Operation Kangaroo

Harvesting of sugarcane in North Queensland. Courtesy Archivo Gráfico de Carta de España.

Harvesting of sugarcane in north Queensland. Courtesy Archivo Gráfico de Carta de España.

The 60th anniversary of the Spanish migration agreement

Sixty years ago today, the first contingent of assisted immigrants arrived under the Spanish migration agreement’s Operación Canguro (‘Operation Kangaroo’) to work as cane-cutters in north Queensland. The 159 young men, primarily from the north of Spain, docked in Brisbane on the Lloyd Triestino liner Toscana in 1958. They were transferred to the Wacol Migrant Centre, before being sent to the sugarcane fields in Cairns, Tully, Ingham and Innisfail. However, the origins of Spanish involvement in the Queensland sugar industry date back much earlier, to the introduction of the White Australia policy in 1901.

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A Caravel … ?

‘Graeme’s caravel’, by journalist Jon Fairall. From Signals 102 (March-May 2013).

Between the 12th and the 17th centuries the caravel was a ship of choice for long, dangerous voyages, at least among the Iberian nations – Portugal and Spain – that led the Age of Discovery. By the standards of the time, they were speedy, manoeuvrable, weatherly ships. But one particular caravel, Notorious, is the result of a purely local, Australian dreaming. Specifically, she is Graeme Wylie’s dream. Graeme and his wife Felicite designed and built her over a 10-year period in their backyard in Port Fairy, just to the east of Warrnambool, Victoria, using stockpiles of local timber.

Graeme and his wife Felicite

Graeme and his wife Felicite

In 2000, Graeme was a furniture maker in Port Fairy, a pleasant fishing village at the end of the Great Ocean Road on the long lee shore of western Victoria that’s called The Shipwreck Coast. He was fascinated by the local legend of The Mahogany Ship, which dates back to an 1847 article in the Portland newspaper about the uncovering of a wreck on the beach in Armstrong Bay, just west of Warrnambool, that was made of some exotic, dark timber. A ship hidden beneath the sands has been part of the area’s folklore ever since, along with the notion that it was made of mahogany.

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