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October 2017 - Graham Sims

"Elephants - a Love Affair"

Our speaker this month was Graham Sims whose unusual and fascinating topic was “Elephants – a Love Affair”.

Graham had a 40+ year career in education, as a teacher, consultant, Chief of Public Relations,  Principal,  Inspector of Schools , and Director. He specialised in Languages, teaching French, German, Indonesian, Malay and English, both here and overseas.

After his retirement in 2000, Graham served as Principal of two Islamic Colleges in Sydney, being at one when ‘9-11’ happened in New York, and at another when the ‘Bali Bombings’ took place in 2005. In his words, these were tense, difficult and challenging times.

Graham has a longstanding affinity with large animals and particularly with elephants. He explained that Taronga Park was established in 1911, and the elephants had to be taken by road from Sydney’s original zoo at Moore Park to Taronga Park. As the Harbour Bridge did not yet exist, the elephants were taken by barge for the last section of the journey.

He brought back childhood memories for many of us as he described the elephant rides at Taronga Park Zoo, which were later discontinued when they became ‘politically incorrect’. Most of Taronga Park’s elephants were eventually taken to Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo.

Many circuses also had elephants, but this too is now frowned on as elephants are social animals and need the company of their own species. Interestingly, although most elephants in circuses were female they were called “bulls”.

The African and Asian elephants are today the only remaining species. The African elephants are larger and have ears shaped like the African continent while the smaller Asian variety’s ears are shaped like India.

We learned that the elephant’s trunk contains 40,000 muscles and it is the only animal to have four kneecaps. Elephants are vegetarian in a land where most animals are carnivores. They communicate through “infrasound” mechanisms, which are low rumbles which humans can’t hear.

Graham finished by telling us of “his” elephant from many years ago - Choni who lived in a grey concrete area of Taronga Park zoo away from the other elephants.



SEPTEMBER 2017 - Det Supt Debora Wallace, APM

Today we were very privileged to have as our guest speaker Detective Superintendent Deborah Wallace who is the current Commander of the Gangs Squad. Deborah started her career as a Probationary Constable at Blacktown and served for 22 years in Local Area Command units in the Blacktown/Mt Druitt/Cabramatta area. She rose through the ranks to the position of Chief Inspector (Crime Manager) at Cabramatta.

In 2005 Deborah was promoted to Detective Superintendent of the South East Asian Crime Squad, and in 2008 she transferred to the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad, State Crime Command. She took up her current position in 2014. In the 2011 Australia Day Honours Deborah was awarded the Australian Police Medal.

Deb commenced her talk with her view of what makes a good leader – integrity, honesty, authenticity and moral courage. She was lucky enough to have served with officers who showed such attributes and one in particular encouraged her to become a detective.

In 1986 Deb was part of the team which helped solve the infamous murder of Anita Cobby. She commented that in 90% of cases the perpetrators are known to their victims but it is the random acts such as Anita’s murder which are the hardest to solve. In this case a fellow criminal led the police to the murderers, who all received life sentences “never to be released”.

Anita’s parents, Gary & Grace Lynch were instrumental in the establishment of the Homicide Victim Support Group. In Grace’s honour premises are about to be built at Doonside as a respite centre for children aged 3 – 18 who have been victims of crime. It will be named “Grace’s Place”.

The Lynch’s work also led to the NSW Government introducing the ”truth in sentencing” laws. A civilian and a victim of crime are now on every Parole Board hearing.

Deb then went on to talk about the organized crime gangs and the drugs which are their prime source of income. It was interesting to hear that in 1999 there was a drought in Burma which meant that they could not grow poppies which are the source of heroin, so crime decreased dramatically.

The gangs then went on to develop amphetamines, which are known as the “party drugs” - “ecstasy” and “ice”. Deb had some interesting stories to tell of the drug suppliers and bikie gangs.

Deb left us with a feeling of admiration and respect for the incredible work which she and her colleagues are doing to make NSW a safer place to live.


GUEST SPEAKERS – 22 August 2017

Today our guest speaker was Donna Hendry who is the Senior Education Officer with the Macular Disease Foundation Australia. Donna has worked for the Foundation for nearly seven years. The Foundation works to reduce the incidence and impact of Macular Degeneration (MD) in Australia with a strong focus on the prevention, early detection and treatment of MD. Raising awareness of the disease and its potential impacts has been, and continues to be, one of the key objectives of the Foundation.

Donna’s subject was very relevant to our members as macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia, affecting 1 in 7 people over the age of 50. This increases to 1 in 3 over the age of 80.

Donna explained that the macular is the central part of the retina at the back of the eye and macular degeneration is a progressive chronic disease which can lead to loss of central vision, although the peripheral vision is not affected.

There are two types of MD – the dry version which progresses very slowly resulting is gradual loss of vision over the years, and the wet version which is very aggressive and can happen suddenly, leading to rapid and severe vision loss.

Donna’s most important message was that if you notice any changes in your vision get them checked out as soon as possible. We should all have an eye checkup at least every two years in any case and ensure that the macula is checked as part of that examination.

Donna left some very useful brochures which include an Amsler Grid which you can put on your fridge to check for changes in your vision and symptoms of macular degeneration.

For further information on Macular Degeneration you can call the Foundation on 1800 11 709 or go to their website


July 2017 - Ron Ray - Governor Lachlan Macquarie

This month’s speaker Ron Ray brought a touch of history to our meeting when he spoke about Governor Lachlan Macquarie and the 73rd Regiment of Foot which came to NSW with Governor Macquarie in 1810.

Ron has been a volunteer guide and member of the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) for 6 years. His other volunteer activities include visitor services with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust in the visitor centre on Cockatoo Island and conducting tours of the North Fort tunnels and gun emplacements at North Head.

Ron’s particular interests are in 18th century military and naval history, HMB Endeavour, the ANMM fleet of vessels and the collection contained in the museum galleries. Ron is also a member of an 18th century Napoleonic re-enactment group recreating the 73rd Regiment of Foot.

Ron explained that Governor Macquarie came to NSW after the Rum Rebellion which saw the ousting of the incumbent Governor Bligh. Macquarie made many changes including sacking the regiment which was then in place and replacing it with the 73rd Regiment.

He was responsible for construction of a number of buildings, including the new convict barracks and Sydney Hospital in Macquarie Street, and built the road up to South Head. He also established the Bank of NSW and the state’s first currency. Surprisingly he appointed a woman, Mary Reiby, to the bank’s board of directors.

Ron was dressed in the uniform of the 73rd Regiment and explained the significance of the various items which constitute the uniform, such as the red coat, the plume on the hat and sleeve buttons.

He then went on to demonstrate the use of the black powder musket, and explained that a number of well know sayings had come about because of the musket, e.g. “lock, stock and barrel”, “flash in the pan” and ”skinflint”.

Ron’s enthusiasm for his subject was very obvious and he kept us enthralled with his knowledge.



June 2017 - Susannah Fullerton - Literary Lecturer/Author

Presentation on the Life of Jane Austen

We were honoured to have Susannah Fullerton OAM, FRS (N) as our guest speaker this month. In the 2017 Queen's Birthday Honours Susannah received an Order of Australia Medal for Services to Literature. 

Susannah has been passionate about literature for as long as she can remember. She did a B.A. at the University of Auckland, N.Z. and then completed a post-graduate degree in Victorian literature at the University of Edinburgh. She gives talks around Sydney on famous writers and their works. 

Susannah is the President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia and regularly speaks to Jane Austen groups and at conferences. She has edited Jane Austen - Antipodean Views, and has written a number of books on the author. 

The subject of Susannah’s presentation was the life of Jane Austen, and she started by reading a scene from “Pride & Prejudice”, probably Jane’s most well known novel. Who will ever forget the scene in the TV series based on this book, where Colin Firth walked out of the water soaking wet? 

I was interested to hear that Jane wrote six novels but only four were published and one of her novels, “Sense and Sensibility”, was not published under her name as she didn’t want the locals to know she had written it. 

Jane was one of eight children, and her father, who was a clergyman, encouraged her to write. As a child she wrote a number of funny short stories referred to as “Juvenalia”. 

On 18 July 2017 it will be 200 years since Jane Austen died and was buried at Winchester Cathedral. Many celebrations are planned to commemorate Jane’s life, and she will be the first female author to be featured on an English bank note and coin. 

Susannah’s presentation was very well received by our members. She really brought Jane’s books to life and is clearly an avid devotee of all her writing.



May 2017 - Caitlin Comensoli and Teresa Robio  - WSCLC

In May our guest speakers were Caitlin Comensoli and Teresa Rubio, solicitors at Western Sydney Community Legal Centre (WSCLC) – Windsor Branch Office. WSCLC is a non-profit community organization providing free legal services in various areas of law to the Western Sydney community.

The topic was “Planning for Ageing” in which they discussed various ways in which individuals can plan ahead for their legal, financial, lifestyle and medical needs.

Caitlin and Teresa provided a very ”user-friendly” explanation of legal documents such as Power of Attorney, Enduring Guardianship, Advanced Care Directives and Wills and how important it is for individuals to have such documents in place well before they are needed.

They emphasized the need to have the documents properly drawn up, preferably with the help of a solicitor and to make sure you only choose people you really trust to look after your affairs in the event that you lose the capacity to do so.

The speakers touched briefly on what happens in the event that one has not planned ahead and does not have these documents in place, such as the appointment of a Guardian by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).

They also provided a very useful Planning for Ageing Resource Booklet. For those not at the meeting and who would like a copy of the Booklet or would like any further information on the topics discussed please contact Caitlin, whose details are:

Phone:                 (02) 4587 8877

Email:                    [email protected] 

Address:              Unit 2, 299 George Street Windsor NSW 2756

Postal:                  PO Box 736, Windsor NSW, 2756

 April 2017 - His Honour David Collier, AM

In April we were very honoured to have as our guest speaker his Honour, David Collier AM, a former Family Court Judge and currently adjunct professor at the University of Western Sydney.

David had a long and distinguished legal career. He was a member of Lachlan Macquarie Chambers until 1999, when he was appointed to the bench at the Parramatta Family Court where he remained until his retirement as a Judge of the Family Court on 23 July 2013.

After his retirement he went on the lecture as an adjunct professor at the University of Western Sydney’s Parramatta Campus. In 2014 he was inducted into the general division of the Order of Australia for significant service to the judiciary, to the law and to legal education.

David explained that the Family Court had been created by Statute in 1975 and began operation in 1976. It has jurisdiction over all matters relating to children and the division of property when dealing with divorce. He went on to explain that there is now only one ground for divorce – separation for 12 months - whereas there used to be 26. This has made the divorce process relatively simple and it is dealt with mostly by registrars.

David also spoke about what happens to children in a divorce and the process of applying for consent orders. He is firmly of the view that a child should be independently represented when dealing with these applications. He also cited some well publicized cases where the outcome for the children or the parents had not gone according to plan, and some parents has resorted to “abductions” to try to gain access to their children.

David’s passion and empathy for family law is obvious but he also displayed a great sense of humour which helped to lighten an essentially very serious topic.

January 2017 - Clr Robyn Preston - Deputy Mayor The Hills Shire Council

In January Robyn spoke on the of the current and future development plans for the Hills Shire,

which is heavily influenced by the State Governments transport corridor of development policies

Robyn then described a number of these developments accompanied by a slide show.

Central to her presentation was a personal drive to ensure the provision of adequate new residential parking and parkland.

Some of these developments include:

  • Atmosphere – a multi level high-rise commercial –residential  development  adjacent to the metro site, Castle Hill,
  • High rise development in Cecil Ave ,
  • Bella vista  retirement village,
  • Over 55 town house development at dural Round corner,
  • Transport –The need for better integration of bus, rail and necessary  infrastructure,
  • Continued introduction of green field developments around Rouse Hill and Box Hill.

New developments will have small shopping strips and developed cafe culture. Coaxing people out of their cars and onto public transport will be crucial to the success of these developments.

The presentation was well received and generated a number of specific questions



Dave and Wendy Wilson’s - Presentation on Bee  Keeping and the Bee.

Australia has a number of insects that act as pollinators, but the honey bee is the most important. A large percentage of our agriculture requires pollination so a good availability of bees is essential.

A number of serious pests decimate bee hives which is devastating for amateur bee keepers. However, Australia is currently free of the major world wide disease/pest infestations and we are an important bee export nation.

Bees are kept in hives where the queen bee lays eggs for the new baby bees -1000 eggs a day. She lays worker bees who cares for the bee larvae, cleaning the hive, collecting nectar and pollen and finally guard duties

The drones the queen bee lays are the males who impregnate any new queen that is grown. He does not work and actually eats the honey from the hive.

Bees are highly industrious insects and their life span is around two to three weeks.

When they are swarming they cannot sting a human but if a human sees a bee in the garden they mainly  bump you (unless you make them angry ) as they know if they sting you they will die. 

As said earlier bees in the garden are important for pollination and the beautiful honey they produce – If you would like to buy some honey from Dave and Wendy please see Helen Lowe or Ruth Bieri at our  Probus meeting .