The Dog who did more than sit on the Tuckerbox

After leaving the museum, we left Canberra behind and headed towards Gundagai,

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listening of course to “Along the Road to Gundagai“.

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Five miles from Gundagai, (although the infamous event is said to have happened nine miles from Gundagai)

we stopped to visit the Dog on the Tuckerbox monument.

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Why a monument to a dog on a tuckerbox ask my non-aussie readers?

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Well my answer isn’t going to make it a whole lot clearer.

In fact, when you find out what this dog did, you’ll be even more baffled.

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You see, Bill the Bullocky had an absolutely terrible day.

He was leading his team of bullocks to Gundagai

when the wagon got hopelessly bogged.

Then, to make matters worse, one of the bullocks broke the wagon’s yoke.

Bill threw up his hands in despair and went to have his lunch.

But, to top it all off, he found his dog ‘sitting’ on his tuckerbox (that’s the box where he stored his food).

Well, actually the original poem said nothing about ‘sitting’.

The dog was actually…how do I put this delicately….

Well the word rhymes with ‘sitting’, but it means something much nastier than that.

The dog was doing his ‘business‘ on Bill’s lunch box.

Not a great day for Bill at all.

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So what do we Australians do?

We build a monument to remember that dog… and maybe Bill too

and we put a nice spin on it, saying that it’s to remember the tough life of the Aussie pioneers.

And yes, of course we visit!

Everyone knows about the dog who pooed on his master’s lunch

nine miles from Gundagai.  🙂

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There’s not a lot more to see at Gundagai

so back into the car we got,

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headed over the Murray River into Victoria

(a first for the boys)

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to our evening stop of Wangaratta.

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Posted by on December 1, 2018 in Australian Holiday, History


Back to the National Museum of Australia

The next day we returned to the museum

for our second virtual reality experience.

It was a show called “Collisions”,

which was about the atomic bomb testing at Maralinga, in South Australia.

The museum staff member who sold us our tickets

asked if we’d visited the related art exhibition,

“Black Mist Burnt Country”.

We hadn’t.

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In fact, we didn’t even realise that we’d not visited a whole section of the museum.

So, since we’d arrived early, we checked out the exhibition.

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We’ve learned a little about the testing at Maralinga

but we might have to spend a bit more time learning more.

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It’s something we should never forget.

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The exhibition was only small but it was interesting.

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There was a painting by Arthur Boyd

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and another by Sidney Nolan

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but, to be honest, they weren’t my favourite pieces.

I liked these by Jeffrey Queama and Hilda Moodoo

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Both are called Destruction.

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I also liked this one titled “Road to Maralinga” (by Karen Standke)

if it’s proper to ‘like’ an artwork about such a terrible event.

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There were also pieces of art that we disliked,

such as these two pieces.


Worthy of an art exhibition.

I think not.

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This next piece was by far the coolest exhibit.

It’s Maralinga red soil

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and that same red soil fused into atomic glass.

As we got to the end of reading the plaque,

we all instinctively took a few steps back from the glass case.

Think of how radioactive this stuff must be!

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Oh and around the corner from the art exhibition

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we found more king plates!

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And lots more information about them.

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The recipients must have valued them

or the British wouldn’t have continued to use king plates as a form of reward.

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Oh and the virtual reality experience…

it was even better than the first experience.

I thought the virtual reality was much better in this “Collisions” experience.

It was certainly a sadder story though

– you stand in the midst of the desert with black rain pouring down on you

and animal running towards you and dying all around you –

but the combination of the powerful story with the virtual reality

really made a significant impact.

Here’s a little bit of information behind the making of the film:

We were so glad that we were able to adjust our schedule to see this second virtual reality film.

It was well worth it.

(At the War Memorial, I bought this book about Maralinga by Christobel Mattingley.

We haven’t read it yet but Mattingley’s books are always good.)



Posted by on December 1, 2018 in Australian Holiday, History


National Museum of Australia

After our underwhelming trip to the National Library of Australia,

Australia redeemed itself with the National Museum of Australia.

I so want this museum in my city.

Canberra, you can have the Brisbane Museum,

and we’ll take your Canberra Museum?

Pretty Pleeeeease.

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It’s such a great museum!

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Oh, but first I have to tell you about our Virtual Reality experience at the museum!

We were walking up into the museum’s exhibition halls and saw this virtual reality show advertised.

We paused a second to read the show and the usher urged us to give it a try.

We thought, “Oh yeah, why not”.

It wasn’t too expensive and, hey, we were on holidays.

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We were led into a room full of revolving chairs

and given virtual reality headsets and headphones.

After a little explanation of how to use the equipment

(how to adjust the focus and sound without pressing the wrong buttons and turning off the experience,

which I accidentally did),

the experience started.


I kid you not.

This was one of the very best things we did on our holidays.

It was WOW!!

Our experience had us out in space

and then in a descent module back to earth.

We could look all the way around us, spinning our chairs to see behind us

and feel like we were right there experiencing it for ourselves.

We could look down at ourselves and see ourselves in space suits.

It was so cool!!

If you EVER get the chance to experience virtual reality, jump at it.

In fact, we found out that there was another virtual reality showing at the museum

and adjusted our whole holiday schedule so that we could come back the next day to see the other movie.

(But more about that in the next post.)

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After our virtual reality experience,

we headed into the exhibition halls.

There was sooo much to see

and what we loved were the volunteer guides that roamed the halls to talk and share with the guests.

We met some amazing guides that walked with us through whole sections pointing out cool exhibits.

I particularly liked MacKensie’s collection of marsupials.

There was some weird and interesting stuff in his collection.

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Check out this baby wombat,

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these kangaroo joeys,

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and this puggle (that’s what you call a baby platypus).

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Now for the weird.

(Oh and these are not marsupials).

A pig with two bodies

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and a spider with nine legs.

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Did you know that museums have issues keeping their specimens bug free?

I had never even thought about such a thing.

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And meet Chris, the world’s wooliest sheep.

He was found carrying heavy fleece

and rescued by the RSPCA.

His fleeced weighed in at 41.1kg.

Yes, a Guinness world record.

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And the museum has that fleece!

I also learned that wild sheep naturally lose their fleece

but modern domestic sheep are bred to retain it and hence rely on man to sheer it for them.

It’s estimated that Chris hadn’t been shorn for five years.

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This is Chris the sheep once he’d lost his 41.1kg of fleece.

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The exhibit we were most looking forward to seeing at the museum was Phar Lap’s heart.

(For non-Aussies, who have no idea who Phar Lap is, he was a very famous Australian race horse.

Watch the movie about him if you want to learn more and fall in love with him as we did.)

Phar Lap’s remains have been divided up all over the place.

His heart is in Canberra, his skin is in Melbourne and his skeleton is in New Zealand

so on this holiday we’d end up seeing about half of Phar Lap.

His heart was fascinating.

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It was larger than the average horse heart,

which the museum tried to show with this colour overlay.

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Then we wondered how it compared to the human heart

but we didn’t have to wonder as we discovered that the museum had anticipated our question

by adding a human heart overlay.

I know.  We get really excited by strange things.

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Oh and I found LOTS more king plates (also known as breast plates.)

The plaque said that king plates were often recalled with pride by the descendants of the recipients.

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King John Cry was awarded his breastplate for being a trusted mediator during peace negotiations.

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I really want to read more about the early relationship between Aboriginal people and British colonists.

I believe that we’ve been misled with what we’ve been taught at school.

(I’ve just finished reading “The Sydney Wars”

and the picture it paints is very different to what educators and the media are trying to tell us.)

For instance, this poster, which, at first sight, might appear to be a warning to the Aborigines to behave themselves

is actually telling the Aborigines that they are protected equally under British law.

Meaning that if a white man killed an Aborigine, he would have to face the same justice as if an Aborigine killed a white man,

and this was certainly the case according to primary sources that I read in “The Sydney Wars”.

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I was also interested to learn that Governor Arthur Phillip valued religion very highly

and, as a result, all the convicts were issued with Bibles and prayer books

and required to attend Church.

This is one such Bible.

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We also found more love tokens.

We hold a special place in our heart for love tokens.

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Just think, these are the last expressions of love that the convicts were able to share with their families,

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who’d be thousands of miles away from them, most likely for the rest of their lives.

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Everything was poured out onto these tokens.

(This token reads, “Accept this dear Mother from your unfortunate son.”)

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There were so many interesting exhibits at the museum

and so much Australian history to learn.

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We are the kind of people who read everything and watch everything

so we spent ages at the museum.

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And then went back the next day as well!!

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Posted by on December 1, 2018 in Australian Holiday, History


National Library of Australia…blah

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am a bibliophile.

I love books, I love book stores and I love libraries.

So, of course, when visiting Canberra we had to visit the National Library of Australia.

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In hindsight, I shouldn’t have bothered.

Now, first, let me show you the Library of Congress in Washington that I totally fell in love with.

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Isn’t that building gorgeous?!!

Now, hold on, you haven’t even seen inside yet.

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Pick up your jaw because it gets better.

Check out the reading room! And see those books through the arches.

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Now, check out Australia’s National Library.

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This place has been described as “stunningly beautiful”.

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Clearly, I have a different idea of what ‘beauty’ is.

No, it’s no better inside.

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And you don’t even get to see the books!

They are hidden away in the stacks underground.

And a quick google will reveal that even the stacks are ugly.

The only beautiful thing about this library was its books, artifacts

and bookstore.

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Very disappointed Australia.

But, we’d turned up for their guided tour of the Treasures exhibition

so we hung around

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to meet our guide and see if things would improve.

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They did…a smidge.

We were led into a relatively small area

filled with a handful of precious treasures

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…and they were treasures

so our time wasn’t completely wasted.

We saw Captain Cook’s portable desk.

It’s where he would have written his letters, journals and ship’s logs.

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We saw a map of Australia (then called ‘New Holland’) from 1659.

It’s the first to contain bits of Tasmania.

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We saw Arthur Bowes Smyth’s journal from the First Fleet.

(He was a surgeon on the female convicts’ transport ship.)

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We saw William Bligh’s notebook from 1789.

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It records the journey he was forced to undertake

after his crew mutinied and put him and his loyal crew overboard in a boat to fend for themselves.

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We saw lots of gorgeous paintings.

This one is of Hobart in 1857.

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I was particularly interested in these Aboriginal breastplates, also called King Plates.

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I’d seen them before but thought they were some kind of mockery or punishment

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but seemingly they were bestowed as rewards to Aborigines who had helped colonists.

We saw lots of these breastplates on our holidays.

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The most bizarre thing we saw in the exhibition

was Beethoven’s life mask.

No, not a ‘death’ mask.

This mask was made while Beethoven was alive.

Isn’t it interesting what you can find in an Australian exhibition.

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So that was our visit to the National Library of Australia

…and, yes, I did buy some books in their bookstore.

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Posted by on December 1, 2018 in Australian Holiday, My Library