Tuesday, 1 September 2009

exigent futures

What could be more natural than this image of three adolescent boys goofing off in a wrecked car. The photo was taken by my mother with my Box Brownie camera in the early 1960s and the three boys are myself (middle) with Lindsay Peterson (right), and Greg Smith (left), two neighbourhood friends in the then nascent southeastern Melbourne suburb of Clayton. Greg’s mother, Olwyn Schoenheimer, was a good friend of my own mother. She was a lively Jewish woman whose many male partners inevitably failed to live up to their promise. Greg had passed through several surnames, Smith presumably that of his biological father. Like myself he was an only child, though he was a good two or so years older than me. His mother worked as an occupational therapist at Sunbury psychiatric hospital on the far side of Melbourne. We visited Olwyn at work, a situation that must have been strange for my mother since she had visited her own father (who was also Jewish) in a psychiatric institution through the 1930s. I was unaware of this uncomfortable element of the past at the time and took in the scene at the institution much as I had taken in the scene of an abattoirs I had visited a few years before (a family friend worked there). Greg and I grew apart as we grew older. I went to university. He became a journalist. He changed his name then to Shackleton (it sounded ‘solid’ to him). In October 1975, along with Malcolm Rennie, Brian Peters, Gary Cunningham and Tony Stewart, he was killed by the Indonesian army at Balibo in East Timor. The journalists were poised to report on an imminent invasion of what was then still known as Portuguese Timor. The Australian Labor government turned a blind eye to this occurrence, unwilling to criticise the Indonesian government; interested more in the possibility of dividing up the oil resources of the Timor Sea.


jeff hilson said...

great picture, sad story

Paul Schloss said...

I've not long discovered your blog, and I'm slowly reading through your posts.

This one gave me an odd, and unsettling feeling...

Over the years I've watched the documentary Manufacturing Consent many times. Part of its section on East Timor includes Greg Shackleton's last night. A very moving piece, which is has a shocking finale. All the journalist's names are are shot onto the screen like bullets. And then we are told they were killed the next day.

Reading your piece not only the images, but many of the words came back to me.


Daniel said...

HI! I have just discovered your blog and was captivated by part of the tragic story you recount. I am a cousin of Olwyn, Daniel Schoenheimer, and live in New York State. If yo have anyother memories or info I would love to hear about it and add it into our family history.

Laurie Duggan said...

Daniel, there's nothing more I can remember unfortunately. Olwyn was a great person, of that I was aware. But I was too young to have kept any record. I didn't start a diary until I went to university and then I had other concerns.