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

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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.

Town of the Month: Fyansford

Town of the Month: Fyansford

Welcome to a new series highlighting cities, towns, townships and localities across Victoria and drawn from material in our extensive collection at PMI.

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0-4-0 saddle tank ‘Wesley B. McCann’ at Belmont on the Belmont Common Railway in Geelong some years after being retired from Fyansford. Photographer unknown, Steven Haby collection

This first post focuses on the small township of Fyansford which, nowadays, could be considered an outer western suburb of Geelong.

Named after Captain Foster Fyans who arrived in Geelong as a police magistrate in October 1837, it is located on the junction of the Barwon and Moorabool rivers.

The current population (based on the 2016 Census) is 196.

Given the age of the township is it is well known for its historic bluestone buildings including the famous Fyansford Hotel and old Hamilton Highway bridge. There are six heritage listed structures in and around Fyansford.

The proximity to water made Fyansford ideal for industry such as a flour mill established in 1845 and the Barwon Paper Mill which opened in 1876 at Buckleys Falls. In more recent times the area was well known for cement production with the silos towering over the top of the hill at Hyland Street. These silos and associated plant could be seen from most places in Geelong. A railway line was constructed to serve the plant from North Geelong railway yard and it featured one of the steepest gradients on the Victorian broad gauge network.

Australian Portland Cement, which operated the works, constructed a narrow gauge railway from the works to a new quarry nearby which was worked by a fascinating array of locomotives and featured the longest railway tunnel (prior to the City Loop) in Victoria at 1.3km in length. The railway line was closed in 1966 replaced by a conveyor and the diesel locomotive was sold to the Victorian Railways and the six steam locomotives were donated to various preservation societies.

The cement works closed in 2001 but the silos remain and have been adorned with artwork.

Key facts

Number of items in the PMI collection with the subject heading Fyansford (Vic.): 4

Keyword search: 26 items (including numerous journal articles)

Postcode: 3218

Local Government Area: City of Greater Geelong

Key buildings or landmarks: Fyansford Hotel, cement works silos



Meet the Volunteers: Wendy Eldridge and the Friends of the PMI Library

Meet the Volunteers: Wendy Eldridge and the Friends of the PMI Library

This year we are going to be introducing you to our hard working volunteers. We begin with Wendy Eldridge the indefatigable leader of the Friends of the PMI Library. We asked her to write about her work at the PMI and the role the Friends play. As Wendy makes clear, the Friends are very much a team and we acknowledge all their dedicated work. 

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The Friends setting up a book sale

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Wendy at Clunes Book Fair just having finished setting up

I was asked if I mind writing about being a volunteer at the PMI. I joined the PMI around 10 years ago, I was so excited to find a library that allows you to take home Family History reference books. Coming from NSW I had never found a library to equal the PMI.

In 2016 I attended a meeting with a group of PMI members and Christine Worthington was proposing to organise a “Friends of the Library group”. After some thought I put my hand up to volunteer.  Christine then informed me that the PMI thought I should be the coordinator of the Friends of the PMI Library and with a bit of encouragement from Christine I accepted the role.

Nearly three years on and I have had the most enjoyable fun. We started with a group of four and organised the first duty of the group, to hold a book sale.  At the moment we have about eight of us who assist with the book sales and many other activities, and I have found lovely friends. I am technically their leader, but many a day I can be the coffee maker, we have created a team and welcome each other’s input to improving the book sales. We have also developed a good association with the Cinema group and the Railway group that both occupy areas in the library.

Many that know me say I am passionate about Family History, some would say I am obsessed (I think I’ll stick with passionate). In 2017 the PMI Friends Group began organising Family History lessons, thus forming a teaching group. I was so pleased the Friends Group was growing and among us we are developing a group of members happy to bring and share their time and talents.

I have always believed the PMI to be a gold mine for researching ever since I first discovered it. I have been doing my own Family History for over 20 years, publishing books on my family and helping others to design their family story. Family History is very much a sharing of knowledge and family information. I hold a certificate in Family History search and the other ladies from our Friends teaching group have very valuable knowledge and skills to share.

From the lessons the idea came to form a Family History Social group to meet once a month on the 1st Monday of each month. We started last November, and we hope that many members take advantage of having Volunteers in the library that can help them travel the exciting journey of unraveling their ancestries. There are so many gems to be found in the library.

I am very fortunate that my work as a Managing Sales Representative is only three days a week, and enjoyable, allowing me two days if I wish to come in to PMI and volunteer. It always takes me an hour and 10 minutes to get there and going home can take two hours, but the rewards of the people I volunteer with, the staff and committee and all the members we get to meet and know is so worth it.

My goal for 2019 is to encourage members to come and help The Friends of PMI Library Group, to grow in volunteer numbers and to encourage many new people to join this gem of a library as it is unique. Thank you to everyone who works alongside me you are the reason you often see my name in print, without you I wouldn’t be having the fun I so enjoy.



Meet The Committee: PMI President Dr Judith Buckrich

Meet The Committee: PMI President Dr Judith Buckrich

As part of an ongoing series, each month we will be profiling one of our committee members. 

We are beginning with our esteemed president: Dr Judith Buckrich


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Dr Judith Buckrich was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1950 and emigrated to Melbourne, Australia with her parents in 1958. She has a BEd in Drama and Media Studies from Rusden College (1977) and a PhD from the University of Melbourne (1997). Since 1991 she has written 13 histories and biographies of Melbourne people and places. She won the 2016 Victorian Community History Award for The Village of Ripponlea and the 2018 Fellowship of Australian Writers (Victoria) Award for non-fiction for Acland Street: the Grand Lady of St Kilda.

Judith was international Chair of the PEN Women Writers’ Committee from 2003 to 2009 and President of the Melbourne PEN Centre from 1993 to 2005. In 2018 she was elected President of the PMI Victorian History Library, a role that enables her to ‘give back’ for the tremendous support she has received for her projects from the PMI during the last 15 years. The PMI is at present going through an immense upsurge of activity and Judith is keen to see the library broaden its horizons, and especially to support the staff and volunteers in their endeavours.

Judith is the author of:

(all Judith’s books can be found in the PMI Library. Just follow the links above)

Judith returned to Budapest in 1987 and was working for the English language Daily News during the 1989 velvet revolution. She had many articles published about the end of the cold war period in Eastern Europe in The Age Monthly Review, Quadrant and Directions. She returned to Australia at the end of 1989.

In 1995 she co-edited, with Lucy Sussex, the first anthology of Australian women’s science fiction, fantasy and magic realism, She’s Fantastical.

She has edited two collections of Australian poetry translated into Hungarian by Istvan Turczi.

Between 2003 and 2009 she edited the third and fourth volumes of Our Voice/Nuestra Voz/Notre Vois for the International PEN Women Writers’ Committee.

Since 1977, Judith has written works for the theatre, short stories, feature articles and essays and worked as an editor and translator. She has taught writing at Deakin University, the Victorian Writers’ Centre and Melbourne University Union and been an arts administrator. She has spoken about her work on television and radio and given talks at the National Gallery of Victoria, Royal Historical Society of Victoria and for many other organizations. She has curated exhibitions for the Royal Historical Society of Victoria and the Museum of the Port of Melbourne. She has several entries in Remembering Melbourne 1850-1960 and the Encyclopedia of Melbourne for which she was image researcher.