Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Historical Society talk

UPDATE: 14/11/12 This issue is now resolved - Completion date for repairs May 2013 (post)

The universe provided me with the opportunity to get on my soapbox tonight. I was asked to speak to the Canberra & District Historical Society at the National Archives. About 30 people attended. I had been advertised as intending to relate historical 'quirky' Canberra history in a series of old articles but I had changed my mind a few days ago.

I decided to relay some recent historical truth in regard to a neglected ACT heritage asset, The De salis family cemetery at Cuppacumbalong. It required a new power-point presentation, me learning how to do it and the addition of three videos and a series of photos.. Being a witness both pre and post 2010 flood event when the cemetery was damaged I am able to express my visual recollections over a period of two years and provide photographic evidence in most stages of the wall's collapse expansion over time. Sort of  like watching the wall falling in slow motion.

I explained the importance of recognising the Murrumbidgee River's wombat's involvement in the walls demise during the flood events in November 2010. I highlighted the fact that it is historically inaccurate to record the collapse as being the result of storm damage when without the wombats wall undermining and burrow building skills the wall would have stood, as it has for every other major weather event for the past 160 years. Ignoring the wombats also raises issues of future maintenance and inspection plans should the wall ever be repaired.

I demonstrated the 'peeling' effect that continues to destroy the wall as it succumbs to gravity. I described this as being like that of an onion skin peeling back. Since the event on the eastern edge of the southern fall I estimate at least 6 metres of additional wall has collapsed with 3 of those metres dislodging in the past 4 months. The western edge isn't accessible to measure but the deterioration 'peeling' is visible.

I highlighted the extensive heritage assessment that consumed a year and expressed its extensiveness and its apparent excuse for repair delay. I acknowledged that this process was reported as having been concluded in March 2012 at which time the Minister when questioned by ABC 666 Radio, and my calls for repair were echoed in the Canberra Times that the ACT Government announced that the repair project would begin in June.

I explained that when the May date came I was met by 4 Government representatives at the cemetery. I wrote about what they told me in a Restoration post I posted on the day and it is publicly available. I highlighted that these representatives informed me work hadn't started but that everything had been done now and work was immanent. I was pleased at the time as the restoration post indicates.

Five months further down the track here we are and I explained that even that delay has lost 3 metres of dry stone wall. I explained that I had questioned why the peeling edges hadn't been supported temporarily. As with the possibly maintenance liable wombats this doesn't seem acceptable to the ACT Government. A few people in the crowd questioned why the walls were not supported. What could I say?

I queried why the Government was so secret with any future start date or public announcement about progress. I explained to them that by now I'm probably seen by the Government as a crank. Most important though and historically accurate I told the truth.

Footage of the damage I captured at the time of the event (30 sec)

And today...



  1. Well done, congratulations on the invite.
    Regards, Keith.

    1. A wasted opportunity Keith... I would rather have talked about something that interests me. Dave


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