Category: Inspirational Australians

Jim Roxburgh and his Stand against Racism.

Jim Roxburgh and his Stand against Racism.

I was lucky enough to know one of the main players in this little story from Australia’s recent history. Everyone knew that one of our English teachers at high school had played rugby for the Wallabies. We’d also heard that he’d done something special. It wasn’t until later in life, however, that I found out more about what he had done.

Jim Roxburgh was a big, shaggy man, wide across the shoulders and heavily bearded. Years earlier, in the late sixties, when Jim was playing for Australia, South Africa was a divided country. A minority white government, led by the National Party, was determined to keep the black majority and white minority separate. Also segregated was a third group labelled as “coloured.” This was an ugly system with an ugly name: Apartheid. 

In 1969, Australia’s Wallabies toured South Africa. Young Jim Roxburgh wore the Australian jersey with pride. He played prop, a relative lightweight against the hulking 130 kg Springbok forwards, yet playing with the determination and bravery he was famous for. 

But things happened on that tour that would change him forever. Rugby audiences were generally all-white, but on this tour, in an attempt to display racial unity, black crowds were rounded up and forced to watch and cheer. In Pretoria, one of the flimsy, temporary stands that were used to hold them collapsed, and the Aussie players helped carry the maimed and injured to ambulances while many of the white South Africans merely watched. 

During one game, the black crowd started cheering for the Australian team in a show of protest against the system under which they lived. South African police responded quickly. They used dogs, batons and sjamboks—hippo hide whips—to subdue the crowd, battering them into silence, while the Aussie players watched helplessly from the field. 

I still remember the English lesson when Jim told us this story. We were a bunch of rowdy country boys, but you could have heard a pin drop while he talked, choking up then, well over a decade after the event, trying to tell us something important in that slow, careful way of his. He told us of something that should offend all humanity. Something that never should have happened. 

Two years later, in 1971, the Springboks crossed the Indian Ocean to tour Australia. Jim joined six of his team mates in a stand that will go down in history. Seven national Rugby Union players: Jim Roxburgh, Tony Abrahams, Jim Boyce, Paul Darveniza, Terry Forman, Barry McDonald and Bruce Taafe, refused to take the field for the Wallabies against the visitors. Rugby’s “Magnificent Seven” as they have been called, would not play the representatives of a regime that not only didn’t consider non-whites for selection in any sport, but treated their own people with brutality and contempt. 

Our Prime Minister at the time, Billy McMahon, condemned Jim and his comrades as a “disgrace to their country.” They suffered abuse and catcalls from die-hard fans. They were blacklisted from playing Rugby, and only one of the seven was ever selected to play for Australia again. Their careers were over. Yet they folded their arms and explained that they saw playing against the Springboks as tantamount to condoning the apartheid regime. The “Magnificent Seven” stood firm. 

As I said, Jim was an English teacher, and a good one. But the main thing he did for me was much deeper than grammar. He inspired me, especially as the years passed and I learned more about what he did and how powerful a symbol it was at the time: almost certainly helping the Australian government towards a decision to officially sever all sporting ties with the South African regime in 1972. 

Every boy needs a hero, and moral courage is the greatest of human attributes.  

Greg Barron

Greg’s latest novel, Whistler’s Bones, is available now from Stories of Oz Publishing. 

Carrie Creaghe

Carrie Creaghe

Emily “Carrie” Creaghe

Women in the Victorian era were often sheltered and protected; dominated by strict male figures and lacking experience in the real world. Yet, not all women were like that. There were female outlaws, ship’s captains, drovers, and even the odd well-bred adventurer like Carrie Creagh, probably the first European female to cross the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Emily Caroline Creaghe, usually known as Carrie, was born in 1860 on a boat in the Bay of Bengal, India. Her father was a major in the Royal Artillery, and her relatives included a Marquis and State Governors. Moving to Australia with her family at a young age, at 21 she married station manager Harry Creaghe, who was jealous of his friend Ernest Favenc’s explorations across Northern Australia.

“Feel like going on one of Ernest’s trips into the wilderness?” Harry asked her.

“When do we start?” she said, and preparations began.

Over six months in the saddle, in the wild upper Macarthur River area and beyond, Carrie learned to love the bush. A swag shared with her husband each night was her home. The two fell deeper in love over time, though Carrie clashed repeatedly with Favenc, who she called “Grumpy.” It was a harsh trip, with conditions that killed at least one of the white males on the trip. It also earned Carrie the tag of “Australia’s first white female explorer.”

Returning to outback Queensland, Carrie gave birth to her first two children, Gerald and Harry Junior. Sadly, however, her husband died in a tragic accident. Not a woman to sit around grieving, Carrie found and married a new man, Joseph Barnett.

In 1899 she was on her way to New Zealand with her children, now five in number. The ship, called the Perthshire, broke a propeller shaft and drifted the seas for seven weeks. With the ship’s supplies of food and water soon exhausted, Carrie kept her brood alive until they were finally rescued.

Carrie bred half a dozen strong and adventurous children. Two sons served in France in the first World War. Only one returned.

Carrie died, matriarch of a loving family, in 1944.


Written and Researched by Greg Barron. View the sources for this story here.

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The Big Australian

When boundary rider Charles Rasp stumbled on an interesting hill in far western NSW, with a fractured body of ore running right through it, he wasn’t sure if he’d found something of value or not. He consulted his battered copy of ‘The Prospector’s Guide’ to be certain. Within a few weeks he and six others had formed a company called the Barrier Ranges Mining Association, and pegged out six claims.

The partnership included two dam-builders; David James and James Poole, station owner George McCullogh, head stockman George Urquhart, bookkeeper George Lind, and jackaroo Philip Charlie.

Rasp and the others thought they’d found a reasonable prospect for tin mining, but things didn’t go well at first. The ore samples they mined and sent away for analysis showed only traces of tin. Conditions were harsh and necessities like water difficult to obtain.

“At the start it was very bad,’ George Rasp later told the Melbourne Argus. ‘There was no accommodation, water and provisions were scarce and the weather was very trying … for 12 months it was really doubtful whether we would make anything out of it.’

Lind sold his share for next to nothing. James Poole SWAPPED his share with Sir Sidney Kidman, for TEN COWS. George Urquhart sold his share back to George Rasp for £20.

We can only imagine how much Lind, Urquhart and Poole regretted their rash disposal of the shares, for new reports from the ore samples came back from Adelaide with exciting news. Silver! Some of the richest ore ever seen. All of a sudden the partnership of seven was one of the most talked about companies in the country. It was time for a name change: The Broken Hill Proprietary Company floated on the stock exchange in 1885.

George Rasp’s hill would go on to be the richest find of silver, lead, and zinc in the history of the world. The share George Urquhart sold for £20 in 1884 was worth 1 000 000 pounds just six years later. In today’s terms a one seventh share of BHP Billiton would be worth a staggering twenty billion dollars.

As for George Rasp, he married a waitress, and moved to Adelaide. He didn’t have too much time to enjoy his wealth, as he died relatively young, at the age of sixty.

Still, few people have made such a contribution to the development of Australia as did George Rasp.

© 2018 Greg Barron


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