REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Home is where our history lives

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PMG Lineman Jack Corbell stands in a bomb crater. Photo: Katherine Museum.

PMG Lineman Jack Corbell stands in a bomb crater. Photo: Katherine Museum.

Each week, I am lucky enough to read stories from all over Australia as part of my job. Of course, with more than 150 newspapers in the ACM stable, I only manage to read a fraction of the content our reporters produce.

But as I read, very often I'm reminded about our place as newspapers of record, and how we hold within our archives a rich repository of knowledge about our communities and their history.

Like most people, I knew about the bombing of Darwin in the Second World War. But until I visited the Northern Territory myself, I didn't know the towns of Broome in Western Australia, Townsville in Queensland and Katherine in the NT were also targeted by the Japanese.

On March 22, 1942, nine "Betty" bombers from the Japanese Navy dropped between 82 and 92 high explosive bombs popularly known as "Daisy Cutters" on the unsuspecting outback town of Katherine.

There was one fatality, an Indigenous man called Dodger Kodjalwal, and two other Indigenous people were injured.

Last week, our reporter Tom Robinson attended a memorial ceremony, and met people who remembered that fateful night.

Juanita Heparia (nee Kruger), a relative of Dodger, is one of a few living witnesses to the bombing.

Juanita Kruger (far right) in 1943 with sisters Vera and Sally. The family was living in Katherine when the town was bombed in 1942. Picture: Supplied.

Juanita Kruger (far right) in 1943 with sisters Vera and Sally. The family was living in Katherine when the town was bombed in 1942. Picture: Supplied.

Juanita was a two-year-old girl living with her family in Katherine where residents felt safe from the devastating attacks in Darwin.

"I was sleeping when the bombing started and my parents took my sisters and ran," Juanita said.

"My father told me he looked around for me and couldn't find me anywhere so he ran back as fast as he could. I was still asleep in bed. Just as we were running back to my mother and sisters a bomb fell on the house, completely destroying it."

Juanita Heparia at the remembrance ceremony in Katherine last week. Photo: Tom Robinson

Juanita Heparia at the remembrance ceremony in Katherine last week. Photo: Tom Robinson

Closer to my part of the world, the beautiful Illawarra escarpment, south of Sydney, is hollowed out in many places with huge coal mines that hold a great deal of history, but also harbour terrible tragedy.

Every year, the Illawarra Mercury covers remembrance ceremonies to make sure these tragedies are not forgotten.

The Illawarra Mercury's Greg Ellis was there again on March 23 to remember the 81 men and boys who lost their lives in the 1887 Bulli Mine Disaster. The second worst industrial accident in Australia's history.

TRAGEDY: The Bulli Mine.

TRAGEDY: The Bulli Mine.

Of the miners who died, 31 left 30 widows and 117 children with no bread-winner. Five of the men left young widows and many of the victims were single young men and teenagers who left mothers, fathers and siblings to grieve.

Greg and Anthony Cope were at the service to remember their great grandfather Herbert Cope who was the only survivor.

Herbert was 17 years old at the time and had been driving horses about 400 metres from the mine entrance when the explosion occurred at 2.30pm on March 23, 1887.

"He was blown over by the force of the blast and was later able to stagger out of the mine entrance to safety," Mr Green said.

In scenes unimaginable today, historians say the women of the town were called down to the mine to identify the bodies.

This tragedy was later surpassed by the Mount Kembla Mine Disaster in 1902 that claimed the lives of 96 men and boys.

TO THE NINES: Holly Nuske, Hailey Puls and Ruby Hill are year 12 students ready for their debutante ball. Photo: Alison Foletta

TO THE NINES: Holly Nuske, Hailey Puls and Ruby Hill are year 12 students ready for their debutante ball. Photo: Alison Foletta

But not all the things we remember are so dark.

Many city dwellers might be surprised to learn that the century-old tradition of debutante balls is still going strong in many parts of the country. The traditional "coming out" events are being embraced by a new generation; in fact, the only thing that has stopped them lately have been social distancing laws.

The Wimmera Mail Times' reporter Alison Foletta met some of the young people preparing for the debutante ball at Horsham in regional Victoria.

Subscribers of the Mail Times can read about it here.

One of these was Bella Panozzo, who said she was very grateful the event was able to go ahead this year. She said the importance of the event went beyond the personal, but was about "making memories especially for the parents and grandparents. It means a lot to them being a part of the special night".

Read some more about debutante balls of days gone by:

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