Richard Thurnwald and Thomas James Rodoni in the Upper Sepik 1914

New Guinea Tribesmen circa 1914 - 1915

Telefolmin men from the highland valley near the source of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea, September 1914. Image by Dr Richard Thurnwald

A small number of an historic hoard of rare images taken in German New Guinea at the outbreak of WW1 are now understood to have been looted, by an Australian military expedition, from German ethnologist Dr Richard Thurnwald.

And so, another intesting chapter in the life and times of Thomas James Rodoni (1882-1956) and his fellow troops in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) has now emerged thanks to Dr Barry Craig, Senior Curator, Foreign Ethnology at the South Australian Museum.

Following the launch of Rodoni’s digitised photographic glass and film negatives in the freely accessible Rodoni Archive, Dr Craig commented on the site’s pages in May/June 2015 that he had recognised that a number of Rodoni’s images had not been taken by him, but, in fact taken by a German ethnographer Richard Thurnwald possibly in Sept-Oct 1914.  He stated:

“Thurnwald had returned from his exploration to the source of the Sepik, apparently leaving his photographs at his base camp, and set off up the Sepik again in November to explore the Sand and North Rivers (the latter as far north as the Bewani Range). While he was away, the AN&MEF arrived (with Rodoni) on the Nusa and took all of Thurnwald’s boats, his engineer Theodore Fiebig, and supplies, collections, notes and images back down the river, eventually to Madang. When Thurnwald returned to find his camp ransacked, he went down river in a paddle canoe, sustained by a few cans of beans, and reported to the police station at Angoram, and then went on to Madang where he was befriended by Captain Walter Balfour Ogilvy, the District Officer there. Thurnwald then attempted to get all his things back but it took many years and not everything was returned. It seems these images in possession of Rodoni were part of the looting.” – Dr Barry Craig Wednesday, 20 May, 2015 at 10:57 am

Dr Craig published The Fate of Thurnwald’s Sepik Ethnographic Collections, and it was interesting to finally be able to locate a small portion of the collection, after a hundred years, that had been lying in a suburban garage and lost to the world.

We invited Dr Craig to prepare an article on this story, in order that these images could have their original provenance properly reassigned, which he did, with the assistance of Dr Christine Winter.

We thank both Dr Barry Craig and Dr Christine Winter for permission to publish their work that recounts the story of the images, and the locations in which they were taken.

The following two articles can be downloaded to your desktop, ipad or mobile device.

Richard Thurnwald and Thomas James Rodoni in the Upper Sepik Region of New Guinea 1914
[15.2 MB PDF FILE]
by Dr Barry Craig, Senior Curator, Foreign Ethnology, South Australian Museum and Dr Christine Winter, ARC Future Fellow – Matthew Flinders Fellow, Flinders University

The Fate of Thurnwald’s Sepik Ethnographic Collections [8MB PDF FILE]
By Barry Craig, South Australian Museum, Adelaide (1997)

(Reproduced with kind permission of the publisher)

These papers are also published on the The Upper Sepik-Central New Guinea Project pages

Cranky Handle Rally


Our colleagues, the Hunter Valley Vintage Farm Machinery Club Inc. will be hosting the

Cranky Handle Rally

20th & 21st August 2016

at Richmond Vale Railway Museum

Located in the historic Richmond Main Colliery site,

Leggett’s Drive (B82, Richmond Vale

4km south of Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley, NSW

In association with Richmond Vale Railway Museum, an invitation for all with a love for old machinery and equipment, to see engines, tractors, trucks, cars, machinery, bikes and memorabilia, at the 2016 Cranky Handle Rally.

See a large display of vintage agricultural machinery, lovingly restored while some remain in their “working clothes“.

Stationery engines, tool collections, tractors, trucks, cars and bikes from yesteryear, on display at the Historic Richmond Vale Railway Museum. Inspect the mining museum in the old Administration Building, view underground mining equipment and enjoy a train ride to Pelaw Main.

Offering ample parking, canteen facilities, toilets and parents room, picnic areas and disabled access.

For further details contact the Show Organiser:

Peter DRAPER – 02 4966 2813 OR 0418 673 816


Vale George Davison

George Davison

George Davison ( early 1960’s). Photograph courtesy of Barry Howard.

Vale George Arthur Davison


The UON Library’s Cultural Collections team is saddened to report the passing of Mr George Davison, who kindly made his collection of photographs from his time in the mining industry available to us and permitted us to publish them.

Mr Davison was a mine worker in Myuna and Newvale No. 2 Collieries.  After his retirement, he was for some time the Curator of Richmond Vale Mining Museum on the site of the former Richmond Main Colliery.

We extend our sincere sympathy to his family and friends.

George Davison

George Davison as Curator of Richmond Vale Mining Museum. Photograph courtesy of Barry Howard.

Shade: Artists of the desert


Shade Artists of the desert

Artists of the desert

EXHIBITION: 6 July – 6 August 2016

The University Gallery

Remote desert communities in the heart of Australia are home to some of our country’s most successful artists. Beginning in Papunya in the early 1970s with the exploratory transfer of ceremonial mark making onto board and canvas, there emerged an explosion of works made using vibrant acrylic paints, potent symbology and diversity of line and form. This unique contemporary art movement has now been active for over 40 years.

Contemporary art from these regions illuminate the unique experience of the desert: its light and shade, its contours, its gifts and adversities, its deep running songlines and sacred beauty. Artists render themes connected to place and belonging in ways that bring Country, Tjukurpa (Law), creation stories and the landscape, to life. Places of both sacred and everyday meaning are embodied in vibrant articulations that shimmer with colour and power.

Drawing on works from the University Art Collection, Shade celebrates this richness through paintings that range from across the Central and Western Deserts, to Kintore, Yuendumu and the Kimberley region. The University Gallery will, in conjunction with the artists of Warlukurlangu, have paintings for sale during the exhibition.

Please join us for the exhibition opening at the University Gallery to be launched by Una Rey:

Wednesday 6 July from 5.30pm

Voices of the Hunter Launch


About the Project

From the 1970s to the 1990s, Jack Delaney interviewed a large number of people in the Hunter Valley in his quest to record local history. These folk were from many different backgrounds and occupations and their stories provide a vivid social history of the 20th century in our part of the world.

A team from Cultural Collections in the University of Newcastle Library has been working closely with the Coalfields Heritage Group at Kurri Kurri with funding from the Coal & Allied Community Development Fund to digitise Jack’s cassette tapes and make them available to the world. Click here to find out more.

About the Launch

We are seeking out families and descendants of the interviewees (click here for a list) to be recognised at the event.

Date & time: Thursday 21 July 2016, 12 noon-2pm.

Brian J. Andrews, OAM will be giving a short talk on Jack Delaney.

Please RSVP for catering purposes by 14 July to, ph: 4921 5354

Location: Cultural Collections Reading Room, Auchmuty Library at the University of Newcastle. This is during the mid-year break so parking isn’t as difficult.



Below is an excerpt from one of the Voices of the Hunter interviews.

Launch of Birdwood Flag Restoration Project


Very Reverend Stephen Williams, Dean of Newcastle giving speech at the launch ceremony

On a Friday morning, 22 April 2016, a nationally significant cultural initiative, The Birdwood Flag Restoration Project, was launched at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle.

The Birdwood Flag in its original condition. [Courtesy of The University of Newcastle's Anglican Diocese Archives in Cultural Collections A6137(iv)]

The Birdwood Flag in its original condition. [Courtesy of The University of Newcastle’s Anglican Diocese Archives in Cultural Collections A6137(iv)]

Named in honour of General William Riddell Birdwood, the commander of the Australian forces on the western front, the Birdwood Flag Restoration Project aims to piece back together, and restore this highly significant Australian flag that served as the Australian ensign in World War 1. The Birdwood flag is of high national historic significance as it was the first recorded, and officially sanctioned presentation of an Australian flag in the field of war, created by a local community. Moreover, the Birdwood Flag is of outstanding social and historical significance for people of Newcastle since the funds raised for the flag’s creation and manufacture came from a public appeal organised by Miss Dora Sparke and the Newcastle Field Force Fund.

 Planning War Work

The story of the Birdwood Flag dates back a century ago, when a group of women in the Hunter, led by Dora Sparke, gathered the resources to send an Australian flag to fly over the ANZAC troops in Europe. These women took it upon themselves to make the lives of Australian troops a little better. For instance, they didn’t believe the standard issue socks that were provided to troops were of sufficient quality, so they set about knitting their own, that would be of superior quality and comfort. They also decided that it wasn’t good enough that our troops didn’t have a real Australian Flag to fight under, and so they set about manufacturing one, that ensured it was officially sanctioned. The work of the Newcastle community was presented at the General’s headquarters on a battlefield in Belgium, in September 1917, and served as the emblem of Australian soldiers during the war. It was to be passionately guarded until the time of victory.

General Birdwood (Image Courtesy of Australian War Memorial )

It was during his national tour of Australia in 1920, that General Birdwood took the opportunity to offically hand back the Flag to Miss Dora Sparke, at a civic reception held on the 28 April 1920, and with it The Birdwood Flag returned to its cultural home, the city of Newcastle. It was perceived as a “memento of a glorious cause, and we would do all in our power to see that it was placed where no other enemy but Time could destroy it”. Beyond the intentions in its production, the flag is also an interesting symbol of the formation of Australian nationhood. Its use signifies the distinct identity of the Australian soldiers as a significant collective. What makes the flag even more significant is that such a declaration of national identity occurs about a decade after the Federation in 1901 and many years before recognition of the Australian national flag in 1954 under the “Flags Act 1953“.


Fragment from the Birdwood flag, Image Courtesy ABC Newcastle

Following the Birdwood Flag’s rediscovery in 2013 lying in pieces within a shoebox inside a safe in the Cathedral, a meeting was held between the University of Newcastle’s Vice Chancellor, Caroline McMillen  and the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, The Very Reverend Stephen Williams, to see what could be done to restore what was probably the most important cultural relic of the Great War in Australia, in anticipation of the Centenary of ANZAC commemorations. Inspired by the local community’s spirit, an action plan was formulated for the restoration of the rediscovered fragments of the Birdwood flag.

The Birdwood Heritage Committee (Birdwood Flag Committee) was formed under the leadership of Dr Patricia Gillard, and initial funding secured through the National Library’s Community Heritage Grants to complete the significance assessment phase.  In 2015, a funding application to the Copland Foundation was also successful. As a result of the committee’s efforts the restoration phase of the Birdwood Flag has offically begun since April 22, 2016.

Birdwood Group

From left: Major Roland Millbank, Birdwood Committee; Dr.Rosemary Barnard, Birdwood Comittee; Dr. Amir Mogadam, Conservator, UON; Mr. Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist, UON; Dr. Patricia Gillard, Birdwood Committee; Mr.Julian Bickersteth, Managing Director, ICS.

In this project, the Copland Foundation, Melbourne, International Conservation Services, Sydney, University of Newcastle (Australia) and Anglican Diocese of Newcastle’s Christ Church Cathedral, are collaborating to put the pieces of the flag back together again and tell the story of the community who enabled an official Red Australian Ensign to represent their troops during World War 1. As part of the ceremony a time lapse movie was screened showing the beginnings of conservation work being carried out by International Conservation Services in Sydney. It was quite an emotional moment to see the original stars of the Southern Cross begin to re-emerge within the fragments of the original flag.

Over many years our communities have become fraught with divisions and fragmentation, with people generally striving to seek their points of difference, rather than what they hold in common. It is hoped that this project is a small step towards bringing Australian communities closer together, as, in reconstructing this fragmented symbol of a local community’s care for its troops, so too it is hoped that the nation will rediscover its fragmented heart, and understand the forces that have shaped Australian national identity and the makeup of its culture and character.

Dr Amir Mogadam, Conservator and Mr Gionni Di Gravio, Archivist.