Off to Rooty Hill … or is that Essendon?

 

When Robert O’Hara Burke’s team left Melbourne, with the funds for the Victorian expedition having been mainly raised from rich members of the Melbourne Club, there was an enormous send off. (There is a large portrait of Burke in the Melbourne Club.  Que?)

With dining room table, fine china, a full canteen of silver – this was to be a gentlemen’s expedition, even though the rough Irishman Burke did not quite fit the bill – off the team went.

First night – Essendon,which is about 6 to 8 kms from the CBD.

Basically everything that could go wrong in the Burke and Wills expedition went wrong:

  • It made no sense to leave from Melbourne; it would have been much more sensible to navigate up the Murray-Darling;
  • The equipment and provisioning were ridiculous (a bit like A Walk in the Wild, Bill Bryson);
  • The skill mix of the team was completely wrong;
  • The head cameleer – a key person – was a drunk and unreliable ; he eventually highjacked it out of Menindee;
  • Burke was a very poor leader and had little common sense when it came to food and drink, in particular;
  • Wills was not orginally part of the leadership team – he was the doctor – but with everyone else peeling off, he was pushed forward to a role to which he was not suited;
  • Burke and Wills could have easily survived but they had traded their fishing equipment to the aborigines (Cooper Creek was teeming with fish)
  • They of course did not succeed in crossing the continent- the hostile country got the better of them – although it is said they could hear the waves crashing on the shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria!

I can see some parallels with the team heading for Rooty Hill!

(I have always wondered why there is a statue of Burke and Wills in the Melbourne CBD.  They failed; they died.  What am I missing?)

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65 Responses to Off to Rooty Hill … or is that Essendon?

  1. Rococo Liberal

    I have always wondered why there is a statue of Burke and Wills in the Melbourne CBD

    Strange people these Melburnians

  2. Tom

    I have always wondered why there is a statue of Burke and Wills in the Melbourne CBD. They failed; they died. What am I missing?

    This is Australia, Judith. We also celebrate Ned Kelly and Gallipoli.

    To be fair, the 1985 film Burke and Wills was released virtually simultaneously with the parody Wills and Burke, which was put together by a bunch of Melbourne comedians.

    Both essentially stuck it up the Poms and the Old World by telling them: “You can’t do that here!” Australian mythology is a powerful binding force.

  3. Rodney

    I am shocked that you have slandered Bourke and W by comparing them to the current govt. They did little harm other than to themselves and have greatly benefited the publishing, cinematagraph and sculpting businesses.

  4. ar

    Wills and Burke… an unfunny comedy, but notable for a young Nicole Kidman…

  5. James of the Glens

    “We also celebrate Ned Kelly..”

    Really, Tom? Who is “we”? Over this way he is scorned as a little bog-peasant murderer, a “poor me” thug.

    And to put him in the same line as Gallipoli. This is Australia, Tom, Australians don’t do that.

  6. .

    Maybe the ancient trees of “the rooty hill” will be telling Kevin to “dig” the ALP’s grave?

  7. cynical1

    Burke and Wills?

    A comparison with Burke and Hare may be more apt
    for Gillard and co…

  8. braddles

    I have often wondered about the common sense of some of our explorers. Even as late as 1907, the first men to try to drive a car from Alice Springs to Darwin set off in midsummer and drove into the Top End in monsoon season. Not surprisingly, they didn’t make it, but were successful the following year when it occurred to them to try it in the cooler, dryer months. Well duh.

  9. Jim Rose

    did hawke or keating make royal visits to the suburbs. Howard used to be mocked about his mind-set was from standing behind a white picket fence with his family

  10. tbh

    The statue of Burke and Wills is the Australian way, Judith. We celebrate, nay venerate, heroic failure in this country. Actually we celebrate even non-heroic failure based on utter stupidity and hubris, hence the reason why Gough is able to still prance around public life like a winner, even though he led the third worst government in Australia’s history and got thoroughly smacked in 1975.

  11. Econocrat

    Alas, if Julia could only follow Lawrence Oates’ example and declare:

    I am just going outside and may be some time.

  12. johanna

    The history of many early explorers reminds me of one of my favourite films, Fitzcarraldo. (This clip is the 90 second long Italian trailer).

    It is remarkable how many of them were unbelievably arrogant, ignorant or just batshit crazy.

    Nice analogy, Judith. I wonder if Gillard is taking the custom-made Prime Ministerial bone china tea set to Rooty Hill?

  13. cuckoo

    Jeepers, Judith – as an historian, you make a great economist: there are several factual errors in your account of the expedition. Wills was the navigator, not the doctor. The business about the dinner table, china, etc. is a complete furphy. Is there any evidence that Landells, the cameleer, was a drunk? Burke and Wills didn’t trade their fishing equipment to the aboriginal people of Cooper’s Creek. None of the surviving accounts say anything about hearing the crashing of waves at Carpentaria.

    Otherwise, your assessment – as of the Rooty Hill fiasco – is impeccable.

  14. johanna

    Demonstrating her tin ear for empathising with the concerns of western Sydney from the get-go:

    “SYDNEY’S traffic managers will give Prime Minister Julia Gillard a green light run to Western Sydney on Sunday for her to begin her week-long sleepover at Rooty Hill RSL.

    The traffic management centre will coordinate the clear corridor for the PM’s chauffeured car, Ray Hadley has revealed on 2GB.
    - See more at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au

    At least with satnav the driver has a reasonable chance of finding the place.

  15. Randy

    I have always wondered why there is a statue of Burke and Wills in the Melbourne CBD. They failed; they died. What am I missing?

    A disappointing comment Judith. Perhaps it would be better if they didn’t have a go. Relating it to small business perhaps it would be better if none of us had a go unless we were trained and skilled to a degree that ensured success. In many cases determination, drive and ability to learn on the hoof will beat qualifications and even leadership skills.

    I’m disappointed you are having a go at a couple of blokes who were having a go.

  16. Steve of Ferny Hills

    First pic. Trial run for Gillard’s motorcade to Rooty Hill.

  17. boy on a bike

    Colossal waste of money and life. Sounds like the perfect Keynesian solution.

  18. duncanm

    HT Bolt..

    People in Rooty Hill aren’t as stupid as Gillard thinks they are.

    Gillard’s last trip to Rooty Hill…
    Transcript: Julia Gillard, Community Forum, Rooty Hill

    … But we now have a very clear plan to return the budget to surplus. We will do that in 2013. All of the promises I make in this campaign will be properly costed and funded and we are announcing matching savings so we are not adding a cent to the budget bottom line. The budget will come back to surplus in 2013.

    …. So you’ll be able to see from those experts in Treasury, not a cent on the budget bottom line, budget coming to surplus in 2013 for me.

    ..I personally worked through with our biggest mining companies and we’ve structured the tax now as a Mineral Resources Rent Tax, our biggest mining companies have agreed to pay it and that tax will go to fund reducing company tax

    .. you’ll see work starting on Parramatta to Epping (rail link) in 2011

  19. Dan

    Randy going into small business is great but I wouldn’t admire a small businessman who sets out with no knowledge of his business environment , no business planning and without gathering necessary resources

  20. duncanm

    “SYDNEY’S traffic managers will give Prime Minister Julia Gillard a green light run to Western Sydney on Sunday for her to begin her week-long sleepover at Rooty Hill RSL.

    She should be driving out on the M4 at 5:30pm.

    Even better, public transport it from the airport.

    Does she really have no idea how to win public support?

  21. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    SYDNEY’S traffic managers will give Prime Minister Julia Gillard a green light run to Western Sydney on Sunday for her to begin her week-long sleepover at Rooty Hill RSL.

    Absolutely effing unbelievable!

    Not just a political tin ear, a total tin tart.

    Give her heaps. Go Westies.

  22. brc

    you’ll see work starting on Parramatta to Epping (rail link) in 2011

    Sydneysiders, enlighten me – I assume not a single sod of dirt has been turned on this project, and the reason for that is Mr Abbots relentless negadividy?

  23. Rabz

    SYDNEY’S traffic managers will give Prime Minister Julia Gillard a green light run to Western Sydney on Sunday

    This li’l revelation just screams: “I empathise with outer suburban bogans, I tells ya!”

    Way to go, lardarse.

  24. C.L.

    SYDNEY’S traffic managers will give Prime Minister Julia Gillard a green light run to Western Sydney on Sunday.

    Evoking the famous custom of the old USSR which did the same thing for apparatchik-laden Zils back in the day. Traffic is for the little people.

  25. Rabz

    you’ll see work starting on Parramatta to Epping (rail link) in 2011…

    … If you drop enough LSD.

  26. There’s no statue to Lang Hancock anywhere in Perth, even though without his willingness to take a risk or two, the place would pretty much still be a one-horse town where the tallest building was the old AMP Building at a whole 30 stories.

    And yet there’s one to Paddy Hannan in Kalgoorlie, even if it is a water fountain.

  27. Perhaps Sydney traffic authorities have noticed that the original plans for a slow-moving convertible journey took Gillard & Co past the West Sydney School Book Depository.

  28. tbh

    Evoking the famous custom of the old USSR which did the same thing for apparatchik-laden Zils back in the day. Traffic is for the little people.

    When I lived in KL, you always knew when some dignitary was in the city because the lights all got changed to let the shiny bums in their Maybach’s glide through the traffic. The locals didn’t like it much because the traffic was already terrible without that kind of carry on.

  29. tbh

    And yet there’s one to Paddy Hannan in Kalgoorlie, even if it is a water fountain.

    I don’t recall but is there one of CY O’Connor at all?

  30. Splatacrobat

    SYDNEY’S traffic managers will give Prime Minister Julia Gillard a green light run to Western Sydney on Sunday.

    It’s a shame the right can’t motivate the same fanaticism that the left can when it comes to organising protests and rent a crowds.

    It would be a sight to see for kilometres along the route people holding placards like this

  31. C.L.

    How about a statue to honour WA’s best ever federal politician?

    Peter Walsh.

  32. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    The business about the dinner table, china, etc. is a complete furphy.

    Oh noes! I read somewhere that they also loaded up a piano for the journey. That’s a furphy too?

    I shakes me head.

  33. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    There’s a university in Queensland that carries a bit of a West Australian story though. Whatzit’s name again?

  34. Pedro

    “(I have always wondered why there is a statue of Burke and Wills in the Melbourne CBD. They failed; they died. What am I missing?)”

    The perspective of a person lucky enough to live somewhere else.

  35. Septimus

    I have always wondered why there is a statue of Burke and Wills in the Melbourne CBD. They failed; they died. What am I missing

    cuckoo @ 12.07pm

    Jeepers, Judith – as an historian, you make a great economist

    Randy @ 12.42pm

    I’m disappointed you are having a go at a couple of blokes who were having a go.

    Sorry Judith. These Cats are correct. Heroic endeavour, in which they died trying, is what Burke and Wills were about. Their effort was at least on a level with Mallory dying on Everest or Kurtz dying on the Eiger.

    Lampooning true heroes like them to try to draw a specious analogy with Australia’s incompetent, untrustworthy, and most certainly unherioc Prime Minister, is just wrong.

  36. Ubique

    tbh – there’s a statue of a pensive C Y O’Connor at Fremantle just outside the port authority building near Victoria Quay. There’s another of him astride his horse in the waters just off South Beach (where O’Connor suicided).

    Charles Yelverton is revered in WA.

  37. Yes, CY O’Connor does get recognised, which is wonderful because he was a very gifted man.

    No, Lizzie, no statue of Bondy either, for some reason … I would have thought that at least a new wing at Casuarina Prison could have been named after him, or at Wooroloo, on account of all the new business he sent them … but the Dingo Flour advert is still on the warehouse in North Fremantle, and he always claimed to have been one of its painters, so perhaps it can be his memorial.

    CL, wash your mouth out. Not Walshy the Bolshy!

  38. Pedro

    Walshy wasn’t bolshy. One of the great ministers.

  39. C.L.

    Tim Blair: Hilarious beclowning involving former bed-mates Emerson and Gillard.

  40. tbh

    Thanks for the clarification folks. One of the true great adopted West Aussies was CY.

    I’ll also not hear any denigration of Peter Walsh either! He was one of the key men involved in the great economic reforms of the 1980′s. He and John Button, because Keating shouldn’t get all the credit.

  41. Infidel Tiger

    This is the best memorial in Australia if not the world: The Harold Holt Swim Centre.

  42. Pickles

    Please don’t disparage our explorers Judith, especially those who had a go at the middle. It’s tough now in a V8 Toyota let alone 150 yrs ago.

    As luck would have it, I am in big town on a rare visit and ambled past the B&W memorial. It’s a magnificent, stirring work and having spent a bit of time in the country they traversed I find it quite moving. Half a day late and they were dead.

  43. duncanm

    you’ll see work starting on Parramatta to Epping (rail link) in 2011

    Sydneysiders, enlighten me – I assume not a single sod of dirt has been turned on this project, and the reason for that is Mr Abbots relentless negadividy?

    Have a look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epping_to_Chatswood_railway_line

    basically, they had the enormous borer down the hole and decided to stop boring the extra few kays to get to Carlingford — possibly a good decision, based on passenger numbers.

    Of course, the feds will say that the 2011 restart date was shelved because of the NSW government’s intransigence, but again, the NSW gov’t is saying they’ve got better things to do with the cash (North-West rail link), as Parramatta and Epping are already served well by public transport. The gap between them (Carlingford, Telopea etc) is pretty crap, but small in the relation to most of Sydney’s public transport voids.

  44. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    That was laptop ruining, IT. Don’t do it again at arvo tea time.

    Beats the one spotted years ago by a friend at the University of Tasmania: The Dick Turd Memorial Hot Air System. Swears he has a photo and that it is not apocryphal or a prank.

  45. brc

    Oh, I didn’t realise that the railway had already been abandoned by NSW state labor, so the announcment was just a re-hash of an old announcement on the never-never.

    More great skills from the gread negoshiador.

  46. Jim Rose

    You should go see an exhibition comparing Scott of the Antarctic with the Norwegian Edmondson

    Scott’s crew wore tweed outfits that would not attracted comment on a windy Canberra winter’s day.

    Edmondson worse these abominable snowman outfits that covered the body in thick warm fur.

    Scott and his fellow sportsmen did not even bother to learn how to use their horses until they got to the Antarctic.

    How Scott did not die on the first night mystifies me.

  47. duncanm

    Jim,

    then compare Scott with Shackleton — how he managed to get the whole team out without loss of life after a year stuck in Antarctica with minimal supplies is an amazing tale of leadership, bravery and ingenuity.

  48. Splatacrobat

    Please don’t disparage our explorers Judith, especially those who had a go at the middle. It’s tough now in a V8 Toyota let alone 150 yrs ago.

    Malcolm Fraser lost his trousers in Memphis so I guess anything thing can happen to unwary adventurers who travel in foreign lands.

  49. Randy

    Dan quote at 12.58
    “Randy going into small business is great but I wouldn’t admire a small businessman who sets out with no knowledge of his business environment , no business planning and without gathering necessary resources.”

    Dan the fact is that thousands of people inadequately trained, skilled and experienced enter small business every year. Many don’t survive but those who learn fast and adapt do. What ever Burke & Wills lack of preparation and ability they actually got a hell of a long way. It is churlish to demean them.

  50. Jim Rose

    duncanm, My interested in Antarctica was sparked by the great mini-series on Shackleton. The books on him were good too. Kenneth Branagh was great playing a crazy brave man (with a dodgy ticker).

    He came from a long line of gentlemen explorers.

    Those that tackled Everest in the 1920s thought it unsporting to use oxygen. Their oxygen equipment was crap anyway.

    Those in Antarctica did not benefit from modern knowledge of diets so the calorie intake was half what it should have been. Their knowledge of scurvy was also poor as was the knowledge of the potential of seals as a source of key vitamins.

  51. I have long believed that Scott’s team actually ate Lawrence Oates and then lied about it later. They never found his body, you know.

  52. duncanm

    Jim,

    I’ve got a fantastic puffery book about the Shackleton voyage. The words are fluff, but Hurley’s images have been rendered beautifully … amazing stuff.

  53. Septimus

    I have long believed that Scott’s team actually ate Lawrence Oates and then lied about it later. They never found his body, you know.

    The Red Dwarf theory.

    In the episode entitled “White Hole” of the British TV series Red Dwarf, the characters plead with the hologram Rimmer to sacrifice himself by agreeing to be turned off, thus providing the currently-low-on-power ship to sustain them for longer than it could do so if he was still running, comparing the act to that of Oates. Rimmer simply dismisses him as a “prat”, suggesting instead that since the only record of Oates’ sacrifice was from Scott’s journal, it’s likely that Scott had eaten Oates to avoid starvation after he had “whacked him over the head with a frozen husky” (which is what Rimmer said he’d do, had he been there), the diary entry simply being made because, in Rimmer’s view, it was “better to say ‘Oates made the supreme sacrifice’ while you’re dabbing up his gravy with the last piece of crusty bread”.

    See Lawrence Oates

  54. HOT DAMN! I didn’t know that; I was never much of a fan of Red Dwarf (too Pythonesque, and I just break out in a rash.)

    Gosh, I feel so vindicated. Anyway, I don’t think there would have been gravy as they’d have had to eat him raw, and rather messily too.

  55. Septimus

    I didn’t know that; I was never much of a fan of Red Dwarf

    Heh, Sure ;)

  56. Jim Rose

    In red dwarf, the characters plead with Rimmer to sacrifice himself by agreeing to be turned off, thus providing power to sustain them for longer than it could do so if he was still running, comparing the act to that of Oates.

    Rimmer simply dismisses Oates as a “prat”, suggesting that since the only record of Oates’ sacrifice was from Scott’s journal, it’s likely that Scott had eaten Oates to avoid starvation after he had “whacked him over the head with a frozen husky”

    the diary entry simply being made because, in Rimmer’s view, it was “better to say ‘Oates made the supreme sacrifice’ while you’re dabbing up his gravy with the last piece of crusty bread”.

  57. Jim Rose

    someone beat me to it while my screen had not refreshed. seasons 3 to 6 of red dwarf were brilliant.

  58. hzhousewife

    raw he may have been, but possibly not too messy in the Antartic temperatures of the time, somewhat of a jaw-breaker perhaps (sorry, imagination running riot here Philippa, it must be time for dinner !)

  59. wal1957

    Gillard is not competent enough to run a cake stall.
    (apologies to anybody who runs a cake stall)
    Even if she had no competition, with The Goose running the finances she would soon be out of business.

  60. Pickles

    Have watched a bit of red dwarf and didn’t realise there was a story or a plot. There you go.

  61. Up The Workers!

    Judith’s article says that she can see some parallels between Burke & Wills, and the mob headed to Rooty Hill.

    So can I.

    Like Burke & Wills, I suspect that they will miss their intended destination entirely.

    The party is actually headed for Boot Hill – NOT Rooty Hill. (Juliar’s navigation skills – never very good to begin with – were certainly not improved by “Dr Emo” guzzling her contact lenses).

    The party itself is Rooted!

  62. Borisgodunov

    For WAs Greatest Politician,I nominate Wilson Tuckey,he got up labor ,liberal,national ,democrats and greens noses! Anyone who can do that cant be All That Bad !

  63. Will our Dear Leader ride in a Zavod Imeni Likhacheva limousine (such as a ZIS-115) when she travels in her ZiL-lane in Western Sydney?

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