Tag Archives: Australia

A fieldnote from home



Charles Blackman


This evening I nearly saw a man drown. I run the same route most afternoons, over the bridge and along the foreshore. This evening I was about to cross over the bridge when I saw something or someone splashing in the water. I stopped. It was a man, only a few metres from the banks of the river, and he was drowning. He kept trying to stand up before falling over, his head going under the water for a longer period of time each time he fell.

As soon as I realised what was going on I ran to the shore. I called out to him but didn’t get any response. His head went under again. I waded in and instinctively grabbed his chin to hold his head above the water. I told him it was going to be okay. I asked him to sit down. The water was shallow enough that I could hold his head above the water while he was sitting. He coughed and spluttered and struggled to reclaim and regulate his breathing. I asked him if he could stand up. He shook his head. Ma (ok, I understand). I told him that I was going to try and help him, to drag him out of the water. Yo (ok, yes, agreed). Standing behind him I hooked my arms under both of his armpits and in quick lift-and-drag motions we slowly edged our way to shore.

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Filed under Current social issues, Indigenous Australia

To the organisers of the 2013 Sydney Historical Materialism Conference


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“Some of us were invited to speak, others have already prepared abstracts and papers for panels, and we had all been planning to attend the conference. We have since learned that Solidarity, an affiliate of the Socialist Workers Party, has given its full and unequivocal support to the latter in its handling of an allegation of rape against a senior member. You have informed us that you agree that the position taken by Solidarity is indefensible, but that you have also decided to invite Solidarity members to present at the conference. As a consequence, and in the absence of any evidence of a change of position by Solidarity, we will not be taking part.”



Bree Blakeman

Ann Deslandes

Mark Gawne

Angela Mitropoulos

Steve Wright



If you were going to attend the conference and would like to add your signature, or register your support of those who have decided not to attend, please do so in the comments box of the post via this hyper-link.





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Filed under Current social issues

A very brief history of the Australian Cattle Dog




My young house-mate is an expert in all things ‘dogs.’ The two of us were discussing variation in the size and shape of Australian Cattle Dogs (ACD) (in part because my cross-breed is quite slender). We concluded that the variation was perhaps evidence of different breeding lineages.

After a quick search on the internet it seems that a man named Thomas Hall was a key figure in the history of the ACD. He was ‘studmaster’ *achoo* for the Hall family’s pastoral business, which was the first large cattle empire in the colony.² By 1825 the Hall family had established two cattle stations in the Upper Hunter Valley, Gundebri and Dartbrook. Thomas Hall also imported ‘Drover’s Dogs’ from Northumberland in the North East of England. At the time he began importing them they were apparently becoming scarce and being ‘bred-out’ back in England. As can still be seen in some contemporary English breeds the Drover’s Dog had distinctive blue colour – blue merle. They were known as the Northumberland Blue Merle Drover’s Dog.

As the picture above suggests, however, this breed wasn’t exactly suited to the climatic and vegetation condition of Australia. The dog in this image – ‘Jack’ – was photographed in 1898 at the Metropolitan Intercolonial Exhibition, Sydney, where he was exhibited as a Cattle Dog.¹Hall also kept Dingoes on the family property and bred them with the Drover’s Dogs over time. (I can’t imagine he kept them in the best of conditions, poor dingoes.) By the time 1840 rolled around Thomas Hall and family had all but settled with a particular cross-breed between the Dingo and the Drover’s Dog and decided to give it a new ‘breed’ name – Hall’s Heelers.

Most sources suggest that Dalmations were introduced into the blood lines around mid 1800s. Some sources suggest that the Kelpie, which was itself a developing breed (from black and tan terriers) at the time, was then introduced into the stock-lines some time after 1870. Who knows. Perhaps someone. Anyhow, Thomas Hall died in 1870 after which ‘Hall’s Heelers’ became more generally known as Cattle Dogs.

There are various other contentious issues and twists and turns but that is generally the very general history of the Australian cattle dog for a Sunday morning!







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Filed under Incidental