News 2013-2015

2013 begins a year of consolidation rather than repair, as the previous years have been.


2013 begins a year of consolidation rather than repair, as the previous years have been. Apart from mowing, the major garden activity is to remove seedling mahogany trees and some other nuisance regrowth. It has been a very poor Wet season, but the garden is green, and I expect a spurt of growth in our new planted trees after the showers stop.

Bruce and James completed the patching of walls and architraves in building B- the heritage listed one- enabling the professional painters to commence work February 18. I spent time with the job manager to select colours visible from the scraping of walls so now each room has been painted as near to the original colour as possible. The metal louvres were removed to the workshop in Darwin, scraped and repainted. The whole place is transformed and looks really attractive. The colour is also a contrast to Building A which we painted in off-white and cream. The cost of the painting and white ant control carried out prior to Christmas was all funded via a Heritage Grant.

Currently the well regarded WW2 historian, Bob Alford, is completing the texts and picture selection for the WW2 exhibit. We have yet to get quotes to print the text which will exceed the Museum Grant of $8900 approved in December. I have approached a firm in Darwin asking for financial assistance. It will be good to get this display well in place before the August event. I remain hopeful.

There is a lot of work to prepare Grant applications and I am fortunate to have assistance from a former CEO of Coomalie Shire, Lisa Wain, who now lives in Queensland. We have just completed an application for a Federal Grant for circa $28000 to employ a professional curator for the Rum Jungle exhibit. That will still require funding to print text etc.

It had become obvious that a plan needed to be in place to establish the display and the amount and complexity of the project requires a dedicated professional. In December, after some enquiries, I contacted Dr Robin Gregory an anthropologist and historian who has lived in the NT for a long time. Robin arranged a visit (she now lives in Alice Springs) inspected the buildings, (prior to the painting of B) and then examined the wonderful collection of memorabilia and photographs contributed. She was impressed, excited and interested in the project. She has since sent a comprehensive quote to research and prepare the display. The quote was utilized for the Grant application.

Electronic communication assists the project as I liaise, often several times a day, with Bob, now living in Thailand; Lisa in Queensland; Robin in Alice Springs, and also with visitors to the web site and yourselves.

Because the louvred areas of the bedrooms are missing we designed an in-fill panel and these have been put in place. This part-wall will provide additional display area. We do need one set of wooden louvres for the bedroom which is being set up as was in the 50s. Locals if you can locate any louvres please be in touch.

The Military Museum has given us two display cases they have replaced, so these will be in the WW2 exhibit area. New cabinets are extremely expensive and so we are designing a version suitable to our needs which we will utilise to display the unique pieces we have for the Rum Jungle display.

We look forward to welcoming visitors when they come to Batchelor in August for the 60th anniversary of the Batchelor School.

Jan Hills President



We have advice from the Federal Government, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities that the submission for funding the Rum Jungle history exhibit has been successful. The submission included a quote from a professional archivist to produce the exhibition.

The records held at Rio Tinto in Melbourne will be accessed as well as material in libraries. However a great deal of material has come from you, the people out there who lived through this historic period and were the early inhabitants of the township known as Batchelor today.

Great photos, videos, original invitations and programmes, technical records - so many treasures have been submitted. These will be utilised in the second of the two buildings - the one which is heritage listed. The Heritage Grant obtained for that building enabled us to employ professional painters and precisely match the original paint colours.- the rooms look really bright and attractive. The lounge room has also been restored-it had been converted to a kitchen- and is slowly being furnished.

One bedroom will be as it was originally, whilst the others have the passage-way louvres replaced by an "in-fill panel". All of the louvres had been removed so the replacement for the one bedroom is currently being made. The panels allow more area for photos and text.

Some of the rooms will have display cabinets to house donated items. The exhibition will take some time to develop.

For those of you visiting Batchelor for the school's 60th anniversary in August, you will see a substantial WW2 exhibit, in addition to the Batchelor Farm (1911….) display.

Updated photos will be posted at a later date.

During the past few months we have had responses to the life membership proposal, and these are recorded separately.

If there are any queries then please email me via the web site or on


Jan Hills President



The past year has seen the Museum buildings move on from being remnants under repair to well presented buildings which now house the initial museum presentations.

The result is from a combination of efforts from people and also Grant funding. Whilst Mike Fischer rebuilt the bathroom in Block B and repaired architraves etc, the multiple repair work required for holes in walls and replacement pieces was painstaking and lengthy. James absorbed the techniques to add to his many skills so carried on this work for many weeks. He and Bruce worked at the bogging and replacement pieces, salvaged from other white ant damaged areas to present the rooms in a worthwhile state. Consequently when it came for the professional painters to quote and then do the job, the labour part was substantially reduced.

Paint samples were taken from the walls to match as close as possible to the original room colours. The painting was done in January 2013 and the building presents beautifully. By now we had experienced the troublesome situation in Block A (painted by Helpx volunteers, under the management of James) in that people walked across the space where louvres had been, into the rooms, rather than using the dooraccess. A panel was designed in keeping with the style of the rooms, and still allowing air movement. These panels would stop the problem and also provide extra exhibition space.

Because this occurred after the painting was completed, the panels were placed and then needed to be painted. This was done by Denise and Jude in both buildings. To get the exact replica for the fixed wooden louvres in room 4 of B block Denise took photos and Jan took measurements from a wooden screen in one of the original houses. The wooden louvres, now painted and in place, also look superb. One can appreciate their construction which provides both privacy and air flow.

The Heritage grant included money to upgrade the system for white ant control. We did not need as much as initially quoted so made application for a variation to the Heritage grant to use the available funds to provide the panels in the heritage building, as well as restore the wooden louvres to room 4 which is being presented close to original state. Variation approved, Mike put in the panels in both A and B (B paid from funds donated for life memberships). The panels were painted by Denise and Jude. The panels look great and have already been utilized for display in Block A.

A modest Community Grant allowed an extension of the original Batchelor Farm display and consequent happenings.,

The Grants now need to be applied for and acquitted on line, which I am only getting used to doing. As well as the various descriptive reports of the accomplished tasks all the invoices need to be scanned and entered. It is frustrating to place information, thinking you have pressed all the right commands only to find the information does not reach the site. With the Heritage Grant the coordinator in Heritage knows me well and was very patient, and Lisa came on board to complete the entries. Thank you Lisa, helping us from Queensland!

We also won a Museums Grant to establish the WW2 exhibit and so employed historian Bob Alford to do the research. Jan kept up a constant flow of emails re the texts, photos, and liason with Bob and the person arranging the printing of the panels; also to obtain photographs from National Archives, the Australian War Memorial and the Northern Territory Library. The exercise occurred over seven months.

The Darwin Military Museum donated two wooden display cases which James and Jan went to pick up from East Point. They are extremely heavy but travelled well and now display WW2 relics from around Batchelor. Although it is essentially an interpretive Museum, we do have objects for display.

Within this Grant we designed wooden display cabinets with glass tops made locally by Dave. (Professional museum cabinets were well beyond our price range). These are in use, and we were then then advised of moderately priced shop display items so purchased a glass cabinet which is vey suitable for smaller more delicate display items.

Within the WW2 exhibit there is a profile of Denise's Father whom she discovered whilst living here, flew out of Batchelor and was involved extensively in Northern Australia, Singapore etc., so Denise's brother and sister both travelled from interstate to be here for the opening of the exhibition which nicely tied in with the sixtieth celebrations in August. Another close connection is with the daughter of David Delaporte who had visited some years ago to stay with Rose Phillips. Liz gad brought the log book to show Batchelor, Coomalie, Pell landings and has subsequently provided more information. Rose brought back the log book for copying by the Museum this Dry season so we have more wonderful material.

A 90 year old veteran from a Batchelor unit, visited us in that opening week, and we have had other enquiries regarding Fathers who served in Batchelor.

Decided there needed to be a dedicated storage unit for the donated items so have acquired a metal cabinet for the purpose. Will need more than this, but is a start. You people who lived in Batchelor during the mining era have sent wonderful memorabilia and photographs, videos etc. and the Museum will consequently represent a unique Rum Jungle display.

With help from former Coomalie CEO Lisa, (whose on-line computer skills are greater than mine) I applied for a Federal grant to establish the Rum Jungle exhibition. Months later we learnt that we have $24000 to start this project.. That may seem a lot but this task is huge and requires a professional person to interpret the display , which will be extensive. It will be housed in Block B the heritage listed building. and utilize the lounge and five of the bedrooms for various themes. Room 4 is the one retained with the original wash basin and built-in furniture, restored wooden louvres; a suitable bed and items are in place and this room is looking good, though needs refinement.

The inset panels were made by Mike, who restored the bathroom in B, and the louvres and display cabinets by Dave.. Mike has retired, and that great fixer, James, has now left Batchelor, so hopefully there are no building challenges ahead.

Along with all the above, the garden has been maintained and looks very neat; the sink unit in the new block has been repaired, and we acquired two bookcases. This large room is used for meetings, some storage, and the secondhand books which Prue collects and sells at various times throughout the year.. Book sales are a modest earner but a great help as money is needed other than that awarded through the Grants which must only be used as specified.

The Museum gratefully received amounts for Life memberships – see under membership – and would welcome other commitments. Payments may be made over several years and are tax deductible.

Work continues with the aboriginal section, more WW2, and the development of the Rum Jungle exhibit.

Our wonderful caretakers, Denise and James, are moving on with their travels despite becoming so integrated into the Batchelor township.. They brought a wide range of talents to the Museum which have helped on many fronts and we will miss them greatly.

At the meeting in October it was decided to award life memberships to James and Denise.

The committee during the year included James and Denise, Jude, Prue, Carol (treasurer), Richard, Bruce and Ros Jones, Leeanne Mahaffey, and our communications person in Darwin, Kay Withnall, Denise, James and Prue have all moved on for now.

I remain your President.

2014 will be a big year and we look forward to presenting you with further milestones.

Jan Hills President



I apologise for the long interval since sending off an update. It has been a long haul.

The research and specifics of the Rum Jungle mining display were done by Dr Robin Gregory who came from Alice Springs on two occasions to inspect the material we have collected, and then assemble it into the Rum Jungle mining story. Robin previously lived in Darwin and she was familiar with Batchelor and appreciated the wonderful material now assembled.

It then took a considerable time to get many photographs professionally scanned to USB. These were posted to Robin so she could arrange them as she proposed. Meantime I needed to obtain permission for official photographs from libraries and government departments.

The text from Robin, and the associated photographs, were then submitted to the print company to arrange the text and photographs suitably. The print proofs came back to me for editing. Some of you have of recent times had phone calls and emails from me directly and sometimes from Ros Jones as I sought an identity or a date.

Last week twenty-one panels were placed and in another two weeks there will be a further sixteen.

In one instance an image was replaced as the person could not be identified. However there will eventually be a further chance to use images not yet utilized in either a photographic continuous display, or additional panels.

Some of the photographs on the panels are coloured which makes for good contrast. There will also be two or three glass showcases to display various items and special exhibits.

Two people in Darwin are undertaking training at the Northern Territory Library to digitize the print collection. Currently there is an area being prepared to house the Museum collection so that it will be protected from humidity and high temperatures.

These activities are funded by two Grants which are currently being finalized. The Federal Grant for the Rum Jungle exhibit; the community grant concerned with the archiving of our material. It is a wonderful collection and I thank all those of you who have sent photographs, memorabilia etc. This showcase will ensure that Batchelor history is preserved and that the memorable Rum Jungle mining story is preserved.

Today with the computer expertise from former CEO Lisa Wain, I was able to complete a grant application to extend the previous exhibition spaces.

We did have a problem earlier this tourist season in getting a caretaker to stay at the Museum and therefore difficulty opening the Museum on a set daily basis. Our previous caretakers, James and Denise, who were here for two seasons are sorely missed, not just for their dedication to the Museum, but because they became such a vital part of the Community. It was wonderful to have their enthusiasm and humour, so many aspects to miss.

Currently we have a retired librarian, Shirley, who is very committed and interested so that is excellent; the visitors have increased in number now that we have regular and extended hours. We now need to find a couple who want to stay indefinitely. Batchelor has much to offer, as always.

The Museum grounds look well cared for and the setting will be used to host a dinner organised by COTA in late August. It is intended to become an annual event.

Apart from the above we need to fund raise to pay the regular power, water and sewerage; public liability insurance etc. Entry fees contribute towards this and this year we were assisted by financial assistance from the Coomalie Community Government Council.

Our small group of volunteers continue to support the project by giving their time and talents.

In the near future there will be an in-house publication available for those of you unable to visit, to see the images which tell the story.

Please would all of you be so obliging by sending to the address the dates when you were living and working at Batchelor.

This would provide valuable assistance in developing the displays of the photographic records that many of you have sent.

Jan Hills President



The last year has seen a great step forward in terms of our display coverage. Once the Rum Jungle exhibition was designed, then came the long process of editing, the backwards and forwards of innumerable emails to get the pictures and the text right.

Early in 2014 Bruce Jones and I removed the kitchen bench from Block A thereby increasing the space for the proposed development in that room. Bruce also worked with Bruce Verburgh when he came to restore the electrical wiring in Block A. The hardest part, which Bruce Jones did, was to retrieve the old wires which were a tangled mess. We also purchased and installed new exit lights for both buildings.

There was a long delay in getting assistance from travellers to open the Museum and the committee volunteers did the best we could. It really mattered once the tourist season was in full swing and especially as, by then, we had a major part of the Rum Jungle panels in place. Darryl came to help me place the panels, and we used a new adhesive and tape. These are all in Block B, which was painted in the original colours, and looks very well indeed.

Additional glass display cases were purchased to display items sent in by former residents and workers at Rum Jungle. These are mostly in the social area, but a smaller display case at the entrance displays two collections of rock samples fittingly under a text introducing uranium.

Thanks to Leigh and Lyn who came to Batchelor in April, as Leigh put the display cases together and also cut a couple of holes in walls when they were urgently needed (electrical purposes) for the next day. Lyn took over the supervision of the Museum opening hours.

Then a traveller, Shirley, contacted me and came to stay at the Museum for the months of June and July. This meant we were open every day for longer hours, and we saw a rise in attendance, especially as volunteers at the Information Centre spread the word.

There were two Grants to acquit, and whereas the major one is for Rum Jungle, the other has been partly utilised to purchase equipment so as to electronically record all the wonderful collection material we have- thanks to many of you who will read this.

Former librarian, Graeme, is scanning the entire photographic, DVDs, etc, . Wherever supplied there are names, descriptions, etc. Also pictures can be brought up by subject matter etc. - all the things which can be done with modern technology. This takes a lot of time, and is ongoing.

Then, using equipment at the State Library I asked our communications secretary, Kay, in Darwin, if she and another person, Ruth, would scan the journal, albums, documentation items donated. This too is ongoing.

In February I was contacted by Joe from the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, to see if Batchelor Museum would host a display they had developed entitled “Indigenous Australians At War”. Agreed, but needed more wall space. Many of you will recall the old Batchelor Hospital, which morphed to the local medical clinic before being retired, used as an exhibition space by Batchelor College but then closed. Contact with the College has led to a partnership to host this exhibition which will open at the Batchelor art gallery (re opened) in May 2015. We had been looking at material for indigenous wartime involvement, and will have additional material at our own space.

Recently we scanned two great posters illustrating the aboriginal involvement as northern coast watchers and these have been mounted and displayed.

Meantime Bruce stripped all the old electrical wire and Jan took it to the recyclers, so we added over $200 to our utilities account. Because there are two blocks of ground we pay two electrical and two power accounts which come in whether we are open or not. Also the public liability insurance is a major for us. Fortunately there has been no recent white ant damage since the clean up funded by a heritage grant, and we continue to have an annual inspection.

In August travellers Margaret and Linton took over the caretaker role from Shirley. They saw the visitation wind right down as the weather hotted up for a harsh build-up. Once they “discovered” the aura of Batchelor they too became devotees and entered into the Quiz night, Mens Shed, Markets, helping at the Information centre as well etc. They wanted to see the Museum better advertised at the Tourism Top End Information centre so they have paid our nomination and fees for 2015 –and intend to return!

Right now we are having to scale down our opening times as volunteers are few. Unusually we need to water some plants too, as there has been only one shower and that was some six weeks ago; the Wet is not being heralded with wet storms this year.

The community Grant also allowed us to build in a small room within Block C to house all the Rum Jungle donated items, the records for WW2, Batchelor Farm and the Aboriginal data. This grant was acquitted and the Federal Grant will be completed at the end of November.

Already there is news just to hand, that we have a grant to extend the museum interpretation in the aboriginal, farm and WW2 areas. Will start that early in 2015, so will have more panels of text and pictures to offer again next year.

For those who may be interested I hope we will have a Museum publication developed and available to purchase in the next year.

The grounds are looking good, though we need to remove a few excess mahogany trees before they become a hazard.

My thanks to the many people who have assisted us over the year, and also to the Coomalie Council for support in meeting some of our expenses. We have applied for a Grant from them for 2015.

Our Treasurer Carol Day has seen to the audit of accounts and the lodgement required for our charity status. Many thanks Carol for all your work. Particular thanks to all committee members and specially to our coopted one, Lyn, who has prepared the new brochures and is the liaison for our volunteer attendants.

During the year we have had two silver Life memberships subscribed- Jane Storey (nee Tonkin); and more recently, Deborah Moyle, resident of Batchelor. The donations for this are tax deductible and can be continued to gold or platinum level at a later date.

The Museum is building into the substantial asset Batchelor deserves and we look forward to hosting an increased visitation next year.
We wish you a safe and happy festive season.

Jan Hills President


Variety and challenge have been key aspects of this calendar year.

From February 2014 the Indigenous Australians at War exhibition loomed large, and took many hours in the first half of 2015. I had approached Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education to use what is now their Cultural Centre-ex-residents of Batchelor would have known the building as the Batchelor Hospital. Besides weekly meetings with their organiser, Peter Hillier, regarding guest lists, venue, VIPs, advertising, etc etc there was the development of panels about local people. Large panels about Willie Taylor (WWI) and Joe McGinness (WWII) plus six photos from various aboriginal areas went on display when the travelling exhibition launched on May 22. Committee members then supervised the exhibition on weekends and public holidays for the six weeks of display.

We advertised in the newspapers, through the College website, and I did interviews on FM, ABC and aboriginal radio channels. The Museum expenses were paid from an Anzac Grant from the Chief Minister’s Department.

At the launch the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs was represented by the NT member for Solomon, MLA Natasha Griggs. Local member Hon Gary Higgins and his wife Rhonda attended, as well as then leader of the opposition, the Hon Delia Lawrie. There were official representatives from the Defence Force based in Darwin, a contingent from the defence force base, as well as the Batchelor Indigenous Institute Tertiary Education North Australia training group, NORFORCE. College staff and Batchelor Museum committee, and many other invitees attended.

An aboriginal serviceman from Tiwi islands came across to speak at the opening as well as the RSL president from Darwin.

The Shrine of Remembrance who created the exhibition sent a specialist person to unpack and hang the panels, and then James Wright organised the shut down and repacking. The College forklift was needed to load the seven cases on the transport to go to Queensland.

The plan to set up a cafe in the cement block building added by the College has been an on going saga, and we have moved on from plans, development application, visits by the Health Department, water and sewerage people etc. Finally we had the development application approved, and last week received advice that an application for a Tourism Grant of $30,000 had been approved. The plumbing is the big job to install an in-ground grease extractor, and an external mop sink!. As well there will be all new plumbing for the new kitchen bench and cupboards .A hinged entry door and other items will be upgraded, as well as input to painting and other jobs by the faithful!

A third major item which has been time consuming remains unresolved. The housing commission claim a substantial part of the land which was assumed to be part of the title to the Museum lease, and comprises a major part of the well- defined driveway and parking area. After letters to various departments, and being thrust between Lands and Housing Commission pushing the problem around, we were offered a lease for 12 years at peppercorn rental and payment of the costs of drawing up the lease. I have approached several solicitors but none really want to look hard at the legislation about land which we tend and utilise, and at a glance is part of the Museum, being part of the original single women’s quarters. I am reluctant to sign a lease and so defer the problem for a later time.

As regards the Museum itself, we joined Top End Tourism for this year, generously funded by our caretakers of latter 2014, Lynn and Margaret from Queensland. This step enabled us to put brochures (also a new item) in the information centres across the NT. Visitation for the tourist months more than doubled and we got lots of great comments in our visitor’s book. Plus people who came to look where their Mum or Dad had served during WWII and this has often led to pictures and information being given.

We will continue the membership and have decided to advertise in the NT Tourism booklets. Our small team of volunteers has been really stretched and it would be good to recruit others to supervise.

I had asked the new Administrator, the Hon. John Hardy, and Mrs Marie Hardy to visit, and they did so, over staying their scheduled time by more than an hour. John particularly was interested in the aircraft and his local airline has a plane flown by Des Grecian, one of the pilots featured in our display. Denise had not realised the Batchelor connection before she arrived four years ago as caretaker and discovered her Dad featured!

Meantime I have under way the expansion of displays in all areas. There have been additions to the social life in Rum Jungle area, and the aboriginal section has new panels, including the Joe Mc Ginnis one. The others from the Anzac display now have a special section alongside the WWII area.

Pictures for all three sections are still coming in and being utilised.

We do have a postcard of two barking owls in a nest on sale at the Museum. Those owls were born in the Tamarind tree beside the Museum three years ago, and now there is a second pair. The parents stay around. I am sure many of you will recall barking owls as they can often be heard around the town over night. I have loved hearing them on the occasions I stay locally.

Bob Dennis visited in March and gave us his Queen’s scout shirt and other memorabilia for display. A collection of stories from Rum Jungle era is on the way-need to get voices to read them, and it would be good to have a picture of the person to go with them.

As well the digitisation of the Museum photographs has continued from Graeme Cheater and the digitisation of the written word has been undertaken through the NT Library by Kay Withnall.

Please note our platinum, gold, and silver donors on the web site. We haven’t chased up membership fees but if anyone wanted to make a donation it is a tax deduction.

Besides my self continuing as president., other committee members are also continuing; Carol Day is treasurer, Lyn Ashford, Sue Bulmer, Ros and Bruce Jones, James and Denise Wright. We did have aboriginal representation previously, and will try to recruit someone again.

The web site will have a new look in 2016 and I hope you enjoy the extracts from some panels on display. Thank you to Linda at Web Noise for her work.

Jan Hills President