I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Happy Beginning to 2009

Anyone can face homelessness ...

Whacko! Australia’s one year-old Rudd Government has said it will halve homelessness in Australia and offer supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who need it.

It has set targets to do this by 2020.

The government committed $400 million in the next two years for additional social housing for homeless people and $800 million in four years, being a ‘down payment on a twelve year reform agenda’.

With a national population of only 21.5 million people, that’s a good start for our new year.

As I’ve said before on 70 Plus there is great need, even in this comparative land of plenty:
  • 105,000 Australians experience homelessness each night
  • 188,000 Australians receive support each year through supported accommodation
  • 69,000 of those receiving support are children.
A few days before Christmas in a small town not far away, fifty homeless people were entertained at a barbecue. And yet we call ourselves the Lucky Country.

For a dozen years we had seen the gap between rich and poor growing hugely and the problem was largely ignored. This was so far away from our national character that normally called for a fair go for all.

This year for the fourth in a row, our support group for carers of persons suffering mental illness, working with a local Lions Club, distributed a large quantity of Christmas cakes to the most disadvantaged persons we could find.

We discovered people living rough on the local river banks and in parks, families in caravans and refuges. One refuge manager told us on Christmas Eve that she had just been notified to expect a woman with seven children who had become homeless.

The new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made his heart warming announcement on Christmas Eve, releasing the policy that states:
‘Homelessness is not just the result of too few houses. Its causes are many and varied - domestic violence, a shortage of affordable housing, unemployment, mental illness, family breakdown and drug and alcohol abuse all contribute to the level of homelessness in Australia.’

The Prime Minister said that reducing homelessness was everyone’s responsibility; that Australia’s efforts to reduce it needed to be urgent and well sustained.

And so say all of us!

‘This White Paper addresses the causes of homelessness and provides a framework for preventing homelessness from occurring in the first place’.

The policy promises to support victims of domestic violence to stay safely in their own home; increase public and community housing for people at risk of homelessness; improves tenancy advice and support services; and introduces a policy of ‘no exits into homelessness’ from hospitals, mental health and drug and alcohol services and statutory care.

‘These measures will help prevent more Australians from becoming homeless each year.’

The policy continues:
‘When – despite our best efforts – people become homeless, this White Paper sets out ways to strengthen the provision of services for these Australians.

‘It will help services to provide people who become homeless with the full range of support that they need – rather than leaving individuals to try and navigate a complex system looking for help.

‘Assertive outreach services will work with homeless people bringing people off the streets into the housing they need to end their homelessness permanently.’

More longer-term housing, more public and community housing and the issue of run down and overcrowded housing for Aborigines living in remote areas are all targets of the scheme.

Such an all-round effort to tackle the problem has to be welcomed. Let’s hope that nothing gets in the way of this ambitious plan.

Meanwhile I wish my bloggy mates the very best of wishes for 2009. May you and yours experience happiness, a desire to live peacefully with each other, and tread lightly on the planet.

Here’s a gem from the mouth of babes:

The little boy next door anxiously asked his Mum on the morning of Christmas Eve how long it would be before Santa Claus arrived.

Mum said: ‘just one more sleep, that’s all’.

Mr. Three: Can I have the sleep now?

True story.

What true stories do you have about this Christmas?

By the way - I have just posted episode 11 of my mystery novel 'Paternity' on my literary blog Journeys in Creative Writing. Pip is stalking the ghost of a man who raped her mother ...
On the site, you can also link to episodes 1-10 of this ripping yarn.

Thursday, 18 December 2008


I remember the feeling in my tummy when I was a kid when our family sang 'Jingle Bells' just before we went to bed on Christmas Eve. It was like having a ball of excitement there just underneath my rib cage.

We didn't have the gadgets the children have today but I do recall one particularly exciting year that seemed to soar above all others as The Best Christmas for gifts. We were bundled off to bed very early after stories of Santa Claus and his reindeers.

My sister and I must have fallen deeply asleep, for we heard nothing of the extensive preparations Father Christmas made in our bedroom that night.

I remember now, 60 and more years later, that I woke at dawn to see in the gloom what seemed to be a perpendicular sheet in the middle of the room, between my sister's bed and mine.

I lay still a minute or two and, as the light strengthened, crept out of bed to investigate.

The sheet turned out to be a small cowboy tent pitched there in the centre of the room, guyropes tied to the bed posts. My sister was awake by then of course, and we tiptoed around in wonder.

There were two guardians at the door of the tent - hand made stuffed Dutch dolls dressed and stitched beautifully by a special aunt. They had yellow woollen hair in plaits and starched dresses and aprons.

And inside the tent? A kid size table and two chairs built by my Dad, and laden with bundles of lollies tied together with bright ribbons.


Australian Christmas is a hot time of the year - so different to many nations on our planet. Here, it's a time for picnics and swimming, but we mostly still have Christmas pudding and turkey and ham. They are often served cold and more and more seafood is being served instead. Barbecues are also popular.

Click here for Jingle Bells Aussie style

And follow Santa on his very different journey in the Great South Land. It's well worth the tiny wait while the card downloads.

I came across this e-card with Australian singer Colin Buchanan's version of Jingle Bells set to backgrounds of Ken Buchanan's great photographs.

I'm putting this great little video on 70 Plus a little early - to wish my bloggy mates a happy Christmas and a peaceful, healthy and productive 2009. I dare you to keep still while this jumpy little tune plays! Listen often and smile ...

Love and hugs to you all from June in Oz

This is an Australian Christmas bell that brings a very special feeling to heaths and swamps in bushland around the Sydney area. It's a truly delightful plant, flowering at Christmas with
red yellow tipped tubes clustered at the top of a 60cm brittle stem.

I like the linocut (above) inspired by this lovely plant. Sadly, I don't know the name of the artist although the style reminds of me of the wonderful Australian artist Margaret Preston.

Do you think you'd enjoy an Australian Christmas? Compare customs here and the ones where you live and tell me your thoughts in a comment ...

By the way - I have just posted episode 10 of my mystery novel 'Paternity' on Journeys in Creative Writing. Pip is involved in a budding romance - will it go anywhere?

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Homeless at Christmas?

Have you ever put yourselves in the shoes of a homeless person?
A homeless person at Christmas?
And in saying the above, I'm assuming that this person has shoes that you can put your feet into ...

You may never have thought about it, but there are thousands of people out there, just on the edge of our suburbs of plenty, who live on the streets or even in bushland, with never a roof over their heads.

They often go cold and they go hungry.

They are lonely and they are stigmatised.

Without thought we comfortable people attach labels such as 'useless' and 'no-hopers' to those who are different, when they're mostly just down on their luck, or ill.

How can a homeless person shower each day? How can they afford a hair cut or shaving gear?

By far the greatest percentage of homeless people have some type of mental illness, ranging from the dreaded schizophrenia to depression and anxiety.

People with psychosis often live with demons in their head. These demons all seem very real and may swamp a person's life with threats and intimidation from insistent voices.

Other sufferers may be afraid of electricity, thinking it lethal or attached to entities they (and we) can't understand. Some KNOW that strangers from outer space are after them, or have implanted electronic tracking devices in their bodies.

Imagine it!

These hallucinations and delusions are often non stop and people with them must cope every day, combatting competing forces within their minds. No wonder they find it hard to keep a job, or be consistent enough to maintain the lease of a house. How could you even watch television? If there was one around!

It is thought that about one in four people suffer a mental illness in some time in their lives, and many more people (families, employers, neighbours, friends) are touched by it.

Many homeless people haven't seen their families for years and others have split up with their partners.

And what's more the pity, increasingly homeless people include parents with children. Whole families.

Yes, even in the most wealthy of countries families are losing their homes - and that's been going on long before the present global financial crisis. Ity could happen to any of us.

What would you do if that happened? How could you cope?

Homeless shelters are filled to overflowing these days. Rents are exhorbitant.

You're put out of your house because a month ago you lost your job which was only part time and casual anyway. Because of this family savings are non-existent.

Where do you put your bits and pieces? Where do you and yours lay your heads that night? And the next?

I'm sorry to be serious but the world must think of these things more often, especially in the months to come. Governments too. Primarily governments. But individuals can help by simply being aware and doing what we can.

As a volunteer, I run a support group for carers and families of people with a mental illness. We meet twice a month in the local library and the people who come to us often say the group has 'changed their lives'. We don't do much except be there and understand ...

It is huge when families discover that there are many others out there in the same boat. Carers swap their stories and their experiences, and the result is exciting.

Every year since 2004 we have been doing just a little to help mentally ill people who are homeless or down on their luck at Christmas.

Local service clubs help us with money and a Lions Club - the Lions Club of Terranora in Northern NSW Australia - gives us Christmas cakes. Members run sausage sizzles at local shopping centres through the year, to raise the funds.

We try to ferret out the most needy in our community to receive these small boxes of joy. Some we find literally on the streets or sleeping on the river bank. There are so many if you look.

So our Christmas cakes must go a long way. Local community organisations who care about these things are thrilled when we call with promises of the gifts. Last year the need was so great that some cakes were cut in half so they would go further ...

It's pretty special to know that at least some of our needy learn at Christmas that someone does care.

A happy and thoughtful pre-Christmas to all of my bloggy mates.

June in Oz

By the way I posted episode 9 of my Australian mystery novel 'Paternity' on Journeys in Creative Writing today. You can begin at the beginning by clicking here and scrolling down to November 16 Episode One.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

My Bike and Me and the Australian Economy

This is me and my new bike - a gift to myself that I bought with part of our new government's extra payment to pensioners, scheduled to arrive in our bank accounts this week, in time for Christmas. I couldn't wait!

New Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the payment several weeks ago, just after the world's economy hit the fan. He acted early on several fronts in an effort to cushion Australia against expected global shocks.

The government's idea is to stimulate the economy as well as do something to help the less well off who had missed out badly during the years of the old government.

Aged pensioners, carers, seniors, veterans, and people with a disability are among those to receive the one off payment. People on their own will receive $1,400 and couples $2,100 between them. You can imagine that there is much excitement.

Mr Rudd said that these amounts were a down payment on additional regular amounts to be announced in June next year, in the 2009 budget. At the moment those on a full pension live on $A276 per week - or about $US178, 122.4 British pounds or $CAN227 - not much to maintain a house and feed and clothe yourself, especially if you live alone!

Mind you we are lucky to have a largely free health system, even though that too was watered down in recent years.

The government is doing research before establishing future payments and probably announcing a whole new ball game for pension entitlements. Ministers are very straightforward in their declarations of support for the strugglers, and these acts back their words in a very practical way.

Rudd and Co want us to spend the one off money as quickly as we can to help stave off any threat of recession. I bought my bike as a way of keeping fit and healthy and will pay off bills with the rest - in effect pumping my little lot straight into the economy.

It does look as though Australia is being gradually drawn into the whirlpool of international economic crisis, with China's demands for our minerals slowing somewhat.

The Australian Reserve Bank has announced several huge interest rate cuts and the government very large programmes of spending on national infrastructure, plus other various measures all designed to keep the economy moving.

Our economy slumped to record a growth rate of only one per cent in the past quarter - good by international standards the Treasurer rushed to declare, but pretty scarey in reality.

Banks still aren't lending much money and retail sales have dropped drastically.

Mortgage payers have breathed a sigh of relief with the interest rate drops as most home loans are based on variable rates, not fixed as in so many other countries. Also there are not so many sub-prime loans around, unlike overseas. That means the burden of home buyers is softened here.

News of future job losses is gaining pace however, and companies and businesses are beginning to collapse.

This global situation sure demonstrates how important it is to watch those in power in the global economic system doesn't it? We must regulate them, whether they like it or not.

How are you all going in your little neck of the woods? Tell me in a comment ...

By the way, things are getting very exciting over at Journeys in Creative Writing where I'm serialising my novel 'Paternity'. There are eight episodes there now and you can start at the beginning by following a link. Join the hundreds of others who seem to be enjoying it.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Rocks - Living History

I don't want 70 Plus to turn into a tourist trap but so many of my bloggy mates have been interested in my Sydney pix, I'll give it one more turn ...

The Rocks (above) is regarded as the most historic part of Sydney unless you are of the view held by the Australian Aboriginal - a race that had been here already for thousands of years.

Governor Arthur Phillip, his soldiers and the convicts they brought with them from Britain here began the settlement to be called Sydney Town, in 1788.

Naturally enough mayhem and massacre followed as the British spread further inland, with the result that the Aborigines were dispossessed. Even today they fight for their land rights through the courts.

This sad history was the root of Prime Minister Rudd's historic and welcome 'Sorry' statement in the Federal Parliament earlier this year.

Mercifully, much of The Rocks of the 19th century remains today and the place has been cleverly transformed into restaurants, bistros, pubs, boutique shops, markets and with music and entertainment along its main streets and squares.

The area nestles beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge and on the shores of Sydney Cove, opposite the Opera House.

On my most recent visit I wandered into this alcove and down a corridor to find a small coffee shop with wonderful ambience and yummy cakes. This is the way of The Rocks these days, with surprises around every corner.

Many of the imposing and seemingly sombre 19th century wool stores, the centre of the colony's famous industry for so long, have also been transformed, with interiors now shops and offices.

There are still reminders of even earlier times with convict workmanship in evidence on some of the original buildings.

Music, art and buskers add to a fascinating precinct.

Here standing guard is one of Phillip's soldiers carved in relief from Sydney sandstone - a contrast to the visitors and locals.
In the distance in this shot is ...

One of the week-end markets that draws crowds seeking arts and crafts and souvenirs.

The Rocks is a great place to meet your friends for a lazy afternoon ...

It's a fun place for everyone.

Including the greatest scavengers of all - the seagulls.

This is George Street North, one of the oldest of Sydney thoroughfares. You can see the entrance to the Ken Done art gallery known for the artist's colourful paintings of the harbour and environs.

And next door is The Bakers Oven - with its luscious cakes and slices on tempting display.
The Rocks has it all.

Has your home town left its history for future generations?

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Sydney Opera House and The Harbour

The Sydney Opera House can be mistaken for just any boat - depending on the angle of your view. Many types of craft move around her, adding to the impression.

In fact this beautiful building is situated on a small peninsular jutting into the harbour. The land is called Bennelong Point after one of the first Aborigines to become acquainted with the First Fleeters from Britain.

The point was originally the site of an Aboriginal midden or community gathering place and became one of the first areas from which this ancient race was dispossessed.

The surrounding precinct is one of my favourite parts of Sydney, my home town.

You can see Bennelong Point in this shot, as well as a trace of Mrs Macquarie's Chair and other parkland that extends quite a distance to take in the Sydney Botanical Gardens.

Large and very beautiful, Sydney has been a working harbour since the place was first settled by British people in 1788.

You could always count on seeing huge passenger and container ships, even warships, moving through the heads and past many of the harbourside suburbs.

There is about to be change however, with wharves soon to be abandoned and shipping moved to other ports. Right now there is much push and pull whether the sites will become parks or high rise.

I hope the greenies win!

Old restored and replica ships provide day trips for tourists and add to the colour of the harbour.

Of course visitors are everywhere. Here you can see the broad steps leading up to the Opera House proper.

It's as though the building is a giant set of monkey bars where visitors and locals climb and play - all over the site.

The Opera House is a real people place. Danish acrhitect Jorn Utzon did a remarkable job with this stunning creation.

Another icon, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is a neighbour of the Opera House. As is this hotel that also carries maritime reminders.

I got confused with all of the angles in this shot - I can assure you that the tourists who stay at this resort do have level floors on which to walk! I think the result is fun anyway.

You can tour the bridge and climb high onto the arch for an astonishing view. Here you see tourists on their way aloft.

The bridge is a presence in many parts of the city. This is the northern end of George Street, I think the oldest thoroughfare in the city. Old wool stores in The Rocks area can be seen in the distance.

I'll take my bloggie mates on a tour of this area in the near future.

Nearby Circular Quay is another of my all time favourites. Here something is always happening.

Ferries dock and leave for suburbs in many areas of the harbour, buskers entertain and there is a constant flow of fascinating human beings.

This day was very grey and drizzling, but few let that bother them.

At first glimpse, this bright figure can be mistaken for a grandmother tending her littlies.

Hang around a little and we see that 'she' is a male busker - one of those who can stand stock still for astonishing periods. He waylaid a couple of little tourists (with parental permission) to take part in his show.

This news stand operator sees a lot of interesting sights every working day.

Captain Cook dropped in to say hello. He was promoting a cruise around the harbour.

Of course the Captain was the explorer who discovered eastern Australia for the British in 1770.

Only eight years later the government established the new colony as a gaol where they could get rid of their overflow of 'criminals', a large number of whom were transported for minor misdemeanours.

Many had stolen to survive and others were political prisoners. Others of course were murderers and villains through and through.

Coal miners were demonstrating about changes in their industry and came to the quay after a very large march through the city.

And then, of course, there were everyday Australian families enjoying themselves. These parents were tending their flock in a huddle that looked to me as though it could have belonged in a farm yard ...

These little guys enjoyed themselves so much they knocked themselves right out ...

Post Script: I have just learned that the architect of the Sydney Opera House Jorn Utzon today died in his sleep at his home in Denmark, aged 90.

Mr Utzon was involved in disputes with the New South Wales Government during construction of his wonderful building, and left the project in 1966, six years before it was completed. He never returned to Australia and never saw his work once it was finished. He always said he wasn't bitter about the experience.

In 1999, the Opera House invited Mr Utzon to prepare a statement of design principles for future changes to the building. Burying the troubles of the past, he agreed to work on the project as a consultant with his son and partner Jan.

In 2003, at the age of 85, Mr Utzon was recognised by his peers and awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize, regarded as the Nobel Prize of architecture.

On the eve of the Sydney Opera House's 30th birthday in 2003, Mr Utzon sent a video message to Sydney expressing his gratitude at being involved in the new building developments.

"My gratitude is from the heart," he said. "Thank you very much for giving me permission to work again on the House."

“I have made a sculpture . . . you will never be finished with it – when you pass around it or see it against the sky . . . something new goes on all the time . . . together with the sun, the light and the clouds, it makes a living thing.”
- Jorn Utzon, 2002

What is the favourite part of your home town? Can you share the memories with us? Just leave a comment ...

And don't forget the latest episode of my novel 'Paternity' on Journeys in Creative Writing! It's an Outback Australian story of a city journalist trying to find her father ...

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Sydney - My Home Town

I love to visit Sydney where I was born, and taking pictures is always part of the scene. I thought you may like to see some that I took on recent jaunts ... They are not iconic Sydney, but more unusual angles and happenings. These particular shots are mostly in the bustling CBD with its shops and offices.

Enticing window displays are everywhere ...

As are flowers, captured in troughs and pots to soften the landscape.

My daughter Lynne and I made this trip together and here she is casting her designer's eye over the plants.

Somehow the plants survive the traffic fumes.

As does this gentleman taking a rest in the middle of it all.
It's probably safer for him to sleep in the middle of the day rather than at night ...

Bright colour dots the grey ...

I like the angles and curves in this one.

And the Victorian glamour of the magnificent State Theatre. It still shows movies but the organ that accompanied the films for years has disappeared. This is just a glimpse of the street foyer.

We walked our legs off that day, did a little shopping and then shouted ourselves a meal at the fish markets. Here you can choose the greatest freshest sea food, ponder how it will be prepared and eat it there and then sitting on the wharves.

What dish would choose? Or would more shopping be your thing?

Friday, 21 November 2008

The Aussie Barbecue - a Phenomenon

How about this barbecue cook top arrangement as a pointer to an orderly mind?

I spied a brawny Aussie bloke cooking his snags and eggs on a barbecue down at my closest beach a few weeks ago ...

Fair dinkum, no prompting and no joke. This was his modus operandi!

There he was, out in public view alongside sun-drenched families enjoying themselves, creating an art form.

No egg rings for him - sausages filled the bill, capturing the oozing eggs before they got caught up in the onion rings alongside on the hot plate.

I have no idea who he was, but he was only too happy when I asked him if I could snap his creation. He was proud of it.

Barbecues are big deal in Australia, and come in many forms. Paul Hogan invaded the US of A TV advertising a few years ago trying to persuade the good residents to come to our shores where they'd be sure to be invited to 'throw a prawn on the barbie'.

Truth be told, sausages, eggs, chops and steak are much more likely fair in the Wide Brown Land. Accompanied by a big salad tossed in a bowl.

I caught this man and his son cooking their own version on the council barbecue next door to The Orderly One's Art Work.

His technique is far more typical - with its bacon onions and tomatoes arranged anyhow.

Many Australian beaches are dotted with permanent barbecue facilities stocked with gas that are available for free. We can be confident of being able to roll up with just the makings of a meal and get cooking in no time.

The cook tops are always spotless - cleaned and polished daily by council employees. And there are generally benches and seats nearby to spread the repast.

It's OKAY for Aussie blokes to cook in public. In fact it's a BADGE OF COURAGE.

A barbecue is often about the only time Australian women get to put their feet up when entertaining is happening in our families. Although it's dangerous to generalise!

Home barbecues tend often to be more flash, with families and friends summonsed to quite an elaborate feast set up in the garden or around the pool.

Cooking tops themselves can range from a simple Japanese style grill to a steel plate that can get a might rusty, to stainless jet numbers with built in ovens, grills, plates - you name it.

The best fun, so far as I'm concerned, is the meal that you simply stand back and throw - and if the snags are burned around the edges, who's going to notice under the tomato sauce?

Do you have something equivalent to the Aussie barbecue in your home town? I'd really like to know. Tell me in a comment ...

By the way everyone - I've just posted the third episode of my Aussie mystery novel on Journeys in Creative Writing - drop over after you comment here eh?

Monday, 17 November 2008

The Joys of a Hip High Veggie Garden

You can't beat a backyard veggie garden when it comes to providing nutritious food for the family and saving money at the same time.

I have a tiny traditional height garden but I'm still able to produce sufficient veggies to save myself dollars every week.

One of my favourite parts of the day is when I wander into the garden in the evening to pluck beans, salad or herbs to add zing to my evening meal.

More and more people around the seaside towns of the Northern Rivers region of NSW are doing the same thing. I think the whole world should catch this beneficial disease!

In the past two years there has been increasing interest in the hip high veggie gardens displayed at the local garden centre owned by my daughter and son-in-law John (pictured at top).

Bloggie friends have been asking me about the gardens since I included this pic in a post a couple of weeks ago.

They not only grow great food but elderly people and even those confined to wheel chairs can still tend their own home gardens with one of these beauties.

Just imagine - no more bad backs and no more bending over to weed.

Today I'll explain how to get one going for yourself.

Lynne and John tell me that although they have had great success with their Aussie corrugated iron versions, it's fine to build your own with old railway sleepers or concrete for instance.

John suggests half filling the hip high beds with around a cubic metre of drainage gravel, topped with good quality organic garden soil.

He recommends separating these two layers with permeable shade cloth to prevent the soil sinking into the gravel but allowing the passage of moisture.

After that lace the top with plenty of organic composted manures and all round fertiliser.

Then it's a matter of choosing a variety of vegetable seedlings and you're away!

This little setup can keep you in veggies for years if you top up the compost and fertilisers now and then and rotate the types of plants in each spot.

These days horticulturists realise that most plants love living closely cheek by jowl, and that this prevents the growth of weeds as well. Gone are the days of ordered rows ...

You'll be surprised how much can be grown in a small space. And there's no need to stop at veggies.

Plant a fruit tree instead of an ornamental shrub and you'll win every time!

Are people growing more food in their gardens where you live? Have you ever had a veggie garden?

And by the way if you enjoy a rip roaring yarn with a fair sprinkling of Australiana - have a look at Journeys in Creative Writing my literary blog. I'm serialising my novel called Paternity and it's free viewing!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Family History and World War I

My great uncle joined the 4th Battalion of the Australian Infantry Force in 1916 at the age of 18 years 10 months.

He signed up for an adventure and died on the Western Front battlefields of the Somme, in France, on July 9 1918, just four months before the guns of World War I fell silent. His body was never found.

Here he is pictured just before embarking for Europe. The boy is my father James.

It is estimated that 59,000 Australians died during the war. Of the 330,000 of my nation's youth who were mobilized for service it is thought 152,000 were injured. That adds up to 64 per cent who were seriously affected.

The entire Australian population of the time was just five million.

This week the world is commemorating the 90th anniversary of the official conclusion of the horrors of that war.

Generations later, to the very many families so intimately involved, those horrors remain in memory.

Robert Hamilton Saville - Bob to adults in his family and 'Bobo' to his nieces and nephews - was the apple of our family's collective eye. Indeed, my father named his only son (and my brother) after him.

Five years after his death his mother Jessie described her existence as 'a living agony'. She said this in a letter to the Australia armed forces pleading for information about her son.

The letters she wrote over many years, always seeking news of Bob, sketch in graphic fashion the horrors faced by loved ones because of war.

This is Robert Hamilton Saville's mother Jessie in happier times.

And the letter below is one of many similar ones which my brother Bob recently discovered in the records of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Actually, so far as Bob was concerned, the army tried hard to get information for Jessie, including interviewing soldiers in Bob's unit.

There was so much confusion on those battlefields, with shocking battles being fought time and again over the one small piece of ground. Bodies were often blown to pieces and were buried where they lay, by falling earth and rocks.

One soldier recounted how he saw Bobbie Saville 'killed near me by bomb or bullet at Merris about midnight during a hop over just before reaching our objective. He died instantly.'

Another said that Bob had been buried where he lay, by members of his own platoon. 'The ground was held' he added, in seeming satisfaction.

A Lance Corporal testified that he had also seen Bob killed - 'with a bomb'. 'On the way back I examined Saville and found him quite dead. He was buried later on. I knew him quite well.'

A Private said he had seen Bob killed outright by machine gun fire, and had seen him lying dead on the ground soon afterwards.

An officer added: 'According to informant Saville was well thought of by his mates.'

Jessie had nine children all together, including three sons and a daughter who all died within a year of birth. Obviously she prized every one of them.

But it seemed that her gravest sorrow was not knowing exactly what had happened to Bob, or where he lay. On the other hand, she may never have received these eye witness accounts. I wouldn't know.

During World War I Jessie and the family also worried about Bob's brother Herbert Nathaniel (above) who made it the the end of the war in the same battalion. This portrait depicts him five months after the official ending.

Some time afterwards Jessie also wrote letters seeking to know what had happened to her brother William, who fought in Europe as well. Records tell us that he returned, but I understand that Jessie herself never find out.

This is a form Bob filled in to enlist. The crossings-out and alterations are changes made whenever Jessie contacted the army from a new address - she moved around a lot.

Jessie never wanted Robert Hamilton to go to war, and did what she could to prevent it happening.

When Bob was 18 years and four months old and his mother was away in Queensland he enlisted without parental consent. Jessie found out and wrote to the army saying she absolutely refused her son permission to join up.

Bob had been training for two months and the army was obliged to discharge him 'at his mother's request'. By this time the Gallipoli campaign was in full swing.

It seems Bob was determined to serve and finally both his parents agreed to him joining up again only four months after he was released.

His new enlistment form stated that Bob was but 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighed 130 pounds, with a 32 inch chest expanding to 35.5 inches. He had a 'fresh' complexion, brown eyes and light brown hair.

Bob embarked on the 'Wiltshire' among reinforcements for France via England on August 22 1916. By this time the 4th Battalion had moved on from Turkey.

Herb Saville also joined the 4th Battalion in France and like so many of their mates the brothers protected those at home from much of the horror they were facing. This was especially the case, naturally, where children were involved.

On March 22 1917 Herb wrote a letter to his niece Edie who was nine at the time. It's a lovely, gentle letter.

Edie was one of the sisters of my father Jim who was then aged eight. Here they are pictured around the time.

Edie also received a letter from Uncle Bobo:

Bob spent some time in hospital in France and England with scabies and dermatitis (no wonder in the conditions) and also served as a batman to Captain R.A. McAlpine MC at the training school at Aldershot in England before being shipped back to the Western Front.

It is such a waste that fine people are drawn into such horrors. The sooner wars of all varieties are ended forever, the better.

How do you feel about war and the effect they have on families? Do you have similar stories?