Meet the Volunteers: Marie Pernat

Meet the Volunteers: Marie Pernat


A chance meeting with a PMI Library staff member resulted in my visiting the library and kindly being given a guided tour. I immediately thought that I would love to volunteer in such a fine library with great historical as well as current collections. As my lengthy career in librarianship had been spent in academic and special libraries and archives, I saw an opportunity to apply my skills and contribute to the PMI Victorian History Library.

As a retiree, I can indulge myself and participate in activities of my choosing. I have five delightful grandchildren aged five to 12 to entertain me. I am a volunteer tour guide at the MCG and in the MCC Library. Tennis, cycling and walking keep me physically fit and, hopefully, the brain is ticking over when I play bridge and mahjong. My husband, Fred, and I travel within Australia and overseas and enjoy fine wine and food. I will always, however, make sure I reserve time for the PMI Library!

I commenced volunteering at the library in early 2017. As it is a lending library, it is important that members can readily retrieve information and locate wanted items on the shelves. In support of this, my first project was to assist in expanding the classification numbers of the art collection. It had grown over the years to some hundreds of titles, but the catalogue had not been revised to reflect such growth.

Most titles were catalogued to the Dewey 700 art call number, with the result that works by the same artist, art periods and styles could not easily be identified by browsing. It was my role to suggest revised call numbers in accordance with the library’s guidelines and Dewey principles.  Ellen, collections librarian, checked my work to ensure consistency with library practice. Re-labelling and changing the item record in the catalogue were also in my brief.

This was a most interesting project, partly because the books contained numerous paintings by Australian artists and because it was finite, and I had the feeling of satisfaction upon its completion. I not only gained insight into Australian art, but also learnt something about the library’s classification and cataloguing systems.

Subsequent projects were to similarly expand the call numbers of education, churches, fiction and most recently, the indigenous Australians collection to accord with new guidelines devised by Ellen. You can imagine my delight when, working with the education books, I came across information and photographs of my father that I had never seen. One photograph pictured my father, then a young teacher at University High School, as coach of the football team, which included Essendon legend John Coleman.

Soon I will move onto another project. The beauty of volunteering at the PMI Library is that there is a range of tasks to suit volunteers’ skills. The staff are most helpful and patient and recognise the contributions of volunteers. There is onsite parking, working conditions are pleasant and I have enjoyed meeting fellow volunteers. Being a Stonnington resident, I am very pleased to give back a little to our local community library.


Collection Spotlight: Databases: The Police Gazettes

Collection Spotlight: Databases: The Police Gazettes

police gazette

This Collection Spotlight we thought we’d shine the light on our electronic resources. The PMI has a really strong collection of electronic resources, from books, to audio recordings, indexes, electoral roles, databases, periodicals, rate books, heritage studies and more. Today though we are going to focus on one of the databases: The Police Gazettes.

The Police Gazettes at the PMI runs from 1855 to 1930 and existed to provide information and instructions to members of the police force.

They can be extremely useful for almost all types of research and isn’t just a record of criminals. It records people who came into contact with the police in a wide variety of ways.

For example towards the end of last year we had a member who was trying to track down a great grandmother and we found the grandmother listed in the Police Gazettes. Now the grandmother wasn’t a criminal, but her husband had deserted her and run off to WA, so she was listed as his wife because as a deserter and the police were circulating a description of him to track him down.

Our Gazettes are electronic and can be key word searched. You can also access them through the library edition of Ancestry, though the PMI records are more complete.

The gazettes are a great, slightly left of field, way of thinking about research and they can also just be interesting. They are the small scale of history, not the grand scale – though some of the scandals that make their way into them can be quite grand. For the most part though, they depict normal people and the many ways (both good and bad they came into contact with the law).

They have some excellent descriptions of people too, they can be extremely evocative.

Private James Crane deserted from H.M Service in the 99th Regiment on the 28th of December 1854. He is described as 5 feet 9 inches high, sallow complexion, dark brown hair, grey eyes, native of Saint Paul’s, Dublin, a laborer, marked with letter D on left side, dressed in regimental clothing.

George Shelley charged with in 1874 with forging and uttering a cheque. He is described as English, 38 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches high, medium build, fresh complexion, brown hair, sandy beard, whiskers, and moustache turning grey, blue eyes, left eye slightly turned upwards, long face, large red nose, general appearance that of a drunkard, a joiner, and travelling painter; dressed in old dark coat, light tweed trousers, and old dirty-looking billycock hat.

Caroline Dark was charged on the 11th of January 1884 with disobeying a summons. She is described as a Victorian, prostitute, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, sallow complexion, dark hair, stout build, full face, dissipated look, fond of drink ; wore old dirty dark clothes, and black straw hat.

 Mary Kelly was charged on the 11th of July 1894 with stealing five pounds from the house of Nellie Dyer in 64 Napier St Fitzroy. She is described as Servant, about 23 or 24 years of age, 5 feet high, medium build, dark complexion and hair with fringe; wore a black dress body trimmed with braid, brown felt hat trimmed with brown velvet and a wing, and a black veil.

On the 13th of February 1904 pattern-maker Edward Robinson was asulted and robbed by three Men in Princess St Port Melbourne. He described them as let. 28 years of age, 5 feet 8 inches high, red hair, red moustache, slight build ; wore dark grey paget suit and black alpine hat. 2nd. 19 to 21 years of age, 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, slight build, slight stoop, long pale face , clean shaved ; wore dirty clothes, dark alpine bat. 3rd. 20 to 21 years of age, 5 feet 7 inches high, a light build, moss-coloured hair, no hair on face : wore darkish clothes.

In 1914 Jane Juckett was being enquired for by her mother. She was described as 18 years of age, 5 feet 4 inches high, stout nuggety build, florid complexion, full face, dark-auburn hair, one tooth missing, from front upper set; wore a dark three-quarter costume, black hat, and black shoes.

In 1924 Georgina Hyem, milliner, reported a brown leather bag containing money and private papers stolen from her shop. The two thieves are described as lst. About 5 ft. 10 in.; dressed in a dark velvet dress, short fur coat, black suede shoes and black hat with a peak on each side. 2nd. About 5 ft. 7 in.; dressed in a dark one-piece dress, black shoes, and black hat with sprays at the rear.

So, as you can see they really bring the people to life. This is of course only a small sample of what can be found in the gazettes. They’re another PMI resource that you can explore next time you are in the library.

Book Review: Slow Catastrophes

Book Review: Slow Catastrophes


Rebecca Jones’ earlier writings include an academic article titled, “Blended Voices: Crafting a Narrative from Oral History Interviews”.   In ‘Slow Catastrophes’ she has crafted a narrative, not from oral histories, but from farm diaries.  Not merely a narrative, either, but a thought-provoking, heart-warming narrative that evidences the strength of character of rural Australians facing drought.

‘Slow Catastrophes’ presents a picture of living with drought, on two levels:  in the first section of the book, “Drought Stories”, Jones describes 7 farm families, blending their observations of drought with other farm and personal observations and data.  The droughts and the families span most of the twentieth century, and although the book’s title refers to Australia, there is a strong focus on Victoria. The diary excerpts reveal the characteristic stoicism of Australian farmers.  Jones seamlessly includes the historic overview necessary for us to fully understand the picture of drought in Australian life and the strength that underpins living with drought.

In the second section of the book, “Living with Drought”, Jones picks up the threads from these seven stories and divides them into intellectual, practical and physical and emotional responses to drought.  A wonderful chapter in this section is titled, “The Feeling of Drought” and includes quotes about the smell and sound of drought.

I came to ‘Slow Catastrophes’ seeking material for my research into the lives of farming families over 120 years in one small corner of Victoria’s Mallee, thinking to find data such as the number and extent of droughts, the number of young men who left farms for the battlefields of WW 1 and 2; in other words, with a quite specific and narrow focus on the impact of drought.  I found myself absorbed by Jones’ narrative, and by the personalities of her subjects.  I came away stimulated to look more deeply at the rural experience, and to ask more questions about the lives of my subjects and how their characters were formed by the vagaries of climate.

This book is highly recommended for anyone researching farming or agriculture in Australia, for those writing a family history that includes people who lived on farms or in the bush.  More, though, it is essential reading for all those of us who wonder about the impact of future climate events.

Review by Heather Redmond

Plotting History: Heather Redmond

Plotting History: Heather Redmond

Welcome to the return of Plotting History where we highlight the immensely varied research being undertaken by our members. Today’s Plotting History is from Heather Redmond, and thank you Heather for being the first cab off the rank this year. If any members would like to contribute to Plotting History email the library at

Pictured: Heather at Goschen in 1953, Heather today and a road in Mallee in 2015. 

I am researching the farming district in the Mallee where I grew up, and which is (I think) representative of many other no-longer visible small towns and farming districts across Victoria. My great-grandparents were among the early arrivals, and the history of the family mirrors the history of the district – struggles through drought, sons going off to war or to a brighter life elsewhere, daughters marrying the sons of neighbouring farm families, the acceptance of responsibility for establishing and maintaining churches, sporting clubs and political groups, fund-raising and community celebrations, petitioning the government to open a school, or the council to repair a road.  My research began as an investigation of land my family had owned and has become more of  a social history of the changing life of a rural farming district.

My usual practice is to trawl the online PMI library catalogue at home before I visit, looking for relevant material.  Once in the library I set myself up in a far corner and walk the library collecting the books I have identified – and all the others that catch my magpie eye.  Studying history at university in the 1970s meant tedious copying of information from too-few and tightly contested copies of texts in a large library.  At PMI in 2019, I use my phone to photograph pages of text and, using the Dropbox app, those pages are uploaded to my laptop at home ready for me to go through next day.

I enjoy moving between the general and the particular in the library; I can read ‘Ultima Centenary 1892 – 1992’, and then locate the Ultima cemetery transcriptions in the electronic resources.  I can lose myself down the rabbit hole of, trawling electoral rolls and piecing together the names and years to establish who moved in and out of the district and then sit at my quiet corner table reading ‘The History of Irrigation in Australia’ to better understand what it meant to live in the Mallee at the beginning of the 20th century.

I love the library’s events and Family History Month talks have helped me to frame my research.   I was entranced by Jim Donaldson’s talk on Highland Scottish emigrants, while ‘Writing a non-boring family history’ was followed by my making a beeline for some of the examples in the library.

One final note on the value of the PMI library for me:  its geography.  Living in regional Victoria means a reluctance to battle city traffic and a passion for good coffee; Prahran station and Prahran’s many coffee shops make my library days very special.

Collection Spotlight: Local Histories: Walls of Wire: Tatura, Rushworth, Murchison

Collection Spotlight: Local Histories: Walls of Wire: Tatura, Rushworth, Murchison

walls of wire

As part of a new initiative to more closely highlight the incredibly diverse collection the PMI holds, we are going to be discussing an area of the collection and an individual collection item within that area each month.

This month we are looking at local histories, the core of the PMI collection. We have information on pretty much every town in Victoria, as well as a lot more specific material on institutions within towns.

We are focusing on the material about the town of Tatura (we have 21 books on Tatura and its environs) and specifically the book Walls of Wire: Tatura, Rushworth, Murchison. The PMI collects Victorian History (and a selection of Australian History with Victorian content) and this book is an excellent example of the many items that feature in the PMI’s collection, highlighting the memories and experiences of people in even the smallest towns in Victoria.

Walls of Wire: Tatura, Rushworth, Murchison “is a social history of the humane Internment and Prisoner of War camps set up during WW2, (among others throughout Australia) at Tatura, Rushworth and Murchison in Central Victoria, Australia, under Army Southern Command, to accommodate both local and overseas internees and Prisoners of War.

The group of Tatura camps was one of the largest internment establishments in Australia – classed as a “model,” holding approx. 12,000 – 13,000 people of multi-cultures, multi-nations, men, women and children from almost every country in the world.” (blurb)

It is a wonderful resource of maps, photographs and advertisements/ration cards from its era. This book provides context about the Dictators that triggered the establishment of many camps, how many people who, despite living in Australia for many years, were interned with the outbreak of WW2 and the stories of many other who came from all over the globe as refugees and migrants.

There are characters waiting to jump out of these photos and make their way into an historical novel! A group that particularly captures my imagination are the Templers, from the Temple Society of Australia, a German community of Christian values that had been settlers in Palestine for approx 80 years. When WW2 broke those who remained were interned and most of the community immigrated to Australia, having had their homes effectively taken away and Germany not in a state to support many more new citizens.

I can only imagine what other stories, family histories and characters are waiting to be found in these pages!

For example, did you know that:

“Some Templers were deported to Australia in 1941 and were interned in the camps at Rushworth until 1946, one year after the war ended. At this time, despite having been deported to Australia, acquired their 5 years residential qualifications and could become Australian citizens. 95% of them did so…Apparently none of the members have ever regretted coming to Australia. Temple Society headquarters are in Melbourne, and their elderly members are cared for in the Temple Aged Peoples Home, consisting of self-contained units, hostel and nursing home.” (pg 111)

“ Rev. Martin Winkler, Lutheran minister originating from Nuremburg, Germany, maintains that all escapes from the camps occurred because the young virile men missed women’s company, so sought it outside the wire. Rev. Winkler himself, an interned civilian, was granted permission to roam freely from camp to camp, carrying out his role as chaplain, performing religious duties, conducting mass, burial exercises when necessary. Martin Winkler met his wife a young Templer girl from Palestine when interned in Camp 3. They were married in the camp.” (pg 110)

This brief precis only touches the edges of the many stories found in the internment camps and the history of Tatura. To find out more you’ll just have to borrow the book…


Meet the Volunteers: Book Carers

Meet the Volunteers: Book Carers

book carers

Kevin Powell, Irene Robinson, Jill Irvine. Not pictured: John Merry

The PMI is one of the only libraries that still does the end processing of our books in house. The fact that we can do this, is entirely down to our dedicated team of book carers. Irene Robinson, John Merry, Kevin Powell and Jill Irvine come in every Thursday and process and cover the week’s books. Every book you see go into our recent additions has been processed by these four dedicated volunteers. As part of the book processing they handle all the books donated including bequests and they re-process donations from other libraries so that they can become part of the PMI collection.

They are also some of our most long-term volunteers. Irene has been volunteering since 2008, Jill since 2009, John since 2013 and Kevin since 2017. I’d also like to acknowledge the hard work of Margaret Dunn who volunteered as a book carer from 2008 until she resigned in 2017. They are the core of the PMI’s essential volunteer group and we’d be in real trouble without them. Book caring is also a social event, with much conversation and discussion over the processing and afternoon tea, often accompanied by the Age quiz. They are always a delight to have in the library and their hard work is greatly appreciated.

But what do book carers actually do?

The books are waiting for them on the shelf, they are catalogued, barcoded and donation plaques are inserted, but the rest is up to the book carers.

The process begins with laying out the required material including: scissors (they have their own special scissors), adhesive covering, solid plastic covering, tattle tape, date due slips, rulers, double sided tape and glue sticks.

Kevin call numbers all the books, which involves printing off the labels with the assigned call numbers and sticking them to the spines or the back of the books using a little metal ‘dooverlackie’ (we had a discussion as to whether it was a dooverlackie or a thingamabob) that a member made for us about twenty years ago. It means all our call numbers go in the same place on all the books.

The carers then decide the best sort of plastic to use on each book, it depends on the type, and they begin to cover.

Each book must be covered, have a date due slip inserted in the back and tattle tape applied (so they beep if they go out the door without being deactivated).

Books are then stamped with the PMI stamps: title page, table of contents and the fore-edge of the books (if possible).

All through this, each book stays with their original piece of paper which has all the information on it for the book to find its place on the shelf.

The books then come back to staff to be checked and sent out onto the shelf.

It can be a convoluted process and our experienced book carers make sure that all our books are protected and as the PMI loans 90% of its collection and, very rarely removes material once it is in the collection, this protection is essential. As we said above, we couldn’t do it with out them.


Book Review: Master Gardener

Book Review: Master Gardener

Master Gardener: T.R Garnett of Marlborough College, Geelong Grammar School, The Age and The Garden of St Erth by Andrew Lemon

Review by Penny Woodward

master gardener

I always knew him as Tommy, and I only knew him in the last phase of his life when he and Penelope bought their property in Blackwood, which they called The Garden of St Erth. In 1986 Tommy wrote the forward to my first book Australian Herbal. At that time he didn’t need to be explained, anyone who gardened knew Tommy Garnett. But, today historian Andrew Lemon believes that his work is starting to be forgotten. Many of his books are out of print (luckily, I have them all) and his 15 years of articles for The Age are not on line. His gardening columns were always a joy, reflecting his scholarly background and gardening enthusiasm. I believe that no-one in Australia has yet bettered his erudite and wide-ranging garden prose. And there was something of this same approach to his gardening. Eclectic and idiosyncratic St Erth was a plantsman’s paradise.

I well remember my first visit, it was bone-chillingly cold, my breath misted the air in front of me, the ground was slippery with frost and I started to shiver but at the same time was totally beguiled by the garden surrounding me. A secret almost hidden garden, English style tucked into the middle of typical Australian bush. This bush later became an integral part of the garden. At this time, more than 25 years ago, the Garden of St Erth was the home and haven of Tommy and Penelope Garnett. Set in rural Victoria in hilly bush country 90km north west of Melbourne, the Garden of St Erth is constructed on the site of the old gold mining town, Simmonds Reef. At the height of the gold rush there were 14,000 people living here, at the time of my visit there were only two.

Although I visited their garden many times over many years, Tommy was best known to me, and others, through his From the Country columns in The Age. It has been a great joy to now read The Master Gardener and discover the detail of other parts of his working life; and family life with Penelope. We get to know Tommy as an English schoolboy, student cricketer, a flight lieutenant in the second world war, a scholar with a fascination for the classics, and a school principal in both the UK at Marlborough and at Geelong Grammar in Victoria, Australia

It was only after Tommy had retired as the head of Geelong Grammar that he and Penelope moved to Blackwood specifically to create their garden. Tommy was well known for saying that “All gardening is based on decay and renewal” recognising that gardens change over time. He also always encouraged gardeners to have a go and not to worry too much about mistakes. He was truly a scholar and a gentleman.

The Master Gardener at 632 pages takes time to read, but it is time very well spent.