Darwin's Glamour Is Where
You Find It
By CHARLES CHAUVEL
CHARLES AND ELSA CHAUVEL, co-producers of several films, including "Sons of Matthew," are in search of a story for a new picture-another Australian story. In this article, Mr. Chauvel tells how he found glamour in Darwin behind its ugly facade of shanties and galvanised- iron.
TO talk of Darwin as a
glamour spot and poten- tial tourist resort is to cause local eyebrows to
rise. One fellow even went so far as to comment: "A typical movie statement!" Yet it is here that the dawn breaks in a sky of "mother of pearl" and the day closes in a flame of golden fleeces.
Draw a circle with a radius of one hundred miles about Darwin and it will fence in more contrasts than could be dreamed of on a tropic midsummer's night.
This circle will contain lands that change almost overnight from lush beauly to cruel, dry hardness, is- lands of great tropic beauty, inlets and bays of treacherous tides, and swamp lands with the greatest vari- ety of bird life in the world.
It will encompass lands of adven- ture with the buffalo, the crocodile, the dugong and some of the great tropic fish of the world. It will embrace harsh dead lands of brown red hills and wastes where skeleton army huts lie blistering in the sun.
AT Port Dundas, on Melville ls
land, and Port Essington, on the mainland, there are shades of old forts and townships.
The moat that was about the fort at Dundas still remains in ruin, as do the fine barracks, Government House and the magazine near Adam
These relics hark back to a day
when English soldiers drilled stiffly on the shores of the Timor Sea and beside the crocodile-infested lagoons, in tightly buttoned red-coats, in brown bess, stocks and stiff shakos.
Within the circle, too, are the water-ways where the Malay proas clung to the mudbanks or tied them- selves to the Banyan trees to escape the storms and the treacherous rip-
A thousand dramas of the seas have been enacted about these islands and inlets as strangely mingling native races from the East Indies, from wild New Guinea, the islands of the Straits, the Philippines and from far away Japan have made battle with the savage coast and the warriors of the Wangite and Lar-
THE mingling colours of Darwin's
native people are tokens of the fighting trading migrations from the
On the streets the human skin varies from the ebony of the Larra kias to the copper shadings of the Wangites and the half-castes.
One can almost see back to the stone-age man and trace in colour the coming of the Eastern races and the approach of the white man.
Within the hour it takes to go from the Don Hotel (of many brawls) to Dina's Beach, of smug- gling fame, I met a half-caste abo- Afghan, a half-caste abo.-Chinese, a half-caste abo.-Portuguese and a half-caste abo.-Malay.
But Darwin'doesn't stop with these exotic native mixings, for this cara- vanserai of the airways mixes all the
Then, too, men of Darwin's own worlds come tumbling in to trade, browse, fight or make love or to combine all four in turbulent days and nights. Yes, men from its own
Darwin's front door-before the Japs knocked at it.
worlds-the buffalo worlds, the crocodile worlds, the cattle worlds. Men from the trepanging, pearling and trochus shell seas. * Men from the safaris.
In a mingled rhythm, similar to the mixing of the bloods, is the architecture of Darwin. It is a mighty long stretch of design from the Administrator's charming white house on the cliffs to the poorest, lowliest slum shelter in the wide police paddock.
It is a far cry from the ultra tropical modern Commonwealth Bank to the dull-coloured, weather- boards and latticed offices of the Administration block.
The older homes of Darwin's official aristocracy seem to have had their origin in European China-in places like Hong Kong and further west again to Ceylon and Bombay.
DUD ELY besetting this elegance of
lattice and bamboo are the stark walls and fences and houses of gal
vanised iron and the old "blitzed" buildings of stone and rubble whose ruins mock the futility of just a few guns, just a few ships, just a few planes.
They seem to grin at the far stretching steepes beyond Darwin, millions of tempting acres holding bul a handful of white Australians (sometimes a million acres housing a family of three; sometimes a mil- lion acres giving shelter to one lone man).
But that is a different story. Here is Darwin, with its red dusted roads -its waterfront, uninviting in the noonday sun, and pleasantly cool in the moonlight.
The poorer sections of the town contrast sordidly with the brighter side. Australia's acute housing problem is illustrated very poig- nantly in areas of Darwin, where
families of all creeds and colours are herded in galvanised dumps.
Many have given up the fight for better conditions and have accepted the dross, because it is the "easier thing to do."
Others are fighting hard to keep their standards.
Australian life may be threatened once again by war, but it is also threatened from within by lack of decent housing. And Darwin pos- sibly presents the starkest picture of
'THE, Darwin story, as I see it,
could take root from the police paddock to Dina's Beach.
A dozen mangrovy water-ways find their way into the east and middle arms of the harbour, and Dina's Beach, a stone-rubbled water- front shrouded by mangroves and often by a sea fog, which smoulders in this back-wash, makes a fine refuge for the smugglers of opium or other goods from the ships and luggers which toss at anchor in the
bay. It makes refuge also for the wild, itinerant wanderer from the aborigine reserves beyond the swamplands.
As a source of information^ these "mixed" areas are unique. It is said that if a smoke signal were to "talk" in Arnhem Land it would be known back of Dina's Beach. If troops were to come to Darwin or plans were being set for troops to leave Darwin, or if it were planned that the boom in the harbour should be relaid, or that a floating dock be sent to Manus Island, these things would be known first at the back of Dina's Beach.
However, it could be that the greatest drama of the Darwin area is wrapped up in the going and coming of its two seasons, the wet and the dry.
There is no spring and no autumn only a winter called the "dry" and a summer called the "wet," and a curtain falls between the two as it does upon a stage play between
Acts 1 and 2.
T>UT it is "swing time" at the Hotel
Darwin and a good band is beating it out. Men of all "the worlds" and of the Services are in clean, conservative "white duck," and the women in elegant evening
The big white hotel has captured just a little of the air of the Moana Hotel on the beach at Waikiki, as its dancing, supping couples in groups sit about the tables on a spacious flood-lit lawn.
Yet, at the Don yonder yellow and brown men are sitting on the bar room floor, drinking and sing- ing-and taxis are taking couples to the beach nooks at Night Cliffs.
And far away beside a dying campfire near Dina's Beach can be heard the "throm, throm, throm" of an aboriginal dydgeridoo.