Dutch sailor, 1935
Earlier this year archaeologists got all excited about discovering skeletons resulting from the slaughter after the Batavia shipwreck.
These were the most major discoveries, they said, since the first bones were unearthed in the area in 1960.
Perhaps they should have asked the Western Australian Museum which has had a collection of Dutch skulls wrecked on the Abrolhos Islands since the museum opened in the 19th century. Although, it must be said, they’ve kept them somewhat under wraps recently.
In the good old days, anyone could visit the museum and experience the thrill of looking at the skulls of the Dutch mariners, the pipes they smoked, and the flagons from which they quaffed their wine.
Not to mention a collection of associated rosaries, cannon balls and other ship’s gear.
We the public have a right to know why the museum is keeping all the interesting stuff from us.
Where are our four-legged chickens? And where are our shipwrecked sailors’ skulls?
Why would we want to look at anything else?
Just over a century ago Western Australia’s deficit meant the State was building up huge debts.
The blame, as it turned out, was to be laid squarely at the door of a government committed to large-scale projects without actually costing them properly or having the money to pay for them in cash.
There was a huge waste of money down by the waterfront. Not Elizabeth Quay this time, but formal gardens with beautiful grass and flowers. Just where it was likely that a quay or a wharf would be needed.
Even though faced with a budget shortage, the Government still went ahead with major building projects like a new stadium at Burswood. No, sorry, our mistake. Not a stadium, but an Art Gallery, so the leisured few could stroll around it on a Sunday afternoon.
No one could deny that investing in a public library or a technical school were essential. And given the mining industry, perhaps even a geological museum could be justified.
But not an art gallery, not a zoo, and certainly not an observatory. None of these could be defended until Western Australia had a population much larger than it had in 1909.
It was simple. Western Australia’s financial troubles were wholly of its own creation.