is most noticeable in the treatment of the window panes and
surrounds, and the placement and features of the verandahs. An elegant
ventilator above the central window of one house is shaped rather like a heartshaped tennis racket. Above the windows, stucco is formed into elaborate
scrolling or a semi-circle patterned like a fan or shell. Full-length barley sugar
poles or half-size ones, topped with acanthus leaves, give a certain pretension
combined with a sense of sanctuary to the verandah. One semi-circular
verandah brings a ship-style flourish to an otherwise Spanish Mission house;
for, while some porches are frankly non-utilitarian, the occasional portico
announces itself as a formal entrance, perhaps a little grand for the relatively
modest proportions beyond. Diamond-patterned leadlights or windows where
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
the lead framing forms a rising sun pattern, sometimes with a few touches of
aqua glass, throw broken rainbows onto the walls inside. The grey tiled roof of
one house contrasts with the terracotta of its neighbour. One house is an
unconsciously quaint hybrid of Spanish Mission and California Bungalow and
proclaims its own touch of individuality in the patterned brickwork and
lozenges of glazed tiles over the verandah. A few California Bungalows are
interspersed through the predominant Hispanic style of the street, and again the
quiet variations exist, in brick verandah surrounds, louvred ventilators and
shingled surfaces. The style reaches a grander statement in the only original
two-storied house in the street, an imposing rather than beguiling place, notable
for the impressive regularity of its design and the lavishness of its features:
swollen bay windows topped with shingles, Art Deco leadlights, double porch
on the first storey, handsome portico reached by a curving drive with an insert
of herringbone-patterned bricks, the whole given a separatist air by the high
creeper-covered wall. Built by a wealthy builder as his own residence, it
summons up a handbag-full of self-important adjectives and looks rather like a
socialite who has blundered into a mothers' club meeting.
For all their insistence on the new practicalities, the interiors of these houses
imported the element of fantasy that seemed more at home in grander
proportions. Designed for easing the domestic burden, the internal amenities
actually often meant a failure of the practical impulse. The neat little serveries,
with their stiff wooden shutters, were gradually pressed into service as yet
another cubby hole for the display of knick-knacks or the pathetically limited
suburban library that often included a volume for the home doctor. The glassfronted cupboards flanking the fireplace had a depth that could only
accommodate a few cups and saucers. Throwing out their aureoles of fractured
sunlight, the leadlight doors that separated rooms often unnecessarily impeded
movement, but at least they could summarily separate warring family factions.
The portentous panelling, impressive for a living hall, became an area of
intimidating gloom when it was tacked around a space the size of a box-room (a
storage place no longer regarded as necessary). The display shelves that often
topped the panelling were far too narrow to show off fat Chinese urns or
rounded Lalique vases; and what else more appropriate to hang on the panelling
itself than those familiar, yet unconsciously bizarre, pictures of dogs playing
cards? It also had to be admitted that, behind this up-front elegance, the house
usually dwindled into a back area that was distinctly ordinary, a spartan sleepout, covered-in porch and outside lavatory.
Although the 1880s boom saw the greatest proportional increase in Malvern's
building stock, the decades between 1920 and 1940 saw the development of a
fully fledged suburb that would not drastically alter its profile until the flatbuilding and cluster housing of the 1960s and 1970s. (Despite the propaganda,
the massive shift in home ownership did not really show until the 1961 census.)
By 1932-33, the annual report could claim that, after a low of thirty-two new
houses in the hungry year of 1931, 'the only vacant land now left is in the
extreme east portion of your City. This will undoubtedly be soon built upon'.
Three years later, the boast was amplified to include quality along with
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
quantity: 'The class of buildings erected in Malvern is exclusive. The average
value is well over £1000'. These statistics may have stimulated a flush of civic
pride in those conscientious souls who bothered to read their annual reports,
but they said little about the quality of life in all those neat streets of neat
houses, where the untrammelled spirit seemed concentrated in the huge plane
and poplar trees, planted with pride but, according to those who favoured a
tight suburban profile, without foresight by the municipal authorities.
Few of us could claim the kind of stability of residence, akin perhaps to a
village backwater, described by one Malvern woman, whose extended family for
three generations 'all lived within an area the size of the East Malvern Oval for a
large part of their lives'. And yet we had a strong sense of an established order in
which our place was clearly defined, if not verbalised. Our deepest experience of
community life moved outwards in concentric circles from the street we lived in.
Street life functioned as an experience of extended family, and I still remember
with a rush of qualified pleasure the summer nights when the kids gathered, in
entirely unconscious deference to the long-lost Jacobite cause, for a game of
'Charley over the water, Charley over the sea . . .'. Classically simple, the game
involved traversing the road to reach the nature strip without being caught by
the 'he' who was marooned in the middle. Presumably, the three elements
represented the Hebridean Sea, the Isle of Skye and the absconding Stuart
prince. For me, a fat, unspeedy child, this sport was full of shame as well as
anticipation; the notion of being 'caught' held vague excitement, but there was
the dread of being marooned in the middle of concreted Coolgardie Avenue — a
permanent Charley, not fleet-footed enough to capture a replacement royal.
This game seemed inexplicably and mistily historic, but our lives as children
were remarkably time-bound, even and mundane, generally confined within an
orbit that embraced, in my case, Lloyd Street Central School, St Andrew's
Church, Serrell Street, the Crystal Palace Cinema, Caulfield, the golf course
where my parents were almost permanent fixtures and, of course, Gardiner's
Creek where a rural reality was glimpsed.
Although it was a street primarily of young children and their parents,
Coolgardie Avenue was where we were initiated into tragedy and death. In my
visual memory bank, the vellum image of one woman has been entirely
absorbed by her protracted death from a brain tumour. For months, it seems,
she lay in the shrouded house with its arcaded verandah, and, when the end
came, there was only a sense of sad completion as the coffin was taken into the
house and emerged with its frail burden. This event was particularly awesome,
because of her comparative youth and her sex — generally it was the men who
died. From time to time, after a hush of awed anticipation and the quiet removal
of a body, another widow from the small contingent of older inhabitants was
born into the street. We learnt early that the women were the stayers, a lesson
most tellingly encapsulated in the person of an ancient spinster who survived,
ever more crippled, but still defiantly independent, into the early 1970s when
the street had largely converted to an enclave of grandparents, and my own
children clattered up and down the street on their tricycles. By this time, a
glimpse of this battered survivor was a resplendent happening. As she moved
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
stiffly towards the standard roses that were ranged along her brick fence as if
they had been squeezed out of paint tubes, she acquired the totemic endurance
of a Red Indian wise woman.
This ramrod apparition had, however, defied, or failed to learn, another of
our first lessons — or perhaps she had been unlucky. Her unmarried state made
her, in principle, a pitiable object, although it was hard to square her appalling
failure with her frosty dignity and the fact that, while she did not exactly look
happy, nor did she appear unhappy. Spinsterhood was the most horrific
prospect for a woman, and fear of this outcome made us tailor our clothes
accordingly. The narrow expectation applied to most of our attitudes, for we
were, inexorably and effortlessly, being cast as little conformists, mentally
unadventurous and socially limited, encouraged towards a degree of selfexpression, but conditioned to avoid excess, whether it focussed on drink or
books. Our middle-class expectations meant that we were profoundly, if tacitly,
alert to untoward differences. In this street of mainly Scottish and English
names — Scott, Campbell, Jane, Butler, Duncan, Betts, Edwards, Smith — any
departure from the Anglo-Saxon Protestant norm stood out. The combination
of religious and national exceptionality, an unusual occurrence in East Malvern
of the 1950s, was like a hint of a puzzling unknown world.
None of the residents of Coolgardie Avenue at that time diverged enough
from the mean to supply an intimation of the strange complications and
possibilities of the world, but one large Edwardian house in nearby Winton
Road challenged our restricted experience. With a secretive cypress hedge,
gloomy terracotta eaves and a beaten clay drive, it was the residence and
business premises of a mysterious Jewish family who manufactured dolls.
Occasional visits there were overlaid with an incomprehensible stillness, a
feeling of foreboding that, in reality, probably signified a trauma of recollection.
The family seemed to have been translated into this lofty, unlikely place
without cause or background, and the parents, moving taciturnly, conveying a
sense of being only partly there, lacked the ease, jollity and simplicity of the
sporty parents of the rest of us. The puzzling human atmosphere was compounded by the strangeness of the physical environment. Bins and tables held
dolls in every stage of assembly: doughy bodies, stiff limbs, rough wigs, and
heads, often bald, with blank eyes and apricot-coloured necks. The sight of
these separated parts entirely quelled the wish to see the whole doll; there never
seemed to be clothes or a completed product, only an endless proliferation of
dismembered portions. The stereotyped faces and lumpen torsos of that muddle
of dolls were more memorable than the blurred lineaments of the family who
made them.
By contrast, we did not feel the urge to question why we were there and what
experiences had formed us. Our apparent sameness obscured a myriad eddies of
discord and deviation, but we were calm water compared with the tide of
historic disaster suggested by that curiously becalmed house, a rare intimation
of the diverse and complex world that suburban Australia was to become. That
trinity of images, the game with its hints of Celtic twilight and Fata Morgana,
the virgin-queenly 'old maid' and her standard roses, the Jewish dollmakers
THE UBIQUITOUS VILLA
in their Federation mausoleum, seemed to embrace the hidden forces that
informed our lives.
A more practical determinant, with all its subtle gradations, was familiar and
admissible. Although we did not revere the Toorak postcode like the 1970s
social columnist of the Southern Cross, who seemed to confuse it with the
password to heaven, we were aware of all the minute distinctions in status that
separated people who, on the surface, enjoyed equivalent expectations and
similar possessions. This awareness seeped inexorably into us, despite the
classlessness of the concept of home that was supposed to embrace us all. The
most powerful demarcation points were the schools and the churches, and it
was in those places that we were made aware that we were part of a community
and inducted into appropriate attitudes and codes of behaviour.
81
CHAPTER • 4
The Deeper Work of
Character Building
(
We, as Christian Teachers, do work in hours of worship which is
of supreme moral value to the Municipality . . . we submit that a
sacrifice of corporate games is wise in view of the other corporate
responsibilities which we have in the sight of God as a people, and
we believe that the City Fathers have a responsibility to encourage
those, who in difficult times are doing the deeper work of character
building.}
Reverends Mitchell, Owen and Dewhurst in deputation to the
Malvern City Council 7 December 1936
When the three ministers put their case against Sunday
golf in classically simple terms to council as the manager of the public reserves,
they were not preoccupied with a clerical matter or mischievous interference in
the way people conducted their lives. Their concern was with religion as the
centre and purpose of human life, the guardian of the earthly present and the
guarantor of a heavenly future. They were impelled by the need to protect the
sanctity of the seventh day when humanity mirrored the example of the creator
who, as recounted in the Book of Genesis, paused after drawing the universe out
of the void: 'On the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and
he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God
blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it'.
In some minds, the force of the Sabbatarian argument had slipped from
unquestioning acceptance to downright irritation. Opponents of the clergy saw
the embargo as 'an unjustifiable restriction upon the civic liberties of the
Malvern residents'. Despite the foray into the difficult terrain of democratic
liberty, their arguments concentrated on the practicalities. Why should the city
forego the lucrative revenue involved, while at the same time increasing
municipal indebtedness in the matter of loan moneys? At the very least,
ratepayers ought to be given preference on the municipal golf links on Saturday
afternoons before the dreaded Sunday blackout descended. One wit envisaged a
coven of twenty-six clergy complaining about the desecration of the sabbath by
croaking frogs (actually denizens of Camberwell or Mulgrave with great powers
of sound projection). As well, a certain hypocrisy was discerned in a high82
12 Trams, those rocketing civilisers: the first electric tram, Glenferrie Road, c 1910.
13 Burke Road, looking to Camberivell, when it was safe to walk down the middle of the
road, c 1911.
14 For the most part, the between-the-ivars house resembled a shrunken villa: auctioneer's
advertisement for the Bruce Estate, 1938.
LEFT: 15 Stephen Armstrong of Malvern in a Fauntleroy suit, c 1895. RIGHT: 16 This
pretty retreat. . . already a resort where visitors are induced to linger': Hedgeley Dene Gardens,
completed in the early 1920s.
17 A vision of paradise gardens populated by ladies with parasols, and moppets with hoops or
tops: garden gathering, c 1900.
ABOVE: 18 Living in the extravagant manner. Later the
willing bodies who had occupied the maid's room decamped
to a more independent milieu:
afternoon tea at Stokell, c late
1890s.
LEFT: 19 In a life of 'ardent
love of the chrysanthemum', the
only disappointment seemed to
have been the failure to produce
a blue bloom: Curator Thomas
Pockett and his wife on their
golden wedding anniversary.
THE DEEPER WORK OF CHARACTER BUILDING
minded ban on Sunday golf when 'small boys and not-so-small boys made
heigh-heigh with bat and ball in Central Park'.
The devotees of the dimpled ball lost this round, but the debate was revived in
1940 with the forces of pragmatism and piety again in opposition. The idealists
had a new string to their bow, the increased urgency of prayer in crisis
conditions:
At this dangerously critical hour in the history of our Empire . . . all great good men,
are calling us to prayer . . . we are asked to turn down all these things and go out and
play golf on the Lord's Day to make a bit of money . . . To do evil that good may
come of it, is wrong in principle and practice, as Germany will surely find in the long
run.
In England, by contrast, patriotic clubs had 'discarded Sunday golf and 'a very
high regard' for the sabbath persisted. Those who doubted the scriptural
justification for sportless Sundays were referred to Isaiah 58, verses 13-14. More
alarmingly from the social point of view, a general moral decline, the growing
intensity of 'an anti-helping element', was detected.
Predictably, the hard-headed pointed out the potential monetary benefit to
the war effort of a relaxation of the embargo and tossed in the humane
suggestion that 'aid to the gallant Russians' might be provided. An observer,
who located reasons for 'the debacle in France' in luxurious concentration on
minor issues, deplored the revival of 'this miserable — albeit contentious —
question . . . Can we logically continue to deride Nero for fiddling while Rome
was burning?'. The issue remained unresolved, but the strength of the Sunday
habit was demonstrated in the crisis of 1941 and early 1942 when some Malvern
churches attracted record attendances as people 'sought the strengthening
power of the Holy Spirit'. St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Gardiner, opened
on weekdays, and worshippers flocked in response when George VI 'called the
Empire to prayer . . . our church could not accommodate the people who came
to pray and worship on that Sunday'.
In the long-term, the argument for prayer's effectiveness in times of national
emergency may have militated against the ban on Sunday sport and set the
scene for change in serener times. Once the war was over, the East Malvern
Citizens' Association and 300 tramways employees from the Malvern depot
renewed an application on behalf of sports-lovers: 'opposition to play on the
Sabbath was merely sectional . . . facilities for earning revenue should be used to
the utmost . . . Sunday observance [was] more lax than in the past'. In
September 1948, a referendum of ratepayers confirmed the drift of opinion
towards secularisation, and council passed a motion permitting Sunday
afternoon play in language so tortuous that it seemed to encapsulate the years of
difficulty in moving towards a decision. By the time the step was taken, the issue
probably seemed quaint to many, a survival of fogeydom impregnated with a
definite whiff of the crypt; but the sacrosanct nature of the sabbath as a daylong obligation was at the heart of the religious observances of at least those of
the protestant persuasion. Subjected to severe puritan scrutiny, the Roman
Catholic authorities were felt to be deplorably lax about the Sunday doings of
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84
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
their parishioners once the obligatory mass had been attended. As the ministers
who argued for the stricture movingly demonstrated, the symbolic significance
of Sunday quietude reached beyond believers to all who perceived a spiritual
dimension to life that found a focus in this 'day of peace' in the bosom of the
family. Generations of children had become accustomed to that day as a time
when the mundane pattern of existence ceased and a round of different
observances took over, sometimes tiresome in their sense of constriction and
overbearing in the providential nature of their delivery. Additionally, the
reality of dull sermons and factious families often seemed at odds with Sunday's
reputation for uplift and harmony.
In his Sunday in Kooyong Roady Brian Lewis pictures that day as 'the crown of
the week'. A different template was placed over the hours. Instead of being the
first up, his mother enjoyed breakfast in bed, while the rest of the family
savoured boiled eggs and hot toast, not the customary plain bread. The
milkman made his rounds, but the butcher, baker and greengrocer carts stayed
in their sheds. The only passenger trains coursing the nearby Gippsland line
were 'the church trains . . . heading for Melbourne in time for the city church
services'. Games were prohibited in theory but tolerated in practice as long as
the fun took place far enough away from the house to allow the adults, charged
with administering the law, a free conscience. A leisurely, instead of lightning,
visit to 'the little weatherboard W C ' was followed by preparations for Sunday
dinner, the largest meal of the week: 'Best of all . . . is cutting the sheets of
gelatine for Sunday's jellies'. Even the venue of the meal, the dining-room, and
the use of finer china distinguished the feast from the everyday. The first
absolute reminder of the day's real intent was the bell, ringing from the Church
of England across the road.
Earnestness descended when the sabbatical suit was donned — white velvet in
more juvenile days, embarrassing navy-blue knickerbocker trousers as infancy
became boyhood, both versions 'reserved for Sunday and other grave occasions
. . . once our best suits are on we are clamped into the Sunday pattern'.
Appropriately garbed, the family proceeded in order of seniority to church,
encountering and scrutinising rival family fleets, whose foibles were further
observed within the sacred precincts. The service itself aroused the anticipation
of familiarity and the boredom that clung to the known: the blood-drenched
battle hymns, oddly at variance with their suburban setting; the children's
sermon with its condescending air, welcome nevertheless because its climax
meant liberation for the smaller children; the collection, gathered into velvetlined wooden plates which might have borne a text urging good works; the
anthem, delivered by a choir whose male voices out-bellowed the quavering
contribution of matrons, spinsters and green girls; the lengthy, major homily
which was the signal for housewives to dribble apologetically down the central
aisle to attend to the dinner. Four times a year, the abstemious Presbyterians
indulged in communion: 'If Christ had offered that unfermented grape juice to
his disciples, Christianity could not have survived'.
Despite the comic peculiarities of the dour Presbyterian tribe and the perhaps
even more outlandish quirks of other sects, the Christian way had flourished as
THE DEEPER WORK OF CHARACTER BUILDING
well as survived. When Lewis remembered his youth during the First World
War, two buildings represented the most immediate evidence of its success: over
the road from home the Holy Advent Church, a recent 'garish sort of building'
with bell but without bell-tower (the earnest Anglicans had run out of funds),
and a few streets away his own Armadale Presbyterian Church, 'an unaffected
and pleasant building of brick with a gothic tinge . . . a stubby cross in plan'.
The churches may have seemed modest to him, but they represented a huge
advance on the crude premises that gave sanctuary to Christianity's formal
beginnings in Malvern.
With its ideals of humanising, enobling, civilising — and also controlling —
religion was the hound of heaven that snapped on the heels of settlement. In the
early days, the centrality of the religious spirit to the decent conduct of life was
automatically accepted, and dispensations were made in recognition of the
principle. Ministers of religion and residents going to and from worship or to
funerals were exempted from the road tolls that were exacted from citizens less
piously occupied. Even before proclamation of the District of Gardiner in 1856,
enthusiasts began to offer organised services to provide spiritual relief and a
framework for worship, often in domestic dwellings or commercial premises.
Salvation Army stalwarts were early arrivals, foregathering at Peter Cousins'
cottage on the site of Stonnington. In 1855, Anglicans began to meet at
Haverbrack, the house of Colin Campbell. Shortly afterwards they moved to a
former butcher's shop in Malvern Road where both school and church services
were held, the minister coming from St Matthew's, Prahran. At the same time,
the Methodists boomed out their lusty Wesleyan hymns from the even lowlier
environs of Stephenson's brickyard.
These makeshift meeting-places were fair enough as a starting point, but the
aim was to create properly dignified places of worship. That instinct was soon
made good, although several new buildings or remodellings were often required
before the church was felt to be fine enough. It was not unlike families beginning
in small cottages and graduating to substantial villas. In 1860, the Methodists
had achieved the solidity of a church building on the corner of Malvern Road
and Elizabeth Street; but it was the Anglicans who first managed an appearance
of architectural substance with the erection of St George's Church in a prime
position next to the site of the shire hall. 'Dedicated to the English Patron Saint
and Martyr', and designed by architect and parishioner S H Merritt, in the
Early English style, the church was built in fits and starts, depending on the
availability of funds. The will to succeed was strong, and it opened for worship
in September 1869: 'strengthened with the Living Bread, true to the faith of our
fathers, realising the Communion of Saints, we go forward compassed about by
the great cloud of witnesses of the Faithful'. True to its commitment to the
young, the church officers had several years before begun a day school under a
grant from the Denominational School Board. Given Malvern's more rapid
development, St George's territorial responsibilities temporarily extended to
Oakleigh, and the first vicar, Thomas Cornelius Cole, cut a distinctive figure in
administering his duties, riding a roan horse and in summer clothed in a
Chinese silk dustcoat. By comparison, his fellow clergy appear to have been a
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
dour, tight-collared bunch, often clear-eyed Scots, whose flamboyance was
reserved for wildly coloured harangues on the evils of alcohol, not eccentricities
of fashion.
More substantial institutionalisation of religion had to wait until the boom
years. In 1883, St John's Anglican began in a little, unlined wooden hall on
Dandenong Road as a branch Sunday school of St Mary's, Caulfield. Its site
near the racecourse was seen as a God-sent spot from which to administer moral
guidance to the boys and youths who worked in the potentially corrupting
racing industry. Five years later, it became a parish in its own right, and the old
meeting-place was moved to the Finch Street site which had been purchased
from Matthew Davies. He had magnanimously offered a considerable reduction
on the going price; however, he was not actually having much success in
disposing of the Gascoigne Estate. As an additional gesture — perhaps not an
entirely compassionate one — a Davies company also paid handsomely for the
original land, enabling the church guardians to squirrel away a tidy sum for a
more imposing structure. The boom building industry was nothing if not
efficient, and by July 1889 Bishop Goe opened the new brick building for
worship beneath the unequivocal inscription above the sanctuary arch: T h i s is
none other than the house of God'.
The other denominations were opening for business or consolidating. The
public activity was all Christian because the community was overwhelmingly
Anglo-Saxon or Celtic. A disapproved minority such as the Chinese did not
flaunt practices that would be regarded as offensively alien, while the Jews were
defensively consolidating elsewhere. The 1880s saw the acquisition by the
Salvation Army (now known bravely as T h e Valiants') of a hall at the corner of
Bell Street and Glenferrie Road, and the building of the Malvern Presbyterian
Church in Glenferrie Road. Foundation stones for the Spring Road Methodist
and St Joseph's, Stanhope Street, were laid. In 1888, aware that their following
was heavily populated by poor Irish, the Advocate had emphasised the need for a
church to cater for the large floating population of railway workers and
domestic servants in the Caulfield area. St Joseph's was the first response to that
call (Malvern had until then been supervised by the Elsternwick mission); but a
massive boost was imminent in the arrival of the redoubtable Vincentians from
Ireland. In early 1890, they accepted Archbishop Carr's invitation to establish a
Malvern-based foundation, although the Dublin authorities expressed doubts
about the exorbitant price of land ('ten times as dear as land near London'). As
well, there was the hazard of moving into a place where rents were so high that
parishioners might be forced to decamp to the degraded inner suburbs: T a k e
care the whole place does not go down after a time'. Carr rapidly negotiated for
a site adjacent to St Joseph's for Vincentian headquarters, congratulating
himself a little too quickly on the price often guineas per foot: 'at another time,
the land would cost much more'. A n d yet the demurs of the Dublin pessimists
on Malvern prospects were disproved by the vigorous growth of the parish,
whose flock numbered nearly twelve hundred by the end of the century.
On the brink of the crash, there was a flurry of development. The Malvern
Congregational Church was dedicated; St Mary's, East Malvern, opened as a
THE DEEPER WORK OF CHARACTER BUILDING
station church for the Roman Catholic parish of St Stephen's, Oakleigh; and
the Armadale Presbyterian Church was started by the Toorak congregation as a
mission hall for the children of quarry workers. Shortly after its dedication, the
Congregational Church provided one of the last opportunities for the
Honourable James Munro to broadcast his views before the onset of his
humiliation. A 'grand juvenile art and industrial exhibition' was, he opined,
'the means of educating the young to industrious habits, and of inculcating in
them a love of work and art which was absolutely essential to the ultimate
prosperity and success of a colony like Victoria'. His listeners perhaps absorbed
the enlightened drift of his principle without emulating his reckless methods.
While new temples sprang up, for existing churches the mood was one of
expansion. When Spring Road Methodist rebuilt and gained a new premises for
the young, it was described as 'one of the prettiest of the suburban churches
which are so rapidly and numerously arising in and around "Marvellous
Melbourne" '. The compliment sounded overblown, given the strait-laced,
narrow-windowed reality, but the tempo of the times encouraged wild words.
The Sunday school and vicarage of St George's were enlarged yet again, and,
assuming the advantages that accrued to association with the established
church in England, the complex began to look as if it had been miraculously
transplanted from the mother country and was waiting for the cast of a Trollope
novel to enact an ecclesiastical chronicle.
The stage seemed set for a saga of continuous progress, but more troublesome
portents sheltered behind the confident mood. In dedicating St George's in
February 1888, the Bishop of Melbourne exhorted the congregation to free the
church of debt to enable prosecution of its charitable mission. As if anticipating
calamitous events in the financial world, on Melbourne Cup.Day 1890 the
Malvern Salvation Army juniors took part in a huge anti-gambling procession,
carolling their own heart-felt if clumsy theme song:
The Malvern juniors are pressing on,
They make a great clatter with timbrel and song,
But Jesus is pleased with the sanctified noise,
If it comes from the hearts of well-saved girls and boys.
Army zealots may have impressed onlookers when they surged down Bourke
Street, but their marching habits were more contentious locally. Shortly after
their grand metropolitan appearance, their petition to tramp the streets of
Malvern led councillors to consider whether their activities had raised or
lowered the suburb's moral tone. Dispute about this difficult matter was
resolved by permitting the marching, provided the stalwarts confined their
pauses to a statutory fifteen minutes, thus presumably limiting the annoyance of
their 'great clatter with timbrel and song'.
In true humanitarian spirit, attention was not selfishly confined to home
ground, and it was noted that beyond Malvern the Christian body was not in a
state of robust health. In May 1890, concerned believers assembled at the shire
hall to form a local branch of the National Scripture Education League, spurred
on by the intimation that bush children were often 'as absolutely heathen as the
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
blackfellows they had supplanted' and the more embracing denunciation that
colonial opposition to the bible 'amounted to a kind of madness'.
Financial catastrophe required curbs on the improving spirit in brick and
mortar terms, but at the immaterial level the rot had definitely not spread to
Malvern. In the early 1890s, when financial institutions were crashing like jerrybuilt towers, the church continued to anticipate growth, with the first struts of
the Presbyterian congregation of Ewing Memorial which began meeting behind
a Burke Road butcher's shop in 1891, 'trusting that, though humble and
unpretentious, it would . . . grow into something worthy of [its] name', and the
arrival of the Vincentian Fathers on All Souls' Day 1892. The latter opened
their mission house and presbytery three years later, the speed and smoothness
of the building operation facilitated by the bleak climate, which halted more
secular schemes. Development was confined almost exclusively to the major
denominations, but there was a little movement in the non-establishment area;
the Seventh Day Adventists were permitted 'to erect tents on Mr Kempton's
property, Union Street' for their annual conference.
Apart from these few changes, religious business materially retracted during
the depression. St George's was forced to curtail expenditure on a new Sunday
school building, while, for St John's, the financial strains were embarrassing as
well as worrying. When unauthorised withdrawals from the church's bank
account were revealed, the vicar and guardians were forced to adopt a diversion
to distract attention from the irregularities. They decided to convert the annual
meeting into a Conversazione and Musical Evening, punctuated with snippets
of financial information, whose import would be obscured by the general wellbeing. The device succeeded and was also so beguiling that the pattern was
extended to future gatherings.
There is no public evidence that the other churches were troubled by biblebashing rogues, but the mood was pinched and sober until near the turn of the
century. Just before the new age dawned, as if setting the seal on the end of the
troubles, the Salvation Army triumphantly moved its hall by trailer to Union
Street. Their practicality and classlessness possibly gave them an edge in
tackling material difficulties, but in the days before built-in obsolescence became
an affliction, it was common enough to translate whole buildings to a new
setting. Salvationists were not the only ones to sense a change for the better. In
1899, when the Baptist Church in Kooyong Road opened its new school hall 'in
the Romanesque style . . . broad doors . . . flanked by ranges of narrow columns
. . . supporting a broad and overhanging lintel', the solidity of the structure was
not the only cause for pride. The effects of the boom had virtually brought a
halt to Sunday-school building 'and this was the first in the suburbs for a
considerable time past'. The bad years had apparently not affected the devotion
of the young, for in 1900, when the recently formed branch of the Sunday
School Association made a house to house visitation to determine children's
pious habits, the result 'was deemed in many ways to be satisfactory'; the
Sunday schools were still drawing in the numbers. At the same time the
Malvern Christian Citizens' League, with James Munro as president, in another
of his resurrection postures, considered the reasons for the group's low profile
THE DEEPER WORK OF CHARACTER BUILDING
among adults; it was 'possibly because Malvern did not demand such attention
in that direction'. However, there was a task for them in visiting Sunday traders
and asking them to desist.
Expansion and consolidation were again in the air. The Armadale Presbyterian Church, where Brian Lewis was to spend so many watchful hours, was
built in 1902, and four years later the Malvern Presbyterian Church was in
business at its new Wattletree Road site in a spacious building designed by
Robert Haddon. In the next few years, the Methodist Church, Epping Street,
opened, the foundation stone for Ewing Memorial's dour, liverish-looking
structure was laid by a rehabilitated John Mark Davies, and shortly before the
outbreak of war, the Gardiner Methodist, which had been meeting at Belmont
House, moved into a new abode built of Tasmanian blue gum, with a red tiled
roof and panelling of red pine. St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Gardiner,
held its first services, and the Church of Christ purchased the forlorn building
of the Malvern Ladies' College in Valetta Street as a meeting place. There were
several developments in the Roman Catholic arena. St Joseph's Church gained
a new building in 1908, described by one impressed observer as 'an unusual
example of Romanesque architecture'. It was certainly more imposing than
beautiful with its aggressive brick bulk and elaborately iced facade. Four years
later the De La Salle brothers, whose tradition blended Irish and French ethos,
arrived and, admirably prompt, began teaching in old St Joseph's the day after
their reception. A year into the First World War St Mary's, East Malvern, came
into existence in its own right as the parish of East Malvern-Glenhuntly.
For those already comfortably established, the improvement of church fittings
was a possible target. In September 1913, the Armadale Methodists were
congratulated on their musical taste and nationalism in employing a local
instrument-maker to fashion a new pipe organ, console 'of Indian Angilly, a
very beautiful timber . . . The system is tubular pneumatic, with an electric
starter'. Elimination of debt was the object at St Joseph's when the incoming
priest, Father M P O'Flynn, hosted an overflow Irish concert. Although the
flock was a hefty £5000 behind, 'from what he had seen of the city and its people
. . . he would not consider a debt of £20 000 anything to trouble about'. St
John's, on the other hand, desired an even more substantial place of worship,
and to this end a round of fund-raising events took place. Moorish fetes were an
exotic fad of the times, while, in more serious mind, the parish ladies welcomed
'Mr David Unaipon, the gifted aboriginal scientist and inventor', who put the
case for his people: 'Environment is a stronger force than heredity, and the
aborigine can be educated if he is given the chance'.
The momentum continued during the war, with the founding of Congregational churches at Gardiner and East Malvern, the consolidation of Gardiner
Presbyterian, the purchase of sites in Darling Road for Anglican and Methodist
churches, and the addition of kindergarten buildings at some churches. Since
these developments often meant large borrowings, there was reason for pride in
the record of Holy Advent in Kooyong Road, 'the only church in the diocese',
Archbishop Clarke enthused in 1918, 'that had been completed, dedicated, and
consecrated free of all debt'. By 1917, the optimism of Father O'Flynn in
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
predicting an unencumbered and blossoming expansion for St Joseph's seemed
more than justified, for, in less than twenty years, his charge had developed into
'a complete parochial unit', with church, presbytery, parish hall, primary and
secondary schools for boys and girls, and the presence of two important
religious communities. From then until the end of the war, at heavy personal
cost (he was in constant pain and unable to kneel, a sore trial for a devout man)
he undertook a £10 000 building program for the parish schools, but the original
debt and a significant proportion of the new commitment had been discharged.
Despite the energy of the Roman Catholics and their increased purchase on
Malvern, religious dominance, in terms of establishment backing, continued to
rest with the Protestants. In 1918, the local branch officers of the Victorian
Protestant Federation included a politician, the mayor and several councillors,
and sectarianism surfaced occasionally at municipal election times.
The only new creations in the immediate post-war period were St James
Anglican Church and St Vincent's (later St Roch's) Roman Catholic Church,
both in Glen Iris, and St Andrew's Presbyterian, East Malvern, which was
designed to serve the War Service Homes Commission Estate; but the fruits of
much earlier labouring were beginning to appear on the tree. St Mary's opened
its forbiddingly grey church in 1923: T h e altar and sanctuary are dominated by
a huge crown . . . [which] features the symbol of Our Lady-Fleur-de-lis, in whose
honour the church is consecrated'. The Roman Catholics were now well served.
Opening a fete at St Joseph's the next year, Archbishop Daniel Mannix was 'in
a happy vein . . . years ago, there were only five churches in Melbourne, now
there are five in the Malvern district alone'.
Dr Mannix's accolades were confined to signs of fertility in his own camp, but
others had not been idle. In replacing its brick church with a more impressive
stone structure, St John's again struck trouble: strikes, the insolvency of the
building contractor and wildly escalating costs threatened to halt construction
altogether. After generous benefactions, the church was completed and
dedicated in December 1922 as a Peace Memorial Church. As well as offering
'spiritual benefit', it was, wrote council, paternally interested in the graspable
along with the lofty, 'an acquisition from an architectural point of view to the
Public Buildings of this Municipality'. In nearby Epping Street, the Methodist
congregation also revamped, celebrating with a packed week of services: 'The
new building is . . . a departure from the conventional type of Methodist
Church. It aims at a high standard of beauty, dignity, and comfort'. The
structure and fittings conformed with this concept, except for the inexpensive,
pale green window glass, which was regarded as only temporary: 'generous
friends will some day provide special memorial stained-glass windows in
commemoration of the Great War'.
Bigger, better, grander was the style in expanding the churches and fitting
them out with solider and prettier accoutrements. Many dedicatory pamphlets
contained lists of furnishings that grateful believers might provide to complete
the imagined effect. The finished buildings, both within and without, often
looked decidedly raw, and the motivating impulse might have been interpreted
as gaining a better worldly mansion; but, lacking the sacred places and shrines
THE DEEPER WORK OF CHARACTER BUILDING
of older countries, the congregations were making an act of devotion, if with
a few glances towards the quality of their self-presentation. Material and
statistical progress was easy to assess, the writer of Holy Advent's jubilee
souvenir wrote in 1948, but 'spiritual seed-sowing and nourishing' were
intangible. Tacitly the program deferred to a more fundamental rhythm that
might be likened to the ancient symbolism of the vine with its stout roots and
trunk, reaching sinews, leaves, buds and pendulous fruit. At Gardiner
Methodist's inaugural service in May 1914, the preacher outlined his church's
three-fold purpose: it was 'a means of touching the life of the community . . . a
place of rest and refreshment, like ancient Elim' and the haven where the
'aspiration for the Infinite in every human soul' was satisfied. 'Nature had a
sensuous charm, like the melodies of an orchestra, but here we try to come face
to face with the composer.' The dedicatory statement at Epping Street
Methodist in June 1922 went straight to biblical sources: 'We have surely built
for Thee an House to dwell in . . . Behold, the heaven, and heaven of heavens,
cannot contain Thee, how much less this House that we have builded?'. His
church was no mere shelter, reflected a priest of St Roch's, but 'a house of
mystery of God-made-man living under a roof, housed as it were between four
walls. It is a trysting place of God and man'. It was also 'the gate of Heaven',
whose consecration included 'the rite of marking out the sign of the cross on the
Floor of the church with sand. With the point of his pastoral Staff, the Bishop
writes in the sand the Greek and Latin alphabets. This was an ancient sign of
possession'.
Perhaps the most extraordinary local examples of the instinct to confirm a
tradition, assert permanency and declare that churches were sacred places, were
connected with St Roch's and St Andrew's, Gardiner. In 1937, when the Sacre
Coeur nuns requested the removal of St Vincent's from their precinct to allow
for the school's expansion, the parish committee boldly decided to dismantle
the church and recreate it on parish land 'a short pilgrimage up Burke Road'.
Site-digging began on 13 August 1937, and exactly six months later, in a feat
that might have dazzled the apostles, the impressively simple Spanish Mission
church with bell tower was finished. Constructed from the bones of the old
church, it had been augmented into grander proportions by a staunch parish
effort. Families bought pillars, children contributed to a window showing the
Little Flower, a friend of the parish priest sent the relic of St Roch, protector of
the afflicted, whose name the church now bore.
The transformation of St Andrew's took place on the brink of the Second
World War when the bluestone pile of its namesake, 'The Gaelic Church' built
in 1855 at the corner of Rathdowne and Queensberry Streets, Carlton, was
shifted to Gardiner. Finding that industrialisation had reduced their constituency, the faithful there wished 'that the Church building, which enshrined so
many memories and had borne such a notable witness for over 85 years, should
be reconstructed on another site and that the name of St Andrew's be retained'.
Beneath the foundation stone on the new site, a leaden casket containing the
history of the founding congregation and a parchment inscribed with a
statement on the continuing witness intended was buried. Not only stones, but
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a whole tradition had been moved from one side of Melbourne to the other. If a
medieval miniaturist had been present, he might have pictured the feat in his
work with an image of a church skyed and flying intact through the air, flanked
by a joyous company of angels, saints, the devout — and perhaps a few wellheeled donors.
Once these changes had been achieved, the pattern was largely set until much
later, when increasing secularisation forced a reconsideration of methods, the
rationalisation of facilities and the search for new approaches. As well as
providing a metaphysical framework for existence, religion ensured stability and
continuity, bolstered endurance in the face of hardship, and acted as a force for
moral and social control that was intended to make living in community viable
and harmonious. In the here-and-now God functioned like a police commissioner who could direct a range of matters from performing at school and
choosing a wife, to enlisting in war and managing family relations. While the
churches depended on mature worshippers for an expansion of their earthly
domain, their future was bound up in bridging the generations and capturing
the young. Part of this commitment to the rising forces involved offering
suitable diversions for those who were out of knickerbockers but not yet encased
in the sober suits of adult responsibility. The focus was chiefly on young men,
for it was assumed that home provided an appropriate training ground for girls.
Believed to have more intense passions to curb, the male was also more inclined
to incorrigibility. To minimise the danger and rectify damage done, healthy
influences and activities were designed for this potentially wayward group.
Sport was the most obvious outlet, particularly the virile, relatively unaggressive game of cricket. However, there was also the mind to nurture. In
1900, the possibility of enlisting the moral potential of the Malvern District
Brass Band was outlined by a deputation to council which suggested a series of
pleasant Sunday afternoon concerts of sacred music, accompanied by
uncontentious yet firm-minded addresses on religious and didactic subjects: 'It
would put a stop to the seats in the gardens being monopolised by young men,
who frequently passed remarks concerning ladies . . . such remarks not being of
an educational nature'. There is no evidence that the loquacious louts were
dislodged from their vantage points. The library was another likely conduit of
right attitudes, but preoccupied with more practical matters, the city fathers had
been lukewarm about bookishness. The institution had hardly begun to breathe
when it became moribund, and, by 1894, one acidulous observer noted that the
bookstock was so limited that the cabbage patch had been thoroughly culled by
local bookworms. The Honourable R D Reid's donation of parliamentary books
three years later was hardly a scintillating addition, and nothing seemed to have
come from a decision to purchase the Encyclopedia Britannica only if it were
available for ten pounds. The nature of the fare offering can be gauged by a
complaint made when the library's quality again became an issue in 1940: the
shelves contained 'nothing later than Benjamin Disraeli's novels and Life and
Times of Queen Victoria in 20 vols'. Presumably, those ponderous tomes had
been mouldering on the shelves for half a century.
A more effective solution was that the churches, who had generated most of
THE DEEPER WORK OF CHARACTER BUILDING
the sporting clubs, should step into the intellectual breach as well. To this end,
many initiated societies in which moral weight was leavened with political and
cultural yeast, and some sheer jollity as well. When one of the earliest, the
Malvern Literary Society, was launched at the Congregational Church early in
1889, the baptismal lecture on Tennyson drew on the ennobling influences of
the bard's poetry; but subsequent meetings suggested uncertainty as to where
ennoblement might lie. Should the emphasis be political, diverting or sheerly
practical? A debate on whether Australia should have a standing army, a night
of Scottish poetry and song, or a lecture on 'signs of fracture and first aid'? The
president had given assurances of the group's undenominational nature, but it
did not survive to prove its ecumenical point, and cultural sectarianism became
the order of the day.
Most of these ethical and cultural uplift groups appear to have been formed
around the turn of the century — a propitious time to attempt renovation —
and besides there was the odd local fleur du mal to counter. The most notable
and notorious of these misshapen blooms was George Marshall-Hall, Professor
of Music at the University of Melbourne, then under threat of expulsion from
that august Eden for daring to publish poetry that was thought to be obscene (it
now looks decidedly mild). The Malvern and Armadale Recorder spluttered:
it is infamous to suggest that the young and impressionable should be placed under
the tutelage of one who has not hesitated . . . to treat with bestial levity everything
that is most dear to those whose greatest comfort is to live in a Christian community
. . . even for music, it is possible to pay too dear a price.
In the face of this deplorable example, it was a matter of urgency to provide a
countervailing force to ensure that Christianity and culture combined to
preserve the moral order.
In May 1900, a literary and debating society was formed at the Armadale
Baptist Church, with Reverend A N Marshall as president, Captain T H
Templeton as senior vice-president, two other Templetons as office bearers and
a potential membership of 'all young men who attend the church'. The young
women were, perhaps, at home engrossed in feather-stitching and buttonholing
for their glory boxes. John Ruskin's separate spheres were to remain separate for
quite some time yet. The activities of this assemblage seemed to be directed
towards assisting the lads in smooth public presentation ('Elocution, and how to
study it'), honing their debating skills on remote judicial matters ( T h a t the
execution of Charles I was justifiable') and developing a sense of history (the
87th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo was commemorated with four
members reading essays on the subject).
Culture and religion were civilisation-preserving comrades in arms. When the
Malvern Congregational Literary Society was launched in 1912, the enthusiasts
perceived themselves as building on a local tradition: 'Malvern citizens are
noted for their literary abilities. Our sympathies are with all societies making for
the improvement of Malvern, and especially with those whose aim is the intellectual and moral shaping of the lives of the young'. A dash of ridicule was cast
on this noble assertion at an early meeting by an interjector who interrupted
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
celebrated lecturer, Edward McHugh, on the subject of 'How to secure to Labor
its full reward'. The miscreant announced riotously that he did not believe in
payment, just as he did not believe in work. Apparently the odd dissenter
sheltered alongside the more conventional under the umbrella of unanimity and
conformity, but the bulk of the people were devoted to the idea of moral
improvement as an extension of Social Darwinian principles to ethical life. By
early 1914, the Malvern Methodist Literary and Debating Society had
accumulated about one hundred members, and the new president hoped for 'a
real and enthusiastic interest in the welfare of the society which meant a corresponding interest in their own mental development and growth'.
A predictably Irish hue adhered to the Malvern branch of the ponderously
named Australasian Catholic Federation Literary and Debating Society, which
was formed in October 1914 and held its first meeting the next month. The
centrepiece of the occasion was a lecture 'Ireland and Her Beauty Spots', but the
most thunderous applause was reserved for a bracket of Irish songs rendered by
Irish-Australian baritone, Edward J Leahy, who 'fairly brought down the house
with the "Mountains [of] Mourne", his encore verse on Home Rule'. Especially
given the timing, the message may not have been received with such
unmitigated delight in other company. Nationalism continued to be the
predominant colour (a brightly County-Corkish green) of Roman Catholic
gatherings, and the favoured form of expression was musical. The tireless Father
O'Flynn had high ambitions for St Joseph's, and, after installation of a pipe
organ in 1917, the church's 'musical arrangements [became] famous throughout
the Archdiocese'.
Siphoning off their earnest young members for a more sacrificial encounter,
the outbreak of war in 1914 brought an abrupt end to these organisations, but
the churches' commitment to the very young continued relatively unimpeded.
At the beginning, even before adult worshippers gained proper meeting places,
Sunday schools were often the first buildings erected by those of non-Roman
persuasion; and, as one Malvern clergyman claimed authoritatively in 1946:
'Very, very few of those who had been trained in the Sunday Schools of
Australia had found their way into the Courts'. Those business-like buildings,
almost invariably brown, musty and spartan, as if any touch of lightness and
grace would inevitably undermine the finger-pointing message, were indeed the
places where indoctrination began. The Salvation Army offered a much more
genuinely apprentice role to its juniors; they were Salvationists in miniature,
with their own structures that mirrored the adults' and their own proud,
cymbal-clanging part in Sunday marches. For the bulk of the Christian young,
however, the relationship between greybeard and greenhorn was one of tutelage
and inferiority. They sat mute and sponge-like, soaking up the moral precepts
and example of their elders, learning the catechism by rote, bawling out hymns,
filling out questionnaires designed to measure how much they had imbibed of
the weekly bible story, feeling guilty — for producing that emotion was a major
part of the program. Once a year, with tight plaits or plastered-down cow-licks,
they took over the major church building for what Brian Lewis described as 'a
most distressing Sunday . . . the Sunday School anniversary, but what it is an
THE DEEPER WORK OF CHARACTER BUILDING
anniversary of is unknown'. Rising in tiers in front of and above the congregation, their juvenility assumed brief glory.
Lewis' family diverged from the pattern in one significant way: Sunday
dinners featured claret, after which his mother departed for her Sunday school
class 'where the set lesson is on the virtues of total abstinence'. T h e total
extinction of the drink curse' had always been a small yet luminous satellite of
the spiritual core, at least for the more blustery Protestants, who had reached
heights of eloquent, even lusty vehemence in Malvern. 'Almost [the] last
remark', of the Reverend A N Marshall in his fiery 1899 sermon at the
Armadale Baptist was that 'he hoped to see this devil [drink] dead and buried
face downward, so that if ever it by any possibility should come to life again and
seek to leave its grave, it would be only to dig for itself a deeper and blacker
hole'. The message was conveyed consistently for many decades, and the juniors
demonstrated that they had drunk deeply from its pure waters by regularly
signing the pledge, the main pleasure for the less convinced being the choice of
the colour — duck egg blue, shell pink, or peppermint green — of the card on
which they made their infantile commitment.
The Roman Catholics hardly figured in the temperance lobby, although some
of their schools fostered Total Abstinence Societies whose devotees adopted the
cause of liquid purity with a zeal that was not necessarily indicative of later
sobriety. Nor did they, with their obligatory masses, confessional and feast days,
see the need for separate Sunday schools. However, the network of their schools
was the major determinant of Christian influence on the young, and the
philosophy was holistic. 'The very raison d'etre of a Catholic school', wrote
Maurice O'Reilley, one of Malvern's first three Vincentians, 'is to turn out men
who shall be faithful Christians first, and everything else afterwards'. In 'An
outline history of Sacre Coeur', Kathleen McCarthy, a former pupil of the
school, quoted an official church document from Vatican II:
Catholics do not believe that the education of a child is like a thing of mechanism
that can be put together bit by bit . . . We hold, that subjects taught, the teacher and
his faith, the rule and practices of the school day, all combine to produce the result
which we Catholics consider to be education.
The regimen that McCarthy experienced at Sacre Coeur in the 1940s and early
1950s was directed at 'training in Christian living' which was 'the first priority',
from morning prayers to the descent of the 'grand silence', the daily round
enhanced by the 'great Feasts of the Order', including the Feast of the
Immaculate Conception 'when adorned in white veils and proudly carrying our
lilies we gave Mary the lily of our hearts'. The formula was so watertight and
enduring that, even by 1967, when the belief system had crumbled in many
other places, the school's circular letter could claim that 'the structures and
indeed the vocabulary of the school' were bound into its special existence.
While Roman Catholic schools and churches combined to educate, the nexus
was far weaker in the other denominations. From Brian Lewis' experience, the
private Protestant schools regarded themselves as 'superior' to their churches
and Sunday schools. Apart from some High Church Anglican schools, most of
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these places rated the worldly value of the old school tie as equivalent — if not
superior — to the elusive benefits guaranteed by the burning bush, crown of
thorns, dove, mitre or any other religious symbol. In the free and secular state
schools, the link between religion and education at the formal level had all but
vanished, although the connection was often maintained informally in the early
days through teachers, especially headmasters, who combined pedagogy with
brisk proselytising. Wherever a child was destined to be educated, even when
the doctrinal imperative was slack, the church had supplied a Christian
morality that was a leitmotiv in school life.
Malvern's government schools were often older than their private counterparts, but their tradition was thin-blooded and spindly by comparison. They
offered a code that encompassed secular virtues such as decency and honesty
and encouraged the growth of loyalty and sentiment, rather than a philosophy
that provided scaffolding for earthly existence and reached outwards to the
metaphysical dimension. State school children may not have had a choice as to
where they would be educated, but a democratic intermingling operated and
pride in establishing a chain of commitment was often the outcome. In 1914, the
stirring record of one Malvern family (fifty-one years of overlapping attendance
by seven schoolchildren at the local state) was thought worthy of report in the
local paper, and the pattern continued. 'So many local people have received
their education here, and they keep sending us their children and their
children's children', the principal of Malvern Central School was quoted as
saying in the Southern Cross in June 1987. T h i s is much more than just a sit
down and learn establishment — it is a learning centre with all people, staff,
parents and students alike, working together.'
The tradition of his own charge went back to 1874, two years after the passing
of the Education Act> when a school was started in a room the size of a large
dining-room that adjoined St George's Church, with the court-house being
used as extra space. In July 1875, a two-roomed brick building for two hundred
children opened at Spring Road. Given that the area had long been set aside as
a reserve, the school site was obtained without difficulty, but there was no such
ease in finding land elsewhere in the municipality. The Racecourse School (later
Tooronga Road) began its existence in 1884 in premises leased from St John's,
while the search for a suitable paddock went on. When the Caulfield Water
Reserve was under consideration, the headmaster, Horatio Remfrey, wrote to
the Education Department pointing out the woeful unsuitability of such an
outcome: 'When the wind is very high, the sand is carried with such force that it
is most painful for anyone to face it. The sandy surface would also render play
almost impossible and military drill could never be taught efficiently'. The
situation was aggravated by the swamp and the presence of 'large numbers of
sheep and wild cattle from Gippsland for the Melbourne markets'. Petitioning
the authorities, parents condemned the proposed site as unthinkable.
From the beginning, state schools were plagued by pressure of numbers and
regulations that parsimoniously decreed the space to be allotted for each pupil
(eight square feet for each soul, whether tiny tot or growing boy). Given
Malvern's rapid growth, the strain was expected to increase. In his continual
THE DEEPER WORK OF CHARACTER BUILDING
plaints, Remfrey described conditions whose awfulness might have seemed to
undermine the whole educative purpose: T h e space allowed us is only 24 ft long
. . . The attendance is frequently between 70 and 80 . . . [The] infants . . . [are]
packed together on four small forms'. Desks were needed for twenty to thirty
more children. By September 1885, the situation was so desperate that a
concerned citizen offered to build a temporary structure 'to prevent the above
school breaking up'. His efforts were futile, and the school closed temporarily,
reopening the next year in a new brick compound in Tooronga Road, which
was inadequate from the start: '161 scholars there this morning where there is
only room for 100'. The first class was crammed into a gallery large enough for
half its students 'and the remainder have to sit huddled together on low forms'.
Rejecting Remfrey's claim that the building was designed for 125 children less
than the actual number, the department saw no need for extension, but an
admission of deficiency seemed to be indicated by the leasing of an adjunct at
St John's.
The situation at Spring Road was also congested. By 1883, numbers had
swelled to 308, and six years later as the influx continued, boosted by the advent
of the railway, overflow premises were leased from the Congregational Church,
and the first additions, including the tower, were made to the school. One of the
brighter spots was a picnic at the end of 1888, when pupils were transported in
two trains to Mordialloc, the expenses borne by the shire president, A E Clarke:
'soon after 7 o'clock all the little folks were on their way to their nests full of
prattle . . . and their little voices and throats almost hoarse with cheer after
cheer for . . . their beneficent entertainer'. Otherwise, the boom seemed to offer
little educationally, and the occasional jollities were about to disappear
altogether. By 1891, Remfrey's representations succeeded and a contract to
double the accommodation was let, but any joy was frustrated. In 1894, the pit
of the depression, the two schools were amalgamated, achieving a saving of
nearly five hundred pounds in teachers' salaries, and overcrowding worsened.
The headteacher of the merged complex, James Lewis, complained tirelessly
about the dreadful conditions; the notorious rationing of space still applied, and
three urinals had to serve for an average of 240 boys. A further blow two years
later was the destruction by fire of Armadale State School, and the chief
secretary's intimation that money was not available to ease the crush in
Malvern schools.
No mitigation was possible until after the depression, and, shortly into the
new century, agitation for separation of the two schools intensified. Despite the
presence of several eminent political personages, the clamour of several
deputations fell on deaf ears; the minister would look into the matter of repairs,
but the major question would not be addressed. Matters steadily deteriorated.
Early in 1906, Lewis reported record attendances and the turning away of
importunate children and their parents. In April 1907, a delegation from
council and the Malvern Board of Advice urged the return of Spring Road to an
independent existence and the expansion of Tooronga Road, where 120
children had been siphoned off to St John's and as many as thirty-four children
were being refused admission weekly. In the next two years, additional
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
accommodation was planned for both schools, and by 1909 they were again
functioning as independent entities.
The status quo had been restored and even temporarily improved, but
progress brought people and people tended to be fecund, ensuring that every
forward step was accompanied by a backward lurch. By 1912-13, both Spring
Road and Tooronga Road had reverted to a mendicant position. Clearly
mistrustful of normal political channels and unable to influence council to hand
over a slab of the Malvern Gardens to expand the school site, the Spring Road
headmaster, J G Campbell, looked at available properties to house the overflow:
Miss Murray's former private school in Valetta Street, reasonably sized but in a
disgraceful sanitary condition; or else the Park Street house of a family, whose
neighbour warned the authorities that it was a potential 'death trap' because
one occupant had died of tuberculosis and there was 'a question whether two
others of the family are not suffering from the disease'. The hapless family
repeated the caution. By mid 1912, Campbell reported that seventy students
had been exiled to 'a leased building in which there is no fireplace' and soon
after sought permission not to admit any more pupils.
These conditions sound thoroughly Dickensian, but Dotheboys Hall was
outdone at Tooronga Road, where numbers were three hundred over quota and
the cacophony in the infant hall made teaching 'largely ineffective'. Local
indignation was in full flight, and the Malvern News published an inflammatory
editorial on 'Over-crowding':
The Spring Road school is not quite so bad — but bad enough. There the school
door is slammed on parents who arrive, children in hand, to avail themselves of the
advantages of the Educational Act. There are many children in Malvern to-day who
could only get into a State school by the aid of a gun, or some other deadly weapon.
The truant officer might just as well have gone with Mawson to the South Pole . . .
perhaps we can appeal to the Hon F Hagelthorn, a local resident, and member of the
Ministry, to report to his Cabinet the complete breakdown of the Educational Act in
Malvern.
A protest meeting in November blamed the Education Department, 'hopeless
and helpless', also the builder of large schools elsewhere, and the quality of their
political representation: 'An energetic member for the district would have
secured another school . . . years ago'. There were daunting difficulties in
dragging a spanking new education system out of the stable simply because the
legislation decreed that one ought to exist. However, the chaos suggested that,
although the improvers were zealous in theory, education lost some of its allure
when practicalities loomed. This time the agitators succeeded in galvanising the
authorities to some action: the building of a new infant school at Spring Road
and, in continuation of the spartan mode, two open-air pavilions at Tooronga
Road.
Apart from packed conditions at existing schools, the activities of the Closer
Settlement Board at Tooronga promised a further flock of education-hungry
children. The young couples pictured casing the estate, eager for a nest of their
own, were sure to produce fledglings, eager for an educational branch from
THE DEEPER WORK OF CHARACTER BUILDING
which to launch themselves. In 1912, it was projected that 400 school-age
children would reside on the estate within twelve months. Pressure from the
Tooronga Progress Association ensured that a more spacious site than the
original mingy allotment was secured, and in June 1915 the Gardiner School
was opened as one of several to make changes in its upper classes to prepare
senior-class boys for secondary work. Heralding the beginning of Malvern's
special place in the state system, the change of procedure was formalised in
1916, when the Director of Education ratified the central schools to counter the
limited higher education available.
The school had hardly been opened when the bugbear of overcrowding
descended and more room was requested. The Glen Iris School, which was
attended by many Malvern children, was likewise a sardine tin, and not a very
sanitary one at that. The lack of a technical school south of the Yarra was
another deficiency. In March 1916, with the promise of government help should
donations be forthcoming, an appeal for £1500 was launched by a committee
representing shires and municipalities in a huge arc that stretched from
Dandenong to Mornington. A site alongside the Caulfield drill hall was deemed
suitable, and councils were to contribute on a rating basis. Fearing that its hefty
£500 allocation would be only the beginning of an open-ended commitment,
Malvern refused to guarantee its share, answering critics with the riposte that,
'while the war was raging', times were inopportune. Given this uncooperativeness, the mayor's attendance at a deputation to the minister was rather
embarrassing, but he surmounted his discomfiture by pointing to Malvern's
heavy responsibilities — expenditure of £55 000 on new works, high rates and
limited income. Besides, the designated catchment area was too large, and
Malvern wanted its own technical school. Elements on council were sceptical
about the site and territorially inclined (the parochial instinct showed later in
the proviso that the municipality's scholarship to the Caulfield Technical
School should only go to ratepayers' children). The minister was polite but
vague; the school would be built 'in order of precedence as money was
available'. After lingering on the book of possibilities for the war's duration, the
question was resolved in early 1919, when the Public Works Department was
instructed to prepare plans.
By this time, two other educational wants impinged. Clamour for a school in
the east ward had arisen, producing the familiar protesting sounds and the wellknown litany of excuses (impecuniousness, priorities, shortages of materials).
Although the site in Lloyd Street was purchased in 1920, the school was not
completed until 1923, soon establishing itself on the scene and raised to centralschool status within three years; a Very creditable' achievement, council
recorded paternally. The other contentious matter, lack of a high school, was
not to be resolved for decades. Having considered the case of the Committee for
the Eastern Suburbs High School, Malvern conferred with its neighbours and
voted to provide its share of the £5000 required from the municipalities.
However, this impressive gesture of unanimity faded as 'the Government
allow[ed] one Municipality to outbid another', and objections to providing
ballast for a government duty surfaced. The 'disgraceful state' of Malvern's
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primary schools was also mentioned as a handy prior claim. Spring Road had
eight rooms to house 612 students, and, until remodelling works were
completed in 1924, its population was again sprinkled through various church
premises. The question of the high school was occasionally revived, but
council's enthusiasm waned when the proposed site of the phantom school
moved to Oakleigh, and it decreed that sole financial responsibility for
education rested with the authorities.
Given the notable academic record that local children had achieved through
the central-school network, the cavalier approach was perhaps easy to adopt.
Even during the nadir of the amalgamation period, the Spring Road/Tooronga
Road complex prided itself on its scholarship tally, and the press duly reported
the brightness of Malvern's youth. In 1900, of 800 entries for the sixty
government scholarships offering, three went to Malvern pupils, but that
creditable if modest tally was to increase. In the next five years, in a record of
'phenomenal success', ninety-one winning candidates came from the school, a
score that was credited to the teacher of the scholarship class, J G Campbell,
MA and racing addict: 'the magnet that drew the children for miles . . . they
came to finish off under his eye'. The 1905 record (five girls and nineteen boys
who won scholarships) was so grand that the stars were photographed for the
School Paper with their sternly Rechabite headteacher, James Lewis, and
Campbell, who looks like a keen-eyed yet well-fed don. Fervour for academic
coups was so great among teachers that in 1900, they petitioned for fixed salaries
to be substituted with payment by results — an iniquitous proposal, said the
Malvern and Armadale Recorder, which led to 'cramming'. The message fell on
deaf ears, and gleaming laurels continued to be eagerly chased. They did, after
all, provide the only avenue by which pupils could surmount the barriers of
class.
When agitation for separation of the schools was underway, one factor
considered was the number of pupils who might defect if Campbell were made
headteacher at Spring Road. In the event, he left a tradition of success behind
him and established a record of excellence at his new post. Politician Norman
Bayles dispensed a purse containing fifty sovereigns and heart-felt plaudits when
Lewis retired from Tooronga Road in 1914, after nineteen years as headmaster.
Since the turn of the century the school had won 121 scholarships worth
£25 000 (the reported value sounds inflated). Lewis had also secured himself a
special place in the hearts of the young: 'A little girl had said to him that
morning, "You shouldn't go, I love you". That was more to him than gold'.
However, with Campbell's relocation, Spring Road gained the scholastic edge.
In 1916, 'the 35 scholars presented obtained 36 full scholarships and 24 half
scholarships' (obviously some gained more than one). Two years later council
minutes proudly recorded 'remarkable results, nearly half the prizes of the
Colony going to that school'. The pace continued after Campbell's retirement
the next year when Malvern schools 'in keeping with the results achieved for a
number of years' gained seventy-eight full and eighty-nine half scholarships, the
bulk going to Spring Road. By this time, the individual largely credited with this
enviable performance was the grade VIII teacher, Miss Hurrey, remembered as
THE DEEPER WORK OF CHARACTER BUILDING
'a very dynamic personality and a great teacher . . . we voluntarily went to
school half an hour early every morning to try and win scholarships'. The
momentum continued as pupils competed to transfer from other schools. A
student who attended Spring Road in the late 1920s and early 1930s recalled
that 'even in the infant class extra encouragement was given to potential
scholarship winners'. In more commercial vein, the Malvern Business College,
with its astonishing successes in the Commonwealth Typist Examinations,
contributed to the suburb's reputation for literacy, but the emphasis was,
naturally, on the academic record which offered the lure of public prestige and
testified to the permeability of class barriers without introducing fundamental
changes.
'It was through the medium of the Scholarship system', wrote Director of
Education, Frank Tate, to the town clerk at the beginning of 1922, 'that a large
number of men occupying prominent positions in the professional life of
Victoria, were enabled to take advantage of a University education'. (Privately,
he admitted that this way to success was 'a ricketty bridge'.) D C Baldy, a pupil
at Spring Road during the First World War and a teacher there for the second
conflict, recalled that the scholarship class provided 'boys . . . in all professions
. . . professors and lecturers at the Universities . . . Mayors of Malvern'. He also
remembered five girls who became doctors, and Malvern claimed the first
woman graduate in medicine. Girls were not debarred from the system, but the
fruits of elite training mostly dropped into the boys' laps — the process assisted
by blatant vocational guidance. When continuation classes were established for
boys at Spring Road in 1912, girls of the same age were provided with a domestic
arts course at the Armadale School (the reflex was to gain a massive local boost
after the Second World War with the creation of Malvern Girls' High School
which aimed to induct girls into domestic duties).
Apart from expanding the career horizons of striving poor boys, 'a great
fundamental in citizenship is education', the town clerk wrote to Tate; and that
right involved good behaviour as well as high marks. Appropriate conduct was
ensured by conditioning towards social conformity, the containment of
deleterious instincts and the exertion of physical control. Since the Education
Act enshrined secularism, the inculcation of Christian virtues was only an
informal adjunct of the educative process, although, given the Christian bent of
society, it often was a powerful accretion. The virtues of hard work, punctuality
and a sporting, if not necessarily sporty, attitude to life were legitimate; they
were also aids to the efficient running of a capitalist economy. These values were
neatly summarised in such school mottoes as 'Do Right' (Tooronga Road), 'Be
Thorough' (Spring Road), 'Play the Game' (Lloyd Street), all baldly English.
When Malvern Girls' High School appeared on the scene, a Latin boost was
offered in 'Fortis et Fidelis' (Strong and Faithful), and the prefects' pledge
explained the impulse: 'to be honourable in word and deed, to be kind
courteous and helpful and to encourage others to be the same . . . so that every
pupil . . . may become a useful and valuable member of society'. Much later
again, Chadstone High School adopted 'Faith and Decision', almost a neat
vernacular copy of Malvern Girls' vow, but the exegesis avoided any spiritual
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
overlay; faith had become an existential state of mind, a kind of survival
mechanism, and the phoenix was the crest adopted to encapsulate the
possibilities for individual growth of bodies doomed to mortality.
By that time too, expectations had become much more flexible, but earlier on
the model had been tight indeed. Rigidly administered and blindly accepted,
the ideal of producing a tractable, unquestioning unit of society had been
constant since the First World War, and probably before, a fact well appreciated
by the Spring Road headmaster who appeared in the classrooms to conduct a
paean to punctuality:
Be in time for duty's call, is a motto good for all.
In the morning up and on, first to work is soonest done,
Thus like the dial true, they will always trust to you,
Be in time, be in time, be in time for duty's call.
Miscreants who failed to absorb the import of this hectoring refrain paraded
through the school bearing a placard that announced 'We are the late brigade'.
Arousal of shame and guilt was one admirable corrective; far more common
was corporal punishment, a socially and culturally acceptable disciplinary
measure which probably gained an extra edge in the hard-pressed circumstances. When Spring Road sent out a questionnaire to former students in 1968
as part of its contribution to the State Schools History Project, the bulk of
responses, covering a sixty-year span from the turn of the century, highlighted
this retributive device. It was also much mentioned in the reminiscences
published by the Malvern Spectator in 1935 in the wake of Tooronga Road's
jubilee. (The heavy emphasis was probably partly accounted for by the personal
nature of the evidence; by contrast, the more public nature of the private school
record excluded reference to physical punishment.) The paragon Campbell,
commonly called Jerry, 'could lay the strap pretty well, even if he lost his false
teeth at times in the effort', and one of his irascible successors in the scholarship
class ' "Hogey" . . . taught with a rolled-up leather strap in his hand, which he
used on every possible occasion'. One ogre at Tooronga Road during the First
World War favoured a double strap, particularly relishing its application to
chilblains. Women teachers also often brandished the strap, although, after the
blows had been dealt, feminine regrets sometimes set in. One martinet wore
pince-nez glasses that swung wildly as she surged about the classroom,
fulminating and tripping over the dais:
A cranky wretch this . . . She also belted the boys with a ruler, perhaps the girls too
. . . then at the end of the day she would say 'Come out all those I have been cross
with today and had to give the stick'. Then the line up, and each one would get the
arm round the shoulder and 'You were naughty I am sorry I had to hit you you'll be
good tomorrow won't you'.
Ridicule was, perhaps, a commoner form of feminine revenge: 'Miss Maher told
me I should stand on a sheet of newspaper (because . . . I was the shortest in the
class), but of course as is usual with the irony and sarcasm of teachers, the point
was lost on me'. A uniquely unpleasant trial was administered by the woodwork
THE DEEPER WORK OF CHARACTER BUILDING
103
teacher: 'If he caught a boy gouging shavings out of the throat of a plane with a
chisel or screwdriver he would make that boy stand in a corner for the rest of
the lesson holding up the plane in one hand and the screwdriver in the other in
the act of gouging'. The boys may have found an outlet to express the frustrations of their inferiority in the school cadet corps, which strode along the streets
of Malvern on Tuesdays and Thursdays, watched by the admiring populace.
The tendency to belt, shame or torture was often accompanied by
eccentricities of dress and behaviour: perpetually worn 'boots' that gave one
female teacher her nickname; a black knitted tie retreating into an angular
butterfly collar; a costume of bell topper and tails; 'an overall of squashed
strawberry or vieux rose, like the pattern on a drawing-room carpet'. The
instrument of chastisement was often part of the outfit, borne in swashbuckling
fashion, while one of the lashers who was also 'a masher of all the girls and
young teachers', made a particular amatory point to his favourite by flicking the
elastic in her pants. Feminine quirks tended to be less suspect: one teacher (lefthanded, and therefore already branded with unacceptable difference) was ill
from wetting the chalk in her mouth, another loved to drink nearly boiling
water.
Despite the reported peculiarities, the informants generally wrote affectionately of their school days, accepted the rawness and constrictions of aspects of
their lives, and valued the richness and vivacity of playground custom: 'with all
the home hair cuts, & the patched pants . . . those youthful days at 1604 still
cling to my memory . . .'; and 'the real reason we went to school was . . . for the
playground activities'. Life was simply different then; besides, the problem of
maintaining control in cramped, ill-heated, ill-ventilated, under-equipped
rooms was a perpetual harassment. There was little time or inclination for
standing aside and querying the conditions and assumptions of the education
being offered. Similarly, there was scant opportunity for the backward glance, a
point that was made in the principal's introductory note to A History 6j Malvern
Primary School Tooronga Road (1984): 'A primary school is a starting out point for
children and a place of much effort in the present for teachers. Its concerns with
the past are usually very fleeting'.
The state school system offered a pattern of considerable allegiance to the
crown and empire/commonwealth, tacit acceptance of God and uncritical
enthusiasm for the third part of the trinity, country. As well, loose loyalties to
its own structures were formed and expressed, in celebrations by individual
schools, such as Tooronga Road's jubilee in 1934 which attracted 'old scholars
with a lingering spark of patriotism for the school' dressed in costume
contemporary with their school days; or the 'Back to Spring Road Ball' which
attracted five hundred former pupils. By contrast, the 'Memory Lane' books
hopefully positioned at Lloyd Street's sixtieth anniversary in 1983 stayed empty.
There were also collective commemorations like the jubilee festivities to mark
fifty years of state education in 1922, or the hundred-years celebration in 1972.
This centenary saw the forlornly self-conscious act of immuring in the
Collingwood Education Centre a time capsule containing over two thousand
work sheets 'to make available to our successors in 2072 a sampling of what was
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
being taught and done in Victorian schools in 1972'. However, the elements of
loyalty adhered to a tradition that was shallow-rooted and invoked in a spirit
more of duty than conviction. Its expression was further impeded by
practicalities such as the absence of school magazines, staffing instability —
except in the early days — and the system's restriction to the primary years. By
comparison with state education's sparse melaleuca or rangy grevillea, the
private schools ideally provided the shade of a great oak or elm, with the church
in the role of head gardener. Despite their favoured philosophical position, the
beginnings of those schools were humble indeed.
CHAPTER • 5
That Subtle Element
Called Atmosphere
Dating back to the 1850s, most of the earliest general
classes in Malvern were offered by the churches, often in connection with their
Sunday schools, and they were presumably not fee-paying or required nominal
contributions, although there was the odd freelance teacher who needed more
substantial reimbursement. Often started by cultivated spinsters in search of
occupation and a modest living (sometimes the inspiration of sisters who shared
the management), many of the earliest private schools tended to be day-lily
affairs, whose birth was politely announced in the local paper. The tone was
genteel and only skimpy details of the kind of education offered were given; the
ladies mostly concentrated on their own sex and kindergarteners. Many of the
advertisements soon disappeared, presumably because the ventures had failed to
attract the bevy of youngsters required for survival, and after perhaps a single
annual prize-giving all was over.
A few began in the 1880s, but many more sparked into existence in the 1890s
before their brief candles were snuffed. The infant school in a weatherboard
house in Malvern Road had as its only claim to fame the fact that its overseers
were nieces of Sir John Franklin, a one-time Governor of Tasmania. Hadleigh
Ladies' College and Kindergarten, High Street, added a touch of continental
sophistication. The principals, the two Misses Wilson, were assisted by
'Madame Lebeus, Mr Guenett, and other first-class teachers'. Opening in 1882
in the school-house adjacent to St George's and then moving to Valetta Street,
Clara Murray's Malvern Ladies' College was a relatively long liver, attracting
vice-regal patronage at its prize-givings, and finding a new existence when it was
transferred to the first principal of Korowa. With the Misses Craig at the helm
and the glamorous presence of a niece of Charles Dickens who taught pianoforte, Aldworth Girls' Grammar likewise showed a degree of toughness. It lasted
from 1897 to 1919, when it closed with startling abruptness, its principals
having resisted a tempting offer to be taken under the Anglican wing which
might have ensured its continuance. By contrast, the Cornelia Ladies' College
and the 'Ladies' Schools' of Miss Irvine and Miss Kelsall flitted across the scene.
105
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
Some schools sought to establish their credentials with an academic or exotic
flourish that might ensure their longevity. Pedagogues with sound local
qualifications were backed by a tribe of itinerant cosmopolitans who naturally
taught languages. The University College at Clydeford, Armadale, seems to
have lasted for about twenty years from the mid 1890s, while, launched in
February 1892, the Malvern High School was run by the well-qualified Howard
Gladman and Miss Gladman (a Master of Arts in Classics and Philology). The
Anglo-French Academy, also an early 1890s product, was run by Professor W B
Crooke whose puzzling qualifications ('B.A. S.Sc. G.B. Member of several
European Societies etc., etc. and late Paris Missionary') were matched by
eccentric, publicly expressed views on the internal use of Vaseline as 'a sure cure
for croup, diptheria [sic], and diseases of the trachea'. Another contemporary
was the Malvern Boys' College opposite the shire hall, which offered gym and
swimming baths and a principal — for thirteen years overlord of the obscure but
sonorous-sounding Portland College — who so aroused the gratitude of his
charges that they presented him with a set of carvers on his birthday in 1895. In
magnificent demonstration of a belief in the future of the raw east ward, the East
Malvern Grammar School was another depression-time battler that lasted about
as long in public view as Banquo's ghost.
The years from the turn of the century and into the First World War saw the
creation of several more schools and kindergartens, including Warwick and
Adwalton, both of which lasted long enough to establish an enthusiastic if
fragile tradition. Immediately after the war, the Misses Turner set up a
preparatory school for boys at The Grange, which became notable for nurturing
the blue-eyed prodigy of the piano, Percy Grainger, before closing its doors in
1929. However, by this time, the really strong foundations had been laid. In
1888, Sacre Coeur opened, extending its buildings within twelve months and
achieving its main school wing within three years. In 1890, Korowa began,
dispersed in three houses and with 'fewer than 10 students', while the next year
Charles McLean, formerly a teacher at Scotch College, founded Malvern
Grammar School, 'situated in one of the healthiest parts of Malvern [Kerferd
Street] . . . the schoolroom . . . unusually lofty, and the sanitary arrangements
perfect' and soon proud of its academic record ('in the University list many of
the old boys' names appeared'). After a ten-year pause, the new century saw the
creation of Lauriston in 1901 at a villa in Erskine Street by two sisters of Martin
Howie Irving, Professor of Classics at the University of Melbourne, head of
Wesley College and Hawthorn Grammar. Even if its beginnings were modest, it
was an immediate success, doubling its numbers in the first year and moving
into a rented Mercer Road mansion within five years.
Apart from Sacre Coeur's early appearance, the Roman Catholic network was
a later development, but the impetus to create one was strong, for it was thought
that 'without the school the parish is like a beautiful garden without water'.
However, by the end of the First World War, the system in central Malvern was
in place, with the creation of De La Salle (1912) and St Kevin's (1917; originally
housed in the Prahran part of Toorak), the arrival of the Brigidine Sisters to
take over St Joseph's Primary School (created in 1889 even before the parish was
THAT SUBTLE ELEMENT CALLED ATMOSPHERE
107
formally established) and to set up a high school (1917; later Kildara Convent),
and the beginnings of St Mary's Primary School (1918). De La Salle advertised
itself in the conventional way: 'the last word in school construction. Ideal,
healthy situation and surroundings . . . Highly qualified staff . . . holding
University of Melbourne and other home degrees'. The purpose of St Kevin's,
'our patron's Gaelic University', was avowedly aggressive: 'to give the Catholic
boys of Melbourne equal opportunities in the intellectual sphere with their
rivals of the public schools and high schools'. The thrust towards professionalism was also part of De La Salle's motivation. 'The splendid band of
boys who greeted him', enthused Archbishop Mannix at the school's jubilee fete
in 1936, 'were a fine type and no school is more worthily represented in the legal
and commercial life of Melbourne'. The result may have been the production of
powerful men, but the animating spirit was egalitarian. The school's founding
fathers were said to have been moved by a 'profound faith in the essential
equality of men'.
For the earlier, non Roman Catholic establishments, the second decade of the
century was a period of expansion and consolidation. In 1910, Korowa absorbed
the Tuituila Kindergarten and the Malvern Ladies' College to become a
Presbyterian girls' school: 'Pupils are prepared for the Junior and Senior Public
Examinations of the University of Melbourne, or receive special training in
Domestic Science and Needlework'. Physical drill, physical culture and religious
instruction — 'unsectarian in character' — completed the program. The
'nervous strain' of assessment was minimised through the staggering of
examinations, and 'undue rivalry' was discouraged by dispensing rewards for
conscientiousness as well as performance. By the early 1920s, all the schools had
settled into their long-term sites. Lauriston had purchased its Mercer Road
property. Malvern Grammar had taken a lease on 'Davies' Folly' in Willoby
Avenue, 'big, beautiful, neglected . . . wholly unsuitable and inadequate for a
school; lighted by old-fashioned gas jets; without sufficient exits; with an
inadequate sports oval'. Indeed, the brooding mansion, rumoured to be
haunted, with its heritage of ruined hopes and postponed fetes, pictured in issue
after issue of the school magazine, seems to have left an indefinable mark on the
institution's existence. Korowa had moved into William Knox's equally grand
but less nobly proportioned Ranfurlie, and the girls were well pleased: 'our room
was once part of the Hon. William Knox's stables . . . having on the north side
two big windows, and the morning sun streams in on us'.
Initially the survival of these schools could be accounted for by a combination
of good sense and sound principles in their founders, the determined loyalty of a
few supporters, the patronage of the church (all the girls' schools adopted by the
Anglican Church survived) and an element of luck. However, they soon
gathered to themselves a mystique of social responsibility and cultural stability.
The gulf in resources between the private and state systems is obvious, but the
almost palpable differences in atmosphere between them, probably assisted
initially by the mansion settings as opposed to the rudimentary state-built
barracks, is something quite distinct from mere bricks and mortar and weighs
down at the threshold, as if the air had taken on a denser quality. 'The reality of
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
this spiritual edifice', wrote Clare Percy-Dove of Sacre Coeur, 'makes itself felt in
that subtle element called atmosphere, sensed so acutely by many on entering a
building'. If the state school has been typified by its shelter sheds, the private
school has been marked out by its chapels. The private schools, more than state
schools trapped in an uncontrollable struggle with numbers, were thought to
embody the best values that society had to offer. Furthermore, they had an
accredited place in the metaphysical scheme, expressed in symbolism, ritual and
language. Their mottoes signalled the seriousness of their other-worldly aspirations. Korowa's Talma Non Sine Pulvere', literally a quote from Horace 'No
Palm Without Dust' and usually translated as 'No Reward Without Labour'
extended from the classical to the Christian: palms marked Christ's entry into
Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week. Lauriston's 'Sancte, Sapienter,
Strenue' ('Holily, Wisely, Strongly') put piety at the peak of its trinity of virtuous
adverbs, although the school became undenominational after its Presbyterian
beginnings. T i m e Deum, Fac Recte' (Tear God, Do Right') was Malvern
Grammar's awesome injunction.
For the Roman Catholics, the deity was not in competition with either
middle-class prudence or classical pretension. St Kevin's adopted 'Deo Omnia'
('All for God'), De La Salle was similarly terse with its 'Deo Duce' ('God Leads')
and Sacre Coeur's 'Corunum' ('One Heart') made an art of brevity. Even St
Joseph's Primary School held the lamp aloft for mere tots, with the injunction
'Semper Fidelis' ('Always Faithful'). The symbolic richness available to the
Roman Church showed in explanations made at Kildara's jubilee celebrations
of the maxims and devices that had been used to express the school's ethos. The
original badge depicted a marvellously diverse set of allegorical devices:
four symbols within a shield [which] denoted the protective forces acquired by the
student . . . The cross-crowned heart of the Saviour and the pierced heart of His
Holy Mother reminded the girls of their obligation to copy the charity, fortitude and
meekness [of Christ and Mary] . . . The Celtic cross indicated the faith . . . The tower
signified the strong fortress of solid virtue . . . The shamrock spray . . . symbolized
the link binding pupil and teacher in God on the imperishable stem of hope.
Perhaps because this construct was over-complex and too much of a chestful,
the badge was simplified to show the sacred heart and the Celtic cross within a
shield, and the motto became 'Ad Meliora' ('Aim for Higher Things' — that is,
to reach towards God, a commitment close to Aldworth's 'Petamus Altiora').
Few of the badges encompassed such a plethora of religious emblems and
associations, or changed to signify shifts in symbolic accent. Malvern
Grammar's design included the bishop's mitre as a token of the connection with
the Anglican church, but it focussed on secular iconography: the chevron,
representative in heraldry of a building, the Southern Cross which distinguished the Australian institution from Malvern College, England, and two
irises, one indicating a link with classical learning, the other importing a homely
touch in reference to the school's propinquity to Glen Iris. Korowa's palms, too,
represented the blending of Greek culture and Christian ritual.
For schools flying a religious flag, the inculcation of Christian beliefs and the
THAT SUBTLE ELEMENT CALLED ATMOSPHERE
109
example that flowed from those precepts were vital. The point was underlined
by Archbishop Head at Malvern Grammar's jubilee service in the crisis
atmosphere of 1941: 'The boys at Malvern were growing up in the knowledge of
God, and schools of its kind were essential if Christian ideals were to be
preserved in a world of strife'. At St Kevin's, with its staff of religious, Godcentredness was even more heavily accented — 'we try to make religion
permeate the entire life of the boy' — and extended into presenting an
appropriate 'Catholic interpretation' of the past (Ireland was the particular focus
of this endeavour). De La Salle was to be 'a nursery wherein the boy is trained to
fulfil his destiny as a worthy citizen of his country and as an heir to the kingdom
of heaven'. The doctrinal imperative at religiously based schools was reinforced
through attendance at church services, the presence of chaplains and the
awarding of scripture and Christian doctrine prizes. The churches also provided
stars from their hierarchies to head school councils (even if nominally), to
perform commemoration services and preside over speech nights, and to extend
the embrace of accredited moral certainty. As the school's patron, the Roman
Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne was always pictured, chiselled in expression,
lacy in garb, near the front of De La Salle's magazine. The need to import
politicians, those bearers of pragmatism, tainted by compromise and expediency, to supervise ceremonial occasions and celebrate seminal events, was thus
largely eliminated.
In return, as the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne said at Malvern
Grammar in 1939, the church 'looked to church schools to supply men willing
and able to serve'. There is no evidence that many candidates for the Anglican
ministry were forthcoming, and by comparison with the Roman Catholic
schools, the results were pitiful. In its first Annual Magazine (1935) St Kevin's
could point to a proud tally of boys called to 'the ecclesiastical state . . . The
average in the past few years has rarely fallen below a dozen. Digitus Dei est hie.
No greater sign could be had to prove that God's blessing is on the work'.
Kildara, too, could claim a grand record in the number of its girls who became
nuns, while De La Salle was prolific in the production of priests and brothers (87
by its golden jubilee in 1962).
While the governing bodies of the churches might emphasise the purely
religious function of their educational establishments, the nearer custodians
were animated by a more earthly vision that found expression in the school
magazines. The school was 'the world in miniature' bridging past, present and
future, offering continuity and stability, presenting an ideal of behaviour. It was
'not merely . . . a place in which boys are educated to pass examinations and to
achieve success in sport, but . . . an institution — one with its traditions which
are highly treasured . . . it is a Heritage . . . The School . . . is the product of
successive generations . . . we must see to it that we do not betray this Trust'
(Editorial The Malvern Grammarian December 1946). The model of the English
public school, particularly Eton, was often held up as the paradigm, rather in
the manner of a small brother hoping he might in time be able to emulate his
peerless elder. Those august places of instruction provided, said De La Salle's
Blue & Gold (1928), 'the one influence that preserves England from the pagan
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
and brutalising philosophy of the hour . . . And why should not the same spirit
inspire everyone who goes out from De La Salle?'. Four years later, the
reflections of a new chum isolated the pervasive school spirit as the dominant
impression of his initiation, with its power of instilling in each boy 'the
consciousness that he is a unit of a great brotherhood'. By 1943, the monolith
was felt to be securely in place: T h a n k God the College now has a tradition . . .
As a consequence each new scholastic year tends to be more or less a replica of
its predecessor'.
The heritage may have been intangible, but it was not inanimate, and found
manifestation in the sense of ethical and social responsibility exhibited by each
boy. The message was sternly adumbrated and continually repeated:
The training needed is moral training . . . character-building . . . It is not a subject in
which an examination can be set — the only examination is life itself . . . A boy who
has failed in his examinations, but is well trained in this other phase of education, is
better equipped in life's battle than the genius who has totally disregarded it.
'Character-training is the real work of the Christian school', St Kevin's boys
were admonished, 'the boy is master of his fate; he can choose whether he will
be the ruler of his passions or their slave'. Properly imbibed, the lessons were
lifelong: 'it is not until ten years or so subsequent to schooldays, that the former
pupil begins to form really accurate ideas of what school life did mean, or should
have meant to him'. A vocabulary of serious and portentous words and phrases
was employed, the emphasis often supplied by the use of capital letters
(Tradition, Heritage, even Old Boy), like moral traffic signs. Education of the
will, training in leadership and responsibility, the boosting of morale led to
moral growth and the formation of character. A Malvern Grammar boy was
obliged 'to be a leader spiritually and materially . . . to raise the standard of
honour and justice'. It was possible to invoke the school's name to demonstrate
a pentagon of virtues: 'Manliness, Courtesy, Enthusiasm, Generosity, Sincerity
are five words which might be formed with the [school's] initial letters'.
Although the ideal of the accomplished all-rounder — scholar, leader,
sportsman — was cultivated (the school captain was usually an amalgam of all
the qualities), intellectual success was insufficient to produce the required
character and, as an individual pursuit, could militate against it. Sport,
especially football and cricket, which developed 'team spirit, reliance of boys on
one another, tenacity and fighting ability', was more effective and generated a
spate of appropriate nouns and adjectives: 'heroic . . . unavailing pertinacity . . .
doggedly fighting spirit . . . invincible . . . another stern struggle', rather as if
knightly jousts were being described, or perhaps — more woefully — the
language of the First World War had infiltrated. The De La Salle firsts kept up 'a
constant bombardment' on the opposition goal in one match, but only showed
'spasmodic bursts' of their true form and were flawed by the 'intelligent
scouting' of the enemy team in another. The Second World War provided a
fresh source of imagery shown in the 1947 'Blitz Premiership' between the school
houses. A heavy touch of Boys' Own Annual heartiness was added for good
measure and a streak of sectarianism crept in from time to time. Disconcertingly
THAT SUBTLE ELEMENT CALLED ATMOSPHERE
111
innocent behind their masks of toughness, school teams were annually pictured
in the serried, unsmiling ranks decreed by custom, arms stiffly crossed, legs
slightly apart, each individual a reliable cog in the team machine, while
attendance by non-participants at some sporting fixtures was compulsory.
This imitation warfare had an overriding moral message, put by St Kevin's
hearty football scribe in the mid 1930s: In participating in any sport, we should
always remember two things — be gracious in victory, and uncomplaining in
defeat'. 'Organised games', the message ran, contributed to physical development, but as importantly they had their effect in 'the vital task of moulding
characters'. Not simply single characters, but the school's composite
personality. De La Salle school spirit was thought to peak 'on the occasion of
the combined sports', and home-ground preparation for these trials was so vital
that 'every boy should take part unless it is physically impossible'. 'Uninformed
or, at least, badly informed' queries as to whether the school overemphasised
physical training were dismissed: 'sport is part of the life of the average
Australian, and active participation in moderation appears to do more good
than harm'. And yet by the early 1960s, the attention given to sporting matters
in the school magazine even outweighed the space allotted to that other
competitive preoccupation, examinations.
An ancillary discipline in developing the desired qualities of resourcefulness,
hardiness, co-operation and obedience was fostered by the scouting movement.
This, with its thrusting Empire spirit that implanted a conservative, imperial
ideology, appealed particularly to the Protestant schools. Formed in 1907, the
same year as scouting was established in England, the 1st Malvern troop was
Australia's oldest and the first to receive official recognition two years later
when its cohorts formed the governor's guard of honour at the Malvern
Horticultural Society show. By 1934 the Malvern Boy Scouts' Association had
reached its silver anniversary and the district boasted hundreds of committed
souls, but the tally could be further augmented: 'there are thousands of boys
who would benefit by Scout training', which developed concepts of citizenship
and service and 'was said to comprise the ethical code of all religions'. Over the
years, the municipal authorities responded with moral support and a favourable
attitude to appeals for council land to establish meeting-places. Malvern
Grammar's own company rallied its spirits to a rollicking ditty echoing the Eton
Boating Song and sung to the tune of 'Men of Harlech':
Fifteenth Malvern, swing together.
In the hall or through the heather.
Pitch the tent in any weather
On the rolling lea.
The school magazine regularly carried a section on 'Scouting', and the band was
photographed annually in front of the magnificent if oppressive entrance to
Davies' mansion, sometimes proudly displaying their personal banner.
The unspoken message seemed to be made quite clear in Blue & Gold's
sketches: 'Our boy scouts ready to do their good act'. The bemedalled scout in
the centre is dressed in the uniform of the first AIF. In his Defending the National
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
Tuckshop (1988), Michael Cathcart points to an implicit assumption 'in the
celebration of the public school contribution to Empire . . . that public school
boys were morally superior to, and better gifted for leadership than, boys from
the state high schools'. When the real test came again, as The Malvern Grammarian recorded in December 1940, the response was all that could have been
desired:
They represented the School in work and sport; now they represent it in a harsher
test . . . The Old Boys have made a new tradition, the biggest the School has had . . .
the School enters upon its inheritance side by side with the great schools of Britain
and our own country whose traditions are written on foreign fields.
Over 280 old boys enlisted and forty-nine died. Obituary notices often observed
that those who had gone exemplified the qualities of manliness and responsibility that the school had striven to engender. The moral disciplines of the
academy also benefited the captive soldier. Writing from a camp in Italy, one
prisoner of war described a survival mechanism that sounded like a repeat of
schooldays: '[we] have done fairly well among ourselves with organised
diversions . . . As time passes, boredom's threat becomes more formidable . . .
Patience is the order'. The school's scouts, too, excelled themselves, acting as
messengers for Air Raid Precaution wardens, tending Stonnington Hospital's
vegetable garden and amassing a mountainous pile of scrap material. After the
war, the school was renamed the Malvern Memorial Grammar School as a
tribute to the dead. De La Salle and St Kevin's had lost almost the same
number, the latter school erecting a memorial tablet that followed Carlyle's
dictum — lapidary inscriptions should be historical rather than lyrical' — by
presenting the sparsest of tributes.
The feeling that physical prowess should extend into military preparedness
gained a fillip after the war (among the state schools, at least Spring Road also
maintained its cadet corps). Malvern Grammar's Air Training Corps became an
established feature of school life, and the immaculate band was pictured peering
into cockpits at Laverton or stiffly posed before yet another moody portion of
the Davies' mansion, reported in attendance 'equipped with side-arms' at the
Air Force Ball, on parade at Point Cook, or improving their rifle drill under
expert instruction: 'We began as old women going to a knitting circle, but, by
the time we had finished, we hope we were more like airmen'. A 1944 poll on
compulsory military training was unanimous that it should continue. 'A potent
factor in inculcating loyalty and national duty, school tradition and esprit de
corps', De La Salle's cadet corps was also a wartime creation that continued to
flourish through the wintry humours of the Cold War, although perhaps its
proudest moments were ceremonial (it was traditionally the vanguard in the
mammoth annual St Patrick's Day march).
In 1950, cadets came to St Kevin's, showing their mettle in weekly parades
and flag-saluting ceremonies; but initially the parent body was not entirely
unanimous in regarding this as a positive development, and stern words were
administered rebuking those who sought exemptions for their sons. However,
the corps survived the corrosive effects of any malingerers and continued to
THAT SUBTLE ELEMENT CALLED ATMOSPHERE
113
flourish, sporting its own badges and awarding prizes to outstanding performers.
A rifle range was built in 1953, and thereafter several pages of the school
magazine were devoted to photographs and descriptions of the apprentice
soldiers' doings. 'Ceremonial, military ceremonial, is emphasised in the cadets
for two reasons' explained the editorialist in 1955 (probably the year when, with
the fall-out of the Royal Commission on Espionage still smoking and the split in
the ALP, the Cold War peaked in Australia), 'because of the discipline involved,
and for the Unit Spirit and tradition which it fosters . . . The need for
ceremonies such as this in the schools is very real'.
The results of this long preparation were not entirely selfless, for there were
personal benefits to be gained, the material advantages of a comfortable
education, a sense of privilege that contributed social ease and readiness to grasp
opportunity, and a cachet on the future. 'Blessed with a grammar school
education', The Malvern Grammarian (July 1937) enthused, those who passed
through its doors had 'bodies, legs and a very obvious aura of public school
spirit; they have also been fortunate enough to receive the foundations of a
broad outlook'. Although the results may not always have measured up to the
ideal, they belonged to a class that was being trained for leadership: 'the public
school', Malvern Grammarians were told, 'trained for public responsibilities'.
The private school system was central to Melbourne's class structure, forming or
cementing class consciousness and preserving the patterns of wealth and power.
Sensitive to the superior grasp of the Protestant schools on the professions and
responding to the hierarchy's desire to extend Roman Catholic influence, St
Kevin's deliberately set out to expand the horizons of its students beyond the
public service 'to take a leading part in all branches of the intellectual and
commercial life of Melbourne'. By 1945, it was proudly noted that two hundred
former pupils were at university. The note of pride filtered down to St Joseph's
parish school, which had produced four men who 'rose to great fame'. Given
that they had a primary school system to maintain as well as their more
exclusive colleges, the Roman Catholics were in a delicate position, needing
both to boost their academic successes and play down suggestions of unseemly
elitism. 'There is something in the charge that some Catholic Colleges turn out
snobs', ran a 1958 brochure appealing for funds to extend St Mary's Primary
School, 'and foster the prejudice against state aid'.
As well as notching up results, St Kevin's was conforming to the pattern in
other ways. De La Salle's old collegians' association dated back to the late 1920s
and the Malvern Grammarian Old Boys was likewise a venerable institution,
distinguished by its old school tie (distinctive blazers, badges and smoking
equipment were also available) and animated, as Sir Robert Knox said at their
third annual dinner in 1936, by 'the need to assist the School to enable the
younger generation to have the same advantages as we ourselves enjoyed'. Loyal
individuals, such as builder Clements Langford after whom one of the school's
houses was named, played a part, but the corporate endeavour was even more
important. Hovering around twenty per cent of the alumni, membership was
felt to compare quite favourably with comparable groups. The seriousness of the
commitment to ensure standards for following generations was proved when the
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
old boys, flourishing in the wake of war, arranged the purchase of Valentines in
the middle of 1946: 'we have witnessed a great manifestation of the School
Spirit'. At the same time, St Kevin's Old Boys' Association held its inaugural
meeting. Apart from raising funds, the old boys provided school councillors,
acted as a medium of social intercourse to cement lifelong friendships, carried
the standard, offered a role model for those who came after and developed
formidable informal networks of power and influence. The ambition was not
simply one of material advancement, individually or communally. As the 1950s
dawned, both schools blazoned a similar message. T h e ideals of a school
constitute a form of national wealth', the audience at Grammar's 1949 speech
night heard, 'today it is more than ever imperative . . . to quarry them and
make them accessible to all'. St Kevin's 1950 editorial 'Your Son's Education'
was equally explicit: 'At no time . . . has there been a greater demand for young
men morally and intellectually trained . . . to take their place as leaders — and
not, most emphatically as mere wage-earners — in the struggle to maintain
Australia's prosperity — and her democracy'.
The ethos of the girls' schools and the means of instilling their principles
mirrored the philosophies of their brothers' academies. They too saw themselves
as 'a miniature world' where character was 'moulded' into an urn composed of
'honour, courage, helpfulness and co-operation', and the foundations of a future
encounter with 'the battle of life' were established, 'the spirit of willing service'
and feelings of 'deep gratitude' were instilled, and striving was perhaps even
more important than success. The refrain of Lauriston's school song put the
principle of sincere effort in homely, heartfelt fashion:
For it's my school, our school.
A n d the colours are white and blue
A n d the only thing that is good enough
Is the best that we can do.
'The discipline in schools of the Sacred Heart has met with a great deal of
criticism', admitted one of the school's central texts, before launching into an
exposition of its power to shape personality: 'Self-control is so vital to the
conduct of life that no price is too great to pay for the acquiring of the habit . . .
no action is too small in which to practise it'. The elaborate surveillance system
instated at Burke Road included an elite group of girls called the 'Ribbons',
weekly 'Exemptions' where conduct cards were distributed and feast-day
'Squashes' (epigrams formulated by the nuns to expose individual failings).
The establishment of a tradition and the affirmation of a distinctive spirit to
be passed on to successive generations was likewise emphasised. Korowa was not
yet an Eton, said Archdeacon Aickin, opening the new senior building in 1926,
but 'it is just as good to have a part in the making of the name and fame of a new
school . . . You are the early makers of Korowa's traditions'. At Sacre Coeur,
the process became corporeal; drinks of 'a delicious kind of cordial' called
'School Spirit' were regularly imbibed. The girls' schools experienced the
backing of influential individuals, including, in Korowa's case, the Anglican
Church, while Sacre Coeur could marshal not only local church dignitaries, but
20 Central Park's most appealing feature was a steel and glass conservatory where rotating
displays of plants attracted as many as 2000 admirers on a Sunday afternoon. The Wilmot
Fountain is in the foreground. Central Park, 1929.
21 The 'seats of the mighty': Stonnington and Moorakyne, 1935.
22 Marked by the fleeting imprint of the children who lived there: Michael Keeley's
Brynmawr, later occupied by Sacre Coeur School.
23 A palace seen through the wrong end of a telescope: Valentines, built by John Mark
Davies, c 1890.
24 The Gables, Finch Street, built in 1902: an exterior severe, even stolid, and the billiard
room, providing a suitably serious environment for the game.
25 The first vice-regal inhabitants of Malvern swept into exile to the strains of 'Rome, Sweet
Home: arrival of Sir George and Lady Clarke, 1901.
26 House, formerly near Lauriston site. Many of Malvern's larger houses had not really been
opulent enough to warrant the description 'mansion'. They more resembled overgrown villas.
THAT SUBTLE ELEMENT CALLED ATMOSPHERE
115
peripatetic cardinals, overseas members of the Society of the Sacred Heart, and
even, in 1951, the Fatima Statue. They also had admirable mentors in their
principals, and the practical, moral and sentimental support of old girls'
networks. When Sacre Coeur celebrated its jubilee in 1938, one day was set
aside for the alumnae and they came in full numbers to wander about the
flower-filled rooms of their former school'. For Lauriston, the lineage was to
become so magnetic that, as time accrued, photographs of the children and
grandchildren of former students, assembled together as if they formed a
particular elite, began to appear in the magazine. The ideal of a balanced
education, which aimed at academic excellence and encompassed sport, that
marvellous facilitator of team-spirit selflessness, was prosecuted, and, in guiding,
they shared a sister organisation to the scouts.
The general outline of the educational picture may have been relatively
constant, but the filling in of details revealed a massive reordering of priorities.
Given that the philosophical basis of the system had been created for the male,
the educational ideal for boys was fairly straightforward, even if its realisation
was complicated, but girls were confronted with ambiguities, compromises and
incongruities. In December 1920, Korowa's magazine The Palm Leaf published a
prize-winning essay, 'My Ideal Australian Girl', which outlined a seemingly
unfulfillable paradigm. Of'graceful bearing and strong physique', nature-loving,
courageous and enduring like the pioneering women, ladylike though not
constricted, 'she would receive an education such as Milton speaks of in his
Tractate on Education. Such an one as fits a person to perform skilfully and
efficiently every duty connected with public and private life'. She would
therefore be well-informed on current affairs, cultured, well-spoken and
accomplished, especially in music. 'A home-girl, and a daughter of whom her
parents might well be proudly fond', she would find a niche in nursing or
teaching 'and efficiently serve those around her', before fulfilling her destiny as
'wife and mother'. As the composer of this portrait admitted, this paragon was
required to possess 'an enormous number of attributes', ready with a smile,
quick to invoke the steeliness of high seriousness. Flanked by table, open book
and telescope, the nine exquisitely open-faced girls of Sacre Coeur's 1921 '1st
Class' look like the ideal embodied.
Both Korowa and Lauriston did indeed aspire to produce young women who
were competent as well as compliant, self-possessed but also self-sacrificing. Selfconsciously participating in a post-World War One process of 'modern
education', they invoked ideas that had strong if fleeting feminist overtones.
'Vocational education' for girls required new approaches and legislation to
protect the interests of women. The schoolgirl of the 1920s was 'far freer . . .
more high-spirited, more self-reliant' than her nineteenth century counterpart.
Parents now realised that girls should have 'a proper education' which included
science, mathematics, civics and physical culture. Given that women had the
franchise, there was, as Henry Gullett said at Korowa in the mid 1920s, 'a
greater obligation on teachers to equip girls for personal and national service'.
However, there was still her prime role as a homemaker to consider. Having
produced strong arguments for training outside the domestic sphere and
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
pointed out fiercely that housewives were totally excluded from the
breadwinner category, the writer of Korowa's 1923 article on 'Vocational
Education' resorted to a hopeless double standard before admitting ideological
defeat: 'Girls must be trained for two vocations, namely, home-making and
industry . . . It is not time for us to stand still and argue that women's sphere is
the home, even if that be an ideal held before us'.
The dual impulse was perceived to be difficult rather than destructive, but a
pattern of contradictory messages and gender confusion resulted. Femininity
responded to its own imperative, as the 1926 poem 'Korowa' put it: 'sound and
sweet/ Your girls will grow/ If nurtured here — each character complete'. The
girls saw no hiatus in a debate on the subject 'Should Women Compete with
Men in Public Life?', and were simply 'amused' when the vicar of St James welcomed a new headmistress in 1927 'by likening Miss [Ethel] Akehurst to Moses,
and Mrs Eastman to Joshua . . . both great men; each had his appointed task'.
The existence of great men and the primacy of the masculine personal pronoun
were not matters of debate, even in the long term. 'The History of a Nation is
the History of Its Heroes' (1962) was yet another paean to male dominance. By
the mid 1930s, needlework examinations had dropped from the tapestry of
school life; the First World War had done irreparable long-term damage and
that admirable body, the Melbourne Institute of Plain Needlework, was defunct
(by contrast, in 1948 it was still de rigueur at Sacre Coeur as a waste-not wantnot exercise). However, the 'Science Laboratory' still had to compete for photographic space with the 'Domestic Science Kitchen', and the 'Social Service
Notes' were invariably flanked by balls of wool speared with knitting needles.
The influence of coyly asexual illustrators such as Ida Outhwaite lay heavily
on original artwork in the magazine. Literary contributions showed that,
despite earnest gestures towards a more comprehensive outcome, sexual roles
had been indelibly absorbed. Three poems published in 1938 were 'My
Treasure' ('I wish I was a sailor/ With a tall ship of my own') 'Schoolboy' ('When
I grow up to be a m a n / I'd like to sail the sea') and 'Dream Lady' where the
protagonist 'lay upon a bed of leaves', apparently the victim of a frightful swoon,
if not a more terminal condition. (Twenty-four years later the 'Social Service
Notes' still had their knitting needle sentinels, and a new Home Science Centre
was dedicated. In 1971, with the women's movement beginning to surge, a prizewinning poet described the aftermath of 'Birth' as 'most of all/ Happiness
watching him grow'.
Even when they were the fictional creations of young ladies, women tended to
be incompetent. The Lauristonian (1942) printed a parable about the loss of'the
Ball of Peace' from a paradise garden where it was being tossed about by a boy
and a girl — the culprit was not Felix but Felicity, 'rather a dunce at catching',
who had dropped it in a river. Like the Great War, the Second World War
presented a new role model, but, again, the lines were, if not crossed, at least
complicated. A poem that celebrated 'Women in Uniform' was offset by 'The
Forces' ('I long to be in the Air Force/ To wear a suit of blue,/ To fly above the
Axis/ And then come back to you.'); while after the war the sexual roles seemed
again less complicated, as post-war consumerism delivered women back to
THAT SUBTLE ELEMENT CALLED ATMOSPHERE
117
housewifery ('I am helping M u m m y / Because I'm growing u p ; / I sweep the floors
and shut the doors/ A n d dry the dishes up').
Nor could sport for girls have the same character-forming, releasing function
as it did for boys, especially given the absence of the two great sports, football
and cricket, and the fact that, until modern times truly descended, girl competitors wore inhibiting stockings and cumbersome skirts. Reports of
'exhilarating' sport emphasised the conviviality of the occasion as much as its
rigours Cgrandstand[s] . . . crowded beyond endurance with fond parents,
aunts, uncles, cousins and friends') and gave almost equal weight with athletics
to those classic events for the inept, the sack, potato and egg and spoon races —
even a flower-pot race. Sporting prowess was so ill-apportioned that it was
possible to lose a whole round of basketball matches because the team consisted
largely of hockey-players. Competition was encouraged, provided that it was
restrained, and, in 1937, the headmistresses of the girls' schools gathered to
deplore ungoverned rivalry. Ever distinctive, Sacre Coeur eschewed competitive
sporting fixtures and, in another expression of its indelible Frenchness, indulged
in the games of Cache and Catte, which seem to have emanated from a fruitier
tradition than Anglo-Saxon heartiness. Apart from a certain lack of high
seriousness, the need to develop controlled and graceful deportment militated
against the ability to withstand the rough and tumble of the sporting field. 'We
walked around St Brigid's with small wooden blocks on our heads', remembered
a Kildara girl, 'and performed Eurythmics in Grecian costumes at school
concerts'.
As an adjunct to the physical and moral regimen, guiding provided practical
education and developed a sense of responsibility for those stamped with the
British trademark. Guides, true to the symbolism incorporated in their name,
slotted neatly into the female role: 'the sister . . . a guide to her brother, the
mother a guide to her sons'. However, a moue of dissent emerged in the
observation that one strand of the guiding promise (to help other people at all
times) was regarded by 'big brothers . . . as being put in specially for their
benefit'. When the 1st East Malvern Brownie pack was formed at Korowa in
1936, its members were inducted into the domestic role: 'she learns to wash up,
set a table, darn, sew on buttons, and other things in which little people may
find themselves generally helpful'.
Overwhelmingly the future lay in the marital direction. While Korowa's
'brother' school, Malvern Grammar, facetiously lamented the passing of its
products into the captive ranks of the married, the girls celebrated the advent of
true womanliness, exemplified by fashion and demeanour. Commercial and
professional possibilities there may have been, as several vocational guides who
visited the school pointed out; nevertheless, according to the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne in 1939, girls leaving church schools might fittingly enter
nursing or teaching, become a deaconess or a missionary, but to be a wife was
'something towards which every girl should strive'. The Christian mantle fell
less heavily on the undenominational girls of Lauriston, where, in the early
1940s, the Parents' Association sponsored meetings that seriously addressed the
question of careers for girls; even so, the impetus was faltering and spasmodic.
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
Those remarkably steadfast women, the headmistresses were, as well, subject
to strictly female accolades and, balancing on contrarieties, laboured to
establish the dual role for their protegees. 'Schools achieve their greatness from
the work and inspiration engendered by those who guide their destinies', said
the chairman of Malvern Grammar's school council in 1949, eulogising
'Marsden of Malvern'. 'Any great headmaster must be something of a visionary
as well as a practical man.' By comparison, when one of the founders of
Lauriston, Miss Margaret Irving, died in 1943, the tribute, equally sincere, was
less heroic. She was praised for an unwieldy compendium of qualities:
Of her we may truly say, 'Here lies a good woman without pretence' . . . At a time
when girls' schools had to build up a tradition, she and her sister proved ready to
adopt sound ideas of discipline and self-government . . . Then, later, remembering
that women usually have to make a home she, with other headmistresses, was
responsible for the inauguration of a Homecraft Hostel [1929; Invergowrie].
She had also been influential 'in the wider sphere of secondary education for
women'. Not long after her death, in unconscious recognition of the dualities, a
new award was instituted: 'a white silk girdle to any girl who is thought by her
good posture and general deportment to deserve it. Two posture girdle investitures have now been made'. (In this context, it should perhaps be remembered
that the Malvern Girls' High School was a post-war creation specifically
designed to ensure that girls were efficient home-managers.) At the same time,
the boys' schools were enthusiastically reasserting their military stance. War, it
seems, began to dissolve the sexual boundaries, leaving the post-war period to
re-erect them.
However, all was not lost. In 1946, The Lauristonian's editorial reflected on the
lessons of history: 'women will have to play a far more important part in
determining national policies in the future . . . we cannot afford to overlook
that side of school life which helps us to express ourselves clearly and
intelligently, both in writing and speaking'. And yet, from the evidence of the
school magazines between 1920 and the 1970s, that sensitive lucidity had
already been achieved. Even if the post-school outcome was more restricted
than the pedagogic promise had suggested, the education offered to girls was
broader, more complex and encouraging to individual development. Perhaps
they had a temporary advantage in their earlier maturing and the manoeuvring
made possible by the fact that their role was chameleonic and ill-defined.
Perhaps it should also be admitted that the emphasis on a literary education was
unwittingly designed to foster aptitude for dilettantish conversation at middleclass dinner tables, as well as to fertilise the necessary interval between
schooling and marriage. This is not to disparage the soundness of the impetus or
the facility of the outcome. The strengths and weaknesses of the standard
education for girls were recognised by the former principal of Sacre Coeur in her
Brynmawr — The High Hill:
The intellectual training sent the pupils out with minds prepared to absorb all that
was best in the world at home and abroad, in the realms of history, art, music,
philosophy and general culture. It was a training unfitted for the world of today,
THAT SUBTLE ELEMENT CALLED ATMOSPHERE 119
(though this unfitness consisted rather in matter than in manner, and in the need for
more practical ability).
A thorough examination of the intellectual content of girls' school magazines
is not possible, but general impressions confirm a sense of awesome difference
between these publications and those of the boys' schools, which concentrated
overwhelmingly on sport, results and homilies. Apparently written by the girls
themselves, the editorials of both The Palm Leaf and The Lauristonian (Sacre
Coeur had no magazine until 1976) were lively, varied and reflective, from time
to time dignified with an opening quote from Wordsworth or Horace (in Latin),
and sombrely addressing the human condition, an especially gloomy prospect in
the crisis-ridden thirties, but one that gained a silvery glow in the brief space of
post-World War Two reconstruction. Amidst the hackneyed phrases and trite
opinions, the true sparks of intellectual engagement burned. With a purity of
intensity that perhaps only the female could afford, they grappled with the
world around them. Current affairs were a constant preoccupation, from the
League of Nations to the United Nations, through the Sino-Japanese War to
the condition of the Soviet Union. This was particularly evident at Lauriston
through its League of Nations Union, International Study Group and magazine
section 'Current Topics': quoting Pericles, 'We . . . regard a man who takes no
interest in public affairs, not as a harmless, but as a useless character'. However,
it was also true of Korowa, where the topic might be the League of Nations
explained by 'an Indian of the Brahmin caste' (1922) or Professor Woodruff on
the United Nations and the threat of atomic warfare (1947). Even their social
service activities sometimes offered an expansion of understanding (for instance,
Korowa adopted a French baby during World War One, and three English
children in 1945). Culture was their standard, through music groups and
madrigal performances, the celebration of Shakespeare's birthday or Bastille
Day, folk dancing concerts and essay competitions (in 1924 Korowa even
produced a brief on the surprising notion that Australian literature had a role in
'the Development of National Ideals'). A n d they wrote, and wrote . . .
The school play and the inter-school debate were cultural institutions shared
by both sexes; otherwise, for boys, mental fare that did not contribute to their
worldly future was decidedly lean. On the evidence of their magazines, the
collegians and grammarians were starved of anything approaching a dispassionate view of contemporary affairs, perhaps because it was assumed that, as future
leaders, a black and white universe was easier to cope with. Even when topical
discussion groups existed, as they did at De La Salle, the emphasis was a little
loaded, although there is something disarming in the assessment, after a talk on
communism by the single-minded Frank Cremean, that 'many of us who had
not thought much on this subject realized . . . the necessity of every Catholic
fighting it in Australia'.
The boys' schools were also seemingly nervous in the face of'Culture'. Music,
with its overtones of sissyhood, was a low priority, although for a while St
Kevin's had a small school orchestra of languorous musicians under the baton
of Brother Cusack, and De La Salle, which formed its first school choir in 1953,
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
developed a keen interest in singing. Literature was, likewise, an activity that
needed to be treated circumspectly. The Malvern Grammarian regularly published a small section called 'Original', but, apart from the offerings of a handful
of truly precocious cynics and a bevy of satirical would-bes, it was usually a
lacklustre selection, and the drawing that preceded it for several issues seemed
involuntarily to sum up the general effect: as two unfit-looking Aborigines
frantically encourage a fire, the smoke signal 'Original' wafts upwards and far
away. Schoolboy banter was also the dominant key at De La Salle, in joky
poems about examinations and parodies of the Romantic poets; but the literary
component was slight, and, until more recent times, with the establishment of a
poetry prize and recognition of the importance of 'education in the fine arts',
several of the magazine's most polished articles and ambitious poems were
actually products of the mind and muse of Brother Felix. At St Kevin's, the
attitude bordered on suspicion. After publishing a very few sub-Keatsian
effusions in its first couple of issues, the annual magazine denied any space to
the more sedentary creative impulses.
The picture of the way in which sexual distinction was encouraged and
celebrated has all the sanctified certainty of misguided good intentions. As the
barriers began to lower, it is depressing to sense that sport loomed larger for the
girls with only a hint of compensating enthusiasm for cultural matters in the
boys. Even when attempts were made to broaden the civilising scope, it could
hardly be said that the paint brush and the pen were mightier than the bat and
ball. While the males stabbed the football and thrust the bayonet, and perhaps
worried about their capacity to secure a foothold on the ladder of professional
or commercial dignity that had been proferred to them, the females enjoyed a
looser if somewhat ungovernable rein.
Even so, the question of what they were being trained for had not
substantially changed since the Malvern News addressed the conundrum of 'The
University Woman' in June 1914:
Once more has the question of 'the university woman' become acute, and her special
accomplishments and gifts are being hotly insisted upon in a way that suggests that
whatever else they may lack, the sweet girl graduates and violet-hooded doctors of
our women's colleges do not pine for champions. We are told that not only is the
University Woman a breezy, strenuous personality, who is equipped with every
literary gift, but that the charms of 'divine philosophy' have not prevented her from
qualifying as an expert in needlework and as a mirror of the domesticities.
To be both Portia and Penelope was the only path through the thicket. The
Malvern and Armadale Recorder's 1900 comment was also still true: 'A general
training makes boys more competent to grasp the principles and pick up the
practice of their profession. This was a truism between boys, but applied to their
sisters it became an apple of discord'.
The girls' schools themselves demonstrated not so much discord as uncertainty. They were inordinately proud of the academic and professional achievements of their graduates, but announcements of births, marriages and degrees
sometimes appeared together in a column called 'Old Girls' Gossip', while one
THAT SUBTLE ELEMENT CALLED ATMOSPHERE
121
of Lauriston's most distinguished academic graduates was regularly given the
'Mrs' prefix, with her professorial status in belated brackets, and the principal's
1974 discussion on the purpose of education used only masculine personal
pronouns. The tyranny of the reigning expectations was demonstrated again
and again in those creative contributions that aimed to foster individual
expression. Little girls frequently and debilitatingly dreamed of being men —
perhaps their father! In confronting the tender fatuity of courtship rituals, T h e
Average Person, You' (1962) was deflating about both the male and female roles,
but the conniving intention of the girl was unmistakable: 'he is not exactly the
man of your dreams . . . he is [average] like you, and in no time he is the
perfectly moulded husband'. 'Man's Worst Enemy' (1966) tripped through every
peace-threatening permutation of 'the designing woman' before concluding
'that she is, after all, only one of his twelve ribs'. If there was an irony, it was
well disguised.
The churches and schools were, as they often claimed to be, miniature worlds,
microcosms that reflected the structure of a larger reality, communities within a
community, conglomerates of individuals who were enjoined to strive for their
individual benefit, but above all for the common good. 'A good school is one of
the driving forces for the future of society', was a comment prompted by De La
Salle's diamond jubilee in 1972, 'but . . . it reflects rather than creates the
society of which it is part . . . Our boys need to laugh and enjoy the exuberance
of youth, but they also need a source of strength and hope'. Once the structure
was in place, the mould set, the crystal formed, a proliferation of religious,
secular and hybridised — partly sacred, partly temporal — rituals, like Brian
Lewis' 'crown of the week', Sunday, and the quasi-religious spectacles of the
Empire fest, operated to keep the commonalty in place. These procedures also
provided the illuminating magic that gave life shape, animated human
aspiration, informed memory and directed existence to ethereal prospects.
Although they often cast shadows that reinforced the unappealing realities of
social class, gender restrictions, political conservatism and militant patriotism,
the ideal of both religion and education was to lighten and enlighten. Thus, the
symbolism of light was invoked when, at their centenary in 1985, the Brigidines
went in procession into St Joseph's Church bearing lighted lamps: 'These small
ceramic lamps were fashioned in the style of the lamp seen on the Brigidine
Crest: the light of faith, a symbol of learning and a sign of welcome and
hospitality'.
CHAPTER • 6
This Day of Memory
and Hope
(
On this day of memory and hope, which is also the birthday of
good Queen Victoria, this is my message to you, the daughters of our
world-wide family of nations and peoples.
Think always of what you can do to make your homes happy, and
how you can best prepare yourselves to make happy homes for the
generations of children which will follow you . . . The home which
fosters clean minds and kind hearts is God's Temple; and the spirit
of the good home, whether it be rich or poor, is one of the best things
in the world . . . You can learn and practise nothing better for
yourselves and all members of the great British family than the
simple lessons of love, kindness, and unselfishness which, in cloud or
sunshine, are the strength and beauty of life.)
The Queen's Message to the Girls in the Elementary Schools
of the Empire 1923
On or about 24 May each year, the children of Malvern
gathered loyally at their schools to celebrate Empire Day, which was timed to
coincide with Queen Victoria's birthday, by 'the singing of the National
Anthem, Patriotic Songs, and the Saluting of the Union Jack'. Not entirely
spontaneous, the impulse was assisted by the urgings of a local committee and
the Minister of Public Instruction (the Education Department Gazette was
available to advise on suitable procedures), with the financial assistance and
moral support of council. The menu was mainly speeches, sometimes as many as
six, which was a high price to pay for the bags of lollies and crumpled pastries
that were distributed as a reward. However, it seemed to be the sweets rather
than the sentiments that were memorable, and, when a half day holiday was
thrown in for good measure, imperial joy perhaps gained a genuine edge
amongst the young, who could hardly be expected to share their elders' less
gain-getting enthusiasm.
The notion of a day set aside like those days devoted to religious observances
to celebrate the existence and continuance of a colossal, amorphous entity
called the empire was rather like asking people to tune into the idea of a
Celestial City, but the community was mainly British-born or first-generation
122
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
123
Australian-born of British parentage. Mention of the empire must have
instantly set off a fuse of reference to places, buildings, customs and people, as
well as conjuring up for many a lantern slide, made jewel-like and yet softened
by memory, of their particular places of origin. The vastness of the idea,
unbefouled by demeaning realities and offering a guarantee of permanence, may
have provided much of the attraction, while distance from the centre added a
touch of slightly pathetic urgency to the emotion and strengthened the instinct
to affirm the connection between the centre and its far-flung parts. In the
imperial literature, even the bloody seminal events of empire were recast until
they became part Kiplingesque adventure, part Arthurian romance, part
eucharistic sacrifice. Malvern was a loyal and legitimate outpost, and the
proclamation of its elevation to city status in 1911 was timed to coincide with
the great day. Besides the stirring abstractions, there were often mementoes —
medals of the reigning monarch in flattering, unyielding profile — that looked
enough like genuine coinage to add a welcome touch of the earthly.
For Malvern children, the day gained more youthful elan when the party
moved from the school yards to the cricket ground, where, in 1922, almost four
thousand small fry from local state and private schools, including those from
Roman Catholic establishments, were treated to 'a large "Ocean Wave" \
merry-go-rounds, a Punch and Judy show, races and refreshments: 'we were all
given buns and toffee apples'. Donations towards the treat came from many
notable Malvern citizens, who also continued to give the backing of their
personal presence. The regimen of speeches, too, went on, but at least there was
more to be enjoyed once the last hectoring phrase had dropped leadenly to the
turf and the last full-sailed worthy had set his prow for home. Two years later,
the celebrations moved with the times, and over five thousand children were
transported to the New Malvern, Victory and Crystal theatres for a picture
matinee. As well that year, the empire spirit gained an extra local dimension
when it was revealed that 'the Baby which had been selected as the "Bonniest
Baby of the British Empire" . . . was a resident of East Malvern', a trophy that
was feelingly referred to many years later by a councillor with a long memory.
Propaganda for the annual empire-fest focussed primarily on the children,
who were prepared in advance by issues of The School Paper entirely devoted to
explaining the significance of the event. The 'Empire Day Number' of 1907
reported a chat between mother and son:
'It is the day,' replied his mother, 'which the British people have set apart so that all
. . . may be led to think of their duty towards the British Empire . . . ours is the
greatest empire in the world . . . the laws we live under are the fairest . . . our first
task is to send good and wise men to Parliament . . . Though you are only a little boy
now, you will one day have a vote, and that will give you a share in the making of the
laws of the country'.
The mother's role was one of tutelage, for most of the cajolement was directed
towards the boys, not only as future parliamentarians, but as defenders of the
flag and potential heroes. 'Can a boy be a hero?' was a rhetorical question: 'Of
course he can'. The heroes catalogued in the issue were all of the primary sex;
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
none was native-born. An Australian note was attempted by the inclusion of T
Brunton Stephen's turgid 'Australian Anthem' which was a blast for imperial
unity with an almost subliminal local chord.
Some of those leading gentlemen' (as many as seven) who did the annual
round of the Malvern schools were utterly frank about the ultimate purpose of
the whole shebang. To you boys I will say', said Sir Frank Madden M L A for
Boroondara, whose Jeremiad on ominous movements in Europe stretched back
several years, 'that anything that is worth having is worth fighting for if
necessary . . . We read in the papers of certain foolish cadets resisting their
officers and refusing to drill. I hope that none of you will so misbehave
yourselves'. Registers of the Court of Petty Sessions at Malvern where charges of
evading compulsory drill were heard reveal that Madden's admonition was not
universally accepted, and quite a few local lads were despatched to temporary
incarceration in the military prison at Queenscliff to reflect on their default.
However, public enthusiasm for the imperial concept was undaunted, and
Empire Day 1912, the occasion of Madden's homily, was deemed 'a real gala
day'. Two years later, when the import of the heavily underlined message was to
be made unmistakably clear, the fever for 'practical Imperialism' had reached
epidemic proportions:
There is no jingoistic vaunting . . . it is the symbol of our Imperial Unity, the presage
of the Empire's 'tremendous destiny' . . . its real import lies in instilling into the
minds of the Empire's youth the splendid traditions and possibilities of our race . . .
the ideals we implant in their youthful minds will harden into character, and govern
conduct within a decade or two.
It seemed that there were still a few audacious malcontents apart from slack
youths gnawing away at the fabric of unity. Critics of the celebration, the
Malvern News editorialist continued, were 'ill-conditioned grumblers . . . narrow
cynics . . . civic outcasts', who wished to deprive children of their natural
heritage and 'teach them the lessons of the French Revolution'.
An outbreak of republicanism seemed highly unlikely in a community that
followed with bated breath every change of fortune experienced by the royal
family, even to the extent of recording 'its heartfelt sympathy and condolence'
on the death of Prince Leopold in 1884. The hearty vine of loyalism even
stretched beyond the royal family to include her representatives in Australia as
a regal sub-species; accidents, illnesses and that more definitive reminder of
human frailty, death, provoked sympathetic acknowledgements by the civic
authorities. As host for thirty years to Victoria's governors, Malvern enjoyed
the stylish theatre of welcoming and farewelling parties. The arrival in 1901 of
Sir George and Lady Clarke, Malvern's first vice-regal denizens, prompted
declaration of a public holiday. That was also the year when a local politician,
Sir Frederick Sargood, stage-managed the grand flag-raising ceremony when,
responding to the Duchess of York's 'telegraphic message from the Exhibition
Building', 7000 Union Jacks were simultaneously raised at schools across the
country.
Anniversaries in the life of the matriarchal figure of Queen Victoria inspired
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
125
fervent declarations of civic loyalty, given a cumulative edge by her longevity as
queen and empress. When her golden jubilee occurred in 1887, council busied
itself to determine a program of suitably loyal gestures: an address to the queen
drawn up by a specially appointed committee, Malvern input for a further
address from 'the women of Victoria', 'an entertainment for the children of the
district', and 'an illuminated transparency erected in front of the Shire Hall
with the words u God bless our Queen" inscribed thereon'. If a proposed statue
of the queen was actually sculpted, Malvern agreed to contribute £15, which
would probably have paid for a nose or Star of the Garter. In an unstinting
display of personal generosity, Sir Matthew Davies donated £10 000 to public
charities in recognition of the event. It may have been the only portion of his
fortune that returned to the source from which it had been extracted. The
apogee of empire even inspired Malvern's chrysanthemum king, Thomas
Pockett, to imperial acknowledgements in naming his varieties: Lord Wolseley
and Lord Salisbury, Viceroy of Egypt, Prince of Wales and Duke of Edinburgh,
Empress of India and Golden Queen.
When Victoria achieved the seemingly impossible by surviving for a diamond
anniversary, the program was dusted down for repetition and a few new
elements were added, the chief of which was the eminently practical ambition of
establishing an infectious diseases hospital, with contributions from all willing
municipalities. In recollection of the jubilee often years before, the daughter of
Marcus Clarke offered council a copy of a picture relating to that event which
apparently disappeared forever into the bulky municipal archive. But even
queens were mortal, and, after a tense interval of resorting to 'the consideration
of exceptional cases of longevity', the halcyon period of stability ended in 1901,
leading to an explosion of civic sorrow:
The President . . . moved That This Council place on record its profound grief at the
loss which the Nation has sustained by the death of her Most Gracious Majesty . . .
whose virtues as Sovereign Wife &L Mother have won the admiration o{ the whole
civilized world.
'She was a mother to her people', the Malvern and Armadale Recorder
mourned. 'None of her predecessors on the British throne equalled her in
sweetness and nobility of character, or surpassed her in statesmanship . . . Of
the nations we are, as her youngest born, the infant needing the mother's care'.
This gentle, queenly apparition did not sound much like the rotund, sour-faced
widow of Balmoral, but distance allowed the imagination to ripen, and the
notion that Australia was still at the suckling stage suggested poignant
dependency. Local poetaster and self-appointed poet laureate of Malvern, M M
Appleford, followed up his 'Lines Written on Hearing of the Queen's Serious
Illness' with a much longer dirge 'In Memoriam'. Business establishments were
draped in black and closed for the funeral which was declared a day of
mourning.
By comparison with a mother figure who seemed eternal, the same allure did
not attach to a successor who resembled a world-weary, even over-experienced
dog, and the presence of felicitations and condolences on the one cruet-stand
126
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
might be a problem. However, the slight dissonance in recording 'profound
grief at the demise of one monarch and 'heartfelt congratulations' to the
successor almost simultaneously was not experienced as an embarrassment.
There was, as well, a useful diversion in the imminent arrival of a slightly less
royal, but still eminently blue-blooded, visitor in the Duke of York, who had
been donated the duty of opening the first commonwealth parliament. Rising to
the occasion, Appleford retrieved his ceremonial nib and penned a feeling
'Welcome to Our Guests'. Military matters were also preoccupying, although
the sabre-rattling occasioned by the Boer War aroused mixed emotions. Loyally
pro-British to their eyebrows, councillors were jubilant at the relief of Mafeking
in 1900, bursting spontaneously into the national anthem; but, rendered
dramatically by the Malvern Amateur Dramatic and Musical Society, the event
looked like Ruritanian farce: 'the author with commendable modesty withheld
his name, and perhaps it is just as well, for his offspring will at once sink into
oblivion . . . the troops were marched out at night time . . . headed by a band,
possibly to inform the enemy that something was on foot'. Adding insult to
injury, heroic Lord Baden-Powell had been portrayed as 'a nineteenth-century
Hamlet', who spoke uncivilly to his sister and seemed lamentably ignorant of
military practice. A political point or ten could also be gained from the conflict,
as Madden demonstrated, castigating the Labour caucus for preferring 'to see us
. . . a nation of dish wipers rather than Warriors'. Local defensiveness towards
British heroes of the time extended to a council motion expressing 'utmost
confidence in the Right Hon Joseph Chamberlain' (Colonial Secretary in
Britain's Conservative-Unionist governments of 1895-1903), while the deaths of
British generals were accorded civic notice along with departures in the royal
family.
The actual presence of the royal personage understandably gave extra
piquancy to the loyal instinct. When the Prince of Wales, who, in Mayor
Holmes' words, was 'the embodiment of youth itself . . . the fairy prince, Prince
Charming', visited the antipodes in 1920, Malvern fervently embraced the
general aim of Melbourne which was governed by 'the idea . . . that the
Welcome should be made a living one from end to end of St Kilda Rd . . . school
children to take part and low platforms to be erected'. Excitement ran high
when it was realised that the heir to the throne would pass through Malvern on
his way to dinner at state government house. Circulars that included an
encouraging offer of free transport by tram were distributed to parents to drum
up a suitable supply of welcoming children. A flowery arch was thrown up at
the municipal boundary, flanked by further floral decorations, flags and a guard
composed of returned soldiers, scouts and 'city force soldiers'. A dais held the
entire corporation and their relatives, and the prince paused just long enough at
the red carpet to receive a spray of wattle from the mayor's daughter. As a postprandial gesture, official patronage was extended to a screening at the Victory
Theatre of the daunting film '50 000 Miles with the Prince of Wales'.
There were enough royal deaths, entrances and consummations to give people
a taste of their own life patterns lifted out of the ordinary, given the cosmetic
treatment, amplified and glorified. In 1922, the Princess Royal's marriage
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
127
occasioned a congratulatory epistle from Victorian schools, and three years
later Queen Alexandra's death prompted a council motion — 'in respectful
silence — all standing' — lauding her 'noble services' as Princess of Wales,
Queen and Queen Mother. Death was also winnowing the warrior ranks. Earl
Haig, who died in 1928, 'possessed all those characteristics which go to make a
great man', according to the united municipal opinion which lacked hindsight's
awareness of his reckless fervour for squandering human life as commander-inchief of the British forces on the western front during the First World War. On
home ground, loyal connections were further reinforced by the visit of the
British fleet in 1924, which, according to the girls of Korowa, 'brought a great
deal of the Home atmosphere to Australia . . . the trunk of the Oak Tree keeps
the branches alive'. The branches reached further with the arrival of the Duke
and Duchess of York in 1927. Although the central action was, of course,
reserved for Canberra, on Victorian ground this event provided a full
engagement book of festivities, from the initial welcome at St Kilda Road — the
natural boulevard for ceremonial show — to a massed physical display by state
school children. Cobbled into a 'living tableau' to form the words 'Our
Welcome', thousands of children went through their callisthenic paces, but the
most fetching item, a maypole, was reserved for winsome girls dressed in long
white frocks, banded with pastel shades, and matching poke bonnets. At the
conclusion of their performance, they retreated behind their maypole ribbons
and peeped out shyly: 'The effect was that of about forty dainty bell-tents'.
The royal visit swelled that year's Anzac Day procession to 'the largest that we
have ever witnessed . . . battalion after battalion . . . some of the men in
uniform and some in mufti, but everyone a soldier every inch', the ranks of
soldiers preceded by 'the Duchess's own band', Sir John Monash, other
Australian generals and winners of the Victoria Cross. The grandeur of the
metropolitan occasion could not be repeated locally, but home-ground services
were grand enough. They were also more immediate, intimate and offered
greater ceremonial prominence to the local battalion, cadets and scouts. On the
first anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, Sergeant Bottomley visited Spring
Road School to describe the clash, while at the new Gardiner School pupils and
parents assembled to hear the chairman of the school committee praise 'the
glorious deeds of the British' and the Australians' commitment to upholding
those traditions. In 1920, council 'heartily supported' the Returned Sailors,
Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA, later changed
to Returned Services League or RSL) request for a memorial meeting at Central
Park and attended the Malvern Congregational Church for a special sermon on
the 'Civic &L Religious Values of the Anzac memorials'. Both sombrely imperial
and tragically national, the commemoration drew all local groups into a ritual
that was a form of catharsis from the heavy-laden singing o f ' O , Valiant Hearts'
to the heart-stopping rendition of 'The Last Post'. Local schools held their own
devotions as well as attending the civic function, and the program, which
included national songs and addresses from local dignitaries and returned men,
adopted a similar format to Empire Day with a special Australian emphasis.
In the immediate aftermath of the Great War, with memory and imagination
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
fresh, the myth was developed through poetic narrative that etched the events
burningly in the national psyche: T h e y came from tiny townships, big cities, or
the lonely bush . . . anchored in a bay of Lemnos Island, awaiting their first trial
— the test in the red hot furnace . . . as they neared those dreadful mysterious
cliffs, and boat after boat was let down into the glassy sea', wrote a precocious
journalist from Korowa who exhibited almost Homeric powers of visualisation.
The shape of the ceremonial quickly settled into amber, but individual speakers
imported an element of different emphasis. Some of the urging continued to be
on the need for military alertness, as Colonel Holdsworth told the congregation
at St James' shortly after the war: 'we must not live on in a state of calm and
thoughtless security, for at any crisis the League of Nations might fail to prevent
another war, and the next would be far more terrible than the last'.
Speaking at the civic service in 1928 — the year of the 25 000 strong 'March of
Memory' — politician G A Maxwell broadened the message: 'we are in a time of
comparative peace, but the bugles of God are still calling to us to do our service
in the world'. The next year the Reverend Dr Boreham impressed his town-hall
audience by introducing the theme of sacrifice in Australia's history through
contemplating the curious iconography of the statuary outside Australia House
in London (a woman flanked by two men, one sparkling with vigour and
vitality, the other dead 'with a path stretching far behind him') and the
chivalrous self-sacrifice of Sydney Carton in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two
Cities. The half-expressed feeling of guilt at the unevenness of the sacrifice was
evident in the feeling that some matching effort should be made: 'Are we, the
girls and women of Australia, going to let it end there? . . . what in turn are we
going to do[?]', The Palm Leaf queried, without providing an answer.
Gallipoli was also one of the themes of Armistice Day with the all-inclusive
embrace of its 'Let us now praise famous men' and the dramatic pause 'when in
all parts of the Empire men cease their work'. The Korowa girls and the
Adwalton boys gathered on 11 November 1920 to hear the vicar of St George's
describe the landing at Anzac Cove and 'the meaning of the Burial Service of
the unknown soldier in Westminster Abbey was brought home to all'; the
congregation then sang the Peace Hymn. The next year, peace was the motif,
even though it involved a terrifying evocation of war: 'We were asked to pray
that the Washington Conference [called to reduce naval armaments and ease
tension in the Far East] would be a success, so that war might cease forever'.
Responsible for making good some of the deficiencies of the policy-makers in
caring for returned soldiers, the RSSAILA added a commercial appeal. In
October 1925, writing to the mayor, the group informed him that the ceremony
was to be conducted
in a very special manner . . . to attach to the Honor Roll, at the eleventh hour of the
eleventh day of the eleventh month . . . a wreath of silken poppies symbolical of the
sacrifice made alike by those who fell and those who fought for our liberty and
manhood in the Great War . . . it would be a very great privilege if I might have the
favour of your order for a silken poppy wreath (minimum price £1.1.0).
Given that a proper response was one of his civic duties, the mayor obliged.
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
129
The significance of the day that year was further underlined when Councillor
Corney placed a wreath on the cenotaph in London 'on behalf of the citizens of
Malvern . . . the whole traffic and every individual stood still, bare-headed, and
it made one feel in a way which it was very difficult to express in words . . . any
representative citizens . . . who happened to be in London . . . should be asked
to place a Wreath'. Laying-out a Field of Remembrance of massed red poppies —
'this cheerful little flower, which almost miraculously persisted . . . on the
continuously war-ravaged fields of France' — outside the town hall was a regular
act of both releasing and confirming memory, while individual groups in the
community added their own ritual differences (at Korowa, for instance, a
wreath of memory was placed annually below a reproduction of Will Longstaff's
painting Menin Gate at Midnight).
The sacrificial nature of war resonated deeply in the Christian tradition, but
for some the war sparked a gesture towards the joyful occasion of Christmas. In
1920, the Korowa girls received a letter from a resident of Villers-Brettoneux,
the French village, pummelled into virtual non-existence during the war, where
many local youths were buried. He described the joyful reaction of the town's
children to their gifts; two Christmas trees, hung with candles, ivy tendrils and
'glass balls and fruit of every colour' and presents, dolls 'shining with spangles
. . . whips of every size . . . barley sugar, pipes made of sugar, and chocolates',
now stood in the school like dazzling harbingers of a better world. To balance
frivolity and enjoyment with practicality and seriousness, small blackboards,
pencils, pencil boxes and sewing kits had been added: 'nothing remained at the
end of the treat'.
Christmas was the great timeless community festival, 'the sweetest of all
holidays . . . in which the starved affections pasture again on the intimate
intercourse of family life', repeating the traditions of the old country, uniting
the generations, and satisfactorily combining the commercial instinct with the
spirit of giving. 'Santa Claus must have bent his weary back under the many
loads which liberally poured from the various establishments', enthused the
Malvern and Armadale Recorder in 1900. 'The streets . . . were crowded on
Christmas Eve, and during the later hours were enlivened by the strains of the
Malvern Tradesmen's Band, which, till an early hour on Christmas morning,
raised the echoes by playing various selections of an appropriate character.'
Gifts for sale included the predictable population of dolls, for 'what good the
prams, and go-carts, and cradles without dolls . . . sleeping dolls, dolls that talk,
and dolls that hold their tongues. These latter are, of course, little boys' dolls'.
As The School Paper pointed out a few years later in a story called 'The
Christmas Party', a boy might have a doll, provided it was not 'a common doll;
it is a soldier, you see'. Perhaps the taciturn dolls of the press description
qualified in masculinity along with the uniformed sort. On Boxing Day, the
streets were deserted as the citizens recuperated from a surfeit of 'all sorts of
alluring drinks' and the 'roast beef of old England', before donning clothes
'suited to the picnicking season'.
The Malvern Traders' Association was alert to the fact that prosperity tended
to increase liberality and their own prosperity: 'the spirit of generosity and good
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
will towards others finds expression through the pocket', they said with
unabashed smugness. In 1912, they made a concerted effort to organise a
spectacular Christmas. The Tramways and City Bands were engaged, cadets
would proceed through the streets, and Father Christmas, in rather partisan
spirit, would distribute pamphlets boosting the virtues of the Association. The
red-suited gift-bearer was mounted on a decorated horse-drawn lorry which
rumbled over the busiest streets, ending at the railway station: 'The action of
the Traders had the desired effect, viz., keeping the citizens in their own city'.
T h e r e is more than a modicum of truth in the waggish sentiment that a suburb
is known by the Shops it supports', they purred, promising an even grander
event for 1913. People were advised to dispel 'the haunting presence of the
modern hobgoblin — "The Cost of Living" ' by patronising local merchants,
perhaps T h e Malvern Costume House' for a modish outfit, or Messrs John
Blackburn 6k Son for a piano, or Smith Furnishing Company which offered
'everything from a needle to an anchor . . . "A man is known by his home" '.
Otherwise Dick Swiveller, a disreputable character in Charles Dickens' The Old
Curiosity Shop, recommended liquid joy, usually alcoholic. Christmas eve
buying 'eclipsed all previous records . . . "Busy as Smith-street, Collingwood, on
a Friday night!" we overheard; and again "No more Chapel-street for me" '.
This sterling record of parochial loyalty prompted an extension of the
patriotic theme that year, for were not Australians all too often 'slaves of oldworld convention . . . gorging and guzzling; stuffing themselves with goose and
roast-beef and plum pudding . . . all because of an unreasonable homage to the
tradition of their forebears'? Far better to spend it 'in characteristic Australian
fashion', perhaps camping in bush as beautiful as the Forest of Arden, at the
seaside with the children tripping waterwards 'like Prospero's elves', or
picnicking on 'light and dainty comestibles'. Clearly a well-versed fan of
Shakespeare, the writer may have had Warburton or Mentone in mind, but his
language arrowed from that other, alien clime. In the midst of all the
commercial satisfaction and holiday hedonism, readers of the Malvern News
were enjoined not to forget the Christian origins of the festivity:
We had rather be condemned by Christ than approved by [utilitarian philosopher]
Herbert Spencer . . . We want to get back to the freshness and simplicity of the early
disciples. The greatest forces are the simplest. And the new standard was established
on that first Christmas morn . . . in death itself, their sleep should be sweet upon
whose tombstones it would be written — Ob dormivit in Christo.
The editorialist had perhaps unwittingly tapped into the subconscious forces of
the times, for 'death itself was about to produce a quartet of anguished
Christmases. Moreover, the identity of the enemy was problematic when the
form of the celebration was considered, for German Prince Albert had brought
the Christmas tree to the British world. Had militarism driven out sentiment, or
was 'the love of children . . . never a real possession of the German nation'? The
only recourse was to 'make merry in season', knowing that the troops would
prefer cheerfulness. And yet there seemed to be some indecency in that
reaction. 'One cannot help thinking of the hundreds of desolate &L despairing
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
131
hearts that this Christmas will bring', wrote Lady Stanley to her mother in
1915, 'and one can only pray that by the next, Peace will have come again to the
world'. Her own heartache was deepened by exile, and the mail from home was
a poignant reminder of her separation:
I wept when I saw the darling and lovely Christmas card of long ago — I saw it with
just the same eyes as when I was a little girl, and it gave me the same wonderful happy
feeling of the mystery & beauty that Christmas used to bring. It arrived at the most
appropriate moment — just as the Christmas tree was finished.
Even at the front, pathetic attempts were made to sustain familiar customs.
Malvern families began to receive curious Christmas cards from their sons:
heart-shaped army biscuits with a greeting on one side and the soldier's picture
on the other. At the home of novelist George Johnston, one of these biscuits
was gathered with other mementoes under a glass dome as a lasting shrine to the
war experience. As some of the news that filtered through to the local press
pointed out, Christmas fare at the front was less appealing than the homebound biscuits: 'whizz-bangs, mud pies, and bully-beef with the music 'in the
capable hands of Fritzy and John Bull', or else the sardonic imagination could
conjure up the full traditional feast — imaginary of course — chillingly followed
by 'a good barrage of apples'.
The home-front imagination, too, was stimulated by seasonal food, and, in
frankly sentimental mood, the concoction might be fantastic — for instance, a
pudding risen with the virtues of graciousness, charity, human kindness,
happiness, laughter and goodwill, all rather rare commodities. Eventually, as
the first doom-ridden Christmas was followed by another and another, decency
dictated a brake on immoderate festiveness, and recipes for economical, if not
thoroughly indigestible, puddings were published. The spirit of restraint spread
to other festivities. A slight redirection of the Empire Day feeling was
voluntarily adopted when 'The children attending the State Schools . . . offered
to forego the usual Empire Day sports and give the money donated by the
Council, to the Red Cross &L other funds'. Early in the war, the wedding, like
Christmas, was maintained in the usual lavish fashion. When the daughter of a
notable Malvern family was united with the son of a former Mayor of
Hawthorn at St Joseph's Church in mid 1915, the display was almost
aristocratic and warranted a two-column description in the local press (half a
column devoted to the armoury of silver presented to the couple). The 'tall, well
proportioned' bride was decked out in fleur-de-nil satin, pale blue crepe de
Chine, tulle, Limerick lace, seed pearls and fan-shaped bouquet, while her
attendants — bridesmaids and pageboy — and relatives were hardly less
magnificently attired. A concession to the times was the 'dado formed of the
flags of our brave Allies' in the bedecked and beflowered marquee at the
reception.
Even for the few who could afford the outlay, this level of ostentation could
not be maintained without unease, and soon the wedding shrank to a modest
affair, without invitations or bridesmaids, offering only 'a cup of tea and a
sandwich and some wedding cake with a few friends'. On their rounds of
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Malvern churches, social reporters solemnly observed that nuptials were
'quietly celebrated'. The amazing concoctions of lace and satin, topped with
veils that looked as if they had been borrowed from a Tiepolo sky, and bouquets
that consumed the gorgeousness of a small flower garden were often replaced
with milkmaid-like dresses and simple wreaths; or else wedding white
disappeared altogether — a boon to pasty-faced souls. At the other end of
human experience, death became so commonplace that grief found a plainer
expression: 'these greys are just what is wanted . . . considering what a number
of lives have been lost . . . the number of people in black dress does not impress
one. It seemed much more noticeable during the Boer war\ By the time the war
ended, the Prahran Telegaph urged, a reaffirmation of old values was called for:
Change your method of celebrating, if you will . . . don't exchange burdensome
presents with annually bored friends; don't surfeit children with toys; but do keep the
Christmas spirit anew, despite everything! . . . In this most important year of all our
lives, perhaps other mothers will ask themselves: 'Am I teaching my children aright?'
War was not the only catastrophe to dampen the festive spirit. Truly, 1930
had everyone down and, like the larrikin, "did not forget to put the boot in" ',
moaned the Malvern Standard, when torrential rains washed out Glenferrie
Road's Christmas eve parade, adding natural disaster to the man-made horrors
of economic depression: 'We have enough crucifixions during the year to bring
Good Friday every day'. Trouble tended to enforce a little rethinking of basics
and reordering of priorities, and that year's Christmas article tried to draw all
spiritual attributes into a cloudy embrace: 'are we wrong to consider Christmas
as a state of consciousness[?] . . . [which] celebrates not only the birth of the sun,
and the birth of the Christ, but also the mystic birth in the heart of man . . .
Occultists have glimpsed vast hosts of the angelic hierarchy preparing for weeks
in advance'. The writer even made a worthy stab towards animal liberation,
condemning the wholesale, impious massacre of table birds to furnish the
traditional groaning board, and a thrust towards nationalism in promoting
Australian-made gifts (that would, he argued a little speciously, assist in
stamping out exploitation of European craft workers).
By this time, the city's Annual Report claimed that eight hundred Malvern
families were on sustenance (many more were thought not to have registered),
and efforts were made to provide a little celebratory spirit for children of the
unemployed:
Do not let it be said that Malvern lets her children want . . . Malvern has a
population of 46,000, 8 per cent of whom are out of work, 12 per cent on part time
and 20 per cent on the bread line, thus making 40 per cent who are either out of work
or unable to help. Of the remaining 60 per cent there are, say 20 per cent who never
help anyone but themselves.
The statistics were perhaps subjected to a little well-intentioned inflation, but
they certainly suggested a grim situation. Local women were asked to respond to
the State Relief Committee's appeal for 10 000 puddings for the unemployed
(recipes supplied by the Dried Fruits Board): 'A nice finishing touch would be a
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133
little message of cheer attached to the pudding. Make it a real love gift'. Proving
that not all Malvern was indigent, the newspaper was crammed with advertisements for a cornucopia of exotic gifts: pale-green tiffin ware, Royal Doulton and
Morecroft 'ornaments in fantasque', pearl xylonite sets, Phoenix electroplate,
the pottery of Merric Boyd of Murrumbeena, fur chokers, autographed
stationery, and McCurdie &. PeePs novelties selected, more circumspectly, 'with
due consideration to the present economic circumstances'. Nor had the
niggardly climate quite dampened the merriment at other festivities. When Miss
Jessie Brown turned twenty-one and 'came out' at a party in the Dispensary
Institute, Valetta Street, a speech-making relative was in playful mood. T h e
new girl was always out', he noted. 'When he was a boy, girls wore clothes . . .
He believed it was Rudyard Kipling who wrote "Boots, Boots, Boots'' . . . today
he would entitle it "Knees, Knees, Knees".'
But the depression was to worsen. In 1931, local unemployed were organised
to make toys, and over 450 individually addressed parcels were distributed. The
next year a massive treat took place at the town hall with a large and wellstocked Christmas tree' dominating the scene, and Father Christmas, Mickey
Mouse, a clown and Punch and Judy in attendance. The gulf between those
with and without the means to fill their stockings was so blatant that it
prompted a little quizzical rethinking at a depression-time Harvest Festival at
Spring Road Methodist, where 'special addresses were given emphasising the
debt we owe as a community to an All-Gracious Providence . . . who . . . is ever
giving sufficient for His increasing human family, though sometimes through
our lack of foresight the means of distribution go astray'. Matters of distribution
certainly had got out of hand. However, by 1934, the worst seemed to be over,
and the Malvern Spectator heralded 'the most memorable period in history since
1918 . . . we have at last emerged from the Slough of Despond . . . Those
looking forward to a Merry Christmas will not be disappointed. What has been
termed the Psychological Depression seems to have been entirely dispersed'.
Another cause for celebration was 'the Carnival Spirit engendered by
[Melbourne's] Centenary rejoicings'.
This time, the celebration was entirely home-grown, and a bumper outpouring of joy was planned. Malvern swung happily into the mood; writing to the
editor, 'Progress' predicted that 'our "Queen City of Beautiful Gardens" will
prove worthy of the old pioneers'. The Malvern Centenary Sports Committee's
June social evening featured a game obscurely described as a triangular table
tennis competition, won by the appropriately named Mr Champion, and at the
centenary dance in the town hall a large crowd wore down their shoe leather to
the strains of Wallace's band. Winning 'unanimous approval', and 'unlimited
support' for their selfless sincerity, backers announced that membership would
soon be invited for the Malvern Centenary Guild in comfortable Glenferrie
Road premises, 'realizing . . . a long felt want among menfolk of Malvern',
providing crib and euchre tournaments, 'classical and educational literature'
and raising money for charity 'to do our share to . . . make life a little happier
for "Les Miserables" '.
Some causes for dissatisfaction emerged. Local traders had been allocated a
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celebratory week in March, well before the centenary peaked, but they secured a
more favorable November date and announced a program that adroitly
combined business and pleasure: 'Window Competitions, Pageants, Processions,
Free Gift to Children . . . Brighter Business in a Gala Atmosphere . . . Celebrate
the Centenary in Your Own District and Purchase Locally'. To bypass another
hiccough, Mayor Leonard Righetti agreed to pay for the children's medals
issued by the Central Centenary Council when the council experienced a fit of
parsimony and refused to purchase them. A lone defender of the sabbath
detected a plot to undermine its sacrosanct quietness:
these self-appointed apostles of noise and racket are using the 'Centenary visitor' as a
stalking horse . . . [and] would be better employed in pointing out . . . the virtues of
the Australian system of a day of sport and a day of rest, rather than trying to
pretend that Melbourne is a gloomier place than Vienna.
The threat of moral subversion was thought to extend to agitation for more
liberal drinking hours, which were only a benefit to brewers and whisky
vendors. There was also the likelihood that local efforts would be completely
overshadowed by the lavish metropolitan display, which included the erection
of flag-decorated pylons over Princes Bridge and 'Venetian poles' in the city, an
illuminated crown above Parliament House, floodlit buildings and searchlights
casing the city from Melbourne's tallest building, the Manchester Unity.
Visiting celebrities would probably concentrate their attendances in that
bedizened direction as Melbourne became a vast Luna Park.
Despite this worry, Malvern gained a point or two when Prime Minister Joe
Lyons became 'an interested listener' to the 'magnificent "Te Deum" under the
bright canopy of God's blue heavens' at St Joseph's eucharistic festivities, before
moving on to St Benedict's Hospital where his wife was a patient. There were
also competitive successes for the Malvern Junior Band and the city's
horticultural exhibit. As well, although council had proved markedly stingy in
the matter of a decently glossy display, private enterprise was not going to see
Malvern looking dowdy while other parts of Melbourne were dressed for the
opera. Ten cups were donated to provide an incentive for shopkeepers to adorn
their windows for the Made in Australia Council's competition. Some entries
were disqualified for inserting the odd imported item in their All-Australian
displays, but results seemed to justify the effort: a model in a Jantzen swim suit,
made visible from all angles by the use of a mirror device; a teddy bear
enforested with gum leaves; a model of Captain Cook's cottage at the Smile-AWhile Sweet Shop.
Superior commercial morality was detected once the rapacious city centre was
left behind. T h e local merchant does not employ suave, high-sounding inducements or high-pressure sales arguments', the claim went. 'He has more respect
for your intelligence and your friendship.' The same high standard of ingenuity
shown by Malvern's window-dressers was exhibited at the grand decorated
vehicle procession. The Nirvana Dairy offered a quintet of delivery carts, while
Crittenden's contented themselves with a single van bearing uniformed boys
who dispensed samples of groceries to onlookers. The New Malvern Theatre
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
135
devoted its American-style tableau to pint-sized actress Shirley Temple, but first
prize went to a more patriotic expression — the Malvern Meat Supply's
decorated, horse-drawn vehicle surmounted by 'dense clusters of Australian
flags'. The shop's management proved canny in other ways, offering a full stockyard of centenary specials (lambs' sweet-breads lOd per lb and large legs of veal
for 2s l i d ) and assuming a touch of reflected glory from the overlanders:
'Gardiner's cattle were renowned for their quality. To-day, the Malvern Meat
Supply . . . is carrying on the traditions then laid down'.
Melbourne's centenary was a truly Australian (or Victorian) occasion that
encouraged retrospection and localism, but the odd observer was determined to
be niggardly. Looking back loftily from a three-year vantage point and considering the celebration as a model for a spring carnival that was mooted, the
Malvern Standard was condemnatory: 'Melbourne has no traditions or historical
associations which call for organised rejoicing on the grand scale . . . Judging
from the semi-fiasco of the Centenary Celebrations . . . let us hope that the
Malvern Council will not be inveigled into wasting ratepayers' money on any
floral float or other cranky exhibit'. It was certainly true that spontaneous joy
about antipodean matters was hard to tap and that most rites were undernourished graftings from a northern hemisphere vine, but the approach was
unnecessarily sour. The Malvern Spectator swung into the centenary mood and
ran an essay competition for its readers' children on 'Malvern, past and present'
(the prize a modest 7s 6d, 'competitors must supply their own paper'). There
were other examples of homely pride. The Wild Australian Stampede
announced that they would hold a ball during centenary week, but perhaps
wisely withheld details of their plans. 'Malvern's Progress' and 'How Malvern
Grew' were articles designed to arouse parish-pump pride and consider the
significance of peculiar statistics such as the existence of fifteen aerated water
factories and seventy-seven petrol pumps by 1931.
Amidst all this was the reminder that local centenary week would coincide
with Poppy Day: 'it may appear that there can be little now to do sixteen years
after the cessation of warfare, but our work is being greatly increased . . . due to
the advancing age of ex-servicemen . . . [and] approximately 3,000 unemployed
ex-servicemen registered with the League in the metropolitan area'. Another
reminder of obligations and affiliations contracted in the past was the presence
of the obligatory royal in the Duke of Gloucester, who passed through Malvern
on his way to the Dandenongs. The crowd was thickest at the town hall where
the mayor and other nabobs watched from a dais, while the generality congregated below them. Later eyes may detect a hint of almost infantile servility and a
touch of fruitless civic self-aggrandisement in the way in which towns
repetitiously rushed to their pedestals, their robes and their loyal addresses
when any royal scion was within hem-touching distance. Nevertheless, for a
country starved of stars and sacred scrolls, the gains were a binding sense of
pomp and significance that the fragility of their own community's history did
not supply.
Although dutiful notice continued to be made of seminal regal events, Queen
Victoria's successors failed to arouse the same ardour. The imperial spirit had
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
imperceptibly become faltering and uneasy, and the empire itself rather like a
monumental canvas, lauded for its opulence and bravura that, when unveiled,
looked hubristic, even vulgar, once time suggested different perspectives. In
retrospect, the glamour of Edwardian England seemed like a long golden
afternoon before the onset of Stygian darkness, and George V — perhaps to
compensate for his father's rakishness — was remote and austere. There was no
awesome, hermetical matriarch to lament, and when he died the tribute looked
a little impersonal: 'deepest appreciation of the wonderful services . . . rendered
not only to the British Empire but to the whole of the world and humanity at
large'. Perhaps to compensate, it was decreed that an official car, if purchased,
'should be a British product', and the mayoral dais was 'suitably draped with the
colours of royal mourning'. The memorial service at Holy Advent focussed allembracingly on the transience of human existence. No longer the charming,
fox-trotting Prince of Wales, Edward VIII was instead a politically suspect king,
soon forced to abdicate because of his devotion to an unpopular American
divorcee.
When George VI acceded to the throne by default in 1936, the municipal
response was deemed to be far from satisfactory. It ought perhaps to have been
admitted that the city fathers' role in determining the calibre of the festivities, as
well as contributing to them financially, was onerous and costly. Apart from
their bureaucratic function of decreeing whether council premises should be
used for a diversity of ritual purposes and their moral responsibility of setting
the tone and providing an example, their physical presence was required at
every event from the laying of a foundation stone to the presentation of the
regimental colours, from a church jubilee to a school speech night, from Anzac
Day to St Andrew's Day. As well, in 1937, with the coronation looming,
economic matters had been for some time more preoccupying than festivities,
and there was the gathering storm in Europe to consider, its hectic crises
followed by unnatural calm.
On the other hand, a little gloom dispersal might have been in order, yet it
was a miserable ' "Half-Crownation" at Malvern'. Local children, on whom the
success of the empire spectacular depended, were offered nothing more than a
free picture show and a few derisory accolades for academic success: leftover
copies of Cooper's History of Malvern as dux prizes 'at the end of the year when
the event has erased itself from the child's mind' and a single scholarship for
'one clever child and nothing [spent] on the remaining 1000s whose education
in loyalty is just as important. Not even a civic service has been arranged . . .
councillors and representative men could have given the lead at a time of
national thanksgiving'. Praised by its commissioners as '98 per cent accurate, a
very high percentage in such a work', Cooper's history should not perhaps have
been so cavalierly dismissed!
The Malvern Spectator feebly made good for the lacklustre performance of the
city fathers by printing a long, star-struck article 'At the Coronation' by 'E K H,
a Malvern Resident', and, to give an unexpected boost, pointed out the
coincidence of'Mother's Day as well as Coronation Sunday'. The growth of this
new shoot on the ceremonial vine seemed partial compensation for the failure of
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
137
'that noble experiment — the League of Nations', and local businessmen cooperated by displaying 'a selection of suitable gifts at most reasonable prices'.
However, for many the religious antecedents of the coronation were the main
preoccupation, and some of the local churches presented services that
appropriately dignified the occasion with all its mystical richness:
His Majesty is solemnly annointed . . . girded with the Sword of Justice; invested
with the Imperial Robes; presented with the Orb, the Ring, the Sceptre of the Cross,
and the Sceptre of the Dove . . . Then, seated in the Chair of State, wherein is set the
Stone of Destiny on which in former days the Scottish Kings were enthroned, he is
crowned.
Mother's Day, the other handle of Coronation Sunday, established itself so
successfully that in 1941 a monster tribute was paid to Malvern mothers at the
Victory Theatre, with Stella Dallas, 'the most beautiful story of mother love ever
filmed' (starring that rather Medean mother, Barbara Stanwyck), community
singing, a jam sponge competition and prizes for exceptional mothers: the
youngest and the oldest, the one with the largest family, and the oldest mother
with a son in the 'fighting forces abroad'.
The Second World War and the surge of post-war migration produced a
subterranean reappraisal of Australia's imperial loyalties that was to take several
decades to reveal its implications. On the surface, however, Australia's
orientation towards England hardly changed. Although the nomenclature of
the official group changed, Empire Day continued to be the focus of earnest
exhortation. In 1933, the Empire Honour League had forwarded to council a
'loyal resolution which it is suggested should be carried at an Empire Day
demonstration of loyalty', and the strength of the sentimental links with the
mother country was evident at the homely level in reports of Malvern
contingents on P 6k O liners and the gusto which surrounded departures
overseas. When a young East Malvern lady was about to leave in early 1937 for
her baptism at the font in England, the diverting features at her farewell party
included 'a model of an English country house with lighted windows and
complete with hedges, a well, dovecote, tiny trees, a frozen lake, a banner of
welcome over the open gates and a little dog waiting expectantly at the drive'.
During the war obeisance continued to be made to the red, white and blue (in
1941, for instance, Malvern state schools held a combined Empire Day celebration in Central Park), and shortly after the war the Malvern Grammar boys
were given a half-holiday to celebrate the arrival of Australia's first royal — if
decidedly ordinary — governor-general in the stolid form of the Duke of
Gloucester. In 1948, an attempt was made to inject further vim with the
creation of the Empire Youth Movement, and council agreed to assist in every
way, an offer that included forming a Malvern offshoot and draping the town
hall in appropriate bunting. By 1950, the concept of a gigantic city march on
Empire Youth Sunday had taken hold, with groups of clergymen and youth
leaders participating in the promotional run-up. 'Local services spreads [sic] the
message of Empire to a greater number of young people', the message went, and,
as proof, in 1952 the home-bottled celebration was impressive indeed: 'three
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separate marching columns converging on the Malvern City Hall from opposite
directions', marching six abreast and each accompanied by a band, 'flags will be
carried at the "slope" and banners at the "carry" ', both items of regalia to be
'draped with a small black bow at the head of the staff' in recognition of the
king's recent death. During the service, the queen's message and her twenty-first
birthday vow were read to over 900 children and parents. It was hard to
remember that the empire, which enshrined a master/servant relationship, had
been supplanted as long ago as 1930 through the Statute of Westminster by a
British Commonwealth of Nations in which the relationship was, for those
dominions that made the grade, one of partnership and co-operation between
autonomous states. Yet the point had been made: 'No longer has it any
imperialistic basis. No longer does it signify a material empire. Rather does it
resemble the annual re-union of a family whose members have all reached maturity*
(Malvern Advertiser 22 May 1947).
The degree to which the allegiance of young Australians continued to be
engaged was evident in the powerful response to the romance that surrounded
the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. The war was now thoroughly behind,
and once again a fetching young woman was on the throne, the first to be
crowned with husband and children in tow, and therefore the happiest — all
circumstances which excused the treacly effusiveness of offerings such as 'The
Coronation . . . as seen through a Local Youth's Eyes': 'In the twenty-third year
of my treasured life, I was in view of the putting on of the crown of a Monarch
. . . only a day later, I am more conscious than ever of the unreality of what I
was given to see'. Council contributed up to two hundred pounds for local
entertainments and presented schools with City of Malvern Coronation Cups
'for competition within the School to be decided upon by the Headmaster'. At
Malvern Grammar, it was decreed that the traditional qualities were the ones
required: 'the ideals of Cecil Rhodes [that dauntless builder of empire in Africa]
will guide the adjudicators' in selecting cup-holders. And after the gala was over,
Malvernites were invited to view a gallimaufry of royal artefacts, even 'the
actual blouses of Queen Victoria', at the Melbourne Town Hall.
The occasion also provided a stimulus for a rethinking of basics, some of it
cast very much in the retrospective mould. 'By upholding and strengthening our
morale', wrote the editor of The Malvern Grammarian, 'we, as junior citizens,
add to the prestige of the British Commonwealth, and, at the same time, assist
in lightening at least one of the tasks assigned to our Queen'. Even in this
stylised approach, the commonwealth had supplanted the empire, but the
changes of attitude were spreading further. For the serious editor of The
Lauristoniany idealistic soul-searching was the keynote:
How are we, so far away, able to help her? We are able to help her by, like her,
dedicating ourselves to some ideal or aim . . . Whether it is to God, the United
Nations, Australia, our school or family, or all five, our aim lifts us from self and
selfish desires to a life of service.
The equal weight given to 'all five' aspirations pointed to a reorientation of
priorities, but old-fashioned loyalty was the keynote of the school's celebrations.
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
139
The girls presented an elaborate pageant that depicted episodes from the lives of
England's four reigning queens, banal enough in its conception until the
spotlight fell on the second Elizabethan era and showed, more bravely than
convincingly, 'how women have risen to play a greater part in the national life
as doctors, pilots, lawyers and nurses, and how they have obtained freedom in
all aspects of sport'. Amongst the many adulatory contributions to the
magazine, hints of other historical change surfaced. T h i s old and historic past'
that had reached high noon in Victoria's reign was now 'but a sunset', while, in
a more nationally relevant apprehension, quizzical though dutiful attention was
paid to Australia's less servile relationship to the crown.
Malvern Grammar's cultural contribution to coronation lore was a curious
playlet T h e Queen Meets Mr Shakespeare', while at Korowa the format looked
to past models, and the feeling was more conservative, welcoming 'a quickening
of the spirit of the Empire'. Acknowledging the special terms of the school's own
existence, it also prompted a reaffirmation of the influence for good of the
church school. Students constructed a five-foot model of the coronation coach,
complete with horses, footmen and guards. A special outdoor assembly of
students, teachers, parents and friends was held at which patriotic poetry was
read, the queen's favourite hymns were sung, and girls, with pieces of flag
bunting attached to their backs, sank down at the appointed moment to form a
crown. In more Australian vein, a commemorative flowering gum tree was
planted.
Actually, an important symbolic shift had taken place, for, as council noted,
'for the first time the Monarch would be crowned Queen of Australia'. The next
year, the royal visit gave an opportunity for a more personal display of these
emotions. A massive congregation of Malvern people was planned: 'elderly
people and invalids could be brought . . . to see Her Majesty by the assistance of
volunteer help'. The queen's car was to slow down near Glenferrie Road where
16 000 schoolchildren, including pupils from the Shire of Mulgrave, were
gathered. The 'masterly organising' was deemed to have produced an
'unqualified success', and Mulgrave presented an inscribed silver tray in
gratitude for the loan of space. Malvern nippers were also available for the more
lavish metropolitan demonstrations: cadets from Malvern Grammar and St
Kevin's were on hand at functions, and the children of Tooronga Road formed
their own maypole, eighteen girls and four boys, all in white. Although the
format was the time-honoured one, a change in emphasis was noticeable in the
Australian Broadcasting Commission's fortnight of pre-visit talks for schools,
which, among the well-worn themes, addressed the monarch's constitutional
position as Queen of Australia.
Almost coincidentally with the visit, the Malvern Chase Ward Coronation
Festivities Fund forwarded a souvenir coronation program 'trusting that the
peoples of the Malverns throughout the world will always bear a bond of
Friendship and Goodwill'. This gesture was a reminder of an imperial
connection that went back to 1911 when politician Norman Bayles presented a
Union Jack, the gift of the children of Malvern, England, to commemorate the
elevation to city status of their antipodean namesake and 'to express the
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sentiment of national unity between British and overseas schools\ After its
inaugural unfurling on the flag-pole of Central Park kiosk, the emblem had been
transferred to Spring Road, as the oldest state school in Malvern.
The association had continued with exchanges of seasonal greetings and
visitors, and the reception of symbolic gifts, including heraldic crests and sherds
that dated back to Roman times. The connection gained a practical edge during
and after the Second World War. In 1948, a cricket bat 'inscribed [with] the
signatures of the Worcestershire County Cricket Club' arrived as a token of
thanks for 'the kindness and beneficence of the people in sending of food parcels
which have served to enhance the bonds of friendship . . . between the two
Towns'. The packages continued to be sent even after closure of the Commonwealth Gift Centre in 1953. As brother school of Malvern College, England,
Malvern Grammar was even more deeply implicated in the Malvern link. In
1951, a former senior prefect of the school visited its British counterpart and was
gratified to meet a vicar, who, in heroically specialist mode, was 'compiling a
history of the 19 Malverns in the world'. Five years later, a 'Namesake Greeting
Day . . . on which goodwill telegrams will be forwarded by the Mother Country
to other Malverns' was instituted. Malvern patriotism was so intense that in
1957 councillors and their wives gathered to hear a friendly tape from Malvern,
England, and commiserations were regularly exchanged when death struck at
the ranks of their respective councils. Planted by the irascible George Bernard
Shaw on his eightieth birthday, a mulberry tree grown from a cutting taken
from Priory Park arrived in 1959 'in a very dry condition' which required its
temporary isolation in the nursery; but it survived to grow into leafy density in
front of Northbrook House. As a reciprocal gesture, in 1969 local Malvernites
contributed to an appeal to floodlight the Priory Church 'which dates back to
1085 and has some of the finest stained glass in the country'. Overlaid with
sentiment, the commonwealth-wide Malvern chain was, perhaps, imperial
loyalism in miniature.
A minority, particularly the Australian Natives' Association (formed locally
in 1889), had long been attempting to foster a spirit of Australian nationalism
rather than imperial loyalties. As far as the civic authorities were concerned, the
initial focus of this impetus was economic. However, when the Australian
Industries Protection League wrote in 1927 concerning an impending British
Trade Exhibition, urging that 'the safety and strength of the Commonwealth
can only be ensured by the full and profitable employment of its own citizens',
their exclusiveness was 'deplored'. A more idealistic thrust came from the
League of Youth of Australia, which was formed in 1934 'to foster a spirit of
community service and to protect all National Memorials and assets of beauty
and of historic or scientific interest and particularly the Australian fauna and
flora'. This group apparently faded without impact, and a sense of Australian
identity was so low amongst local youth that the Malvern Youth Club was
without an Australian flag until council made a donation of two pounds for its
purchase in 1948. Even worse, when the jubilee of federation was celebrated
three years later, a terrible motley of Union Jacks and Red Ensigns was observed
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
141
at schools, while some did not even have flag-poles. The situation was akin to
atheism, and all schools were furnished with Australian flags forthwith.
Burdened with the task of establishing the integrity of a truly national day,
the Australia Day Council wrote regularly imploring civic co-operation 'in
securing a more adequate celebration . . . in the district', but the day's 'real
meaning' was hard to determine, and appropriate celebratory forms were almost
impossible to design. The Second World War, which forced Australians to look
to their own survival, seemed to provide the ambience for deeper nationalism,
the Malvern Advertiser urged, floundering in the vagueness of its own argument:
let us make a resolution for 1947 . . . being fully aware of the price which has been
paid . . . to keep this country free . . . taking a really unselfish interest in what makes
the country tick, so that when the time comes for us to make a decision on ANY
matter affecting the welfare of our country we may be fully armed with the facts.
The necessary emotion could not be dragged from the void, perhaps because
the arrival of a British garrison trailing a rabble of brutalised lower-class
convicts hardly seemed a sublimely memorable moment. Anzac Day, with its
overlay of doomed, self-sacrificial heroism, was a more stirring national focus.
Behind the scenes, a separate development was taking place that would
ultimately redeem Australia Day. In 1953, a council representative attended a
Canberra conference to discuss 'ways and means of assisting migrants to settle
and become assimilated in the Australian Community', and later that year
fourteen fledgling citizens were inducted in a town hall function. Eventually,
Australia Day was set aside as the most fitting day for the reception of new
Aussies into the nation.
However, for the time being, Australia Day was scarcely more appealing than
United Nations Day, a post-war invention that the municipalities were enjoined
to foster on the grounds that 'in a democracy, municipal leaders hold the key
positions and we must look to [them] no less than to our national leaders'. A
simple local ceremony was requested to match the world-wide unfurling of the
flag of the United Nations, which was to be comparable in size and flown at the
same level as the national flags for the week-long event: 'But on United Nations
Day itself, 24th October . . . [it] may be flown alone if there is only one flag
pole'. Goodwill was not lacking, and on that day in 1949 the town hall flew the
designated blue and white flag, but the move was relatively short-lived.
Deprived of a metaphysical rationale that might have enabled its survival, the
appeal to common humanity failed to establish its place in the communal
imagination before foundering in the demonstrable inhumanity of the Cold
War.
Despite its faltering and ill-directed course, by the early 1950s a vein of
national tradition was discernible. The year 1951 provided a triple celebration
that focussed squarely on the Australian record: the jubilee of federation, one
hundred years of self-government in Victoria and the centenary of the discovery
of gold in the state. Given that the events to be partied about were one
economic and two political happenings, the tripartite commemoration hardly
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
offered anything to resonate in the communal imagination, and consequently
the program was not scintillating. It was barely even entertaining: a 'Centenary
Festival of Progress' (Korowa girls 'to man and dress the [Malvern] float'), gifts of
plaques for each municipality and a testimonial book, The Story of the Century,
to be lent in rotation to local schools. The shallowness of the heritage was
perhaps announced by the perfunctory and meagre nature of the ceremonial
that it generated, although the boys at Malvern Grammar made an energetic
gesture by participating in a campaign to send hundreds of loyal letters by cycle
relay to Prime Minister R G Menzies in Canberra. Their own letter was handed
to the mayor at the town hall: 'We . . . desire to express our gratitude to you . . .
for the conscientious work you have done in these difficult times . . . May our
glorious Commonwealth ever remain a defender of the Faith and of the weak
and innocent'. Perhaps the 'difficult times' — presumably the disarray on the
political scene and the general anti-communist hysteria — had leached some of
the joy from the occasion.
A sense of maturity provided the basis for establishing a home-grown
tradition, yet the brew was from England, with a watery new infusion from the
United States. Make it as 'memorable to us as ]uly 4th is to America', was the
inspiration of one Malvernian, 'More than ever it is necessary to build
Tradition, However, Australia Day remained the rough red of celebrations, and
in 1958, when the local branch of the Australia Day Council wrote outlining
generous plans for the big day, council praised the group's 'enthusiasm and
patriotism', but regretfully refused official support because 'it would appear that
there would be very little public response . . . in Malvern'. Public enthusiasm
can hardly have been invigorated by the officially sponsored commercial fillip
added the next year in the form of a handwriting competition for children, who
contended to produce in the most elegant cursive, 'January 26th is Australia
Day. Buy Australian-made Toys'. It would have left The Magic Pudding in an
even more acrimonious mood than usual.
Shortly afterwards an improvement was detected; the press was more
receptive, television being an especially powerful communicator, processions —
often with marching girls — were taking to the streets, 'more and more
householders are raising their own Australian Flags' and twenty-one gun salutes
were booming reminders to the absent-minded. Recipients of the Australia Day
Council's silver cups and spoons for babies who had tactically outstayed
Cinderella's midnight curfew just long enough to make an early morning debut
would have something to look back on.
Apart from the sprouting of a lustreless Australianness and spasmodic
attempts to instil a compassionate internationalist spirit, the pattern of ritual
observance and the constellation of response and emotion that surrounded it
scarcely changed. It was one of uniformity and conformity, of obeisance to timehonoured rites that operated to unfold joy and to bury griefs, to fuel hope and
to consolidate memory, to bind the generations. As well as enshrining the forms
of supernatural commitment, these rites provided an occasion for community
theatre that appealed to the senses through the use of uniforms and regalia, and
prescribed movements that conveyed to individuals the sense of participating in
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
143
an immense cosmic play. Concurrently, they submerged the self in a vaster
human enterprise, joining one to one, one to many, many to many. The
confines and separateness of individuality gave way to an acknowledgement of
shared experience that offered both security and a sense of significance.
The major divergences from the central themes were variations of Christian
practice. St Joseph's Feast of Corpus Christi attracted huge crowds and
continued to follow the prescribed format: schoolgirls dressed in white bearing
red and white banners, boys sporting red sashes and rosettes, children of Mary
in blue cloaks and white veils, and members of the Society of the Sacred Heart
wearing medals, followed by the rest of the congregation. This butterfly crowd
was the vanguard for the Blessed Eucharist borne by priests 'under a canopy
carried by four gentlemen, preceded by acolytes and children strewing flowers'.
Sacre Coeur's procession of the Blessed Sacrament was likewise 'an annual
feature of the Catholic life of Malvern' that featured a procession of the school's
nuns and boarders, supported by a contingent from De La Salle and parishioners from St Roch's: 'As the monstrance was slowly carried, tiny girls strewed
rose petals over the walks tastefully decorated with flowers circling Latin
salutations'. Within the school's borders, the crown of feast days, beflowered,
incensed, infused with mystery, was the Reverend Mother's Feast in which
propitiation and consummation were equal: 'Tradition governed . . . feast days
and the ritual of preparation was no less important than the ritual of
celebration'.
A Brigidine clothing ceremony represented perhaps the most awesome form
of ritual. 'Dressed in bridal array', the novices, many of them graduates of
Kildara Convent, were questioned by the archbishop on the basis of their
commitment. Then, bearing candles, they retired from the main body of the
church to return clothed in 'the blessed habits of the congregation', before their
prostration and the singing of 'Veni Creator'. A latecomer in the processional
calendar was the Holy Eucharist Church, established on the Dandenong Road
fringe of the municipality in 1962, whose parishioners progressed annually
through the streets near the church. The most opulent of these stitchings on the
main ceremonial tapestry were reserved for the Roman Catholics, yet even the
Presbyterian congregation of Ewing Memorial, although suspicious like their
Protestant fellows of unseemly show, tramped along Burke Road to the rousing
strains of a highland pipe band for a short retrospective ceremony on the site of
their first meetings. The timetable outlined in their church year book —
'Christmastide, Eastertide, Sacred Drama, Harvest Thanksgiving, Anzac
Commemoration and Carols by Candlelight' — was a common possession.
Ultimately, the main emphasis was not on the distinctions and the disparities,
but the similarity of the emotions that generated these performances. The tot
from St Joseph's strewing rose petals, the scout striking a match to light a local
flame as part of the 'empire-wide chain of bonfires' for George V's jubilee, the
cadet rigidly holding the flag at its exactly preordained angle at an Anzac Day
requiem mass, the young lady from Korowa waiting in the indeterminate mass
of her fellows to enter St Paul's for a coronation service, the child at Tooronga
Road making the multiple vow to God, King and Country, the mayor in his
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
bedecked robes of office proclaiming the elevation of a new monarch from the
town hall steps, the preacher on 'Life of [or?] Death for Christendom 1 at the
twenty-first anniversay of the establishment of the Gardiner Congregational
Church (before the rather more joyful incision of the reunion tea cake) — all
these individuals were expressing their shared humanity and their sense,
however oblique, partial or instinctive, of a destiny beyond the immediate,
personal and material.
As the community acquired a lease on history, local churches and schools had
their jubilee successions to celebrate. In 1956, Malvern became a centenarian,
and the citizens were treated to an extended program of festivities that included
a fireworks display, a special naturalisation ceremony and a procession of
decorated floats, many veined with historical nostalgia much as they had been
at a similar event nearly a half a century before. The centrepiece of the commemoration was a nostalgic council meeting, attended by parliamentarians and
former councillors, at which the yellowed Proclamation of the Gardiner District
Road Board was read, along with the minutes of the Board's first meeting.
Motions of Thanksgiving to God, of Loyalty to the Crown and Appreciation of
'the inspiring and outstanding farsightedness of those pioneers' were passed.
The theme emphasised progress — society on an escalator of material advancement towards some unspecified apotheosis — in a manner that had scarcely
altered since Malvern first began to perceive itself as one of the standard-bearers
of the future: 'today its citizens enjoy its beauty and dignity, its gardens, open
spaces and playing fields, good roadways and amenities which stand as a
monument to their memory'. The centenary brochure was likewise preoccupied
with progress, 'best evidenced by the quoting of figures' (houses, population,
length of stormwater drains and numbers of garbage bins), but it also contained
colourful historical tidbits garnered from Cooper's History of Malvern: 'the
younger generation will wonder at some of the happenings'. The writer himself
seemed puzzled that progress, exemplified in his astonishing array of statistics
relating to the material environment, had taken the city so far.
Children of the 1950s inherited patterns of loyalty and belief that had
essentially been laid down at the turn of the century. The set-aside Sunday
experienced by Brian Lewis shortly before and during the First World War had
survived in all its codified glory. As I remember that decade of waxen remoteness, for those of us who claimed Christian affiliation, the day was organised
like a game of Snakes and Ladders, that began with Sunday school in Ewing
Memorial's roomy hall of instruction and continued through the church service
up the road beneath the spiky symbol of the burning bush — with liberation
once the children's sermon had concluded. We then repaired homewards to the
dinner of the week: a roast oozing with gravy and flanked by garden greens and
oranges cooked to washed-out hues, followed by a Stuart crystal bowl of trifle
with its cushioned bed of cake, layers of supple custard, cream and chopped
jelly, rivuleted with orange juice and the touch of sweet sherry that was
excluded from the general teetotal ban. Evasion of any of these heavy
responsibilities meant a swift plunge down the back of a snake to temporary
perdition — sneaking off from Sunday school, being incorrigible enough to
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
145
avoid the sermon, playing any sport that looked competitive, or spurning one's
serve of spent roast. The Sunday School Anniversary annually saw us fastened
in white frocks or grey pants, packed in tiers to canter through an inordinacy of
hymns; and even Harvest Festival survived in the annual pyramid of rosy
tomatoes, sheafs of acrid silver beet and dove-coloured pumpkins, although
little of the produce represented a home-grown harvest. We were, in a way,
children of timeless expectation and ordained practice.
But the hints of massive change that were to see an entire reordering of the
pattern had begun to surface during the war years. T h e youth of to-day', ran
The Malvern Grammarian 1944 editorial, 'are learning to overcome the greatest
enemy of progressive thought — crowd psychology. They are learning for
themselves'. The recent record of crowd psychology certainly seemed to indicate
the desirability, indeed the urgency, of a shift towards individual integrity. That
move, however, held its own dangers. T h i s is an era of "youth movements" ',
De La Salle's 1947 annual report warned, 'and parents should realise the danger
to faith and morals that young people are likely to encounter'. The way to avoid
contamination was to stick to Catholic student movements. A contributor to
Malvern Grammar's 1952 magazine was humorously aware of the implications
of the new individualism for the maintenance of order in his verse T h i s Smacks
of Revolution', which traced the disciplinary graph from 1890s authoritarianism
to 1950s permissiveness. Predictably, this free-thinking independence of spirit
was not universally amusing. In the wake of the war, St Kevin's annual magazine located disturbances in the young in their elders' tendency to over-indulge
them as a reaction to the grim, lean years. As a result, senior boys at the school
were aimless, lacking ambition and direction. Liberal pocket money, mechanical gadgetry and the mass media, with its insidious power of indoctrination,
were the demoralising specifics mentioned at De La Salle.
A new tone of anti-social contempt, expressed in destructive behaviour, was
detected. Larrikins, like the poor, had always been in evidence, and the earlier
response had been punitive, if not downright ruthless. 'Numbers of lads are to
be seen hanging around corners, passing the time expectorating and belching
forth obscenities', the Malvern and Armadale Recorder deplored in 1899. These
"pushes" — for undoubtedly they exist even in Malvern — occasionally make
war upon each other. Unfortunately, it is not a war of extermination.' Many
years later, spitting and swearing seemed mild indeed. A 1946 Liberal Party
meeting was told that truancy in Malvern was double that in 'certain so-called
slum areas'. An outbreak of'destruction and defacement' to public property was
deplored as 'the verbal meanderings of a few warped minds'. Despite the harsh
words the approach generally was an educative appeal to the golden core that
lay in both the mildly mischievous and the darkest and most resistant human
heart. In the early 1950s, council sponsored an 'Anti-Vandalism Propaganda
Film' for over 2 600 Malvern children, and the 'Garden Notes' of the local paper
claimed that the suburb had 'the unenviable reputation of being one of the
worst . . . for child delinquency'. As a sporting deputation to council indicated,
Malvern did not have a senior football or cricket team; there was not even that
acceptable outlet for youthful aggression. The situation continued to decline. In
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
1962, the Australian Railways Union asked council to support a deputation:
'recently there has been considerable public outcry . . . particularly in cases
which have involved physical assault on peaceful members of the community'.
Guardians of the young at De La Salle deplored the fashionable expression of
this ungovernable behaviour ('outlandish hair styles . . . narrow cuffs . . . gaudy
socks . . . shoes with excessively pointed toes . . . caps which are soiled and too
small'), while admitting that the young were hardly to blame, for 'we have
permitted these depreciating [sic] influences to germinate in our very midst'. A
corrupting agency deplored by one moralist was the display of nude statues at
Malvern's centenary arts festival: 'when the responsible authorities are having
so much trouble in controlling bodgies and widgies, some attempt should be
made to restrain lewd exhibitions, even in the form of art'. It had been different
in 1937 when a resident relievedly noted that the obnoxious metropolitan habit
of dressing and undressing shop window models in public 'happily . . . has not
been adopted in Malvern'. At the same time, the dreaded threat of alcohol was
again a hot question with the proposal to abandon six o'clock closing for hotels.
In the Sin City of Sydney, hordes of drinkers, including 'well-dressed girls . . .
staggering across the footpaths', were pictured merrying-on until ten at night.
To avoid this horror, the Malvern 'Stick to Six' committee, representing thirty
Malvern churches, marshalled legions of the unsuspecting young (most of whom
were not of legal drinking age) to canvass the suburb to plead for retention of
the more godly hours. Responding to the immemorial charge of the old that
they had failed to keep to the right track, the young could be serious and
thoughtful in their self-defence: 'the influence of two World Wars and ensuing
period of political unrest and insecurity has caused us to relax this rigid attitude
towards standards of morality and behaviour . . . it is extremely difficult for
young people to know just exactly what is expected of them' (The Palm Leaf
1955). The writer probably could not have known that a conservative age was
prone to detect incipient corruption in the green generation.
For those who were concerned with the spiritual as well as the temporal, even
more alarming than an apparent collapse of social standards was the galloping
secularisation of post-war society, which reached into the heart of the educational bureaucracy. 'The pagan educational world, engrossed as it is in purely
material standards, has degenerated into a mechanical organization', was the
drastic message delivered at De La Salle in 1948. St Kevin's 1956 editorial
lamented the outcome and reaffirmed the school's responsibility:
The sad results of secular education are in evidence everywhere around us, and the
so-called 'modern' and 'scientific' methods of forming youth have caused a widespread revaluation of ideas . . . we who are charged with . . . educating youth must
have our ideas correct concerning the origin, the nature and the destiny of man.
Part of this was as well, as De La Salle recognised a few years later, the need to
face 'the tremendous cultural challenge of our times and consequently up-date
. . . objectives'.
The churches, too, were aware of the increasingly cold climate. Run by the
Baptist Church, the Malvern Latter Days Campaign urged 'the great need for
27 Sparsely decorated and perhaps a little pinched in their dimensions: architects' plans for
war service homes on the Carnegie Estate, early 1920s.
XEAD EVERY LINE CAREFULLY and ROLL UP.
LEFT: 28 There is one fellow jubilant and ready to pat the Malvern Council on the back —
that fellow is the "Brick Combine" ': leaflet for protest meeting against the declaration of brick
areas, c 1912. RIGHT: 29 'A whole dinner could be done to a nicety . . . in the space of an
hour': Korowa girls learn to cook. The school opened a new domestic science centre in 1962.
30 Practising domesticity: novice housewives in the garden at Llaneast, Glenferrie Road
c 1913.
31 The male was more inclined to incorrigibility. Sport was the most obvious outlet: Malvern
Harriers pack run, 1926. The Harriers were established in 1893.
32 The possibility of enlisting the moral potential of the Malvern District Brass Band through
a series of pleasant Sunday afternoon concerts was considered.
33 The finished buildings often looked decidedly raw, but, lacking the shrines of older
countries, the congregations were making an act of devotion: architects' plans for Baptist
Church Sunday School, Armadale.
34 Sunday was organised like a game of Snakes and Ladders that began with Sunday school:
Sunday school, Malvern Presbyterian Church, 1955.
35 Saving the nation from 'the thraldom and curse of strong drink': International Order of
Rechabites Temperance Physiology Examination Certificate} 1930.
36 The scholarship system provided the only avenue by which pupils could surmount the
barriers of class: scholarship class, Spring Road school, 1913.
37 The state school has been typified by its shelter sheds: Lloyd Street Central School
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
147
spiritual re-emphasis in life today', while the Church of Christ issued 'An
Invitation to Those Who Desire A Better Sunday . . . Everything is free!'. In its
Church Notes, the Malvern Presbyterian Church recognised the churches' own
contribution to the malaise: 'now that we have emerged from war there are
many who . . . wonder whether the Church can do anything to help this world
back to sanity and order . . . they maintain the Church will need to become
more interested in the affairs of the people and less concerned with dogma and
theology'. True to this spirit, the East Malvern Branch of the Christian
Commonwealth movement engaged in social questions such as slum abolition,
the Church of Christ heralded a thrust towards Christian unity in the rise of
the ecumenical movement, the Malvern Congregational pleaded for a compassionate response to its Christmas Appeal to help the world's homeless
millions 'whether or not you are in the churches', and the Women's World Day
of Prayer, undenominational and international, undertook its seventy-third day
of observance on 13th February 1959. However wide their reach, these forces
represented only a few, and the attrition of the spiritual realm continued.
This mental shift was to see an erosion of consensus on ways in which the
community expressed its shared values. From the mid to late 1950s, Empire
Youth Sunday, which provided the young with links to a colourful tradition of
crown and 'Empire builders', and perhaps more importantly with a jolly,
permissible way of occupying the streets, was in a flourishing condition.
However, by the early 1960s, Empire Day, with its overtones of militarism and
imperialism, had been transmuted into British Commonwealth Day in actuality
as well as terminology. The event was celebrated in the town hall on 17 May
1963 by 'one of the largest attendances on record . . . the change in procedure in
having the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations attending a combined service . . . has proved most successful'. At last, the separatism of fiercely
British Protestants and intransigently Irish Roman Catholics was beginning to
wane, but the celebration itself ultimately failed to grip the young, who were its
prime target.
A further ideological change saw the 'Australian way of life' with its bald
American cast, supplant the British model with its easy overlordship of the
allegedly cocky, yet dependent 'Australian type'. Extolling the values of
individualism while cementing a tightly conservative social order, this
antipodean 'way' knitted together the old sporting obsessions with new chances
for leisure, a hazy Christian ethos with suburbanism, the traditional family with
defence of the 'free world'. In 1955, in a common enough act of civic incomprehension, the Mayor of Prahran acted on complaints from RSL members and
other worriers about two Chinese paintings in an exhibition of children's art
from the Asia-Pacific region that had been idealistically presented by the local
Methodist Mission. He ejected the show from the municipal precincts because
he was defending the 'Prahran way of life' from 'Red propaganda'. The Cold
War had transcended some boundaries to express supra-national ties in a
homespun, though not necessarily wholesome, way.
Within the Australian psyche there were other relocations. Anzac Day, long
awarded the same solemnity as Good Friday, had begun to lose its hold, a
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
decline in significance that especially affected the young whose engagement was
needed to transmit the spirit of dedication. Way back in 1940, contemplating
the day's significance, a fugitive doubt had crept in: 'their sacrifice was in vain,
and to-day their sons are setting out in the same valiant way . . . surely . . . we
can derive some profit from their heroism and example' (The Palm Leaf). After
the war, along with other pieties (Christmas and Armistice Day), the tradition
gained a boost. The president of the Malvern RSL reiterated the needed
qualities as exemplified by the sons of Anzac: 'Loyalty to authority, courage in
difficulty, co-operation and fair play in common effort and comradeship at all
times . . . the Anzac Days of the future will certainly be maintained by the 2nd
AIF'. Likewise the new generation of soldiers was thought to see renewed
meaning in Armistice Day — now Remembrance or Poppy Day. At the first
post-war Anzac service in the town hall, the main speaker spoke of the
inspirational effect of the Anzac heritage on the latest veterans and their
disappointment at returning to find Australia 'divided on selfish minor issues'.
In 1947, confronted with a turbulent internal and external political scene,
Anzac became equivalent with national unity: 'all the community meets on
common ground . . . Tom and Jack are not officer and man, employer and
employee . . . but men (and women) who lived and worked and fought together
. . . The team-work which won two wars can surely solve the problems of peace'.
Classless national solidarity, rather than grubby, disruptive class war, was more
appealing in times of domestic strikes and mounting international tension.
However, as the Soviet Union expanded into Eastern Europe and Australia
felt itself besieged, another peace had lamentably failed, inducing scepticism and
condoning indifference in the new generation that barely understood the
troubles and did not feel implicated in the mire. St Kevin's annual magazine
(1955) warned that 'there is a grave danger that . . . Anzac may become . . . just
another Sunday when the shops and cinemas are closed, and the only
entertainment is the march . . . its spirit of sacrifice and patriotism is in danger
of being forgotten'. The school's Anzac Day mass at St Peter's, Toorak, that
year commemorated the event with the full majesty of religious and military
panoply: a march by cadets and the band from school to church, a guard of
honour for official guests, the slow movement of the colour party to the
sanctuary followed by the catafalque and sanctuary guards, the fanfare, the
presentation of arms, the sermon, the mass, the blessing of the catafalque and
the playing of 'The Last Post'. The drama was almost irresistible in its balletic
timing, costumed magnificence and mystical identification with the dead.
Nevertheless, erosion of the day's symbolism deepened, and the RSL's 1957
'Poppy Day' appeal referred apologetically to a decline in awareness of the
rationale behind both Armistice and Anzac days: 'you probably have some
hazy idea of the reason'. In 1960, recognising the realities, council addressed 'the
changed conditions with regard to Anzac Day Commemorations', opening the
golf links for afternoon play. A profound alteration sheltered behind thosebland, slightly uneasy and embarrassed words, for not only were the day's
procedures in question, the nature of the myth was, as The Palm Leaf's editorial
acknowledged, in the process of re-evaluation:
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
149
We in Australia celebrate . . . a tradition of glorious failure. However, it was not
really a failure. Our predecessors' defeat at Gallipoli would have been a failure had
they, to escape death, tried to avoid fighting for their belief in a free world by
remaining at home or becoming supporters of a cause in which they had little faith.
The logic was a little confused, and the phrase 'a free world' (also used by the
local scouting movement to induce superannuated scouts to join the BadenPowell Scout Guild) was a direct borrowing from Cold War terminology in
which all too often 'free' merely meant 'anti-communist'; but the mental gulf
between celebrating tragic success and acknowledging 'glorious failure' represented a change in historical consciousness that was to spread through the
community's self-perception. Although Anzac Day continued to be celebrated,
the community was more divided in response and the focus became blurred. In
1961, Malvern RSL's invitation to its Anzac ceremony was declined because
councillors were otherwise engaged. The day had dropped from its natural place
on the civic calendar to occasioning a regretful refusal.
By the mid 1960s, the question of celebrating a miltary tradition had been
engulfed by an upsurge of anti-militaristic activity as the Youth Campaign
Against Conscription began to hold vigils outside Prime Minister Harold Holt's
Toorak home, urging him to 'Stick to killing fish', a reference to his well-known
snorkelling activities. Schools such as St Kevin's were inevitably drawn into the
struggle, and some pupils found themselves at loggerheads with their more
cautious mentors. The Save Our Sons Movement of Victoria entered the fray to
shield draft resisters, and Vera Fowler, a Malvern lawyer, found herself at
the beginning of eight years helping young men who felt bound by conscience to take
a stand against conscription to fight in Vietnam. Many of my friends died in the
Second World War, and had fought to defend the four freedoms: from hunger, of
belief, from fear, of speech. I believe they would have applauded these young men for
their stand.
The schools may have been worried by changing attitudes and more abrasive
manners in their students; for the established churches the whole notion of a
Christian community with its pattern of ritual observances was under threat.
Language began to register subtle changes in emphasis. The Caulfield Station
Traders' Association, whose venue bordered the city of Malvern, adopted an
'Annual Christmas Goodwill Carnival'. A tincture of unselfconscious
secularism now adhered to the venerable notion of Christian joy. The Malvern
Advertiser observed that not only the very young, but also their parents were
often ignorant of the Christmas story; 'Nanna' was the one to explain the
strange events. In 1966, council considered an approach from the Malvern
ministers who were responding to a letter from the Victorian Council for a
Christian Christmas 'in which local organisations were being asked to
endeavour to make a more positive and united witness' to maintain the religious
character of the celebration.
The festival had always had frankly venal aspects, which were perhaps more
hectic and pervasive than sentimental recollection liked to allow. During her
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enforced stay in Australia during the First World War, a foreign observer like
Lady Stanley sniffily noticed the gulf between a down-under Christmas and
those she remembered (and perhaps romanticised) in Britain: 'Christmas out
here is nothing but a rather more jollificatory holiday than anything else — &
all the shops are full of common presents and vulgar Christmas cards'. Why,
some children she came across had never even seen a Christmas tree! She would
have been more disgusted if she had been around half a century later, when,
except for a minority of people, the balance had tipped towards the unabashedly
commercial. The Malvern Regional Shopping Co-operative's festive plans for
the streets were a reasonable simulacrum of the jollities of its ancient
predecessor, the Malvern Traders' Association, but the balancing spiritual
commitment had waned, just as the material expectations had swelled
uncontrollably. The motoring specialist of the Southern Cross (December 1969)
was a frank high-flyer in his expectations: 'All I want for Xmas, Santa, is a Fiat
124S sports coupe like the one I recently road tested . . . I realise the unit is fairly
expensive . . . a very powerful machine, but I assure you, Santa, I would be very
careful'.
Even the family focus was changing, as an alternative to home-baked feasts,
prepared over weeks by zealous matriarchs, reaching a crescendo on the actual
day, was offered: 'Why Cook? When you can order the FINEST F O O D S
C O O K E D ON THE PREMISES' from the 'Doro-Del House of Fine Foods'.
While still fixed on the drudge-ridden female (wife, mother, perhaps aunt),
forever home-centred, consumerism offered heady alternatives for a respite from
the usual round. Another spin-off from affluence was the growth of the holiday
industry and possession of rural or seaside retreats which, according to the
chronicler of Epping Street Methodist, dispersed the community well before the
ceremonial high tide was reached, cancelling 'the inbuilt "magic" of Christmas
Sunday or Christmas Eve'. Despite his sense of loss, the exodus from the city
had become part of'the Australian way of life' which partly compensated for the
stripping of the verities but meagrely occupied the vacuum. 'A changed and
expanded awareness of the physical universe, too, posed tantalising dimensions
that might seem at odds with the old simplicities. In 1986, when the Malvern
News Sheet canvassed a group of citizens for their vignettes of 'Christmas
Remembered', a reply came from one whose fate was to travel vast distances to
be with family at the festive time: 'The most impressive night's travelling was
listening to US astronauts as they made their way to the moon — a crystal-clear
moonlight night driving through the Mallee, and the wonderment of our being
and our universe'.
A sad, undirected weariness about ritual observances spread as far as the
vaguely pantheistic Arbor Day commemoration, with its unfailing emphasis on
both the benign prolificness and the melancholy transience of nature. In 1913, it
had been celebrated at Spring Road school with a range of activities that
included an address by a local horticultural enthusiast on tree planting, garden
beautification and the destruction of rain forests in Cape Otway and Gippsland;
a demonstration of tree planting and rose pruning; and the transformation of
the school grounds to give 'the appearance of a home-garden' (the replacement
THIS DAY OF MEMORY AND HOPE
151
of 'unsightly pines' by grass, 'artistic' flower beds and a privet and geranium
hedge). Every year children were marshalled in gumboots and with spades for
the ceremonial tree-planting; by 1955 the Natural Resources Conservation
League was appealing to council to assist in 'maintaining or reviving interest in
Arbor Day'. The call was practical as well as ideological, for, given that school
grounds were felt to be thoroughly bushed-in and enforested, attention to
country roads, streets and other more public places was advised. The new
conditions did not leave Malvern much room for manoeuvre. Nor did civic
milestones generate the same demand for all-in jollity. When in 1971 Malvern
turned one hundred for the second time (the 1956 event related to the establishment of the Gardiner District Road Board), the centenary was modestly celebrated with a cocktail party in the mayoral lounge and the unveiling of a plaque
commemorating the proclamation of the shire.
While the old rites were being discarded or diluted, a process of apparently
irreversible decline in the fortunes of individual churches had set in. There was
some 1950s growth in the fringe churches as distinct from the main denominations, but by the end of the decade the copious notes in the weekly press that
informed congregations of the doings in their part of the almighty flock had
dwindled to the occasional wan paragraph relating to milestones in the history
of one church or another, usually anniversaries. Of the old established
churches, only the Gardiner Church of Christ was still expanding in the
material sense, completing an extensive building program in early 1959, while
Holy Eucharist achieved a permanent church only in 1962.
Elsewhere the story was one of withdrawal and weakness. For instance, by
1952 Ewing Memorial Church was the largest Presbyterian congregation in
Victoria and the second largest in Australia. There had also been a
'phenomenal growth of Sunday School and Youth Work' (9053 Sunday school
attendances were recorded in 1953). A decade later a process of attrition was
observed, and by the mid 1960s the trend that affected all the church's activities
was unmistakable: annual income, attendance at communion and Sunday
school, membership of the choir and the men's brotherhood had all slumped.
By 1970, the mood was philosophically retrospective:
Change is ever with us. This year completes 79 years of worship and service . . .
Those were years of boom and depression — peace and war — the building of homes
and the coming of flats. Years when young men moved away from beards and long
hair, and returned to them. Years when women moved from home service only, to
educational and business success . . . Years when economic opportunities and an
atmosphere of freedom have given young people a greater chance to assert their
identity and their will.
Urbane detachment was not always the reaction. As W H Bossence detailed the
melancholy decline then abrupt demise of Epping Street, with all the grimness
of a mortician, the symptoms of decay were bitterly isolated: 'back-sliding',
paganism, the compartmentalisation of urban existence, 'a mixture of intellectualism and self-centredness', the corrosive 'new "theology" ', politicisation of
the church. He felt he knew the spiritually and humanly affirmative answer, but
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
he still wondered what instincts had raised the memorials in his church and
what dreams might crumble with their dismantlement.
In the late 1960s, attempts at regrouping and combining resources were made
through the Malvern Inter-Church Council which held services in 'the
traditional manner of the host church', and in 1971 an ecumenical service took
place at the town hall with faithful from the Roman Catholic, Anglican,
Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Salvation Army and
Congregational churches. It was the saving 'Way of prayer' that the editor of the
Southern Cross had advocated towards the end of the previous year: 'This is a
world in which materialism is more acceptable than godliness . . . God is the
chink of light in the world dark with fear'.
However, to the young, the old rhythms often seemed frankly dissonant, and
history had failed to deliver many of its promises of peace, security and decency.
In 'Anzac Day, 1971', the Southern Cross asked some awkward questions and
made some perhaps impossibly difficult suggestions:
What of the teenagers and young people whose lives have been untouched by war?
What does Anzac Day mean to the 20 year olds we are now sending off to fight the
controversial war in Vietnam? . . . Anzac Day should mean something more than
memories, more than parades, more than national mourning, more than a
commemoration of the past. It should be an inspiration for the future . . .
Even so, there was still the half-perceived, yet monolithic past; and Malvern,
along with the rest of the Australian community, had endured its fair share of
history. It had moved from the security of imperial maternalism to the
uncertainty of faltering adulthood; and yet both worlds were essentially illdefined — one delved into the past, the other hazarded the future. In the
hundred years since its declaration as a shire, Malvern had been involved in
four declared, and one undeclared, wars that had accounted for about a fifth of
the time span. The clandestine Cold War had bridged a further fifteen years.
Twenty calendars had seen two major depressions waxing and waning in force.
The intervening periods were often preoccupied with attempts to re-establish
and revitalise the community's stability, and there were in addition purely local
concerns to tackle. Like the joys, they were both particular and universal
experiences. As well as glimpsing its own features, Malvern saw Australia's face
and the spectre of the globe in the mirror.
CHAPTER • 7
The Best He Could
Get was a Trench
Mortar
* We have been too much given to living our lives on the plan of the
Lotos eaters. In a great measure, this has been the land in which it is
u
always afternoon" . . . The condition of udream and dream in
yonder amber light" is undergoing serious disturbances and for the
first time.*
Malvern News 28 August 1914
In disproof of the accusation of national lassitude, Malvern
moved quickly into emergency gear after the declaration of war in August 1914.
It had already had a foretaste of overseas military commitment in a fervent, if
largely abstract, zest for the Boer War. In a civic farewell to two Malvern
volunteers in January 1900, Major Rigg, father of one of the pair and the man
who a year later was to lead with sword drawn the procession to celebrate
Malvern's accession to township, said he begrudged the young men their
chance: 'If the Government will allow me I will go myself. If my son gets
knocked down there are two more, and Mistress Rigg will have to send them
after us'. Medals and compasses were presented to the youths to speed them on
their way. Malvern's contribution was also scientific; a local inventor patriotically confided to Lord Roberts, the British commander in South Africa, his
patent for using wind as an auxiliary power 'in all locomotive agencies'. William
Knox, an unqualified believer in the character-forming qualities of military
training, made a more philosophical offering: 'The present time would form an
important phase in Australian history . . . the first time that the Australians
had combined to go forth to fight the foes of the Empire'. The banner of
enthusiasm was kept rippling by publication in the local press of letters from
Malvern volunteers and repetition of the cry 'still they come'. News of the relief
of Mafeking in 1900 prompted a spontaneous outcry with flag-flying, bunting,
the regulation lollies for state school children, a citizens' procession headed by
the Malvern District Brass Band, and sound-alike addresses outside the town
hall by a bevy of self-appointed speakers: 'we are such a loyal people'.
153
154
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
Other reasons than military emergency could be cited as arguments for
martial training of civilians, primarily its value as a device for keeping young
men off the streets: 'Take Malvern, for instance . . . There is no gymnasium or
swimming bath, or mechanics' institute . . . True, we have a Shire Library, but
to the young it is depressing in the extreme. The tone of suppressed awe . . . is
enough to depress even the elderly'. An established way of avoiding those
sepulchral environs was the cadet corps, whose establishment in Victoria dated
back to 1884 when the Department of Defence under its supremo, Sir Frederick
Sargood, urged their formation in schools. In June 1914, the inspector-general
classified Malvern's 47th Battalion cadets first class, all but six of the 522 being
competent in military skill and duty-conscious in attendance at compulsory
drills: 'The spirit of compulsion', he stated without irony, 'was practically nil'.
The optimistic assessment was qualified by the steady stream of cases before the
Court of Petty Sessions for avoidance of these obligations; but the official
attitude was one of unqualified support for the empire, which had reached the
destructive point where, in the words of its polished chronicler, James Morris, 'a
duty curdles into a craze'.
The First World War was a consummation of emotions that had been
reinforced over the years (Australia's 'first war worth speaking o{\ said local
politician A J Boyd, 'the Boer war being a trumpery affair in comparison'), and
the Malvern response was swift. On 8 August, the 47th Battalion was ordered to
mobilise at Queenscliff, and the staff office at the corner of St George's Road
was observed to be 'like a hive of bees — two continual lines of khaki'. At a
700-strong gathering of the Australian Women's National League (AWNL), the
already aroused ladies were raised to fever pitch by the fighting words of another
Malvern parliamentarian, Arthur Robinson, before they trotted homewards to
take up their knitting needles. Ordinary political demands began to seem a
luxury, and 'the unfortunate war cloud that enveloped Europe' was accounted
responsible for the depleted meetings of the election campaign that coincided
with the war's early days. In the midst of the unanimity, local gripes surfaced:
postponement by 'a spineless ministry' of decisions about tramway construction,
a suspension of building activity and subdivisional sales, and, more deplorably,
the existence of some 'who have failed to recognise their obligations'.
On the other hand, some things improved markedly. Governor Stanley's lack
of the 'nimbus of happily chosen language' became a halo of pugnacious phrases
'when it comes to the real thing . . . putting the broad Imperialistic aspect of the
struggle'. The spirit of sacrifice soared as the unbeatable alliance of God, King
and Country firmed. Three thousand, including 1300 boys, attended Mayor
Sydney Wilson's sacred service in Central Park, and a flurry of patriotic
concerts was set in motion. From the declaration of war, the public face of
Malvern was set to encourage, if not to urge, the maximum number of its young
men to enlist. Civic authorities, politicians, schools, churches, women's groups,
self-appointed recruiting commitees and that excellent congregation of military
endeavour, the Malvern Rifle Club, set their shoulders to the recruiting wheel.
Sir William Irvine drew 'fervent cheers' when he cried 'we must send 100 000 or
THE BEST HE COULD GET WAS A TRENCH MORTAR
155
150 000 if necessary . . . He shuddered at the thought of the sacrifice of so many
young lives, but there was a national duty'.
Prepared for total mobilisation, the mayor argued in January 1915 for
'systematic military training of citizens . . . [Malvern's] lead is timely', while
Boyd saw no reason why the lack of a mere two inches in height (the regulations
stipulated men of 5' 4") should exclude stockier chaps from the fray. A crowded
meeting tried to bridge the gap between the rifle club (2s 6d annual subscription)
and the military, who dismissed riflemen as 'pot hunters'. Captain Nixon, head
of the local militia, visualised Malvern as 'the initial city in a movement that
would spread over the whole of Australia'. Backing him, Club Secretary
Wettenhall appealed to the 3000 local men who were eligible for service (over
eighty came forward). The rifle club's next shebang attracted Governor Stanley,
whose halo of strong words was becoming dense indeed, three politicians and
the usual civic stars. While the Tramways Band played patriotic airs, 'hundreds
of latecomers' were excluded, but the assembly within was treated to a Jubilate of
encouragement. In a comprehensive catalogue of possibilities, the mayor was
blunt about the role of women: 'They should see that their fathers, husbands,
brothers and lovers did their duty'. After praising the extreme royalism of the
gathering, the governor passed on a tip about military training: 'to learn to obey
without question was admirable mental discipline for all'. Possible landing
places within Victoria for German imperialists were mentioned, and fifty new
members were sworn in.
Shortly afterwards, over 200 citizens attended the first drill at the cricket
ground. After seven years of comparative obscurity, the club was felt to be
coming into its own. The press published 'A Useful Guide Worth Preserving' for
novice riflemen and informed newcomers that the rifle range, with 'expert
riflemen' in attendance, was open on most evenings. Benefits of membership
included free railway travel and 150 rounds of ammunition. Town Clerk Fred
Hughes was a notable recruit, and soon many riflemen were qualifying as noncommissioned officers. By August 1915, sixty members had enlisted, while
others were attending the 'officer's instructional school'. Given its more
commercial orientation, the Malvern Club's commitment of thirty was also
creditable.
The pressure on those who failed to enlist was excited and relentless,
especially after the debacle at Gallipoli and a lull in voluntary recruiting. Poetry
seemed a more winning vehicle for the message than prose. G F Williams of
Glenferrie Road penned an accusatory piece, 'The Men Who Stayed Behind'
that narrated — in Sentimental Bloke style — the transformation of an
increasingly worried shirker ('Now, when a girl looks hard at m e / Somehow I
seems to shrink') to a seasoned, wounded, decorated and repatriated soldier.
Describing the reception of mail from home, 'A Call from the Trenches'
uncompromisingly pointed the Kitchener finger: 'First, "Fall-off in Enlisting" —
Then "Record Football Gates" Ay, that's the news we give, lads — And a
blooming lot we care!'. As the municipalities were agencies for the prosecution
of government policy, the mayor acted as unofficial chief recruiter, and in early
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
July 1915 council devoted its meeting to consideration of a telegram from the
State Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. Councillor Carroll was blunt and
bellicose. It was
disgusting to see young men kicking a leather ball about when they should be in the
fighting line. He had two boys there, and one [?] to go . . . They talked about the 200
who had gone from Malvern, but that was not 1 per cent . . . Those who would not
rally up should go and live in another country.
Unfortunately, the spate of recruiting meetings tended to attract the
ineligible. Councillor Weller emphasised the need to reach 'the class who could
become soldiers . . . They should get them at the factories and workshops'. The
sterling record of the Tramways men was waved before less self-sacrificing
groups, and mushrooming sub-committees considered devices to snare the
uncommitted: an English record 'Why England is at war' intoned by 'a celebrated . . . elocutionist', relaxation of medical and age regulations, signing up
volunteers in the heat of meetings, a recruiting Sunday arranged by the
churches.
As maestro of recruiting week, Councillor Rupert Wilks supervised a packed
program. An illuminated tram and the Tramways Band roamed the streets to
advertise a town hall rally, where three local politicians lambasted the large
number of unmarried men lingering in Melbourne and offered to go themselves,
if permitted. Uniformed soldiers on the platform brandished a bulldog mascot,
and doctors were ready 'to examine recruits on the spot'. Other gatherings were
held at Gardiner, the Tivoli Theatre and Central Park Kiosk. At the final
meeting, the comment was 'crowds besiege closed doors', and Corporal Gange,
who had been invalided home, issued 'a thrilling appeal on behalf of his mates.
"Go", he cried, "and avenge the dead boys and the wounded and dying boys" '.
The furore seemed justified when over 100 men enlisted, and yet the response
was insufficient to fulfil the grotesquely inflated demand for men that percolated
down from the British army.
The line between recruitment and conscription was never clearly defined, and
the distinction was further blurred by the federal government's compulsory
survey of Australian men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. Parliamentarian W A Watt warned that 'voluntary enlistment was on its last trial',
and Councillor Wilk's denunciation of the freedom allowed to subversives like
Miss Pankhurst provoked a volley of approval. 'Prattle about free speech', cried
Boyd, who favoured shooting those against the war, 'is the cloak of the coward'.
The results of the survey in the district suggested that the fires of commitment
burnt fiercely over a subterranean lake of resistance. Of 3739 replies, 3219 were
outright refusals (the remainder had either already enlisted or were prepared to
take up the gauntlet). Reasons for refusal were accepted from a third, but the
rest were referred to the recruiting sergeants to test their persuasive powers. The
atmosphere of guilt and shame aroused by these visits must have been intense,
and yet, on first reports, only twenty-two laggards were induced to change their
minds.
THE BEST HE COULD GET WAS A TRENCH MORTAR
157
Given the stalemate that had descended on voluntarism, compulsion became
increasingly attractive, public mention of conscription was applauded, and local
state school children were required 'to write an essay on the highly controversial
and inflammatory subject'. New Year 1916 saw a renewed effort. The decorated
tram was dusted down and despatched to traverse all lines in the municipality,
before stopping at the town hall. A meeting of 1000 at the cricket ground was
informed by the mayor that his committee was examining the staggering
requirements of the federal government's recruiting campaign: T h e y had to
raise 183 recruits in Malvern, and subsequently 60 per month for reinforcements'. The Rector of Xavier College concentrated on the older men: 'We had
had enough of mere boys going to the front — boys with unshaped limbs'. At
the second meeting, numbers swelled to 3000, and the mayor announced that
'227 men out of 4000 had answered u y e s " . . . Some . . . were already in camp'.
The response was not all that good, and he saw no alternative but conscription
('national service' might be a more palatable term for 'Britishers'). Recruiting
sergeants continued to interrogate those whose grounds for refusal were unconvincing, and malingerers were reminded of their dereliction by publication in
the Malvern News of the names of those who had made the proper response.
The rabid tone reached a crescendo in Lieutenant-Colonel Dr Springthorpe's
speech at the wind-up to the campaign: 'There was nothing in history to beat
the magnificent charge of the Light Horse. Out of 500 men, 432 were knocked
down . . . The Colonel said to them "You have got ten minutes to live", but
every one of them followed him'.
An increasingly bitter element was entering the fray as queries about the
disproportionate burden borne by the working class in the war became more
insistent. In April, a dispute broke out in council over the authorities' request to
hold a further recruiting effort. Threatened with ejection after branding the
mayor a 'conscriptionist', Councillor Holmes stormed out of the council
chamber. A copy of the mayor's circular 'A Call to Single Men' was returned to
him as 'Chairman of the Cold Feet Brigade', with the comment 'This notice
would carry much more weight if R de C Wilks had himself volunteered'. The
victim rebutted the charge, saying that he and his fellow recruiters had
volunteered and been rejected.
However, on the surface at least, the climate for conscription became ever
more favourable. The A N A circulated 'compulsory service petition forms'
among its members, and, when the first conscription referendum campaign (to
be decided on 28 October 1916) was underway, the Malvern Rifle Club joined
the 'Yes' committee. Advertisements signed by the mayor notified Malvernites
of meetings on the question, and, with Holmes' announcement of his
conversion to compulsory service, unanimity descended on the council. Prime
Minister Billy Hughes was informed by telegram that it was 'a national matter,
and not a political one . . . As far as Malvern was concerned they should see
there were no waverers'. Strangely enough, having reported the build-up to the
referendum, the Malvern News failed to comment on the outcome and became
defunct soon after. Nor did its parent paper, the Prahran Telegraph, discuss the
158
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
result, perhaps because it had consistently opposed conscription as 'a subject
that is certain to divide the British nation if forced to an issue . . . It is, like many
of the acts of the Australian Govts, a direct help to the common enemy'.
Sixty-eight per cent of the electors of Henty voted for conscription, with little
difference between the subdivisions of Malvern and Malvern East. However,
this majority dropped ten per cent when the figures were adjusted to take
account of enrolled electors who failed to vote. The only recourse was to refine
persuasive techniques, and, according to one tactician, perhaps a shift was
needed towards a more positive appeal rather than 'denouncing those who have
not gone as reptiles and the scum of the earth' — a suggestion more easily made
than accomplished. Henty's twenty-eight recruiting committees resumed the old
routine of open-air meetings, legitimatised by official presences, spiced with fiery
speeches and culminating in emotional appeals for sacrificial lambs. In the 'Winthe-War' election of 1917, opportunist politicians such as Boyd, the master of
'the jovial and rattling speech', continued to use the recruiting litmus as a
measure of their opponents' worth; while Norman Bayles informed parliament
that his recruiting efforts had been so trying that his doctor had ordered him
'not to speak any more in the open air for some time'. Although Labor
candidates were soundly beaten, A W Foster made a surprisingly good showing
in Balaclava, and the defeated claimant for Fawkner was not ashamed to defend
his stand against conscription.
The rumbustiousness was now tempered by apprehension about Australia's
gargantuan war debt and the necessity for increased production to service it.
The jitters were worsened by fear of repatriation problems, and war-weariness
added a hint of possible compromise to the phrase 'honourable peace'. While
negative attitudes were still scorched in editorials, the hectoring mood was
touched with an uneasy defensiveness. At a conversazione, Donald MacKinnon,
Victoria's director-general of recruiting, rebuked contemptuous references to
'shirkers' and 'Mesopotamia', pointing to Australia's 400 000 soldiers as
evidence of the country's 'war-like spirit'. Meanwhile, the Fawkner recruiting
officer begged for volunteers to replace the 130 men from his area who had
served 1000 days. An air of unreality clung to well-meaning suggestions like one
printed in the Malvern Argus (December 1917): 'Rum butter. Melt l A lb butter
. . . in a saucepan; add 1 glass of rum, and then stir in enough brown sugar to
make it quite stiff. This can be safely sent out to our boys at the front, if carefully
put into a syrup or treacle tin'.
The bitterness that attached to the conscription issue erupted in the state
election held shortly before the second referendum. W H Edgar proudly
described himself as 'an out-and-out conscriptionist', and Sir Frank Madden
was applauded when he accused Archbishop Mannix of treachery: 'he
associated with rebels and sympathised with rebels. Therefore, he should be
treated as a rebel . . . Dr Mannix used his position in the interests of Germany'.
Mannix's position was complicated by his detestation of British imperialism in
Ireland. The vote took place on 20 December 1917 and passed without
comment in the local press, apart from mention of a court case in which one
George Larson was fined twenty shillings for selling the Worker on Sunday. The
THE BEST HE COULD GET WAS A TRENCH MORTAR
159
magistrate's riposte to the defendant's claiming an interest in the referendum
was 'We don't care about conscription or not'. The proportion in Henty in
favour was almost identical with that recorded in 1916, but the number who
voted dwindled further. However, it was the most favourable towards conscription of all Victorian electorates, closely followed by nearby Fawkner,
Kooyong and Balaclava. It was back to the recruiting grindstone; but, although
the recruiting officer reported an improved situation, the heart had gone from
the campaign, and the emphasis switched to war bonds, honour boards,
repatriation, and — with casualties mounting — a desperate effort to stop public
panic about the deteriorating course of the war.
In The Conscription Plebiscites 1916-17, F B Smith writes: 'the surprising thing
is not that a majority of the community refused to send its young men to be
killed or maimed but that so large a minority was prepared to do so'.
Stimulating the community's preparedness for extreme sacrifice involved
building a myth in which the British character and, as junior associate, the
Australian type were seen to be valiant and invincible, while the monstrous
German had to be so dehumanised that he was beyond the pale of normal
judgment and civilised standards. As Brian Lewis described the process in his
Sunday at Kooyong Road, a nifty volte-face was required: 'At the beginning of
August the papers told us that Germany . . . [was] trying to discourage the
Russians from going for Austria. By the end of August the Germans had started
it all and had planned it for years'. Any public or commercial occasion could
provide the stage for adumbrating the myth. In October 1914, the auctioneer of
Nirvana Heights estate expressed confidence in Lord Kitchener, and the
general's timely, but unpleasant, advice 'Teach them to shoot' was repeated by
the councillor who opened a miniature rifle range for the Glen Iris Valley Rifle
Club. Kitchener's prohibition on drinking among the troops and his vow to
abstain from intoxicants 'at least during the war' were offered as inducements at
an enthusiastic temperance meeting where several instant converts signed the
pledge. The reality was that tots of rum were regularly distributed to give men
courage 'to go over the top'. A 'new note of deep earnestness' entered Empire
Day celebrations as schoolchildren were urged 'to make themselves efficient
units of the Empire'. The girls were included because of their sex's selfless performance as nurses.
In writing 'To the Lads of Boroondara', Madden used twenty years as their
political representative as justification for inciting them 'to qualify . . . to defend
the Empire as you would your own mothers and sisters from violence and
outrage'. While Britain was praised as the font of honour, Australians were
deemed to be the quickest of all Britishers to recover from temporary adversity,
and the 'boyishness' of Australia's soldiers was taken as proof of'the spirit of our
people when necessity knocks at the door'. At a Tramways Trust farewell, the
binoculars of approval focussed on the Malvern character: 'Malvern's men in
the contingent would render a good account of themselves'.
The politicians were often unscrupulous and opportunistic in inciting racial
hatred. At an election meeting in late 1914, Irvine was cheered to the plaster
garlands on the town hall ceiling when he castigated Germany's 'gospel of
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
blood' and lauded the 'small, industrious, peace-loving and eminently useful
nation' of Belgium. Newspaper headlines and throwaway phrases in cable
reports fuelled horror at all things German: 'Huns with Souls of Brutes', 'a
Savage Survival of the original Stone Age man', 'Nothing Sacred to Germans.
Red Cross Chateau Attacked'. Multiple racism surfaced in an item that likened
'the Kaiser's incessant invocation of Providence' to 'the nigger's Sunday
chicken'; that is, he prayed that he might go and steal the bird and his prayer
was answered 'the very first time'. With rare balance, a leading article in the
Prahran Telegraph pointed out that the German character was drawn more to
'commerce, the fine arts, and a latitudinarian and speculative humanism', while
on the practical level, the case for establishing a technical school at Caulfield
was bolstered by describing Germany's superior technical training. Even so the
primary and persistent message was to arouse fear and loathing of the German
ogre.
Xenophobia stretched out its contorted fingers to accuse possible 'traitors in
our midst'. Bayles raised shouts of approval at a Malvern Club smoke night
when he condemned 'a case where two Germans were drawing British pay'. He
devoted much parliamentary time to pointing the finger at resident Germans
(waiters, the German Club and especially two lecturers at the University of
Melbourne), and favoured depriving them of a livelihood and democratic rights.
Once he went too far and was forced to retract a statement that his Labor
opponent stood no chance because both his parents were German, whereas
only the paternal parent was of suspect origin. After anti-German riots in
Prahran and St Kilda, when the premises of some 'whose nationality was in
doubt' were damaged, Charles Mezger was constrained to write to the Prahran
Telegraphy pointing out that his grandfather had arrived in Tasmania in 1800,
where he had married a Scottish lady. Branches of the Anti-German League
sprang up through the suburbs, conducting 'monster' protests, often under
mayoral patronage. Although the Mayor of Malvern seems to have prudently
reserved his favours, council joined the stampede to expunge German street
names. Bismarck converted to Hughes, the alien 'c' was excised from Fischer,
and officials were instructed to ferret out other suspect nomenclature. Letters
arrived from country shires requesting support for measures such as the internment of'all males of German, Austrian, Bulgarian and Turkish nationality over
the age of 15 years' and the disfranchisement of 'all enemy aliens . . . whether
naturalised or not'.
The fury that invaded the language was not confined to vilification of the
enemy. Terrifying metaphor and imagery spawned by the war seeped inexorably
into the community's consciousness. 'Bombardment of Bargains!' blasted an
advertisement for Darroch's furnishers: 'Prices Blown to Pieces!'. When a Labor
MLA introduced yet another bill to amalgamate local councils, he was
repudiated for invoking 'efficiency' when his real caper was 'what soldiers
describe as "loot" '. Politicians, perhaps as a contribution to the war effort,
adopted military expressions such as 'the front line', 'the trenches', 'big pushes',
'counter-offensives' and 'frontal assaults'.
The grittiness that entered life and language was balanced by the balm of
THE BEST HE COULD GET WAS A TRENCH MORTAR
161
familiar sentiments and old pieties. The hymnal was marked with red alongside
those heart-stopping numbers 'All people that on earth do dwell', 'Lead, kindly
light' and 'God our help in ages past'. At the mayor's sacred service in Central
Park in August 1914, the address by Reverend A P Bladen, in his military
chaplain's uniform, emphasised lofty sentiments, honour, the triumph of
goodness, class unanimity, the weighty obligations of an essentially peace-loving
people. Just before going to the front, Gunner Keith Foenander sang in public
'Pro Peccatis' from Rossini's Stabat Mater: 'The words suggest a wayfarer
engulfed in life's darkness, but big with hope'. A call for special prayer meetings
went out. Local poetasters enlisted heartily in the campaign to boost morale and
stifle all suggestions of futility. Anon's poem 'The Union Jack' extracted
symbolism from the flag's red (blood), white (men) and blue (the seas), and M R
of Ashburton submitted a fervent 'New Year Petition'. Ethel Newcombe of East
Malvern grasped the awesome significance of Gallipoli:
No mothers' arms, with soft caress;
No mothers' lips are near to bless;
Alone they lie, beside the sea,
Because of thee, Gallipoli!
The Malvern Gospel Tent Mission thrived on a mixture of fear and brimstone, stretching the intolerable into the insupportable: 'This war . . . will fade
into oblivion compared to the last struggle of nations in the valley of Megiddo
in Palestine'. On a more secular level, the Social Darwinian arguments and
universal overtones of'The Philosophy of the Great War' by popular lecturer on
the suburban circuit, J M Fawaz, BA, of Drummond Street, Carlton, were
lengthily reported. Reprinted extracts from a nineteenth century field notebook
gestured towards the sombrely agnostic, showing a thirst for ominous cosmic
play that prompted the query 'Is God there?'.
The propaganda campaign involved being less than honest about the course
and nature of the war. A photograph 'In the Dardanelles: A Hasty Lunch on
O n e of the Mine-Sweeping Trawlers' showed smiling sailors eating a hearty
lunch in a scene no more perilous-looking than a day at the Williamstown
Naval Dockyard. In reporting the war, the 'cinema operator' was recognised as a
competitor of the war correspondent, although, when 'The Battle of the
Somme' was shown at local theatres, it was innocently observed that much of
the footage had 'been reserved for the use of General Headquarters'. The Pride of
New York, a film in which the Red Cross nurse heroine is snatched from the
clutches of a German prince by the conscripted working-class hero, was praised
for conveying 'war conditions' with 'artistic restraint'.
The compulsion for disinformation was predictably concentrated in verbal
and written accounts. Massive disapproval was directed at 'speakers and writers
here who indite Jeremiah's tale of woe' and those spectres 'Miss Much-Afraid, or
Mr Looking-Both-Ways (to follow Bunyan's phraseology)'. Australian soldiers
were said to be well-fed, well-clothed and well-pleased. An entirely unreal
picture of conditions was fostered in syndicated articles by war correspondents
such as Keith Murdoch in December 1917: 'I have visited the Anzacs . . . and
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
never found them looking or feeling better than in the line this frosty
December'. Sparks in My Boots, the autobiography of W R Ward of East
Malvern, conveyed a contrasting picture:
no one who wasn't there can ever know what suffering the men went through . . .
This war that I went to was a slaughter, nothing more, nothing less. We lost seven
thousand eight hundred men in eleven hours on the first front I was at . . . The
winters in France were very cold and conditions were terrible — mud up to your
knees — and a lot of our boys had 'trench feet' and could only crawl out as they could
not walk . . . All we had while in the trenches were waterproof sheets and one
blanket each.
With the German offensive of early 1918, the tension between the rosy and
the bloody was apparent. Recognition of the realities could no longer be
avoided, although the headlines in the Prahran Telegraph were schizophrenic:
'Germany's Great Offensive. War Chariot Rolls Onward. Centre of Allied
Lines Bend. British Fight Rearguard Actions. Two Years of Territorial Gains
Lost. Enemy Slaughtered in Masses. Still the Living Stream Flows O n . Tide of
War Thinning Out'. Readers must have wondered what was really being
conveyed, while the editorial reaction was often to indulge in statistical
engorgement: 'It is arithmetical certainty that if the enemy has lost a quarter of
a million men in an advance of twenty miles on a fifty mile front, his army must
be used up before he can reach Paris'. The German army had been reduced to a
chilling, monumental 'he', without a hint of recognition that the slaughtered
mass on this one front represented about a twentieth of Australia's entire
population at the time. 'If the war continues where are the sons of Germany to
come from a decade hence?' was the rhetorical question in May 1918, answered
a week later by the crowing conclusion 'A quickly ended conflict would have
enabled her 40 years hence to threaten civilisation with an army of 15 000 000,
but now the sap is going out of the tree'. Cost-counting for the allies was
avoided.
Coinciding with this reduction of the war to chewing over unthinkable tallies,
a few dissenting voices were heard. Four peace activists offering a little Sunday
afternoon oratory in vacant land opposite Central Park were judged to be
'disloyal'. The city fathers ensured that the reprobates were dislodged: 'full
authority had been received from owners of these lands and Notice Boards
erected . . . the action taken had prevented the meetings being held . . . The
report was received as very satisfactory'. Denied publicity and effectively
silenced, the voice of peace was a mere murmur in Malvern's wartime experience. Despite the nearly impenetrable facade, occasionally a crack appeared,
revealing a glimpse of an actuality that offered only confusion and despair: 'The
ordinary reader may be excused if his brain becomes utterly unable to grasp the
mass of figures and opinions which are poured forth . . . The truth appears to be
that no commander operating over so large an area can calculate the enemy's
strength'. However, in the main, negative or critical emotions were seen as
counterproductive, if not destructive. Home-ground morale might be shattered
and too much reality might discourage waverers from enlisting: 'Is a young
THE BEST HE COULD GET WAS A TRENCH MORTAR 163
fellow who is only half decided to go to be won over by exaggerated statements
of what his fellow-Australians are suffering?'.
'We were standing together deciding what to do when he fell with a bullet
wound in the chest. I started to bandage him but he only gave a couple of gasps
and I saw that it was all over with him.' The death of Major Fethers of Finch
Street on 25 April 1915 — the day he landed in Turkey — was described in his
brother's letter. Council's resolution of 'appreciation and pride' was to be
conveyed to the families of 184 Malvern men who died. Printed in the press, the
bare details of many deaths were harrowing in their simplicity. When Sergeant
Turner of Union Street died in Egypt, he was mourned for being 'as strong and
healthy-looking a young man as the eye could wish to see'. Private Leonard
Balzary of Evandale Road enlisted in June 1915 and died on the western front in
late 1917 before his twenty-first birthday.
Some families suffered disproportionately. Brian Lewis' family was 'halved' as
four brothers departed. Lieutenant Bruce Sloss of Kooyong Road, a champion
South Melbourne footballer, 'captained an exhibition game of Australian
football in London' days before his death in France in January 1917; two
brothers were also at the front, one a prisoner of war in Turkey. In May 1917,
the Nicholls family of Adelaide Street were told of the wounding of their son,
Harry, who had taken 'the place of his brother Frank, who was killed at
Gallipoli'. Postal mechanic and radio ham in civilian life, Angus McGregor died
at twenty-three; a brother had 'died of wounds'. Private Harry Stanton died in
mid 1918 'after three years and three months continuous service'; another
Stanton had died the year before. In conveying their condolences, council
praised the Andrews family for 'having not only given two sons . . . [they] have
used their best efforts here in promoting everything . . . in connection with the
War'. Grounds for claiming exemption from military service repeated the
melancholy refrain: 'sole remaining son', 'only son left out of 4', '5 brothers have
enlisted'. Public figures were not spared; Councillors Holmes and Carroll and
Donald MacKinnon, M L A for Prahran, all lost sons. The toll for some weeks
was disproportionately terrible. Four Malvern men were killed in France
between 3rd and 5th May 1917. On 8 December 1917, six were reported dead
and one missing. As local telegram boy, Hubert Opperman recalled the dread
his appearance inspired; on occasions, he threw stones on the roofs as a signal to
avoid seeing the stricken families.
When the figures were amassed, the account was horrifying. Describing the
unstinting response in his electorate, Bayles instanced Ross Street, Toorak, a
street of fifty-two houses which had sent forty-two boys to the front, leaving
only one medically unfit man of military age. Two military crosses had been
won and four of the men had died. The contribution of some groups decimated
their ranks. By March 1916, over 100 Tramways employees had enlisted. Over
ninety from the Malvern Presbyterian Church (thirty-seven died), forty-six from
St Andrew's, Gardiner (twelve killed), and 120 from the Holy Advent Church
became soldiers. In a 'Good Record', all but four of the thirty-three members of
the East Malvern Hockey Club joined up: 'Two . . . have been decorated . . .
two . . . have made the supreme sacrifice, and others have been returned
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
maimed and battered'. Of fifty-three members of the Malvern Harriers, forty
went away. In seeking reinstatement to a pitch in Central Park in 1921, the
Armadale Wesley Cricket Club drew attention to its witness: 'every eligible
player enlisted . . . The Honor Roll at Armadale [Methodist] Church has over
100 names thereon . . . the coming season practically all the players will be
returned soldiers'.
Occasionally, the outcome was unexpectedly happy. The rumour of Private
Keast's death was rescinded as 'a big blunder' caused by misinformation from
the front, and he was soon writing cheerfully from hospital of a wish to return to
his 'own pals'. In October 1915, when G Bottomley, 'a devotee of "My Lady
Nicotine" ', was welcomed home with the gift of a smoker's outfit, he mentioned
laconically 'that whilst smoking in the trenches, his pipe was shot to pieces by a
Turkish bullet'. One of the few Malvern veterans who survived into the 1980s
recalled the lightning flash of his front-line experience. After a fearful walk
across duckboards breasting a sea of mud, he prepared to report, but a shell
plummeted between his legs, ending his war: 'I didn't even have time to say "My
name's Charlie Crotty" '.
Others endured several woundings and gassings before returning, but the
prognosis for many was gloomy. On the fringes of the city, the Caulfield
Military Hospital, described by George Johnston in My Brother Jack, brimmed
with the shattered legions of the wounded: 'temporary wards were added to
temporary wards, and beds were shifted out on to verandahs or even crowded
into hastily erected marquees . . . [with] stretching miles of maimed men in
white enamelled cots'. The hallway of Johnston's house became a surreal
nightmare, crammed with the wheelchairs and artificial limbs of soldiers who
had been prematurely discharged to make way for more desperate cases and
then rescued by his mother, who was a nurse at the hospital. Lieutenant
McCormack, council's assistant engineer, was welcomed back with acclamation
and granted an honorarium of £25, but he 'had received serious wounds, losing
an eye and having his left side shattered'. Council labourer Armstrong returned
allegedly unwounded, but was 'now suffering from one or two things which
prevented his further military service'. Shell-shock was the invisible, little
understood 'wound' that decreed a long purgatory for some.
By comparison with this litany of horrors, for a select few frivolity was
unimpeded:
Another tea gown from this atelier was designed for the Countess Curzon . . . cut on
medieval lines . . . embroidered in gold . . . A sapphire-studded ornament closes the
bodice, while over the skirt of gold tissue and blue come clouds of chiffon, one over
the other in azalea pink, sapphire, jade green and amethyst, the trailing pointed ends
each weighted with a gold tassel.
What empyrean garment might this dazzling lady have worn to the opera?
Incredulity, perhaps tinged with envy and contempt, may have been the
reaction of Malvern ladies reading this aristocrat's chaster version of Salome's
veils in their local weekly in October 1917; but even in London, the writer was
constrained to point out, this degree of lavishness was confined to those with
THE BEST HE COULD GET WAS A TRENCH MORTAR
165
golden blinkers. After all, the guns of August had been booming ominously
over the English Channel for more than three years. The countess' position on
the greatness scale was indicated without being stated.
For women, as the local press made clear, delicate matters of propriety and an
approach to the moral order were embedded in the way they chose to dress
during the war. There was a conundrum for the conscience in deciding whether
restraint (the proper face when confronted with the sacrifices being made)
should come before femininity (a balm for battle-weary men and an amen for
civilised values). On balance, the argument for 'a reversion . . . to more
womanly and prettier clothes' seemed more inspiriting, especially given the
beauty-starved state of the soldier returning or on leave: 'soft rustling taffetas
and his girl turned out as if fresh from a bandbox is more "like it" . . . There is a
lot of thinking done with the eye\ Perhaps the Countess was not so far out of
step, for 'Chiffon!' was the plea of 'one heroic battered boy from the front' for
post-battle diversion; and even working girls developed a taste for 'rest gowns de
luxe'. 'War-time lingerie' was the most exquisite and least practical ever offered,
and Malvern ladies were regaled with descriptions of the tumbling 'confections
of lace and muslin' on the Grande Plage at Biarritz, where probably only one in
ten thousand had been. Nurture of the feminine image went hand in hand with
the preservation of personal beauty, lest 'beauty and grace and charm go out of
the world along with militarism'.
The practicalities even seemed to encourage lavishness. 'Showy silk' cost
much less than sombre gabardine, while a leather shortage resulted in the
inventive recourse of gown and boots in matching fabric. 'A narrow band of
black watered ribbon, finished with a regimental badge of brilliants, is what
everyone is craving just now!' The military tenor of life could be turned to
charming effect, even if the outcome was sometimes surreal. Nothing unusual
in a black lace veil, 'but somehow it reminded one instantly of the antiasphyxiating masks . . . drawn in close by the soldier-like strap of black velvet'.
The welter of patriotic entertainments also required the helping hand of
fashion, extending to the quaint, backward-looking device of clothing
programme sellers for a town hall concert in 'costumes designed by Miss Kiddle
in exact replica of the costume worn by Florence Nightingale in the Crimean
War'.
Other realities shifted the weight towards simplification and sobriety. The
Malvern Argus reported that in England clothes were being designed so that the
wearer could slip in and out unassisted, because her maid had decamped to
make munitions. Ladies' maids were not the only women who found themselves
working outside the domestic sphere, and 'the usefulness of the serge or rainproof material' was widely 'seized upon'. The sky-high prices of cotton, steel and
rubber affected that compulsory item of female armour, the corset, but paying
the swollen prices offered a side benefit that was trumpeted by High Street
stockists: 'A NEW ARMY HAS BEEN CREATED OF PATRIOTIC WOMEN
who are determined to wear only BRITISH MADE CORSETS . . .
NAUTILUS CORSETS are British made . . . LET YOUR M O T T O BE:
BRITISH CORSETS FOR BRITISH WOMEN and AT LEAST BE
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
PATRIOTIC IN DRESS'. Patriotism even required an adjustment in housewifely method. Governor Stanley's small daughter, who had been taught to knit
by a German governess, was required to relearn the skill in a more British
manner. However, the nationalistic theme was played erratically. Surprising
vestiges of Teutonic decorative influence were spied, and, after the Bolshevik
(the term much mystified reporters) Revolution, the Russian hue, concentrated
in a rage for 'Cossack green', was swept from 'the map of fashions'.
Relaxation in the etiquette of dress was determined by both the practicalities
and a sense of unfitness of public show during the war. The bottom dropped out
of the market in white gloves, white bow ties and opera hats. The petticoat lost
favour, and weddings and funerals concentrated on inner significance rather
than external display. As war dragged on, fashion was enlisted in an economy
drive that extended to enjoining people to 'Economize by Eating Slowly'.
Otherwise, cost-paring was advisable. The British Ministry of Food's recipe for
'Patriotic Plum Pudding', which included grated carrot and potato, was
reprinted for colonial consumption. Home dressmakers were urged to invoke
their skills, and patterns were recommended for circular cloaks for those Roses
of No Man's Land, the nurses, 'Socks for Our Soldiers' and small boys' suits in
military style. Being 'willing to turn a costume' was reckoned not 'a bad plan',
and significant savings could be made through style: 'the straight silhouette',
sleeveless garments, crewel wool stitching instead of convent embroidery,
gingham and calico in place of linen ('used for new wings for our avions . . . We
have indeed developed the trick of seeing only the silver side of war clothes').
Well-tended shabbiness became smart as well as virtuous when a 'new crime . . .
Thou Shall Not Waste' was tacked on the decalogue: 'Every woman should
wear out her clothes'. Even so, propaganda could go too far, and a governmentsponsored 'Stop Waste Week' prompted a severe editorial from, the Prahran
Telegraph: 'it is not thrift to spend a few thousand pounds . . . because possibly
some hundreds of soldiers' foolish wives have spent ten, twelve, or thirteen
guineas on fur coats'. The meagreness of military pay must have ensured that
few miscreants availed themselves of the furriers' offerings.
No matter whether the moral spotlight shone more favourably on saving
femininity or decent restraint, fund-raising did not flourish in a dour, drab
atmosphere. Myriad events swelled the social calendar: fetes, patriotic concerts
and sacred services, a Boston Tea, 'a Japanese garden party and croquet
gymkhana' and a 'cafe chantant', luncheons and dramatic evenings, recruiting
rallies, testimonials to departing soldiers and outbreak-of-war anniversaries,
'cigarette afternoons' (admission by packet of smokes). Within days of the
outbreak of war, 'women of all classes' had sprung into action. The mayoress,
Mrs Sydney Wilson, presided at an overflow town hall meeting where Miss
Lempriere described garments for the military based on Boer War experience
and advised home sewing to minimise distracting chatter. She was backed up by
Sister Rawson, also a veteran of the African war, who favoured garnering 'bales
of flannelette and buttercloth, and heaps of safety pins. In an emergency a nurse
can do a good deal with a roll of flannel and a few safety pins'. Shortly
afterwards, the new mayoress, Mrs Rogers Thomson, announced that a local
THE BEST HE COULD GET WAS A TRENCH MORTAR
167
Red Cross branch was to be formed, and 'patriotic seamstresses' were provided
with a kit list as well as a compendium of hospital needs. Soon 'two sacks of
materials' were speeding to headquarters. Window displays were organised by
duty-conscious firms such as Garnham Bros, where Lady Munro-Ferguson, the
governor-general's wife and Red Cross chief in Australia, stood to watch a
bandaging demonstration.
At a concert in April 1915, a Union Jack was auctioned for eleven pounds, a
mysterious 'singer' (a canary) went to the mayoress for fifty shillings, Miss Ida
Ambler's rare china was knocked down to the chief justice for four pounds, and
a Bank of England ten-shilling note reached thirty shillings. The entertainment
was directed by a former member of Slapoffski's Grand Opera Company, and
an aged veteran of the Indian Mutiny, whose five grandsons were at the front,
read 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'. The Crimean War nurse's outfit was
revived to clothe the sweet-sellers. After the Dardanelles action, an influx of
new members swelled the ranks. Materials valued at forty pounds were required
each week, but enthusiasm sometimes outran need. Given the ten-year supply
in hand, workers were advised to stop making splints. Workshops were opened
to make deck chairs, stretchers and cradles for broken limbs. Weekly house to
house collections were initiated. A case containing nearly 40 000 cigarettes was
forwarded to Gallipoli in October 1915: 'The packets would bear a Malvern
stamp, so that the soldiers who received them would know that the people here
remembered them at Christmas'.
The results of the home-front campaign were phenomenal. Between
September 1915 and February 1916, 19 726 items were despatched, including
2241 shirts, 1152 pairs of pyjamas, 5077 pairs of socks, 45 eye bandages and 64
balaclavas. The modest offering of table napkins (142) perhaps showed an
unconscious appreciation of front-line reality. Monthly totals were often close
to 5000 items, and the army of knitters fashioned 10 000 pairs of socks in a few
months as Malvern converted to a vast female manufactory. The abstract sense
of reward for duty done gained a personal dimension in unexpected letters of
reply: 'You may have thought when you were making the shirt that it was only
something trivial, but 30 000 soldiers here [in Egypt] bless the bonny Australian
girls who are doing their best to keep them well clothed'. A more commercial
touch surfaced in an advertisement for porridge flakes and bird seed ( T O
ASSIST RED CROSS SOCIETIES Save "SKYLARK" Vouchers'), while some
raffle prizes, a car and a bungalow in Berwick, offered substantial material
inducement.
The Red Cross was not the only starter in the fund-raising stakes. As the
initial victim of Germany's rampage, Belgium was second only to Britain in
Malvern's esteem and warranted a special appeal. The Belgian vice-consul
starred at functions, and a refugee Belgian violinist was wildly applauded for his
performance. The inauguration of the Gardiner tram service coincided with the
Belgian king's birthday, and buildings along the route were decorated in the
colours of 'that heroic people'. Admiration of all things Belgian extended to a
laudatory article on Belgian fruit growers in the local press. Guests to a Belgian
Tea at Mrs Thomas Cherry's Glen Iris home were lectured on 'The World's
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
Debt to Belgium', while members of the Ratepayers' Defence League, usually
more aroused by drains than pillage, heard 'How Belgium Saved Europe'.
Emotions were further inflamed by incendiary headlines: 'When the Germans
Invade By a Belgian . . . Carousing in Conquered Towns. A Horrible Episode*. Prize
money was donated by Sunday school children, and 100 lady collectors canvassed the district. By September 1915, the Belgian Relief Fund had reached
£1640. Its success was thought to be undermining Red Cross efforts, and, after
the Dardanelles catastrophe, its organisers were asked to forego half their
weekly proceeds.
With its heart-tugging title, Lady Stanley's Fund for Sick and Wounded
Soldiers was the Red Cross' main competitor, attracting the lion's share of the
funds and threatening to extinguish the more permanent organisation. The
problems were personal as well as financial, for Lady MunroTerguson had
converted the ballroom at federal government house into a vast Red Cross
depot, while Lady Stanley, at her 'nasty little villa' of Stonnington, felt that the
other lady was 'poaching' in her salmon stream. The mayoress' Red Cross
involvement was a further complication in the feminine power stakes.
Discussing this damaging competition in council, the mayor considered that
Lady Stanley's effort was thought to be nearing its £250 000 target and likely to
vanish from the scene.
Other events engendered a more unanimous spirit and joined the sexes in
combined effort. The mayor and mayoress presided at a town hall meeting to
raise funds for the City of Malvern travelling kitchen: 'While they all wanted to
put the Germans in the soup, they first wanted soup for their men . . . They
were going to provide Australian men with Australian made kitchens'. Another
harmonious undertaking was the Gallipoli Welcome Home Rooms in Collins
Street, established by Malvern ladies in 1916 to provide 'light refreshments,
reading and rest rooms, games, reading matter'. On a more sporting level, after
its formation in mid 1915, the Ladies' Rifle Club practised on Thursdays and
Saturdays and then repaired to a 'rustic structure' where tea was served on
tables decorated seasonably with violets, daffodils and shaded candles. Lady
Forrest's niece was so delighted with her first shoot that she decided to join the
club. When not actually shooting, the members knitted.
All this humming activity was, as the mayor pointed out, a shocking drain
on the energies of society's leaders, who were inclined to take the brunt. He
favoured a system of direct giving to tap the generosity of the class of people
outside the fashionable whirl. Towards the end of 1917, heavy casualties swelled
the demand for Red Cross materials, and a grand effort combining every
novelty that ingenuity could devise was launched: a house to house envelope
collection, solicitation of five guinea donations from '100 loyal citizens', magic
keys to open caskets containing valuable prizes, a sale of gold souvenir brooches,
guessing competitions, a performance by the Middies. The appeal culminated
on 23 November with a street fair, kiosks, Santa Claus in a premature and
somewhat commercial appearance selling sweets and toys, an evening carnival
with confetti battle in the cricket ground. Despite inclement weather, £1350 was
raised.
THE BEST HE COULD GET WAS A TRENCH MORTAR
169
As the war lurched into its final year, the thought of Australia's huge
indebtedness (£509 804 216 for five million people) shifted some of the emphasis
towards a selling campaign for war bonds. Ten pounds could be converted by
imagination to 'two rifles for the heroic men who are forcing back the enemy'.
In April 1918, a War Loan Tank, inscribed with appropriate admonitions such
as If you can't enlist — Invest', rolled relentlessly through the suburbs. The
appeal was often frankly venal — 'You are asked . . . to contribute . . . by means
which will bring you gain rather than loss' — and pulled the same emotional
stops that had been played since 1914: 'protect your wife and daughter from the
fate that befell the women of Lille; if you want to render it impossible for the
men who slew Edith Cavell ever to set foot in Australia . . . Bonds are better
than bondage'. Or the appeal could hinge on the cuteness of a small negro
breaking through a shell marked 'Just Opened' and the caption 'An Egg-Shell
Ent [Excellent] Scheme. Fill the Basket with War Loan Bonds'. The pitting of
suburb against suburb was another shrewd device. For the seventh war loan,
Malvern's quota was an awe-inspiring £345 000, and local investors were
reminded to see that their place of origin was unmistakable to avoid giving false
ballast to the City of Melbourne's tally. Importunate circulars, public exhortations and an office open nightly for subscribers contributed to a campaign that
was so effective that Malvern raised eighty per cent of its quota, only being
surpassed by Kew and Camberwell. In perhaps excusable exaggeration, the press
claimed that Malvern had outdone its nearby challengers.
'Our dead have been laid to rest, and our war worn soldiers are returning, and
will continue to return to their homes', wrote the editor of the Malvern Argus
(21 December 1918). 'For the present gladness has succeeded gaiety.' At the
metropolitan welcome for the first returning Anzacs, Malvern's strong post was
opposite the Melbourne Club in Collins Street, the local band played, and
cigarettes were distributed from a decorated lorry; but the real home-coming, as
George Johnston remembered, was at those often modest houses where the
leave-taking had occurred: 'neighbours and relatives had erected a big arch
above the wire mesh of the front gate, with "Welcome Home" picked out in
daisies and snapdragons and carnations against a background of lily leaves and
gumtips'. In April 1919, council, which had been commended by the commonwealth government for its 'unfailing, loyal and effective help rendered to the
Recruiting Movement', met as a 'Peace Celebrations' committee to consider
three days of rejoicing, the first devoted to thanksgiving, the second a 'Soldiers'
and Citizens' Day, the third a children's entertainment in Central Park. Plans
were delayed by the appalling influenza epidemic that followed the war like a
grinning sycophant of the grim reaper. Far smaller practicalities caused
hiccoughs: asking the government to honour its promise to pay for the food at
the children's party, a hitch in the distribution of souvenir New Testaments at
the schools (solved by the substitution of prayer books for Roman Catholic
children). The problems of repatriation were both immediate and long-term. An
angry dispute had erupted over council's representatives on the government's
repatriations commission. Far more challenging was the obligation to provide a
decent living for returned soldiers, especially those 'who are unskilled laborers'.
170
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
An equally heavy, though less palpable burden was the duty of committing the
dead to memory.
Remembering was an act of personal and communal piety that began in
March 1915 when moves were made to compile a roll of honour: T h o s e who
have gone from this City include the pick of Australian manhood — splendid
fellows who are capable of living up to the injunction "Quit ye like men" \
Week after week in ever-lengthening columns, the list appeared in the papers
under its melancholy heading Tree men of Australia, they gave their lives for
England, and for Honour's sake — no greater tribute of [sic] eulogy can be
written'. By the middle of that year, Malvern's temporary honour roll was filled.
In all, nearly 1700 from Malvern enlisted, no mean tally (over seventeen per
cent of the municipality's estimated population) in a small community, still rural
in parts and sparsely settled even closer to the centre.
In mid 1918, Malvern Grammar unveiled a tablet inscribed with 110 names, a
contribution that was taken as evidence of the power of the school's training
for duty and valour. Speeches at the occasion included the reminiscences of
Colonel Knox, an old boy whose military career had been launched in the
school cadets, and his tribute to those who had died 'manfully, peacefully and
nobly . . . He concluded by condemning the fit eligibles remaining at home
unconcerned'. On behalf of those who had not been inculcated with Grammar
School grit, General Williams unveiled the Tramways' honour board at Cold
Bio'. Of 140 volunteers, a good third of the employees, twelve had 'fallen'.
Representing an even more awesome commitment, Tooronga Road School held
a patriotic fete to pay for a record of the 500 old boys who had become soldiers.
Once war was over, consideration was given to a more elaborate memorial.
Colonels Cohen and Macrae Stewart and the local RSL president favoured 'a
Hall for educational and recreative purposes'. Seven hundred pounds was raised
at a public meeting, and council committed itself to pledging £1000, but the
money was diverted to the more immediate urgency of building widows' homes.
As a private gesture, Charles Wood offered to donate a memorial: 'he did not
wish his name to be placed on [it] except as presented by a grateful resident'.
The architect submitted a curious-sounding design of a pergola with 'polished
faces for names', which the donor rejected as inappropriate. After some
equivocation about site and design, an obelisk was placed between the town hall
and the band rotunda (it is now at the town hall corner). Honour rolls and
memorial windows appeared in local churches. In November 1921, the
Methodist Church in Epping Street, 'a free adaptation of ecclesiastical Gothic',
was dedicated as 'a Memorial of Peace'. The central panels of a window at Holy
Advent prophetically showed the second coming, and the brass plate in St
Martin's Chapel at St George's bore the reminder 'We passed through fire and
through water'.
Commemorative events came so thick and fast that council discussed the
responsibility of its members 'to attend these various functions'. Apart from
walls and windows, trees were the most common symbol of the community's
commitment to remember, and yet nature was prone to disappoint. When the
184 memorial currajong trees planted in Central Park on the sixth anniversary
THE BEST HE COULD GET WAS A TRENCH MORTAR
171
of the outbreak of war 'to perpetuate the memory of our silent friends' failed to
thrive, the curator and his staff attempted a wholesale rescue operation by
shifting the trees to a more benign position, but they continued to ail. Their
condition resembled the lingering fate of many returned soldiers, which, as
Johnston described it, was both mental and economic: T h e y had had their
years in the trenches but the world of mufti to which they had returned had
hardly become a place fit for heroes . . . Returned Diggers were always coming
to the door . . . selling shoe-laces and matches'.
Council was slow to create its own memorial. Almost ten years after the war
had ended, Paul Montford's design for a sculpture of a man, woman and child,
'to be executed in Italian marble instead of native stone', was accepted. When
the group was unveiled in August 1931 with a 'stirring address' by local member
Sir Stanley Argyle, a new agony — depression — was descending. The RSL
praised this 'Memorial to their fallen comrades . . . [it] gives expression to
sentiment of the highest standard'. It was as well 'one of the very few, if not the
only one, recognising the sacrifice of those who stayed at home'. The soldier, in
the uniform of an ordinary infantryman, stands looking down gravely and
abstractedly. Simply dressed in twenties style, the woman, with child on her
knee, is similarly detached. Both look down at the laurel wreath and tablet that
note the dead. They hardly look like a family connected by bonds of love and
anguish, for their symbolic status has obliterated their individual humanity in a
gesture riven with weariness and despair.
In a more bizarre commemorative act, the federal government had carved up
the country's war booty and offered Malvern a share. Council entered the
competition for an impressive item of weaponry, but was informed by Mayor
Francis that 'the best he could get was a trench mortar'. In 1921, this modest
spoil was duly accepted and prominently displayed. In fitting comment on the
hidden scars caused by the war, seven years later, when the Australian War
Memorial Committee offered another gun from its cupboard of war leftovers to
be placed in the War Service Homes Commission estate at Carnegie, Councillor
Turnbull 'regretted he was not able to move that it be accepted as from experience of the Gun at present placed in front of the City Hall, it was found that
this had caused great grief from time to time to widows and mothers of deceased
soldiers'.
CHAPTER • 8
Fighting for Our
Homes and Lives
'As in the Great War of 1914-8, the men of Malvern have responded in great numbers to the call for the defence of freedom. Your
Council has opened a Recruiting Depot. . . being the first one established in a suburban City Hall. *
City of Malvern Annual Report 1939-40
Apart from the resurgence of local pride in the city's
recruiting record (matched in the civilian arena by the continuity from 1914 of
its Red Cross branch), the response to the outbreak of a second world war,
while ripely indignant towards the aggressor, was far more muted. Memory, in
its darker caverns, held too many first-hand reminders of the earlier conflict.
T h o s e of us who have had the experience of seeing what war means', said
Argyle, 'realize what a dreadful thing it is for a nation to have to carry on a war
in its own territory'. Despite the unmistakable auguries, the local press had
predicted the possibility of peace, first because a self-preoccupied Russia ruled by
a Hitler-hating Stalin declined to enter the joust, secondly on the wafer-thin
grounds that Menzies had averred that war was not inevitable. When the
unmistakable became the unavoidable, the editorialist of the Malvern Spectator
lapsed into shocked anger:
The liberty-loving nations won the last war, but lost the peace when they allowed
themselves to be persuaded that 'Hitler isn't as bad as he is made out to be'. We heard
a lot of this from sources which ought to have been better informed; the peoples of
the world will know better next time.
Outraged by the deliberate distortion of news, he recommended that the newly
established Bureau of Information should grade its sources like dried fruit from
the absolutely reliable to the totally mendacious. His sense of grievance was
further fuelled by observing the social ills that afflicted Australia — 'bankruptcy
among farmers, disease-spreading slums, the degrading features of unemployment and the lack of insurance for health and pensions' — and the ease with
which money, commonly a bemoaned scarcity, was conjured up to wage war.
The public attitude was overlaid with echoes of the 1914 response: loyalty to
the empire ('the same stock . . . the same ideals . . . much the same method of
172
FIGHTING FOR OUR HOMES AND LIVES
173
living'), condemnation of suspected shirkers, concern about the appropriate
treatment of aliens, hostility towards German character and culture, stress on
the need for unanimity, support for an austerity campaign. There was even a
revival of hectic evangelism in a marquee opposite Hoyt's picture theatre in
Glenferrie Road, where a nimble, would-be seer addressed himself to the
questions Is it going to be Communism or Christ? The Faith or the Fascist? The
Nazarene or the Nazi?'. The prophet then quixotically offered to consider
alternative views to his if they were placed in the suggestion box at the tent
door. The gentleman's popularity was so great that he packed out the town hall
for a service on Christian unity. More conventionally, a soldier's letter could be
used to reaffirm the pieties, and even add a touch of the homely. In describing
his visit to the holy places of Christendom — Bethlehem, the Well of the Star,
the Cave of the Innocents — Lance Corporal Robin of East Malvern passed on
from Milk Grotto in the Church of the Nativity a tip for unconfident lactaters!
Almost daring the impossible, several Melbourne University students
descended on Burke Road Methodist Church to tackle the thorny subject of
T h e Christian in Time of War'.
However, correspondences in the public reaction to the two wars were
qualified and capable of subtle and sudden alteration. Despite the unashamed
malignity of Adolf Hitler's policies, by comparison with First World War
hysteria, anti-German sentiment was surprisingly restrained. Locally, one alien
was discovered with an ancient gun that had been offhandedly included with
his effects when he migrated to Australia, and a second was apprehended straying a little out of his permit's bounds; but the civic authorities were satisfied, at
least initially, that the government's powers needed no augmentation. As far as
nationalist orientation went, the most marked shift was in attitudes towards
Britain. While the community flocked to the empire standard and feeling references were made to the beleaguered 'Mother Country', the loyal relationship
had undergone a subtle sea-change that was to intensify as war continued. The
response was now fraternal rather than filial; a partnership, not a dependency,
was envisaged. As Member for Henty, Sir Arthur Coles, told parliament: If
Britain falls, we f a l l . . . we should take an equal share with the people of Britain,
because the risk is the same . . . [they are] our own flesh and blood, our partners
in this war . . . our full partners'. In some quarters, his rollicking 'Rule
Britannia' was ridiculed as a substitute for concrete policies. The robust rhetoric
of a community that in 1914 largely imagined its baptism in horror had been
overtaken by a more worldly style. In less naive times, pragmatic self-interest
was at least as powerful a motivating force as sentimental self-abandonment.
Coles' predecessor in the Henty seat, Sir Henry Gullett, claimed soon after the
declaration of war that Australia would collapse economically if Great Britain
were defeated. The country's dependency on 'the protection of Britain's sea
power' was given equal weight with blood ties as justification for outright
support. Although this conflict was definitely less poetic, the rough doggerel
inspired by the war had taken on a more sunburnt aspect, emphasising the tug
of 'Aussie' rather than the call of Albion — or perhaps, after the fall of
Singapore, the American eagle simply supplanted the English lion. The Kildara
174
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
old girls set up an entertainment and refreshment centre for troops, and
reflections on its activities showed the new drift of cultural imperialism after the
United States entered the war:
So, poor old Pianist, Mona Clune, thumped on those Ivory Keys,
While the boys selected their partners for 'Hot Rhythm' if you please,
And as each Dance was ended there was a rush to the 'Cool Drink Bar',
Where they called for 'Coca Cola', and the US troops smoked a cigar . . .
For the flushed pianist and her helpmates, the presence of the Yankees
provided a new model of behaviour and a fresh colour to language. The mode
and the phrases were informal, hard-bitten rather than stoical, a trifle jazzy,
even risque: Tatricia Moriarty and Monica Hoad are both up North with our
friends and allies, the "Yanks". I guess when they return "chez nous" they'll
have the "cutest HI' accents" \
The chief factor that accounted for this shift in balance was the immediacy of
the threat created by the changed technology of warfare and the presence of an
ill-defined regional challenge in Japan. As early as 1936, a letter to the editor of
the Malvern Spectator, calling for local recruits, recognised the altered military
scene: 'many people consider that owing to our situation geographically, we are
out of any likely war zone, but we have only to stop for a moment to realise that
we are now within five or six days' journey from the heart of the Empire'. The
writer proudly pointed out that 'our local 37th-50th Battalion' was the strongest numerically in Australia, needing only 100 more recruits 'to bring it to full
peace strength', but only days into the war, Gullett delivered an ominous
warning: 'we are fighting for our homes and lives, and, indeed, for the preservation of our own nationhood . . . the little nations are no longer safe . . . the
truth of the situation is that should Britain and France fail . . . and go down; we
shall go down with them'.
Another change in intensity stemming from the fact that, in Argyle's words,
'We are faced not merely with a great war, but with a great war in which we in
Australia may at any moment become seriously involved', was the assumption
by the government of 'almost dictatorial powers . . . not altogether consistent
with our ideas of democratic government'. Argyle favoured some check to
protect citizens' rights, but, as Acting Minister for Information (a federal
concern), Gullett saw the government's draconian censorship powers as a
means of silencing 'whisperers and urgers against enlistment for overseas service
. . . even more dangerous than an honest foe', breathing 'their poison into the
ears of undergraduates and churchmen'. Given that Russia had joined a pact
with the devil, these subversives were located in Australia's tiny Communist
Party. Responding to a coal strike in early 1940, the government banned nine
Communist newspapers. Delving into the records, Harold Holt examined the
nefarious qualifications of CP candidates in the 1934 election and claimed that,
unable to succeed alone, they had formed 'a common front with the Labour
movement'. In his estimation, unqualified political freedom was an unaffordable
luxury in wartime. Communism was as much a threat as Nazism; the theme was
to recur for the next thirty years.
FIGHTING FOR OUR HOMES AND LIVES
175
Contingency plans to mobilise the municipalities for home defence were
implemented in June 1939, when Mayor Righetti reported on a meeting of the
State Emergency Council at which he and his confreres were instructed to
organise their localities to counter air-raids and arrange for the evacuation of
women and children. Three months later, a press advertisement activated the
scheme, calling for wardens for every street in Malvern. A few days before
Christmas 1939, Righetti and eighteen of the city's wardens observed a mock
air-raid at Footscray football ground. A sham village with tent houses, shops
and centres for emergency services was wiped out while a 'running commentary
through loudspeakers made every move quite clear to all . . . it is to be hoped a
similar demonstration will be arranged for the benefit of Malvern residents'.
In the rush of military precautions, the domestic sphere was not overlooked.
Reinvoking their emergency sewing skills, the women repaired to their sewing
machines, and within a week Malvern's pyjama assignment for the Red Cross
(100 pairs) was completed. New members flocked in and a steady stream of
garments began to flow to headquarters, prompting a humorous sally from a
Malvern Grammar schoolboy — even if the attitude was patronising and the
scansion strained:
And Balaclava helmets are among the things she's made —
The average heat in Palestine's a hundred in the shade.
The men wrote back and thanked her for the things she's made so well
But what they were intended for they really couldn't tell.
The local branch of the Australian Comforts Fund (ACF) sent out a plea for
over 200 workers and £100 a month; as far as possible all goods would be purchased in Malvern. Economic self-interest was also at the heart of advice to shop
early for Christmas before shortages began to bite and prices to rise. 'Local
Patriot' entered a crochetty plea on behalf of the local business community:
'Suburban business people are expected to . . . support patriotic appeals, but . . .
their sympathies [will] become a trifle strained if they see a succession of marches
taking their customers straight to Bourke street . . . The Army should not be
. . . acting as an unpremeditated "advertising stunt" for big city retailers'. The
message was reinforced editorially with a colossal double-page headline ' D O N ' T
GO TO THE CITY PATRIOTISM begins at Home Buy N O W in Malvern
and SAVE MORE'. By mid 1941, the eloquence of Menzies and Holt was
engaged to accentuate the more general injunctions 'Don't Buy Recklessly.
Don't Save Foolishly. Don't Hoard Extravagantly'.
Survivors of that earlier war galvanised themselves to the tasks that old
soldiers could do, selling war savings certificates and joining the Work Brigade
or the War Veterans' Volunteer Corps for Home Defence, where several
became leaders. In a gesture of symbolic solidarity, over 200 local returned men
gathered for the 26th Anzac service. The First World War connection could be
used to more personal or party advantage. In the 1940 federal election
campaign, one contender for Henty was Captain Eric Young, a limbless soldier
who was photographed with a conspicuous RSL badge in his lapel. Later that
year, Councillor F Connelly offered himself for Toorak with a determination 'to
176
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
avoid the huge financial mistakes of 1918 and after' (another vow was —
quixotically — to work for abolition of the institution he aimed to occupy). In
the 1941 municipal election, one candidate told voters that, from September
1914, he had tried eight times 'to get abroad' and, in partial compensation, had
acted as a volunteer clerk during the 1915 recruiting campaign. The party
record, as well as the sacrifice of individuals, could be publicised to good effect.
Opening the RSL rooms in High Street, H E Thonemann M L A pointed out
that eighteen of sixty-five members of the house were veterans (only one was
affiliated with the ALP). Politicians of every political tincture vied in adopting
the most pugnacious win-the-war posture; but the ALP had the advantage in
this instance, because its candidates could claim more convincingly that, given
their lack of industrial power, their patriotism was combined with a purer
attitude towards war profiteering.
Although their role had diminished, the municipalities were, once again,
agencies for the furtherance of government policy, especially on the home front.
Malvern had launched itself vigorously, but during the 'phoney war' questions
were asked as to whether this frenzied activity was not an over-reaction, if not
alarmist. Reporting on initial local anti air-raid work, the mayor admitted that
public apathy was the biggest obstacle to efficient organisation. To add to his
frustration, his mail contained letters accusing the civic authorities of inaction.
The bogeyman of likely wartime demands also hovered irritatingly over
mundane municipal affairs, such as right-of-way construction, and council was
accused of meek capitulation to 'ill-advised' ratepayers by 'putting off a work
that their own medical expert had declared was necessary in the interests of
public health'. It was also suspected of condoning 'peculiar goings-on' —
unspecified — that contributed to financial waste. Contrarily, the decision not
to proceed with the 'white elephant' of a library was accounted a plus for the
city fathers, and morale could always be boosted by the arrival of luminaries
such as Dame Enid Lyons who informed a packed audience at Central Park
Kiosk that 'this war was a holy war if any war ever was holy' and condemned
'moral flabbiness' and apathy.
Criticism abated as the reflex of flocking to the standard asserted itself. After
ten months, membership of the Malvern branch of the A C F had zoomed from
twenty-one to one thousand, and an appeal was sent out for more workers to
assemble a special consignment of parcels for Malvern men at the front. A letter
from one local soldier showed the difficulty of ensuring that the contents were
pure Malvern; in his Comforts Fund 'Christmas stocking', the balaclava came
from Malvern, the scarf from Fitzroy and the mittens from Mulwala in New
South Wales. The group's five-day carnival in October 1940 was an extravaganza in Great War style, with marches, bands, button sales, dances, recitals
and a monster town hall finale that included the Coburg Ladies' Pipe Band, the
Hawaiian Club, and pupils of Miss Greenough, danseuse, and J King, magician.
In a bid to boost local business, traders offered specials and bargains to coincide
with the affair. Addressing the 1941 annual meeting, Mrs Herbert Brookes
announced that, in the competitive stakes, only three provincial cities had outweighed the swag of clothes produced by Malvern. Later that year, in a radio
FIGHTING FOR OUR HOMES AND LIVES
177
broadcast, the secretary described the group's monumental aims and achievements: food, hostels, picture units, canteens and parcels of books and games had
been provided, while over 120 000 skeins of wool and twelve miles of flannel and
drill had been consumed for garments fashioned with 'motherly care': T h e r e is
no glamour in the A C F . Even our uniform is only a work overall, intended to
protect our dress . . . The A C F is an assurance on home ties . . . Malvern is
speeding up and will never let up'. It was perhaps just as well that the glamorous
approach was eschewed, for controls on the nation's domestic life had reached
into its wardrobes, requiring stylistic adaptations that were facetiously described
in a Lauriston girl's clerihew:
Mr Dedman, Australian politician,
Taking rather seriously his clothes rationing mission,
Took men's shirts and women's flared skirts away,
Men's vests have returned, but skirts have lost their sway.
However, a little glamour intruded in functions for the mayoress as Queen of
Comforts, and, although his lady was not the winner, the mayor graciously
took the role of archbishop at the crowning ceremony. And if style and
weddings in 'traditional bridal array' were impossible, merriment could not be
rationed. Considerable jollity was associated with the Tooronga Carnival, run
by the Comforts Fund in conjunction with the Progress League and featuring all
manner of distractions from speed car races to a merry-go-round to the display
of 'an Italian flag captured at Benghazi'.
While the mature ladies played their matronly part, the replacement
generation was not excluded. The girls at Korowa and Lauriston rallied around
their school Red Cross branches, formed war savings groups and brought out
their knitting needles, although efforts in that direction were hampered by a
wool shortage — a lack which required still more fund-raising efforts. 'Never let
it be said that any of us will have a ghost of a dead soldier knocking at the door,
reminding us that we have failed him with the necessaries that might have saved
his life', Korowa was told, and the seriousness of its response showed in the
making of over sixteen hundred garments in eighteen months. Home nursing
and first aid courses, fashioning camouflage nets, a 'Dig for Victory' vegetable
garden, salvage of scrap, assisting at Stonnington Convalescent Hospital and
canteen work were all aspects of the girls' endeavour (the more talented had the
more alluring role of performing in patriotic plays and concerts). Seven sewing
and two knitting machines were in constant use, and the wine cellar at
Ranfurlie was converted into a wool shed to store wool 'straight from the sheep's
back' for spinning.
At Lauriston, by 1943, braced by repetition of Winston Churchill's rallying
call 'Come, then, let us to the task', the Red Cross was put on 'a war footing',
and over eighty girls were making garments for servicemen and evacuees,
assisted by wool and materials from the Women of the University Patriotic
Fund. Enthusiasm for the crisis effort was so high that some of the school's
established social services suffered — as they had at Korowa — but that seemed a
small price for raising £875 in war savings by 1945, a feat recognised in a
178
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
congratulatory letter from the treasury. The practical became personal when
two English girls were adopted through the Save the Children Fund. (Korowa's
rather novel protegee was the minesweeper H M A S Narani, and, when the ship
was put out of commission, children were likewise adopted.) Awareness of the
personal element was maintained through news of old girls' activities in the war
zones and in post-war relief services. 'KILDARIANS seem to be ever seeking
"fresh fields and pastures new" \ was the happy boast, 'and this applies
especially to their war work, for girls who still proudly cling to our motto "AD
MELIORA", are serving their country in all parts of the globe'. Apart from
confirming that both present and past school generations had engaged
wholeheartedly in the struggle, these stories gave graphic details of excitingly
expanded possibilities for the exercise of female energy. However, as The Palm
Leaf's 1941 editorial warned, 'we must not be selfish, clinging to jobs which, if
the war had never occurred, we would have been unable to obtain'. Selfishness
aside, 'they must shoulder new duties and must be prepared to serve in still
wider spheres'.
The contribution of the young ones was moral as well as practical: 'war should
not be allowed to darken our intellect; on the contrary . . .'. Rationing, it was
thought, would probably have 'a moral effect' by sharpening people's sense of
urgency and curtailing material expectations, while a scarcity of books would
intensify awareness of their value. 'Austerity' could be practised through small
expedients such as not giving the usual Christmas cards to classmates. Far from
being an imposition, it might actually enhance people's lives, physically and
spiritually, and, as shown by religious ascetics, 'make once more a stronger link
between God and man'. The task was this-worldly as well as other-worldly,
involving a responsibility to understand social problems, restore purer values
and 'learn, also, of that great unity of men'. The vitality of the cultural
inheritance contributed to the spiritual fibre: 'we speak the same language as
Shakespeare spoke . . . we hold the same standards of behaviour as Milton held
. . . we must work as we have never worked before'. And it even descended to
the homely level; Christopher Robin fans were advised that he 'is now in the
Army . . . all who have loved these books will wish the hero . . . the best of
luck'. Women's role as peacemaker was emphasised, and the girls exhorted one
another not to believe in the inevitability of war, but to remember that 'it is the
world after victory that counts', a globe in which the outlawing of war was 'our
most vital problem'. 'We, women in the making', the injunction went out, 'are
called upon to do our utmost so that we shall not fail'.
Young and old were summoned to the cause. The task of providing for the
sick and wounded was the province of the Red Cross, with its flag days (one
included 'the figure of a soldier drawn by Mr R Neale [outside the town hall] on
which coins were placed'), field displays at the cricket ground, a fete for a tenbed ward at Stonnington, a special appeal for Russia (converted from Ishmael to
Galahad status by the superhuman sacrifice of its defence of Stalingrad). A civic
concert was graced by the presence of the governor's wife, Lady Dugan, and the
mayors and mayoresses of other municipalities, who were entertained by a Sun
38 The Lloyd Street school soon established itself on the scene and was raised to central-school
status within three years: the assembled pupils, c 1923.
39 A democratic intermingling operated, and pride in establishing a chain of commitment was
often the outcome: mothers' club, Lloyd Street Central School, 1931.
40 Flanked by table, open book and telescope, the nine exquisitely open-faced girls of Sacre
Coeur's '1st Class', 1921.
41 In the private schools, the
air seems to take on a denser
quality: girls in the chapel at
Sacre Coeur, 1965.
42 'A home-girl, and a daughter of whom her parents might well be proudly fond': young
ladies at Korowa, 1914-18.
43 Until modern times truly descended, girl competitors wore inhibiting stockings: hockey
team, Lauriston, 1918.
ABOVE: 44 'Team spirit, reliance of
boys on one another, tenacity and
fighting ability': 1st eighteen football
team, St Kevin's, 1943.
LEFT: 45 The feeling that physical
prowess should extend into military
preparedness gained a fillip after the
war: colour party, cadet corps, St
Kevin's, 1970.
46 The sweets rather than the sentiments were memorable: Empire Day celebrations,
Malvern, c 1910.
47 As the community acquired a lease on history, local churches and schools had their jubilee
successions to celebrate: golden jubilee exhibition, Spring Road school, 1922.
48 'No Palm Without Dust': Korowa girls form the school's motto at the school's diamond
jubilee celebrations in 1950.
49 Links to a colourful tradition and a jolly, permissible way of occupying the streets: Korowa
girls, British Commonwealth Youth Sunday march, 1958.
ABOVE LEFT: 50 The innocent Australia
that went to war and the unthinkable reality
that it found: Harry 0}Mullane of Malvern
and his family before his departure for the
First World War. ABOVE RIGHT: 51 A
postcard that he sent from the front in
France.
LEFT: 52 The 'boyishness' of Australia's
soldiers was taken as proof of 'the spirit of
our people when necessity knocks at the
door': Charlie Crotty of Malvern at
Salisbury Plain before proceeding to the
front in France.
LEFT: 53 Myriad events swelled the social
calendar: 'Three Green Bonnets', fund-raising
concert, Malvern Town Hall, First World
War. BELOW: 54 The amazing concoctions of
lace and satin and bouquets that consumed the
gorgeousness of a small flower garden were
often replaced with milkmaid-like dresses and
simple wreaths: the wedding of Malvern
dressmaker, Flora Mullens, First World War.
FIGHTING FOR OUR HOMES AND LIVES
179
Aria winner and the Elgar Boys' Choir directed by Hector Crawford. A crack in
the united front appeared in connection with 'A Demonstration of Malvern's
War Efforts' in Glen Iris Park in late 1941: 'Mayor Lashes Red Cross. Ding-dong
Criticism of "Frills" in War-time'. In admirably democratic vein, he pointed out
the unreasonableness of the officials' requirement that Red Cross girls should
appear in uniform, when many of the 700 trainees could not afford parade gear.
For extra measure, he ridiculed the professional qualifications required of girls
answering the telephone at Stonnington, while another councillor weighed in
with the summing-up comment that 'there is too much of the "glamour girl"
about it'. Uniformed or not, all were requested to participate, but the trivial
matter of correct clothing was overwhelmed by the excitement of war games
'carried out solely by Malvern units without help from anywhere else'.
The burden of routine fund-raising was amplified by special emergency
appeals. Opening the British Bombing Victims Fund in September 1940, John
Latham attracted wild applause with the comment 'British people did not run',
and advantage was taken of the furore to distribute cards to potential donors;
the municipality loyally contributed £1000. In less scrupulous vein, a stirrer
(pseudonym 'Devil') used the fund to revive in the local press the vexed question
of Sunday golf! Another appeal that had Britain as its beneficiary was the call
for 'Onion Seed for Britain. Appeal to Suburban Gardeners . . . supplies are
very short, but there may be a number of grocers and greengrocers who still
have supplies on hand. Onions rejected for sale because they have sprouted
would be quite suitable'. Growers were advised to contact the Director of
Agriculture with an assessment of the spare ground available. While the instinct
was altruistic, the realities pointed in another direction, for, as the Horticultural
Society averred, informed opinion knew that the growing of these all-purpose
roots by small property owners was impracticable.
The curator dampened another botanical impetus, the conversion of the city's
parks to vegetable growing: the time was too late, the soil too clayey and the
bushes too abundant. When the Commonwealth Department of Commerce
issued a plea 'for Council's maximum co-operation' in countering a legume
shortage, another practicality impinged, for it appeared that most ratepayers
were little interested. Nevertheless, optimistic about the appeal of their contribution to the war effort, the 'Garden Army' circulated to initiate novices into
the mysteries of vegetable growing, and Old Kildarians were advised of one of
their number who could 'actually grow lettuces with HEARTS'. The program's
success may have been woefully limited, but it produced one accolade, the
gratitude of the Malvern Urban District Council for a gift of onion seed.
In a more sectarian gesture, Methodist churches in the Malvern circuit lent
their efforts to assist their fellows in England where over 700 churches had been
destroyed in bombing raids. The succouring instinct — of necessity — became
international, drawing a heartfelt if financially moderate response to the Greek
Relief Appeal. Launched in the town hall in the first week of November 1941, a
less predictable cause was the Food for Russia Week with its clarion call:
'EVERY SHIPLOAD OF F O O D SENT TO RUSSIA SPEEDS THE DAY OF
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
VICTORY!'. Lingering suspicion of a terrifying enemy (now reclassified as
friendly) may have accounted for the moderate proceeds of £22.
As well as lending moral and practical support to its citizens' humane efforts,
council had its own burdensome responsibilities in its role as recruiter and as
the medium for raising war finance. The Kerferd Street War Savings Group
urged the creation of 'A Group in Every Street' and the RSL vowed to ensure
that all returned men became certificate-holders. The campaign gained a fillip
when Councillor Hyslop handed a £500 interest-free loan to the mayor, setting
'the ball rolling for other wealthy citizens'. Taking the cue, council invested
£2500, the sum including commitments by several dignitaries. Announcing a
War Savings Certificate Week, the advertisement instructed the people to make
the matter their 'Personal Concern'. By 1943, Lloyd Street school had raised
£2073 in war savings certificates and a substantial sum in patriotic funds. But, as
war continued, the campaign suffered from competing and more pressing
concerns.
The moral imperative was also used to boost the City of Malvern War Fund,
established mainly for the collection and sale of waste materials. Although
vague, the appeal showed that 'Australia' had gained a slightly priggish selfconfidence:
We owe to those pioneers more than we can repay — the freedom and privileges we
enjoy were not gotten by us . . . Are we to sacrifice that inheritance, or are we [to]
develop that true National Spirit which says — we have been entrusted with a great
and noble responsibility and to our utmost we will defend it.
Apart from the cloudily nationalistic thrust, there was local credit to be
gained in this garnering of people's leftovers: 'see that MALVERN GETS THE
CREDIT of all its Waste Materials . . . Nearly 2d per lb! can be got for clean
NEWSPAPERS . . . OLD STAMPS and AIF ENVELOPES'. Council
attempted to establish a collecting depot in every street, and published a list of
co-operative local firms. A first burst of enthusiasm saw a profit of £721 (30 wool
bales of waste and 500 telephone books), but the old bugbear of apathy reasserted itself. The campaign lagged for want of selfless citizens, and the mayor
reluctantly — and a little severely — discontinued his 'War Publicity in
Malvern': 'the response to calls for service has [not] justified the expense'. There
was some anxiety that the magnificent troop-support efforts of the First World
War would not be equalled, and one councillor irritably queried whether the
main beneficiaries of the salvage operation might not be the shareholders of the
Australian Paper Mills. The charge of profiteering was not one that would have
been unguardedly made when Australia was more colonial than critical.
When means of'quickening the war effort' were discussed, instilling small captive groups of locals with a sense of national responsibility and their own families'
interest in the larger scheme was felt to be a way of arousing 'a white flame of
patriotism'. In some quarters, conscription was mentioned as the only answer,
but the old spirit of opposition to compulsory military service as arbitrary,
illegitimate and coercive, survived. It was represented publicly by the Malvern
No-Conscription Fellowship which announced itself alert 'to co-ordinate the
FIGHTING FOR OUR HOMES AND LIVES
181
efforts of all persons in Malvern and district who are opposed to military,
economic or industrial conscription, or to the suppression of civil liberties'. In the
emergency climate, dissent was even more repugnant to an essentially conformist
community than in normal times, and these kite-flyers were advised 'to work off
some of their pugnacity on the arch-conscriptionist [Hitler]'. However, after the
Great War, conscription had been consigned to the politically too-hard basket.
The Vast, dark experience . . . the Somme and the Marne and the salient at
Ypres and the Gallipoli beaches', expressed by George Johnston, mutely experienced by scores of thousands, and waiting to claim justification for needless
martyrdom, was best left to the slow work of memory.
Voluntary recruitment was the only answer, but council's role in this matter
was far less substantial than it had been in the First World War. Many Malvern
men slipped into the services without civic notice, while the hectic public appeals
and rip-roaring farewells to volunteers were a thing of the past. In any case, the
mayor favoured personal visits to departing soldiers, bearing gifts of Morocco
wallets and grateful letters, rather than the public 'beer-ups' that tended to stain
sacrifice with over-indulgence. Even so, the response when a town hall recruiting
depot was set up in the middle of 1940 was impressive, and the press reported
enthusiastically that 'Wednesday morning marches are becoming quite a
feature', with groups of men tramping the main streets, which were lined by
children and decorated by willing shopkeepers, to their destination at the
Caulfield Racecourse. Council soon rented a more permanent recruiting office in
Glenferrie Road, with on-the-spot facilities for medical examinations. Several
local doctors public-spiritedly offered free treatment to amend physical
impairments that prevented men from enlisting. There was even a little flippant
press talk about the possibility of women soldiers — gallantly rejected because
'their impetuous daring would upset the careful plans of male generals'.
Attempting to inspire by example, publicists singled out particularly lavish
examples of commitment. Lance Corporal Norman Bateson was pictured in
Palestine, alongside his Australian and Arab mates, bearing the business sign of
the Malvern Glass and Leadlight Proprietary Limited, a tribute to his 'interest
in the firm's doings' and an indication 'that nothing is impossible or improbable
when a resourceful AIF boy sets his mind to it'. Contrarily, shame could be the
goad. 'Malvern's Prestige is Threatened!', trumpeted a council advertisement, 'By
the Lack of Enlistments'. The demise of 'the old, bullying type of Sergeant
major' was part of the inducement. Proof of the alchemical properties of the new
military approach was offered by considering the case of one malingerer,
converted to a brisk enthusiast who was avid to out-stay his stint at Seymour
camp. The idea that war was glorious and self-sacrifice a fate to be embraced was
no longer part of the rhetoric, and yet the volunteers had to be boosted to
action on the tides of urgency. As well as being a problem in the real theatre of
war, tepidity was alleged to apply to home defence, where the performance of
Caulfield and Oakleigh exceeded that of Malvern: 'are you going to allow your
neighbours to put you in the shade?'.
The strong words may well have been incitement to outstrip an already proud
effort and, given increased mobility and the fact that the community was not as
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
tightly bonded into identifiable groups as it had been in the First World War,
details of volunteers were not always readily available. Even so, the news of
national calamity struck hard. In late 1941, the town hall flag was flown at half
mast and council adjourned to mourn the loss of H M A S Sydney. The grief when
H M A S Perth and H M A S Yarra went down was even more personal: ' O n both
these ships were young men well known to the Council — Lloyd Righetti, a son
of Cr Righetti; Bob Hutton of East Malvern, and a brother of V Edwards,
Council employee'. 'Honour the Brave' became the leading inscription to
casualty lists in the local press. Computing a grand score was virtually
impossible, but by the end of July 1942 it was known that 2090 men and women
of Malvern had gone to war, including over eighty council employees, with
other citizens engaged in home defence. Predictably — and in repetition of that
earlier experience — the offering of some groups was tragically impressive. From
the congregation of Ewing Memorial Church, 116 men and 19 women enlisted;
17 died. Other churches were similarly affected, and the boys' schools lost many
former pupils. The changed emotional climate was perhaps symbolised by
council's decision not to make official visitations to the families of the dead who,
it was felt, preferred to endure the initial grief alone. Given that the enemy was
at the gate, the more informal approach also probably reflected the need to
concentrate on protecting the civilian population.
Malvern will be subjected to mock raids from approximately 2.15 to 4.30 . . . and,
altogether, thirty-four incidents such as might and do occur during an enemy
bombing raid will be staged . . . Trams will be blown up (in theory, of course), houses
wrecked (on paper), casualties caused, and, what is of particular import in a
residential district, real incendiary bombs will be ignited and extinguished.
Although the claim of lack-lustre response had occasionally been made, the
charge of lassitude could not realistically be levelled at the response to
threatened invasion, primarily because of the justifiable sense of crisis, partly
too because the power of make-believe was allowed lavish, if disciplined, rein. It
was a means of preparing the community through stage-managed fantasy to
prepare itself for a possible reality that would demand acceptance of abnormal
behaviour and the stifling of random individual responses. Probably the natural
officiousness of some citizens also gained a little latitude.
Malvern was divided into fifteen areas, each with an area warden and twenty
to thirty sector wardens, and ARP demonstrations and classes became part of
life. 'Our year has been punctuated by air-raid tests', The Lauristonian informed
in the crisis year of 1942, 'and early in the year, preparations for possible evacuation' were tried out in a successful mock flight to Toorak Station. 'Fathers and
brothers' dug trenches, while 'the mothers provided tea and food'. A liberating
dispensation for Sacre Coeur's young misses, whose self-presentation was
governed with a propriety that verged on the pernickety, was to be 'allowed, in
fact told to wear slacks' to facilitate their scramble to their crisis haven, which
was 'the agapanthus bushes!'. When the military authorities took over Melbourne High School and Warwick School, pupils were transferred to Tooronga
Road and Korowa respectively. At Tooronga Road, the trenches widened
FIGHTING FOR OUR HOMES AND LIVES
183
dangerously until 'the school now totters on its foundations', discouraging boys
from their new-found play haunts.
The face of Malvern changed as trenches were dug in roads and parks,
military facilities were erected in reserves, buildings were given protective shells,
and the brown-out periodically became a black-out. The shroud was so total in
some parts that ratepayers complained of 'having to depend on the moon for
light'. On the city's perimeter, a vast shed in which to construct tanks was built
(it later became the Housing Commission factory); and a little closer in on the
golf links the mound that was the only substantial remnant of the old outer
circle railway became the gun-site of an anti-aircraft training camp, which, as
men were desperately moved to the front line, was taken over by the Australian
Women's Army Service. There, 'on that same scraggy little hill where [he] had
come as a child looking for adventure', George Johnston was struck by the crazy
contrast between domestic continuity and crisis abnormality: 'four big gun-pits
with the lean long graceful 3.7 barrels nosing up, and beyond that was barbed
wire and outside the wire were green level patches where some late-afternoon
golfers were playing'.
Johnston was observing something of patently serious intent, but many of the
energetic efforts to galvanise the citizenry were play practice for dress rehearsals
like the 'mock raid' — conducted mostly 'in theory' and 'on paper' — described
in the Malvern Spectator (25 March 1941). It required a vast cast of extras —
police, fire brigades, first aid and rescue parties, demolition and decontamination squads, scouts, guides — and provided star parts for the mayor and visiting
officers of the Department of Civil Defence and the State Emergency Council.
Minor but crucial roles were reserved for the four victims who were rescued
from beneath a wrecked house, constructed for the purpose on vacant land at
the corner of Glenferrie and Malvern Roads. Rushed to the town hall dressing
station, they found it thoroughly equipped, even to 'pretty nurses'. Perfectly
synchronised, the spectacular lasted for 125 minutes, ending with the extinction
of a fire behind the court house by an ARP fire squad. The city's Annual Report
for that year reproduced a photograph of the finale. The central action looked
as if it came from the realms of science fiction: men, booted, gas-masked and
asbestos-suited, clustered demoniacally around a ball of furious fire as if they
were grappling with a Martian incursion. On the rim, the earnestly watching
citizens of Malvern, mostly men in Akubra hats and boys in public school caps,
with a scatter of suited ladies, represented the normality of suburban Australia.
In a harmless outburst of private pyromania, the inhabitants of Coolgardie
Avenue tackled their own incendiary bombs until the arrival of the professional
extinguishers.
'Serious But Not Gloomy' pronounced the Malvern Spectator leader writer in
June 1941, putting on a brave face before the evidently grim international
situation. Four months later, parliamentarian Trevor Oldham reflected
portentously on the threat from Japan: 'nervy, jumpy, predatory, hesitant . . .
Our country is isolated; I have heard Australia aptly described as "a white
island in a coloured sea" '. Editorially, a flurry of inaccurate speculation was
reassuring: 'we have no reason to doubt the outcome — complete victory for us
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
and broken heads and bleeding bodies for the Japs'. Despite queries about the
effectiveness of safeguards in the 'industrial belt', setting one's own house in
defensive order assuaged feelings of helplessness and gave an added edge of
theatricality to preparations. Over 2000 people gathered at the cricket ground
to watch Malvern's 350 wardens go through their paces, and local platoons
triumphed over their less disciplined neighbours at a competitive event at the
Caulfield Racecourse. When a trial black-out was declared, malcontents
showing a 'contemptuous or semi-hostile attitude' were deplored, and the cry
was 'MAKE MALVERN A MODEL ARP CITY'. Once the darkness had
lifted, it was claimed that the only defaulters were associated with the SEC!
Coinciding with Japan's entry into the war, the blockbuster rally in Glen Iris
Park assembled over thirteen units and two bands under the command of
Captain Nobbs. Among the grand parade of events, the East Malvern
Volunteer Defence Corps staged 'a realistic military action . . . capturing a
strong post established by enemy parachute troops . . . finally the beating off
and destruction of an enemy tank with hand grenades or "Molotov Cocktails"
with a mortar pumping dummy charges high in the air'. A high-ranking military
observer found the realistic performance 'little short of amazing', while the fact
that the extravaganza was a purely local affair was accounted a matter of pride.
The younger generation mimicked the hearty dramatisations of their seniors
with a verve distanced from reality. 'The most enjoyable game in the school
grounds seemed to be mock battles' was the assessment at St Kevin's: 'England
succeeded in repelling the raiders on every occasion. If only Mr Churchill would
put "it" in their hands'. On the oval at Malvern Grammar, the school's scouts
'simulated an aeroplane attack and ground rescues. The attackers descended per
medium of a "flying fox", and bombed the civilians with flour'. Despite the
overlay of fantasy, the game enshrined the actuality that, in the modern kind of
war, non-combatants were as vulnerable as soldiers. Meanwhile, the time and
energy spent on this spate of emergency charades disrupted ordinary education:
military topics dominated debates, and the dictates of war determined the shape
of the future. 'There is little or no encouragement at present for boys to take up
courses other than those of a medical, scientific or technical character', St
Kevin's lamented. Australia's looming industrialisation was the educational
challenge for boys. An even worse contingency was observed at De La Salle in
the easy availability of jobs because of wartime shortages, which lured students
away from professional training. War caused difficult inadvertencies that would
not cease with the hostilities and accentuated the practical drift of masculine
training.
With the implementation of National Emergency Regulations in early 1942,
the seriousness of the situation filtered through to mundane domestic concerns.
The local evacuation officer was empowered to transfer people outside the
district and to secure 'the welfare of persons who may be rendered powerless or
destitute as the result of enemy action'. An organiser of post-raid services was
appointed, and additional trenches were constructed. Council elections for that
year were cancelled, and concern was expressed over 'the tendency towards the
Fascist forms of control of industry'. Petrol ration tickets were issued to
FIGHTING FOR OUR HOMES AND LIVES
185
councillors, and local gestures were made in support of the premier's 'Austerity
Campaign and Loan' (the dog cart would make fortnightly instead of weekly
rounds). Means of ensuring firewood supplies were considered, and the
MMBW, which had lost the bulk of its work-force to the military, undertook
the purchase of portable water tanks. Recruiting drives gained a new urgency,
but the fever for conscription did not reach epidemic proportions. The Shire of
Yea's proposal that applications for military exemption should be heard in open
court was simply referred to that convenient channel for difficult matters, the
Municipal Association.
By 1944, the danger had abated, and dismantlement of the elaborate defence
mechanisms was considered, although the ARP wanted to retain its headquarters feeling that 'until the Japanese Fleet is defeated, the menace to Australia is likely to be under-estimated'. However, the lease for the Glenferrie Road
first aid post was soon terminated, and in October a quote for filling in public
air-raid trenches was accepted. In placing the Civil Defence Organisation on a
reserve basis in July 1945, the premier thanked council and citizens for their
efforts, particularly the wardens and others 'who in a period of great national
danger gave unlimited time and labor to the task of creating an Organisation of
which the people of Victoria might well be proud'. The time had come to pay
serious attention to those post-war problems that had been anticipated since
early in the war.
If anyone said that Australians hated children, he would be howled down, but it is a
melancholy fact that Australians like children so well that families of two, one and
none are the rule . . . they must immediately force the politicians to find unlimited
money for child endowment and homes. NOW, and NOT AFTER THE WAR.
The war was only nine months old when the editor of the Malvern Spectator
made his irascible but fervent demands. Two months later, in assessing Holt's
chances in the 1940 election, he considered the Member for Fawkner's United
Australia Party (UAP) affiliation a drawback because 'Gentlemen of similar
right-wing tendencies made the Peace of Versailles, and made it so badly that it
was kicked to bits in 20 years'. At the end of the next year, this admirable
example of a free and lively press was silenced by paper shortages; but the
Malvern Spectator's editor was not alone in his push for a new deal. Standing for
the east ward in 1940, Lieutenant R G Moss, a highly decorated First World
War veteran, envisioned a task for the war and beyond: 'The municipalities
with their closer territorial contact with the people had the responsibility of
developing that popular enthusiasm and civic morale, but also [to] win the
peace'. Considering Portland's portfolio of post-war schemes in October 1941,
council affirmed that the mistakes of 1918 should not be repeated and underscored the commitment a year later in submitting to the Municipal Association
a list of suitable works.
Fuelled, perhaps unconsciously, by a conviction that the obligations contracted in that earlier war had been dispersed by insouciance, then closeted by
depression, idealism became the reigning mode, and future imaginings became
heady indeed. In November 1943, the engineer submitted a list of projects with
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
a value totalling nearly £243 000, a massive inflation from the £95 000 schedule
presented two months earlier. Moss, now a councillor, put the optimistic view
that 'the citizens desired that the men . . . would return to better conditions
than those prevailing prior to the War'. His fellow councillor Milton Gray took
up the cudgels for realism: it could not be done on a 2s 2d rate! A compromise
was reached when £30 000 was earmarked for post-war maintenance and the
engineer was asked to submit an amended list of works for the same amount. A
grandiose decision to allocate £85 000 over a six year period to placate the
community's yearning for a brave new world dropped into the well of thwarted
good intentions.
A planned festival week to celebrate the finish of battle in Europe was
abandoned, and there were still local griefs and reliefs to absorb. Councillor
Snaddon's son had died, as had council employee H L Smith. Sons of Councillors Righetti and Kilborn were released from POW camps. Captain H T
Richardson, an early member of Malvern ARP and adviser to the State
Emergency Committee, died soon after the end of the war. His Stonehaven
Avenue home had been 'the headquarters of many Societies and Organisations
whose aim was the betterment of society'. On a happier note, Mrs Calcutt,
superintendent of the East Malvern Red Cross Emergency Service, was
nominated as 'Victory Mother' for the Malvern District, and, having raised
£6727, the Kerferd Street War Savings Group marked its fifth birthday. Steps
were taken to release Lance Corporal Styles from military service for the more
joyful task of tree propagation at the nursery to gladden the city's neglected
parks. Although the larger festive scheme had foundered, plans were afoot for
the homelier celebrations that brought people back to where they belonged: a
'Monster Carols by Candlelight' in Central Park, a 'smoke night' for returning
council employees, a picnic for 'the children of Malvern to celebrate the signing
of Peace . . . Council [to] supply entertainment and eatables'. When the end had
come, the mention was as terse as exhaustion, as simple as honesty: 'Thanks to
God for the Cessation of hostilities in the Pacific'. The rhythms of mundane
existence were waiting to be recovered.
If the First World War created the modern world through its devastating
impact and profligacy with human life, it might be said that the Second World
War created modern Australia, also through a long night of carnage and
turmoil. The focus had shifted to a dependency on the United States that was to
involve the same kinds of dangers — politically, culturally, economically and
militarily — that followed from British tutelage. However, Australia had at least
begun to realise that self-reliance was part of nationhood. The Second World
War had also prompted a determined thirst for social change that is, retrospectively, hard to grasp; Malvern's ambitious program of post-war works
reflected this instinct. The idealistic yearnings were to be quickly stifled, for the
world of politics in the irrationally polarised climate of the superpowers was to
produce a Frankenstein's monster that diverted human energies in unforeseen
and divisive directions. The foibles, grandiosities and ardour of that world of
power and men of ambition had been part of the scene since Malvern's rural
'onion and turnip' days.
Perfection of
Combinations
i
Politics are domestic warfare, and require all the astute handling
possible, by either side. The candidate who now stands for personal
aggrandisement must stand down. Combination can only be met by
combination. Liberalism can only win the Henty Seat by perfection
of combinations . . . It will soon be time for the Liberal electors to
take a hand in the matter, and plainly tell some of the candidates
that they are not wanted.*
Malvern News 7 December 1912
If politics is domestic warfare, the metaphor can be extended
to observe that much of the excitement takes place behind closed doors and
that, in safe seats at either end of the political lounge, the action is often
incestuous. Allowing for Victorian and Edwardian hyperbole which often
threw a gaudy fabric over debate, and the rougher weave of later rhetoric, the
discretion decreed by the familial cast of most politics is obviously true of the
electorates, state and federal, that share the suburb of Malvern. The hurly-burly
of the hustings had to be faced, but the brawling was mainly between siblings,
and family loyalty demanded unity in the face of outsider challenge. T h e
Democrats and Liberals got resigned long ago to being practically
disenfranchised by the bluest of Conservatives', sighed Table Talk in 1892,
commenting on restiveness among Toorak electors, 'but when the moderate
Conservatives, in the dread of splitting their party vote and letting a Liberal slip
in, consented to support Mr Alexander McKinley . . . they did expect he would
speak at least once during a session'. Clearly, being donated a seat entailed a
minimal obligation.
In any case, Liberalism was only conservatism of a slightly lighter dye. Early
in the century, the philosophically volatile, organisationally incoherent
Nationalist, People's Party and Liberal groups struggled to secure the nod for
their man. Yet the contention was between those of like mind, a condition
which allowed candidates to change the name of the flag they travelled under.
In his nine year career as first member for the federal seat of Kooyong, William
Knox appeared severally under the Free Trade, Anti-Socialist and Liberal
187
188
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
banners; at his first try he also triumphantly outran another notable candidate
in Theodore Fink.
While a certain amount of jostling between conservative contenders was
acceptable as a means by which one gentleman prevailed — perhaps through
sheer forcefulness — the appearance of a Labor candidate was often regarded as
unseemly. When Norman Bayles proffered himself for Toorak in 1914, the
chairman at his launching meeting found it 'ridiculous that they should have to
go through the present contest when the result was certain . . . However, it was
a free country and anybody had a right to come forward if it was done in a
constitutional way'. In the same election, Frank Madden's return to
Boroondara was secured without the annoyance of a challenger; forty
gentlemen met at Belmont House to present a requisition (an informal, though
often collaborative procedure designed to induce a likely man to obey the
urgings of his peers) backing his continuance in political life. In those agreeable
days, coteries of gentlemen gathering at large houses or the town hall were often
the means through which the right one was granted his destiny, while in the
event of a surfeit of candidates the surplus gents volunteered to leave the field or
were asked to withdraw. Once instated in parliament, members were frequently
returned unopposed — often for a relatively long political lifetime.
From time to time, attempts were made to add a few trimmings to the
democratic facade. In 1889, when Premier Duncan Gillies decided to move to
the Eastern Suburbs electorate, the claim was made that several opponents had
been asked to retire and that James Moloney was urged to stand to prevent a
too-obvious 'walkover'. Soundly trounced, Moloney repudiated the sham and
the winner as 'nominee of a certain clique, who wished to thrust the Premier
down their throats against their will'. Before the introduction of compulsory
voting (in 1924 for the commonwealth and 1926 for Victoria), the political sets
were assisted by voter apathy, an issue addressed by the short-lived Malvern
and Toorak branches of the Liberal Electors' Registration League, which
discovered in the run-up to the first federal election that a third of the eligible
householders were not registered to vote.
Once the days of the requisition were over, electors could sometimes choose
from a full poker hand of candidates, although competition in the Legislative
Council, long known as the 'ratepayers' House' and deemed to be 'representative of wealth, and . . . not the wealth of intellect', continued to be low.
(Between 1866 and 1943 just over a third of seats were contested.) Repeated
attempts to reform the council were thwarted by variants of the principle
enunciated by Madden in 1900; it was not desirable 'to leave the destiny of the
country to swagmen', and the exclusion of riff-raff was ensured by the existence
of property qualifications for members and property or professional substance
for electors until 1950. By that time the neutral apothegm (the ratepayers'
house), inspired by the embalmed state of the red chamber, had become
candidly irascible. 'Look at the men who are in the Council, Sir Frank Clarke,
Sir William Angliss, Sir Frank Beaurepaire, Sir Clifden Eager, Colonel Lansell',
sneered John Galbally, ALP leader in the Legislative Council, 'It's time those
old barnacles were scraped off the Victorian ship of state'.
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
189
By contrast, the lower house might offer too large a choice. In 1927, six
candidates stood for Boroondara: one National, one Liberal, one Independent,
two Indepdendent Nationals and one Labor, while in 1933 one Labor and six
UAP men offered themselves. The Toorak 1941 by-election was more a fracas
than a democratic procedure. Two of the five candidates (the ALP's J J Ryder
and Charles Kennett, 'the "Australia First" Independent' and also 'pioneer of
the carpet sweeper manufacturing industry in Australia') were injured on
polling day, while the Progressive U A P man, F Connelly, complained of
sectarian queries, anonymous telephone calls and 'a scurrilous whispering
campaign'. The ALP loser gallantly interpreted the decline in the winning UAP
vote as an indication that the Toorak 'fortress was not impregnable', a boast
that was derided by an interjector at the declaration of the poll as 'to-day's
funny story'. Likewise the federal seat of Henty was occasionally afflicted with a
surfeit of aspiring politicians (five in 1922, five in 1940 and six in 1943 —
including a Women for Canberra aspirant). However, competition was more
apparent than real; largely a matter of conservatives filching votes from one
another only to return them as the preferential system edged towards a result.
Once the conservative factions ordered their house through formation of the
Liberal Party under Menzies in 1944, pre-selection was controlled by the party
machine. Nevertheless, cheeky, unendorsed Liberals sometimes opposed official
candidates, particularly in the late 1940s and early 1950s when the incursions of
the Hollway Liberals (under the leadership of Tom Hollway, who had formerly
led the official Liberal Party) added fury and bitterness to the family scene.
Until the end of the First World War, it might also be said that the family
tightness of the political process applied to the local sphere, for the shires and
towns were seen as the 'nurseries of the legislature', places where aspiring
politicians took their first steps and learnt the tactics that would make them
proficient in the boarding schools at Canberra or Spring Street, Melbourne.
James Munro, Alex McKinley, W H Edgar, William Knox and F H Francis were
all graduates from Malvern council, while others were schooled in other cities
and shires. Once promoted, they acknowledged their filial gratitude, and while
in office took a fatherly interest in their former abodes, attending council
meetings and responding to requests that particular attitudes to legislative
proposals should be adopted. Following on from the accepted principle that 'the
national life of a people is in reality the reflex or complement of their civic life',
the elevation of these men was regarded as a compliment to the councils that
had reared them. However, after the election of Francis to Henty in 1919, the
nexus between municipal and higher levels of government virtually disappeared,
probably because the lessons imbibed at the council table were no longer
adequate to provide the skills required by the nation's increased complexity,
and the benefits of familiarity offered by a small population no longer existed.
The principles that applied to the larger scene also operated in local government. The Prahran Telegraph's 1918 complaint that the Legislative Council and
municipal councils were equally powerful and unrepresentative was hardly
worth enunciating. Candidature by requisition was common, and a burr of
needless provocation adhered to upstarts who challenged sitting councillors.
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After yet another refurbishment of the council table without an election, the
fact that Malvern had been 'spared any contest' was repeated as proof of civic
harmony.
Given that politics is the elaborate, diverting and often costly game by which
any society — and particularly a democracy — attempts to order its affairs, the
game has been much mentioned in this book. The most obvious facts about
Malvern's politics are so glaring as to be truisms, and the reach of its influence
has been so wide that Malvern's political eminence has become part of the
nation's annals. Ranging from crude prejudice to amiable paternalism, conservatism in its many guises has held sway there, and formidable power has
emanated from its dominance. Several Victorian premiers, deputy premiers and
Australian prime ministers have represented Malvern, while the simple backbencher has been relatively rare — a perhaps predictable phenomenon, given
the longevity of conservative governments in Victoria and Australia. Conversely, the ALP has been weak, often not offering candidates or selecting
women as their sacrificial lambs. The hopelessness of the Labor alternative has
survived to the present. In May 1988, the Liberal Member for Malvern, Geoff
Leigh, gleefully alleged that 'no one from local ALP branches is prepared to
become a martyr' in the forthcoming state election. The foregone conclusion
was written so clearly on the wall that elections results were often not reported
in the local press.
The phrase commonly used to describe the men who became candidates for
political office was 'representative men'. It was extended to cover those who
selected these men and those on whose behalf they acted. They were representative men chosen by representative men to represent representative men. Once
that was said — and a grand tautology it made — the rest was imprecise, but
something of the desired qualities could be gauged from the men who made the
grade. Worldly success was essential, either professional (especially in the law
which has accounted for nearly a third of Malvern's representatives) or commercial, and ideally both, as confirmation that following the work ethic was producing an appropriate result. High moral standards were also required, though
it would not have done to be in advance of the mores of the day by espousing
over-enlightened social attitudes or over-challenging political philosophies.
From the 1890s on, as labour and its defenders became more vociferous, to be
able to claim — partly from genuine conviction, partly in more mischievous
spirit — that an opponent was tainted with socialistic ideas was always a useful
ploy. Cast as socialist rabble-rousers or radical ratbags, opponents were beyond
the pale of acceptable (and tasteful) political alignments.
A delicate balance was needed: to keep abreast of the drift of opinion so that
one was not caught out being retrogressive, but not to attempt to force shifts in
public views or to advocate changes that undermined the fundamentals.
Initiative needed to be tempered by restraint, since there was a fine line between
exploiting opportunity and overstepping propriety, although proven sexual
transgression or marital failure were probably seen to be more reprehensible
than palpable greed. Separation of the private and public spheres was to be
absolute — or at least discreet. Three years after Sir Frederick Sargood's death in
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
191
1903, one of his sons was constrained to deny in the Argus a completely
unfounded suggestion in the gutter press that his father kept 'separate establishments' — presumably one for propriety, the other for pleasure. Even in the
1950s applications for Liberal Party selection required information on divorce or
separation. Society was remarkably forgiving to the men whose zealous pursuit
of business advantage transformed 1880s boom to 1890s depression. There were,
of course, still the diminished figures of Matthew Davies and James Munro to
remind the ambitious that it was possible to go too far. Fate also provided its
own chastening twists; the three houses built by teetotaller Munro were all sold
to brewers!
Apart from their extra-mural successes in the world of hard knocks and
plentiful rewards, the exemplars of political life were good family men, churchgoers, models for the bourgeoisie to aspire to and yet traditionalists. Leadership
in philanthropic activities was part of the agenda, and sporting prowess was a
useful adjunct. After 1914, war service was virtually obligatory as proof of the
capacity for selfless patriotism. Lowest on the list of requirements was an
interest in cultural matters, although the artistic impulse was not disadvantageous, especially if it were expressed in a taste for conspicuous opulence. The
qualities that made these men suitably representative were capable of being
inherited, just as the wealth that might provide a political springboard could be
transmitted, and produced several dynastic connections (Knox, Sargood,
Fraser, Madden, Gullett, Disney, Fairbairn and Menzies). However, the luck of
the draw was insufficient; if not entirely self-made — in itself an admirable
condition — the energy to build on the substance accrued by other generations
was necessary. With its atavistic awareness of the struggle to define empty spaces
and confirm hard-won gains, Australia preferred a bronze spoon to a silver one.
Of course, the prototype was something of a cardboard or identikit figure,
created by the reductionism and flattery of sources such as Who's Who, or Australia's Representative Men at Home and an often sycophantic press. Sheltering
within the model of the perfect politician were myriad individual differences,
and changes in the political process over a century dictated adjustments in
attitude and style that can be seen by looking at several of Malvern's representative men.
'Boroondara is to be congratulated on having the honour of giving to Victoria
the only statesman who has dared to tell the "rebel" he is a rebel', enthused the
Prahran Telegraph in November 1917. 'Sir Frank has represented Boroondara for
some twenty-five years . . . The man of the hour is Sir Frank Madden.' The
rebel was Mannix whom the Roman Catholic, but hectically anglophile,
Madden wished to see deported. Despite the fervent editorial support, Madden's
hour had come and the political career of one who was arguably the most
reactionary person ever to represent Malvern was over. In fact, his views were so
extreme that he never held ministerial office, although he was Speaker of the
Legislative Assembly from 1904 until his departure from the scene. Englishborn, he arrived in Melbourne with his family in 1857 at the age of ten and
continued his education at St Patrick's College, East Melbourne, and the
University of Melbourne. He was admitted as an attorney in 1869, founded the
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legal firm, Madden &L Butler, and was president of the Law Institute in 1886-87.
His parliamentary career began in 1894 when he entered the Legislative
Assembly as Member for the Eastern Suburbs (later Boroondara). Hunting,
racing, history (he was foundation president of the Royal Victorian Historical
Society), sketching and the land were his non-political interests.
His career was one of unblemished conservatism with a bloated rhetoric to
match that saw him sued for slander after the 1900 election. The Labor Party,
he fulminated, was 'an ignorant mercenary and aggressive crew. Unanimous in
evil, diligent in mischief, variable in principles, talkers for liberty, but slaves to
power'. Negativity seems to have been the hallmark of his approach to social
conditions, although in him refusal was so intense that it almost took on the
proportions of the positive. Minimum wages, the eight hour day, female
suffrage, old age pensions ('a specious and unworthy bid for popularity with the
unthinking masses'), unionism (occupants of the Trades Hall were 'parasitical
excrescences' and strikes were 'more or less in the nature of civil war'), government education beyond the 'rudiments', any remotely socialistic thrust were
anathema to him. Life was a simple equation: 'Private enterprise means competition, use of private capital and responsibility as against state employment with
the national revenue, no competition &L no personal responsibility'. True to his
respect for the uncomplicated, he preferred the radical to 'the Two Facing Both
Ways politician who is afraid to join the labour party yet proclaims himself "as
good as labour" '.
Sir Frank Madden may well have found Sir Frederick Sargood a despicable
'Two Facing Both Ways' politician. Also English-born, Sargood arrived in
Melbourne with his family in 1850, working as a clerk in the Public Works
Department before moving into his father's wholesale softgoods business. He
spent time on the Mount Alexander gold-fields and managed the firm's business
in the Bendigo-Castlemaine region. In 1874, he followed his father into politics,
winning the Central Province in the Legislative Council: 'rich, respectable,
energetic and martial', he was, according to Table Taik, 'the first [candidate] to
adopt the requisition style of canvassing'. He resigned six years later after his
first wife's death and returned to England for two years. From 1882 to 1901, he
was Legislative Councillor for South Yarra and the year after his election —
with his reputation as 'one of the best shots in Victoria' — became the state's
first Minister of Defence in the Service-Berry ministry, combining that portfolio
with Public Instruction from 1890-92. After federation, he became a senator in
the first commonwealth parliament; as the Malvern and Armadale Recorder said,
'his clear and liberal statements won numerous electors to his side' and it was
remembered that his firm was one of the first to grant workers a Saturday half
holiday.
His political beliefs were those of a benevolent conservative, reminiscent of
the English Tory Paternalists, who believed that the rigorous play of market
forces needed to be ameliorated by government intervention. He opposed oneman-one-vote and land taxation, and believed in the role of the upper house,
strengthening its authority through avoidance of constitutional crises and
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
193
conciliatory dealings with the Legislative Assembly. On the other hand, he
introduced the Factories Bill and supported legislation to establish the first
wages board, animated partly by his father's example and his own experience of
gruelling working conditions. Conduct of his own business affairs seemed
beyond reproach (his firm actually expanded in the 1890s), and, although he
possessed great wealth and extensive land holdings, he was a philanthropist 'not
ostentatious in his charity, but . . . large in his gifts', a benefactor 'renowned for
. . . a hospitality which took every possible private and semi-public form'.
Ripponlea, his thirty-three room mansion with its shaven lawns, ink-blot lake
and rusticated garden adornments, was the venue for vast 'At Homes' and
charity dos that included theatricals for the Melbourne Hospital, picnics for
newsboys and the Municipal Association's annual garden party. It was 'not a
grand recluse . . . [but] a magnificent pleasure grounds, where the workers, the
shopkeepers, the merchants and the professional men, with their wives and
families, promenade[d] in happy social intercourse amid the luxuries created by
the funds of the proprietor'.
When he died suddenly in early 1903, the Argus praised him as a 'leader in
politics, in business, in the religious world, and in society . . . deep regret . . .
will now be felt in each of three spheres'. 126 of his employees signed a letter to
the family: 'most of us knew him well . . . We only hope that this expression on
our part will not be taken as merely a mechanical offering of sentiment'.
Testifying to the general loss — and probably to the luxuriant style of mourning
adopted by a believing generation for whom death's awfulness was outweighed
by its solemnity — his funeral cortege stretched for over two miles with 'all
sections of the community, from the highest . . . to the humblest Hindoo
stranger . . . being represented . . . Standing by the open grave they learned the
lesson that it spoke — the lesson of duty that must be done . . . and the lesson
also of that noblest and most beautiful structure that it was possible to build, the
character of a true man'.
Forty years after those obsequies, the 'true man' still needed to represent the
sterling qualities of a conservative, yet altruistic paternalist. However, the model
had become firmly Australian, less courtly, more pragmatic. When 'genial
citizen, successful business man, indefatigable war worker, and famous sportsman' Sir Frank Beaurepaire stood for the Legislative Council for the province of
Monash in 1942, his campaign leaflet pictured him as 'an inspiration to the
young manhood of Australia — a combination of Industrial, Executive and
Sporting Integrity and Ability'. Only about 28 000 of 45 000 electors voted. The
score had been rather better during his recent, monumentally successful term as
Mayor of Melbourne, during which appeals promoted by him had raised more
than a million pounds. A year after his election, he resigned to stand as U A P
candidate for the Senate on a strong private enterprise, anti-communist policy
which he supported with a vigour that caused problems: a protest to the
Electoral Office from a Labor government minister that he had been labelled a
communist and a High Court writ claiming that Beaurepaire's nomination was
invalidated by his pecuniary interests in the operations of the public service. His
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bid for the Senate failed, but in 1946 he was re-elected by a substantial majority
to the Legislative Council, where he stayed until 1952 when he retired probably
because of ill health.
When Beaurepaire entered state politics at the age of fifty-one, he came as a
self-made man whose credentials were fully established. Australian-born, he was
educated at Albert Park State School (a fact that was not always emphasised)
and Wesley College, which he entered on a half scholarship because of his
athletic promise. His sporting prowess put him in the top rank and struck a
chord with Australia's obsession with such successes. In 1910, he engaged in
forty-one international contests in Europe without defeat, was the only
'invader' until 1934 to win the British One-Mile swimming championship, once
held nine world and several Australian records and thrice represented Australia
in the Olympic Games. Given this run of supreme wins, his military record was
irregular. However, it showed an extra staunchness in adversity. Rejected for
active service, he accompanied the first A1F in Egypt and Europe as a Young
Men's Christian Association (YMCA) commissioner, earning the gratitude of
General John Monash who wrote: 'As organiser of social work within the
division . . . your work has been on a uniform plane of excellence'. The founder
of three industrially innovative manufacturing companies — most notably
Olympic Tyre and Rubber in 1933 — he was a proud advertisement for free
enterprise, plugging the Australian-made and devising means by which his
employees could participate in the benefits of healthy profits. By comparison
with public figures like Madden and Sargood, with their ardently British
approach, Beaurepaire's achievements in sport and industry assuaged and
encouraged the self-conscious nationalism of his time, yet reflected its politically
conservative nature. Outstanding civic service and an ability to use capitalist
methods in many charitable and patriotic causes, completed his qualifications as
the representative man. When he died in 1956, his obituary in the Argus crudely
emphasised his comprehensive nationalism; his life was 'an Australian success
story . . . HE HELPED TO PUT AUSTRALIA ON THE MAP OF THE
WORLD'.
Useful affiliations, advantageous alignments, influential friends, as well as
natural ability and proven competence, paved the path to power. Occasionally,
circumstances activated an alternative, even subversive viewpoint. 'The lust for
power and perquisites continually overrides the people's wishes', wrote Ian
McLaren to the Malvern Advertiser in October 1947, 'and unless the party
system is curbed, even greater challenges to individual liberty can ensue'. As an
unwavering opponent of party tyranny, McLaren, Member for Glen Iris from
1945-47, broke sharply from the pattern of the representative man. Even his
intellectual interests as a bibliophile, collector of Australiana, and historian
diverged from the usual model, which commonly linked cultural accumulation
and purchasing power. He probably owed his election to a peculiar
concatenation of events: the atmosphere of post-war optimism with its
preparedness for change, disarray within the conservative forces and popular
disaffection with party politics.
Staunchly Scottish in origin, 'a child of the depression' who began his
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
195
schooling in Northcote and later became a scholarship boy at Spring Road
School, McLaren came to politics in a completely atypical way. Before the
Second World War, he was involved with Christian youth groups, active in the
Y M C A and formed the Australian Youth Council, an affiliate of the Australian
Peace Council. He was treasurer of that council's 1938 meeting and a delegate to
the World Youth Congress in New York — both bodies were widely tagged as
communist fronts. The suspicion adhering to these activities — to his surprise,
and despite the existence of a security file on him — did not affect his position in
navy intelligence during the war. While in New Guinea and the Philippines, he
began studying politics as part of a Bachelor of Economics Degree undertaken
by correspondence with the University of Melbourne.
Returning to Melbourne and Malvern in 1945, he was approached by
Andrew Hughes, then Member for Caulfield, who intended organising several
independent candidates to contest the 1945 state election because of widespread
dissatisfaction with the grubby state of Victorian politics. Locally, disaffection
with both the Liberal Party and the sitting member was concentrated on Glen
Iris hill and in Ashburton. McLaren's candidacy ruffled serenity at the
influential East Malvern RSL, where he and his Liberal opponent shared the
two top positions. He aligned with his maverick fellows to distribute joint
material, which adopted a novel approach (one began T h e purpose of God is a
world-wide community based on freedom and justice') and won on Labor Party
preferences.
His term coincided with a steamily turbulent period in Victoria's political
history and was marked by 'quite a war' with Trevor Oldham, who had astutely
though contentiously moved from the Glen Iris seat to the safer refuge of
Malvern. Although his major preoccupation was furthering non-party matters,
such as housing, that had been left to slumber during the war, McLaren's
independent status provided an open target for his political opponents, as it had
a few years before for a less doctrinaire independent, the Member for Henty
AW Coles, who in 1941 was castigated for turning the Menzies' government
out of office. Responding to Oldham's challenge in the Malvern Advertiser as to
whether he intended joining the Labor Party, McLaren replied that he voted for
legislation on its merits, was 'not prepared to vote blindly at the demand of any
party or faction' and refused to co-operate in the pairing system. When
Oldham's attack assumed a predictable Cold-War cast in the query as to why
McLaren had failed to vote on a motion deploring communist activities in the
building trade, McLaren boldly returned the rhetoric; he was against 'the
totalitarian discipline of party decisions'. Although he publicly opposed bank
nationalisation as an infringement of individual liberties, malicious doubt was
cast on his reliability. Although sympathetic to many Labor Party policies and a
believer in public ownership of 'a natural monopoly' such as the Metropolitan
Gas Company, he did not believe in controls on the development of the
economy. Surprisingly to him, his peace movement connections were never
used against him.
During the 1947 election campaign, he was forced to defend his voting record
(seventy-three instances of support for government legislation as against forty-
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seven rejections). In his estimation, the two major parties represented class war
between labour and capital, and usurpation of power by party machines, big
business and the unions. His program for a parliament of independents with an
elective ministry and an unbiased speaker with a casting vote, no pre-selection
of candidates, proportional representation, one-vote-one-value, and the right to
recall legislation for referendum purposes sounded too sane to be acceptable.
The key to the casket was proportional representation, which would inevitably
undermine the party system and give a voice to those effectively disenfranchised
by its tyranny. According to his testimony, bank operators came out in
hundreds, if not thousands, to oppose him, and, in the absence of a Labor
candidate, he was defeated.
His later political career was as individualistic as his single term at Spring
Street. Reversing the more usual procedure which saw politically minded men
levitate from the local council to higher realms, he became a Malvern councillor
for two years in the early fifties, concentrating on financial management and
often finding himself again the sole proponent of measures that ran against the
laisser-faire, conservative stream on council which was perhaps typified by the
continuing presence of several estate agents there. In his estimation, local
government had the supreme advantage of offering a voice to overlooked
minorities. However, still dissatisfied with the quality of political life on the
larger stage, believing that outside critics were powerless, and seeing that the
independent wave that had crested him into Glen Iris was spent, he joined the
Liberal Party in 1960 and became Member for Bennettswood. It was a curious
move that could be rationalised, but perhaps not fully explained, except in
terms of a fugitive desire to influence affairs that could only be accommodated
within the transcendency of Liberalism. Understandably, McLaren was asked
why he, the unrepentant independent, had joined a party and still carried his
pilgrim's burden as a loner who had sometimes supported the first Cain
government — as Henry Bolte was not loath to indicate. Although he became
deputy speaker of the Legislative Assembly, a glorious career in the Liberal
Party was impossible. However, the vestiges of independence stayed with him to
the end. When his last parliamentary speech was gagged by his own party, he
promptly had it reproduced and circulated!
The truth was that the party machines became increasingly entrenched and
that pre-selection was often the reward for hard work and patience. 'Our new
Premier — Malvern's Lindsay Thompson' was the caption to the front cover of
the Malvern News Sheet (July 1981). The accompanying photograph showed the
Member for Malvern, discreetly grey-suited, with discreet tie, three discreet
triangles made by the points of his shirt collar and the handkerchief in his
pocket, and his RSL badge on the lapel. The face above the garb was the face of
an ordinary Australian — crinkled, weather-beaten, unassuming, friendly. He
was perhaps the new face of Liberalism for the time, not a high-flying capitalist,
dazzling lawyer or lavish benefactor, but a man from the heart of middle
Australia, a chap with an ear for humbler people, a nice bloke to join a game
with on the East Malvern Golf Links.
When he stood for pre-selection for the seat of Caulfield East for the 1955
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
197
election, Thompson's occupation was described old-fashionedly as 'schoolmaster'. Education was the ambience: school captain and dux at Caulfield
Grammar, an Honours Arts Degree and a Bachelor of Education at the University of Melbourne, which he entered under the Commonwealth Reconstruction
Training Scheme for Second AIF veterans. As 'schoolmaster' there was experience at his old school, Malvern Central School (Spring Road), and teaching
matriculation studies at Melbourne High School, where he was distinguished by
'loyalty, straight shooting, sportsmanship, tolerance'. He was a cricketer with
the Malvern Cricket Club, a training officer with the Australian Cadet Corps
and a member of Ewing Memorial Church, all affiliations that were useful
adjuncts to a political career. The background was humble enough, but he compensated with a record of long devotion to the Liberal Party, which he had
joined in 1945 at the age of twenty-two. Thereafter, he had acted for the party as
speaker, canvasser or branch secretary at every state and federal election.
His attempt to gain pre-selection for the lower house was unsuccessful. Despite
this setback, he entered politics in 1955 as the unopposed candidate for Higinbotham in the Legislative Council and continued in that seat for twelve years,
acting as assistant minister in several portfolios and being used 'unsparingly . . .
he seemed to be chosen to substitute for every minister who . . . needed someone to "hold the fort" '. In 1967, he became the Member for Monash Province
and gained his first important ministerial post as overseer of the contentious
education portfolio, which was to see him embattled in his own constituency, as
the condition of Malvern government schools again reached crisis point in the
mid 1970s. Two years later, aiming to succeed Bolte as premier, he sought to
move to the lower house seat of Malvern. Although facing a strong contender in
Phillip Hudson, the Member for Toorak and a businessman, and regarded by
some convention delegates as an outsider, he won Malvern, but lost the battle
for the throne, which went to another lower house new chum, Dick Hamer.
Gained when Hamer was forced into retirement, Thompson's premiership came
when staleness and complacency had descended on the Liberal government and
lasted less than two years.
Until recently, politics has been an overwhelmingly masculine sport. What of
the majority of the population who were women? The wives of representative
men were, as old Malvern boy Hubert Opperman put it, 'a benefit to the ballot
box . . . time can be gained, anxiety reduced and performance enhanced, when
food, clothing, correspondence and accommodation are being responsibly dealt
with and efficiently chosen'. The political wife had a role as hostess, secretary
and aide, but there remained a vast indeterminate substratum of women for
whom even gaining the vote had been a protracted struggle to overturn male
dominance and resistance from some of their own sex. A view of that battle
from Malvern hill provides a telling image of the psychological and philosophical landscape in which the Australian political system was formed.
In July 1899 at a packed meeting in the Malvern Town Hall on the question of
federation, the presence of a 'number of ladies' was taken to indicate that
women were not as politically shy as they were rumoured to be. Duncan Gillies
provoked loud laughter with the quip that, given that female franchise and the
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
right to stand for election were federal matters, 'it might also come to pass that
there would be a federal cabinet composed of ladies'. The matter had first been
debated in 1895, when Sir Simon Fraser, Member for South Yarra province and
later senator, opined that there was 'ample time within the next 50 years to deal
with legislation of this kind . . . The oldest nations of the earth . . . had not
adopted woman suffrage . . . A child often asked for things that would be
injurious to it . . . honorable members . . . had a right to judge for the women'.
Proud to be 'constantly quoted as the bete noirey of the bill's advocates, Frank
Madden was not driven into any insipid, paternalistic statements and was more
overtly misogynist. Why, even 'designing' girls had seized 'a terrible weapon'
since the age of consent had been raised to sixteen (presumably the offending
instrument was an extra year in which to be seduced legally). Given the vote,
their elders would be more kill-joy than vixenish, abolishing racing, hunting,
football, cricket and soldiery, thus eliminating all that constituted the 'manly
spirit'. Supporters of the measure were either 'chaste honest amiable' matrons
perverted by the eloquence of parlour socialists or debased harridans, ignorant
of 'the holy word "Home" ', who through their vile pamphlets planted all
manner of time bombs — polyandry, free love, lease marriages — beneath the
venerable barn of the sexual status quo. A more reasonable man and a convert
to women's suffrage, Frederick Sargood saw no intellectual or social reasons
against the measure, but he predicted — correctly — that the bill would be
unceremoniously ousted by the Legislative Council.
Four years later, when the proposal reappeared, Sargood assured his
parliamentary audience that his support was conditional on the provisos that
women would not stand for parliament or neglect their domestic duties. Men,
he said tellingly, had the vote whether they were straight-backed paragons or
illiterate louts: 'We also give votes to Chinese, to Asiatics, and other foreigners
providing they are naturalized. Now, if we can give votes to all these cases,
surely we may trust the franchise to our own women'. His fellow legislator,
Edward Miller (South Yarra Province), had come to the opposite conclusion,
assisted by the gruelling combat duty of attending suffrage meetings where he
had been most struck 'in the middle of that great gathering [by] the cry of a
baby'. This conjured up a scene of domestic bliss in reverse, with the work-worn
man being required to mind the bairns for his gallivanting suffragist wife. Nor
could Miller regard indifferently the possibility of seeing 'the women of the
slums made equal to the best women in the land', and those best women
indecorously jostled at polling booths. Detecting a decline in the suffrage lobby,
Madden, whose style bore the hallmark of sexual hatred, gleefully suggested that
some stalwarts had taken husbands in preference to votes, a sally at odds with
his claim that female franchise rowdies were too ugly to be kissable. That
women shone in their own sphere was proven by their excellent management —
with masculine help in hard-headed matters — of the Children's Hospital.
However, doubts remained, even when through dynastic accident they proved
their competence in the male domain for, as he said in a later scrimmage,
Elizabeth I, Catherine of Russia and Aspasia were 'great monarchs . . . but what
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199
sort of women?'. No degree of facility could compensate for the adoption of
masculine moral standards.
This time round, the debate was vigorously prosecuted outside the hallowed
halls of parliament and reached the conservative suburbs. 'No country can
claim to be free whose women are not free', declaimed the Malvern and Armadale
Recorder (16 August 1899). T h i s colony seems to have an open ear to every
other wrong, but this wrong to those who are nearest/ British farmers in the
South African back-blocks stirred louder cries for justice than wives and
daughters who were within touching distance. A string of editorials poured
scorn on members who took as a badge of honour their opposition to every
moderately enlightened cause and hypocritically claimed woman as man's
helpmate, as long as she gained no toe-hold in the corridors of power. The
suggestion that property qualifications might be a way of decently easing women
into the political process — and at the same time ensuring class dominance —
provoked a riposte from 'A Mother', who declared that 'the possession of
children' made her a better candidate for the franchise than a spinster with
strings of properties to her necklace. Pointing out the muddled absurdity of the
arguments against the women's vote proved powerless to shift the immovable
objects in the Legislative Council, and, when the bill was again defeated, the
paper was reduced to canvassing the cause of two women who were standing for
the local school board, as a test case for claims favourable to female franchise.
The pair's election and the appointment of Alice Devlin as first female assistant
at Tooronga Road school appeared to have none of the effect that the paper
predicted.
All the strangely dualistic notions of the nature of women were revived in
1900 when a bill to decide the matter through a referendum was put to
parliament. Woman was both apathetic and strident, helpless and managerial,
infantile and guileful, corruptible and puritanical, harlot and shrew. Her vote
would meekly repeat her husband's, signifying stagnation or undemocratic
subservience. Otherwise, she might cheekily oppose her master, breeding
discord. She aroused pity, but most of all — although the manly opponents of
votes for women would deny it — she stimulated unease, and fright at woman as
a potential subverter of masculine power combined neatly with fear of lowerclass demands for a real stake in the political process.
In the Legislative Assembly, the Members for Toorak and the Eastern
Suburbs stood adamantly against the stream and noed the bill. Madden put
forward a domino theory of collapse into socialism: equal electorates, a minimum wage, extension of the Factories Act and other incendiary measures would
follow. Near the end of a biblically long parliamentary career, Duncan Gillies
broke his self-imposed silence, claiming 'no personal feeling in the matter', but
advising adherence to the constitution, which had been 'framed by wise and
intelligent men . . . in the public interest'. Given that his own wife, married in
late life at the London Registry Office and deemed to be a political liability, had
been public-spiritedly persuaded to return to South Africa without unmasking
herself to Melbourne society, his sensitivity towards woman's rights must have
200 PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
been at the very least latent. In the red chamber, Miller threw a gentlemanly
smoking-jacket over the stuffed shirt of self-interest: If women can be elected to
Parliament, some of them will contest our seats. Personally, I would never
contest a seat against a lady. I should give way to the lady'. When the vote was
taken, Malvern's Legislative Council representatives were solidly against the
proposal, for Sargood had joined his more simplistic colleagues on the grounds
that a referendum would weaken the independence of the legislature.
On this occasion, an organised lobby had been created locally with the
formation of a branch of the Women's Progressive League. The Malvern and
Armadale Recorder was vociferous in its favour: 'Let this Women's Progressive
League have all possible support from the people of Malvern. Let us put aside all
preconceived notions of what is and what is not a woman's sphere. Let us be
ready for enlarged views of life and duty for both men and women'. From the
chair, Councillor Voysey pointed out the futility of expecting support from
Malvern politicians, and the league imported notable speakers, women and men
(mostly academics), to proselytise. Dr J P Wilson was eulogised when he railed
against the weighting of education in favour of boys and the financial
dependency of women, for 'it can never be good political economy to keep a
whole class in idleness'. Despite lengthy press reports of its meetings, the league
was a short-lived wonder that attracted primarily female audiences, was only
active in the few months leading up to the 1900 vote, and then faded from local
mention. Predictably, the metropolitan agitation was more sustained, and the
Legislative Council attracted much odium for its obduracy. 'We in Victoria are
ruled by a set of bosses as much as any American city ever was', said noted
lawyer H B Higgins, seconding a motion that the upper house should submit or
be reformed. As proof, he adduced the extraordinary fact that only four of fortyeight Legislative Councillors were elected.
The agitation produced its obverse in the Women's Anti-Suffrage League (as it
did seventy years later with the fiercely traditional Women's Action Alliance
and Women Who Want to Be Women). The Malvern and Armadale Recorder
detected masculine hands behind the thrust to amass a monster anti-suffrage
petition: 'We should very much like to hear the whys and wherefores of the
women who . . . prefer being classed with children and lunatics'. In any case, the
behaviour of 'the fossilized chamber' suggested that both votes and the right to
be members were in reality available to the deranged. The outbursts of laughter
provoked by every inane sally in that place seemed to validate the perception.
Often, as well, logical crudities were greeted with approving silence. Commenting on the favoured status accorded women in Anglo-Saxon countries, one
member sagely observed that Islamic societies denied them a place in paradise.
In the more critical atmosphere outside, the question of class conspiracy was
raised. 'Many of those working against suffrage', wrote 'a Malvern Woman',
'would even wish to go back to the state of affairs before the Reform Bill of
1832'. (It had eliminated some cosy electoral sinecures and extended the
franchise to sections of the middle class.) The suffragists found an ally in James
Munro, then standing for re-election, who drew attention to his own noble
record as premier in presenting a massive petition for the woman's vote and
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
201
berating the '48 gentlemen [of the council who] could hardly be deemed a reflex
of public opinion'. However, he hoped never to see women politicians. In
September 1900, a demonstration in favour of suffrage at the Malvern Town
Hall was 'crowded to the door', and queen of the suffragists Vida Goldstein's
motion urging parliament to pass the bill was 'carried, with only a few
dissentients'.
By 1901, with the imminence of the first federal parliament, Legislative
Council resistance was looking Canute-like, if not Light Brigadish, for the prime
minister, while personally unconvinced by arguments for women's suffrage,
accepted it as a 'principle for the Commonwealth' and saw no corollary of
eligibility to become members of parliament, which removed the main objection.
Undaunted, William Knox, aspirant for Kooyong, reaffirmed his opposition
until 'the males of the states required the vote to be given to women', and at a
meeting of the Malvern Christian Citizens' League a cleric divined 'the cloven
foot in the [suffrage] movement'. The Legislative Council still would not budge.
The same arguments with their unabashed snobbery and biblical garniture were
held out as if they were newly minted, and the bill again failed.
In 1906, when the matter made its sixth appearance in the Victorian
parliament, the points of its opponents were recycled like threadbare waistcoats,
even though the cast of politicians had altered. George Fairbairn, now the
Member for Toorak, had taken an informal poll of 300 women in his 'very
varied electorate . . . it embraces Armadale, Malvern — very important suburbs
— and also the cream of Prahran — the thinking people of Prahran'; and only
about ten per cent favoured the women's vote. Perhaps his most pertinent
encounter was at a laundry, where he had asked for the man of the house and
had found a woman in charge, who found the prospect of political responsibility
wearisome: in her view men were becoming 'too lazy altogether; you actually
want us to vote for you'. And perhaps his most telling argument was the claim
that the change 'would make no possible difference in the legislation of the
country. The women of one class would vote for that side, while the women of
the opposite side would vote for their own candidates'. Their influence might be
noticed in a few moral matters — liquor, gambling, religious instruction in state
schools — but these problems were already in hand. Thomas Luxton, who had
appeared on the scene as Legislative Councillor for South Yarra Province, said
women might vote for the assembly, since that wrong-headed body appeared set
on it. However, he would always oppose their voting for the council. Miller
could see no end to female intransigence: 'The ladies who were battling for their
cause year after year were not going to be satisfied with the vote only', but 'he
would like to see a good debate on it'. He and his colleagues had evidently
wasted an awful lot of words. For these men, class rather than sex was the major
consideration.
By this time, however, there was widespread acceptance of the inevitability of
female suffrage, and measures had already been taken in June 1903 by the
Victorian Employers' Federation to ensure that the new constituency behaved
sensibly by 'obtaining the names of ladies connected with the Anti-Suffrage
movement'. These gentlewomen would presumably lend their respectable
202
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
furbelows when the inevitable became the actual, and thus assist in the main
object of restraining labour militance. Formed in 1904, the Australian Women's
National League (AWNL) aimed to support loyalty to the throne, to combat
state socialism, to educate women in politics and to protect the purity of home
life. In line with its emphasis on the domestic, many of its earliest gatherings
were 'At Homes', which took place in the mansions of influential members,
decorated whenever possible with flowers in the league's yellow and purple
colours. At its first meeting, the decision was taken to follow the example of its
conservative home-country counterpart and 'work at election times as members
of the Primrose League do in England'. Prominent among the wives and
relatives of conservative politicians, pastoralists, financiers, manufacturers and
businessmen who made up the league's membership were Jessie Fairbairn,
Annie Madden and Catherine Knox. Their husbands had all contributed
notably to the negative side in the drawn-out parliamentary battle. Speaking to
the group in the town hall, Mrs Knox advised her audience 'not to concern
themselves too much with the intricacies of political problems'. Miller praised
the emergence of those who 'discussed the means they could employ to send the
best men into Parliament . . . in order that wise measures might be passed'. In
1903, showing that their efforts went beyond mere discussion, Mrs A E Clarke,
a Malvern lady, and Mrs F G Hughes (possibly the shire secretary's wife)
organised a bevy of matrons to canvass for Sir George Turner in Balaclava.
The Woman, the league's monthly magazine, was launched in September
1907, and within four months an awe-inspiring print run of 10 000 copies was
achieved. It crisply described woman's political role: 'her true place in politics is
not to be a duplicate or counterpart of man, but to be the complement of him'.
The emphasis was not on subordination, but it was certainly not on insubordination. It was rather like touching up, with muted and gracious hues, a
portrait done in coarse and abrasive colours. State suffrage was not initially a
paramount object for the league, although by 1906 it was adopted as part of the
program and pressure was successfully applied to convert the Victorian
ministry. However, by that time, even Miller had accepted the futility of
opposition, given action in federal parliament and other states, so that league
influence may have been redundant. Its preference for supportive political
behaviour and conservative dominance was unaltered. In 1908, when the
Legislative Council finally capitulated and passed the suffrage bill, Norman
Bayles, now Member for Toorak, could claim carelessly that many women in his
constituency were 'not in favour of bothering about the thing'. Blue-stocking
agitators, while not excluded from league events, were not sought after: 'A
delegate to the 1907 Melbourne Conference commented with satisfaction that
the "new woman" was conspicuous by her absence. "Seven hundred of us . . .
and not one with a stiff collar — not one with a pocket!" '. On the other hand,
the claim was made that league activities united 'leaders of fashion' with women
from 'humbler walks of life . . . in one, common sisterhood'.
The effectiveness of their fervour to sip at the political grail was undoubted.
Ready to back the 'anti-socialist cause' in the federal election of 1906, they were
most successful in Victoria, where the Argus credited them with being the
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
203
decisive factor in achieving the highest female vote among the states and the
election of the non-labour parties. Within five years of its formation, the league's
membership had reached 16 000, concentrated in about 120 branches throughout Victoria. Numbers peaked at 54 000 Australia-wide during the First World
War, and it had become Australia's most effective political organisation.
Although it generally eschewed alliance with any political party on the grounds
that their influence would be subject to manipulation, vetting and backing of
suitable candidates was de rigueur, and the healthy Malvern, Armadale and East
Malvern branches were no exception. By 1914, they had about 2000 members
between them and had earned the ambiguous admiration of the Malvern News:
T h e Australian Women's National League has been successful since their
formation in returning members of their political belief to the respective
Parliaments, but care should be taken not to overstep the borderline of common
sense and develop the somewhat dangerous condition of smaller heads'. Apart
from the press' warning about the danger of becoming too big for their boots
and thereby reducing the size of their crania, the group's mannerly pretensions
displeased a few. In 1912, the Misses Watson and Cameron resigned 'because of
the airs and graces of some of the political silvertails on the committee'. Despite
the occasional defection, Malvern AWNL was active in supporting and
canvassing for candidates, although after the First World War there is little
evidence of their direct intervention in electoral affairs.
A succulent plum for the conservatives, the league continued its activities
through the 1920s and 1930s, and the Malvern branches were predictably
strong, attracting to their meetings key politicians, who were fulsome about the
league's longevity and impeccable standards. When the Malvern branch celebrated its majority in 1925, local politicians Stanley Argyle and G A Maxwell
were backed by the Prime Minister Stanley Bruce. The younger generation was
enlisted through formation of a girls' branch, which presumably inducted its
followers into appropriate political attitudes (in 1933, the group's essay prize was
won by a piece on T h e New Germany'). Until 1945, it remained 'the largest
non-Labor political group in Australia' and was inevitably guided by its
president, Elizabeth Couchman, an enthusiastic supporter of Menzies, into a
merger with the newly formed Liberal Party.
The league had always strongly opposed the idea that women should stand for
parliament, although there was a growing feeling that women should step out
from behind the throne and involve themselves more directly in politics. In
1946, Malvern produced a political candidate who in earlier days might well
have been one of the league's rare, but strong, suffragists. The advent of Mrs
Mascotte Brown of Toorak was announced in the Malvern Advertiser's reminder
that a free concert would take place in the town hall as a precursor to her
candidature for the seat of Fawkner, which then included part of Malvern. The
event was 'noticeably free of political flavouring', and her half-hour speech —
'remarkably free of heckles' — concentrated on 'the need for educational
reforms'. Her advocacy of the abolition of state parliaments was heartily
applauded, while her suggestion that members should be returned only if they
had kept their electoral promises ought to have ensured her election. Opening
204
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
his campaign in the town hall, the sitting member, Harold Holt, parried her
question as to what precisely he had achieved in eleven years with the advice
that she would have three years to study Hansard, while he occupied the seat.
What's this whisper that we hear
Of a lady without fear —
Who's aiming now with full intent
To gain a seat in parliament?
Independent in her views —
She's made headlines in the news!
Supporters say she can't be beat,
When she stands for Fawkner seat!
It is rumoured round the town
That her name is - MRS BROWN!
The photograph that accompanied the beguilingly Mother Goose rhyme
advertising her pluck showed Mrs Brown with arched eyebrows, a modest
neckline and a quizzical, displeased expression. Her policy speech at the town
hall, mainly hingeing on free education open to merit from the primary years
through university, attracted 500, mostly women; all to no avail, for she lost her
deposit. In the wake of the election, at her thank-you concert for supporters —
bedevilled by a hopeless public address system and 'like u old home night" . . .
[with] the same old crop of interjectors , — she considered transferring her
aspirations to the state arena, despite her belief in its abolition.
True to her word, she returned to the fray opposing Trevor Oldham, deputy
leader of the Liberal Party, in the 1947 state election, smiling this time and with
a lower, though still chaste neckline. The election, however, was such a
walkover for Oldham that results were not even mentioned in the local press.
After that debacle, Brown kept her image before the public eye with
philanthropic gestures, such as 'Grand Celebrity Variety Concerts' and ballet
and operatic dancing classes for Malvern tots, all free. Money did not seem to be
an object. In 1950, flaunting the injunction 'Women of Malvern UNITE . . .',
and again two years later, she took up the gauntlet. Both times she attracted so
little support that the tally of her supporters was ignored. Her opponent was
always flanked at the hustings by the creme de la creme — or perhaps the strong
mustard — of politicians, who did not hesitate to kick the much-dented
communist can, while she focussed on the classic, though humdrum, female
concerns of education and welfare. She was further hampered by a social
environment that drew women like damaged butterflies towards domestic toil.
'LAUNDERING OF SHEETS will be less trouble if you hang them dripping
wet on the line', or curtains could be intricately pegged up to facilitate sweeping,
the ladies of Malvern were advised. Otherwise, clinging to fading physical
charms was the preoccupation: 'if you would like to have what Barrie called "a
long 29" you could not do better than call at the Cosmetic Section of our
pharmacy', perhaps for an elixir such as 'Estrolar Youthifying Twins'.
'Women are a necessity in our Government . . . many matters . . . are
neglected because of the lack of a woman's touch . . . Why not elect a woman to
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
205
help the men straighten out the muddle and chaos', Brown's advertisements ran
during the 1953 by-election campaign, adding a personal accolade in referring to
her 'courage of a high order . . . she is standing for the fourth time'. Her chief
opponent now was John Bloomfield (the ALP did not endorse a contender) and,
although Liberal Party stability was pierced by the activities and candidates of
its splinter, the Electoral Reform League (ERL), she was soundly beaten.
Courage was the order again in 1955, when she was pictured, older and
mellower, with a chic hair style, that showed the influence of film star Audrey
Hepburn's urchin cut, a satin evening dress and tasteful jewellery, fresh from an
overseas trip during which she had addressed the Royal Empire Society on
'Women's Struggle for Parliamentary Office in Australia' and had represented
her country at the Jubilee Congress of the International Alliance of Women.
Her electoral propaganda made much of the growing voice of women in responsible positions, from the queen down to herself, 'NOW . . . COMPLETELY
FREE FROM H O M E DUTIES' and thus liberated for devoted public service.
She was further bolstered by claiming endorsement by a party that was T R U L Y
LIBERAL in character' (the Hollway Liberals) and the absence of an ALP
challenger. Her policy embraced housing for the aged, the abolition of slums,
prohibition of factories detrimental to residential areas, free education, stable,
financially prudent government and the abolition of marketing boards. For
women, she advocated equal pay and their inclusion on all government boards
and commissions.
Although defeat was yet again the outcome, in the reduced contest she gained
29.54 per cent of the vote and also had the final word. When Bloomfield used
his occasional column in the Malvern Advertiser to refer to the cleansed political
atmosphere (the ousting of the Hollway faction and disarray in the Labor Party)
and to cast aspersions on the mental calibre of her supporters, Brown was stung
to reply:
On behalf of the nearly 5,000 electors who voted for me, I must protest against the
implication that they are uneducated and unintelligent.
Although you rejoice in the disappearance of the Hollway Group . . . you also
confess that your party, led by Mr Bolte, are a team of amateur politicians . . . it
could not be said that the sitting Hollway members . . . were amateurs . . . I make no
apology for having stood under the Hollway banner.
She was soon off on another overseas tour to further her political knowledge,
particularly in Scandinavian countries with their advanced social services, to
meet luminaries from both sides of the political fence and leaders of women's
organisations in Britain. Honing her rhetorical skills, she studied public
speaking at the Guild Hall and the Royal Academy in London.
The two-cornered Brown/Bloomfield contest was repeated in 1958. It was to
be her sixth, final and most contentious attempt. Bearding the Liberal Party
den, she claimed that her vote had risen from 1200 in 1947 to 5000 at her most
recent trial and that her try at gaining party endorsement from the mainstream
Liberal Party had been thrice rejected. She interpreted the party's obduracy as a
206
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
tactical error liable to be perceived as an anti-woman streak, although in an
interview with the Melbourne Sun she admitted that, while men were often
supportive, women were 'always . . . doubtful'. The Malvern Electorate
Committee was swift to reply. She had stood for pre-selection against Holt,
Oldham and Bloomfield, and failing in that endeavour had, since 1953, stood
'either as an Independent, or as a "Victorian Liberal" under the shabby banner
of the "Hollway Group" \ Moreover, she was not a party member and could not
be because her wild-cat activities invalidated membership. Her riposte was fierce
and embarrassing:
I have stood for endorsement on three occasions, and I still maintain that my failure
to gain endorsement was because I am a woman and not because I 'did not measure
up to requirements'. I take this opportunity to explain that my concept of 'Liberal'
politics is to legislate with justice to the whole community.
Furthermore, she quoted a 1950 letter from the Electorate Committee's
spokesman that confessed to being impressed by her, indicating her slim chance
of being selected for Malvern and suggesting contact with party headquarters
about more available endorsements (Labor strongholds perhaps?). This thrust
was quickly followed by an article 'Mrs Mascotte Brown The Modern Version
of King Bruce and the Spider': 'Remember the apocryphal story of the spider
which succeeded after many attempts at spinning his web? Perhaps this could
well be a happy omen for Mrs Brown who assuredly deserves the palm for
courageous persistence'. The patient spider and the loser's palm could have been
bettered as reassuring images. Nevertheless, the catalogue of her sabbatical
travels, social concerns and tenacity might have converted those ambiguous
symbols into the chariot and the laurel: 'How many of our readers would be
prepared to commence music studies at 4.45 each morning . . . before
commencing the ordinary day's household duties? . . . We may yet see the story
of Bruce and the Spider re-enacted in Malvern'. Her background was offered in
explanation of this extraordinary personal grit; relatives who were military men
— one 'promoted . . . for outstanding bravery in the Zulu wars', another 'the
first pilot to try to fly the Irish Channel' — and yet they combined proven
bellicosity with sensitive musicianship.
With only a one member majority, the Liberal/Country Party government
was plainly rattled, publicly contemptuous, but behind the scenes keeping close
watch on her activities, and constantly emphasising the urgency of stability.
'Premiers had constantly been looking over their shoulders and had been
compelled either to take action they did not believe in . . . or else [were]
prevented from doing what they wanted to do because they did not have the
numbers to govern in their own right', Bloomfield complained in his policy
speech. The situation, indeed, sounded a democratic travesty, and that interpretation was confirmed when the Bolte government was returned by winning
seventeen seats on Democratic Labor Party (DLP) preferences. In the election's
wake, a slanging match took place in the Malvern Advertiser between the
defeated, though not crestfallen, candidate and the spokesman for the Malvern
Electorate Committee, who contended self-contradictorily that Brown had
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
207
'failed by 11 per cent to reach . . . the normal Labor (or anti-Liberal) vote' and
that her score was equivalent to the number of ALP and DLP supporters. He
deplored the fact that she had stood at all, a regret that was, in her estimation,
'hardly a compliment to a well-educated people who, I like to believe, are inbred
with those democratic principles which form the basis of our election system'.
Given the ALP split, the sources of her votes could not be determined but
support for her had progressively risen, and she vowed to continue the struggle.
Unfortunately, her political career was at an end, and her opponents had the
last extraordinary word:
it is time for Mrs Brown to face the fact that the voters of Malvern are sick and tired
of being forced to the polls in order to give the anti-Liberal minority an opportunity
of voting against the present Government — nothing more. For this purpose, Mrs
Brown's name will serve as well as any other, and that appears to be the sole value to
anyone of her continued candidature.
More honest perhaps than intended, but hardly in the tradition of Jefferson and
Lincoln.
If politics is domestic warfare, as the editor of the Malvern News had claimed
in 1912, it might be said that during the post-war period they developed the
ferocity of a civil war. Formation of the Malvern branch of the Liberal Party
flowed out of the regrouping of the conservative forces in the immediate postwar period after a rescue operation that had been described as 'a political
"Dunkirk" '. The Malvern branch was 'already in the forefront in publishing
the [party's] aims and objects' and was surrogate to a flourishing women's
section and a Young Liberals group, both of which were eager to volunteer for
service at elections. At its first annual meeting in July 1946, membership had
reached 1250 and was still growing, while in the same year the Malvern South
branch had reached a respectable 565. The East Malvern branch, which had its
own women's section and the Darling Young Liberals, was also deemed to be 'a
credit to all concerned'. As well as its more strictly political activities, the central
branch involved itself in community services, taking over the home help service
from the defunct Malvern Community Centre Movement in 1947, a move
which coincided with the announcement by the women's section that it
planned to create a children's library to plug the notorious gap left by council's
apathy in bookish matters. Two years later, Oldham opened the library, and,
by the early 1950s, it was providing brain-food for about 3000 children (still,
according to organisers, in a discouraging civic environment). Given these
substantial forces, the party was able to run tight, comprehensive and effective
campaigns when there was a whiff of danger in the air, saturating the electorate
with manifestos and leaflets, providing baby-sitting services for mothers on
election days, and holding numerous well-advertised, well-attended meetings.
Menzies was an invaluable general, who could achieve turn-outs of 2000 at the
town hall and brought the panache of his familiarity with 'Great National
Questions' to the gatherings. As incumbents, ordinary members of parliament
were socially as well as politically prominent.
The Liberal Party's numerical strength and organisational vitality were
208
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
impressive, yet its real strength lay less in numbers and strategy than in the
opportunity provided by the times to take advantage of the increasingly
refrigerated post-war climate. At the first annual meeting of the Malvern South
branch, Oldham spoke with concern of 'prevailing industrial unrest and
explained how it was fomented by revolutionary minorities'. His comments
were backed by the secretary of the Malvern Youth Club, who emphasised the
urgency of spreading 'the gospel of Liberalism and freedom as opposed to a
socialistic dictatorship'. Prime Minister Chifley's plan to nationalise the banks
proved an inflammatory move that brought out a huge fire brigade, representing the social spectrum from industrial chieftains down to humble public
servants, all determined to douse the flames of socialism. In September 1947, the
party's 'Monster PROTEST MEETING' at the town hall was followed by
formation of the Malvern Citizens' Protest Committee, which was to be
'independent of all political parties, [and to] include all shades of thought'. In
proof of this commitment to openmindedness (though presumably some of the
'pinker' shades of thought were not part of the colour scheme), Mayor
Cummins hosted a meeting, at which he, prominent businessmen, parliamentarians and some unclassified speakers condemned the proposal.
As the atmosphere warmed, it became rather hard to tell the difference
between the firefighters and the arsonists. When Menzies opened Oldham's
campaign in October 1947, he defended the rejection of supply by the Legislative Council and pointed out presciently that the Senate possessed similar
powers. However, given that the state scene provided a spectacle of almost
medieval turbulence and chicanery, there was more leeway to be gained on the
federal stage, where an increasingly beleaguered Labor government was
doggedly pursuing what it believed to be a mandate for social change. In early
1948, Arthur Warner, MLC for Higinbotham, spoke to the women's section of
the Central Park branch on the prices referendum, while Councillor Johnson
presided over a similar meeting at the Tooronga branch. The Pharmaceutical
Benefits Act was also raising the alarums: 'Is there an influence in Australia bent
on foisting a totalitarian policy of national medicine upon us?'. Wantonly used,
'totalitarian' ceased to be an historically specific term and became a call to a
crusade. Local advertisements for the crucial 1949 federal election made the
choice as clear as a cloudless day: ' H O L T for HIGGINS Your personal liberties
are in danger', 'Liberalism against Socialism', 'There is no Labour Party in
Australia but there is a socialist party', 'Day of Destiny Day! . . . Follow New
Zealand. Give a Lead to Great Britain'.
Behind the scenes in the new electorate of Higgins, a magnificent team effort
was organised, aimed at the unaffiliated as well as the party faithful, particularly
businessmen, professionals and others directly concerned with the government's
nationalisation program. As a result, 'very active groups of the Bank Officers'
Association and of similar bodies were operating throughout the campaign'.
Party headquarters assessed its card-carrying forces: membership of the Malvern
branch had now swelled to over 2000, which was 'excellent', but an unwieldy
inflation; the East Malvern branch earned the flattering adjective without the
qualification; only the Central Park — with its 'very good territory' — and the
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
209
East Caulfield branches were a little remiss. The campaign target of £1200 was
exceeded, sometimes through unconventional means. One novel stunt was the
issue of 'Blot 'em Out' collecting cards. By paying a shilling for each letter,
determined anti-socialists could erase the words 'Socialist Labor Party'. Despite
the embarrassment of some members at this rather common ruse, over £50 was
raised. More circumspectly, committee rooms were set up at various business
premises, and seven large meetings were held, the best being the last. According
to headquarter's opinion, its success was confirmed by the arrival of the Labor
candidate, Jean Melzer, and her committee, who had adjourned from their own
unattended meeting to attempt, 'by interjection, to embarrass the speakers'.
Apart from this disadvantageous appearance, the hapless Labor candidate
held only two other meetings: a 'very stormy' one at the Malvern Town Hall
where, confronted by bank-officer challengers, her forces 'reacted somewhat
badly, and wasted much thunder in attacking [them] as individuals . . . It is
evident that heckling at Labour meetings pays dividends'; the second, at the
Caulfield Town Hall, was 'a complete frost' that attracted an audience of forty.
The cause was so thoroughly doomed, if not damned, that no money was
wasted on ALP advertising in the Malvern Advertiser, and Holt raced in,
averaging 65.8 per cent over all booths, with strongest support coming from
Darling and Gardiner.
Although the state scene was more reef-ridden, Cold War fervour was still a
handy boat to board. In the 1950 state election for the Legislative Assembly, the
claim 'LIBERAL LEADERS IN THE FIGHT A G A I N S T C O M M U N I S M '
could be validated by pointing to the record (Hollway's Royal Commission into
Communism and Menzies' promise to introduce a bill to outlaw the Communist Party). Two years later, in an election for both houses, even though a
referendum had failed to give Menzies the go-ahead, the anti-communist oar
was effective in administering a few telling swipes. Chairing a meeting at the
town hall, Mayor Stevens praised Oldham; he 'has worked hard to defeat
Socialist Legislation, and especially the Chifley Government's Bank Nationalisation and Medical Socialisation Plans and the more recent Greater Melbourne
Council Plan, whilst his Anti-Communism efforts have been outstanding'. The
rhetoric was beginning to sound repetitive, and by this time the Liberal Party
had its own problems in the breakaway of its dissident offspring, the infuriating
ERL, which fielded candidates in Malvern and Glen Iris. Tom Hollway, the
obstreperous ERL leader, had removed himself from his country incumbency to
oust the sitting member for Glen Iris. Even in Malvern, Oldham found his
majority gravely reduced, and ERL bodies were still uninvited guests occupying
the bentwood chairs at the next year's by-election. Oldham's successor, John
Bloomfield, hammered home the old dichotomies ('liberalism — socialism . . .
the individual — the police state . . . private enterprise — government
monopoly'), and the Independent Labor candidate joined the chorus,
explaining that 'unlike some labor men, he has always been a fearless fighter
against the reds'. The real irritants were the maverick Liberal candidates Mrs
Brown and a former member for Dandenong and 'gentleman — that being the
simplest way of describing Mr Dawnay-Mould', who had Hollway backing. In
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
the rather Ruritanian scene, Bloomfield appealed to 'the very considerable
number of people in this Community who have a very different political creed
from my own', but his fears of an alienated counter-force were unfounded, and
he began a long term as Member for Malvern.
Shortly afterwards, in his regular column for the Malvern Advertiser, Bloomfield confessed that state parliament resembled Balkan or South American
politics. Although the purport of his column was to present information, not to
push propaganda, his presentation of fact was romantic rather than academic.
During the 1954 federal campaign, the communist flow through South-East
Asia was taken as an example of'the forces of nature operating] on a universal
basis', which, if true, was a counsel for fatalistic inaction. His story of his first
meeting with Henry Bolte — carrying 'an inert and exhausted lamb, which
recovered in the most surprising fashion after some hours in the oven' — was
irresistibly religious in the tradition of the Good Shepherd, even if the method
of resuscitation was modern. However, by this time, even though the Hollway
Liberals were to make one more frustrating appearance, there was little to worry
about: 'AUSTRALIA is On Top of the World with the Menzies Government',
the advertisement crowed. Early in 1955, Bloomfield indicated the irrelevance of
the ALP in the existing welfare state and deplored the 'at least . . . deeply pink
in hue' colouring of some of federal Labor leader Dr H V Evatt's actions. The
tenth anniversary of the Malvern South branch that year was a bright occasion,
attended by Gullett, Warner, Bloomfield and Malvern's newest Legislative
Council member, Lindsay Thompson, who reported a welcome change in his
electorate in that many wives were no longer sheepishly following their husbands into the ALP fold, but were moving into greener LCP fields. In the June
election, brought on by a no-confidence vote against the Labor government of
John Cain Senior, the ALP had split, and no endorsed candidate appeared on
the Malvern horizon. As a bonus, the frustrating Hollway faction was neutralised. Although there was still mileage to be gained from the anti-communist
statements that regularly appeared on campaign leaflets, the task of stoking the
fires — or lowering the temperature — could now largely be left to the DLP.
The ALP had always been decidedly weak in Malvern. In mid 1935, the
Malvern branch ran a series of lectures on subjects such as 'Poverty of
Capitalism, Debasing Human Souls' and 'Why a Shorter Working Week?', but
otherwise it was almost invisible. Formed in 1946, the Tooronga branch seems
to have been the most vigorous and, perhaps because it had the purity of
irrelevance, addressed matters that were omitted in other forums: 'Shaping the
Arbitration Act to the Workers' Needs', the Aboriginal problem, antiSemitism, modern trends in education, trade unionism, long service leave, and
the administration of Nauru. In 1948, possibly to swell meagre audiences, it
invited non-members to attend the educative parts of its meetings. When
branch president Mr Goodwin, an import from Coburg, died, he was praised
for his staunchness in a cause that had become a pariah's passion; to him 'the
need for Socialism was . . . a day to day matter'. However fervent its devotees
were, the party existed on the periphery, powerless to take the initiative and left
lamely to support community projects (the home help scheme and the children's
55 Nearly 1700 from Malvern enlisted, no mean tally in a small community: war service
certificate, City of Malvern, First World War.
ABOVE: 56 Men, booted, gas-masked
and asbestos-suited, clustered demoniacally around a ball of furious fire: Malvern Air Raid Precautions fire squad,
1941.
LEFT: 57 The family's symbolic status
has obliterated their individual humanity
in a gesture riven with weariness and
despair: the City of Malvern's war
memorial, unveiled in 1931.
LEFT: 58 Women were 'serving their country in all parts of the globe': Sister ] Crameri and
Sister M Holding of Malvern in New Guinea, Second World War. RIGHT: 59 'The average
heat in Palestine's a hundred in the shade': Corporal Vernon ]ack of East Malvern washes a
pair of socks in a biscuit tin at Tobruk, Libya, Second World War.
60 Over 120 000 skeins of wool and twelve miles of flannel and drill had been consumed for
garments fashioned with 'motherly care': Mrs Cranstone and Mrs Pearsall of the Malvern Red
Cross, Second World War.
61 The shires and towns were seen as the 'nurseries of the legislature': illuminated address
presented to Alex McKinley, Malvern councillor and mayor, and Member for Toorak, 1902.
62 Malvern's political eminence has become part of the nation's annals: Zara and Harold Holt
with the town clerk, Dudley Lucas, at Malvern's centenary ball, 1956.
63 Perfection of combinations. Several Victorian premiers, deputy premiers and Australian
prime ministers have represented Malvern: a gathering of a few of them, late 1960s.
64 Champion swimmer Frank Beaurepaire in 1905; his sporting proivess struck a chord with
Australia's obsession with such successes. He represented the Malvern area in the Legislative
Council.
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
211
library) that were already being competently dealt with by their opponents in an
electorally lucrative manner. Improved public relations, due to the Liberal
Party's conduct of the Malvern Young People's Free Library in particular',
crowed an internal Liberal Party report, 'are beginning to have an effect in
influencing former Labour supporters in our direction'. Most ALP approaches
to council concerned these projects, where there was no creative role for its
members, or municipal housekeeping matters — dirty lanes, lighting, traffic
signs, the swimming baths — which could only earn the kind of perfunctory
credits that housewives gain for similar activities.
ALP candidates complained of low branch membership, lack of support at
elections (polling booths were often unattended if paid helpers were not
engaged) and difficulty in gaining press coverage unless they also paid for
advertisements. The candidates themselves were sometimes anonymous to the
point of invisibility. In the 1951 federal election, the Liberal Party commented
that the opposition's contender for Higgins was 'practically unknown and
remained a singularly vague figure throughout . . . largely a "token" opposition
. . . No Labour Committee rooms were opened'. In the adjoining electorate of
Henty, the sitting member, Henry Gullett, spoke at twenty-three public
meetings and gained the support of the Oakleigh Times, 'a first class suburban
paper . . . generally Labour inclined', which published his articles on election
issues for three weeks before election day — admittedly along with those of his
Labor and Communist opponents. His rivals were apparently not threatening
enough to warrant internal party comment, and the result showed a slump of
over seven per cent in the ALP vote from 1946. ALP candidates also had to
carry the pilgrim's burden of unpropitious, if socially desirable, policies, which
enabled the Liberal Party to revive the cry of economic lunacy. During the 1954
federal election, the Henty advertisement pictured Evatt as protecter of a flock
of worthy supplicants: pensioners, the retired, salary earners, ex-servicemen,
war bond holders and young couples seeking homes. While it conformed to
Labor's ideals, the program looked over-ambitious, even unrealistic, while the
top billing for Evatt, given the serendipitous appearance shortly before the
election of the Russian defector, Vladimir Petrov, might have been described as
unavoidable yet foolhardy. In an appalling conjunction of unfavourable times
and the thwarted ambitions of an individual, the brilliant Dr Evatt had become
an albatross.
In that year, party members in the Malvern area were pitifully thin on the
ground, especially by comparison with the huge Liberal Party contingents:
Tooronga twenty-nine members, Glen Iris eighteen and Carnegie-East Malvern
twenty-three (1955 figures). 1955 was the ALP's year of the scarecrow. After the
split in ALP forces, the Tooronga and Carnegie-East Malvern branches
affirmed loyalty to the new state executive, but no such declaration was forthcoming from the Malvern branch, which by the middle of the year had been
declared bogus, resulting in a trickle of disaffected members into the Tooronga
group. In September 1955, the Anti-Communist Labor Party (later the Democratic Labor Party; DLP) of Malvern held its first rally at the Dispensary Hall in
Valetta Street. In a letter to the Malvern Advertiser, the president claimed that
212
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
'an overwhelming majority [had] decided to support the properly constituted
executive led by Mr J Horan and Mr F P McManus' and that his faction owned
all branch monies and books. Apart from the claim of legitimacy, regular
articles were sent to the press, condemning all manner of sins of omission and
commission in their rivals — unity tickets (in which ALP and CP candidates for
union elections appeared on the same ticket), failure to condemn communist
atrocities in Europe, fraternisation with visiting Russians and Chinese — and
frequently enunciating the overriding principle:
Our path is quite clear, we shall never surrender the fight against Communist
infiltration in ALP Branches, Unions, or anywhere else that this foreign ideology
rears its ugly head . . . Totalitarianism whether to the left or to the right must never
become our way of life, when the careerists and fellow travellers have been accounted
for, only then, will Labor speak with a United Voice.
In the absence of clear, positive values to bind the community, anti-communism
and xenophobia provided the otherwise cloudy concept of 'our way of life' with
substance and cohesion.
This fiery drama cast Evatt as Satan, while John Cain Senior played the part
of Beelzebub; and no chance of mitigation existed. The ban on unity tickets
came too late, and support for the Peace Assembly was interpreted as just
another case of being wilfully duped. The DLP attacks were persistent and
relentless, but the purgative that they administered was made a little more palatable with some sugary offerings: cordial invitations to hear selected speakers,
supper at winter meetings, sponsorship of a debating team in the Young Labor
Association, a group booking for that union's cabaret ball, a successful house
party to back the candidature of a young Malvern lady — an active member of
Labor's youth group — for the seat of Higgins in the 1956 election. The branch
was said to be thriving, especially in the strength of 'its womenfolk'.
From the other corner, their decimated ALP rivals were left deploring the
confusion. 'An Interested Reader' of the Malvern Advertiser, who was perhaps
not entirely disinterested, requested wide publicity for 'a vigorous declaimer'
from the state secretary 'identifying the real Malvern ALP'. In March 1956, the
Tooronga branch found itself in trouble because of the invisibility of supporters,
and they hardily determined 'to reconstitute ourselves into the Malvern Branch
. . . we may be a little stronger if we try to harness the leaderless potential which
used to be part of a very active branch in Malvern'. Once leadership was reestablished, they would return to Tooronga. In May, remnants of the collapsed
branch moved to fill the Malvern vacuum at a meeting in the old court room at
the town hall. Enthusiasm, boosted by the presence of veteran faithfuls, was
said to be high, which was an augury for cleansed vitality. 'Another new
member who turned out to have special abilities which promised to end this
ridiculous situation [concerning legitimacy]' was forlornly and futilely
welcomed. A handful of resolutions regarding the socialist objective, disarmament and attempts to purify the unions of both communist and industrial group
control were passed in the year after reconstitution. However, in the late fifties
and early sixties, the branch was a faltering and nearly voiceless entity. Even by
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
213
1965 only thirty-two members were listed, and four years later disbandment of
the branch was again under consideration.
Meagre support and a tarnished image were general problems. When ALP
Senator P J Kennelly visited the depleted Glen Iris branch in 1957, regret was
expressed that inadequate publicity prevented 'many hundreds of labor voters'
from attending, but perhaps the poor turnout stemmed from more deep-seated
causes. At the same time, the East Malvern-Carnegie branch dissolved itself
and its few remaining members decamped with their assets to Caulfield, which
had the only other branch in their state electorate. Demoralisation obviously
affected electoral performance. In four Legislative Assembly elections between
1952 and 1958, the party was too dispirited to provide candidates for Malvern.
When the ALP returned to the fray in 1961 and 1964, its candidates received
about twenty-two per cent of the vote, an eleven per cent drop from 1950. By
1955, the erosion in the federal seats of Henty and Higgins was equally dramatic,
and by 1958 the ALP candidate for the latter seat had prudently adopted the
opposition's rhetoric, advertising himself as 'a staunch opponent of Communism' (his monumentally secure Liberal opponent failed to advertise locally).
Given that Labor's chances in these seats, both state and federal, were either
fugitive or non-existent, the decline hardly mattered, except in terms of pride.
Those who had left the ALP were riding high on conviction and a creditable
slice of the vote. By July 1957, the breakaway Malvern branch, which claimed
members of forty years' standing, designated itself as belonging to the DLP, to
distinguish itself from the Evatt party, and were addressed in September by the
assistant state secretary: 'To preserve their own seats they fought their former
colleagues with the filthy snake of sectarianism aided by Communists and
political opportunists . . . The foreign policy of the Evatt Party and to some
extent the A C T U [Australian Council of Trade Unions] is identical with the
Communist Party'. The leonine rhetoric ignored the fact that, in local terms,
their opponents barely had the voice of a mouse. Evatt's support for a summit
meeting between the two superpowers was vilified as having been proffered 'at
the best possible time for Communism's purposes'. The sudden appearance in
the sky of the Soviet satellite Sputnik had, they said, cowed democratic leaders,
hampered as they were by essential goodwill and freedom of the press, into a
humble posture. Evatt's pathetic lingering tenure — now a lame duck as well as
an albatross — was a god-send to his accusers, who made claim to the Labor
tradition 'laid down by such great men as Spencer, Tudor, Scullin, Chifley and
Curtin' and looked forward to a destiny as 'the No 2 Political Party of the
Nation'. From the mid fifties until 1961, DLP candidates in the Malvern area
secured between eleven and fourteen per cent of the vote which was almost
equivalent to the drop in the ALP vote.
Given that an already one-sided situation had become a scene of carnage, the
worries privately expressed at times by Liberal Party functionaries about
maintaining or increasing their share of the vote look over-anxious, if not a little
greedy. Higgins was 'one of the outstanding electorates from the Liberal point of
view', and yet the party's report on the 1954 campaign sensed danger in the
demise of elderly people and the conversion of their estates into flats, rooming
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
establishments or institutions, all likely to be inhabited by Labor voters:
'Roomers on the whole will have no stake in the country and tend to harbour
resentments . . . Residents in "converted" flats are normally in the lowest
category of rent payers'. In the changed situation, the best hope lay in the
electorate's 'New Australians' (estimated at about 4000), who 'must be
persuaded into adopting Liberalism'. Formed in 1950, the New Australians
Liberal and Country Movement (NALCM) addressed this contingency, and
was provided with information on newly naturalised people and the number of
aliens registered (nearly 3000 in Henty and Higgins in 1953). If the newcomers
were not captured and Labor supporters appeared on the more densely
populated scene, 'Higgins ceases to be the blue-ribbon certainty that it has been
considered'. The projection looked logical, but a touch bizarre. Even though
three elections later (1963) Holt's vote had dropped by over five per cent, by
1969 an unthinkable swing of 18.2 per cent was required for the seat to be lost
by the Liberals. As for the migrants, a significant proportion came from Central
and Eastern Europe and, according to a 1955 Liberal Party report, were 'bitterly
resentful of Communism', ranging in political attitude from those who were
otherwise markedly apolitical to 'extreme Right Wingers'. Absorption of
N A L C M members into Liberal Party branches was recommended and by 1957
that had been achieved.
Also perhaps a reflection of some distortion in the party political mind was
the suggestion that the LCP would suffer from the activities of the AntiCommunist Labor Party. In the 1955 election, it was observed that 'the biggest
losses in Higgins occurred at those booths situated at or near to Roman
Catholic Churches, Convents, schools', representing a loss of primary votes to
the Liberal Party. The reality was that the Labor Party was overall the true loser
and that the LCP vote in Higgins would have swollen to between seventy-one
and seventy-seven per cent over the next few elections, if DLP preferences had
been required. Presumably 100 per cent of the vote was a perfectly satisfactory
result. A hint of paranoia surfaced in the final assessment: 'There is no doubt
that Higgins is, and will remain under all foreseeable circumstances a "blueribbon" Liberal seat. Nevertheless, it is in such "blue-ribbon" seats where the
most strenuous efforts should be made to counter any dangerous tendencies'. It
may have been simply a way of maintaining a satisfying sense of vigilance in the
party's toilers, and yet in 1958 seepage to the DLP was again perceived as a
threat not so much in the House of Representatives, but the Senate. Perhaps the
danger from that quarter was more fabricated than real, although in the early
years of its formation DLP reliability may well have been seen as an unknown
quantity, given the Labor origins of the bulk of its original cohorts. Other
worries were alleged attrition and stagnation in party branches, a charge that
produced an unqualified rebuttal from at least one branch. More on the
curiosity level, there was the appearance on the scene in 1961 of an unendorsed
Liberal, George Edward Knox, a First World War veteran and foundation
member of the Liberal Party, who vowed to oppose Holt as 'a disaster for Australia, and a great embarrassment to Mr Menzies'. Holt, who was now identified
with Higgins, modestly offered to accept a verdict against him if after twenty-five
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
215
years of service 'my people now feel that I have exhausted my usefulness'. When
Knox failed to present himself, the challenge proved to be a damp squib.
Amidst all the self-scrutiny and infighting, larger issues hardly rated a
mention, except in the context of anti-communism. The summit conference was
widely regarded as one of the few hopes for a sane world and sparked off a spate
of letters to the Malvern Advertiser, most of which favoured a try at peace. One
father of a sixteen-month-old son spoke on the child's behalf to say that the
infant would not be impressed by arguments condemning any attempt to find a
via media: 'To him and millions of his contemporaries a lessening of tension
between the nations offers a chance of life which is their birth-right'. The
sanctity of human life was much mentioned. That principle, however, could
hardly contend with the realities of power, and the metaphor of the summit
perhaps enshrined the unreality of the thrust — people on summits usually
listen only to God's commandments or their own voices, or both.
Apart from these few individual pleas for a humane resolution, there was
hardly any voice at all for non-conservative causes in Malvern. A frail coalition
of concerned people — the Malvern Vote No Committee — had existed during
the 1951 referendum on banning the Communist Party. Their effect cannot
have been all that great, for Kooyong and Higgins, the Tweedledum and
Tweedledee of Victorian politics, were the two Victorian electorates most
strongly in favour of the ban. In September that year, council refused an
application by the Malvern branch of the ALP to hold a Sunday gathering in
Central Park. The timing of the approach suggests that the referendum may
have been the focus of the proposed meeting. In 1955, a request from the
Malvern Current Affairs Discussion Group to place a 'small table' in Glenferrie
Road to allow citizens to sign a petition protesting against preparations for
atomic war was disallowed. Malvernites, claimed a deputation that aimed to
overturn the decision, were being deprived of the right to make up their own
minds and 'to make articulate their latent desire for peace'. Two years later, the
same request met the same response. The performance was somewhat schizophrenic, for, in the Petrov year (1954), both the Peace Quest Forum and Women
for Peace and Equality held town-hall meetings. However, by the mid 1950s, the
preoccupations were overwhelmingly conservative: the 'Call to the People of
Australia Movement', which employed the language of fear ('danger from
abroad . . . danger at home . . . danger from moral and intellectual apathy'), a
reinvigorated temperance movement that focussed on the 'Stick-to-Six' cry, an
active UN association which was decidedly anti-socialist, although it had a
humane third-world bias, and Liberal Party opinions, now couched — at least
publicly — in the relaxed tones of immutability. On 19 September 1914, the
Malvern News reported the recent federal election:
Mr Andrews [Labor] said that he was the stricken soldier of a victorious army, while
Mr Boyd [People's Party] was the victorious soldier of a stricken party . . . He was
confident of the ultimate capture of Henty for Labor . . . There were constantly new
Labor organisations being established, and with the continuance of the influx of
workers to this electorate, its capture by Labor was only a matter of time.
216
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
It was perhaps fortunate for the sanity of Mr Andrews that, having gained a
creditable 37.53 per cent of the vote, he did not survive the sixty years that were
required for his optimism to be ratified with the election of Joan Child in 1974
with a final tally of 51.4 per cent of the vote. There had been a few jolts for the
conservatives along the way. In 1929, Henry Gullett, standing as a Nationalist,
had only been saved by the few votes of an Independent Nationalist candidate.
Five years later, it had been 'a shock to find [the Communist Party] getting
about 1,500 votes in such electorates as Henty and Kooyong'. Even so, the
radical leakage only represented 13.45 per cent of the combined vote for both
seats, and Gullett held the seat until his death in 1940. 'Chickens Come Home
to Roost' was the cry that year, a lean time for the UAP, which was thought to
be suffering from intellectual atrophy. Amongst the 'Candidates Galore' in
Henty, some were just 'deposit fodder', but the seat went to an independent,
former Mayor of Melbourne A W Coles, and the rot was expected to affect Holt
'because as standard bearer for the conservative tradition in politics, electors
distrust his party's ability to make a sound and lasting peace settlement'.
However, Coles had probably been assisted by Gullett's death, nor could he
have been described as a rabble-rouser. In 1946, he was replaced by Gullett's son
who stayed there until his retirement in 1955. With the consolidation of the
Liberal Party and the beneficial repercussions of the Cold War, the seat was kept
safely warm by Liberal Max Fox, apart from the shivers of 1961 when the ALP
gained a little over forty per cent of the vote.
By 1972, the mood in Australia had shifted, and Labor's years in the cold
were about to end. However, some things were blessedly unchanged. In May,
Barbara Murray-Smith, social columnist of the Southern Cross, reported a
charity function, one of many that, in time-honoured fashion, devotedly listed
attending notables: 'No doubts about these Young Libs. They sure believe in
living up to their name. Specially when it comes to liberal amounts of champers,
chicken and snazzy gear . . . No one but no one "Labored" over the champers'.
The 'bird life', in 'cute yellow jersey', 'crushed purple velvet', 'lime green [hot
pants] with red patch pockets' and 'multi-colored gathered mini skirt', sounded
as if they had come from a Brazilian aviary. Less colourful matters were on some
female minds. In November, when the Women's Electoral Lobby investigated
candidates' attitudes to women's issues, Joan Child, as aspirant for Henty,
topped the survey in south-eastern electorates (Fox was right on the dividing
line between pass and failure, while, in nearby Higgins, John Gorton just failed).
In 1972, Child 'almost made history' by almost toppling the Liberal incumbent.
In an interview with the Southern Cross in 1971, 'For Joan, politics had to wait
for 5 children', Child stated that a changed attitude towards women as politicians had first been evident in the 1966 federal election, when they 'polled really
well for the first time. Before that a woman candidate attracted ridicule from
men and resentment from women'. However, they had continued to attract
blame for their position of weakness: 'Women in general seem too diffident, too
lazy or too unambitious to strive for the top jobs even in occupations where
their talents, experience and natural qualities could be best used for the benefit
of their own sex' (Southern Cross 4 February 1970). The old reflex of blaming the
PERFECTION OF COMBINATIONS
217
victim is hard to dispel. Child had had to wait for more than the relative
independence of her children to achieve her political aims. In 1969, she was
defeated for pre-selection by Robert Ray, a twenty-one-year-old student teacher
and party member of two years' standing. At that time she was forty-seven,
having lived all but twelve of those years in the electorate, a widowed housewife,
with work experience in advertising and door-to-door sales. According to an
ALP pre-selection report, 'Mr Ray was attracted to the Party over the issue of
Vietnam and it is such issues he wishes to assist in putting to the population at
large. He feels the experience gained from the campaign would hold him in good
stead in the future'.
When Ray proceeded to the Senate, Joan Child gained pre-selection. After
the near miss of 1972, two years later Labor scented victory and brought out its
'big guns', including Margaret Whitlam, to assist Child. Her response when
history was made — the first Labor member for Henty and the first ALP woman
in the House of Representatives — was disarmingly honest: 'I was like a stunned
mullet. It was partly tiredness and partly disbelief that we had actually done it'.
It was perhaps stunned shark on the menu a year later when, in the election
forced by the dismissal of the Whitlam government, Henty returned
temporarily to the Liberal Party. After returning to the seat, 'her reputation as a
widowed battler', who kept house and shopped in Malvern, a life-style which
validated her hold on a community base, was thought to account for her tenure.
Parliamentary politics are greedy for attention, and yet the majority of people
are not candidates for office or even party members. Manipulated into attitudes
towards ideological questions, often mistrustful and contemptuous of politicians, usually fearful of change, most voters are receivers rather than deliverers
of legislative decisions. Their desire for power extends to wanting to have some
control over their domestic lives and immediate environment, and to create
better conditions for their children. This can be most fruitfully attempted at the
municipal level, through the noisy, if spasmodic alliances of ordinary people; for
being apolitical in relation to the structured scene does not necessarily mean
withdrawal from politics in the broader sense of resident action. If politics is
'domestic warfare', these unions of citizens play the role of a guerilla force,
rather than that of the regular army, and, even there, in the politics of pressure,
a rule of larger political life follows. For any chance of success, there is still a
need for the cultivation of 'moulded opinions'.
CHAPTER-10
Moulded Opinions
'Individual opinions had little or no weight, but moulded opinions
could achieve particular objects.}
Malvern News May 1915
When A A Billson addressed the foundation meeting of the
East Malvern Progress and Tramway League in May 1915, he was in avuncular
mood, making a simple though quite elegantly phrased point about the relative
powerlessness of lone individuals to alter either their own lot or to change policy
regarding their environment. Although invested with democratic rights, they
were nevertheless confronted by an array of authorities who were empowered to
determine the shape of their lives and, in times of desperation, even the
conditions of their survival. Billson's concern was modestly confined to that
level of government which most intimately affected the daily lives of his
audience — the municipality. He was tackling a very real situation that could
not have failed to stir a hearty response in his audience. The civic authorities
were obliged to investigate complaints and assess grievances. However, the
petitioners often found that their solo efforts to change the course of events met
stubborn bureaucratic resistance or indifference.
And yet their importunate letters continued to flood into the town hall,
usually about the nitty-gritty of rates, sanitary deficiencies or repressive by-laws:
T h e local City Council is certainly nothing if not original', was the moan when
the nosey parkers took an interest in Malvern's hen roosts. Tired, apparently,
of spending its time and energy on tramway extension schemes, road improvements etc., it has found a fresh subject for vivisection in the innocent yard
fowl . . .'. Otherwise, not council but its functionaries were found blameworthy.
There was, for instance, the cruelty of the dog-catcher, who was said to thump
his victims on the head, before slamming them in his cart where they lay
howling piteously. Another local eccentric was the dustman, who could be
observed in his 'interesting pantomime of endeavour to force matter into nonexistent space'. A few found the health inspector palpably harsh. It was,
complained one unfortunate butcher caught in a minor misdemeanour, Very
hard to jump on one on the very first day of opening a new shop'.
Understandably, the steady post-First World War escalation of rates — a
£100 000 increase in revenue in ten years — provoked most complaint,
218
MOULDED OPINIONS
219
especially when the rises were enacted without inspection, and compassionate
grounds for leniency could be claimed. The home was, after all, that haven of
security, often the result of 'years of saving', where individuals hoped to exist
unmolested. 'I purchased the property in 1912 when the valuation was £24/-/-',
wrote one complainant in 1922. 'From 1913/19 it stood at £30/-/- then it
jumped for some unaccountable reason by 50% to £ 4 5 / - / - . . . and now you put
on another £15/-/-.' 'I am unable to pay the increased rate', pleaded another, 'as
I am a widow, &. have to support my children . . . Kindly consider my case'. 'I
speak as one financially crippled', a High Street grocer protested, when his
MMBW rates, based on municipal valuations, rocketed up. 'Why should I be so
harshly penalised?' 'I am now in old age', explained a resident of Claremont
Avenue. 'If this procedure is to go on I shall be forced to leave Malvern.' 'Mr
Maddicks has been out of employment the past three months', his wife
admitted. 'Enclosed please find £2.0.0 in notes being part payment.' A few tried
novel blandishments to secure a reduction: 'My house is spread over the
frontage &. gives it a bigger appearance than it really is'. The unremitting
process seemed to confirm the ghastly adage put by one aspiring municipal
reformist that 'the whole duty of man is to be rated and taxed'.
Humbler souls were not the only ones to object to the exactions, but they
lacked the persuasive weight of more influential ratepayers and rarely had the
confidence or resources to take their grievances to court. At the bottom of the
heap, a minority degraded by unemployment and social attitudes that ensured
their abjection, suffered in silence, while those hovering on the rim of survival
learnt to hold their tongues. The capacious mantle of nineteenth century
attitudes was a cover that readily provided a way of dealing with rebellious
behaviour. 'You have used offensive language to [the road overseer] when giving
you orders about your work', wrote the shire secretary to labourer Robert
Montgomery in July 1885. 'You will withdraw such offensive language and obey
his orders without comment.' The workman's hours and remuneration were
determined, not by legislation that set down the minimum he might expect, but
by his employer's assessment of what could be afforded. In the 1870s, two
attempts to secure the eight hour day for council employees were rebuffed (the
second resulted in dismissal of the entire deputation). Despite these setbacks,
the cause was won in 1883, and by 1895 the symbolic significance of the day was
acknowledged when it became a holiday for shire workers. Gaining wage
increases was an even more intractable matter. Although there were several
hesitant (and fruitless) moves during the 1880s to achieve for Malvern workers
wages parity with other municipalities, the record of the 1890s depression
showed little complaint about reduced wages. A shrunken income was better
than none at all, yet there must have been cold comfort in the explanation that
the cost-paring was 'made solely on account of the reduced revenue of the Shire
and not because there is any fault to be found with [the labourers]'.
When the scythe was twice put through his salary, diminishing it by nearly a
quarter, the foreman asked at the end of 1893 to be restored to the level of the
first reduction 'or to be placed on the same level as the other men'. Although he
was put back on the median rate, a motion that he should be partially
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
recompensed was struck out by the chairman, and yet the shire president's
allowance (slightly more than a third of the foreman's annual salary and only £3
less than the shire's entire charitable vote for 1893), remained at the same level.
There was a pervasive assumption that poverty, like pounds, was earned, and
that the reservoir of wealth should not be drained to irrigate the parched
paddocks of the poor, even when they sank into the desert of complete
dependency. Samuel Smiles' rigid doctrine of Self Help precluded all but the
bare minimum of state assistance. In 1897, when the depression was easing,
council instructed its parliamentary spokesmen to oppose the new Charities
Bill, which proposed to levy a municipal tax, thereby imposing ( an unfair
burden upon a particular class of the community'. The salaries of council
workers were not raised until late 1899, and even then only after a dispute as to
whether they should be restored to their pre-depression level.
Acting on their own initiative was such a chancey exercise that in 1912 the
Municipal Employees' Association (MEA) intervened on behalf of Malvern's
council workers to request an equalisation of rates of payment. The approach
was rebuffed on the grounds that the workers themselves had made no application. However, when they submitted their own claim two months later, the
matter was conveniently deferred; and, over the next few years, petitions for
wage increases from the MEA were stubbornly, although not unanimously,
resisted. While the labourers' voice was timid enough, those without a livelihood were mute. The record indicates that unemployment was a constant, even
on the fabled 1880s crest, during the 1914-18 boom and the 1920s Indian
summer, which was reputed to be a thankful interval between wartime
difficulties and the 1930s depression. In 1923, the acting premier referred to
'deputations from the unemployed or those interested on their behalf. . . almost
daily waiting on the Government and urging the necessity for providing work'.
By 1925, the situation was regarded as so serious that council established a
committee to deal with unemployment. The next few years saw a steady
worsening of the situation, but the term 'depression' was only applied when
joblessness became so pervasive that the full dimensions of the ogre had to be
recognised.
By comparison with the largely ineffectual majority, the upper classes
managed to secure dispensations. In the fearsome year of 1892, Sir John Grice,
the owner of Moorakyne, and Stonnington's Robert Wagner on appeal secured
substantial reductions in the valuations on their properties, and Norman Bayles
(not yet elevated to the Legislative Assembly's well-upholstered benches) was
taken to court when he refused to settle on the reduced terms offered in relation
to his Toorak home. In July that year, the rate collector was instructed to
proceed against defaulters to recover the £4033 outstanding in the current rate.
Given that the reduction on Moorakyne and Stonnington together was a
massive £1350, the composition of the 1892 figure and the £8063 decline in
valuations reported in 1894 — the year the depression bottomed — may well
have concealed a few peculiarities. The next year, some of Malvern's most
notable citizens (William Knox, Matthew and John Mark Davies, W L Baillieu,
and Thomas Latham included) and several teetering land companies were
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221
granted substantial reductions in the Court of Petty Sessions. The cost of
ameliorating their position must have been partly, if inadvertently, borne by the
hapless municipal employees. Deprived of domestic employment because
retrenchments made men reluctant to marry, women were also adversely
affected, as a correspondent to the Malvern and Armadale Express pointed out in
1894, and yet they were excluded from the professions by 'narrow minded and
exclusive individuals'. On the brink of bankruptcy, and stymied by unthinkable
happenings, such as 'the National Bank having stopped payment' — a default that
threatened to shut down its operations altogether — council could hardly be
expected to respond to trifling concerns such as the plight of spinsters.
Rates were the municipality's life-blood and guaranteed the political ascendancy in the local sphere of the upper class, for their hefty rate contribution was
acknowledged in the legislation that set down voting rights. When necessary,
the maintenance of the status quo transcended normal political loyalties and
sparked swift corrective action. In 1874, after alarming reports of a parliamentary performance by James Munro, who ruinously believed in one-manone-vote, the shire secretary demanded to know the substance of the speech and
to extract a clarification 'in as public a manner as possible . . . the Shire ought to
be fully exonerated from the implied dishonour'. Although Munro absolved
himself from any mischievous intention, he was nevertheless instructed to make
'that denial . . . in the Assembly while the Local Government Bill is under its
consideration'. When he was at the peak of his power, Malvern was less
peremptory and more forgiving.
Ratepayers with a common interest at stake foresook their lone and often
doomed appeals and combined to press their claims. 'In these times of stress and
hardship everything possible should be done to assist the public generally',
argued a petition in July 1918, opposing the intention to prohibit grazing of
cows in parts of Malvern. 'Infants will have to depend on ordinary Dairyman's
milk, of doubtful age and quality . . . I trust that the welfare of the infant of
today and the man of tomorrow is not being overlooked in this matter.' The
backyard cow often supplied a necessary increment to the family diet, while a
small herd might be the only source of income. Prevented by poor health from
pursuing her former occupation of washing and cleaning, a widow who had
spent her savings on establishing a small dairy added her pathetic voice.
Responsible for cleaning the Augean stables of its more shambolic areas and
vulnerable to counter attacks from the anti-cow lobby, who pointed out
abnormalities such as '25 head of cattle and 150 sheep . . . kept all night in [one]
small allotment', council proceeded with the ban. The group approach was also
employed by recently arrived residents of Brunei Street and Burke Road, who
were disgusted to find themselves 'flooded out twice in one week . . . we have
received legal advice . . .'. Even the threat of importing a legal eagle into disputes
barely increased the chance of success. Gathering these dispersed units of
opposition under the umbrella of a properly constituted alliance of disaffected
citizens gave a greater hope of influencing the outcome.
When Mr Billson spoke in 1915 about the wisdom of cultivating 'moulded
opinions', he was not the first to advise a formal organisation that offered
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
efficiency and potential strength, rather than spontaneity and relative weakness. In an article 'Alfred Hamilton and the Growth of Malvern (Malvern
Standard 27 November 1930), that 'gentleman of genial and affable character',
builder and contractor, Mason and bowler, was credited with pioneering 'the
different progress associations of today'. He had arrived in Malvern about 1887
and, affronted by council's lackadaisical attitude to local problems — no nightpan system and a so-called shire engineer, T B Muntz, whose activities were
concentrated in more lucrative directions than excrement — had founded the
Malvern Ratepayers' Defence Association (or League). Called 'birds of paradise'
by their opponents — in a rather flattering barb — the group vowed to secure
the election of a councillor more in accord with their principles, and a three
year campaign resulted. Their opposition was first directed towards long-term
councillor A E Clarke, and, when they failed to unseat that gentleman, they
proceeded to challenge the even more venerable William Woodmason, a
member of the first shire council, and seed-merchant Sidney Edsall, who had
first been elected in 1873. The political assault on the hustings was given
theatrical colour by enlisting bellringers to parade the streets and marshalling
torchlight processions to roam the shire.
In fact, even Hamilton was not the originator in the organised protest field,
for he had been preceded in 1874 by the Melbourne and Gippsland Southern
Railway League, which, having achieved its object four years after its inception,
faded into more peaceful pursuits than badgering bureaucrats. It was, moreover,
thoroughly in agreement with council and the fierce railway builders in
parliament for whom railways signalled private profit as much as they carried
the flag for public convenience. However, there was a bank-up of problems, and
the Malvern Ratepayers' Defence Association was apparently the first to address
itself to wider issues that had been simmering for years: 'the sanitary condition
of Malvern Shire', the non-completion of roadwork that had already been paid
for by residents, the notorious surveyor's inactivity, the contentious post office
site, and, in all-embracing condemnation, council lethargy. 'There was a lack of
mental activity on our part', claimed Edward Edwards, the league's candidate
for western riding, 'and we had lost opportunities that may not be repeated for
many years'. By comparison with the usual pattern, according to which councillors simply replaced themselves from year to year without having to endure
the annoyance of an election, in 1889 all wards were contested; nevertheless the
status quo was reaffirmed. 'An eloquent and plucky contestant', Edwards
returned to the fray in 1890, predicting that Malvern people, like a composite
Rip van Winkle, were waking from a twenty-year slumber as to 'their best
interests'. He waxed witty by exploiting council's hackneyed boast about the
shire's social distinction: 'The [garbage] carts were of such an aristocratic nature,
to suit this aristocratic shire, that holes were bored in the sides to allow of the
dust and rubbish percolating through'. When he directed his cannon squarely
at the shire hall and its occupants, condemning alterations to the former, and
clandestine decision-making among the latter, he was rewarded with 'thundering applause'. Once again, all retiring councillors were opposed and Malvern
MOULDED OPINIONS
223
returned to that politically novel condition of being 'in the throes of great
excitement'. All to no avail, for the young pups with their 'new blood' were
defeated by the old dogs, some of whom took the outcome to indicate approval
of their methods.
Undeniably plucky, Edwards stood twice more, but failed and retired from
the field, although his fellow contestant, builder and contractor W H Nicholls,
managed to secure himself a spot in central riding. The successful challenger
soon found himself chastened by unforeseen realities. In 1894, with Councillor
Carroll, he attended a conference on minimum wage rates for shire employees,
but it 'resulted in no good . . . they did not propose to attend any further conferences'. Nicholas attempt to have the shire's whole salary situation reviewd by a
formally constituted committee was likewise frustrated. The league, too,
seemingly went into abeyance along with the oft-chastened Edwards and, aided
by the deathly quiet that accompanied the financial crash, local elections
repaired to the billabong.
The twelve-year charade that was played around the attempt to get a decent
post office for the shire showed how difficult it was to sway the Victorian
government, budge council and reconcile the contending pressure groups.
Given that the people of central Malvern and Armadale were divided on where
the facility should be situated, 'a post office on wheels' seemed the only solution.
When the rival forces gathered three-hundred-strong to protest against one
another, as well as the matter in hand, the wild confusion was augmented by an
interjecter who announced cryptically that 'Malvern had been known in the
past as an extensive cabbage'. There was also the obstacle of boom-time
inflation, which had swelled the price of one proposed site to an outrageous
£9000, while not even the offer of a free spot by a public-spirited local could
hurry along the government, which by then could not afford to erect the
building. Between May 1888 and May 1892, council received several
deputations on the matter and became embroiled in 'very lengthy and
acrimonious' discussions. Some of the petitioners, one faction said loftily of its
opponents, were mere 'birds of passage' and could be discounted. The
quarrellers could be just as contemptuous of the nesting eagles amongst them. In
June 1888, the requisition of George Davies and thirty-one other influential
citizens for a ratepayers' poll was repudiated, an action said to be 'almost
unparalleled in the history of shire councils', and dire threats were voiced:
Some of the councillors will . . . have some pertinent questions to answer on this
'going into committee', and may find themselves relegated back again to private life,
and thus make way for men determined to uphold measures tending more towards
benefiting the largest possible number at an open and above board council table.
The outcome of the next few elections, which reaffirmed the status quo,
demonstrated the emptiness of the promise that the insolent oligarchy would be
called to account, after which the question became wedged in the financial cutbacks dictated by the depression. Tenders were finally called in 1899, yet when
the building was up it became an object of ridicule: 'Apart from the Town Hall,
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
we have but little reason to plume ourselves concerning our public buildings.
We have but one; and that is the little red-brick squat structure — uncommonly
like an antiquated beehive — which now does duty for a Post-office'.
By that time, opposition to the reigning coterie had again surfaced. Assisted
by 'the advent of the [Malvern and Armadale] Recorder . . . many [ratepayers]
knew the locality of the Shire Hall, and some were even acquainted with the
Dog Inspector. But intelligence as to the doings of the council has only just
arrived to stay'. There was nothing like sudden opposition to add a touch of
chilli to the municipal pot, and the election that year was a disorderly affair.
Free speech was probably not in Donald Munro's mind when he attempted to
stifle non-residents of central riding and to bundle an interjector out of the town
hall. Matters got so far out of hand that some strong moralising — rather mixing
sporting and horticultural metaphors — seemed warranted:
A good deal of prating has been uttered recently about British fair play — but if it is
Australian fair play to howl and bellow all through the speeches of candidates, it is
surely the season during which the process of grafting a slip of good manners would
not be amiss . . . no candidate should submit to be baited, especially by those who
have no qualifications — either 'manhood' or otherwise — which entitle them to be
present.
The matter at issue was a fierce and unsuccessful bid to unseat an incumbent
councillor, a deplorable situation that repeated itself the next year, when the
shire president himself was threatened. It was 'exceedingly bad', said one critic,
to oppose the holder of such an august position, while another admitted
regretfully that 'every ratepayer, however, had a right to come forward if he
thought fit'. The president was reinstated, although a few dissidents complained
about councillors 'cooing' suspiciously with ratepayers as they arrived at the
polling booth. Even though the challenge had been averted, it had to be
admitted that the situation had become de-stabilised, both by a shiver of
uncertainty within the ruling clique and by the baying of the barbarians
outside. Councillors were not necessarily safe in their seats. However, in 1901,
calm had reasserted itself: 'The municipal elections are again upon us, but so
little is the interest exhibited in the matter by ratepayers, or so great is the
confidence they have in their representatives, that there is no contest in
Caulfield, and only one in Malvern'.
The effort at opening up the political process was essentially the attempt by a
new class of resident, often builders and businessmen, to overturn the
hegemony of landowners and property owners, who often had legal training as
an extra string to their bows. 'Businessmen were very evidently needed',
candidate James Evans opined in 1914. 'At one time he had wanted to elect a
lawyer to the council, but when half the council were lawyers it was time to elect
some businessmen.' Evans himself was praised for having 'the supreme
advantage of possessing no "political record" ', a quip that indicated the low
esteem that adhered to practised politicians. Assisted by the votes of absentee
landlords and protecting themselves by a system of 'mischievous "secret
sittings" ', an oligarchy, confident of its own fitness and public-spiritedness, had
MOULDED OPINIONS
225
dominated council for so long that their supremacy seemed almost equivalent to
natural law. Given the infinitely slow turnover of councillors, it must also have
been a gerontocracy. They were, as J B Cooper said, confining his comment to
the safe backwater of Malvern's more primitive days, 'creatures of their environment, and of their generation' who operated according to 'a creed . . . that ratepayers had to be protected from higher taxation, even if such protection was
attained, partly at the cost of the day labourers'.
Stultification was further ensured by the fact that not all ratepayers belonged
to the protected species; some were definitely more equal than others. In 1874,
the return of ratepayers showed that nearly half were rated below £25 per
annum, a large proportion of whom were 'persons who own or occupy
properties in other Municipalities'. Their continued ascendancy was ensured by
the plural voting system that James Munro so vehemently opposed in one of his
disconcerting stances. In September 1918, responding to a Public Works
Department request, council indicated that 306 voters qualified for triple (with a
heavy concentration of 144 in the north ward), 1257 for double and 6024 for
single votes. The large number of absentee voters also persisted (north ward 173;
central 80; south 43; and east 328), and the grouch against them was that they
often left their lands unimproved, benefiting from enhanced property values
that had been created by the more civic-minded type who 'laid out his capital in
the district'. Earlier on, the situation had been further skewed by the inequality
of wards (three until 1902).
Stagnation was a matter to which the Malvern Progress Association addressed
itself when it inaugurated its activities in 1901. Their predecessors had failed,
said Chairman James Lindsay, producing a handsome tautology, because they
were 'antagonistic to the Council, because the Council was antagonistic'.
Emerging from the closet of inaction, the new brooms were 'to take the lead in
public affairs instead of waiting for things to right themselves, or depending
upon spasmodic, discontented, individual effort'. Apart from the redivision of
wards and the introduction of a fourth ward, the extension of reserves and treeplanting, the declaration of brick areas and government legislation were matters
needing attention. Above all, there was the crucial question of vigour and
alertness in civic life, which involved wider participation by ratepayers. With
the unquenchable enthusiasm common to freshly founded organisations, they
began to deluge council with correspondence. Their effect was minimal, and
their efforts aroused such rancour that Lindsay retired to the hermetical clime of
Healesville, later claiming that he had been pursued and vilified 'because I got
the [road] tolls off and that the secretary had been induced by conservative
forces to abandon the association. After Lindsay's departure, the association
collapsed, earning the unfriendly epitaph that it had only been 'a tin-pot affair'.
Protest groups, such as the numerous transport leagues, that concentrated on
single issues were by nature short-lived and melted away when their grievance
was resolved either to their satisfaction or their disgruntlement. The stalemate
experienced by the Ratepayers' Defence Association and the Progress Association showed that unions that tackled a multitude of matters were subject to the
same possibility of disabling frustration. However, as the suburb expanded, rate-
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
payers in the less developed areas, given a cutting edge by their sense of
grievance at not getting a fair share of the municipal cake, united to press their
demands. By 1915, the Tooronga Progress League, the Glen Iris Valley District
Progress League and the East Malvern Progress and Tramway League were all
agitating for improved transport, educational and recreational facilities, as well
as a more elevated tone in city life. Dropping its posture of 'Defence', the
Malvern Ratepayers' Association had re-emerged from the cinders of past
failures and was again attempting to rouse a largely apathetic populace to an
awareness of what a truly sensitive polis might be like.
Groups with a single platform were the Dandenong Road and District
Improvement League, preoccupied with beautification of that road's plantation,
and the Oakleigh Severance Movement, a fragile union of disgruntled residents
in the far east where Malvern was hardly more civilised than a remote country
town, which aimed to join the allegedly more sympathetic powers of Oakleigh.
Most one-issue alliances were preoccupied with transport. Spurred on by the
axiom that Tramways bring idle lands into use . . . whilst idle lands mean idle
hands', the Malvern Road Tramway League was pushing its particular cause,
while 'enthusiasm and unanimity' reigned at a late 1914 meeting of the Toorak
Road Tramway Extension League: '50 chains of tramway would make available
residential areas sufficient for a population of 10,000'. By comparison with these
narrow interest groups, the City of Malvern Town Planning Association, which
formed towards the end of the war, was perhaps an augury of the future,
although the lack of information on their activities perhaps indicated that the
time was unfortunately not yet ripe for such a thrust.
By August 1912, the Glen Iris and Tooronga Progress Leagues had a combined
membership of 150, but some councillors were unimpressed. When Councillor
Lewis rebuked the Glen Iris mob for assuming municipal responsibilities
he also had a fly at the Tooronga Progress League, and sat down satisfied that he had
snuffed them out entirely. Now, councillors who live in glass houses should not
throw stones — it is risky . . . The north ward showed its resentment of the treatment
meted out to it by forming two able and virile progress leagues, and now that they are
doing the very work he left them to do, he is complaining . . . Cr Lewis has been in
the council for 18 years, and yet . . . the north ward has to take a back seat.
On top of his verbal malpractices in criticising his fellow citizens, he had shown
his contempt for the electors by shooting off on an extended overseas trip
shortly after his recent re-election.
Noisy and vigilant, bearing the eternal flame of progress, the associations
usually had the backing of the local newspapers, which were often established
specifically to promote business interests. Reporters from the local rags were
often heavily sarcastic about the mental calibre exhibited in the chamber. The
scribe of the Malvern News (7 September 1912) was typical of those who used
their pens, if not as swords, at least as goads:
The influence of Toorak was upon the last meeting . . . councillors did not assemble
until nearly 9 p.m. In these dull days, high teas and dinners are all the go in the 'brick
areas' of Toorak proper . . . Enters Mayor Cornwall, clothed in flowing robes,
MOULDED OPINIONS
227
trimmed with bull's wool, a perfect tanglefoot as he walked. The council meeting
opened and closed in 25 minutes. Business: Nil.
Despite the backing of the fourth estate, the associations' record of wins in
this period was not notable. They frequently came up against a brick wall of
council unresponsiveness — often couched in suave phrases such as 'the time is
not considered ripe', or the infuriating tendency simply to 'receive' letters of
complaint. Success was most likely when they were promoting exactly what
council itself favoured. In their impatience for improvements, they tended to
ignore the harsh facts of municipal finance and council's dependency on the
government and its statutory authorities. Some of their schemes — such as the
demand for a tramway system elaborately criss-crossing the landscape — flew
recklessly into the mountain range of political realities, while maintaining
commitment was just as difficult as persuading the city's managers. The 1912
election was again a dull affair: 'no interest has been manifested in the
retirement of one-third of the councillors'. However, to some, continuity was
the rock of stability rather than the bog of stagnation. When photographs of
past shire presidents and mayors were hung in the council chamber that year,
Mayor Cornwall was pleased to observe that 'there were six who were still
Members of the Council'. A little more vim was evident in the 1914 election,
but by that time the war had made electoral contests seem unmannerly if not
unpatriotic — there was 'no money in the . . . treasury to be thrown away on
election expenses at present'.
Voting reform was a sore question that, considering the evident inequities,
might have generated continual agitation from those whose meagre propertyholdings permitted them only a single vote or whose lack of ownership entirely
excluded them from the process. 'My hand trembles, beads of perspiration are
breaking out of my brow', wrote one local in 1913, aiming to galvanise his
fellows into a less spineless attitude, 'at the thought of the presumption and
audacity of a "common one vote ratepayer" attempting to criticise or in any way
doubt the intellectual and business capacity of our noble, reverent, and sincere
city councillors'. Some short-lived support for this vital issue was forthcoming;
in the north ward alone a meeting attracted 700 ratepayers in 1913, yet
enthusiasm dwindled drastically by the following year.
Establishing a consensus on the matter was almost impossible, given that
reform depended on the troglodytic bodies who occupied the Legislative
Council, and that its philosophical ramifications were starkly divisive. Many
were persuaded by the Prahran Telegraph's realistic view put in 1918 that more
property meant more power and that the inequality that flowed from that
principle was 'the rule of ordinary life. If a man buys two tickets in a Tatts sweep
he claims two chances in the draw'. This glib analogy was swept aside by a
'Labourite', who exercised his own metaphoric licence in deploring council's
jurisdiction over any matter 'from the length of Canadians at the baths to the
depth of a blouse in the ball-room': 'There are still hundreds of adults who have
no voice . . . at all. And I maintain that these hundreds contribute to municipal
revenue'. As well as discouraging discussion on political change, council was
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
distinctly reluctant to accept public involvement in general questions of social
policy. Almost coinciding with the attempt to revive the voting question,
Councillor Darroch's motions that council should discuss 'matters of public
welfare' and 'Parliamentary matters which affect this community' were rejected,
while submissions concerning prohibition of alcohol were simply ruled out of
order by Mayor McKinley. Given that he was secretary of the Malvern tent of
the International Order of Rechabites, Darroch may well have been overpreoccupied with the question of prohibition during demobilisation.
Change seemed easier to effect when more tangible, homely matters were at
stake. When Billson's East Malvern Progress and Tramway League was confidently formed to mould opinion at a meeting in the Darling Road kiosk in 1915,
co-operation with the council as a whole and with individual ward representatives was announced, but their first request for a deputation regarding trams
and sewerage was only supported by two councillors, while the majority opinion
was put by Councillor Thomson: 'If they listened to deputations they would
never be finished with them'. This hard-headed opinion was incontestable, and
the association itself was soon diverted into promoting the grand lake scheme for
the east ward which, after some temporising, gained council's lukewarm support,
only to founder on the submerged rocks of impracticality.
When dissatisfaction reached boiling point, as it did in 1915 with the Oakleigh
Severance Movement whose supporters wished to defect to Oakleigh, the result
was equally feeble, as a local journalist teasingly pointed out: 'Severance
Proposal a Fiasco Prompted by Dissatisfaction with Dust Cart Service. A
Gilbertian Grievance that Proved Unfounded'. The revolt represented the
stirrings of 'a little clique at the corner of Warragul [sic] Road', who, moreover,
only owned property worth £6000, not much more than a quarter the value held
by those who wisely wished to stay with Malvern. The papers were not on the
side of ratepayers when humorous mileage could be gained, and a few councillors
were frankly scornful. Councillor Carroll, who had a history of outspokenness
that had landed him in trouble before, was derisive: 'it would be a boon to
Malvern . . . They might say to Oakleigh, "Take it and good luck to you" '.
When wounded feelings were expressed at this slur, he stood by his words and
made a further thrust; as well as ridding itself of a coven of discontented ratepayers, Malvern would be relieved of four bridges, one urgently in need of repair.
In the event, the severance move fizzled out when half the original signatories
defected, invalidating the petition, and leaving the die-hards to straggle sheepishly back to the Malvern fold. It was, as the mayor said, 'a bloodless victory'.
Nor was the Malvern Ratepayers' Association having much success. Its
request in February 1914 for a deputation to discuss the dismissal of council
labourers was rejected, and Councillor Holmes' harmless motion that their
letter be received was ignominiously lost. Their suggestion that the library
should be updated by purchase of 'the latest books of reference and those
relating to technical education' was simply unrealistic, given council's lack of
interest in that moribund institution. A proposed protest meeting against a
rumour that night-soil from other municipalities was to be dumped in Malvern's
sewers became pointless when the council denied that any such intention
MOULDED OPINIONS
229
existed. However, they busied themselves with more feasible matters, such as
illumination of the town hall clock and a lecture on 'Modern Street Traffic' that
could scarcely have envisaged the time-bomb hidden in that topic. The mood at
its first annual meeting (December 1914) in its revivified form was congratulatory: membership had increased by 100 per cent in the year (a claim that
might have meant quite a lot or very little), and council, mollified by the
association's tact, had abandoned its original hostility.
The balmy period was brief, for within months council was accused of failing
to take up the government's offer of money for unemployment relief and
attention was drawn as well to 'cases of abject poverty' in Malvern. The charge
was angrily dismissed: 'we are doing all we can' and council would spend a substantial sum during the war. Moreover, there were few unemployed in Malvern,
and some could remove themselves from that category by enlisting for the war.
The view that the municipalities should take up the slack in the building and
other trades was found distasteful outside as well as inside council. Writing to
the Malvern News condemning the proposal to erect a municipal stables as a
'socialistic venture', 'North Ward' detected in this attempted interference in the
labour market an ominous 'taste of what might be expected in the future'. Even
less popular attitudes were the association's support of the one ratepayer/one
vote principle embodied in legislation before the Victorian parliament in 1915,
and an approach for council co-operation in devising a scheme to reduce
government costs. A question about which the group saw eye to eye with
council — the adoption of the 50 feet x 120 feet minimum allotment — brought
it into conflict with the Tooronga Progress League.
Formed in 1911, that league had a portfolio of concerns: railway and postal
services, trams, overcrowding at Spring Road school, street lighting, the indiscriminate declaration of brick areas, roads, sewerage, police protection and
general progress on the Tooronga Estate. By September 1914, two major
deficiencies — the school and the Malvern Road tram — had been redressed,
but defects in the environment still rankled: Silver Street was at the very least
looking tarnished, Frogmore Park seemed to have been deliberately turned into
'the back-yard of Malvern', and the group's humane opposition to excessively
heavy loads for horses provoked an indignant counter deputation from timber
carters and the brick company. (The mood was softer in 1950 when Malvern's
surviving horse trough was inscribed 'City of Malvern. Be Kind to Animals'.)
The league's major thrust was to press for a flexible attitude to minimum
allotment stipulations in future subdivisions, an attitude based on the simple
equation that more people meant more progress, which was, after all, the
animating vision for most of the groups in their early phases.
As the First World War dragged on, the associations were diverted into
assisting the patriotic effort. Once that ordeal was over they resumed their
vigilant posture or were revived by a new generation of stalwarts, who were
sometimes unaware that they were inheritors, not pioneers. In the early and
mid 1920s, the old stagers were joined by a fresh cast of agitators for a better
municipal deal: the Murrumbeena Progress Association, the Ashburton
Progress Association and the Far East Malvern Progress and Protection League.
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
The new single-issue combinations were simply transport lobbies (the Glen Iris
Railway Improvement League, the Poath Road Railway Station League, and the
Surrey Hills to Mentone Tramway League). Transport was also a concern of the
multi-issue alliances, who still nurtured the ancient, increasingly unrealisable
dream of tramway extension. If these assorted elements had been satisfied, or if
they had combined to influence a planned outcome, the future of Malvern and
Melbourne might have been changed for the better. However, union was not a
subject that was discussed, and the groups continued to proliferate. There was
even an Ardrie Park Improvement League and an Electricity Defence Association, which was out to break the state monopoly in that commodity.
The general aims of the more catholic groups were the same, allowing for
alterations dictated by the times — trams, the library, a swimming pool, baby
health centres, buses (recent government legislation represented an attack on
'private enterprise'), children's playgrounds and parks. Monster meetings of
indignation were again on the agenda, and once more the letterboxes were
padded out with publicity dodgers. Given that the basics had been largely
supplied, the focus was now often on matters that would come to be associated
with the phrase 'quality of life'. 'A Meeting of Residents interested in Children's
Playground in McArthur Street', the Tooronga Progress League boomed,
'PARENTS, ROLL UP and support the movement for the welfare of your
children'. An entirely new factor replaced the earlier uneasy pre-occupation
with under-population in the desire for protection from 'the threatened evil of
overcrowding', and council joined the Ashburton Progress Association's
deputation to the state government to urge purchase of 102 acres on High Street
in Ashburton for a public park. Councillor Sylvester went even further claiming
that the Victorian Government 'should not only be asked not to sell any more
Crown lands but rather increase the National Parks around the metropolitan
area'. Room for fractiousness still existed, as was shown in the Tooronga
Progress League's protest against 'the large expenditure on ornamental gardens
whilst necessary improvements in other directions are being neglected'.
Aesthetics and utility rarely travelled together.
There was always a danger in the welter of their competing claims that these
agitators would simply negate one another's efforts and that, having thoroughly
frustrated council, nobody would get what they wanted. Malvern had seen
massive material improvements, and yet in many ways little seemed to have
changed in the forty years since Alfred Hamilton had sent his clamorous bellringers through the streets to awaken a sense of civic responsibility. Much of the
lobbying activity had moved from the centre of the suburb to its periphery, but,
whatever group they belonged to, all the activists shared the same method —
applying pressure to municipal and state authorities — and the one
constellation of objects: the improvement of transport and educational and
recreational facilities, the protection of property and life style, rating reform, the
backing of candidates for office. It was an essentially middle-class phenomenon
that had limited political ambitions and did not challenge the status quo.
Behind the pragmatic objects of wanting a better deal and more influence over
the material conditions of life, a less tangible instinct that was rarely articulated
MOULDED OPINIONS
231
existed: the urge to establish a sense of community that increased fellow-feeling,
released energy and countered feelings of impotence.
And yet underneath the surface, a significant shift in social attitudes had
occurred. Progress associations were now a fact of civic life, not an impertinence
to be deplored by councillors, and they had an unshakeable belief in their own
rights. Despite the advances made, complacency in councillors was not
warranted, the Tooronga Progress League cautioned in August 1930, reinforcing the warning by fielding their secretary for the north ward in that year's
election. However, in a lamentable show of disloyalty, the assistant secretary
defected to become campaign manager for the opposition, which — unfortunately — won. The east ward, 'the Cinderella of the municipality', was more
potent in showing its dissatisfaction, bundling out the incumbent, even though
he was publicly supported by a phalanx of five councillors: that seething ward
was, sighed the journalist, an electoral 'grave-yard'. Shortly after the election,
the league combined with the South Ward Progress League to form a new Ratepayers' Defence League to discuss matters of finance, especially valuations and
municipal borrowing, and 'with the ultimate object of being represented . . . by
men who will carry out the wishes of ratepayers'. It was never admitted that,
with a few twists of time, the young Turks would probably become tired
incumbents ready to be ousted by a new wave of accusers and that the east
ward, too, might eventually become staid.
The associations gained extra pugnacity from the fact that the time and
money of members had been sunk into better facilities. When asked why they
expected to be represented on the Tooronga Pavilion Committee, the Tooronga
Progress League replied adamantly that, although materials had been supplied
by council, they had built the pavilion. By the mid 1930s, the league had its own
hall and ran an annual carnival with festivities to suit all tastes (a grand euchre
party, boxing, a dance palais, a baby show, tap-dancing and mouth organ competitions) and other social activities, such as a series of summer excursions to
popular beaches and parks. In a feat perhaps partly attributable to the way in
which the area had been settled, they had also developed their own ethos,
which they felt could be the model for others: 'If other progress associations
could only see for themselves the happy community spirit of this league, they
would surely be impelled to "go and do likewise" '.
The refusal of ratepayer combinations to be cowed went along with another
unavoidable reality. Although the born to rule, inherit and prosper attitude still
lurked in many plenipotent minds, nineteenth century laisserjaire complacency
had lost much ground, and private charity was no longer the major prop of the
poor. Government determination to intervene in the social system had gathered
strength in the 1890s, but it had been largely thwarted by detrimental philosophical attitudes, the force with which old-style benefactors opposed interference in their spheres of power and the diversion to more pressing matters caused
by the First World War. By the 1930s, state control was widely — if, in some
quarters, regretfully — accepted. Social problems such as unemployment were
no longer matters that could be simply referred sorrowfully to the Ladies'
Benevolent Society, or uneasily brushed aside with the claim that Malvern was
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
relatively unaffected. The hidden poor of the 1890s had been replaced by the
visible poor of the 1930s, although some still probably preferred to obscure their
plight beneath a thin skin of middle-class hardiness and respectability. Poverty
itself had become a wider class matter, for 'Not only have we to consider those
who are struggling to hold their own, but also those well-to-do men or once
well-to-do men, and large property owners who are struggling to pull through'.
In this more self-conscious and sophisticated world, new groups blossomed in
times of economic stress or political threat. While a need for a reinforcement of
unanimity occurred, a centrifugal pull towards a polarisation of opinion
appeared. The way in which Malvern coped with the 1930s depression showed
all these conflicting forces. It also provided a marked contrast to the reaction to
the 1890s depression. In the earlier crisis, council's public face had been set to
show corporate concern for the unemployed. In July 1892, they patronised a
curious fancy-dress football match and procession 'for the benefit of the poor of
the Malvern district', and a sports meeting conducted by the drivers and
labourers of the district that attracted over 1000 people. There was also a viceregal charity ball at the Prahran Town Hall (Malvern's shire hall was too small)
'in aid of the educated poor of the district', and Councillor McKinley chaired a
meeting of the Unemployed Labour Fund. Local money, the assembly decided,
should be spent locally, but local piggy banks were probably rather depleted.
However, these were rather isolated efforts, and their effect seemed to be
invalidated by continuance of the more traditional style of behaviour. At the
beginning of 1894, Councillor Knox reassuringly told his fellows that the
depression was universal, before the gathering tucked into the usual groaning
table of welcome. Cynicism seemed a natural reaction to the spectacle of the
well-heeled gathering in lush surroundings, well lubricated by 'pure Mountain
Dew and sparkling four X', to discuss the outcome of a charity ball that had
been run at a loss. It also stimulated the Dickensian sense of black comedy that
came easily to nineteenth century reporters. The Malvern and Armadale Express
(27 July 1895) was in acrid mood:
There appeared to be everything in general and nothing in particular before the
chair, but eventually the brilliant idea of proposing votes of thanks struck one
gentleman as an inspiration from heaven. All the sub-committees, all the officials, all
the donors, and, in fact, everybody was effusively thanked for their magnificent
services, and, of course, everybody replied. The meeting had resolved itself into a
mutual admiration society, and finally a comprehensive resolution was passed by the
committee tendering a hearty vote of thanks to themselves.
The wit apparently incised a few exposed nerves, and the paper's next issue
included a long and favourable description of the ball: amongst the more
conventional fancy dress, one gentleman had appeared dressed swashbucklingly
as the Earl of Leicester. Critics also observed 'a Micawber-like complacency' in
councils that were faced with a pyre of problems — 'heavy overdrafts, decreasing
valuations, and a vanished Government Subsidy'. Public sympathy for the poor
was not necessarily matched by strong action. In the inner sanctum of their
private deliberations, councillors were dutiful exponents of the prevailing
MOULDED OPINIONS
233
philosophy, tending to be fairly lenient to the sometimes self-induced difficulties
of its more plutocratic citizens and fairly unresponsive to the unsought trials of
its poorer dependants. Their first real test in dealing with a massive social crisis
was the 1919 flu epidemic, when 2039 cases were treated through the local
emergency network that had been established at state government behest.
In the 1930s depression, changed social attitudes, protective industrial
legislation, the existence of an often draconian social security system and a
different body of councillors meant that the blinkers were well and truly off.
Council set its own example of economy, though not without anxious deliberations on the impact to its civic dignity, by reducing the mayoral allowance and
disposing of the official car, while local member Henry Gullett made an even
firmer gesture by unsuccessfully attempting to have parliamentarians' salaries
reduced (the ALP refused to back him). These were, however, primarily
symbolic matters, important though they were as a litmus test of the sincerity of
the fortunate. A far more radical question was consideration of the need to
reduce valuations, thus curtailing the rates that flowed from them. 1931
valuations revealed the first decline since 1897-98. Given that the ratepayer is
only equalled in vengefulness by the taxpayer, there would always be a few
accusers who made city hall feel vulnerable by attacking even the benefits
created by their monetary contributions: 'It is, therefore, hoped that having too
freely spent the ratepayers' money during the past few years, in luxurious
additions to the city hall, in baths, glass-houses, nurseries, golf links and other
luxuries, the councillors will be disposed to ease the burden of its citizens'.
Petitioners flocked into the council chamber (south ward was worst hit), and
some councillors agreed with their demands. T h e cry from the housetops [is]
that everything must be reduced', said Councillor Gray, 'we, as representatives
of the people, should see that our valuer shall show us just what the real presentday values on our properties are . . . In our main streets there are shops and
houses in galore to let and people are unable to sell'. Others were more
insouciant: 'Australia is a wonderful country and makes wonderful recoveries',
one councillor enthused. But the writing on the wall, rather than a fictitious
silver lining, had to be heeded. Public works were curbed, and, in November
1930, the rates were reduced. It was not simply a depression phenomenon, for
they reached their lowest point of 2s 2d in the pound in 1942-43 and were not
restored to their pre-depression level until the estimates for 1951.
Even more onerous was council's responsibility for dispersing government
assistance and organising relief works within its boundaries. The 1930-31
annual report stated that 800 local families were on sustenance, 'apart from the
obviously large number of unemployed who have not had to apply' (figures in
the local press were significantly lower). Sustenance was granted when the
family income fell below two pounds a week. Assuming that families of four
might be average, the registered figure represented about fourteen per cent of
Malvern's population, well below the worst-hit suburbs, yet serious enough.
Next year's level oscillated between a peak of 899 and a low of 427, while the
year after the numbers were stated to have dropped, only to be artificially
increased by a rise in sustenance rates. By the mid 1930s, the number of
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
Malvern citizens on sustenance was not mentioned, although a decline had
been indicated in 1933-34, and the tally of work days on sustenance was further
reduced the next year. After that, the matter dropped from official notice. The
method of reporting the situation suggests a numerical rather than empathetic
attitude to the matter, yet the unemployment trauma dragged on, and the 1933
census showed nearly 1600 locals out of work. At the same time, the annual
reports made lengthy and heartfelt reference to the trials of the royal family,
who were at the time subjected to a crescendo of death, succession, abdication
and coronation.
As well as being required to set an example of self-restraint and acting as the
government's agency to aid the unemployed, council also found itself reverting
to its traditional role of charitable leadership in times of stress. Sportsmen
(including champion local cyclist Hubert Opperman), traders, barrackers for
Malvern's distressed girls (singer Gladys Moncrieff was one of their supporters),
the Ladies' Benevolent Society, the churches, boy scouts, the 37th battalion, all
beehived in on the cause, providing council with a swag of extra work in
supervision and patronage. The most spectacular effort was the Malvern
Tradesmen Sports Committee's queen carnival, that involved a gala week of
fund-raising revelries and a Queen of Malvern coronation. With one queen
'robed in a gorgeous diamond gown with illuminated tiara' and another royal
entourage in patriotic red, white and blue, it was 'the most spectacular and
unique ceremony ever witnessed in Malvern . . . Thus ended the most successful
carnival ever held in Malvern. It may be repeated, but never equalled in years to
come'. There had been a few hiccoughs along the way — an outbreak of
unseemly competitiveness and a few failed promises — and perhaps the regal
overlay could be perceived as a little tactless under the circumstances. Even so,
the event was a truly democratic one. In his unlikely dual role as archbishop
and banker, the mayor robed the winner in coronation scarlet and received the
cheques for the unemployed.
Apart from galvanising the existing organisations to combat the crisis, the
1930s depression gave birth to two groups that represented the opposite ends of
the spectrum. In November 1930, the inaugural meeting of the Property
Owners' Defence Association discussed the twenty-five per cent slump in
valuations and the implications of a possible moratorium on rents. Property
would become 'a drug on the market', benefiting those who lived from hand to
mouth. The Local Government Act needed reforming, and the government
should be made to realise that 'all property owners are not the men who own
Rolls-Royces'. Although Malvern had so far been spared, vandalism was rife
elsewhere, with 'organised gangs . . . destroying vacant houses'. In drawing
attention to the deteriorating situation, there was no intent of embarrassing
councillors, whose current job was 'a very unpleasant one'. However, signs of
the lawless times had appeared on the doorstep, claimed the Tooronga Progress
League, calling for more protection against 'the band of larrikins which has
recently appeared in the district'. In 1933, council favoured convening a
conference of adjoining municipalities to discuss an increased police presence,
but government staffing constraints cancelled that impetus. By 1935, the
MOULDED OPINIONS
235
problem was widespread; the question of extra police was 'becoming more vital
every day', the council minutes recorded. 'At the present time it was not safe to
leave houses without someone in charge.' Vandalism was generally perceived as
a 'problem' of law and order' rather than as a symptom of economic hardship
and social breakdown. Apart from these assaults on private property, residents
were troubled by a plague of hawkers, and hooliganism was rife in the town's
parks. Worse than all this, there was T o o Much Talk of Revolution' claimed an
uncompromising article in the Malvern Standard (29 January 1931):
It is the duty of the State to meet force with force, to suppress violence by violence
. . . Every Australian citizen worthy of the name ought to be dedicated to Australia,
and not to class . . . I see Australia as a sculptor might look at it, seeing within a
rough unhewn block of marble, a vision of beauty.
T h e Autocracy of the Wise' was needed, the writer continued: T a k e the
example of [British fascist leader] Sir Oswald Mosley'.
1930 also saw the creation of the Malvern Unemployed Association (MUA),
which gave demoralised people a sense of motivation and independence,
lessening the stigma of unemployment. Far from talking revolution, it proudly
and responsibly pledged to take on any contracts and to provide 'experienced
men for any branch of labor . . . What they want is work, not charity, and the
men they will supply are workers, not drones'. With more political intent, they
immediately showed their mettle by assisting the unsuccessful bid of a reforming
candidate in the north ward, who had distinguished himself in working for the
unemployed. Perhaps because the central body had a reputation for radicalism,
the local association was not wholeheartedly supported, and it responded
angrily to the charge that one of its workers had dumped papers that he had
been paid to deliver:
A small coterie of Malvern business men seemed determined to decry the local
unemployed and to place their business elsewhere . . . The tactics and evident
hostility of these gentlemen is all the more resented when the Malvern unemployed
organisation are striving their utmost to obtain the necessaries of life through work
and not by charity.
Clearly the victim of a more terminal condition than erratic distribution, the
paper in question collapsed shortly.
Nor was wariness confined to the traders. When he addressed local
unemployed in January 1931, the mayor congratulated the group, but the
relationship was polite rather than warm, and council preferred to channel
relief projects through its own agency. Formed as an obligatory response to
government edict, the Public Assistance Committee was, for instance, deemed a
more appropriate body than the Unemployed Association to use the cricket
ground for a Christmas treat for children of the unemployed. Furthermore,
there was perhaps a glimmer of suspicion in council's refusal to allow the M U A
social committee to use the town hall for concerts. Predictably enough, one
councillor made the unimaginative allegation that some jobless preferred the
dole to work, prompting the same angry and pathetic defence that the earlier
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
accusation of dishonesty had provoked: T h e unemployed of Malvern, whose
earnestness and perseverance in the quest for work has never lacked, make
immediate and vigorous protest . . . In Malvern, all "employable" men who are
in receipt of sustenance, work for the same'. Advertising in the successor to the
defunct Malvern Standard, they described themselves as 'active, proficient and
trustworthy'.
Not only did they feel up against a minority of businessmen and councillors,
the Central Labour Bureau seemed to give preferential treatment to
'unemployed in industrial suburbs'. They were further disillusioned by the local
Public Assistance Committee's 1934 decision 'to discontinue the weekly
allowance for the purchase of foodstuffs for distribution at the Saturday "Handout" ', but the committee defended its action. 'Individual cases of destitution'
would continue to receive assistance without the 'humiliating enquiry' that
accompanied the abandoned method. The plight of Malvern's unemployed
attracted pugnacious support in the local press from 'Samaritan':
Does this Council of ours sanction the miserable pittance doled out to the 250
sustenance workers within the confines of Malvern? Does it approve of exploitation
when sustenance workers are compelled to do sewerage work 12 and 15 feet deep near
the mansions of the mighty in Evans Court off Toorak Road. Does the Council
pretend that a man with a wife and two children can do that laborious work
efficiently on 25/- per week[?] . . . What would the old pioneers think of it, and what
would the 60,000 gallant Anzacs think about it if their spirits came back today?
By early 1935, the unthinkable had happened. The unemployed, at the
request of the Central Unemployed Committee, were contemplating going on
strike against the sustenance system. Shortly to be elected to the secretaryship of
the central group, the secretary of the local organisation explained in an article
to the Malvern Spectator that for them 'to vote against the issue would mark
Malvern as a scab area'. Matters could not be worse for families of the workless
'at the mercy of an administrative system so pauperizing in effects, that the
impoverished circumstances of the unemployed have continually increased in
acuteness . . . shattering their spirits and condemning them to a retrogressive
mental outlook of hopelessness and despair'. Twenty thousand struck throughout Melbourne, and limited concessions were gained. Local tradesmen donated
goods to help tide them through this intensification of misery. The number on
sustenance in Malvern decreased shortly afterwards, and the rather peremptory
article contributed to the local press by the M U A , enjoining membership as
'every unemployed man's duty', possibly suggests that enthusiasm was also on
the wane. The group soon fell silent.
Perhaps, as well, maintenance of a consensus that transcended class was
becoming difficult to sustain. When council discussed a proposal to replace the
sustenance system with metropolitan drainage works, one councillor advised
extreme caution: 'it might land taxpayers and ratepayers with a much heavier
burden than that which they were setting out to relieve'. Another believed that
the municipalities should be freed altogether of obligations towards the
unemployed. Various schemes then being floated would mean that ratepayers
MOULDED OPINIONS
237
would be 'doubly taxed for unemployment'. A letter to the Malvern Spectator
directed a powerful left hook at the whole council: 'Malvern was the first council
to take the opportunity to use the work for sustenance laws and no other
municipality had profited so much by this "cheap labour" '.
It would probably have been impossible for council to reply satisfactorily to
such a charge, particularly when it had endured several years being buffeted by
the depression storm, subject to changing government decree, required to
somehow help counter the galloping indebtedness of bodies such as the
MMBW, and badgered by bureaucrats, with all the administrative grind that
dependency entailed. 'Since the depression had commenced', Councillor
Sylvester expostulated, 'an orgy of taxation had taken place by various Govt
and Public Bodies'. Council was also importuned by groups such as the RSL,
who claimed preferential treatment for their members, beleaguered by the
claims of both employed and unemployed ratepayers, whose interests were
never quite the same, and yet were still looked to for unbiased leadership and
sound financial management. In the face of all this, it was like a horse pulled
every which way, and, moreover, the differing philosophical views of individual
councillors gave extra room for dissension.
During the depression, almost everyone felt oppressed by the demands of the
times. The East Malvern Ratepayers' Defence Association had extra room for
grievance in the prejudicial treatment its members had received in connection
with the construction of the Darling-Glen Waverley railway, which increased
their liabilities at a time when they were struggling to keep abreast. When the
Railways Standing Committee decided in 1926 to extend the line, the decision
had been widely approved, but, by the time the extension was opened four years
later, the implications of the state government's methods of financing the
project had become woefully clear, and cheerful support was transformed into
fierce opposition. In 1932, the whole council, accompanied by association
members, put their case for a reduction of the tax to the then state government
Minister for Railways, R G Menzies; it was only one of several deputations.
Given that both a construction rate and a betterment rate were to be levied on
affected property-holders, it was, according to the town clerk's 1936 report, 'the
only suburban Railway for which the cost of acquiring the land has to be borne
by the area through which the Line passes'. The dual imposition had been
predicated on the hallowed assumption that the development pot of gold lay at
the end of the railway rainbow. On the contrary, 'the anticipated benefit has
not taken place . . . owing to the financial burden placed upon the land . . .
what appeared to be a good thing . . . turned out to be a rank failure . . .
speculators came into the district and purchased land at inflated values and on
nominal deposits, and in only one known case has the transaction been
completed'.
Times might change, yet certain human fundamentals remained ineradicable,
and the lure of easy profit was one. While East Malvern was blighted, the claim
went, other districts were blithely advertising their lands as being outside the
rateable area. Further, the method of apportioning the liability meant that East
Malvern ratepayers were paying thirty-five per cent of the construction tax even
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
though they only represented ownership of a little over four per cent of the line,
a formula beneficial to owners of 'broad acres' in Mulgrave. At their wits' end,
they undertook expensive litigation to prove their point, a challenge that one
councillor believed to be a bad advertisement for the district. When the High
Court appeal failed to cancel their indebtedness, they declared that they could
do without the line and would happily see it close: 'the district has become a
quarantined area so far as home builders and investors are concerned . . .
Meantime the train is running, almost empty, back and forth from East
Malvern to Mulgrave'. Despite this ludicrous situation, the development myth
was still put forward as something that could and ought be converted into a
satisfying reality: 'If this shackling taxation were removed, people would move
out and . . . their patronage of the line would turn it into a veritable gold mine'.
The depression had aggravated the plight of affected landholders; it also
created the conditions to release them from their misery. By the mid 1930s, the
Railway Trust, a body composed of representatives of affected municipalities to
administer the collection of taxes, had amassed liabilities of nearly £59 000 with
only 'a solitary £5 note in the bank' and was unable to fulfil its commitment to
the Commonwealth Bank, which had threatened to appoint a receiver. The
levies were simply not coming in (less than a third had been paid): 'The district
concerned is comprised mainly of primary producers who have . . . been in
desperate straits'. As a consequence, municipal revenue was drastically reduced.
In Malvern the slump was bad enough, but Mulgrave Council had reduced its
valuations by forty-five per cent in three years. Antagonism towards the trust's
terms and methods was so solid that not even disunity could be relied on to ease
the government's problems. 'Indignation [was] . . . again sweeping East
Malvern' when the government offered to forego the betterment tax which,
levied on a flat rate, was mostly supplied by holders of extensive lands in the
never-never. Stalwarts of both municipalities determined to hold ranks, even
though their interests were somewhat different. The seven constituent councils
were likewise unanimous in opposition and, after a meeting with the premier,
established a formula to share the burden between landholders and the
government. Although not wishing to establish a precedent by bailing out
disgruntled ratepayers, the government capitulated and appointed a committee
which held a public meeting in the Malvern Town Hall in May 1937. The
recommendations of the ensuing board of enquiry were finally enshrined in
legislation, and property owners along the line were relieved of liabilities
amounting to more than £56 000. It was believed that the government would be
compensated for the amount written off by the development that would occur
once 'the pall which the rating has thrown over the land' had been lifted. The
saga — or perhaps it was a war of attrition — showed that the combined
strength of councils and ratepayers was difficult to resist, yet it had taken nearly
a decade for the point to be made.
During the Second World War, the energies of the residents' groups were
again diverted into the patriotic effort, but two new associations were born.
Flying the kite of post-war reconstruction, the Malvern Community Centre
Movement was a taste of things to come. 'The first of such Organisations to
MOULDED OPINIONS
239
receive [Charities Board] recognition', it claimed to represent 250 Malvern
groups and nursed an ambitious scheme for a network of community facilities
grouped around a civic centre: 'the present cultural position was far from
satisfactory . . . it was the duty of the Centre to help our people to develop their
physical, cultural and community responsibility'. Prophetically, the movement's
emphasis was on the young and the old, rather than middle-aged people who
were catered for by most of the progress leagues. Creches, free day nurseries, free
kindergartens, home help, and youth and adult groups were all on their agenda.
Even its self-description — using 'community' and 'movement' — was forwardlooking. Like many reconstruction schemes, it foundered as sanguine possibilities became faded opportunities. Council soon abandoned consideration of a
grand new civic centre at Central Park, and by November 1946, after a pathetically brief life span, the association's activities were wound up. Only two of its
initiatives survived: the home help service that was taken over by the Malvern
branch of the Liberal Party and the Malvern Memorial Free Kindergarten that
continued independently with council assistance.
Formed in December 1943 from ARP personnel for 'the betterment of the
eastern end of the City', the East Malvern Citizens' Association was in the
traditional mould. The cry of those on the borders of the municipality was the
plaint that had echoed down the years: 'People in underdeveloped areas were in
a deplorable plight. Roads, paths, sewerage, lighting and Parks were urgently
needed . . .'. The charge was also familiar: they 'viewed with alarm the slow rate
of progress in Malvern when compared with other Municipalities'. It was
perhaps hard to believe that, during the 1950s, parts of Malvern were hardly
more developed than the centre had been fifty years before. At the present rate
of progress, council was informed in 1952, roads in these disadvantaged parts
would not be completed for another twenty years, and some areas had 'no
lighting facilities whatsoever'. Chadstone had no school until 1954 and would
not be sewered until the late 1950s. In 1956, a deputation from the Malvern
Meadows Estate complained that they were surrounded by quagmires and
stagnant pools. Conditions were so appalling that doctors were unable to attend
at times of crisis. Also very much in the pattern of the past was the 1955 attempt
by Oakleigh to poach a few of Malvern's ratepaying trout through annexation.
Like the manoeuvre forty years earlier, it failed because not enough Malvernites
could be enticed away. As they always had, small groups, each bearing their
own proud tag, mushroomed temporarily to promote a particular interest or to
counter a perceived threat: it might be the proposal to purchase properties to
enlarge the pathetically cramped school grounds of the Tooronga Road/
Malvern Girls' High School complex, a planned rezoning of a residential area as
public open space, or the need to establish an intermediate hospital. They were
often causes that frankly asserted the prior and superior rights of one faction
over the perhaps more urgent needs of others in their midst.
Rating methods were still a preoccupation, and the Malvern Rating Reform
League petitioned for a poll on unimproved land value rating in 1948. Their
propaganda focussed on the old class division between landowners and
residents, often exaggerated to enhance the point: under the unimproved value
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
system, 'more money would be paid by absentee Land Speculators, and less by
residents of Malvern'. A lure to attract enlightened businessmen was even
extended, in the suggestion that industrialists who provided amenities for their
employees would no longer be penalised. The case of those who favoured
continuing with the capital value rating method bordered on the specious:
'Preserve Our "Garden" City. Retain Our Sound Finances' ran an advertisement signed by eight sitting councillors. 'Refuse to part with our open spaces
and recreation grounds. Let our children grow up in healthy surroundings.'
Some of these injunctions seemed quite irrelevant to the issue. According to a
less inflated argument, flat owners would be the chief beneficiaries of any
change, and they would not make improvements. The result reaffirmed both
the status quo and the historic differences between wards: the east wanted
change, the north favoured the existing way. (In a poll in which only forty-five
per cent of those on the rolls voted, it also recorded by far the largest turn-out.)
Dispelling the charge of their unfair dominance and suggesting that the real gulf
was between householders in Toorak and the East Malvern/Chadstone area,
few absentee landowners bothered to vote.
The matter was by no means a dead issue, and, when the league managed to
have the question put to the vote again in 1955, they secured a substantial
majority. Six years later, still not content with the change, council proposed to
rescind their decision and return to the old system, provoking a massive
ratepayers' petition that demanded yet another poll. The result saw a decisive
majority for unimproved value rating. It seemed to be the end of the hardfought battle, and yet, in asking the Local Government Department to amend
the act 'so that the people would understand for what they were voting at any
future poll on the subject', further skirmishes were anticipated. Another local
government archaism was still unresolved — the question of plural voting,
which substantially weighted the system in favour of the wealthy. When change
seemed imminent, a conference was convened at Prahran in May 1954 to
oppose the Local Government (Elections and Polls) Acty and Malvern donated a
representative to the revived Save Local Government Committee. Who was
saving what might have been a ticklish question, but evidently something was
preserved, and the system stayed unmolested for another fifteen years. In 1968,
council asked its local members to oppose the bill to abolish plural voting before
state parliament, although it conceded that a more realistic formula for
determining the numbers of votes allowed to an individual would be
appropriate. By this time, rearguard action was unavailing, and in May 1969
James Munro's hallowed one-person-one-vote principle was finally written into
the statute books. Hard-headed bystanders might have said that the victory was
a hollow one, because the failure of candidates to present themselves meant that
elections continued to be rather rare affairs.
Increasingly, one matter was the main preoccupation of all groups, whether
their focus was the protection of the private environment or the promotion of
commercial interests: the threat to the community posed by the proliferation of
the motor car or its role as a stimulus to business activity. The kind of muddled
and aggrieved reasoning that was prompted by this modern juggernaut was
MOULDED OPINIONS
241
evident in the case put by the Malvern Regional Shopping Co-Operative Ltd's
deputation to council in March 1961:
They fail to see why they should have to bare [bear] the heavy burden of car parking
when everywhere in the world as well as your own Melbourne Council and others
are treating this problem as a civic matter . . . they feel as ratepayers their Council is
losing its grip, there is no push in Malvern any more. Our City was once acclaimed
for its Civic Energy but it is fast losing out on this. They also feel that our Council
should borrow more money for posterity instead of living on its yearly income . . .
Let them give the public what they expect . . . Let us pull together and not play tug-owar . . . Car parks to-day are a necessity not a luxury.
The car was swallowing up available space and demanding that more land
should be supplied for garages, car parks, roundabouts, roads, freeways, to
satisfy its inordinate appetite. Traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, parking
officers, flow charts, accident records, parking meters, traffic signs were its
accessories. Before the seductive but insidious option of the private motor car
had entered individual expectations and then swelled to acceptance of two and
three car families, all the major residents' groups and many of the single-issue
alliances had been concerned with promoting a viable and convenient public
transport system. When they aimed for convenience, an unstated adjunct to
their impetus was the belief that every citizen ought to be able to walk to a
public transport utility to take them to their destination, whether work,
shopping or pleasure was the object. As a dormitory suburb with little industry,
Malvern was more dependent on public transport than industrial suburbs
where work and living places were often closely associated. Apart from the
extension of the Darling railway line to Glen Waverley and more efficient
services on existing lines, the network had not changed since the end of the First
World War.
In 1950, 250 ratepayers living near Malvern Road petitioned council about
the horrors of 'dangerous driving' in the vicinity. Had they been around to
marshall their forces ten or twenty years later, they might well have dispersed in
despair. The main roads and even the side-streets had become choked with cars,
reducing the pedestrian to the status of a frightened rabbit, changing children's
play patterns, shattering people's calm, polluting both the visual and the
olfactory environment, eating houses that stood impertinently in the way,
chewing up bureaucratic energy with a ferocity that vastly reduced the amount
of time that could be spent more creatively. By the mid 1960s, the bulk of
council meeting time was absorbed with administration relating to the
voracious demands of the car. In 1970, the petition for a pedestrian crossing
near the horrendous junction of Waverley and Malvern Roads covered twentysix foolscap pages of signatures, and a successful outcome proved that it was
possible to feel less secure with such a crossing than without one. Rocketing citywards, cars were reluctant to stop for wavering pedestrians. Even though the
motor car ate into administrative time, outbursts of pride in the streamlined
facilities created to cater for its needs erupted. When Chadstone Shopping
Centre opened in 1960, the Malvern Advertiser chorused with joy over the
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
bitumenised expanse that had been released for worship of the private car, and
the thoughtful provision of priestly advisers — in the shape of driving
instructors — for women who needed devotional advice. There were
20 acres of super-paved parking specially designed for women . . . Housewife pupils
can arrange to be picked up at home at the start of each lesson and dropped off at the
Centre at the conclusion. Or, laden with parcels, she can begin her lesson at the
Centre and finish it at her own door . . . it is a woman's world.
The fact that this had been achieved through diminishing the peaceful
environment of the Convent of the Good Shepherd was not mentioned.
When it became cruelly apparent that the car industry was unstoppable, in
some quarters unease replaced complacency. By early 1975, the Malvern Transport Group had formed 'to ensure that effective measures are taken against the
growing through traffic in the suburban environment'. Upgrading public
transport and encouraging alternatives to private car usage were on its sane, yet
troublesome, agenda. The mess was Melbourne's problem, but Malvern was in a
parlous position, given its indeterminate status between the inner core and the
outer rim of a process that was still blandly called progress, the fraught state of
its streets and citizens, and the possibilities lying there for freeway addicts in the
Gardiner's Creek valley. This concatenation of circumstances was to produce
unprecedented, divisive resident action and to challenge Malvern's historic
formation and community stability.
ABOVE: 65 'Not a grand recluse'': staff
function in the ballroom at Sir Frederick
Sargood's mansion, Ripponlea, 20 May
1899.
LEFT: 66 The hidden poor of the 1890s
had been replaced by the visible poor of the
1930s: a swagman boils his billy at the side
of Dandenong Road.
67 Tor Joan, politics had to wait for 5 children': Joan Child, first ALP member for the federal
electorate of Henty and first woman to sit in the House of Representatives.
68 When Malvern's first off-street carpark was planned, the proposal to destroy three houses
led to such an outcry that the scheme was amended: plan for Malvern Shopping Centre Free
Car Park, 1958.
69 The car was swallowing up available space and demanding that more
land should be supplied to satisfy its
inordinate appetite. Anxiety about the
situation was not new: pamphlet (A
CityEvil', 1922.
70 The white knight had become the
black king: a Gardiner's Creek Valley
Association leaflet expresses anger at
ALP transport policies. Traffic Action
Group tactics were not always polite.
CHAPTER-11
A Sorry Mess of
Motor Cars
'Under the present dispensation we have sold our urban birthright
for a sorry mess of motor cars. As poor a bargain as Esau's
pottage . . . By allowing mass transportation to deteriorate and by
building expressways out of the city and parking garages within, in
order to encourage the maximum use of the private car, our highway
engineers and city planners have helped to destroy the living tissue of
the city and to limit the possibilities of creating a larger urban
organism on a regional scale.'
Lewis Mumford The City in History
The idea of a road following Gardiner's Creek had been
lurking in the communal imagination since the late 1920s, when council first
toyed with the possibility of a water-hugging 'boulevard'. Although the Town
Planning Commission's 1929 plan, which provided for a road by the creek, most
likely intended a more business-like facility, what the councillors envisaged was
probably something like the Kew example, with its blessed human scale,
whimsical meanderings determined by the contours of the existing hillocks, and
an air of redundancy that simply added to its charms. If the unemployed who
built the road had to sing for their suppers, there could perhaps be no more
poetically just way of doing so than making a road which had nowhere to go but
round the hills and back again. Their major task in Malvern — smoothing the
golf links from an expanse of barely touched swampland — was likewise an
enterprise that was going nowhere, except in a pleasantly diversionary
direction. It may have proved to be an environmental error in the long-term,
yet at the time it seemed both useful and aesthetic, and the revised landscape
certainly developed its own hybrid prettiness.
A macadam pleasantry such as the one that wound its way inconsequentially
through Kew was not what the MMBW visualised in 1954 when, invested with
its new dignity as Melbourne's permanent planning authority, it produced a
program for the future of the metropolis. The network of recommended main
roads included one along Gardiner's Creek from Kooyong to Scotchman's
Creek, and land for the purpose was subsequently reserved in the city's first
planning scheme. In June 1958, the Malvern Advertiser approvingly described
243
244
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
the opening section of this 'First Major Master Plan Project', which would
employ up to 300 men, absorb impressive amounts of steel and concrete and
'eventually be the main arterial road linking the south-eastern suburbs directly
with the city*. As it inched its way forward, it would 'progressively provide
relief. There was an undertone of pride that Malvern was to play a star role in
the great highway strategy, and no hint of the very different drama that was to
unfold. Despite the acquiescence, awareness that protective measures should be
taken surfaced in 1962 when Malvern Council supported Hawthorn's suggestion for a conference to fashion 'a co-ordinated scheme of planning and development of the Gardiner Valley . . . to ensure that no unnecessary encroachments
are made into land provided as public open space'. Soon after, the town clerk
was instructed to prepare a statement outlining Malvern's desire to secure a
realignment of the projected freeway to achieve 'the minimum of disturbance to
public and private property'.
The development of a freeway system in imitation of those of other western
countries was widely regarded as the mark of an acceptably progressive society;
any debits were believed to be far outweighed by the benefits, just as any
individual sacrifices were a mere drop of acid in the brew of the general good.
For Australia, which suffered a material time-lag along with its cultural cringe,
the urge to catch up was perceived as a duty as well as a desirability. However,
when the Metropolitan Transportation Study was commissioned in 1964, the
community and municipalities who were to be the major casualties of the
planners' passion for laying concrete tentacles across the landscape could hardly
have been aware at the imaginative level of the massive dislocation being
concocted — even if they perceived intellectually that the implications were
huge.
The lie of the land became abundantly clear when the report was released in
1969. For Malvern, lying comfortably oblivious between the inner suburbs and
outer development, the consequences were to be widespread and disruptive.
The South Eastern Freeway, which opened in May 1970, would diverge at Glen
Iris to join the Healesville Freeway, while the Mulgrave Freeway would extend
into Malvern, diverting through East Malvern to join the proposed city ring
road (abandoned in 1971) and the West Gate Freeway. It looked as if some
irresistible process was about to intrude into people's lives, and maps began to
be anxiously scrutinised to determine whether one's house was on the brink of
destruction, or doomed to occupy a devastating new situation on the edge of a
motorway.
Even so, the general reaction initially was surprisingly muted, and there was
no outcry about the study's evident deficiencies in terms of practicalities or its
questionable philosophical assumptions. Although individuals caught in the
likely path of the juggernaut had to cope with unforeseen uncertainty in their
lives, Malvern itself was slow to react to its new status as freeway city and to the
hiatus in the report about the indeterminacy of the area between the South
Eastern and Mulgrave Freeways.
By 1972, the Country Roads Board (CRB), in its capacity as a construction
authority with responsibility for roads that linked city and country, as well as
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS
245
those traversing open space, announced its intention of extending the Mulgrave
Freeway to Waverley Road. This sudden move stimulated a vigorous response
from residents and council who demanded a holding operation until a plan to
solve all traffic problems was prepared. At the same time, inner-suburban
opposition to the entirety of the board's freeway proposals had reached a pitch
of intensity, and the ALP — in a perhaps not entirely disinterested spirit — had
been converted to the cause. Possibly because it was by nature conservative and
had been relatively unmolested by Big Brother government, Malvern was not
prepared to commit itself to a request from state opposition leader, Clyde
Holding, for support for a parliamentary motion demanding suspension of all
freeway works. Nor did any Malvern residents' group align itself with the
Committee for Urban Action, a union of fourteen inner-suburban associations
formed in 1967, initially to oppose the activities of the Victorian Housing Commission, then moving to co-ordinate anti-freeway agitation. This unwillingness
on the part of council or residents to join the wider protest had definite
overtones of separatist complacency.
ALP policy was probably dictated partly by genuine belief and partly by
awareness of the vote-catching potential of the anti-freeway stance in the
feverish, radicalised climate of the times, which seemed able to afford the luxury
of grass-roots impertinence. However, Holding was quick to say his party's
efforts were for Labor's traditional economically and politically weak supporters,
not middle-class parvenus. Given that the first acts of dismemberment were
taking place in the suburbs on the city's fringe, he was pictured on a solicitous
inspection tour in Collingwood, accompanied by Ted Innes, the ALP's 1972
federal candidate for Melbourne, who was reported in the Melbourne Times as
saying: 'Conservative governments in Victoria have traditionally starved public
transport in the interests of their friends in the private transport sector. We must
ensure that extended federal assistance is not re-directed to the further benefit of
the Melbourne business interests'. The opposition's evident sincerity impressed
at least one budding activist to consider the Chadstone area: 'I was, in part,
motivated by the struggle of the residents of Fitzroy and Collingwood . . . where
I heard Steve Crabb announce "no more radial freeways" '. If politicians had to
eat their words, most would die of indigestion.
In 1973, public hostility to the government's freeway policy peaked, and
Malvern was swept into the mood. Deputy Premier Lindsay Thompson called
for a month's moratorium to give local groups an opportunity to frame the
grounds of their dispute, and over a thousand residents attended meetings
demanding a cessation of freeway work until comprehensive solutions to the
chaotic situation were evolved. Signs of a thrust towards a united response from
the southern suburbs appeared when Malvern decided to combine with six
other councils to work out a program of 'joint opposition to freeway planning
. . . undertaken . . . without the councils concerned being consulted'. It was,
unfortunately, a still-born alignment; nor was any move made to associate with
the United Melbourne Freeway Action Group. The middle-suburban councils
lapsed into the self-interest that was so helpful to the strategists in the planning
area. Citizens of these municipalities were likewise fragmented; no groups
246
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
representing them belonged to the Committee for Urban Action which
embodied the hope of meaningful, concerted dissent.
Within Malvern's boundaries, construction of the Mulgrave Freeway through
'any highly developed urban area', without an overall appraisal of the system
and presentation of proof that its extension was 'essential to Melbourne's
Transport system', was condemned. Further, councils should be informed of
any proposals and involved in preliminary discussions. They were 'deeply
shocked . . . 320 homes would be razed and at least a further 570 homes could
be rendered useless as quality homes . . . such a project would create such
disturbance . . . that substantial urban re-development would be required'.
Local parliamentarians were enjoined 'to protect the City of Malvern', and the
Malvern Anti Freeway Association (MAFA), the first resident action group
spawned by the controversy, was given council backing in its dissenting
activities. The assurance from the Minister of Local Government that plans for
the section to Waverley Road had been shelved and that 'no commitment
whatever to extend the freeway west of Warrigal Road' existed was rejected as
showing 'complete disregard' for Malvern's position. The real pathos was
crystallised in the simplicity of a potentially dispossessed resident's comment:
'You come thinking you are going to live and die in this place and see what
happens'.
In March 1973, the premier, Dick Hamer, capitulated to the wider protest
movement, which had accumulated great professional expertise and shown itself
prepared to use direct action, and announced that certain freeways would not
proceed. The determination of the opponents was shown in documents such as
the Carlton Association's report 'Freeway Crisis' (March 1972), which highlighted inconsistencies of procedure both within and between the CRB and the
MMBW and presented a well-argued and pugnacious case for rethinking the
authorities' entire strategies: 'planning and construction of freeways in the inner
areas is un-coordinated, and the responsibilities are not clearly allocated. The
effects of this are likely to be catastrophic in terms of social disruption and the
eventual waste of public money'. Elsewhere, the government was under heavy
fire for its housing policy, which included the drastic remedy of displacing inner
suburban residents in the name of urban renewal (a term substituted for the by
now unacceptable 'slum reclamation' tag) and selling their plots to private
developers. Without the benefit of tactical cunning and expert knowledge, the
poor had been all too easy to dislodge until they were swept into the radicalisation of a section of the professional middle class. Moreover, the government was
probably suffering the process of internal dissolution that comes to oligarchies
who over-stay their psychically healthy tenure in power. The malaise showed in
signs of generalised intellectual atrophy and the maladroit flounderings of
several ministers.
Despite the government's symptoms of decline, there remained the unshiftable mentality of politicians and bureaucrats who operate consciously or
unconsciously according to the principle that they know what is best for their
constituency. Policy shifts dictated by the easy partnership of pragmatism and
opportunism often simply obscure fixed intentions that resurface after a lapse in
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS
247
time or in slightly different guise. The truth about the political mind was so
sparse and so crude that it was often discounted, but not everyone was deceived.
Councillor Len Ninnis, a conspiracy theorist who believed that the CRB was
doggedly pursuing its freeway obsessions behind a smokescreen of bowing to
democratic pressures, blasted the retraction as a doubtful expedient, 'a political
decision without technical advice as to what freeways were not essential and
without indication of what public transport, if any, would be provided to take
their place'.
Another more immediate factor existed to further stir any suspicions, for the
extension of the Mulgrave Freeway to the municipal border (leaving Malvern in
a traffic limbo between freeway pincers) was still intended, and the CRB
continued to purchase properties west of Warrigal Road, ostensibly for power
line alterations. The procedure had Machiavellian overtones that suggested
some hidden plot, especially when the legality of the process was queried and no
assurance that purchases would cease was forthcoming. The CRB and its
successor, the Road Construction Authority (RCA), were later criticised for
their 'continuous reluctance . . . to disclose to the public any more than was
specifically required' and a failure to address the problem of replacing the
valley's 'uninterrupted chain of sporting and recreational areas'.
Council sought reassurance from the premier that the board harboured no
malign predeterminations, but was outraged when a deputation was refused and
was hardly mollified by being permitted to twice put their case to the Minister
for Local Government, who quite reasonably found the positions of Malvern
and Waverley irreconcilable. Malvern's opposition would continue until
concrete plans were produced to resolve the expected tangle at the freeway's
end. When tenders for the Waverley-Oakleigh section closed at the end of 1973,
it was observed that no alterations had been made to the freeway's design;
'naturally', said Councillor Hammond, with surprising if ironic mildness, 'this
causes us to be suspicious of the Board's claim that it has no intention of
proceeding into Malvern'.
Several measures were taken in an attempt to allay the reasonable apprehension that CRB planners, ideologically predisposed to the freeway solution and
entrenched in 'isolated silence' behind their impervious facade, were quietly
intent on filling out as much of their grand design as was politically feasible: a
request for a deputation to the premier — this time successful — who was
confident that council would be consulted on further planning, and securing
legal advice on the possibility of restraining additional purchases of Malvern
properties. A list of short-term proposals to improve traffic flow through
Malvern was to be drawn up, yet at the same time, in a stunningly contrary
move, the planners requested a study (the Gardiner's Creek Valley Study) of the
effects of building a road along the valley. M A F A claimed that properties were
still being acquired, and letters to Transport Minister Ray Meagher, who had
recently been shifted crab-wise from the Housing Ministry where he had
suffered the indignity of having his effigy burnt outside his own office, were
unanswered. In October, Malvern, Hawthorn and Camberwell applied
fruitlessly for a rezoning of the area to delete the freeway reservation, and the
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
citizens of the municipalities undertook their first walk of pilgrimage along the
creek banks. An outraged resident commented in the Malvern News Sheet on
the horrible effects of 'the "grindstone" of urbanism, reducing all remnants of
pictorial rural settings down to the concrete level. Work has just been completed
on that very thing just east of Warrigal Road Chadstone. I suppose u they" are
happy with the result!'.
The matter went into uneasy abeyance for about twelve months when it was
revealed that 'Melbourne's controversial system of freeways — supposedly killed
. . . in 1973 — is far from dead . . . The CRB is . . . playing with a giant jigsaw'
and hapless Malvern was at the centre. In a News Sheet cartoon, the city was
winsomely pictured as 'Maid Malvern' brought to her knees and looking
affrighted, outstretched hands warding off two freeway dragons with the plaintive cry 'Where, Oh where, art thou, Saint George?'. Even though the CRB had
published its promised report on temporary traffic control measures in October
1975, it also asked councils to back an investigation into the implications of
constructing an 'arterial road' (Arterial Road Link; ARL) through the valley
along the reservation in the original planning scheme. The new term — a
euphemism for a four rather than six lane connection — was rapidly dubbed 'a
Clayton's freeway' by hostile residents. The quip borrowed the name of a much
advertised, sophisticated soft drink that was currently being promoted as a
pleasing, harmless substitute for alcohol. Malvern insisted that the Gardiner's
Creek Valley Study, to be conducted by an independent chairman and representatives of the relevant government departments, planning authorities and
involved councils, should include a 'no build' option.
Apart from the ominous possibilities in the board's revived interest in the
valley, with the relentless build-up of traffic, the general situation had deteriorated; the metallic snarls, toxic fumes and thunder of hurtling trucks had
intensified to the point of despair. The profile of the suburban landscape had
altered so fundamentally that a contemporary, looking at old photographs of
Malvern, might well have believed that she was looking at another planet.
There were traffic-less streets and the odd well-dimensioned villa with a wellproportioned automobile poised in the drive before the front entrance, the
whole overlaid by drowsy emptiness and a piercing sense of distance.
Towards the end of 1976, a petition, with over four thousand signatures and
representing at least ten thousand residents (many of whom favoured the 'no
build' outcome) was tabled in council calling for immediate action to solve
traffic congestion. Nervousness about the impartiality of CRB intentions
persisted and was hardly assuaged when yet another Minister of Transport
issued the by now rather dog-eared portfolio of assurances that no link would be
made until the study's experts had examined all aspects of its ramifications.
Malvern steeled itself for — as the city engineer described it — its 'year of
decision':
Consideration of the issues involved will call for calm thinking and considerable
tolerance of other points of view . . . everyone cannot be satisfied with the result . . .
some people will suffer, while others will benefit. It is imperative that the final
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS
249
strategy adopted will result in community and social benefits that outweigh the social
costs and disruptions that some will suffer.
The outcome of this exercise will be the most important planning decision ever
likely to be taken, in so far as the long term effects on the City of Malvern are
concerned.
He was complimentary about the study's commitment to comprehensiveness,
sensitivity and fairness, and the thoroughness of its consultative and review
procedures. It might perhaps have been asked whether his description of its
principal objective — 'to determine whether needs can be met for transport,
recreation and drainage . . . in a manner which is compatible each with the
other and with the aspirations of the community' — was self-defeating. This
philosophical confusion was picked up by John Burke of the Malvern Learning
Exchange who asked 'What is the problem the study is investigating? Is it
through-traffic on Malvern residential streets; difficulties of longer distance
commuters; potential access to the Westgate Bridge; or something else . . . the
relevance of suggested solutions will vary depending on the problem'. The point
was so obvious that, like several other bare-faced realities, it was easily
overlooked.
The complicated mechanisms of the valley study were explained at a public
meeting in May 1977 and elaborated by its manager in a supplement to the
News Sheet. He indicated that over 1600 mail cards had been returned and
many letters, ranging from 'lengthy submissions . . . to short notes' and
embracing the gamut of opinion, had been received. Several ominous indicators
in his report may well have been ignored at the time. The paragraphs headed
'Creek not to be ignored by study' (a curious heading in itself) focussed primarily
on problems of flood control and outlined the 'factors . . . to be taken into
account' in deciding how best to increase the creek's capacity to handle
excessive flows: 'they . . . provide an insight into the reasons why the . . . Study
is being carried out, and why members of the public are being asked to
volunteer their ideas'. The statement was a non sequitur, the oddity of which was
deepened by the failure to mention the road that might dominate the landscape.
'The Vital Information Gathering Programme' — data relating to 'the existing
physical and social environment', traffic counts, a wind tower and equipment to
measure noise levels, surveys of recreation areas and clubs, group discussions
and questionnaires, a mobile information centre, bulletins — sounded more like
a genuine, perhaps over-blown, attempt to canvass all possibilities and to be
open-minded about the outcome. Nevertheless, there was the proviso that
study-team recommendations would not automatically be adhered to; the
steering committee, which was dominated by the bureaucracy, was empowered
with final decision-making.
Some pessimistic voices, already suffused with the tone of mourning, were
raised:
No alternatives are being considered or will be considered. The decision was made
years ago, and the power of the CRB is quite inflexible. This is government by
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
stealth. One day all the trees will be cut down and the bulldozers will move in.
Machines will have won, and Man . . . will have to retreat further into loneliness and
isolation.
The writer of this letter, who was to suffer the worst possible individual
outcome, the loss of her home, pointed out that freeways often acted as a
magnet for traffic without relieving existing roads. This belief seemed to be
confirmed later when the traffic model devised by the study predicted that,
despite the funnelling of much additional traffic on to a link, levels on other
roads would stay at 1977 levels. In her view, there was a dreadful human cost to
add to the monetary burden, for they 'divide the communities through which
they pass and altogether have a depressing effect on the environment'.
Her insight was correct; divisions immediately began to surface, as competing
viewpoints fought for attention and assorted lobby groups formed. Malvern was
like a sick person, one contender claimed, needing the life-giving infusion of the
freeway drug. Contrarily, there was 'an acute sickness in the transport situation
facing Melbourne', and Malvern's predicament was part of the 'general problem
of an inadequate public transport system'. More drastically, the impasse was the
inevitable result of parasitic dependency on 'that devouring monster we have
created', the car. Understandably, the unfortunate residents of streets where
cars disgorged from the freeway or the main roads (dubbed 'pseudo-freeways' by
some agitators) were inclined to see a flag of relief in the dubious freeway
solution; just as those whose houses lay defencelessly on its possible route were
likely to adopt a strongly rejecting stance. The car-using public — almost
everyone — were also involved as victims of the choking queues that were
common at major intersections. The disabling frustrations endured by motorists
were a serious matter, but they could be humorously exploited, as they were in
the amusing ballad 'Never Turn Right at Burke Road, Malvern':
I knew a man called Stanley
a tough kinda guy
He'd fought in both the wars you know
I'd never seen him cry.
Last I saw of old Stanley
He'd gone to cut his hair
He was turning right at Burke Road Malvern
and he's probably still there.
And he may well have both cried and expired at that pyre of cars.
Watching from the front line, some residents were brutally sharp in exposing
the tautological gobbledygook of the planners' claim that 'Planning is for
People':
We read in the CRB News last year that 'the purpose of transportation is civilization
itself and we gained the impression that the CRB believes that good roads enable
people to live somewhere else. We draw some consolation from this in that . . . we
will ourselves be able to use [roads] to go somewhere else and, provided that we can
afford to keep moving, we will remain civilised . . . Provided that we could get there,
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS
251
we too could have our share. The problem is not what route to take but from where
to start.
As if that intellectual confusion were not bad enough, the situation was
exacerbated by the often counter-productive thrusts of the two major
responsible authorities and the failure pointed out in the Carlton Association's
1972 document: 'freeway planning in . . . metropolitan Melbourne is isolated
from other forms of forward planning'.
Opponents of the link were not simply negative, and yet most of their
suggestions for alternatives, down-to-earth though they were, required a shift of
attitude that made them seem mischievously, if not scandalously impractical —
like whisperings from an unreal realm. They mainly centred on restraining use
of the private car through measures such as inflating the cost of petrol and
registration to discouraging levels, legislating to enforce its more economic use,
encouraging the use of bicycles and revitalising the public transport system.
Apart from requiring a perhaps unthinkable change in public opinion, they
entailed a clash with the formidable alliance of oil companies and the motor
industry and the gaggle of their dependencies, which probably instantly
cancelled out any chance of success. Contributing to the discussion in Malvern,
Dr D F Weston pointed out another problem: 'Most of our Statutory
Authorites make the serious error of planning and building for unrestricted
growths in the demand for their "product" '. Humanity has often had to pay
dearly for the failure of imagination in many of its members to perceive that
apparently immutable patterns can be changed by the will to try different
solutions.
Even though pessimism and scepticism were widespread, either on the surface
or buried beneath frantic hopes, the debate was vigorously elaborated. In the
next few years, about a dozen resident action groups were formed in Malvern to
prosecute various viewpoints on traffic matters, pre-eminently the proposed
freeway link. The Gardiner's Creek Valley Association (GCVA), an alignment
of residents from the three municipalities that shared the creek, was established
in early 1977 with a focus on preserving the valley's tarnished, yet peaceful clime
and opening up council's deliberative procedures. In October that year, the
South Eastern Ratepayers' Alliance (SERA) met to condemn the concept of a
link road and to repudiate the levels of noise and pollution accepted by the
board. The group's convenor, Wal Sheridan, condemned the CRB's 'Nelsonlike determination to ignore reality' and pointed out its inconsistency in
pursuing the freeway concept, when its own chief engineer had recently told a
world conference of road authorities that the freeway solution had been
invalidated by the fierceness of resident opposition. He also quoted British
research that suggested that, if the true cost of such roads, financial and social,
were assessed, 'few if any new urban motorways would be built'. The place for
freeways was beyond the city, in the country, where they would bridge space
and facilitate long-distance travel. These two groups were to be followed in the
field by several others, some vehemently in favour of the link, some adamantly
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
opposed, a few teetering in an ambivalent position; and all subject to the blasts
of fortune.
From 14 March to 6 April 1978, copies of the Gardiner's Creek Valley Study
report were displayed in the town halls of Malvern, Camberwell and Hawthorn,
and residents were given until the end date to make submissions. To the horror
of Malvern people, the study incorporated two possible routes, one along the
old 1950s reservation (CI), the second through Malvern's parklands (C3). The
repercussions of the latter, which was preferred by the study, although not
recommended by the Waterways Environs Study Team, were massive: some 338
houses and 32.9 hectares (twenty per cent of the city's total open space) would
go. The loss of parkland involved three ovals, sixteen tennis courts, one clubhouse, three pavilions, one picnic ground, five cricket pitches, five golf-course
holes, three playgrounds, one bowling green and one BMX track. The impact
on the remaining fields was severe: years of disruption, noise, pollution and
difficulty of access to the truncated valley. Nor did the question of fulfilling the
promise to replace open space offer much comfort, for it was assessed that, even
if all proposed replacement areas were included, only twenty-six hectares could
be obtained, half of them in Malvern. The whole project seemed enough to
induce a fortress mentality and drive people into the sanctuary of their own
homes — if they were able to retain them. It also cancelled any possibility of a
united front between Malvern and Camberwell.
Malvern was given little time to respond to this horrifying new scenario.
Decision on the choice of route would be made four days after the consultative
channels were closed. The timing suggested that public submissions were
unlikely to affect the outcome, but the democratic facade was given a touch of
paint in the provision of three months for comment after the planning scheme
had been amended to legitimatise the C3 line.
Comment there certainly was. Council repudiated the C3 and established a
sub-committee to prepare a detailed report for submission to state cabinet.
There was, said its chairperson, Councillor Morrow, 'a point where residents
have only the council to back them . . . if their council doesn't do it then they
have nobody in their court at all. That time has come for Malvern to put its
residents first'. A G C V A rally derided the study as 'a one million dollar cynical'
affront, and Labor politicians were quick to seize the red rag to inflame the
Liberal bull. Member for Oakleigh, Race Mathews, castigated the study as 'a
heartless, irresponsible exercise . . . In all probability these people are being
made to suffer for a freeway which will never be built'. However, ALP ranks
were somewhat disorganised, and shadow Minister for Transport Steve Crabb
had to deny a statement from the party's aspiring candidate for Malvern that
the CI route would be supported. Party policy rejected both alternatives,
because a link would build up 'irresistible pressure' for a tunnel under the
Domain, and that was unthinkable. By comparison with the Labor Party,
which only had to restrain a few unthinking responses, the Liberal Party was in
deep trouble. When the Minister for Local Government Alan Hunt, who was
also under attack in the inner suburbs where obduracy was unlikely to be
electorally harmful, closed the debate on the grounds that 'a clear decision has
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS
253
been made', one embittered resident response was 'I don't think there is anyone
living along the C3 route who will vote Liberal again'.
The sense of outrage and betrayal was undermining, but even more destructive forces were at work. Immediately after the C3 possibility had been made
public, three hundred residents whose homes were under threat of demolition
had amassed a petition of protest. Nevertheless, feelings of powerlessness and
hopelessness soon set in, and, when a questionnaire was distributed among
those whose residences were on the edge of the proposed freeway, only half
replied: most of them wanted their houses acquired. There was also a widespread conviction that, as the Southern Cross put it, the decision was 'an almost
foregone conclusion . . . Lengths of freeway lie scattered over the urban area,
like pieces of hose, waiting to be connected'. Was the study exercise, then,
simply an expensive subterfuge?
The factionalisation of the community was perhaps the heaviest price.
'Nothing divides like a freeway', the Southern Cross announced. 'Just as the
concrete and bitumen splits the city physically, it divides the community in
spirit.' As the drama developed, the paper's detached view became cynical as
well as philosophical: 'The authorities, they say, just love little citizens' groups.
The scenario of public meetings, giving the residents their say, is a wonderful
public relations exercise and conveniently lacks impact'. Councillor Ninnis, a
consistent opponent of freeways as 'the shortest distance between two bottlenecks', bitterly accused the government of 'a very clever confidence trick . . . It
took their minds off the fact whether the freeway was necessary or not — they
got everybody fighting'. Perhaps part of the explanation for the seemingly
irretrievable situation lay closer to home, as some correspondents to the News
Sheet suggested. 'Residents of Malvern will pay dearly for the pro-freeway stance
of the majority of their local councillors', wrote one. Or was the council simply
bending with the wind? 'It is indeed regrettable now, that a vehement profreeway stance was established in Malvern well before the full implications of a
link were publicised', was a response that drove to the heart of the matter,
implicating citizens as well as councillors.
Fatalistic acceptance was not the reaction of some stalwarts. The News Sheet,
which provided a conscientious forum for canvassing issues and opinions,
published a segment alarmingly entitled 'Malvern Under Siege', which
comprised contributions from two main residents' groups, SERA and the Anti
C3 Action Group (ACTAG). The former's outline for the future was an
Orwellian nightmare in which Malvern's existence as a physical entity was
threatened by 'the CRB Land Grab' and as a civic unit by the recent revival of
the hoary old idea (described in 1915 as 'that lopsided old mongrel' and
periodically condemned thereafter) of amalgamating smaller councils. It was
thus in danger of being reduced to 'an easy prey to the five encircling
municipalities'. Many of its citizens were pictured as ousted from their homes,
undermined by pollution, and denied just compensation. Meanwhile, the whole
community was to be further abused by a greedy car industry, deprived of its
recreational places, impoverished by revenue losses and subjected to 'the
dispersion of our people . . . These encroachments would deny our old and
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
young alike the advantages so vital for the full enjoyment of modern life'. It
sounded like the fate of the tribes of Israel directed by Big Brother, and yet it was
a valid, if over-heated response. Resting its certitude of success rather forlornly
on the fact that its case was 'based on the justice of previous Government
decisions', A C T AG's contribution made many of the same points with one
supreme and perhaps fatal difference: it was 'not opposed in principle to a
freeway'.
Perhaps the only chance of an equitable outcome was a united front, and that
seemed illusory, for Malvern's resident movement was in general developing in a
fatally factionalised, dispersed, over-polite and under-skilled way. Although
many adept, tenacious and enlightened individuals were involved, no single
group could claim to represent the bulk of the community, to express its identity
and to act on behalf of its weaker members as had, for instance, the East
Melbourne, Carlton and Fitzroy Associations. Besides, by the time Malvern was
experiencing the protest ferment, the heat had gone out of the action elsewhere,
removing an imponderable, probably vital element of moral support.
SERA's article, particularly the table that purported to show the houses that
had been or were under threat, was so inflammatory that the News Sheet was
constrained to ask for a spectrum of responses. The official road-making and
planning quarters declined to comment. As an affected party, Lindsay
Thompson, whose house was alongside the bulldozer's path, diverted the matter
to his parliamentary colleagues, who concentrated on the issue of recompensing
the victims. The Liberal Party was committed to 'the principle that damage
caused to the individual in the course of providing benefits for the community
will be compensated', but the statement ignored one reality. While a formula
had been constructed to discharge financial responsibility to those whose
houses were to be blitzed, no allowance had been made to repay those who were
confronted with the lingering fate of overlooking the freeway. The council
rejected the major thrust of the article.
Asked to comment, the study manager, Alan Morton, dismissed SERA's
statements as extravagant and inaccurate and was predictably unabashed by
any challenge to the inquiry's reliability and impartiality. It had tried 'to
harmonize the conflicting needs of home owners, road users, recreationists and
those who use Gardiner's Creek either as a source of visual enjoyment or simply
as a drain'. The questions of whether those 'conflicting needs' had ever been
reconcilable, or why people — presumably industrialists and public authorities
— who exploited the creek as a repository for effluent were acceptable
petitioners were not addressed. His general principles were perhaps unarguable.
Accustomed to the car, people were unprepared 'to fiddle about with public
transport', while Malvern had to shoulder its share of the metropolitan
consequences. It was
not an island. Its residents use freeways in other suburbs and municipalities and the
new freeway will benefit users from other areas as well as the citizens of Malvern . . .
To argue that a planning decision made 25 years ago . . . should never be changed,
suggests a principle which would be hard to sustain in human affairs.
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS
255
Of course, the Malvernian was a Melbournian, with all the problems and
benefits that ambiguous status entailed; and of course the principle of fixity in
decision-making was a figment that defied rationality and often even compassion. As personal exoneration, Morton said that his own residence lay near the
proposed Healesville Freeway; he would like that road to be built immediately.
Indeed, Malvern was not an island, although the poet who donated the
phrase to the cultural consciousness would have been surprised at the shift of his
message. A n d yet it was islanded with its own very personal problem of how to
live through the inevitable stress and conflict that was to be generated by the
enormous disruption of building a freeway. Apart from the financial costs and
the dislocation of services, there was the personal tragedy for dispossessed
citizens and the multiple fractures in spirit that challenged the existence of the
community in the family sense. There was also the loss of faith in the capacity of
urban man to retain the bonds of connection with the well-spring of being,
linked not with a freeway but with the sources of life.
By the early 1980s, a destructive momentum had set in. Malvern Council,
SERA and the Gascoigne Estate Group (GEG) preferred the CI route, the
G C V A remained loyal to its 'no build' position, while Camberwell naturally
favoured the C3 option. It seemed as if the ancient principle of divide and rule
had come irresistibly into operation. Council's appeal to the minister for
retention of the old reservation was rejected, and the state government's
promise that lost open space would be replaced began to look fragile when the
hoped-for land of Holmesglen Constructions was proposed to be sold to private
interests in what Councillor Morrow described as a 'totally unacceptable'
decision. This disappointment was partly offset by official acceptance of
'Victoria's first urban recreational forest' on the Outer Circle Railway Reserve,
which provided for the nostalgic reintroduction of pre-settlement vegetation as
well as catering for more contemporary visualisations. Of course, one possible, if
paranoid, interpretation of this concession was that it functioned as a diversion
from the more preoccupying issue of the freeway.
However, energy in that direction was not lacking. SERA established a cooperative trust fund to stop the CRB from relocating the route and further
announced that it intended taking legal action to prevent purchase of thirty-two
houses that were protected by the Town Planning Acty even though many of the
owners in the threatened area had succumbed and wanted their homes
acquired. Their orbit of action had probably been reduced to attempting to
dispose of their properties before the collapse of values gathered strength.
According to Race Mathews, the decline was already seriously afflicting those
on the receiving end of 'planning blight'.
Council was meanwhile pre-occupied with other traffic matters, including a
confrontation with Caulfield as to which suburb should suffer most from the
widening of Dandenong Road (a conflict that generated a new surge of resident
action). Moreover, it was in the process of instituting the Malvern Traffic Study,
which had been generated by a series of neighbourhood studies to devise
effective measures for enhancing residential amenity in Malvern's car-choked
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
side streets (it also addressed main road issues). Subjected to ever more
shattering traffic levels, the benighted residents of Malvern and Waverley Roads
met with other sympathetic souls and impotently adopted a set of proposals to
relieve their plight. Other victims of the traffic menace in the streets near the
Malvern end of the South Eastern Freeway desperately requested closure of
their streets.
In the background, the steering committee of the valley study was placidly
preparing an amendment to the planning scheme to provide for a reservation
wide enough to accommodate a six-lane freeway (four lanes initially), the design
of that swathe and 'the redesign of Gardiner's Creek'. Government assurances
that the outcome would not be as serious as portents seemed to indicate were
not assisted by some of its representatives. The Member for Burwood, Jeff
Kennett, was rebuked for offering the palliatives that the flow of traffic along the
valley might hopefully be so intense that pollution would be pushed elsewhere,
as if through a gigantic blow-pipe, alighting on innocents in the unwitting
beyond. Further, he claimed that pollution-affected people would be
recompensed. His rather airy reply to the Malvern News Sheet almost seemed to
blow him away entirely:
[The link] is obviously not going to please all, but it must be remembered that it has
been the subject of the greatest community participation . . . While quite obviously
everyone in the community is allowed to make such recommendations and
suggestions, it is unlikely that the recommended course for the Link will vary . . .
One can only hope that once this Link is constructed those who may be adversely
affected will be fully protected and compensated.
It was a heedless statement of the reality behind the politics of hope.
All might have seemed lost in a welter of factionalised politics, official
obduracy, bland assurances, competing diversions and sheer cacophony when
suddenly there appeared a 'glimmer of hope in [the] freeway wrangle'. At the
hearing of objections to the C3 route in mid 1980 by an independent panel on
behalf of the MMBW, Malvern Council, A C T A G , other major resident groups
and individual objectors strongly supported the 'cut and cover tunnel' solution
that had been proposed by the formidably well-informed Gang of Four. The
quartet with the brilliantly facetious name comprised a doctor, two chemists
and an engineer, who had gone to breathtaking lengths to prove the viability,
commonsense and public-spiritedness of their proposal, amassing evidence on
tunnel-building from European sources and hiring a consulting engineer and
quantity surveyor to supply a cross-section of a tunnel and preliminary costings.
One of the group's spokesmen, Tom Tyrer, claimed that any extra cost in the
scheme (a not inconsiderable $60 million) would be partly offset by the elimination of five flyovers and reduction in property acquisitions. Moreover,
consideration of environmental factors would tip the balance in favour of a
tunnel. It seemed, in many quarters, like a heaven-sent opportunity to cut
through the competing cross-currents.
The MMBW overruled the panel hearing the 1800 objections to the proposed
amendment in December, informing objectors of the decision by circular letter
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS
257
and failing to state grounds for the dismissal. They even neglected to supply a
transcript of proceedings. However, in early 1981, the government, with an
election in the offing, agreed to commission an independent consultant to look
at the option of a tunnel between Burke and Waverley Roads and an environmental impact study on the C3 route. It might have been thought that the latter
had been covered by the costly valley study. Although it seemed that major
concessions had been achieved, unease was caused by the conviction that 'the
CRB is now stifling resident and Council input' into the feasibility study and
was deepened when the board produced a brief that some interpreted as being
biased against the tunnel concept. When the final report was released in March
1982, proponents of a tunnel claimed that the bureaucratic coup de grace was the
wide publicity given to deliberately inflated costs, with a consequent decline in
public support for the proposal. Others would aver that the price of that
solution, as estimated by its experts, would blow out like a budget deficit.
The outcome of both those investigations seemed irrelevant when a Labor
government, whose anti-freeway policy was one of its proudest gestures towards
democratic participation and consideration of sane alternatives, was elected. In
April 1982, a decision to scrap the link was announced. It was, said Transport
Minister Crabb, 'unlikely in the foreseeable future'; improvement of the existing
road system would be Labor's way of tackling the traffic dilemma. Shortly
afterwards, he announced measures to improve traffic conditions in the no
man's land between the two freeways. This might have seemed to settle the
matter, but it ignored the fact that the new government had retained its options
by deleting the CI route and establishing the C3 reservation. The bureaucracy
and government may well have been marking time until the natural tendency to
baulk at delays and doubt about the untried devices proposed to deal with the
chaos had destabilised the situation so irreversibly that their own intentions
would seem benign. Even though the attempt to gain an alternative to the link
had really been lost, Malvern entered its most bitter period of community
disunity, with accusations of bad faith and self-interest thick in the air.
The Gang of Four had continued to produce evidence on a variety of highly
technical matters. However, Tom Tyrer was subjected to an abusive attack for
his offer to provide expert assistance to relieve the demoralised residents along
Malvern's 'pseudo freeways': '[it] makes me suspect he has been building a
Trojan Horse. Who needs enemies when you have friends like Mr Tyrer'. The
accusation was so gratuitous that it brought forth several defenders. A C T AG's
chairman had meanwhile grasped the straw of claiming that his group's position
had been vindicated by the government's decision to order a tunnel feasibility
study. The G C V A , whose advocacy of excluding a road entirely from the valley
had been thwarted, was left juggling its balls of principle and continuing antifreeway opposition with its capacity for well-organised dissent.
Another group, the Traffic Action Group (TAG; funnily enough its
abbreviated title was the same as that of the defunct Malvern Theatre
Appreciation Group), had entered the competition for the microphone and the
prize of capitalising on the politics of disillusion: 'Because you are no longer a
MAIN R O A D resident, but a resident on one of Malvern's PSEUDO-
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
FREEWAYS, linking the South Eastern and Mulgrave REAL FREEWAYS . . .
LINK THE FREEWAYS NOW'. The delay in building a freeway was not their
only target; they were involved in other contentious traffic matters, such as
opposition to the trial street closures and speed restraints. Their tactics were not
always polite. Dictatorial, aggressive and legally well-qualified, they flummoxed
the grave, yet amiable souls who had thrown their hearts into community
politics, even claiming that an elitist coven, protected by their chosen
councillors, had the running at city hall. The complaint was made that they had
'invaded' a meeting at which traffic control measures in the Gascoigne Estate
were being discussed: 'The stench of sour grapes hung over the meeting as T A G
members tried to bully the Council into removing control devices which have
protected the lives and properties of Malvern residents'. One observer deplored
the appearance of this divisive group, which seemed to favour no restraints on
the tyranny of the car. They were, said another, ' "rag T A G and bobtail"
people', who were sabotaging efforts to discourage cars from using side streets
that often doubled as children's playgrounds. When Mayor Max Dumais ruled
that only residents of the estate should vote on the issue, former mayor A n n
Morrow left the meeting, and the affair degenerated into a farce that one of
TAG's leading lights, John Smith, dubbed — not very accurately — 'a Malvern
Tea Party'. He called for a referendum in central ward on the issue: 'a most
disturbing trend towards minority Government has appeared in Malvern'.
Helped by a few legal eagles, the silent majority was coming into its own.
However, their intervention in the freeway question was their most masterful
action. Smith accused proponents of the anti-freeway case of 'blatant lies . . .
gross distortion of the real facts' and misusing 'their obvious talents' in pursuit
of 'their own selfish aims'. There was a barely disguised political innuendo in his
claim that the G C V A had 'gathered a strange collection of agitators to support
their cause'. His chief target was council, whose freeway policy 'disintegrates
every time whilst Councillors with their tunnel vision haggle over C I , C3 or
wherever . . . Until Council adopts a firm and irreversible stance on the freeway
link its extraordinary traffic policies will continue to generate division and
bitterness'. TAG's own tactics fuelled the fires of acrimony, and their attention
was drawn by the South Malvern Association to the real enemy, the state
government, with its 'NEGLECT OF ALL PUBLIC TRANSPORT'. T A G
should be congratulated, not castigated, wrote another of the spectators who
debated the faction's merits in the News Sheet for
having done what the complacent majority has failed to do. In just six months TAG
has had Council reverse its incredible freeway policy . . . The few opponents of TAG
with their bullying tactics and hysterical arguments have forced Council to adopt
traffic policies that have ruined this once beautiful city. Let there be no more of it! Let
the majority be heard! Let the privileged minority no longer enjoy the benefactions of
a weak and confused Council.
In the midst of the cloudy rhetoric and communal disintegration, two apostles
of hope announced the establishment of the Malvern Association, 'a great
initiative and possibly a first for Malvern, where diverse and widespread
71 A contemporary, looking at old photographs of Malvern, might well have believed that she
was looking at another planet: street without cars, c 1910.
72 'Surveyors will shortly be entering our property uto fix the line of the reservation
boundary". . . 1 ask you to imagine how you would react were you to receive some such
notification': houses destroyed for the Arterial Road Link, Malvern.
73 Rucked into mounds or gouged into raw furrows, besieged by earth-moving equipment and
stripped of all that is human: Arterial Road Link works.
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS
259
resident groups have come together to achieve a vital consensus of opinion and
united action'. It made little impact and had come far too late.
Public opinion was shifting irresistibly towards not merely accepting, but
promoting the fiercely contested link. Late in 1982, the Mayor of Malvern led a
deputation to Transport Minister Crabb requesting that priority should be
given to investigation of the southern corridor, including the freeway link, in the
1983 transportation plan, and a large town hall meeting Voted almost to a man
and woman' in favour of the link. In May 1983, Crabb announced that a fourlane arterial road would be constructed along the C3 alignment, and within
twelve months the amendment permitting the alternative reservation had been
gazetted and construction had begun, the minister assisting the process by being
photographed wielding a spade at a 'sod turning soiree'. Later in 1984, the mayor
reported a successful meeting concerning compensation, almost coinciding, in
an unplanned irony, with the formation of the Public Transport Party by 'a
group of concerned citizens who understand fully the interaction between public
transport and urban land use . . . Great benefit will flow to all urban dwellers,
jobs will be provided . . . and huge sums of money released for much needed
socially useful projects'. The comment might have been that it, like the Malvern
Association's attempt at a healing process, came decades too late.
Putting a brave face on unresolved matters, in July 1983 Mayor Dumais
outlined Malvern's 'victories': ensuring the link (arterial road rather than
freeway size) and gaining the land for the Urban Forest as partial compensation.
'It may be that Council has lost the battle of the CI versus C3 route, but it will
not lose the war on the peace', he vowed, indulging a peculiar turn of phrase.
'The war on the peace' was the question of full compensation. However, there
was a real question as to whether replacement of all open space was possible,
and, as negotiations developed, the level of the government's financial offer to
Malvern became contentious. By 1986, SERA's Wally Sheridan was bitter:
'Malvern has been the all-time loser. All land taken has been Malvern land; all
1000 residents moved have been Malvern residents'. Assuming that compensation was being awarded at 1972 values, he calculated the total loss to the city at
a mind-boggling $116 million and pointed out that Malvern's humiliation was
accentuated by the RCA's (the CRB's reincarnation under Labor) requirement
that the city and its citizens should pay for items such as the reconstruction of
cricket nets. It certainly looked like adding insult to injury.
For displaced individuals no degree of compensation might have seemed
adequate. 'The SE-Mulgrave "Clayton's" Freeway has resulted in a new home
for our family', wrote one woman, who had been transplanted to Fitzroy. 'Like
many others whose homes are to be destroyed, we will no longer be Malvern
residents.' The home represented an island of security where the individual
could ideally both manage personal destiny and express personality, a
repository of memories and hopes, a place of joys, dramas and reconciliations
that signified the connection between the one and the many. When Malvern's
first off-street car park was planned in 1959, the proposal to destroy three houses
to accommodate it led to such an outcry that the scheme was amended to
preserve them: 'Houses', the claim could be confidently made, 'are more
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
important to the people than service stations and car parks'. By the mid 1980s,
such an appeal bore no chance of success. Writing to Premier John Cain Junior,
SERA presented a dossier on the 'tragic histories' of thirteen householders
affected by 'the choice of an unbelievable location for the construction of a
badly planned road link overpass' on one section of the road: it read like a
parish register of the dead. The stressful outcomes were multiplied elsewhere,
and the claim was made that 'despicable tactics' were employed to induce people
to capitulate — undermining small groups at a time, harassing telephone calls,
exploiting fear. Even for the unafraid, the reality was dreadful, wrote one who
quoted William Pitt on the sanctity of the home against superior powers:
'surveyors will shortly be entering our property "to fix the line of the reservation
boundary" . . . I ask you to imagine how you would react were you to receive
some such notification'.
Some of the dispossessed had been in their houses for half a century and the
wrench was devastating, involuntarily creating images of despair and unfolding
into the bizarre: a woman crying and the bulldozer poised to overturn her house
as she was led away, another woman who lost her life's savings as the price of
replacing her dwelling, a man who died while his furniture was still in packing
cases, as he waited to finalise his move to Ballarat. Another woman, already
undermined by tragedy in her life, regularly rang the office of Race Mathews, to
convey her conviction that the freeway still would not go through her house
because the 'universal clock' disallowed that resolution. This image from a
disturbed subconscious perhaps locked into an archetype — deep in the heart of
the urban condition a natural rhythm had been fatally disrupted.
Apart from those who lost houses, there were others who suffered a loss in the
value of their properties. A valuer hired by A C T AG assessed that 550 houses
had declined in value by fifteen per cent. Nor had compensation for the possible
effects of pollution been taken into account. Additionally, there was an
unforeseen, if temporary horror in the breakdown of standards of community
behaviour in the demolition area:
The vandalism during the Australia Day long weekend [1987] by 12 year-olds,
teenagers and adults, occurred at all hours of the day and night and was
accompanied by alarming noise of breaking glass, windows, doors, floors and fittings
— a constant threat to life and limb and to the peace of mind of remaining residents.
Faith in the integrity of the political process had also been seriously shaken, as
the credibility of politicians of both parties was undermined by the unfolding of
events. In the early phases of the struggle, bitterness accrued to the Liberal
Party, who lost votes and left the ALP in the role of the white knight. After its
election to power in 1982, the turncoatism was all the ALP's; the white knight
had become the black king. Given that the party had laid historic claim to the
politics of principle, leaving the politics of pragmatism to the others, the lapse
was perhaps even less forgivable to some adherents. The abandonment of policy
was compounded by disregard of motions stipulating an improved link design
and proper compensation for victims that were passed at three consecutive state
ALP conferences. Nor could it be demonstrated that ministerial office was
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS
261
conducted with any greater degree of respect for consultative procedures and
democratic proprieties under Labor. Some of those who had condemned the
freeway when out of office conveniently diverted correspondence on the matter
to the appropriate ministerial colleague, once they had to match words with
actions. In some eyes, it hardly seemed to matter which party was in power.
By 1986, the occupant of the hot seat in the Transport Ministry was Tom
Roper, who came under fire from the Glen Iris branch of the party, with support
from the local community, for evading discussion and, as chairman of the C3
arterial road review committee, ignoring recommendations that aspects of the
link's design should be revised. He defended the level of compensation to
householders whose properties had been acquired and supported the RCA's
expenditure on noise barriers; the kind of amelioration recommended by the
branch was 'completely unrealistic . . . virtually unachievable' and prohibitively
expensive. Only a few members, representing the party's two major factions,
seemed prepared to pursue fully the substance of the conference resolutions. A
sympathetic response was also piously evinced by several Liberal parliamentarians, and the shadow Minister for Transport, who criticised the government's
insensitivity and lack of consultation. The shadow was always in a position of
advantage, as former Labor shadows, now fully fleshed ministers, knew.
Many of the activists were removed from the fray by no longer being Malvern
residents, but a few struggled on in the face of a seemingly unwinnable situation.
Tom Tyrer, whose tunnel scheme had momentarily united most of the major
pressure groups, only to be buried without obsequies in the tomb of expediency,
transferred his efforts to trying to achieve an improved design for the arterial
road to minimise its deleterious effects: a lower alignment to lessen visual
intrusion, effective noise barriers along the lines of those used overseas and
concealed lighting, instead of the standards, looming fifteen metres high, that
had been prescribed. A member of the Chadstone branch of the ALP, he was
charged with disloyalty for describing the ousting of people from their homes as
'an atrocity' and resigned from the party on the eve of the 1984 state election:
I hereby resign from the ALP in protest against the flagrant distortion of the
transport policies on which the party gained office . . . Barely 18 months after the
reservation was gazetted, hundreds of elderly citizens are being hounded from their
homes to watch in horror as the homes are razed for fear of squatters . . . I regret
leaving the ALP, but can no longer abide the minister's subversion of the very good
transport policies formulated by the rank and file.
The changed circumstances did not mean elimination of the pressure groups.
T A G continued its assault on council, condemning expenditure on 'traffic
studies, traffic trials and traffic obstructions' while spending 'not a farthing on a
FREEWAY LINK'. The GEG seemed to agree:' "Let's not Wait for the World",
but concentrate on Bringing Australia Together by linking our Freeways and
No 1 Highways N O W no matter which "L" governs!'. In the other court, Tyrer
continued the seemingly futile battle to achieve design improvements in
association with the G C V A , badgering the bureaucracy and his former political
colleagues. SERA addressed itself to attempting to ensure that the R C A fulfilled
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
its responsibility to restore the parklands and provide decent community access
to them, all part of its desire to see the creation of 'a unique linear park of world
standard'.
Looking at the mutilated landscape, rucked into mounds or gouged into raw
furrows, besieged by earth-moving equipment and stripped of all that is human,
that dream hardly seems possible, especially if the mind's eye carries the
sentimental imprint of the former signs of salvation: small bridges, tracks worn
in the grass, scruffy trees, the figures of people walking and playing, even the old
eroded banks and the mossy, seeping mouth of a drain — excellent for unwary
children to adventure in! Worse than the physical alteration is the troubled and
defeated air that can be detected; and yet human ingenuity is capable of determined and brave feats, and the land, even though it cannot be substantially
restored, can be healed and coaxed into a fresh profile that bears its own stamp
of individuality.
As the agency responsible for overseeing the attempt to reconstruct the valley,
council was charged with a delicate and onerous task. It had showed some
interest in the new technology that was being proposed to minimise the ill
effects of the link, but pursuing that line offered few politically feasible rewards.
It was also the butt of considerable resentment in some quarters for perhaps
unavoidable sins of omission. It was a clearly visible scapegoat for accusers from
both sides, particularly those who had struggled to save the valley:
Many concerned citizens have fought hard and long against vested interests of
insensitive groups. The battle is lost and a monument to these people is rapidly
blighting our area. The final insult is however that our valley is being called the
'Malvern Valley' . . . Please, before it's too late, let it be called 'Gardiner's Valley'
again and let us try to forget the infamous act of Malvern and their collaborators.
However, valley residents were not council's only dependent population, and
it was charged, albeit inadvertently, with the need to make the best of an
unchosen outcome, and that included reuniting its citizens. Besides, for various
reasons, several councillors who had strongly opposed the link were no longer
in office, and the outcome had become an accepted fact. Practical problems
added to the burden, and the chief of these was compensation, 'the war on the
peace', which dictated discretion in dealing with the media, and that struggle
was following a familiar pattern, although this time the drama was by way of an
epilogue. By 1987, agreement with the state government had been reached
regarding some areas that abutted the link, yet in May council considered
refusing to sign the whole seven-part agreement. Like several of his predecessors,
the Minister for Transport had refused to meet with council and resident groups
to discuss the link and matters outside the RCA's authority; his letter
'unfortunately indicates no support whatever for council's position'. Although
the G C V A joined the protest against the minister's refusal to discuss design
matters, any declaration of outrage was feeble and final. Within weeks the
agreement was signed; according to the mayor, negotiations had been arduous,
but the settlement was 'fair and equitable'. More positively, council could feel
that it had pioneered negotiating criteria, set precedents for similar situations,
A SORRY MESS OF MOTOR CARS
263
extracted more monetarily than the government ever envisaged and ensured
that the link was softened by the filagree of contour mounding and foliage.
Moreover, even though the Aboriginal profile of the valley had been consigned
to memory, a different and still pleasing outline might emerge through the
arcadian vision of the Valley Plan, even if it was a bit Alice in Wonderlandish:
'Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage . . . she knelt
down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How
she longed to get out of that dark hall . . .'. In August, Mayor Lang was photographed pleasantly driving the official limousine over the first of the five bridges
above the link to be completed: 'He said he had supported the R C A project
since its inception and looked forward to further improvements'.
Attention was now concentrated on attempting to secure the vestiges of the
Aboriginal dream within the far less dreamy urban and suburban reality. The
Gardiner's Creek revegetation project was going well: the council nursery had
propagated over 22 000 native plants and staff had located 'precious patches' of
original vegetation, including kangaroo grass, native tussocks and tea-tree, and
two community 'plant-outs' had interested local schools and play groups. 'An
old digger' claimed to have seen the phantom platypus that was said to inhabit
the creek — hopefully, a companion was in the offing. There were still other
realities to consider and other forces at work. In September 1987, forty-seven
Camberwell residents petitioned the Malvern Council to 'immediately rectify
the dangerous state of the altered western bank [of the creek] . . . before a
tragedy occurs'. According to one Malvern councillor, as a result of MMBW
works, it looked 'quite horrendous now with no tree cover and a steep rise twice
the agreed height from the low water mark'. Apart from random MMBW
missions to shore up the creek, Malvern was now responsible for the creek, as
one disgruntled Camberwell resident indicated: 'while they say it's their valley,
all the people who live along what is now called "Gardiner's Drain" are in
Camberwell'. There was an irony there.
The irony became monumental in 1988 when the old CRB's vision, now
dressed in R C A swaddling clothes, gained final approval from the party that
had formerly decried it. 'Progress has always had a price', as the Regional Progress
editorialist said comfortingly, welcoming the development of the road system
towards Ringwood, even though it heralded more dispossession and more
protest:
The C3 is undoubtedly a quantum leap forward . . . While sympathising with the
environmentalists and those hundreds who have had to find other homes with the
forging of the C3 link, progress has always had a price . . . we must never lose sight of
the long term benefits, despite the cost of progress in the short term.
The simplistic logic and glib bow to the idol of progress were familiar, even
though they now looked rather discredited and musty. However, they provided
the occasion for an announcement that guerillas were still likely to attempt to
waylay the idol along its path: a Community Coalition had been formed of
residents of several municipalities to contest the 1988 local election. They failed
to make an impact. In September 1988, Premier John Cain delivered the coup de
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
grace when he opened the first stage of the link, saying that it 'should have been
built years ago but previous Liberal governments could not or would not build
it'. The comment was audacious, clever, uninformed — or all of those.
The centre of disturbance had gone from Malvern and shifted elsewhere
('Keep freeways out of creek valleys' was the message of a Box Hill resident to the
editor of the Age in February 1989). A sigh of relief might have seemed in order,
but Malvern citizens might well have asked themselves what kind of experience
they had been through. The story had taken thirty years to unfold, only to end
along the lines that had been indicated in the very first paragraph. And yet
there had been lessons learnt along the way. Some of them were not necessarily
very palatable and so worn that they were almost cliches: the opportunism of
politicians, the powerlessness of a divided community, the often conflicting
interests of the general public and the individual, and between individuals, the
rogue nature of the bureaucracy when it is intent on a particular course, the
sour solutions often required by the metropolitan situation. Malvern's historic
existence had gone full circle; the creek that defined it and gave it an essential
part of its character was again a metaphor for the dual forces of creation and
destruction, however they might be interpreted. In November 1988, a swollen
Gardiner's Creek burst its banks, swamping the ARL and putting it temporarily
out of commission. Those who believe that nature resists violation might have
seen the flood as a primeval act of revenge. At a mundane level, too, the
problems were amassing. By early 1989, the R C A announced that it would
instal permanent fold-out signs to warn motorists of congestion on the ARL,
and, driven to distraction by the noise of traffic, unhappy residents were again
warming the seats at protest meetings.
Unanswered questions still remained. What was planning about if, after the
final accounting, it seemed to be mainly a troubled and painful process to
produce an unsatisfactory outcome? As a city within a city, where was
Malvern's identity as a community? What, after all, was the purpose of that ageold focus of human endeavour, the city, and can it be reanimated? There may
be cold comfort in the fact that the choice that at least offers the possibility of an
answer was eloquently put twenty-seven years ago by that diagnostician of
cities, Lewis Mumford:
Urban society has come to a parting of the ways. Here, with a heightened
consciousness of our past and a clearer insight into decisions made long ago, which
often still control us, we shall be able to face the immediate decision that now
confronts man and will, one way or another, ultimately transform him: namely,
whether he shall devote himself to the development of his own humanity, or whether
he shall surrender himself to the now almost automatic forces he himself has set in
motion and yield place to his dehumanized alter ego, Tost-historic Man'.
EPILOGUE
Community and
Memory
In September 1986, the Malvern News Sheet printed a letter
from SERA calling for united action 'to protect the unique lifestyle of Malvern
from either the scourge of amalgamation with adjoining municipalities, or
partition'. The appeal presupposed that this special mode of being not only
existed, but was capable of definition and could produce a knowing response in
a wide variety of residents. The outsider might well ask whether Malvern was by
now merely one form expressing the Australian suburban reality, endowed with
the graceless anonymity that had often been sourly itemised; and yet the
seventies and eighties have seen many resident reactions that suggest an
unspoken consensus about some of the distinctive characteristics of Malvern
life. The mood has had two main components, each of which represents a move
towards communal introversion, although they do not necessarily always work
well together. The first element has been largely defensive and has expressed
itself in attempts by small groups of residents to preserve their immediate
domestic environment from intrusive buildings — primarily flats — that they
perceive to be a lowering of standards.
Flat building had been primarily concentrated in the 1960s, peaking in 1964
with the erection of over 1000 units and provoking several letters and circulars
of protest, which prompted consideration of inserting new residential zones in
the city's planning scheme to control such developments. Several further
petitions were received in the early seventies, notably an approach from over
300 south ward residents (the Claremont Committee) to restrict further high
density flats. The reaction of one group was more vociferous in July 1973, when
the Housing Commission of Victoria submitted an application — it complied 'in
all respects with the Council's code' — to build nine two-storied flats on railway
land at East Malvern. Council had advised the commission in 1960 that
Malvern had no suitable land for low rental housing purposes', and on the later
occasion went further, objecting to the MMBW and advising the commission
chairman that an application under council's planning scheme would have to be
265
266
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
made: 'as a general policy the Council does not favour the erection of Housing
Commission flats in the municipality'. The posture looked a little odd, given
that council representatives were accustomed to attending ceremonies at the
Holmesglen factory to celebrate, say, the 5000th home to roll off the assembly
line for despatch to needier suburbs. Needless to say, this modest attempt in the
cause of public housing was shelved.
1973 and 1974 saw a crop of resident actions mainly aimed at protecting the
residential environment from deterioration through confirming the status quo.
Some of the issues were redevelopment of Kooyong Park, parking at Toorak
Teachers' College (Stonnington's latest transformation), the rebuilding of
Alencon Private Hospital in Mercer Road, proposed use of railway land for
business ventures and an outbreak of acrimony as to whether the possie
formerly occupied by the wondrous Central Park Kiosk should be donated to
private enterprise or retained for public enjoyment. Using terminology that
would have been unthinkable in the heady expansionary days, one group
advertised itself as an 'Anti-Progress Association'. The residential revised code
adopted in 1974 — 'purpose . . . to promote a high standard of multi-unit
accommodation with the emphasis on family-type units' — indicated the
stringent standards required, including significant open space requirements,
'aesthetic controls', approved tree and shrub preservation strategies and ample
car parking provisions.
The nature of the problems had changed, but the emphasis on fostering and
securing a stable and attractive middle-class preserve was essentially the same as
it had been early in the century when the declaration of brick areas had been a
bone of contention. The exclusive instinct showed a decade later in council's
objection to 'the use [at a town planning lecture] of a slide showing . . . "Slum
area in Malvern" ' and again in 1940 when a freshly elected councillor heralded
a future in which Malvern's 'home-lovers . . . will not be endangered by
potential slum dwellings'. However, in the 1970s, the desire to preserve the
housing stock was accompanied by wider aesthetic concerns: 'We have concentrated on industrial progress for too long. We must get back to the basic things
— natural resources and our way of living' (Editorial Southern Cross 28 January
1970). One group of citizens (the Malvern Quarry Improvement Committee)
was so intent on ensuring a favourable result that, claiming council inertia, they
engaged the native-garden doyen Ellis Stones to draft a plan for the site. The
general concern was rewarded in 1973 when the National Times cited Malvern's
reserves as 'outstanding examples of parklands in metropolitan areas'. In a
feature on Malvern's parks, the News Sheet (1976) urged residents to 'look
beyond our private freehold and take stock of the community's land'. Soon after
it claimed enthusiastically that 'a new and exciting period of public involvement
in urban renovation and beautification has come into bloom'. The blossoming
embraced a neighbourhood parks policy, thoughtful initiatives such as the
creation of fragrance gardens for the disabled, and the formation of a Malvern
Beautification Advisory Committee 'to make [Malvern] a place where residents
may safely pursue their chosen life-styles in a harmonious and pleasing physical
and social environment'.
COMMUNITY AND MEMORY
267
The reaction to environmental threat was Malvern's own, and yet it also
neatly reflected much of the energy that had been subterraneanly gathering
through the long and increasingly wearisome tenure of the federal coalition
government, to be unleashed by the election of the Labor Party in 1972, which
ensured a release of funds, introduction of professional mechanisms to enable
change, and continuance of much of the impetus after its demise. Even so, for
Malvern there was the galling situation that, despite its ageing population and
facilities, and lack of open space (120 acres below recommended standards), its
affluence excluded it from imbursements from the Grants Commission on
several occasions.
Apart from a preoccupation with safeguarding the quality of suburban life,
the other main facet of the city's self-perception in the seventies and eighties was
also timely: the concern with community in the wider sense of providing social
services and engendering a more sympathetic human interaction. Unknowingly
adopting a title close to that of a likeminded post-World War Two band, the
Malvern Community Association, with its motto 'Co-ordination, Caring and
Research' and its organ, the lively News Sheet, was formed in 1970: '[its] whole
aim and existence . . . is about finding some enthusiasm or interest that already
exists . . . and helping that spark of energy gather strength and take off. It
aimed to develop a strategy for youth, develop communication and better
dialogue with non-Australian groups, especially the Greeks (over two thousand
strong in Malvern by 1971) and 'commence a scenario study' on the future role
of local institutions such as clubs and churches. Once the fervour took hold, the
momentum was furious. In 1972, the Learning Exchange and the Citizens'
Advice Bureau opened, and work began on the Malvern Elderly Citizens'
Welfare Association Centre. The next two years saw the first Community
Festival, after-hours use of local schools, formation of the Chadstone Community Health Centre, establishment of 'Grapevine — A Women's Learning
Network' and publication of'Survey of Young People in Malvern'. The continuing impetus expressed itself in a variety of projects: a Self-Help Employment
Exchange and an assemblage of eighty women's organisations to discuss the
local thrust of International Women's Year celebrations (1975), the Malvern
Youth and Recreation Group Festival (1976), the 'Grand Reopening . . . for
Community Use' of Centenary Hall, previously a battered picture theatre, and
the launching of 'Living in Malvern' Directory (1976), securing a home for the
Malvern Community Arts Centre in the former East Malvern Congregational
Church and the birth of the Malvern Community School (1977).
Guided by several outstanding individuals, including community-based
councillors, who were able to enthuse droves of supporters, these multifarious
activities represented a massive shift in orientation. Nevertheless, there was a
sombre side to the buoyant optimism, for the community gains such excessive
self-consciousness not only from the ascendency of more enlightened attitudes,
but also when its existence is threatened by internal and external stresses. In
1975, the state government granted $56 000 for local unemployment relief
works; although Malvern had its jobless, they were not insufficient to qualify for
this aid. However, their plight was bad enough, and two years later a Common-
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PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
wealth Employment Service Office opened in Malvern. Talk of depression and
collapse of the work ethic was abroad, particularly in relation to the young who
had been fatally disillusioned by the Vietnam War, even if they were not of the
generation that had been conscripted and who now figured massively in the
jobless. In 1980, Don Hayward, Legislative Councillor for Monash, convened
an unemployment conference, and the Southern Cross highlighted the plight of
homeless youth in Malvern: Is this what we do to a lot of our unemployed
youngsters . . . put them on the slag heap as industrial waste[?]\ Fashion
manifestations of youthful alienation (deliberately mutilated clothes, shaven
heads and safety-pin earrings) to be seen in photographs that accompanied these
expressions of concern were far more unsettling than the styles singled out for
disapproval twenty years earlier by guardians of the young. The message of
social breakdown was not one that all wanted to hear, yet insulation from the
stresses that afflicted Australian society was less possible than it had been a
century before. In comparison with that time, when to be special and
progressive granted immunity, Malvern wanted to be likened to the wider
community: politically it was 'Australia in microcosm', socially it suffered the
same ills that beset the continent.
Many new initiatives were brave attempts to fill the vacuum caused by the
onset of weakness in ancient support systems. The private schools were
expanding (Malvern had a new one in a branch of the Jewish Yavneh College)
and booming financially, with government subsidies validated by a favourable
shift in opinion about state aid and the fees of parents determined to ensure
their children a head-start in the harsh employment climate. However, the tone
was decidedly more secular, and the mentors of these schools, the churches, had
retreated further into the shadows. Even so, there were positive moves. On 22
June 1977, at the old Ewing Memorial Church, 'four-hundred-and-one people
gathered together from three different denominational traditions to follow the
vision of the Uniting Church that has been given to us by the Holy Spirit'. The
union was a product of expediency that had been converted into a powerfully
affirmative action and a sign of faith, although to some it signalled the end of
spiritual idiosyncracy and the cluster of race, history and place that went with
difference. For an acerbic Scot or a dispossessed Methodist, 'uniting' was only
moderate balm.
By contrast, the Greek Orthodox faith was flourishing. In 1976, 2000 people
attended the opening of St Catherine's, East Malvern. The congregation added
a gorgeous embellishment to the faded tapestry of the community's ritual
expression, particularly in its Easter celebrations, which culminated on the
morning of Good Friday 'when women and girls arrive at the church to
decorate a large bier with masses of flower blossoms . . . The bier will be carried
for a mile . . . that evening, whatever the weather, for the people to live again
the walk of the mourners at Christ's crucifixion'. And they added their footstamping, yet lyrical, vibrancy to the long pageant of dance that the town hall
had witnessed. Demonstrating the ability of the Roman Catholic Church to put
on an epic show, in March 1988 several thousand were expected to join a 'Walk
with Mary' from Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Armadale, to St Joseph's,
COMMUNITY AND MEMORY
269
Malvern, to celebrate proclamation of the Marian Year. In more relaxed mode,
the East Malvern Inter-Church Council held annual carols by candlelight
celebrations at Central Park, 'taking the C H U R C H to the PEOPLE', and
Christmas had become 'international', allowing the enrichment of a host of
compelling customs. The carols may have become fugitive, insistent echoes in
parents, conveying hints of mystery and majesty to the children, who
forthrightly bore their candles, yet knew scarcely a line of words, except for
'Jingle Bells', with its promise of goods to come on Christmas morning. The
jollity and the communality, all ages and all races together, seemed to
compensate for any lack of a clear path to that mystifying core of belief.
The fact remained that there were powerful disintegrating forces at work and
that, in Blue & Gold's words (1986), 'we are living in a society that has replaced
God with consumerism'. There was also the tendency for new-sprung insights to
fade into stale repetitions and for living impetus to be entombed in mountains
of paperwork, foliaged with misleading statistics and alienating jargon. When
council explained its Community Plan in mid 1984, one response was that 'time
can harden the freshest arteries. Council's Role and Principles with its boxes
and lines and flow chart seems terribly bureaucratic in approach'. More
seriously, the problems that the community approach sought to address held
their own potential for divisiveness. The interests of some groups were narrowly
focussed on the integrity and safety of their own nests, producing the siege
mentality that such an accent invites. Disputes were likely to erupt about places
such as parks that were the community's shared possession — for instance,
should rampageous children be preferred to the restoration of Edwardian
features at Central Park? — while the threat of large-scale roadworks and
commercial developments ensured heartbreaking conflicts.
A community lives iconographically through the durability of its most
powerful or evocative monuments. The disappearance of a house affects only a
few; other buildings are a loss to both individual and collective memory. The
feelings of bereavement are not a stubborn resistance to change, but indicate an
awareness that the structures of imaginative response have been wrenched in
perhaps damaging ways. On the Feast of St Mary Magdalen (22 July) 1881, the
Roman Catholic Archbishop Goold laid the foundation stone of the Convent
of the Good Shepherd on fifty-five acres at Chadstone, burying beneath it
medals, coins and earth from the grave of St Francis Xavier. Built between 1881
and 1883 as an extension of the order's Abbotsford centre, it originally housed
three nuns and twenty-five girls who had been placed there by the courts or
their families. A traditional nineteenth century reformatory, harsh and rigid by
later standards, its work centred around a laundry, which served both as 'worktherapy' and income, and training of domestic and farm servants. As well, the
girls were said to receive 'a good English education', and the regimen was
sweetened by picnics, magic lantern sessions and dancing. In 1888, the Advocate
described in detail the life of the house and some of its religious appurtenances:
a sanctuary lamp kept burning by the Association of the Perpetual Lamp
(special joining rates for the poor), an altar centre-piece painted by Signor
Reitzo, an organ presented by the well-known jeweller Thomas Gaunt and a
270
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
statue of the Blessed Virgin that had been moved from Abbotsford. Despite the
unpromising sandy loam of the area, the nuns hoped to make the convent farm
productive.
The community's work and its estate expanded to include the parish school of
St Anthony's and other charitable work with children. In 1930, a new chapel
was built, partly from materials that came from sacred places in Europe and
North Africa: a marble altar from Italy, onyx pillars from Morocco, a tabernacle
made in Bavaria. The church bells, Regina Coeli and Sancta Joseph, were
blessed by Archbishop Mannix. Twenty years later, 120 girls still lived with the
nuns and the community's jersey herd grazed in the paddocks. In 1959, when a
contemplative group was established, the cross from the roof of St Anthony's
school, which had moved to new premises outside the grounds, was placed on
their building as 'a sign of historical continuity'. Three years later, the first
clothing ceremony took place. By that time, the stark monolith of the
Chadstone Shopping Centre was gathering in huge business. Even so, the Good
Shepherd complex with its ecclesial profiles and rural surround continued to
lend a sense of timeless order to an otherwise undistinguished suburban area.
In May 1984, the Malvern News Sheet printed a letter claiming that the wishes
of locals had been overridden in the twenty-six per cent enlargement of the
shopping centre which had been enabled by the Gandel Group's purchase of all
the church's land. Over seven hectares of native trees and grass had gone for a
car park and four houses were destroyed for road-widening. However, there was
worse to come. On 15 September 1985, two hundred residents met outside the
convent buildings in an attempt to stop their demolition. Speakers at the event
included the Mayor of Malvern, and one feelingly referred to the convent's
symbolic value: It has been a place of love, peace and shelter to countless
numbers for over a century . . . It is not a national monument. It is a local
monument to our pioneers'. The atavistic significance of 'spire and clock tower'
were compared to the tawdriness of 'Big Mac and take away chicken architecture'. Preservation of the chapel topped the agenda, and the proposal was to
convert it to communal and inter-denominational purposes. The developers,
who had purportedly made unsatisfactory statements and were often elusive,
regretted the fate of this Very fine building, but if anybody wished to preserve it
they should have acquired it'. They were not represented at the protest meeting,
and four days later, after a temporary ban issued by the Builders' Labourers
Federation had been lifted, demolition began.
Although the objectors had rapidly amassed a petition, signed by some 3400
people and forwarded to the Minister for Planning, Evan Walker, and the
Malvern Council, they received scant support from these quarters, who fell back
on the Historic Buildings Preservation Council's unpreparedness to list any part
of the complex. Greatest outrage came from the powerless: the Australian
Democrats, the Member for Clayton, who presented the petition to parliament,
the residents themselves. As the agency responsible for enabling rezoning of the
land, council was in an odious position, particularly given its bitter complaints
about loss of open space for the link road and information it had received from
the National Trust of protection provided under the Town and Country Planning
COMMUNITY AND MEMORY
271
Act for 'buildings important to the local community'. However, the law was
plainly inadequate to supply real safeguards, especially when the will to pursue
its possibilities was questionable. (The ALP was, over time, to treat the architectural preservation stipulations provided in the legislation rather as if they
were disposable table napkins.) 'It seems ridiculous', wrote one of the convent's
defenders, 'that the developer has the authority to destroy all trace of history
and beauty of the site, which is still zoned "special uses", before any move can
be made to acquire a park through submissions to the planning authority who
deals with rezoning'. Of course, mutilation of the site so that nothing worth
preserving remained benefited the developers, who further assisted themselves
by vagueness about the nature and extent of their plans for the denuded area.
Every grievance that could be mustered about the despoilation of the modern
urban environment, from multiple pollution to the lunacy of manufacturing
fake historic architecture while the true was wantonly destroyed — especially in
Victoria's sesquicentenary year — was mentioned in the barrage of letters
delivered by those who continued to battle against a foregone conclusion. It was
all taken as 'a sign that once again big business triumphs over the welfare of the
community'. Depth of disillusion even prompted one stalwart to petition the
Minister for Local Government for the severance of the overlooked east ward —
this time to the City of Caulfield. The demolition process itself added to the
horror. The chapel was daubed with graffiti and the symbolic tributes that had
been set behind the foundation stone of 1881 were pillaged:
The systematic destruction and vandelizing [sic] of even the smallest historic
memento . . . in a fanatical attempt to wipe out all memory of a century of charitable
and social work shows such a total lack of sensitivity to the people of the area, that
they can only view the future with considerable foreboding.
Given that the developer's proposals included six-storied office blocks and
parking for 900 more cars, that sense of unease seemed entirely warranted. The
fact that the complex has continued to be one of the most profitable metropolitan shopping centres and has become the second largest public transport
interchange in Melbourne (even though it is still predominantly car-oriented)
might only enthuse those who are impressed with bustle and bigness. Whatever
the response, visible evidence of the convent's century of history had been
super-efficiently erased.
In 1922, the Glen Iris Brick Company sold its East Malvern land as the
Winton Park Estate. One street in the subdivision was Railway Crescent, which
adopted the more dignified name of Thornbury Crescent. The government
refused to allow the sale of the flood-prone flats below the crescent, and they
became the practice fairway of the golf links. Over sixty years later, as part of the
ARL works, much of Thornbury Crescent was engulfed in flames. Along with
other houses went Number 19, the two-storied, grey rough-cast house — rather
modern-looking for its time — where my grandparents, uncle and two cousins
had lived. As the grandparental house, it was the venue for many family
celebrations and not a few sorrows. My mother's twin sister only lived there a
few years before she died after childbirth, and very much later the mother of
272
PRIVATE AND PUBLIC MEMORY
these twins also died in the house. Innumerable gatherings, small and large, had
taken place there: Sunday dinners and afternoon teas; ferocious games of
croquet, cards and scrabble; birthday feasts, horticultural in splendour and so
large that trestle tables were imported to add space; sing-songs, some with
robust action ('You do the hokey-pokey, and you turn around, that's what it's
all about'); film sessions, home movies where we saw ourselves prancing about in
grainy black and white, and Charlie Chaplain films that unconsciously fuelled a
sense of the absurdity of many social systems; above all, Christmasses, the days
that flung us all together, arousing impossible expectations, sometimes stirring
the brew of family tension until it boiled over, and yet rebirthing gentle hopes.
That house was also the place where our dawning sense of the world beyond
self and family was often triggered. My grandfather, a Presbyterian minister of
the old, 'Burning Bush' configuration, staunch Labor man and pacifist, queried
the myths on which Australia's political life was predicated and condemned the
idiocy of war. With an obverse side that showed a large-winged, imperious angel
rather offhandedly holding the palm of victory, his brother's medal, earned for
dying in T h e Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919', was a talisman that
confirmed the futility of the militarist instinct. My grandfather carried this
knowledge through to struggling for peace in the Cold War, in such gestures as
joining the Malvern Vote No Committee at the time of Menzies' attempt to ban
the Communist Party. Occasionally the telephone rang so that anonymous
callers could accuse him and his fellow ministers of being 'Christian
Communists'. (Christian Socialists was the reality.) Predictably, his principles
led him to a conviction that the Vietnam War was, likewise, waste and shame.
The 'domestic warfare' of internal politics, too, penetrated those walls, although
it was depressingly one-sided, as again and again the ALP trundled towards
defeat. Doing woman's work, my grandmother extended the wand of Christianity's good deeds to the unfortunate through the Presbyterian Home Mission.
She also interpreted God's will so that our lives could be properly conducted;
could it be that he was so partisan that he regarded the Presbyterian Ladies'
College more favourably than the Methodist Ladies' College, where I was
destined to go? (Whatever the answer, he did seem to have become embroiled in
class matters.) There, in the garden of that house, my grandmother, my mother
and I stood alongside the standard roses and watched the Soviet Union's
Sputnik glide across the inky, star-spattered sky, signifying an amazing shift in
earth's pattern of power.
In a short space of time, a match lit by an employee of the R C A or its
contractors had burnt Number 19 Thornbury Crescent, erasing the material
evidence and leaving only the work of memory, that arduous pleasure which
calls the commonalty regardless of the particular affiliations of its individual
members in place, time and spirit.
COMMUNITY AND MEMORY
74 The outsider might well ask whether Malvern was by now merely one form expressing the
Australian suburban reality: map of Malvern, 1967.
273
Notes on Sources
General
Several sources have been used throughout the book. These are the records of the Malvern City
Council: Council minutes books 1899-1975 (held at the Public Records Office and the Malvern
Town Hall); letter books 18604875, 1884-1888; surveyor's letter book 1890-1892; journal
1903-1914; Parks and Gardens Committee Minute Books 1926-1962; Health Committee Minute
Books 1914-1925, 1960-1964; Council in Committee Minute Books 1972-1975; rate books; annual
reports; and uncatalogued mayoral and general correspondence held at the Malvern Town Hall
and the Malvern Library. The collection at the Malvern Town Hall also contains miscellaneous
architects' plans, photographs and a folder of material on the Railway Trust that was established to
oversee payment for the extension of the Darling Railway Line. The La Trobe Library,
Melbourne, holds runs of many Malvern newspapers: Malvern Advertiser (1946-1962), Malvern
Argus (1892-1921), Malvern and Armadale Express (1888-1902), Malvern and Armadale Recorder
(1899-1902), Malvern Nevus (1903-1917), Malvern Spectator (1934-1942) and Malvern Standard
(1930-1931). For the final years of the First World War, the Prahran Telegraph, which was
associated with the Malvern Nevus, was used. The Malvern Library holds runs of Southern Cross and
Regional Progress. T h e Malvern Nevus Sheet (1973- ) covers the recent period of community
involvement. J B Cooper History of Malvern 1836-1936 (Melbourne, 1935), Brian Lewis Sunday at
Kooyong Road (Richmond, Victoria, 1976), Graham Mclnnes The Road to Gundagai (London,
1965), Humping My Bluey (London, 1966) and Goodbye, Melbourne Town! (London, 1968) and
Lewis Mumford The City in History (Peregrine Books, 1987) have been used at several points in the
text. The papers of Lady Margaret Stanley, wife of Governor Stanley, who served during the First
World War, are mentioned several times throughout the book. They are held in the manuscripts
collection of the La Trobe Library. The book of her daughter Adelaide Lubbock People in Glass
Houses Growing up at Government House (Melbourne, 1977) also makes several appearances.
Additional material is listed by chapter. Where details seem warranted, particular references are
identified within the text.
Chapter 1
Burns, Don, 'History of Gardiner's Creek Valley From Toorak Road to Warrigal Road', Master of
Landscape Architecture Thesis, University of Melbourne, 1985.
Gardiner's Creek Valley Study, Waterways Environs Study Team Report, 1977.
Landscape and Architecture File, Malvern Library.
Malvern News Sheet, Reminiscences of Malvern Residents.
Malvern Valley Plan, General Concept Plan Report, City of Malvern, December 1986.
Malvern Valley Plan, Second Report, City of Malvern, 1986.
Malvern Valley Plan, Landscape Manual, City of Malvern, February 1987.
Tyrer, Tom, Personal Papers.
274
NOTES ON SOURCES
275
Chapter 2
Primary Sources
Baillieu Allard, Subdivisional Plans (University of Melbourne Archives).
Coghill &. Haughton, Subdivisional Plans (University of Melbourne Archives).
Education Department, Building Files (Public Records Office).
Malvern Central School, Records relating to State Schools History Project, 1963.
Morison, Hazel, taped conversation.
Pretty, Jack, taped conversation.
Priddle, Nell, family archive.
Webster, Rosemary, family archive.
Secondary Sources
C a n n o n , Michael, The Land Boomers, Melbourne, 1977.
Clements, Stephen, The Gascoigne and Waverley Estates, Malvern A Study of Suburban Land
Development 1885-1915, Research Report, Department of Architecture and Building,
University of Melbourne, November 1974.
Davison, Graeme, The Rise and Fall of Marvellous Melbourne, Melbourne, 1984.
Hibberd, Shirley, Rustic Adornments for Homes of Taste, 1856, London, 1987.
Lawrence, D H, Kangaroo, 1923, Penguin Edition, 1975.
McLaren, Ian F, Malvern Crown Land Sales 1840T879, University of Melbourne Library, Parkville,
Victoria, 1987.
Meudell, George, The Pleasant Career of a Spendthrift and his Later Reflections, Melbourne (1936?).
Pockett, John B, Chrysanthemums, A Biography of the life and work of the late Thomas W Pockett,
OBE, Healesville, Victoria, 1958. 'Cherished Memories of my Boyhood Days', published by the
author, 1979.
Priestley, Susan, Cattlemen to Commuters, A History of the Mulgrave District — Now the City of
Waverley 1839-1961, Sydney, 1979.
A n o n , Table Talk, 1892.
Read, Miss, The English Vicarage Garden, London, 1988.
Chapter 3
Commonwealth Census, 1911, 1921, 1933, 1947, 1961.
A n o n , The New Idea, December 1902.
A n o n , The Australian Home Beautiful, 1926.
A n o n , Table Talk, 1893.
Duigan, Patricia, 'A Pioneer's Home Passes', Table Talk, May 1935. Malvern Library Landscape
and Architecture File.
National Trust of Australia (Victoria Branch), files on listed buildings in Malvern.
Fraser, Hugh, The Federation House, Australia's Own Style, Dee Why West, New South Wales, 1986.
Irving, Robert (ed.), The History and Design of the Australian House, Melbourne, 1985.
Percy-Dove, Clare, Brynmawr, The House on the High Hill: the Story of Sacre Coeur, Glen Iris, Glen
Iris, Victoria, 1976.
Sayers, C E, 'Stonnington', undated.
Tibbits, George, T h e So-Called Melbourne Domestic Queen Anne', Historic Environment, Vol 2
N o 2, 1982.
Chapters 4, 5 a n d 6
Sources for these chapters are grouped because they overlap.
Primary Sources
School building files held by the Public Records Office. T h e records of Malvern Central School
(including Historical Information Questionnaire and replies), East Malvern Central School,
Malvern Primary School and Malvern Girls' High School. T h e school magazines of Korowa (The
Palm Leaf), Lauriston (The Lauristonian), Malvern Grammar (The Malvern Grammarian), St Kevin's
276
PRIVATE A N D PUBLIC MEMORY
College (St Kevin's Annual Magazine), De La Salle (Blue & Gold), and Kildara Convent's old girls'
magazine (Ad Meliora, including the Diamond Jubilee Edition, 1976).
Secondary Sources
No clear division between primary and secondary sources for these chapters can be made.
Adams, Dorothy, and former members of the Darling Road Church, Memories of Darling Road
Uniting Church, published by the former congregation, Richmond, Victoria, 1985.
A n o n , St George's Anglican Church, Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, published by the congregation,
1929.
A n o n , St Mary's East Malvern, Completion of the Parish Church, Thirty-fifth Anniversary and Opening
of the Church, published by the congregation, 1958.
A n o n , Holy Advent Church of England, Malvern 1898-1948, Jubilee Souvenir, 1948.
A n o n , Seventy-Five Years 1891-1966, Ewing Memorial, 1966.
A n o n , Chadstone High School 1962-1987, Chadstone High School, 1987.
A n o n , Consecration of St Mary's Church, East Malvern, St Mary's Church, 1973.
A n t h o n y , C, The Early History of Lloyd St Central School, published by the author, 1983.
Armadale Baptist, Congregation of, The History of the Armadale Baptist Church 1989-1948, Jubilee
Celebrations, published by the Congregation, undated (1948).
Beamsley, Henry, Spring Road Wesley an Church, extracts from a handwritten story, undated
c. 1909.
Bossence, W H, Epping Street, Melbourne, 1978.
Bourke, D F, The History of the Vincentian Fathers in Australasia, Armadale, Victoria (1981?).
City of Malvern, 'Program for the City of Malvern Centenary 1856-1956', published by the municipality, undated (1956).
De La Salle College Jubilee Brochure.
East Malvern Peace Memorial Church, 'Dedication Services June, 1922', published by the
congregation, undated (1922?).
Education Department, The School Paper.
Ewing Memorial Presbyterian Church, Year Books, 1942-1977.
Goldsworthy, Arthur, The Beginnings of Trinity, A research into the early history of The Church of the
Holy Trinity, Oakleigh, 1853-1866, privately published, 1974.
Greene, Fiona (compiler), The Salvation Army Malvern Corps 1884-1984 Centenary.
Hennell, P H, All Saints Church of England, East Malvern: Events Leading up to the Golden jubilee
Year, 1971.
Kildara Convent, Jubilee Brochure.
Korovua Presbyterian Girls' Collegiate School Prospectus, undated (c. 1914-18).
McCarthy, Kathleen, 'An outline history of Sacre Coeur, Glen Iris', 1983.
McCarthy, Kathleen et al (eds), Sacre Coeur Burke Road 1888-1988, A Centenary History, published
by the school, 1988.
Malvern Presbyterian Church, 'Centenary Sunday October 12, 1986', published by the congregation, undated (1986?).
Malvern Primary School (Tooronga Road) Students, Staff and Parents, Malvern Primary School
1884-1984, published by the school, undated (1984).
Morris, James, Heaven's Command, An Imperial Progress, London, 1973. Pax Britannica, The Climax
of an Empire, London, 1968. Farewell the Trumpets, An Imperial Retreat, London, 1978.
Rennick, Elizabeth, St Roch — A Sixty-year Journey, 'The Story of St Roch's Parish, Glen Iris,
1927-1987' and 'The Story of St Roch's School 1923-1927' (by Judith Boileau et al), published
by the parish, 1987.
Rennick, Joan (as told to Elizabeth Rennick), Sketched from Memory, Melbourne, 1982.
Ronald, Heather B, Aldworth Girls' Grammar School 1897-1919, South Yarra, Victoria, 1983.
St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, East Malvern, Brief History of the First 50 years to 18th April
1976, published by the Congregation, undated (1976?).
St Mary's Primary School, 'School Mass to thank God for our time with Father Doolan, 24 April
1986'.
NOTES ON SOURCES
277
Shankly, Hazel, Born in the Boom, A Centenary History of the Anglican Parish of St John the Evangelist,
East Malvern, published by the Parish, undated (1983?).
St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Gardiner, 'Souvenir of the Gardiner Presbyterian Church:
Silver Jubilee of the Parish 1911-1936', T h e Story of a People of God Growing Together in T h e
Gardiner Parish 1911-1986' published by the congregation, 1986, 'Continuing Witness'
(undated), also booklets relating to the 'Re-opening and re-dedication' 1940, the 'Form and
Order of Divine Service' for the Coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937, the
'Induction of the Reverend ] E Owen as Missionary to the New Hebrides' 1955, 'The Opening
and Dedication of the St Andrew's Church Kindergarten Buildings' in 1957, and other
material.
Waters, Lotte (ed.), Talking Stories, narratives by women in Malvern, Malvern Library Service,
1987.
Chapters 7 a n d 8
Primary Sources
Primary sources included Malvern Court of Petty Sessions Registers (1894-1895, 1912-1914),
Applications for Military Exemption heard at the Malvern Court in 1917, the results of the
conscription referenda in 1916 and 1917, Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates (Second
World War) and the correspondence books of the Australian legion of Ex-Servicemen and
Women (Malvern branch matters). Several files included in the town hall records directly
related to the National Emergency of 1942. The school magazines were again valuable source
material. Individuals who made available their personal papers and photographs were Nell
Priddle, Charles Crotty, Fred Houghton and W R Ward. Taped conversations with Charles
Crotty, Fred Houghton, W R Ward and Harry Janes were also used.
Secondary Sources
Adam-Smith, Patsy, The Anzacs, Melbourne, 1978.
Barrett, John, We Were There, Australian soldiers of World War 11 tell their stories, Melbourne, 1987.
Fussell, Paul, The Great War and Modern Memory, New York and London, 1975.
Johnston, George, M} Brother Jack, London, 1964.
Main, JM (edited with an introduction), Conscription: the Australian Debate, 1901-1970,
Melbourne, 1970.
Smith, F B, The Conscription Plebiscites in Australia 1916-17, Victorian Historical Association,
Third Edition Revised, 1971.
Ward, W R, Sparks in my Boots, published by St John's Anglican Church, East Malvern, 1982.
Chapters 9 a n d 10
Primary Sources
Primary sources for these chapters included Victorian and Commonwealth Parliamentary
Debates. T h e papers of Sir Frank Madden, Sir Frederick Sargood, Sir Frank Beaurepaire, the
Women's Electoral Lobby, the Liberal Party (Victorian Branch) and Ralph and Dorothy
Gibson are held by the University of Melbourne Archives. ALP and DLP records, Victorian
state electoral maps, Table Talk and the papers and journals of the Australian Women's
National League (The Woman's Paper 1904-07 and The Woman 1907- ) are in the holdings of the
La Trobe Library. Much of the information on Ian McLaren came from a lengthy taped
conversation with him.
Secondary Sources
A n o n , 500 Victorians, Melbourne, 1934.
Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol 4 (1851-90), Vol 8 (1891-1939) and Vol 9 (1891-1939),
Melbourne, 1966- .
Australian Year Books.
C a n n o n , Michael, The Land Boomers, Melbourne, 1976.
Cowen, Zelman, Sir Isaac Isaacs, Melbourne, 1979.
278
PRIVATE A N D PUBLIC MEMORY
Hughes, C A and Graham, B D, Voting for the Australian House of Representatives, 1901-1964,
Canberra, 1974.
'Lauderdale' (edited with an introduction by Michael Cannon), Victoria's Representative Men at
Home, Melbourne, 1977.
McCarty, Elizabeth, 'A Decade of Conservative Female Endeavour: The Ideas of the Australian
Women's National League 1904-1914', Honours Thesis, History Department, University of
Melbourne, 1987.
Mackerras, M, Australian General Elections, Sydney, 1972. Elections 1975, Sydney, 1975.
Muedell, George, The Pleasant Career of a Spendthrift and his Later Reflections, Melbourne (1936?).
Opperman, Hubert, Pedals, Politics and People, Sydney, 1977.
Perkins, Kevin, Menzies, The Last of the Queen's Men, Rigby, 1968.
Strahan, Frank, 'Ripponlea, Melbourne, 1868' in Historic Houses of Australia, Australian Council
of National Trusts, 1974.
Thomson, K and Serle, G, A Biographical Register of the Victorian Parliament, 1859-1900, Canberra,
1972.
Serle, G, The Rush to be Rich, A History of the Colony of Victoria 1883-1889, Melbourne, 1974.
Turner, H G, A History of the Colony of Victoria from its discovery to its absorption into the
Commonwealth of Australia, Vol II, London, 1904.
Watson, T G, The First Fifty Years of Responsible Government in Victoria, The Roll of Parliament and
Some Statistics of Progress from 1856-1906, Melbourne, 1906.
Who's Who volumes from various years.
Chapter 11
Carlton Association, Freeway Crisis: a Carlton Association Report, Carlton, 1972.
City of Malvern, Statement of Policy Regarding Freeway Open Space Issues, December 1981.
Desiderior, A, T h e Gardiner's Creek Valley Arterial Road Link Project: A Study', Honours
Thesis, Geography Department, University of Melbourne, 1987.
Logan, W S, The Gentrification of Inner Melbourne, A Political Geography of Inner-City Housing, St
Lucia, Queensland, 1985.
Tyrer, Tom, personal papers.
Epilogue
The account of the Convent of the Good Shepherd is based on papers of Judith Dynan.
Index
Arterial Road Link (ARL), 7, 9, 10, 11, 12,
29, 248ff, 271
Ashburton Forest, 2
Ashburton Progress Association, 229, 230
Australasian Catholic Federation Literary
and Debating Society, 94
Australia Day, 141, 142
Australia Day Council, 141, 142
Australian Broadcasting Commission, 139
Australian Comforts Fund (ACF), 21, 175,
176, 177
Australian Council of T r a d e U n i o n s
(ACTU), 213
Australian Deposit and Mortgage Bank
Limited, 35, 36, 39, 59
Australian Imperial Forces, 21, 111, 148, 180,
181, 194, 197. See also World War O n e and
World War Two
Australian Industries Protection League, 140
Australian Labor Party (ALP, including
various Malvern branches) 9, 10, 13, 113,
160, 188, 189, 190, 192, 195, 196, 205ff,
233, 245, 252, 257, 260, 261, 267, 271, 272
Australian Mortgage Finance and Agency
Company, 64
Australian Natives' Association, 140, 157
Australian Peace Council, 14, 195
Australian Railways Union, 146
'Australian way of life', 147, 150
Australian Women's Army Service, 183
A u s t r a l i a n W o m e n ' s N a t i o n a l League
(AWNL), 19, 21, 154, 202, 203
Aborigines, 3, 17, 88, 89, 120
Advocate (newspaper), 269
Adwalton School, 106, 128
Age (newspaper), 59, 264
Air Raid Precautions (ARP), 112, 182, 183,
184, 185, 186, 239
Akehurst, Ethel, 116
Alamein Railway Reserve, 2
Albion Estate, 31
Aldene. See Irona
Aldworth Girls' Grammar School, 105, 108
Alencon Private Hospital, 266
Alexandra, Queen, 127
Alway, A F, 18
Amalgamation of councils, 160, 253, 265
Anglo-French Academy, 106
Anti-Communist Labor Party. See Democratic Labor Party
Anti C 3 Action Group (ACTAG), 253, 254,
256, 257, 260
Anti-German League, 160
Anzac Day, 127, 128, 129, 136, 141, 143, 147,
148, 152, 175
Arbor Day, 150, 151
Ardrie Park, 42
Ardrie Park Improvement League, 230
Argus (newspaper), 36
Argyle, Stanley, 171, 172, 203
Armadale (suburb of), 37, 38, 201, 223
Armadale Baptist Church, 93, 94
Armadale Methodist Church, 89, 164
Armadale Presbyterian Church, 85, 87, 89
Armadale State School, 97, 101
Armadale Wesley Cricket Club, 164
Armistice Day (Remembrance Day or Poppy
Day), 128, 135, 148
Bailey, W V, 3 1 , 6 2 , 6 3 , 6 4
Baillieu, A S , 42
Baillieu, W L, 18, 36, 38, 220
279
280
Balaclava (federal electorate of), 158, 159, 203
Balfour, James, 38
Bank nationalisation, 13, 195, 208, 209
Baptist Church, Kooyong Road, 88, 146
Bayles, Norman, 45, 100, 139, 158, 160, 163,
188, 202, 220
Beaurepaire, Frank, 188, 193, 194
Belcroft. See Whernside
Belgrave House, 56
Belmont Estate, 68
Belmont House, 89, 188
Bennettswood (state electorate of), 196
Benson, R G, 37, 59
Billson, A A, 5, 218, 221, 228
Birtchnell family, 66
Bloomfield, John, 14, 205, 206, 209, 210
Blue & Gold. See De La Salle College
Boer War, 24, 25, 38, 126, 132, 153, 166
Bolte, Henry, 196, 197, 204, 210
Bolte (Liberal) government, 206
Bonwick, James, 3
Boom (1880s), 14, 15, 30ff, 53, 56, 57, 58, 59,
64ff, 74, 77, 78, 86, 88, 97, 191, 220, 223
Boroondara (Shire of), 3, 6
Boroondara (state electorate of), 124, 188,
189, 191, 192
Boyd, A J, 19, 154, 155, 156, 158
Boyd, Martin, 62
Boyd, Merric, 133
Braham &. Pirani, 34, 35
Brigidine Sisters, 106, 121, 143. See also
Kildara Convent
British Bombing Victims Fund, 179
British Commonwealth Day, 147
British Commonwealth of Nations, 138, 139,
142
British Empire, 112, 120, 122ff, 159, 172, 173.
See also Empire Day, Empire Youth Sunday and various British monarchs
Brocklesby House, 58, 60
Brown, Mascotte, 20, 24, 203ff
Bruce, Stanley, 203
Brynmawr, 58, 60
Builders' Labourers Federation, 270
Bulletin (journal), 35
Burke, John, 249
Burke, T M, 6
Cadet corps, 96, 103, 112, 113, 124, 139, 143,
154, 197
Cain (ALP) government (the first), 196, 210
Cain, John (junior), 260, 263
Cain, John (senior), 212
Call to the People of Australia Movement 14,
215
PRIVATE A N D PUBLIC MEMORY
Camberwell (City of, Council of), 5, 247, 252,
255, 263
Campbell, Colin, 85
Campbell, J G, 98, 100, 102
Carlton Association, 246, 251, 254
Carnegie (suburb of), 71, 72, 73
Carnegie Estate. See War Service Homes
Commission Estate
Carroll, Thomas, 40, 156, 163, 223, 228
Cathcart, Michael, 112
Caulfield (City of, Council of), 86, 181, 213,
255, 271
Caulfield Military Hospital, 164
Caulfield Racecourse, 16, 86, 181, 184
Caulfield Station Traders' Association, 149
Caulfield Technical School, 99, 160
Centenary (of Melbourne), 74, 133, 134, 135
Centenary Hall, 267
Centennial Land Bank, 58
Central Labour Bureau, 236
Central Park (also Central Park Kiosk), 41,
42, 43, 50, 52, 65, 83, 127, 137, 140, 154,
156, 161, 162, 164, 169, 175, 176, 186, 215,
239, 266, 269
Central Roads Board, 4
Central Unemployed Bureau, 236
Chadstone Community Health Centre, 267
Chadstone High School, 101
Chadstone Shopping Centre, 241, 242, 270,
271
Chandler, William, 33, 45
Charities Bill (1897), 220
Charity 24, 25, 26, 220, 231, 234, 269, 270.
See also World War O n e and World War
Two
Charsley, Edward, 33
Chifley, Ben, 13, 208, 213
Chifley (ALP) government, 209
Child, Joan, 216,217
Childhood/youth 1, 2, 40, 42, 43, 46, 49, 50,
75, 76, 79, 84, 87, 92, 94, 144ff, 178, 267,
268. See also education and individual
schools
Chinese, 4, 32, 33, 57, 86
Christian Commonwealth Movement, 147
Christmas, 129, 130, 131, 148, 149, 150, 167,
269, 272. See also Victorian Council for a
Christian Christmas
Church of Christ, Gardiner, 151
Church of Christ, Malvern, 89, 147
Church of England Messenger (journal), 52
Churchill, Winston, 177, 184
Citizens' Advice Bureau, 267
City of Malvern Town Planning Association,
226
INDEX
City of Malvern War Fund, 180
Claremont Committee, 265
Clarke, A E, 15, 5 7 , 9 7 , 222
Clarke, George, 55, 124
Class, 61, 66, 67, 74, 79, 80, 81, 92, 156, 157,
161, 164, 219, 220, 221, 224, 225, 236, 239,
266. See also Depression (1890s), Depression (1930s), Eight hour day, Unemployment, Malvern Unemployed Association
and Suburbia/surburbanism
Clayton (suburb of), 7
Clements, Stephen, 64
Closer Settlement Board, 68y 69, 98
Cold Bio', 31, 57, 170
Cold War (1940s and 1950s), 13, 112, 113,
141, 142, 147, 149, 152, 186, 195, 204, 208,
209, 210, 216, 272
Cole, Arthur ( A W ) , 173, 195, 216
Cole, Thomas Cornelius, 85
College of the Bible, Glen Iris, 10
Commercial Bank, 35, 38, 59, 65
Committee for the Eastern Suburbs High
School, 99
Committee for Urban Action, 245, 246
Commonwealth Employment Service, 268
Communism, 119, 173, 174, 195, 209, 210,
213, 214. See also Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics
Communist Party of Australia (CP), 13, 14,
174, 212, 213, 215, 216, 272
Community Coalition, 263
Congregationalism, 89. See also individual
Congregational churches
Connelly, F, 175, 189
Conscription, 156, 157, 158, 159, 180, 185,
268. See also Save Our Sons Movement
of Victoria and Youth Campaign Against
Conscription
Conscription referenda (1916 and 1917), 157,
158, 159
Conservatism, 19, 20, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191,
192, 193, 194. See also Liberal Party of
Australia and United Australia Party
Consumerism, 75, 76, 150, 269
Convent of the Good Shepherd, 242, 269,
270, 271
Cooper, J B, 5, 6, 7, 8, 17, 136, 144, 225
Cornwall, Frank, 19, 226, 227
Coronal, 59
Country Roads Board (CRB), 244, 246, 247,
248, 249, 250, 251, 253, 255, 257. See also
Arterial Road Link
C r a b b , Steve, 245, 252, 257, 259
Crimean War, 165, 167
Crotty, Charles, 164
281
Crystal Palace Cinema, Caulfield, 79, 123
Daily Telegraph (newspaper), 35
Dandenong Road and District Improvement
League, 226
Darling Junction Estate, 74
Darlings Estate, 30, 33
Davies, George, 35, 223
Davies, J B, 36
Davies, John Mark, 36, 47, 89, 220
Davies, Matthew, 35, 36, 64, 65, 86, 125, 191,
220
Davies family, 32, 35, 38
Deakin, Alfred, 15, 19
De La Salle Brothers, 89. See also De La Salle
College
De La Salle College, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110,
111, 112, 113, 119, 120, 121, 143, 145, 146,
184, 269
Democratic Labor party (DLP), 206, 207, 210,
212, 213
Depression (1890s), 15, 31, 37, 38, 40, 60, 64,
65, 67, 88y 97, 191, 219, 220, 223, 232
Depression (1930s), 8, 20, 22, 50, 132, 133,
171, 185, 220, 232ff. See also Malvern
Unemployed Association
Dickens, Charles, 128, 130
Dumais, Max, 258, 259
East Malvern (suburb of), 74ff
East Malvern Central School (Lloyd Street),
23, 79, 99, 103, 180
East Malvern Citizens' Association, 83, 239
East Malvern Congregational Church, 267
East Malvern Golf Links, 4, 6, 8, 50, 51, 79,
82, 83, 148, 183, 196, 243
East Malvern Grammar School, 106
East Malvern Hockey Club, 163
East Malvern Inter-Church Council, 269
East Malvern Progress and Tramway League/
Association 5, 218, 226, 228
East Malvern Ratepayers' Defence Association, 237
East Malvern Volunteer Defence Corps, 184
East Melbourne Association, 254
Eastern Recreation Reserve, 6, 39
Eastern Suburbs (state electorate of), 188,
192, 199
Edgar, W H , 46, 70, 158, 189
Edsall, Sidney, 222
Education, 95ff
Education — government schools, 96ff. See
also individual government schools
Education — government schools, central
schools, 99
282
Education — government schools, scholarship system, 100, 101
Education — government schools, technical
schools, 99
Education — private schools, 105ff. See also
individual private schools
Edward VII, King, 18, 125
Edward VIII, King, 136
Edwards, Edward, 222, 223
Eight hour day, 37, 219
Electoral Reform League (ERL), 189, 205,
206, 209, 210
Electric Tramway Terminus Estate, 74
Electricity Defence Association, 230
Elizabeth II, Queen, 138, 139
Empire Day, 17, 122, 123, 127, 131, 137, 147,
159
Empire Honour League, 137
Empire Youth Movement, 137
Empire Youth Sunday, 28, 137, 147
Evans, James, 224
Evatt, H V , 210, 211, 212, 213
Ewing Memorial Presbyterian Church, East
Malvern, 88, 89, 143, 144, 151, 182, 197,
268
Fairbairn, George, 201
Fairbairn, Jessie, 202
Far East Malvern Progress and Protection
League, 229
Fawkner (federal electorate of), 158, 159, 203,
204
Federal Bank, 37, 39
Federation, 19, 140, 141, 192, 197
Fink, Theodore, 188
First World War. See World War O n e
Fitzroy Association, 254
Flete, 60
Food for Britain, 26
Food for Russia Week, 179
Foster, A W , 158
Fowler, Vera, 149
Fox, Max, 216
Francis, F H, 171, 189
Fraser, Colin, 58
Fraser, Simon, 20, 198
Freedom from Hunger Campaign, 26
Freehold Investment Company, 38
Fulton Land Syndicate, 33
Fund for Sick and Wounded Soldiers, 168
Gables, The, 66
Gaelic Church. See St Andrew's Presbyterian
Church, Gardiner
Gallbally, John, 188
PRIVATE A N D PUBLIC MEMORY
Gallipoli, 5, 127, 128, 149, 155, 161, 167, 181
Gallipoli Welcome Home Rest Rooms, 168
Gandel Group, 270
Gang of Four, 256, 257
Garden City concept, 47ff, 73, 74
Garden Estate, 62, 63
Gardiner (suburb of) — land sales, 3
Gardiner (suburb of) — violet farm, 52
Gardiner, A n n a Marie, 1
Gardiner, John, 1, 3, 135
Gardiner Central School, 21, 99, 127
Gardiner District Road Board, 4, 57, 144, 151
Gardiner Methodist Church, 89, 91
Gardiner Picture Theatre, 53
Gardiner Railway Estate, 32
Gardiner Valley Improvement Scheme, 6
Gardiner's Creek/Valley, Iff, 29, 32, 34, 39,
42, 79, 242, 243ff
G a r d i n e r ' s C r e e k Valley A s s o c i a t i o n
(GCVA), 10, 251, 252, 255, 257, 258, 261,
262
Gardiner's Creek Valley Study, 3, 10, 247,
248, 249, 252, 256, 257
Gascoigne Estate, 64ff, 86, 258
Gascoigne Estate Group (GEG), 255, 262
Gascoigne Land Company, 64
General Land and Savings C o m p a n y
Limited, 36
George V, King, 17, 136, 143
George VI, King, 83, 136
Gibson, Ralph, 13
Gillies, Duncan, 39, 188, 197, 199
Gilpin, Oliver, 66
Girl Guides movement, 117
Glen Iris (suburb of), 4, 8, 10, 69, 244
Glen Iris (state electorate of), 194, 195, 196,
209
Glen Iris Brick Company, 5, 271
Glen Iris Park, 6, 12, 42, 179, 184
Glen Iris Primary School, 99
Glen Iris Railway Improvement League, 230
Glen Iris Valley District Progress League, 226
Glen Iris Valley Recreation Club, 43
Glen Iris Valley Rifle Club, 159
Goldstein, Vida, 19, 201
Gorton, John, 216
Gowing, Dennis, 59
Grainger, Percy, 106
Grange, The, 106
Grants Commission, 267
Gray, Milton, 186, 233
Great Malvern Park Estate C o m p a n y
Limited, 56
Great War. See World War O n e
Greek Relief Appeal, 179
INDEX
Grice, John, 56, 220
Griffin, Walter Burley, 76
Gullett, Henry, 20, 115, 173, 174, 210, 211,
216, 233
Haddon, Robert, 66, 89
Hagelthorn, F, 98
Hamer, Dick, 9, 197, 246
Hamilton, Alfred, 222, 230
Haverbrack, 58, 85
Hawthorn (City of, Council of), 5, 6, 244,
247, 252
Hayward, Don, 268
Healesville Freeway, 244, 255
Healy, Tom, 28
Hedgeley Dene Estate, 42, 67
Hedgeley Dene Gardens, 42, 50
Henty (federal electorate o{), 158, 159, 173,
175, 187, 189, 195, 211, 213ff
Herald (newspaper), 47
Herald, David, 66
Higgins, H B, 200
Higgins (federal electorate of), 208, 211, 212,
213, 214, 215, 216
Higinbotham (state electorate of), 197, 208
Historic Buildings Preservation Council, 270
Hitler, Adolf, 172, 173, 181
Hoddle, Robert, 3
Holding, Clyde, 245
Hollway, Tom, 189, 209
Hollway Liberals. See Electoral Reform
League (ERL)
Holmes, Louis, 16, 40, 48, 126, 157, 163, 228
Holt, Harold, 14, 20, 23, 149, 174, 185, 204,
206, 208, 209, 214, 216
Holy Advent (Anglican) Church, 85, 89, 91,
136, 163, 170
Holy Eucharist (Roman Catholic) Church,
143, 151
Housing Commission of Victoria, 183, 245,
265, 266
Hudson, Phillip, 197
Hughes, Andrew, 195
Hughes, Billy, 157
Hughes, Fred, 155
Hunt, Alan, 252
H u n t , John Horbury, 62
Hyslop, Dave, 52, 180
lllingworth, Frederick, 58
Influenza epidemic (1919). See Malvern —
health and sanitation
Innes, Ted, 245
International Women's Year, 29, 267
Irona, 56
283
Irving, Margaret and Lilian, 106, 118
Irvine, William, 154, 159
Johnson, George, 131, 164, 169, 171, 181, 183
Kelly, Bowes, 56
Kennett, Jeff, 256
Kerferd, George Briscoe, 13
Kew (suburb of), 243
Kildara Convent, 2, 107, 108, 109, 117, 143,
173, 178, 179
Kitchener, Herbert (Lord), 155, 159
Knox, Catherine, 202
Knox, George Edward, 214, 215
Knox, William, 7, 18, 19, 24, 38, 65, 107, 153,
187, 189, 201, 220, 232
Kong, Meng, 57
Kooyong (federal electorate of), 159, 187, 201,
215, 216
Kooyong Koot Creek. See Gardiner's Creek
Kooyong Park, 266
Korean War, 28
Korowa Anglican Girls' School, 2, 75, 76,
105, 106, 107, 108, 114, 115, 116, 117, 119,
127, 128, 129, 139, 142, 143, 146, 148, 177,
178, 182
Lalor, Peter, 57
Land Purchase Board, 69
Lang, Ray, 263
Latham, John, 119
Latham, Thomas, 220
Lauriston Girls' School, 23, 25, 106, 107, 108,
114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 121, 138, 177, 182
The Lauristonian (magazine). See Lauriston
Girls' School
Lawrence, D H, 32, 39
League of Nations, 119, 128, 137
League of Youth of Australia, 140
Legislative Assembly of Victoria, 191, 193,
196, 199, 201, 209, 213, 220, 221
Legislative Council of Victoria, 188, 189, 192,
194, 197, 198, 199, 200, 201, 202, 208, 210,
227
Leigh, Geoff, 190
Lew, Solomon, 59
Lewis, Brian, 84, 94, 95, 121, 144, 159, 163
Lewis, James, 97, 100
Liberal Electors' Registration League, 188
Liberal Party of Australia (including various
Malvern branches), 9, 20, 26, 145, 189, 191,
195, 196, 197, 203ff, 239, 254, 260, 261
Lindsay, James, 20, 225
Longbottom, Percival, 34
Longwood, 57
284
Lorimer, James, 58
Lowe, Charles, 14
Lucas, Anthony, 58
Luxton, Thomas, 201
Lyons, Enid, 176
Lyons, Joe, 134
McCarthy, Kathleen, 95
Mclnnes, Graham, 61, 77
McKinley, Alex, 15, 16, 21, 35, 37, 39, 67, 68,
71, 187, 189, 228, 232
MacKinnon, Donald, 158, 163
McLaren, Ian, 28, 194, 195, 196
McLean, Charles, 106
McLean, Neil, 3, 5
Madden, Annie, 16, 202
Madden, Frank, 17, 21, 124, 126, 158, 159,
188, 191, 192, 194, 198, 199
Made in Australia Council, 134
Malvern (England), 17, 32, 33, 139, 140, 179
Malvern (Victoria). There is no separate
entry for Malvern Council because of the
frequency of its appearance
Malvern — architecture, 54ff
Malvern — architecture, brick areas, 64ff,
225, 229, 266
Malvern — architecture, California Bungalow
style, 72, 78
Malvern — architecture, Federation Period
style, 6Iff, 77
Malvern — architecture, flat-building, 78, 265
Malvern — architecture, Spanish Mission
style, 72, 76, 77, 78
Malvern — architecture, working-class housing, 67ff, 74
Malvern — centenary celebrations, 144, 146,
151
Malvern — health and sanitation, 47, 72, 73,
169, 218, 221, 222, 228, 229, 233, 239
Malvern — land sales, 3, 4, 30ff, 74, 154
Malvern — municipal elections, 37, 38, 176,
184, 190, 222, 223, 224, 227, 231
Malvern — parks and gardens, 39ff, 66. See
also indivdual parks and gardens
Malvern — proclamation as a city, 17, 123,
139
Malvern — real estate sales, 61
Malvern — transport. See Transport — railways, and Transport — tramways
Malvern (state electorate of), 190, 195, 196,
197, 206, 209, 210, 213
Malvern Advertiser (newspaper), 76, 138, 141,
149, 194, 195, 203, 205, 206, 209, 210, 211,
212, 215, 242, 243
PRIVATE A N D PUBLIC MEMORY
Malvern Amateur Dramatic and Musical
Society, 126
Malvern Anti Freeway Association (MAFA),
246, 247
Malvern Argus (newspaper), 65, 158, 165, 169
Malvern and Armadale Express (newspaper),
24, 30, 37, 60, 221, 232
Malvern and Armadale Recorder (newspaper),
16, 40, 60, 93, 100, 120, 125, 129, 145, 192,
199, 200, 224
Malvern Association, 258, 259
Malvern Beautification Advisory Committee,
266
Malvern Board o( Advice, 97
Malvern Boys' College, 106
Malvern Boy Scouts' Association, 111
Malvern Business College, 101
Malvern Centenary Guild, 133
Malvern Centenary Sports Committee, 133
Malvern Central School (Spring Road), 13,
96, 97, 98, 100, 101, 102, 103, 112, 127,
140, 150, 195, 197, 229
Malvern Christian Citizens' League, 88, 201
Malvern Church of England Grammar
School, 2, 36, 106, 107, 108, 109, 111, 112,
113, 117, 120, 137, 138, 139, 140, 142, 145,
170, 184
Malvern Citizens' Protest Committee, 208
Malvern Club, 155, 160
Malvern College (England), 108, 140
Malvern Community Arts Centre, 267
Malvern Community Association, 267
Malvern Community Centre Movement,
207, 238, 239
Malvern Community School, 267
Malvern Congregational Church, 86, 93, 97,
127, 147
Malvern Congregational Literary Society, 93
Malvern Cricket Ground, 41, 52, 155, 157,
168, 178
Malvern Current Affairs Discussion Group,
215
Malvern District Brass Band, 92, 153
Malvern Elderly Citizens' Welfare Association, 267
Malvern Garden Estate, 74
Malvern Gardens, 16, 39, 40, 43, 44, 50, 52,
98
Malvern Girls' High School, 101, 118, 239
Malvern Gospel Tent Mission, 161
The Malvern Grammarian. See Malvern
Church of England Grammar School
Malvern Harriers, 41, 164
Malvern High School, 106
INDEX
Malvern Hills Estate, 31
Malvern Horticulture Society, 44, 45, 46, 111,
179
Malvern House. See Valentines
Malvern Inter-Church Council, 152
Malvern Ladies' College, 89, 105, 107
Malvern Ladies' Rifle Club, 168
Malvern Land Company Limited, 64
Malvern Latter Days Campaign, 146
Malvern Learning Exchange, 249, 267
Malvern Literary Society, 93
Malvern Meadows Estate, 6, 239
Malvern Memorial Free Kindergarten, 239
Malvern Methodist Literary and Debating
Society, 94
Malvern Municipal Library, 15, 92, 154, 228
Malvern News (newspaper), 21, 32, 46, 54, 67,
68, 69, 73, 98, 130, 153, 157, 187, 203, 215,
218, 226, 229
Malvern Nevus Sheet (newspaper), 9, 10, 27,
150, 197, 248, 249, 253, 254, 256, 258, 264,
265, 266, 267, 270
Malvern No-Conscription Fellowship, 180
Malvern Park Estate, 74, 75, 77
Malvern Post Office, 222, 223, 224
Malvern Presbyterian Church, 86, 89, 147,
163
Malvern Primary School (Tooronga Road), 2,
23, 68, 97, 98, 102, 103, 139, 143, 170, 182,
199, 239
Malvern Progress Association, 225
Malvern Quarry Improvement Committee,
266
Malvern Ratepayers' Defence Association/
League, 222, 225, 226, 228
Malvern Rating Reform League, 239
Malvern Recruiting Committee, 28
Malvern Regional Shopping Co-operative,
150, 241
Malvern Rifle Club, 154, 157
Malvern Road Tramway League, 226
Malvern Spectator (newspaper), 74, 76, 102,
133, 135, 136, 172, 174, 183, 185, 236, 237
Malvern Standard (newspaper), 22, 43, 49, 51,
52, 132, 135, 222, 235, 236
Malvern 'Stick to Six' Committee, 146
Malvern Town Hall, 12ff, 138, 141, 142, 152,
156, 157, 159, 168, 170, 171, 173, 178, 181,
183, 197, 201, 204, 207, 209, 212, 218, 222,
223, 224, 229, 232, 238, 252, 259, 268
Malvern Traders' Association, 129, 150
Malvern Tradesmen's Band, 129
Malvern Tradesmen's Club, 40
Malvern Traffic Study, 255
285
Malvern Tramways Band, 20, 130, 155, 156
Malvern Transport Group, 242
Malvern Unemployed Association (MUA),
235, 236
Malvern Valley Plan, 11, 12
Malvern Vote No Committee, 215, 272
Malvern Young People's Free Library, 211
Malvern Young Worker's Club, 51
Malvern Youth Club, 140, 208
Mannix, Daniel, 90, 107, 158, 191, 270
Marshall, A N, 93, 95
Marshall-Hall, George, 93
Mathews, Race, 252, 255, 260
Maxwell, G A, 128, 203
Meagher, Ray, 247
Melbourne and Gippsland Southern Railway
League, 222
Melbourne Club, 169
Melbourne Golf Club, 64
Melbourne High School, 182, 197
Melbourne Hunt Club, 7
Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works
(MMBW), 7, 8, 185, 219, 237, 243, 246,
256, 263, 265
Melbourne Punch (journal), 35
Melbourne Times (newspaper), 245
Melzer, Jean, 10, 209
Menzies (Liberal) government, 14, 195, 210
Menzies, R G, 20, 142, 172, 189, 203, 207,
208, 209, 214, 237, 272
Mercantile Bank, 35, 65
Mercer, James, 35, 64
Merritt, S H, 85
Methodist Church, Burke Road, 173
Methodist Church, Epping Street, 89, 90, 91,
150, 151, 170
Methodist Church, Spring Road, 86, 133
Metropolitan Town Planning Commission, 7
Metropolitan Transportation Study, 244
Meudell, George, 35, 36
Miller, Edward, 198, 200, 201, 202
Minimum allotment, 69, 70, 71, 229
Minimum Allotment, Anti-Slum and Housing Crusade, 67
Monash (state electorate of), 193, 197, 268
Monash, John, 127, 194
Mont Iris Estate, 32
Moonga Estate, 74
Moorakyne, 56, 220
Moorakyne Estate, 60
Morris, James, 154
Morrow, A n n , 27, 28, 252, 255, 258
Morton, Alan, 254, 255
Moss, R G, 28, 185, 186
286
Mother's Day, 136, 137
Mount Waverley (suburb of), 2
Mulgrave (Shire of), 44, 139, 238
Mulgrave Freeway, 9, 10, 244, 245, 246, 247,
258, 259
Mumford, Lewis, 63, 243, 264
Municipal Association, 185, 193
Municipal Employees' Association (MEA),
220
M u n r o , Donald, 18, 36, 37, 38, 60, 224
M u n r o , James, 18, 33, 37, 39, 57, 87, 88, 189,
191, 200, 221, 225, 240
M u n r o &L Baillieu, 34, 37
Munro family, 36, 37
Munro-Ferguson, Helen, 46, 167, 168
Muntz, T B, 34, 35, 37, 64, 222
Murdoch, Keith, 161
Murrumbeena (suburb of), 5, 73
Murrumbeena Progress Association, 229
Myamyn Estate, 74
Myoora, 58
National Scripture Education League, 87
National Times (newspaper), 266
National Trust of Australia (Victorian
Branch), 61, 270
Nationalism — Australian, 135, 140, 141,
142, 147, 159, 173, 180, 193, 194
Nationalist Party, 187, 216
Natural Resources Conservation League, 151
Naturalisation, 28, 141
Nazism, 174
New Australians Liberal and Country Movement (NALCM), 214
New Malvern Picture Theatre, 123, 134
Nicholls, W H, 223
Ninnis, Len, 247, 253
Nirvana Dairy, 134
Nirvana Heights Estate, 159
Nirvana House, 56
Norman, Les, 23
Northbrook Estate, 60
Northbrook House, 140
Oakleigh (suburb of, City of), 85, 181, 226,
228, 239
Oakleigh Severance Movement, 226, 228
Oakleigh Times (newspaper), 211
Oaks Estate, 43, 74
O'Donnell, R, 37
O'Flynn, M P, 89, 90, 94
Oldham, Trevor, 20, 23, 183, 195, 204, 206,
207, 208, 209
Olives Estate, 40, 67
PRIVATE A N D PUBLIC MEMORY
One-man-one-vote, 37, 192, 221, 229, 240. See
also Plural voting (municipal)
'Onion Seed for Britain' appeal, 179
Opperman, Hubert, 163, 197, 234
The Palm Leaf (magazine). See Korowa
Anglican Girls' School
Parker, William, 66
Peace movement, 14, 162, 178, 195, 212, 215
Peace Quest Forum, 215
People's Party, 187, 215
Percy-Dove, Clare, 108
Petrov, Vladimir, 211, 215
Plural voting (municipal), 221, 225, 227, 228,
240. See also One-man-one-vote
Poath Road Railway Station League, 230
Pockett, Thomas, 17, 40, 44, 45, 52, 125
Police strike (1923), 13
Politics, 187ff. See also Australian Labor
Party, Liberal Party of Australia, Cold War
(1940s and 1950s) and various politicians
Pollack, Julius, 27
Post-war reconstruction, 185, 186, 239
Prahran (City of, Council of), 147, 160, 201,
232, 240
Prahran and Malvern Tramways Trust, 17,
31, 57, 159, 163, 170
Prahran Telegraph (newspaper) 46, 132, 157,
160, 162, 166, 189, 191
Presbyterianism, 84, 151. See also various
individual Presbyterian churches
Property Owners' Defence Association, 20,
234
Protestantism, 80, 90, 95, 143, 147
Public Assistance Committee, 235, 236
Public Transport, 241, 242, 245, 246, 250,
251, 258. See also Transport — railways and
Transport — tramways
Public Transport Party, 259
Racecourse School. See Malvern Primary
School (Tooronga Road)
Railway Trust, 238
Ranfurlie, 7, 38, 58, 60, 107, 177
Ranfurlie Estate, 67
Ratepayers' Defence League, 168, 231
Ratepayers' polls, 27, 51, 83, 223, 239, 240
Rating reform, 230, 239, 240
Ray, Robert, 217
Recruiting, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 169,
172, 176, 181, 185
Red Cross (Australian Branch, also Malvern
and East Malvern branches), 23, 46, 131,
167, 168, 172, 177, 178, 179, 186
Reeves, F L, 43, 44, 53
INDEX
Regional Progress (newspaper), 263
Remfrey, Horatio, 96, 97
Repatriation, 158, 159, 169, 171, 186
Resident Action, 218ff. See also Arterial Road
Link and various ratepayers' and residents'
groups
Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's
Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA),
127, 128, 135
Returned Services League (RSL), 14, 23, 147,
148, 149, 170, 171, 175, 176, 180, 195, 196,
237
Righetti, Leonard, 134, 182, 186
Ripponlea, 193
Rituals, 122fT, 268, 269. See also Anzac Day,
Armistice Day, Christmas, Empire Day
and Commonwealth Youth Sunday
Rhodes, Cecil, 138
Road Construction Authority (RCA), 247,
259, 261, 262, 263, 264, 272
Robinson, Arthur, 154
Roman Catholicism, 83, 86, 90, 95, 106, 113,
143, 145, 147. See also individual Roman
Catholic churches and schools
Roper, Tom, 261
Rose Hill, 3, 58
Royal Commission on Espionage, 113
Royal Commission on Housing Conditions,
71
Royal family. See British Empire and various
British monarchs
Sacre Coeur College, 60, 91, 95, 106, 108,
114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 143, 182
St Andrew's (Presbyterian) Church, East
Malvern, 79, 90
St Andrew's (Presbyterian) Church, Gardiner, 83, 89, 91, 163
St Anthony's (Roman Catholic) Primary
School, 270
St Benedict's (Roman Catholic) Hospital, 134
St Catherine's (Greek Orthodox) Church,
268
St George's (Anglican) Church, 23, 41, 45,
50, 57, 85, 87, 88, 96, 105, 128, 170
St James' (Anglican) Church, 90, 116, 128
St John's (Anglican) Church, 86, 88, 89, 90,
96, 97
St Joseph's (Roman Catholic) Church, 5, 25,
86, 89, 90, 94, 121, 131, 134, 143, 268
St Joseph's (Roman Catholic) Primary
School, 106, 108, 113
St Kevin's Annual Magazine. See St Kevin's
College
St Kevin's (Roman Catholic) College, 4, 106,
287
107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 119,
120, 139, 145, 148, 149, 184
St Margaret's Girls' School, 60
St Mary's (Roman Catholic) Church, 86, 89,
90
St Mary's (Roman Catholic) Primary School,
107, 113
St Roch's (Roman Catholic) Church, 90, 91,
143
St Vincent's (Roman Catholic) Church. See
St Roch's Roman Catholic Church
Salter house, the, 76
Salvation Army, 85, 86, 87, 88, 94
Sargood, Frederick, 38, 124, 154, 190, 191,
192, 193, 194, 198, 200
Save Local Government Committee, 240
Save Our Sons Movement o{ Victoria, 149
Save the Children Fund, 178
School Paper, 123, 129
Scotchman's Creek, 7, 8, 11, 243
Scouting, 111, 143
Second World War. See World War Two
Secret composition, 35
Self-Help Employment Exchange, 267
Seventh Day Adventists, 88
Shakespeare, William, 30, 130, 178
Shaw, George Bernard, 140
Sheridan, Wally, 259
Shipping strike (1890), 13
Sitwell, Robert Sacheverell, 57
Skinner, Charles Bruce, 32
Smith, F B, 159
Smith, John, 258
Socialism, 69, 190, 192, 202, 208, 209, 210,
272
Society of the Sacred Heart, 143. See also
Sacre Coeur
Sorrett, 58
South Eastern Freeway, 7, 9, 244, 256, 258,
259
South Eastern Ratepayers' Alliance (SERA),
251, 253, 254, 255, 259, 260, 261, 265
South Malvern Association, 258
South Ward Progress Association, 231
South Yarra (state electorate of), 192, 198,
201
Southern Cross (newspaper), 10, 27, 28, 81, 96,
150, 152, 216, 253, 266, 268
Stanley (Lubbock), Adelaide, 2
Stanley, Arthur, 2, 54, 154, 155, 166
Stanley, Margaret, 24, 54, 55, 56, 61, 131,
150, 168
Stapleton, Maisy, 76
State Parliamentary Recruiting Committee,
156
288
State Relief Committee, 132
State Schools History Project, 102
Statute of Westminster, 138
Stones, Ellis, 266
Stonnington, 15, 18, 31, 54, 55, 56, 60, 61, 67,
85, 112, 168, 177, 178, 179, 220, 266
Stradbroke, Lady, 56, 60
Suburbia/suburbanism, 32, 60, 61, 75, 78,
147, 265, 267, 270
Sun Foundry Company, 56
Sun News Pictorial (newspaper), 73
Sunday observance, 50, 51, 82, 83, 84, 134,
179
Sunday School Association, 88
Surrey Hills To Mentone Tramway League,
230
Table Talk (magazine), 37, 187, 192
Tate, Frank, 101
Temperance, 13, 86, 95, 144, 146, 159, 215,
228
Thirkell, Angela, 61
Thompson, Lindsay, 196, 197, 210, 245, 254
T h o n e m a n n , H E, 176
Tibbits, George, 63
Tivoli Theatre (Malvern), 156
Toorak (state electorate of), 175, 188, 189,
197, 199, 201, 202
Toorak (suburb of), 48, 59, 64, 81, 163, 226
Toorak Road Tramway Extension League,
226
Toorak Teachers' College, 266
Tooronga Closer Settlement Association, 69
Tooronga Estate, 69, 229
Tooronga Homestead, 3
Tooronga Park, 42
Tooronga Progress League/Association, 68,
7 1 , 9 9 , 177, 226, 229, 230, 231, 234
Tooronga Reserve, 6
Town Hall Estate, 33, 37
Town Planning Commission, 243
Traffic Action Group (TAG), 257, 258, 261
Transport — railways, 31, 33, 67, 84, 222,
229, 230, 237, 238, 241
Transport — tramways, 5, 31, 65, 67, 69, 154,
167, 226, 227, 228, 229
Trollope, Anthony, 39
Troys Estate, 74
Turner, J C, 4
Tyrer, Tom, 256, 257, 261
Unaipon, David, 89
Unemployment, 37, 74, 172, 219, 220, 229,
231, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 243, 267, 268
PRIVATE A N D PUBLIC MEMORY
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, 13, 83,
119, 148, 178, 179, 213
Union Street Gardens, 42
United Australia Party (UAP), 185, 189, 193,
216
United Melbourne Freeway Action Group,
245
United Nations, 119, 138, 141
U n i t e d N a t i o n s Association (Malvern
branch), 14, 215
United Nations Day, 141
Uniting Church, 268
University College (Armadale), 106
Urban Forest, 255, 259
Valentines (Malvern House), 36, 60, 107, 114
Valentines Estate, 32, 67, 71
Vandalism, 43, 49, 50, 145, 146, 234, 235
Vatican II (Council), 95
Vice-regality. See British Empire, Stonnington and various Victorian governors and
their wives
Victoria, Queen, 20, 122, 124, 125, 135, 138,
139
Victorian Council for a Christian Christmas,
149
Victorian Land Company, 35
Victorian Permanent Building Society, 56
Victorian Protestant Federation, 90
Victory Picture Theatre, 123, 126, 137
Vietnam War, 149, 152, 217, 268, 272
Viewbank, 58
Vincentian Brothers, 86, 88, 95
Voysey, J, 18, 19, 200
Wagner, Robert, 16, 220
Walker, Evan, 270
Warner, Arthur, 23, 208, 210
War Service Homes Commission Estate (Carnegie Estate), 72ff, 77, 90, 171
Ward, W R, 162
Warwick School, 106, 182
Waterfield, William, 1
Waterstrom, George, 56
Watt, W A, 156
Waverley (City of), 247
Waverley Estate, 64
Waverley Station Estate, 74
Wawoorong tribe, 3
Webley, Daniel, 45
Weeroona, 59
West Gate Freeway, 244
Whernside, 58, 59
Whitlam (ALP) government, 9, 217
INDEX
Whitlam, Margaret, 217
Wilks, Rupert, 70, 156, 157
Williams, Hartley, 60
Wilson, Sydney, 154
Winton Park Estate, 271
The Woman (magazine), 202
Women - education of, 75, 76, 92, 93, 101,
105, 114ff
Women, role of, 19, 20, 21, 75, 76, 79, 80,
114ff, 139, 150, 151, 154, 155, 159, 165,
166, 167, 178, 197ff, 204, 205, 221, 242, 272
Women for Peace and Equality, 215
Women of the University Patriotic Fund, 177
Women's Anti-Suffrage League, 200
Women's Electoral Lobby, 216
Women's Progressive League, 19, 200
Women's suffrage, 19, 37, 192, 197ff
Women's World Day of Prayer, 147
Woodford Estate, 71
Woodmason, William, 5, 6, 31, 39, 46, 74, 77,
222
289
World War O n e , 13, 15, 21, 22, 35, 42, 43, 48,
52, 58, 67, 69, 71, 72, 73, 74, 85, 89, 90, 94,
99, 101, 102, 106, 110, 116, 119, 127, 128,
129, 130, 131, 132, 144, 146, 150, 153ff,
172, 173, 175, 180, 181, 182, 185, 186, 189,
203, 214, 227, 229, 231, 241, 272
World War Two, 21, 22, 23, 26, 51, 83, 91,
109, 110, 112, 114, 116, 118, 137, 140, 141,
145, 146, 147, 149, 172ff, 195, 238
Xenophobia, 159, 160, 173, 212
Yar Orrong Estate, 71, 74
Yarra River, 4, 8, 9, 12
Yarra River Improvement Scheme, 4
Yarrayne Estate, 74
Yavneh College, 268
Youth Campaign Against Conscription, 149