Welcome to Somers Paper Nautilus …inclusiveness and openness, catering for a diversity of views without rancour

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Somers is a seaside village community located south of Melbourne on Westernport Bay in the Mornington Peninsula Shire. With a mix of sandy beaches, rockpools and tidal flats, Somers is popular for sailing, skiffle boarding and beachcombing. The cliffs of Somers have spectacular views to Phillip Island and the Nobbies.

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Rosemary’s Baby

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Rosemary’s baby

Sally Holdsworth

A story of grassroots conservation and one community volunteer

 Nowadays she has a lower profile. But she is still invested in preserving this ‘unique land’ for everyone to treasure and enjoy.ears ago, Rosemary Birney was known as the ‘witch of Somers’. As a conservationist and dedicated protector of what she describes as a fantastic place, Rosemary stirred mixed feelings in this small seaside hamlet on the Mornington Peninsula.

Rosemary is a small woman whose appearance is practical, unadorned and workman-like. I first encountered her at a foreshore community working bee. She was leading a group to see a shy native orchid: a rare, inconspicuous flower tucked away on the edge of a trail, unseen by those of us who are unfamiliar with the bush.

Rosemary can read the bush. She knows the shrubs and trees tumbling down the coastal hillside to the ocean. She knows how to plant native grasses to coax growth and how to conquer the ever-lurking weeds. She is a natural educator, teaching herself first and sharing knowledge enthusiastically. Her family think she’s ‘nuts’.

Why such devotion to the land? Her childhood was spent on Sydney’s north shore, in what was then mostly bushland. Visits to her mother’s family farm in Kilcoy, Queensland, kindled an affinity with the ‘magical’ bush. As a young married woman she lived for a time in the shadow of the Snowy Mountains and her love of this area looms large. Her life has been spent in country towns and small communities where people don’t ask, they just help out.

Somers was to be Rosemary’s final destination. Having spent holidays here, camping with her five children, she arrived in retirement, ‘I came thinking I’d stay forever.’

She joined the local foreshore volunteer group, eventually becoming secretary. With friends, she founded Nautilus because ‘the place needed a voice’. The foreshore group has been instrumental in creating one of the most beautiful cliff-top pathways in Somers: a winding nature walk that overlooks Westernport Bay. But the politics of building the pathway – a long hard battle – took its toll on the committee, and on Rosemary. Eventually, when ‘life became unbearable’ she resigned and established a new Friends group.

Years later, Rosemary is still active on the foreshore. Much of the work is physically hard. The task of weeding, planting and replenishing a sprawling native coastal reserve, much of it dangerously hilly, seems endless. But Rosemary describes the pleasure of transforming bare ground to native vegetation.

Propelled by a polite steely drive, Rosemary seems an old-school model of diligence and duty, a stickler for process, ‘You must stick to what is right; do things properly’. And yet, there is a cheekiness, and a glimmer of the ‘greenie, hippy, leftist’, as described by her son.

She has a pragmatic stoicism. Her father, who served with the Australian Army in the Middle East during the Second World War, died young and unexpectedly. He was a constitutional lawyer involved in crafting the constitution for Papua New Guinea, and was about to take up a position in Canberra when he died. Her mother, left to raise two children, turned to teaching. Rosemary explains, ‘Parents who lived through the war did have a rough time. My mother was shifted around and it made her very insecure. She brought us up alone.’

As a young woman Rosemary was an actor. With typical understatement she reveals, ‘I was on the stage a little. I went to NIDA [National Institute of Dramatic Arts] over 50 years ago – it was another life. We toured, doing children’s theatre, in New South Wales and Western Australia. I still have a hankering for children’s theatre.’

She was unofficial tour manager and caterer for the travelling theatre company, but says, ‘I stopped when my second child was born; I had to start being responsible and become a serious person. It was very hard to stop touring. The hardest thing was staying in one place, it was agony. It was a nice life but a long time ago.’

She is a hospitable soul, in the old-fashioned way. Early community working bees included ‘lovely food, cooked on the barbecue’, which passers-by and locals were invited to share. ‘I think the most important thing is not to say “come and help”, but just to talk to people about what we are doing … so they understand why we are doing things,’ she says.

Now, the self-described ‘works coordinator or bossy devil’ faces a new challenge. She says, ‘I’m getting old and tired and it worries me because I would hate to see [the work we have done] lost.’

What happens when people like Rosemary and her group need to stop? Who do they hand the reins to? She expresses concern that the fragile environment could fail. ‘I have talked to so many people about how do you hand on? I don’t know how to open the door to say that something needs to be done. I wish there was a magic wand to get people to see that this land is really special, fragile. We could lose it if the effort isn’t sustained.’

Family circumstances prompted her move from Somers to the hills; it’s leafy and lovely, but doesn’t hold her heart. She returns often for working days on the foreshore, maintaining ties. She tells a story.

‘One night, after we had finished planting on the eastern cliffs, I suddenly realised I had left my camera behind. I went down the pathway to find it; it was dark, the moon was shining across the water. I sat there on the edge of the cliff, and out in the bay a whale went past – headed to Hastings. As he went past he spouted. This place is magic. Isn’t it worth keeping that piece of ground so that everybody has that experience?’    ʘ

 

The winners of the 2017 Short Story Competition

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We are delighted to announce the winners for our 2017 Short Story Writing Competition. This year’s theme was Summertime and Ocean.
Forty eight entries were judged by a panel of local literary experts: Maryann Ballantyne, Publisher at Black Dog Books; Peninsula authors Garry Disher and Wendy Orr; educator Heather Goddard; and the Publisher of Western Port News, Cameron McCullough.

We thank all of the writers for their many wonderful stories; our knowledgeable panel of wise judges; and our generous sponsors. Without all of you the competition would not take place!

Cameron McCullough (Non Fiction judge, WPN sponsor ) Kirstie Stockwell (Non Fiction winner) Catriona Morrison (Fiction winner) Garry Disher (Fiction judge) Bronwen Gibbs (Nautilus) Greg Hood (Manager, Balnarrring & Districts Community Bank  – sponsor)

 

The winners across the five categories are:

Open Fiction—Judge, Garry Disher
Winner: Mermaid’s Tears by Catriona Morrison
Highly Commended
Balnarring Morning by Jo Fowler
Outside by Karen Charlton

Open Non Fiction—Judge, Cameron McCullough
Winner: The Last Mistake by Kirsty Stockwell
Highly Commended: The Grassy Spur by Ian Sharp

 

Teens—Judge, Heather Goddard
Winner: The Beach by Pia Murray
Runner-up: My People by Darcy Carr

Middle Years—Judge, Wendy Orr
Winner: The Secret Ingredient by Kiana Wallace
Runner-up: Home by Hazel Murray

Junior Years—Judge, Maryann Ballantyne
Winner: The Fox Who Could Swim by Hazel Mazza

Kiana Wallace (Middle Years Winner) Isla Killeen (Junior Years Runner-up) Pia Murray (Teens Winner) Hazel Mazza (Junior Years Winner) Hazel Murray (Middle Years Runner-up)

Runner-up: At the Beach by Isla Killeen

 

 

The winning stories are published in the Easter Edition 67 of the Somers Paper Nautilus.

 

The competition was run with the support of our valued sponsors:

Balnarring & District Community Branch of Bendigo Bank, Somers General Store, Farrell’s Bookshop, Petersen’s Bookstore and the Western Port News.

Lord Somers Camp hosts Shakespeare Yasmin McKenzie

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Filming by Shakespeare Republic in the great hall at Lord Somers Camp. Copyright Incognita Enterprises

Is Shakespeare still relevant? Does he still speak to us? Is he REALLY for everyone?

The answer is YES, according to Shakespeare Republic, who recently spent time at the Lord Somers Camp filming Series 2 of the internationally acclaimed web series. Shakespeare Republic is a collective of Australian based actors and writers who have come together to celebrate Shakespeare, his works and his enduring legacy. Using the medium of a web series, Shakespeare Republic takes a journey through the works of William Shakespeare and his fellow Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights.

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Short Story Competition Your guide to a cool summer street look

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Somers Paper Nautilus invites you to enter a short story writing competition. Write a fiction or non-fiction story on the theme … Summertime and Ocean. Entry is open to all.

Submit your story in one of the following categories:

  • Open Fiction: Fiction story, 500 word limit Prize $150
  • Open Non-fiction: Non-fiction story, 500 word limit Prize $150
  • Children* Under 8 years, fiction or non-fiction story, 300 word limit
    1st prize $30 book voucher, 2nd prize $15 book voucher
  • Middle years: 8 to 12 years, fiction or non-fiction story, 300 word limit
    1st prize $30 book voucher, 2nd prize $15 book voucher
  • Teens: 13 to 18 years, fiction or non-fiction story, 300 word limit
    1st prize $30 book voucher, 2nd prize $15 book voucher

(more…)

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For the love of sailing… Somers Yacht Club

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Come and discover why Somers Yacht Club is the heart of Somers community. For many members the attraction is more than just sailing. Many great friendships have been made during one of the regular Friday night dinners, a social event or BBQ. The sailing/social program is full and new faces are always welcome!

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Tough little perennial Penny Woodward

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Thrift (Armeria maritima) was one of the plants that I grew in my first garden and I have loved it ever since. It is a delightful tough little perennial that grows, in spring and summer, as a small clump of tufting, grassy leaves with white, pink or red button flowers on slender stems. Their ideal home is rocky, well-drained ground near the coast (perfect for Somers gardens). They grow beautifully in cold and warm temperate regions but are not much good in the sub-tropics and certainly won’t survive in the tropics. They also show no signs of self-seeding so won’t grow into the coastal foreshore or other bush areas.

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The Big Shed Designer Stalls

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Inside The Big Shed at Balnarring, which opened on 10th September. Situated next to Balnarring Motors, is open from Thursday to Sunday. There are 20 designer stalls from stockists around Australia and the Peninsula, from Red Hill Wrought Iron to Monk Honey.

A fishy surprise on South Beach John Blogg

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On a first light, early morning walk along South Beach this time last year, I was surprised to find a huge fish lying on the sand at the high tide line from the night before. As graceful as it was there wasn’t a mark on it to suggest why it had died, not even a broken hook in its mouth. It measured exactly one metre in length, with huge scales, and it weighed around 20 kilograms. I sent photos and information on where it was found to Jeff Weir at the Dolphin Research Institute for proper identification. Jeff informed me that David Donnelly, their research officer who – according to Jeff – ‘knows his fish’, said it was a blue-eye trevalla.

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Mangroves in danger Henry Broadbent

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The weekend of July 9–10 brought shocking pictures of the die-back of mangroves on the isolated shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria between Burketown and Karumba. While global warming was quickly suggested as to the cause, a more sober assessment suggested that drought was likely to be the culprit.

Westernport Bay has what I understand to be the most southerly mangroves in the world. Are we in danger of losing them? Particularly if the recent forecasts of imminent large sea level rises actually happen. Was it serendipity then that a notice arrived into my inbox on the very subject? Already primed I was intrigued to see an article published in the New Concepts in Global Tectonics Journal, by Albert Parker, titled: Darwin mangroves are not battling a sea level rise of +8.3 mm/year but increasing population and development. In the article, Albert Parker states: ‘We show here that the sea levels are rising in Darwin much less than the alleged +8.3 mm/year. Mangroves may suffer more from locally increasing population and development rather than the global carbon dioxide emission.’

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Women doctors, WW1 and Somers Rod Nuske

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In the late 1930s and 1940s, Associate Professor of Engineering, Edward Brown, his doctor wife Vera, and their children Edward and Catherine, were able to enjoy holidays in their weekend home in Haven Street, Somers. As to why this could be of interest to Somers residents eighty years later has been brought about by a recent news item, ‘Victorian women doctors recognised for WWI effort’. It described how six Melbourne women previously unrecognised for their work as doctors during World War I, will finally have their contributions acknowledged. A plaque honouring their work has been installed at Melbourne’s Welsh Church.

One of these doctors was Vera Scantlebury Brown, who would have had much need of the peace and quiet in the seaside at Somers. Vera was born in 1889 in the Victorian country town of Linton, where her father was the local doctor. With her decision to study medicine, and with the help of her parents, she enrolled in medicine at the University of Melbourne and qualified in 1913. At that time in Australia there were 140 female doctors and approximately 1,000 male doctors. Vera was appointed the Senior Resident Medical Officer at the Children’s Hospital from 1915 to 1917, at which time close to a third of the Australian medical community had already enlisted. Vera also was determined to serve her country. She paid her own way (£129) to England in 1917 and was given a position as assistant surgeon at the Endell Street Military Hospital in London despite the prevailing belief, at the time, that women were too delicate to handle the complexities of war injuries. This hospital had been established by the suffragettes, but came under the Royal Army Medical Corp. Vera carried out many operations over the two years that she was there. The hospital had 570 beds; a staff of female surgeons, nurses and orderlies attended to 26,000 patients suffering from the most hideous injuries and the effects of poison gas.

On her return to Australia Vera and other female doctors found that the male doctors were given preference for hospital appointments, but she was able to obtain the position of resident medical officer at the Women’s Hospital and a number of honorary appointments.

Vera developed a special interest in the health of women and children and was appalled in what she found. In 1924 she travelled to the USA, Canada and New Zealand to study their infant welfare systems. In 1926 the Victorian Government asked her and associate Dr Henrietta Main to make a study of the welfare of women and children. It is hard to believe now, but at this time, the infant mortality rate was 65 per 1000 live births, which is the current rate in third world countries like Pakistan and Swaziland.

Vera was appointed as the director of infant welfare in the Department of Health. But as a mother with two infant children she could only be employed on a part-time basis. Despite this limitation, Vera very patiently and diplomatically pioneered structured antenatal and postnatal care, expanding this to include older children. She then instituted compulsory training for nurses employed in this field and successfully secured funding for infant welfare clinics. I remember my wife taking our children over to the Somers Preschool Centre where there was a room dedicated for use by the visiting nurse.

Her department was the first Australian Maternal and Child Health service and would have been instrumental in the lowering of the mortality rate to its present 3.9 infant deaths per thousand live births, which is one of the lowest in the world. In 1938 the Australian Association of Pre-school Child Development was established together with the Lady Gowrie Child Centres. The splendid work carried out in these centres in all states was largely the result of Dr Scantlebury Brown’s efforts. In the same year her work was acknowledged with an OBE.

Finally, in 1944 she added preschools to the Dept of Infant Welfare responsibilities.

Vera with brother, Cliff, in London 1918. Photo by courtesy of Catherine
James Bassett.

Sadly Vera passed away in 1946 from cancer, after a life time dedicated to the care of others and in particular that of mothers and children. Today we accept the fact that mothers and their children are so well cared for without a thought of the work done by such people as Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown.

In 1946, the Vera Scantlebury Brown Child Welfare Memorial Trust was initiated as an annual travelling scholarship. In 2016 it will provide up to $6,000 for female applicants working in the areas of prenatal, children and family health and well being. I feel sure that Vera would have been well pleased by this assistance for young women intending to work in the area to which she dedicated most of her career.