Tim Blair


New Criterion



Sunday, September 15, 2002
JUST BEFORE I head out the door, two important stories you should catch before they expire from the ABC Website in a couple of weeks.

Historian Ken Inglis spoke to Terry Lane about the remarkable events following the conviction of Aranda man Rupert Max Stuart for the rape and murder of a girl in South Australia’s far west. The following paragraph from the transcript of the interview is long, but a masterpiece of compression.

Ken Inglis: Rupert Maxwell Stuart was an Aboriginal who was convicted in 1959 in Adelaide of the rape and murder of a nine-year-old child at Ceduna, in South Australia at the end of 1958. Doubts arose about his conviction as he was in the condemned cell, and largely through the activities of a priest, Father Tom Dixon, who spoke the Arunda language, which was Stuart’s first language, and of Ted Strehlow, the linguist, whose first language had been Arunda, when he lived on Hermannsburg Mission with his missionary father, a campaign developed to have certainly the death sentence deferred. And there were a series of appeals right up to the judicial Comittee of the Privy Council; that appeal was really undertaken not in any hope of winning but in hope of keeping him alive for long enough, for the campaign to have his conviction reviewed, to succeed, as it did. There was then a royal commission into the conviction which upheld the verdict of guilty, but in the meantime, after seven deferrals, the sentence was committed to life imprisonment.

The political battle was an important moment in the history of South Australia and of race relations in the country as a whole. It was the beginning of the end for the long-term Government of Tom Playford. It did much to form the political character of nascent press tycoon, Rupert Murdoch who had just inherited a relaxed tabloid, the Adelaide News.

Inglis has just updated his book on the trial and its aftermath. He knows how to tell a story. Listen to the interview.

Some of you can also see the film, Black and White.

Ken Inglis is also Auntie’s biographer (This is the ABC, Melbourne Uni Press, 1961). The second volume should be out by the end of next year.

FRANK FENNER’S LIFE, until recently, was spent in the obscurity of the laboratory. What he achieved there, and in the backroom life of animal and human health policy-making, marks him as one of the greatest achievers we have produced.

Fenner’s contributions to the use of myxomatosis against the rabbit, and in the campaign to eradicate smallpox from the human population, eventually saw him achieve public distinction. He won the Japan Prize, following a truckload of scientific awards of no interest to people outside science. He has just won this year’s Prime Minister’s Prize for science. His life is spent now in much the same way as it has been over the last seventy years, in a steady labour in the fields of science that he loves. He remains a quiet, totally front-less man of palpable sincerity whose gifts of money are now added to the greater gift of his life’s work.

One of the world’s truly admirable people. Join Peter Thompson in falling under the man’s spell in a recent interview.