Captain Cook’s Hawaiian cape on display after 120 years in storage

Posted October 13, 2017 13:13:48

A famed feather cape gifted by a Hawaiian chief to Captain Cook on his fateful final voyage has been put on display at Sydney’s Australian Museum after more than a century in storage.

The cape — or ‘ahu’ula — was given to Cook in 1778 or 1779 and has been part of the museum’s collection since 1894.

It was supposed to provide physical and spiritual protection to those who donned it, however, that did not prove true for the explorer, who was killed by Hawaiians in February 1779.

And it has now been unveiled as part of the museum’s 200 Treasures exhibition.

Other artefacts on display include the body of a Tasmanian tiger, a prehistoric Irish elk skeleton and a 10 kilogram gold nugget discovered during the Gold Rush.

Despite being part of the museum’s collection for more than a century, Cook’s cape has seldom been seen by visitors, apart from during a brief appearance in 2015.

However it now has a permanent home.

The heritage-listed gallery itself is also being hailed as a unique treasure.

After almost two years of restoration, conservation, and design at a cost of $9 million, the Long Gallery at the Australian Museum will finally reopen to the public.

Exhibition Designer Aaron Maestri said reviving the gallery, built between 1846 and 1855, was full of challenges.

“There are so many things that are a little bit out, or a lot out, or things that I would just like to replace but you can’t because they are heritage,” Mr Maestri said.

“Being sensitive to heritage requirements is really important and worthwhile but can also be a big difficulty.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the exhibition would be an excellent addition to NSW’s arts and culture facilities.

“The Australian Museum, the first museum in the nation, has an unrivalled collection … I commend everyone involved in bringing such a remarkable gallery and exhibition to the people of Australia,” she said.

The gallery will house the 200 Treasures exhibition which shows off some of the fossils, scientific specimens and Indigenous artefacts amassed by the nation’s oldest natural history museum.

It also recognises 100 people who have helped shape the nation through contributions to history, science, nature or culture.

Topics: library-museum-and-gallery, history, art-history, community-and-society, arts-and-entertainment, sydney-2000

Four decades of Bathurst captured through a photographer’s lens

Updated October 07, 2017 10:45:28

It’s the high risks and stakes involved in racing that inspires Zenio Lapka to photograph the action of Australian motorsports.

“It’s a sport where people put their life on the line,” Lapka said.

“The element of danger, the colour, the spectacle and the competition — the racing, I love the racing.”

For 40 years the photographer from Blayney, New South Wales has dedicated a career to capturing images of the fast-paced world beyond the crash barriers and the famous faces behind the wheels.

A keen motorsport fanatic in his youth, it was in the late 1970s that Lapka started attending races with his camera in hand to record the events.

His passion soon developed into a profession that saw his pictures regularly published in the nation’s newspapers and prominent racing magazines.

Now a veteran of the industry, these days he concentrates his efforts on more artistic projects that aren’t as taxing on his health.

“The body is starting to breakdown and my reaction times aren’t as fast as they used to be, [especially] for getting out of the way if anything should go pear-shaped,” Lapka said.

“Believe me, when things go pear-shaped it happens very, very quickly.”

Lapka is no stranger to the dangers on the trackside.

In 1985, while photographing a race at Amaroo Park, he was struck by a loose wheel flung from a damaged car.

“I was on crutches for two months then a walking stick for a further three months,” he recalled.

Lapka returned to work with a permanent injury to his leg, but as a photographer it was the damage to his camera equipment that added to the pain.

“I trashed a brand new 300mm lens, how tragic is that?”

For Lapka, there was one event during his career that clearly stood out from the others.

It was the highly emotive Bathurst 1000 held in October 2006 — a month after racing legend Peter Brock was killed during a rally crash in Western Australia.

“It was a very memorable race because at the beginning, during the one-minute silence, you could hear a pin drop and you didn’t expect that,” he said.

He recalled the days when riots involving motorcycle race spectators broke out at the campgrounds of Mount Panorama.

“It was uncivilised at times,” he said of that era.

Then there was the time when Australian rock outfit Cold Chisel performed a show at the summit.

“About an hour into concert, all the outlaw bikies turned up, pulled down the fence and just walked through.

“The security guards just turned their backs and went, ‘oh well, nothing we can do’.

“Now it’s a bit more controlled and a little more family orientated.”

Throughout the decades Lapka has embraced the evolution to digital photography and did not miss the days of having to shoot the event on negative film.

“I had to come here and process [films] in the men’s toilet, hang it up on the back of the door and say to the guy coming in, ‘look, don’t touch the negatives, they’re still wet’,” Lapka said.

After decades of making the annual trek up and down Mount Panorama, this year’s Bathurst 1000 is the first time Lapka has decided to sit aside from photographing the main race event.

Now 60 years old, he said great stamina was needed for the repeated 6-kilometre hike around the track to the best vantage points.

“The body just can’t take a weekend of punishment,” he said.

“It gives you a thorough workout.”

Zenio Lapka’s latest exhibition of motorsports photography, Beyond Sharp, is on show at the Blayney Tourism Information Centre.

Topics: motor-sports, photography, media, history, sport, bathurst-2795, annangrove-2156

First posted October 07, 2017 10:35:52

Aussie life in years gone by a hit for online audiences

Posted October 02, 2017 10:00:00

Scenes showing smoking in cabs, driving sans seatbelt and Perth without freeways all feature in a series of films made to promote life in Australia.

The makers surely didn’t consider it at the time, but the films have become a valuable time capsule for present and future generations.

The short documentaries were made in the 1940s through to the 1970s in conjunction with the Commonwealth Film Unit, which later became Film Australia.

“Around that time there were a lot of films that were made for an overseas audience to try and attract people from the UK and Europe to come and live in Australia,” Beth Taylor, online content producer with the National Film and Sound Archive, told ABC Radio Perth.

She said the films were “extremely successful at the time” and were now gaining a new audience on NSFA’s YouTube channel.

“We often get comments from people saying they remember seeing these films and that may have been the reason why they came to Australia in the first place,” Ms Taylor said.

“A lot of people really love seeing things that are still around, or maybe things that are no longer around.”

Highlights in the online archive include 1961’s Another Sunny Day In Western Australia, which depicts daily life in Perth and shows off the attractions of the sunlit city.

A 1972 film directed by Greg Reading shows a day in the life of Perth taxi driver Jim McKenzie.

At the time it would have been fairly unremarkable, but it depicts a now-vanished world where passengers and the driver happily smoke in the cab, children ride without seatbelts, and a trip into the city cost just $1.50.

A 1947 film about the University of Western Australia makes much of the fact that it was founded as the only free university in the British Empire.

The narrator describes “an atmosphere of culture and learning that might well develop into the Oxford or Cambridge of the Southern Hemisphere”.

“What I find so interesting about these films is that they capture things that they didn’t realise they were capturing,” Ms Taylor said.

“There are places that people still really care about — fashion, hair, cars.

“It’s a really fun thing for people to look at.”

The NFSA has created playlists for each Australian capital city and encouraged the public to let them know if they recognised a house or someone they knew in the films.

“We get a lot of people identifying streets and bridges and maybe even family members,” Ms Taylor said.

“We are putting more and more online.

“I think it’s really important for people’s identity to see how things were so they can make sense of their lives.”

Topics: history, short-film, documentary, human-interest, people, perth-6000

This is what was happening in the world last time Richmond won a premiership

Updated October 01, 2017 11:47:23

The last time the Richmond Tigers won a premiership was 37 years ago on September 27, 1980.

Let’s take a look back at what was happening in the world as they celebrated their win against Collingwood.

The number one song was Upside Down by Diana Ross

Yep. In September 1980 we were upside down, turning round and giving love instinctively.

The hit song was number one on the Billboard charts at the time and had been since September 6.

It was later knocked off the top spot by Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust in early October.

The radio was also playing:

  • Rock With You by Michael Jackson
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love by Queen
  • Another Brick In The Wall by Pink Floyd
  • Call Me by Blondie
  • Funkytown by Lipps, Inc
  • Magic by Olivia Newton-John

Luke had just found out Vader was his father

It seems like a long time ago — in a galaxy far, far away — but it was in May 1980 that Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back premiered in cinemas.

It was a smash hit (obviously) and earned more than $500 million in box office sales worldwide.

And everyone was also talking about:

  • The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall
  • Fame, starring Irene Cara, Paul McCrane and Laura Dean
  • Xanadu, starring Olivia Newton-John
  • Caddyshack, starring Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray

Malcolm was Prime Minister

No, not Malcolm Turnbull, Malcolm FRASER.

Mr Fraser had been the prime minister since replacing Gough Whitlam after his dismissal in 1975.

In September of 1980 he was gearing up for the federal election against Labor’s Bill Hayden.

Spoiler alert: Mr Fraser won that election and governed until 1983 when he was defeated by Bob Hawke.

Baby Azaria had been missing for a month

Nine-week-old Azaria Chamberlain disappeared from her family’s tent at a campsite at Uluru (Ayers Rock) on August 17, 1980.

Lindy and Michael Chamberlain claimed a dingo had taken her, and a week later the jumpsuit she had been wearing was found nearby.

Two years later, Lindy was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

PAC-MAN was everyone’s favourite game

Wakka, wakka, wakka!

It was in May 1980 that Namco released the first PAC-MAN game in Japan, introducing us all to those pesky ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

The game hit the US later in October and sold more than 100,000 units in its first year.

John Lennon died just over two months later

John Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment in New York on December 8, 1980, just over two months after the AFL grand final.

His killer was Beatles fan Mark Chapman, who had asked him for an autograph only hours beforehand.

Two days after the AFL grand final, Lennon did an interview with Newsweek in which he talked about losing ties with Paul McCartney, his relationship with Yoko Ono and falling in love with music again.

Topics: sport, australian-football-league, arts-and-entertainment, community-and-society, history, australia, richmond-3121, vic

First posted October 01, 2017 11:43:11

Famous smoking Richmond footballer Bones McGhie revisits MCG

Posted September 27, 2017 07:00:00

Richmond has just won the Grand Final. Their fearsome tattooed cult hero sits on the hallowed MCG turf, fiddling with his boots.

Whatever parallels might unfold in AFL’s biggest game on Saturday, there’s one detail in the photo that places it firmly in 1973 — and leaves this year’s Brownlow winner Dusty Martin looking every bit the clean-cut model professional.

Perfectly centred in the frame, dangling from Robert McGhie’s mouth, hangs a cigarette.

Who is Bones?

“My name is Robbie McGhie. They call me Bones,” announces McGhie with a bone-crushing handshake.

Forty-four years later, he’s back at the MCG to talk about what happened on Grand Final day in 1973.

The nickname comes from his childhood, rather than his exploits as a bruising backman for Richmond and Footscray.

But his tough guy reputation belies years as a lithe and talented junior.

“I didn’t think I was too scary. I mean, if you were in the road I’d run over the top of you,” says Bones.

“Not to hurt you, just to let you know I was about.”

The story behind the cigarette

Richmond picked up McGhie at the beginning of the 1973 season. The legendary Tommy Hafey was coach and the team was on the up.

Bones proved a fast and fearless addition to the backline. The Tigers made the Grand Final in his first year at the club.

As they had in 1972, Richmond squared off against reigning premiers Carlton. This time, with Bones at centre-half-back alongside team mates Rex Hunt, Royce Hart, Kevin Sheedy and Kevin Bartlett, they won.

Legendary Australian photographer Rennie Ellis was positioned on the sidelines when McGhie slumped to the turf after the final siren.

He was puffing on a cigarette that team boot-studder, Kevin McAvoy, had just handed him.

“He always had a packet of Benson and Hedges ready for me,” says Bones.

Ellis’s perfectly framed image would prompt a social media frenzy in today’s hyper-corporatised football environment. But for Bones, it was perfectly ordinary.

A different time

“There were smokers everywhere. There were about 12 of us in the team who smoked,” he says.

“I didn’t have a smoke from Wednesday to after the game on Saturday. But from Saturday to Tuesday I’d have quite a few.”

Over his 197-game career, Bones also drank with opposition players.

“We used to meet with the North Melbourne boys on Monday — because we didn’t train on Mondays — and have a few beers and lunch with them.

“Or we’d stay up in Geelong and have a few beers with those guys, and catch the train home the next day.

“A lot of them are still my mates.”

Squinting at the now-iconic photo of himself on the boundary of the MCG, McGhie says it shows how sport, and society, have changed.

“Sport scientists have taken over this game,” he says.

And despite the comprehensive evidence of the health risks of smoking, McGhie insists he’s fighting fit.

“I smoke and I drink, and I’ve got nothing wrong with me.”

Whatever happens when Richmond’s latest cult figure and his team mates burst onto the MCG on Saturday, it’s unlikely any photographer will capture another character quite like “Bones” McGhie.

Topics: australian-football-league, sport, photography, history, melbourne-3000, australia

Greta Scacchi’s love affair with Italian cinema

Posted September 20, 2017 17:11:56

From lead roles in Hollywood to the stages of Paris, Greta Scacchi’s acting career has taken her around the world.

But the 57-year-old is particularly fond of the cinema of Italy, where she was born.

“I think that, as in many countries in the world, Italy is in a period of change,” Scacchi told RN Drive.

“There’s been a struggle with economic pressures and with the pressures of informal immigration.

“Because of the shifting identity of Italy, and the difficulties that people are suffering there, the cinema is beginning to produce a kind of new neo-realism that’s as gritty and real and good as some of their post-war cinema.”

Reverence for art and culture

Scacchi, who is an ambassador for the Italian Film Festival, which is touring capital cities, believes that there is an open reverence for art, academia and culture in Italy, which leads to a very different sort of film than those produced by major Western studios.

“When you watch Italian films it’s very engaging, because you must engage with them,” she said.

“You are requested, as an audience, not to just lie back and have the thing wash over you — you have to think and apply yourself and then you’ll find it’s very rewarding.

“It [Italian cinema] doesn’t necessarily answer all the questions; the stories can have some inconclusive quality, but that is their truth — not all questions can be answered and things aren’t black and white.”

Though she is best known for her work in Hollywood films like Presumed Innocent and The Player, for Scacchi those projects were a means to an end — a chance to return to the roles she truly loved in Europe.

“I didn’t go to Hollywood until I really had to,” Scacchi said.

“European film directors wanted me for a project, but the producers and the money people decided they had to go for a bigger American name.

“When that happened to me the third time, I went to the [United] States.”

After two weeks in Los Angeles, Scacchi said she was offered a role in Presumed Innocent.

“So that was the ticket that I needed to get into their kind of American market,” she said.

“I soon ran away … I didn’t like it very much.”

Different on-set cultures

Scacchi’s long and varied career has seen her take roles in everything from Australian favourites like Looking for Alibrandi, to period dramas like Emma, alongside the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow.

Having worked on films around the world, she believes that each country has its own distinct culture on set, and America’s is the most hierarchical.

“The star system is their form of monarchy,” she said.

“I remember when I first walked onto a film set in America and nobody was allowed to look Harrison Ford in the eye.”

Yet, when starting out in England, Scacchi was told of the importance of knowing everyone on set.

“In America there was no chance to do that because if you ever met eyes with the focus puller, he would look down at the ground,” she said.

When she began working in Italy, Scacchi found that it was necessary to become more distant for her own protection.

“In Italy, when I applied this technique of getting to know the names of the focus puller or the clapper loader, by day three they were saying ‘come here and give me a kiss’ or ‘why don’t you sit on my lap’, and I realised that in Italy if you are a lead actor, you don’t say hello to everybody,” she said.

“They don’t want you to be familiar — they want you to be just a little more on a pedestal.”

And again Scacchi explained her experience of working in Australia was different yet again.

“In Australia, of course that wouldn’t go down at all well,” she said.

“Everybody here is the same, it’s democracy, it’s egalitarian, and I actually like that environment most of all.”

Topics: film, actor, history, italy

Bar to barre: How a derelict pub became a ballet school

Posted September 15, 2017 08:00:00

Michele Cleaver-Wilkinson and her husband have transformed one of Perth’s old rundown pubs into a beautiful ballet school.

The old Newmarket Hotel in South Fremantle stood vacant and derelict for 18 years before the Cleaver-Wilkinsons took a leap of faith and bought it.

“There was no electricity. There was no water. Every window was smashed,” Ms Cleaver-Wilkinson said.

“It was all boarded up, front and back, so it was dark and we had to use torches to see what was here.

“There was a big bees nest inside, termites all through the stairs.

“There was graffiti everywhere, walls had been bashed out, fireplaces ripped out.”

Built in 1912, the Newmarket Hotel loomed over the corner of Rockingham and Cockburn roads and for decades had been popular with men involved in the horse racing industry.

By the late 1990s the pub had closed its doors; the building sat unloved until the Cleaver-Wilkinsons decided to take it on.

“It was a dream and it was a lot of work,” Ms Cleaver-Wilkinson said.

“Ian and I worked every minute, every hour that we could possibly find.

“I would often pick him up from work at 4:30 and we would work here until 10:00pm.”

It took more than a year and $900,000 before the building was ready to open, and further renovations are likely to continue for years to come.

From bar to barre

So why did the couple decide to transform the public bar and hotel rooms into dance studios when they could easily have found a modern building for their school?

“Because if you’re passionate about ballet you spend every day there,” Ms Cleaver-Wilkinson explained.

“I’ve worked in community halls in Karratha where I spent six days a week there and if you’ve got green bricks to look at all day it’s soul-destroying.

“I love coming to work here. The kids love coming here. It is just uplifting.”

To help with the restoration, the Cleaver-Wilkinsons received a $100,000 grant from the Heritage Council to restore the façade and verandah.

And although the local community is pleased to see the building restored to its former glory, the change in its use has caused some confusion.

“I’ve had people walk in off the street so many times and say, ‘Did you know this used to be a pub?'” Ms Cleaver-Wilkinson said.

“If I had a dollar for everyone that told me that …

“I think people are recognising [now] that it suits a dance school.”

Ms Cleaver-Wilkinson said she also suspected her grandfather, who worked as a wharfie in Fremantle, probably drank in the pub once.

The former front bar is now lined with mirrors and barres, and every day students aged from four to 70 come to practise their moves.

“I really like the fact that the premises that was probably very much male-oriented is now very much female-oriented.”

Topics: human-interest, people, dance, arts-and-entertainment, history, community-and-society, perth-6000