It’s been 38 C degrees in Canberra (100.4 F) for the last two days and we are beginning to melt. We leave to come back home tomorrow morning and both Canberra and Albury (our overnight stop will both be 38C again as well. We have been trying to focus on indoor activities that are cooler, but there is always the hot walk from the car park in the open sun.
We agreed yesterday that Cathy and the girls would visit some places on their own. They spent most of the day at the old Parliament House which is now the Museum of Democracy. Apparently, there were a lot of kids activities on offer, so they spent most of the day there. Since 1972, a group of aboriginal people have set up a ‘tent embassy’ outside the old parliament house in an attempt to get recognition for land rights. I thought that the Mabo legal case had resolved that issue, but apparently not. There are now dozens of tents on the grass, so I think that the whole tribe must have moved in. I’m afraid that I don’t have a lot of sympathy for these protesters and it’s about time that they packed up and left.
While they were there, Jill and I drove around some of the outer areas of Canberra and did some shopping at the large Home Centre at Fyshwick. In the afternoon, we went to see the National Portrait Gallery. This used to be located in the old parliament house building but now it is in a brand new building near the High Court. They have a magnificent collection of portraits of famous Australians from colonial times through to the current contemporary era. I really liked those of Don Bradman and Dame Elisabeth Murdoch (which was actually a tapestry).
Last night, Cathy and Audrey went to see a movie, so we looked after Violet. The three of us went out to dinner at a pizza restaurant. Violet’s choice of pizza was rather simple but we enjoyed it anyway. We love both our grand daughters but sometime it is really nice just to have some one on one time with them individually.
We started our last day here, today, with a visit to the National Library. This is a reference library that has the charter to keep books, documents and audio visual records that are relative to the country’s history. It currently has an exhibition of photographs by the internationally famous wilderness photographer, Peter Dombrovskis. He spent much of his life photographing scenes in Tasmania. About seventy of his photographs are own display – only a small sample of the the three thousand images held by the library.
This photograph of a section of the Franklin River in Tasmania became iconic during the late 1970’s when activists blocked work by the Tasmanian Hydro Authority to flood the river for a Hydro Electric dam . At the time, the Hydro Authority had a messianic zeal to develop some of the most pristine wilderness areas in the world as sources of hydro electricity. They were met by people that many considered to be ‘ferals’ who camped in their way, attacked their equipment and protested in the streets. We should really regard these protesters more as heroes as they saved both the Gordon and Franklin Rivers from destruction.
Afterwards, Cathy and the girls went on to see Questacon (the National Science and Technology Centre) while we went back to the War Memorial to see some of the exhibits that we missed the other day. They have recently spent a lot of money in developing their displays. Only about 7% of their artefacts are on display ad one of them is one of the only two remaining life boards from the Gallipoli Landing. I’m glad they kept the original dioramas that show some of the major bates of WW1. They are good illustrations of just how tough the conditions were at places like Anzac Cove, Palestine and the Western Front. This one illustrates the conditions at the Somme where my grandfather fought.
I also spent some time having a further look at the Vietnam War section and watched a good video about the battled at Fire Support Base Coral and Balmoral.
I came to Canberra a couple of years ago with my friend Robert to see the Long Tan Cross when it was on loan from a Museum in Vietnam. It was made to commemorate those lost in the battle of Long Tan in 1966. It was erected on the battlefield a few days afterwards. I saw a replica of it in its original location on a trip to Vietnam. Then, a local farmer kept the plaque in her house and brought it out and hung it on the cross whenever anyone visited. The original cross was moved to a museum in Vietnam sometime after the war. We have just negotiated with the Vietnamese Government for the cross to be permanently housed in the War Memorial here in Canberra
The War Memorial currently have a temporary exhibition of our Special Forces in action. This told the story of the commando’s in WW2 through to the SAS in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. These are very tough men!! Far tougher than me. By miid afternoon, I had decided ti retreat to the hotel and spend the rest of the day in a cool air conditioned room.