Dec 06

Cadets was compulsory in Form 3 and 4 at Monivae College.

I hated cadets.

The first ever Cadet Day in Form 3 was dreadful, I was in tears, for whatever reason going on in my young mind, I was dead-set against being a part of cadets.

I got to school, dreading it.  I went to the public phone box on the school grounds, a phone in a small room and called Mum, crying on the phone, telling her that I really didn’t want to do this.

In my cadet uniform Form 3 - 1978

In my cadet uniform Form 3 – 1978

While Mum was trying to reassure me that everything would be OK, she did say she’d ring the school and speak with them and tell them I didn’t want to participate.

I returned to the class room and the guy in charge, Mr. Walsh came and saw me.  He asked why I didn’t want to join in.  He told me all my friends would be in the cadets and I’d be the odd one out.  I thought what a cheap shot that was, I’m a teenager – I get peer pressure and I hate my class mates.

I was made to sit down and write an essay to explain my reasoning.

I don’t think I was able to properly articulate my reasons, the first and possibly only line on the page was “I’m against war”.  That was it.

I still don’t really know why I didn’t want to be a part of it.  Perhaps I saw it as too military for my liking.

In any case I succumbed, and joined.  I probably had little choice.  I seem to recall a sort of threat, from the principal, that it was part of the school curriculum and it wasn’t optional.  Which to me meant if you want to be at Monivae, you have to be in cadets.

So I dressed up as expected, in my greens, and pretended to be a solider.

I had Scouts, and didn’t see the need for Cadets, which just seemed to be a scaled down version with none of the same systems.  I really resented guys my age, or a couple of years older yelling at me.  And that’s what it amounted too.  It may have given leadership skills to those picked to be in positions of power, but the reality was that they weren’t really getting leadership skills, they were just feeding their desire to be the boss of me.  They got to yell and be vindicated for their bullying behaviour, because this was pretend Army and that’s how it worked.

The other thing that I really hated was having to give up my lunch breaks to go and practice marching.  Seriously, you want me to march up and down the basketball courts for what reason?  Apart from trying to train me up in fancy synchronised wafting about what did you hope to achieve?

So, I’d wag Cadet days, pretend to be sick, lie to Mum, tell her it wasn’t on.  Of course, I’d have to go sometimes and I hated it.

Every year we had the big Cadet Presentation Day when some big wig from the Army would arrive and we’d do this strange ceremony of passing over the colours.  We would march out onto the oval (hence the reason for lunch time marching) and spend some hours standing there while some wanker walked up and down reviewing a bunch of boys in greens. Complete waste of my Sunday.

I wagged that too.  Mr. Walsh told me that I needed a letter from my mum as to why I didn’t attend.  I couldn’t get one, because I was too scared to ask Mum.  It would reveal the lie I had told.  So instead of having to front that lie, I told Mr. Walsh the truth – that I didn’t want to go, so I didn’t.  He looked me up and down, probably because he couldn’t work out why I wasn’t scared of him, clearly he didn’t know my mother very well.  He smiled, cocked his head on one side and through his good eye, make contact, smiled and told me “You’re strange, Storer”.

That was that, I received no punishment at all for it.

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Apr 26

I’m a lad of Western Victoria, born and raised in Hamilton in the state’s Western District.

I lived there from 1963 until 1995. Then I moved to Melbourne.

Hamilton is the place I consider home.  Despite my 20 years in the big smoke, I still have a hankering for that small rural town.

This Easter weekend I spent my time in the area, it was a bit different this time around.

I visited those places that were important to me, well, those places that give me fond memories.

McIntyre StreetThe house where all thirteen of us lived is still there. It seems that no work has been done on it in the last twenty years, it’s starting to fall apart.  The gutters are covered in mould and moss, the windows looked dirty, it needs a paint job.  The roses that Mum and Dad pruned every year haven’t been touched in decades.

I thought that our back garden was huge.  It was divided into three areas, the dog’s yard, the vegetable garden and the other area that had a big round garden in it that didn’t really have a name.  Perhaps we just called that the back yard.  The reality in my adult years is that it is just a standard house block.  Many years we spent riding our bikes around the round garden and up the driveway, looking at the birds in the aviary, playing with the dog or getting the chook eggs.

TheTreeIn the dog’s yard was a tree that my brothers and sisters spent many hours in, climbing it and sitting in its branches, looking over the back yard and beyond to Portland Road and the empty paddocks.  Just on the outskirts of town was the abattoir and we had a clear view of the building and often we could hear the sheep carrying on in the paddocks having their last feed and then we were treated to the distinctive smell of death.  From the tree it felt like we could see all the way to Port Fairy.  We had special branches that we sat on that formed little seats for us.

corner fenceWhen I wanted to sneak out of the house, I would go to the rear corner of the vegetable garden and climb the fence, it was the only area that my mum couldn’t see from a window in the house, or so I thought, I doubt I ever really was sneaking, but it sort of gave me that impression.  I’d jump up on the fence, over the stump, land on a rock and be gone.

Once over the fence we could wander down the hill of Skene Street to the creek.  In the early days it wasn’t a concrete path, just a dirt track with a big open gutter.  When the foothpath was finally concreted we built billy carts and raced them down the path, holding on for dear life.  It must have annoyed the crap out of the neighbours.

oldbridgeThe creek, or more accurately, the Grange Burn, at the end of the street is ugly.  Still.  It should have character and charm.  Picnic tables and ducks.  It has a footbridge, the original bridge had some character, when Wags (the dog) ran across it the whole bridge would wobble much to the terror of us small ones.  My dad or older brothers would bounce on the bridge to get it swaying just to give us a fright.

both bridgesThere’s an historic sign there now that says the trees were planted in 1904 to beautify the area, 110 year later I’m still waiting to see the beauty.  From a childhood perspective though, the creek was an escape.  We would spend hours under the willow tree trying to catch the prickly-back yabby.  I spent hours with a fishing line in the water, I think I only ever caught two fish, but plenty of yabbies.  In the 70’s there was talk of beautifying the area again, that saw the Council go through and remove a bunch of bullrushes and Poplar trees, but it never really looked any good.

The other place that I spent my youth was at the local scout camp, it’s still there, called Mallangeeba.  It’s about 20 minutes out of town, close to the Wannon Falls.  I was there when the scouts first started using the site in the early 70’s.  I’m told that we scouts all got on a train at Hamilton and took the journey there and got off at Wannon.  We planted trees and camped the weekend.

I was there when the scouts bought the place from the Church of England.  We had to sell the land that we had a few kilometres down the road and I remember that being quite a fight, people threatening to resign if we sold Reed’s Park.  Years later it doesn’t seem so important.

As a lad we use to camp tMallangeebahere with the 3rd Hamilton Scout Group, I can still sing you the Group song, every now and then I find myself humming it.  It was a Catholic Group and because we were Catholic we had a strong commitment to Mary the Blessed Virgin and mother of God. Known as the BVM.  Every time we went camping we’d take this statue of the BVM with us. At Mallangeeba we’d put her in a tree hollow and say the rosary.  That’s one Our Father and ten Hail Mary’s.  At least the standard 5 decades, interspersed with a Glory Be to the Father and requesting St Francis to pray for us.
As a Leader I too took my young charges to camp at the Wannon.  We’d gather around the flag pole on the parade ground, I’d stretch out my arms and yell “Pack, Pack, Pack, Pack” and a bunch of cubs would respond with “Paaaaaaack” before squatting down at my signal and doing the Grand Howl.

FallsOver the road from the Scout Camp is the Wannon Falls, a spectacular fall when the water is flowing, at the moment however, it’s dry.  When I left in 1995 the Scouts gave me a photograph of the falls in full flood.

As we drove back into town we stopped at the cemetery.  I haven’t been back here since we buried Dad in August 2013.

Mum and DadI’m not sure what I was expecting, but I marched up to the graveside, my parents’ remains are in the same grave.  I read the plaque and stood in quiet contemplation.  There was nothing emotional about it.  I wasn’t talking to them, I wasn’t really remembering anything in particular I was more interested to see who was buried around them.  Some part of me needed to see this final resting place of my parents, the final resting place of my youth and the final resting place of my connection to this Western District home.

As I drove around the town for one last time, it occurred to me why I was here.

Hamilton is where I was born, I went to school, my first job the paper round, then years of working in the newsagency and then the City of Hamilton.  I was here when man landed on the moon, when the local member Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister, when we won the America’s Cup, when the first Iraq war started.  It all unfolded in Hamilton.

When I was first married I lived in Hamilton, our two children were born here.  We went to play group and kindergarten together before we moved.

I was the City of Hamilton Young Citizen of the Year, received the WF Waters Award for my contribution to Scouting and a Certificate of Merit for Scouting.  I knew people, and they knew me.

Hamilton was my town.

As I drove out the Glenelg Highway back towards Melbourne, with a few tears rolling down my cheek, I realised that I was here to say goodbye.

Home isn’t here any more.

My folks are dead, buried with a bunch of other people I know, just another plaque on the ground.

Now there is no reason to call this home.

Michael and I drive back to Melbourne, we are going back to make a new home for us, the Western District lad has finally left baimbridge



*photos by Michael Barnett

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Feb 10

I have a long history with Scouting.  I stopped being a leader when I became a single parent, it was just too hard to manage two children, baby sitters and the dedication to the various meetings that demanded my time.

I think Scouting has some grand ideals.  The Aims and Principals are pretty much the same as in my day.  Here’s the current version:

The Aim of Scouting is to encourage the physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual development of young people so that they take a constructive place in society as a member of their local, national and international community.

I think that’s very noble. (Clearly I have an issue about the spiritual development nowadays)  In this day and age the movement has added a bunch of values.  Let me pick a few out for you.

  • The importance of individuals developing a sense of personal identity and self-worth which leads to responsibility for oneself and one’s actions as a citizen.
  • The importance of not exposing young people to harm or exploitation.
  • The importance of respect for and equity in dealings with all people, irrespective of culture, gender, religion or impairment.
  • The importance of mutual support and help between members of a community to maximise the quality of life for all.
  • The importance of the development of understanding between individuals as a contribution to peace between nations.

Again, all very noble.  I’m delighted to see such a solid set of values.  Be sure to check out the whole Mission, Aims and Principals on their website.

Tonight I was doing the social media thing, checking Facebook, when I saw a friend comment on this Facebook post from Scouts Australia NSW.

The Salvos I have a real issue with.

Read their Position Statement on Human Sexuality.  Here’s a few of the key sentences.

  •  It is The Salvation Army’s belief that, whilst recognising the possibility of such orientation, (the origins of which are uncertain), the Bible expressly opposes homosexual practice, seeing such activity as rebellion against God’s plan for the created order.
  • The Bible teaches that God’s intention for humankind is that society should be ordered on the basis of lifelong, legally sanctioned heterosexual unions.
  • We firmly believe that obedience to God together with the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, make it possible for all to live a lifestyle pleasing to Him. This may include celibacy or self restraint for those who will not or cannot marry.
  • Homosexual practice however, is, in the light of Scripture, clearly unacceptable. Such activity is chosen behaviour and is thus a matter of the will.

This is on their Australian website.  This is the position of the Salvation Army in Australia.

Scouts Australia have offered their support to the Salvation Army, an organisation that is clearly at odds with the values of the Scouts.  How can Scouts Australia reconcile their value of respect for all, when the Salvos have a clear negative policy on homosexuality.  The Salvos actually say that being gay is a choice.

The Scouts help young people in all sorts of ways, their open acceptance of everyone (apart from atheist perhaps) is a credit to a great volunteer movement.  How sad it is that they have sided with another organisation that continues to maintain the sexuality is a choice and that if you are gay you must remain celibate.

This is the wrong message for Scouts Australia to be connected to.

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