Home' SA 50s Lifestyle : SA 50s Winter 2013 Contents 11
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Arts & Events
Can a Duck Swim?
Meredith Lake’s debut book Faith in Action
“Every so often someone comes
along with a book based on these
experiences that, with clarity and
precision, opens the door to a world
that has passed. Can a Duck Swim?
is one of those books. It is the
fascinating story of a woman who
has lived through the Depression,
war and the passing of Empire,
not as a principal actor but as a
privileged observer.” – Alexander
“Can a duck swim?” Young June
Porter’s reply was immediate when
Lady Rutherford, wife of the Governor
of Bihar, invited her to India to
become her lady-in-waiting. This was
in 1944, when June was twenty -four
and the world was at war.
Already, in Australia, she had met
and married the dashing Tom Porter,
who was then posted for special
duties in India working for the
Governor of Bengal.
Sailing serenely on a cargo ship
through submarine-infested waters,
June Porter arrived at last, entering
the privileged and opulent society of
the British Raj.
This was a world of elephant rides,
tiger shoots and luxurious dinner
parties, a kind of life now lost to the
realms of history.
Can a Duck Swim? as June Porter
writes, is an Alice in Wonderland
tale, the true story of a girl from
the suburbs of Perth transported
“to a mystical, exotic country to live
in palaces with people who were
making history, and to a life that one
only reads or dreams about”.
Her story includes excerpts from her
diary and letters and abounds with
tales of a romance that never faded.
June also paints a vivid picture of
Australia in the early part of the war
and the rationing, deprivations, and
emotional hardships that befell the
June Porter, born June Perry on 20
March 1919 in Melbourne, grew up
in Perth. Always at the heart of the
social scene, at the age of twenty
she met and fell in love with polo-
playing businessman Tom Porter.
After a whirlwind romance they were
married, and by curious twists of
fate spent the last years of World
War II in India.
After the war, the Porters settled in
Tom’s hometown of Adelaide, where
June took her place at the heart of
public life, becoming Lady Mayoress
between 1968 and 1971, and a
member of the founding board of the
Australian Ballet Company.
Lady Porter, aged ninety -four,
now lives in North Adelaide, still
determined to embrace every
opportunity that comes her way.
Can a Duck Swim? is priced at
$34.95 rrp and is published by
WIN, WIN, WIN
SA50s has two copies to give
away so write in to “Can a
Duck Swim?” PO Box 3497,
Rundle Mall SA 5000 with
your name, address and phone
number to be in the draw.
Entries close 22 July.
“...there have always been needy
people and this helps explain
why individuals famed for helping
them – from Mother Teresa to Ted
Noffs – have an apparently timeless
appeal and quality. This is certainly
true of Robert Hammond, whose
Depression-era relief for the poor
was singled out for fresh praise in
the midst of the global financial
Faith in Action, written by historian
Meredith Lake, tells an inspiring
true story. One man had a vision
to address the social problems
of his day, providing for the poor
and unemployed, as well as those
afflicted by alcoholism or in trouble
with the law, offering them a new
From his base at St Barnabas’
Church on Broadway, Robert
Hammond established one of
Sydney’s primary centres of relief for
the poor, including an employment
bureau, an emergency depot and a
soup kitchen serving thousands of
meals a year.
As the Great Depression took hold,
Hammond was challenged to do
more and, in 1932, he established
Pioneer Homes, cashing in his life
insurance to buy several acres of
land on the south -western fringe of
Sydney to build affordable homes
for unemployed workers and their
The suburb became known as
Hammondville. The social history
side of this story is fascinating in
the way Hammond looked after
these people, emphasising home
ownership and employment. When
they began ageing as a group,
Hammond responded by developing
affordable aged care. It was the
beginning of a whole new industry,
increasingly in the spotlight today,
as Australia’s population ages and
demand for nursing home and
hostel places surges.
Meredith Lake is an historian with a
PhD from the University of Sydney,
where she has also taught courses
in Australian history. Her work on
the social and cultural history of
religion has appeared in journals
including History Australia, the
Australian Journal of Politics and
History and the Journal of Religious
History. This is her first book.
Faith in Action is published by
UNSW Press, rrp $69.99.
WIN, WIN, WIN
Write in to “Faith in Action”
PO Box 3497, Rundle Mall, SA
5000 and give us your name,
address (no PO boxes please)
and phone number, to be in the
draw for a copy of this superb
book. Entries close July 26.
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