Early on the morning of Ludwig Leichhardt's birthday, on Wednesday 23 October 2013, more than 120 delegates, visitors, guests and locals assembled in the Mehrzweckhalle of the Ludwig-Leichhardt-Oberschule (middle school) in Goyatz for the special 200th anniversary conference.

The school's Principal, Mr Dieter Klaue, and Ms Annett Joppich, Head of School, Culture and Social Issues, Amt (Office of) Lieberose/Oberspreewald, had coordinated a huge effort with superb technical facilities, decorations and catering to ensure the success of the conference. Amt Director Bernd Boschan opened proceedings with a warm welcome to all present. For him, and for his teams of passionate Leichhardt enthusiasts, it would be a day to celebrate, and recapitulate and reflect on an amazing year-long program of events throughout the region. (A reminder that you can read the full summary, and see pictures and slideshows, on our German sister website's Veranstaltungen 2013 page here ~ and you can download a PDF of today's conference program here.)

In the Oberspreewald it was a fine autumn morning at 9:15am; in Brisbane it was 6:15pm at the close of the first day of the University of Queensland Leichhardt Symposium. The audiences on both continents ~ including a very special guest in Germany among the dignitaries ~ were enthralled to participate in a live web-link with key UQ symposium organisers and their guests and visitors from Germany. 

Those in Brisbane reported they had toasted the exact time of the great explorer's birth that special day, since 3:00am in Germany was 11:00am in Brisbane ~ which meant, in Aussie terms, that the bar was well and truly open! ~ and this news was received with great acclaim in Goyatz.

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Above: Ludwig Leichhardt joined the other VIPs on stage as host Bernd Boschan (standing) led the international conversation. Onscreen in Brisbane were Prof.Dr Peer Schenk and Rowan Eisner (UQ), 
Dr Barbara Baehr and Dr John Hooper (Queensland Museum), with Prof.Dr Gert Wöhrheide (Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich) and Dr Matthias Glaubrecht (Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin) among the visitors. Click on the image to see a larger version. (Foto: MT)
Above: joining in the live link were the dignitaries at the head table in Goyatz, including (L) Prof.Dr Peter Danckert, former Member for Electorate 63 (Dahme-Spreewald – Teltow-Fläming III – Oberspreewald-Lausitz I), justly renowned as one of the most passionate supporters of all the 2013 Leichhardt projects, and (R) Mr Burkhard Jungkamp, State Secretary, Ministry for Education, Youth and Sport of the State of Brandenburg, greatly impressed by the events at home and Down Under. (Foto: MT)

Australia's Ambassador to Germany, Peter Tesch, then delivered the first Festrede (commemorative speech), reflecting on some of the key roles our diplomatic representatives had played in facilitating programs, events and exchanges between both Germany and Australia, and between Brandenburg and Queensland, during the Bicentenary year.

He was followed by Dr Peter Danckert, one of the principal supporters of Leichhardt activities, who had recently vacated his seat in the German parliament. In his Festrede, Dr Danckert delivered a special message on behalf of Federal President Joachim Gauck. These greetings were echoed by the warm words of Mr Burkhard Jungkamp, State Secretary, Ministry for Education, Youth and Sport of the State of Brandenburg.

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Above: Bernd Boschan was an engaging host and facilitator, and the success of both the conference and the whole 2013 program was clearly due in no small way to his charm, warmth and passionate dedication to the memory of, and ongoing interest
in, Leichhardt in his home communities.
(Foto: MT)
  Above: Australian Ambassador Peter Tesch spoke also of how Leichhardt's passions for science, education and discovery had contemporary resonances in the 21st century for German-Australian relations. The omnipresent Leichhardt Dahlia can be seen on the lower left of the picture. (Foto: MT)

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Above: Prof.Dr Peter Danckert reflected on both Leichhardt and his legacy, and the events of 2013, as well as the personal and professional meaning for him at the climax of a long and distinguished parliamentary career. (Foto: MT) Above: Brandenburg State Secretary Burkhard Jungkamp spoke eloquently and enthusiastically on Leichhardt's resonance with science and education for the youth of today, and proposed some initial thoughts for links in the future. (Foto: MT)

A late morning tea break allowed a strolling digeridoo player to provide an atmospheric background to the buzz of conversation throughout the hall. After the audience reconvened, visiting delegate Matthew Tesch provided an interesting counterpoint presentation, from a Queensland and Australian perspective, to the year's events in Germany. 

"My brief was to offer an Überblick (overview) of Leichhardt in 2013 Down Under," he said, "and it was a little intimidating to have to make such a presentation to an audience that had been so obviously active and engaged in Germany for many, many months." You can find out more about this presentation, and read the illustrated texts, in German and English PDFs, on the next page of this article.

Australian artist and Berlin resident Sue Hayward spoke next about her Leichhardt stele project, and its strong personal significance given her own family's historical links with Germany. The audience watched the films of the memorial's unveiling the afternoon before, and you can read more about this here.

The succession of speakers which followed was a wonderful 'roll-call' of the other key players involved in 'Leichhardt Year 2013'. Mr Heiko Jahn, head of the Tourism Development Association Lieberose/Oberspreewald, presented a slideshow and talked the audience through a summary of the  events and activities conducted during the previous 10 months. It was truly remarkable to witness what had been achieved, and the degree of community engagement developed.

Mr Werner Pfeil spoke next, silently accompanied on stage by the magnificent Leichhardt Dahlia which had been his passion for so long; you can read more here. And, with the day drawing towards its formal close, the effervescent Mr André Parade kindly truncated his enthusiastic summary of museum and local affairs, up the road in Trebatsch ~ you can find out more here.

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Above: interval entertainment was provided by a strolling digeridoo player, who appears to be serenading the Leichhardt Dahlia. (Foto: MT) Above: Australian artist Sue Hayward spoke movingly of her family's historical connections with Germany and the meaning of her stele. (Foto: MT)


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.

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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."

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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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