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Kunama 1956

The Murwillumbah Visit

We left Cooma on the Tuesday afternoon and arrived in Sydney that evening after an uneventful trip. Next day was to be the "day in Sydney" which Mr. Seiffert had kindly arranged for us, and a very good day it was.

It began with a trip round Sydney Harbour in the "Lady Hopetoun", one of the Sydney ferries. Mr. and Mrs. Seiffert came with us, and Captain Craig of the Maritime Services Board came along to explain points of interest.

In, the afternoon we were taken for a tour of Parliament House, and then saw Parliament in session during "Question Time". It was a most interesting visit and we learned a great deal about the Parliament of N.S.W. From there we were driven to the Physics Department of Sydney University, where Dr. Bennett gave us a talk about "Siliac", the electronic computer, and Professor Harry Messel showed us the computer in action.

J.J. Cahill (Premier) and J.W. Seiffert (Member for Monaro) with M.H.S. party
on the steps of Parliament House

After a meal in Sydney, we left by the second division of the Brisbane Express, leaving Central Station just after eight o'clock. The main difficulty that night was in getting to sleep, as people were still re-arranging cases, walking into wrong compartments, talking and giggling, after midnight. All the same, some people slept soundly, especially Mrs. Packett, who didn't wake up even when a bag fell from the rack right on top of her.

Everyone was up early the next morning and lining up outside the washrooms, trying to remove soot and grime from faces, hair and nails. For breakfast and lunch we stopped at stations, and had hasty meals before the train started again.

The sunshine, warm breezes and sun-dried fields caused much comment from most of us, as we had never before travelled so far north. One of the highlights of the trip was the sight of banana plantations which always attracted a great deal of attention.

Excitement mounted as the train neared Murwillumbah, and we began to don school uniforms in preparation for our arrival. At last the great moment arrived; the train pulled in to Murwillumbah station, and we poured out to greet old and new friends. Most of the children who came to meet us were very brown, and all were wearing light clothes. It seemed hard to remember that we had left a place where everybody was wearing jumpers and coats. After excited greetings, and after posing for a photograph, we were taken off to our billets.

There was no official programme for the first day, so most of us were taken for drives round the district by the people with whom we were staying. That night we were officially welcomed at a buffet tea followed by a social.

Saturday was the first "planned" day, and four launches took us for a trip on the river. We soon realised why the Tweed Valley has such a reputation for its scenery as we passed beauty spot after beauty spot, with Mount Warning as the ever-present background.

Monday was bright and sunny, a typical Murwillumbah spring day, as we met at the park and boarded the buses which were to take us to the Duranbah Experimental Farm. We drove along the Tweed River and as we looked down from the hillsides could see a flat expanse covered for miles with sugar-cane and surrounded by hills covered with banana plantations.

The experimental plot was first established to do research on a disease called "bunchy top" which was affecting banana plants, but since then its work has been extended to research on other tropical fruits. We were first shown the packing shed and given a demonstration of sorting and packing bananas. There was a system of wires to carry the bunches of fruit to the shed. We then went to see the plants themselves.

The banana plant is quite tall with a soft and papery trunk and palm-like leaves; from the middle of the tree grows a long stem from which hangs the bunch of fruit. Every year the tree sends out a sucker, and when the sucker begins to grow tall the older tree is cut down.

As we walked along, still being told about bananas, we came upon several large trees carrying green fruit, which, we were told, were avocado pears, but the guide told us more about eating them than about growing them. They are, when ripe, either green or purple, and inside, round the large stone, is a soft, pulpy flesh. We saw other tropical plants also: there were Monsterosa Deliciosa, though we were sorry to hear they weren't ripe, coffee plants, and pineapples. Two varieties of pineapple were grown there, a small rough-skinned type, and a larger, smooth-skinned one. Thin leaves rise from the ground in dumps two or three feet high, and on top of the clumps were the little pineapples, each sitting up snugly with its own leafy top.

After a most interesting morning, we once more climbed aboard the bus, and set off to the rutile mining works at Kingscliff. When we reached our destination we walked along the beach and round the town, then waited on the bank of a creek till we were rowed across in four very large rowing boats rowed by some very small boys.

At the rutile, zircon and iridium works we were divided into small parties. We were taken first to the dredging plant, where beach sand and water were driven through a system of spirals; the heavier metals were gathered together while the sand was spun round the edges. The metal was then sent through a pipe to the main treatment plant, while the sand was spread out in even hills, fenced off and planted with beach grasses.

In the main factory the minerals and the remaining sand are shaken onto a vibrating table covered with a little water. The minerals are sorted out by various treatments and stored for sale. The rutile, worth £150 a ton, is heated to 200 Centigrade, then passed between powerful, rotating electro-magnets; impurities cling to the magnets, and the rutile itself falls into containers, where it is bagged and sold for use in the manufacture of metals for jet-planes.

On our way home again in the bus we all agreed that this had been one of the most interesting and educational days we had ever spent.

The Tuesday morning saw us all ready for another trip, this time to a sugar-cane farm. During the morning Mr. Lundberg showed us all the activities of the sugar industry, including cane-growing, cane-cutting, then treatment and refining. We also saw cane being "fired"; care has to he taken to burn off the leaves only, and after firing the cane field is a mass of blackened stalks, making cutting much easier. After sports that afternoon we saw the second stages of the sugar industry when we visited the sugar refineries and gained an impression of the importance and extent of the whole industry.

Wednesday was the last full day in Murwillumbah, but it was also one of the most enjoyable days of the whole trip. The morning saw us no longer in N.S.W. but in Queensland, surfing at Greenmount Beach, exploring the Gold Coast, and visiting the much-talked-about Surfers' Paradise. Swimming and walking gave us all hearty appetites and plenty of ice-cream and other delicacies were needed to keep us going till lunchtime.

After lunch we visited Fleay's Fauna Reserve where the koalas and rock wallabies were immensely popular and became the most photographed animals of the afternoon, though much interest was taken in all the other animals also, especially a ferocious-looking Tasmanian devil. Currumbin Bird Sanctuary was also visited and again many photographs were taken, though it was found inadvisable to try to photograph the emu at close range as he, like most of the birds and animals, was uncaged and was quick to chase his admirers.

The farewell social was held that evening, and many fine speeches were made by representatives of both schools. Next morning saw us leaving Murwillumbah most reluctantly, and after that the only excitement was to return home as quickly as possible to tell our families and friends what a marvellous time we had had.


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