On the introductory page to these reports from Germany, we mentioned the travelling party of Queenslanders, keen Leichhardt enthusiasts themselves, who made a particular diversion in their European tour when they learned of the two-day program. Such was their enthusiasm, they doggedly followed both the quiet country roads of the Oberspreewald and the formal proceedings in German in both Cottbus and Goyatz. In an unscripted and unexpected conclusion to the day's events, one of their number, Ms Marlene Benn, was invited to say a few words on stage, reminding the audience of ornithologist John Gilbert's untimely death during Leichhardt's great 1844-45 expedition.

Bernd Boschan led a warm ovation for these keen Queenslanders and their amazing commitment, and brought the day's program to its official close.

IMG 4815 PO 23.10 Goyatz HJ-recaps-year 290W   IMG 4819 PO 23.10 Goyatz Qld-visitor HH-translates 290W
Above: the head of the Lieberose/Oberspreewald tourism development association, Heiko Jahn, delivered an overview of the year's events. (Foto: MT)   Above: Dr Hilary Howes (R) translates the heartfelt observations and thoughts of Queenslander Marlene Benn for the audience. (Foto: MT)

Conference presentation: download the PDF DE flag button 25px or AU flag button 25px 

"Both Germany and Australia believe that Leichhardt is better-known today in the other country," said Matthew Tesch, "and each side experiences similar misperceptions in that he and his achievements are much less well-known outside his local regions ~ whether Brandenburg or Queensland. The former, of course, is much more compact than the latter: you can drive the Spreewald in a few hours, and spend a pleasant week discovering its hidden treasures. In Australia, it takes a few hours to fly across the country, and you can spend months or years exploring, and still barely scratch the surface.

"It was unlikely many in the audience had first-hand experience of the sheer size of 'the Leichhardt Trail' in Australia, so I wanted to begin by offering a perspective that included a few statistics hopefully meaningful for the German audience. That enabled me to mention something of our climatic extremes ~ coincidentally and sadly illustrated by the bushfires in the Blue Mountains which were unfolding at the time ~ and their effects on aspects of the Leichhardt story.

"From there, I ran a broad brush over some representative 2013 events and activities in Queensland and NSW, in particular. Naturally, the launch and development of the website - leichhardtland.net.au - has been another component of the Australian program in 2013. I believe that, with the 'passing of the baton' from the 200th anniversary events in Germany, to the 170th anniversary in 2014 of the start of Leichhardt's great overland expedition across Queensland and northern Australia, this website has a meaningful role to play.

"The German efforts throughout 2013 offer many excellent examples of how existing resources and events can be linked and leveraged to drive increased awareness and engagement across many fields. In Queensland, indeed across Australia, in the next 18 months, we will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ~ literally ~ to ramp up a tourism focus on Leichhardt's great journey, and his educational and scientific legacies today.

"I surprised the conference audience, when I indicated my final remarks were to be about Leichhardt's place in Australia's aviation history. As I was doing some research for my presentation ~ one thread leading to another, as it does ~ I found that the missing explorer's name was also missing from the list of equally famous Australian explorers and pioneers whose names adorned the noses of TAA's airliners over more than 40 years, and proposed an informal little theory of why that might be so. Whatever the real reason, if any, that is an omission which deserves to be - and could easily be - rectified today.

"I also proposed to the audience my personal disinclination to ever want to know for sure the fate of the missing explorer, and to definitively 'close the book' on his mystery. Historians and academics might be aghast at such a view, but I believe it has some merit, and tried to explain why. In closing, I was fortunate to be able to leave the audience with a five-minute 'soundscape' of the Australian Outback. The sounds of the wind cresting eerily across empty sand dunes, and rustling through branches of dry leaves, reportedly brought goose-bumps to many of the Germans, and fond tears in the eyes of some of the travelling Queenslanders present, who did not expect such an experience on the far side of the world from their home."

IMG 9464 LS 23.10 Goyatz MT presentation thumb 290W   IMG 4878 LS 23.10 Goyatz LL-MT presentation 290W
Above: view of part of the conference audience in the Ludwig-Leichhardt-Oberschule Mehrzweckhalle during the presentation. Click to view a larger image. (Foto: Amt Lieberose / Spreewald)
Above: following the conference, Matthew Tesch presented Ludwig Leichhardt with a piece of bark from his great-great-great-uncle's tree in Taroom. 
(Foto: Australian Embassy Berlin)

 

 

 

 

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