56[“The North-West”, The West Australian, Monday 27 June 1910, page 5]
TOUR OF COLONIAL SECRETARY.
A BUSY THREE WEEKS.
(By Our Special Correspondent.)
At first Mr. Connolly was going to the North-West, next he found that he could not spare the time, and then at 24 hours’ notice he went. That was on June 4, and he returned on Saturday morning having spent just three weeks on the coast. From Fremantle to Derby is a far cry - nearly as far as from Fremantle to Melbourne - and having business to transact at each port and in addition to visit the island hospitals for diseased natives, and make other calls along the coast, the Minister and his party were kept moving too fast to allow of the white ants getting into their feet. And that is saying much in a country where the white ant attaches to everything not on the move. The departments controlled by the Colonial Secretary give that Minister a particular interest in the North-West. Harbours, rivers, jetties, and lighthouses, hospitals, gaols, and police, and the all-important native question come directly under his jurisdiction, and the facts that the Government have recently assumed control of all wharves and jetties, which hitherto had been leased, and that six new lighthouses had been either built or were in course of construction along the coast, reinforced the necessity for a Ministerial visit. As if these matters were not enough to remove all suggestion of holiday-making from the trip, news of Mr. Connolly’s impending visit had spread as if on wireless waves from Fremantle to Derby, and at each port deputations were in waiting. Place in those circumstances a Minister with a conscientious appetite for details, and a not too enthusiastic love of sea travelling, especially in boats of the Penguin’s reputation, and you have an approximation of the man who knocked off work to carry a hod.
At Denham, the small settlement in Shark’s Bay, the stay of the boat was not sufficiently long to allow of the Minister going ashore, but if Mr. Connolly could not go to Denham, Denham could and did go to Mr. Connolly, the leading townspeople waiting on him on board the Koombana in regard to matters affecting the pearling industry there.
At all other ports, excepting Point Sampson, which was reached at night, the Colonial Secretary was able to land, and with the Chief Harbourmaster (Captain Irvine) to inspect the jetties, tram-lines, and goods sheds, the gaol, hospital, and police quarters, and to hear the requests brought forward by deputations. Ministers seem fated to reach Broome on Sundays, and in Mr. Connolly’s case the misfortune was aggravated by the fact of having only a few hours to spend there, which few hours were occupied in purely official business, thus allowing no opportunity of seeing Broome in its workaday aspect - the Broome which is more Asiatic than white which has stores overflowing with the silks and chinaware and curious workmanship of the Orient, and which is in some respects a contravention of the White Australia principle. To have also missed seeing the native mission (the largest in the State) conducted by the Palatine Brotherhood at Beagle Bay was to tincture the upward journey with disappointment, a feeling somewhat mitigated, however, by the consequent necessity of seeing Derby and something of the cattle shipping business. The downward trip, though slightly marred at the outset by a second disappointment in regard to Beagle Bay, was ultimately more happy in its issue. The Minister and party left the Koombana at Port Hedland and completed the trip in that flighty midget, the Penguin. It was with some misgivings that the company exchanged the spaciousness and comforts of the Koombana for the less pretentious accommodation of the Penguin, but it is bare justice to admit that with the exception one rough night off Point Cloates, the trip was comfortably and punctually completed in the small boat, which Captain Airey so ably commands. The word comfortably is used in a comparative sense, of course, for the Penguin at all times has more noise and motion than is conducive to serious work on the part of her passengers. The Minister was ashore for a day at Point Sampson, Roebourne and Cossack, for a couple of hours at the lighthouse site at Point Cloates and for another day at Carnarvon, where the townspeople, out of their prosperity, entertained the visitors sumptuously. The balance of the trip, including the visits to Bernier and Dorre Islands, and to Cape Inscription lighthouse, was almost the most interesting of the tour, the various phases of which will be dealt with in separate articles.
THE LOCK HOSPITALS.
OFFICIAL OPENING OF CAPE INSCRIPTION LIGHTHOUSE.
The Government steamer Penguin having on board the Colonial Secretary (Mr. J. D. Connolly) and Captain Irvine (Chief Harbourmaster) reached Geraldton on Friday morning after a good run from Sharks Bay. Leaving Carnarvon at 4 a.m. on Wednesday the Ministerial party, which had been augmented by Mr. W. J. Butcher and Mr. Angelo (Mayor of Carnarvon), were in a few hours landed in the bay opposite Bernier Island. They were met by Dr. Steele, the Government Bacteriologist and Acting Medical Officer, and the matron (Miss Pengelly), and spent a very interesting couple of hours in inspecting the island.
The hospital at Bernier Island is at present used by the diseased native women, who number 78, but shortly an exchange is to be effected. The men on Dorre Island will be transferred to Bernier, whilst the women will be all segregated on Dorre Island, which will become the headquarters of the doctor and nursing staff. As the Minister controlling these lock hospitals, Mr. Connolly found much to claim his attention on Bernier Island. The work there being performed has to do with a sordid phase of the native question, but it has a broad humanitarian aim, and the results so far achieved inspired the Minister with satisfaction and a conviction that an extension of the system of segregation is justifiable.
From Bernier to Dorre Island was but a two hours’ run in smooth water and in the early afternoon the visitors were ashore inquiring into the treatment of the male patients, who now number 48, of whom many are ready for repatriation. Here fine new quarters have been built for the staff, and a large surgical ward, capable of accommodating 20 of the most serious cases is in course of erection. Mr. Connolly arranged for certain other works to be undertaken, and then, when the official duties were completed, the party moved over to the west side of the island, where the sea breaks in magnificent anger upon the reefs, and where oysters that would gladden the heart of an epicure may be collected by the hundredweight from the reefs. Good fishing, too, was enjoyed, and the day’s catch included a couple of groper weighing upwards of 601b. each. After dinner the natives, whose black bodies had been ornamented with fearsome designs in plaster of Paris cribbed from the building materials
Danced a Corroboree
in the glare of a large bonfire, the orchestra supplying a weird, yet not unmusical accompaniment by chanting and beating together pieces of wood. The performance was rewarded with an extra allowance of tobacco, and then one after another the dusky figures sidled up to “Big Boss” and asked to be allowed to go to their own country. “You good boss fellow,” said one son of the bush “but me wanta my country go.” The Minister’s reply to the deputationists was the usual promise to give the matter consideration. The party moved away from the camp with an affable “Good-night, all of us,” from a corpulent member of the ballet.
Routine political reporting was seldom credited, but this is another George Romans piece. He travelled with Connolly, covering the tour for The West Australian.