Australian Folklore Network
Australian Folklore Research Unit
Curtin University of Technology































Following on from the August edition of Transmissions we present the second part of Gwenda Davey’s Moe Folklife Report. Part 3 will be published in Transmissions16 next year. We also publish a recent survey of roadside memorials in WA by Grad Dip Folklife student Jean McGregor.


As usual we have a selection of news items regarding publications, CDs and events. We are especially pleased to announce the AFN’s first conference in conjunction with the National Library of Australia and the National Folk Festival. The theme of the conference will be ‘Folklore Collections’ and the event will bring together the main interest groups in Australian folklore, including collectors, collecting institutions, the university sector and performers and interpreters of collected lore.


Please continue to send in articles, reports and news items for future editions and pass this Transmissions on to anywhere it might be appreciated.


Graham Seal









Jean McGregor is a student in the Graduate Diploma of Australian Folklife. This is a slightly edited version of her study of roadside memorials on a busy stretch of Western Australian highway, as at August, 2004. Its findings allow for some regional comparisons to be made with similar studies carried out in NSW, extending our knowledge and understanding of this increasingly popular custom. The article also illustrates how an appreciation of folkloric processes would be useful for local authorities trying to manage the road safety and related issues raised by the custom of roadside memorials.


The original assignment was accompanied by photographs of the memorials discussed cross-referenced to the location numbers mentioned in the text.



By Jean McGregor



Historical and Folkloric Background


Roadside crosses began in early Christian times and spread throughout the Christian world. They began as sites of devotion, most probably for travellers, but also for villagers where Christian festivals would be celebrated.  In Cross My Heart it is stated that,


The origins of these crosses and crucifixion scenes date back to the Middle Ages. Their appearance essentially coincided with the emergence of Roman art, in about the 11th century.  Following that, the multiplication of these objects of piety reached a peak in the 16th and 17th century, particularly in Brittany.  (p1)


The tradition reached the Ukraine where,


It is a tradition surviving from times when people often embarked on long journeys on foot, and found spiritual succour along the way by stopping and praying. (Roadside Crosses in Western Ukraine, p1)


Crosses along side the road are also found in other European countries and the Village Museum of Bucharest points out that,

Roadside crosses are monuments that mark the Romanians’ need for spirituality.  From a functional point of view, they divide into: tombs signs, crossroads crosses and oath crosses. (p1)


The roadside cross tradition seems commonplace throughout the Catholic Christian world, and managed to cross continents and oceans to spring up in countries far removed from Europe.  Indeed, it was their popularity in Brittany during the 16th and 17th centuries that enabled the tradition to emerge in Canada.  Jacques Cartier, Canada’s discoverer, was originally from Brittany and erected several crosses in New France when he took possession of the land for the King of France, (Cross My Heart, p1).  In Canada’s province of Quebec roadside crosses are not the white crosses familiar to us, but are black and,


bear witness to the religious life in the villages of yesteryear.  They have been and still remain symbols of the Christian faith.” (Roadside crosses, p1)


In New Mexico roadside crosses date back the 18th century when mourners carried coffins holding the deceased to cemeteries.  When the pallbearers needed to stop for rest a pile of stones was laid to mark the spot and at a later date a cross was erected.  However, with the advent of automobiles the meaning of roadside crosses in New Mexico altered to signify a place where someone died without the benefit of receiving the last rites.  Palilio cites research by Kathleen McRee, Troy Fernandez, Samuel Larcombe, Charlie Carrillo and the Rev Thomas Steele on Descansos in New Mexico.  Their investigations indicate that beliefs in New Mexico hold that as a result of a sudden and violent death the spirit of a deceased person will remain in the place of death.  Palilio quotes McRee as saying that,


Many of the people we interviewed said that the spirit (of a loved one) remains in that place… they feel closer to them at that spot than at the cemetery.  (p1)


Palilio’s goes on to quote Fernandez as saying,


It’s where the loved one took their last breath.  Where you take your last breath is as sacred as where the body lies later on. (p1)


Palilio states that feelings run high and last long over Descansos in New Mexico and that feuds between families over the removal or perceived desecration of Descansos have lasted for generations.


An adapted version of this tradition has also flourished in North America. Tucson Folklorist, Jim Griffith states that,


The memorials began in Arizona in the Catholic community for people who died without having the chance to be absolved of sin. (Newell p2)


In the 1940s and 50s the Arizona State Highway Patrol adopted the practice and be began using white crosses to denote a fatal car accident.  When they discarded the practice it was continued by the folk in the area and according to Newell, “There still are people who take these as an indication they should say a prayer for the repose of the people who died there.” (p2)


That the depth of belief and feeling regarding roadside memorials has remained strong across the centuries is evident when we compare the more recent research with historical information.


In 1783, the bishop of Sonora asked Spanish military authorities to forbid the practice because it discouraged other settlers. It was forbidden, but it didn’t stop. (Griffith quoted in Newell p2)


Roadside memorials clearly evoke strong feeling in communities throughout the world and have crossed borders, oceans, and time zones.  In the past the practice has been adopted and adapted by communities as an informal method of ensuring the safety of the soul of one who has suffered a violent death.  But in Australia roadside memorials are a relatively new phenomenon.  Crosses and floral tributes are popping up along our roadways in increasing numbers.  This phenomenon is worth recording and investigating.  As a result I have chosen to study a popular, frequently used road that traverses urban and rural stretches of Western Australia.



The Rockingham-Bunbury Road Memorials


The road from the corner of Patterson Road and Ennis Avenue in Rockingham to the roundabout at the entrance to Bunbury in the southwest of Western Australia is a continuous stretch of road and is approximately a 280k round trip. It passes through five shires, Rockingham, Mandurah, Waroona, Harvey and Bunbury.  This is the stretch of road I have chosen to examine.  Southbound memorials were the first to be recorded starting from Ennis Avenue. Then northbound memorials, which were measured in distance from the Bunbury Roundabout back to Ennis Avenue where it intersects with Patterson Road in Rockingham.  It was found that there are an equal number of memorials southbound (10) and northbound (10). The attached photographic record contains pictures of the 20 roadside memorials in that stretch of road.  The road passes through built up, suburban areas and rural areas. The Shire of Rockingham is the only Shire within the scope of my research that is drafting policy to control the erection of roadside memorials.


Their proposed plan is that roadside crosses will be permitted for a period of 14 months.  This allows one year of memorial and two months to dismantle the memorial.  Mourners can then, if they choose, purchase a brass plaque, which will be placed on the kerb at the site of the accident.  Memorials must be one metre from the side of the road and not obstruct traffic in any way.


However, it is evident that the erection of roadside memorials is a practice in which feeling runs high. It is also clear that within the last 15 to 20 years families and friends of motor vehicle accident victims in Western Australia have felt a need to adopt and adapt the centuries old tradition of erecting roadside memorials. 


It is a similar story in other Australian states and McLennan, researching roadside memorials in NSW, states that the common sight of crosses erected as memorials demonstrates “a significant shift in the way our culture is choosing to grieve” (p1).  Another observation that McLennan makes is that,


Unlike a funeral, which is a formal and structured event, a roadside memorial can be made and erected immediately, allowing shocked and grieving family and friends a way to react directly to a situation that is otherwise out of their control (4).


This seems to me to be the crux of the matter - that a roadside cross erected by an informal gathering of family and/or friends who make and dedicate the memorial themselves will have more meaning to them than, “Just visiting one grave in the cemetery amongst hundreds of others” (McLennan p4).  I believe that it is this personal shaping of the memorial, however, crude or elaborate, along with the expressions of grief from bereaved family members and friends that authorities who devise policies regarding such memorials will have difficulty with.


Robert James Smith in his research on roadside memorials in northern NSW states that in his experience memorials were linked more to settled urban areas and seeing roadside crosses was, “not the case in rural Australia” (Roadside Memorials, p2). The research I undertook suggests this is not the case, at least in Western Australia. I examined both settled areas and a considerable stretch of rural road. 


It is to be expected that in urban areas there would be a greater likelihood of more memorials simply because of greater population density, but my findings confirm that the Rockingham to Bunbury road has memorials throughout its urban and rural stretches. 


Smith goes on to say that, “I found no evidence of the use of photographs and long messages” (p2).  Perhaps the tradition has evolved differently in Western Australia from the NSW experience.  My research of the Rockingham to Bunbury road produced evidence of simple unmarked and undecorated crosses, but also some with touching text and photographic tributes from parents, other family members and friends.  The most expressive is at a memorial site for Peter Carthew. This memorial has been placed on the median strip and consists of a home made white cross within a circle of stones.  Peter’s name is painted in black on the white cross home made cross and silk flowers have been placed at its base.  Again, unlike Smith’s NSW findings there is also a weather faded photograph of this young man and typed text that reads,



A man’s shed is a place to play, but on this sad say we build a roadside cross today. The timber is placed upon the bench. Procedure is in place

“A beautiful white cross”

My heart aches as the jarrah is slowly covered in white paint.  With one hand clasped firmly around the black paint tin, other hand reaches for the thin paintbrush.

With despair in his eyes my husband proceeds.  Our son’s name appears.

With tears aflow I think to myself, how sorry it is that we ‘shed’ a tear in a man’s shed today.



Another note, hand written, lies at the site and reads


Dear Pete

We miss you so much.

It does not seem to get any easier.

Guide us all and watch over us.

Love forever

Your family.


While it is easy to see the cross of the roadside memorial when driving past, the depth of sorrow and emotion in the texts that attend the home made cross is only evident when one stops to investigate. 


As a result of my investigation I believe that the Rockingham Council will find, as the bishop of Senora did in 1783, that the practice might be forbidden, but that it will not stop. 


A further difference to Smith’s findings is that the memorial to Peter Carthew is not the only memorial along this stretch of road that has text and photographic tributes. 


It is arguable that such personally crafted messages allow the mourners to leave their messages of love and esteem in a way that grave sites in formal cemeteries would not.  While these messages are sometimes crudely written and often misspelt, they are always heartfelt. Perhaps the absence of lengthy personal written tributes on many roadside memorials may be due to the level of literate expression available to the mourners.  Perhaps this can also be attributed to the fact that long textual messages are not customary at memorial or burial sites. 


Several memorials I examined have pre-published written tributes which might be further evidence of the difficulty mourners experience in expressing their feelings in writing for themselves. However, it is by no means the case that written texts are an unusual occurrence in the roadside memorials on the Rockingham to Bunbury road.


Smith goes on to state that his research accorded with that of Hartig and Dunn in that the northern NSW experience is that crosses were, “always white with black lettering” (p2).  While this was predominantly the case in my research it was not always so, in fact one memorial is merely a floral tribute (S4) while the most recent accident site is simply adornment and hand written text on the road sign to Bouvard Drive (N7).  This latter memorial is the most informal of all of the 20 memorials that fall within the scope of my project.  Additionally, when it comes to crosses there is by no means a universal acceptance of the colour white.  Attachment S2 is a graded coloured cross ranging from yellow to ochre to almost black at the top, S6 has three crosses one of which is blue, S9 is bare wood with the name and date etched in white, while several other crosses were plain white with no text on them at all.  While crosses seem to be the most popular option for memorials, and white the most popular colour, it cannot be said that white crosses are a universal choice.


The roadside crosses that fall within the scope of this project appear to have been homemade in the first instance. Those that have more professionally made crosses seem to have been added at a later date, (S5, S6, & S10), but evidence of earlier homemade crosses remain at memorial sites.  The more professionally made crosses all have homemade crosses adjacent to them indicating that the first memorial was a more hurried and spontaneous expression of commemoration. 





The thing I find most surprising thing about the roadside memorials I have investigated is that they do not appear to be tended with any regularity.  Although I am aware of one site that does not fall within the scope of this project that is well tended, most have been left to the mercy of the elements.  Some have extremely weatherworn objects that provide an air of decay, which does little to indicate that the site is cared for with reliability.  Site N9 provides an example of weather beaten, faded and dirty teddy bears that appear extremely neglected.  Other sites have peeling paint and faded silk flowers.  Could it be that once the initial shock passes these sites, in the main, have served their purpose and their function?  Could there be a point at which mourners and community members adjust meaning and the roadside memorials come to represent a warning to others of the need for greater caution when driving?


Hartvig and Dunn state in their introduction to Roadside Memorials: Interpreting New Deathscapes in Newcastle, New South Wales, that, “The first aim of this paper is to unravel the multiplicity of meaning within roadside memorials” (5).  They moderate their statement, however, by acknowledging that, “roadside memorials generate interpretations and impacts well beyond an intended private expression of grief” (p5) 


While there are valid reasons to analyse other meanings we cannot surmise that in the first instance the people who erect these memorials intend anything other than to express their immediate grief at the loss of a loved one who died suddenly.  It seems that while the meaning of roadside memorials may change over time, even for the mourners, to wanting roads upgraded or to warn others of danger, the original spontaneous intent remains a simple one – a spontaneous and immediate expression of grief.  The potential for changes of meaning over time as the grieving process develops should be taken into account when interviewing bereaved relatives.  Respect for mourners in our culture would not allow anyone other than the most callous person to intrude on raw grief, so it is unlikely that interviewers would gain a true insight into the reasons behind the erection of a roadside memorial.  It is far more probable that with even a small degree of distance in time that the memorial will have shifted in meaning for the mourners.


It may be that roadside crosses function to allow immediate expression of grief in a way that formal grieving traditions do not and, further, that roadside memorials allow for the process in which grief is permitted to change and transform from deep hurt to sorrow and regret.  Regardless of the verity of either of these possibilities it is clear that there is a depth of emotion attached to roadside memorials that is less evident in formal burial grounds.


It is this depth of emotion attached to roadside memorials, not only by the bereaved, but also the respect given to them by other members of the public that elevates them to sacred sites or places of reverence that are cherished by the public. While many people find roadside memorials an unwelcome sight they are rarely (in fact, not in my experience) removed, vandalised or interfered with. Because of the high feeling accorded to roadside memorials by the folk in our culture, it will be difficult for local councils or governments to enforce any formal policy or regulate such spontaneous commemorations. Accordingly, I believe the ultimate experience of those who try to legislate against, or create policy to control, roadside memorials will turn out to be the same as that of Bishop of Sonora way back in 1783.




Total of Memorials

Memorials that include Crosses

Non cross

Sites with coloured


Sites with white




Other than name or RIP

Sites that mention animals








1 (S6)


I think that Misty was a dog killed in the same crash as its owner.




Newell, L. Anne, Arizona Daily Star article: Roadside crosses: Centuries-old tradition can stir controversy. 3 September 2002 – downloaded 7/6/04 from…rticles/first.ament/roadside.cros.htm


Roadside Crosses in Western Ukraine. Downloaded from Wysiwyg://173/


Roadside Crosses. Downloaded from


The Village Museum Roadside Crosses.  Downloaded from wysiwyg://23//www.ministerulcult…uzee/muz_satului/expozitic/troite.htm


Cross My Heart. Downloaded from


Panlilio Anna Marie, Descanso Story. Downloaded 7/6/04 from wysiwyg://32/


McLennan, Ali. Roadside Memorials: Devotion or Distraction. Downloaded from…ksjounalism/DevotionDistraction.htm


Smith, Robert James. Roadside Memorials – Some Australian Examples. Downloaded from


Hartig, K and Dunn, K. Roadside Memorials: Interpreting New Deathscapes in Newcastle, New South Wales. Downloaded from









Part 1 was published in Transmissions 14. Part 3 will appear in 2005.





The Moe Folklife Project produced more than 100 recorded interviews and several hundred photographs (colour slides and prints) plus numerous exhibition quality black and white prints.  An exhibition of 30 photographs by professional photographer Jennifer Aitken was shown at the final event for the MFLP held at Old Gippstown on 20th April 1996.  All interviews were documented on paper on data sheets which featured key words to enable the eventual construction of a computer data base.  One important question on the data sheet asked whether the skill was being passed on to others.  A model data sheet is included in Appendix F.  Overall, the quantum of results compared very favourably with that of the Lowell Folklife Project. 



Although storytelling about working life was identified as one of the six separate folklore forms studied in the Moe Folklife Project, it became clear in practice that every informant had some stories to tell.  Apart from work and trade unionism, predominant themes concerned stories about Moe, Yallourn, family life, community activism and migration and settlement.  A few examples of stories about working life, Moe and Yallourn will be given below.


Stories about working life

Wally (Vladimir) Maliko was born in Yallourn of Ukrainian parents, and has been a shift-worker with the State Electricity Commission for more than twenty years.  He describes some of the changes in his working life since the restructuring and privatisation of the SEC:


It has gotten harder.  We used to have six on a shift, but now we've only got two...the workload is greater.  [Also there are] too many chiefs not enough Indians.  Going back to when we first started operations, there were probably, twenty guys, in the office and now there are probably around fifty or sixty.



Brendan Jenkins is secretary of the Trades and Labor Council and Labor Party candidate for Narracan.  He describes 'getting into the unions' after a long battle with SEC management about payment for skill and about the SEC switchboard monitoring unionists' telephone calls:


all we ever wanted was an apology [which was eventually offered].  We didn't use it, we didn't display it, what stuck in my mind was the fact that we weren't being treated as equals, and the blokes there wouldn't have been treated as equals all the way.



Lorraine Proctor has taught for many years at Moe High School:


When I came had a lot of things that it offered kids and one of them was an enormous concern for the student as a person.  I really felt that given all the failings that we all have, Moe was the school where other teachers cared about the kids, more effectively and more frequently than I've ever seen before and has been one of the warm things I had about it.



Greg Langdon is Moe's 'pan man', and like Banjo Paterson's barber in The Man from Ironbark, is something of a 'humorist of note'.  He describes his traditional occupation, still needed for building sites and the like, as 'the only job around here that's picking up'.  He talks about some of his working experiences:


Usually when I come round they usually say 'here's old shitty back again' or 'here's the dunny budgie back' or 'the blow fly's around'.  But they don't too much because I often say 'if you give too much lip you'll get one in the front seat of your car' so they back off a bit.  I snotted one bloke one day, he got a bit too funny so I give him a smack he was all right after that.  His boss said 'you deserved that anyway' and that was the end of that.  I don't mind being insulted as long as they smile when they say it but if they don't smile look out, I won't tolerate it.




Stories about Moe

Although the whole emphasis of the Moe Folklife Project was on contemporary culture, many stories and folk memories were told about past years.  Merve Burrage told a childhood story about the well-known Moe and Victorian identity, the former race-caller, Bill Collins.  This story was the subject of a painting produced in the 1995 MYACRE art and oral history project, in another version which has Bill Collins sitting on top of his mother's laundry:


Bill...used to come and play at our place, he was a bit keen on one of our sisters, we had about five sisters, but they weren't all at home at the one time, and we had a little open spoon drain, it used to run from the house down to the lane out the back.  It was my job to keep the water flowing down the drain, remove matches, or twigs, or whatever, you'd identify them by different lengths of the sticks you'd put in the drain.  I'd get the water going, and he'd stand up the end, and call races of the different sticks to the end.  He was very good at it in those days.



In many of the stories told about Moe, a deep love of place is readily apparent.  The Moe Folklife Project director, Gwenda Davey, published an article on this subject in National Library News, April 1996 (see Appendix E).  Peter Rosenboom is the son of Dutch immigrants, and a member of the police force at Moe.  Although he describes Moe as 'always very violent [with a] horrendous rate of assaults in town', he fondly recalls growing up in Moe's public housing area known as 'the Bronx':

I loved it up there, I had a great time as a kid.



Peter Rosenboom regards his status as a 'local' as a great advantage; even men he has 'charged a few times' will walk up to him and say 'G'day Rosie, how you going?' One of his stories concerns a local troublemaker:


One time I was chasing him, and we ended up in a paddock, and he had a four wheel drive, course I got bogged and I lost him.  It was dark, but I had a pretty good idea it was him, but I couldn't be a hundred percent certain, anyway 20 minutes later he drives up, 'G'day Rosie, what are you doing here?  Do you want a tow?' So he towed me out.  I said 'Thanks mate'.  No worries, see you later.



Maureen Ross was recommended to the Moe Folklife Project as an informant by the Moe Motor Inn where she works because of her powerful stories about her family's struggles to live and build a house in Moe during World War 2.  Although she describes their primitive living conditions where one child 'died of cold', she 'wouldn't go anywhere else' to live:


It's a lovely little town really - everyone pulls their weight.  Friends who left have all come back.


Nina Burke is active in the committee working to save the Moe Hospital.  She deeply regrets Moe's poor image, and the 'young people [who] call Moe a hole'.  She has never regretted leaving Melbourne to live in Moe:


Our children love it.  Our friends think it's magic.  Our friends think we're living in our holiday house.



Stories about Yallourn


Many Moe residents are still, after twenty years, deeply saddened by the destruction of Victoria's beautiful garden city, Yallourn.  Daryl Nation describes many former Yallourn residents, now in Newborough, as 'living in exile'.  Yallourn was noted for its splendid street trees and both public and household gardens, encouraged by the award of prizes.  Mrs Margery Brogan and her husband Arthur lived at 2 Boola Crescent Yallourn:


Arthur more or less looked after all the lawns and the hedges and the hard work and I looked after the laying out and the designing and what have you.  We were thrilled to bits when a couple of years later we won the Victorian Award, the horticulture award for the best garden in Yallourn, and then we won it eight years in a row after that.


Mrs Brogan described how they coped with the enforced move to Newborough when Yallourn was destroyed.


I'd say both Arthur and I did adapt.  The children didn't, my son and daughter, they pined for home and Boola Crescent and even though they were married from there and moved away out to Churchill, they didn't feel as though they were coming home here.



The ability of the all-powerful State Electricity Commission to wipe out houses and life-styles was not confined to Yallourn itself.  Joan McMaster talks about Yallourn North:


we all had our own homes, but they were on SEC land...and the mine collapsed at Yallourn North, and suddenly the SEC reclaimed all the land.  And we had to move our houses, or just lose them.  My mother, just recently widowed, not having enough money, we just had to walk away, and leave our home.




More than fifty different types of handcrafts were documented in the project, including well-known forms such as knitting, crochet, wood turning, tapestry and lace-making, and lesser-known ones such as Koorie basket weaving, Dorset buttons, Hardanger embroidery, quilling and paper tole.  A full list of handcrafts documented is contained in Appendix D.  The following discussion will consider a selection of handcraft forms which are unusual or which raise issues of interest.  Some crafts are carried out in well-organised groups, and some individually.  Some are sold commercially, and many are not.  An interesting issue concerns the interchange between traditional folk culture and commercial popular culture.  Some skills have clearly been learned by direct oral transmission or demonstration, and others have drawn on printed sources or formal classes.  There are clear opportunities available for increased sales of handcrafts in Moe through exhibitions or markets.


Koorie basket-making

A traditional skill practised by some Aboriginal women in the La Trobe Valley, using reeds growing in Gippsland.  The Moe Folklife Project interviewed and photographed Mrs Linda Turner and Mrs Norma Lukies demonstrating their craft.  Issues for local Koorie groups concern the extent to which the skill will survive, and what further steps, if any, should be taken to protect and promote the skill.




Mr Peter Lendon of Yallourn North includes kangaroo leather among the materials he uses.  He is passing on his skills.


Dorset buttons

Susan Lendon of Yallourn North learned this traditional English craft from her family.  A small metal ring is covered with button-hole stitching and then filled in with weaving.  She believes the craft originated in the seventeenth century and flourished until replaced with machine-made buttons in the mid-nineteenth century.  Dorset Button brooches are also made.


Cake decorating

Mrs Mary Rose Gaffa runs Rose's Cakes in Lloyd Street Moe.  She is self-taught, and decorates wedding, Christmas, Baptism, Confirmation, Birthday and Anniversary cakes, and teaches her skills through classes held in her shop.  Both women and men attend her classes.


Coat hangers

Mrs Rosa Paul of Moe covers wooden coat hangers with strips cut from plastic bread wrappers to produce a handsome and utilitarian result.  This craft is an interesting combination of modern technology with older techniques of covering wooden coat hangers with crochet or fabric.



Although the aim of the Moe Folklife Project was to document handcrafts as practised today, many informants told research assistants about treasured craft objects brought or sent from their country of origin.  One example is a hand-made crochet bedspread made by Eleni's mother-in-law in Cyprus for Eleni's eight-year-old daughter, in Moe.  Both Eleni and her daughter, and many other Moe residents, also crochet.  'Eleni' did not wish to have her surname recorded, like a small number of other informants.



Hardanger embroidery is one of the most interesting of the many forms of embroidery recorded in the Moe Folklife Project.  The style originated in the Norwegian town of Hardanger, but is practised in Moe by women of different origins.  Dutch-born Magda Varekamp is teaching Scottish-born Joan Bishop the techniques.  Cream-coloured fabric is embroidered with fine crochet cotton, also cream in colour, in geometric designs with some cut-out sections.  Another particularly interesting form of embroidery practised in Moe is blue embroidery on white cloth practised by women of Serbian origin.




Folk art

The term is used to describe a form of painting stylised designs such as flowers on to (eg) wooden household objects such as boxes or bread-boards.  For a folklorist, the use of the generic term 'folk art' in this context is problematic, as no provenance is usually given other than descriptions of the craft as 'ancient' or 'traditional'.   The method has been publicised through American cottage-craft publications, and is often taught in commercially-run classes.  In Moe, the practice was documented at Alan and Fay Walker's Craft Shop in Newborough.


Gumnut craft

Small gumnuts, leaves and pods are glued on to wooden or glass objects such as bowls and salt and pepper shakers.  Sylvia Lawrence from Moe South sells her products at markets.



A vigorous group of Moe lace-makers was documented at Hernes Oak, via Moe.  The lace-makers' meetings are both for instruction and a social gathering.  The interview highlights the great complexity of this craft with details of lace-making pillows, bobbins, spangles, types of lace, materials, groups or guilds and changes to this ancient art.




Metal work

Newborough blacksmith Bruce Beamish makes candlesticks, fire side irons, branding irons and tools on request for woodworkers, among other products.  He also repairs tools from local engineering shops which need a forge, and conducts demonstrations at Old Gippstown Pioneer Village.



Many different types of painting are widely practised in Moe.  William Verrall paints local scenes on wood using watercolours or acrylic paint.


Quilting and Patchwork

The Valley Quilters are a vigorous group which meets monthly.  Bev Darby described patterns, fabrics, making quilts, the Quilters group, books used, heirlooms, collecting quilts and other activities.  She appeared to identify the craft as 'American', although noted that Australian themes and patterns were emerging.  Australia does in fact have its own tradition of quilting and patchwork, and significant quilts and 'Wagga rugs' are held in the National Gallery of Australia, Australian War Memorial and Pioneer Women's Hut (Tumbarumba NSW) among other places.  In 1988 in Moe a Bicentennial Quilt was produced by a variety of local organisations, and is now held in the Moe Library.


Religious handcrafts

Mrs Panayiota Lehos, a Greek-Australian resident of Tanjil South, has a small, private chapel built in her front garden, big enough for 10 icons inside and an oil candle kept lit at all times.


St Mary's Craft Group

This group is one of several at different churches who make craft articles for fund-raising stalls and for the participants' own interest.  At St Mary's, articles observed being made for children to buy at Mothers' Day stalls included coat hangers, soap and washer sets, note pads and calendars, boxer shorts and fridge magnets.  Most of the craft groups run by organisations such as churches operate at a low level of skill.  In view of the exquisite and complex crafts observed elsewhere in Moe, the question arises as to whether these church groups could provide more challenging activities.



Commercially printed tapestries, embroidered by their owners, were often noted by research assistants on this project as 'traditional handcrafts', as sometimes were crude fabric or wooden toys and problematic crafts such as 'folk art' or decoupage.  In these cases the researchers' training was clearly inadequate.



The Latrobe Valley Woodturning Club meets regularly at Old Gippstown.  Numerous objects such as bowls and platters are turned on the wood lathe, frequently using local timbers.  Woodwork of various kinds is a popular craft in Moe among men and some women.


GUIDELINES FOR FUTURE PROJECTS.  Researchers need to be well trained in the nature of folk craft and folk art.  It was not easy, given the limitations of both time and funding, to teach untrained researchers in the Moe Folklife Project some of the subtleties of taste and tradition or the difference between process and product.  A traditional and genuine type of craft practice (eg toy making) may not necessarily, in a particular case, result in a product of integrity. 






The term foodways is used by folklorists to describe not only foods produced and consumed but also the customs surrounding the consumption of food.  Twenty-six interviews about foodways were carried out by the Moe Folklife Project with local residents of nineteen different ethnic origins.  A full list of interviews is included in Appendix D, and a few extracts are given below.  Foodways are one of the most persistent of folkloric traditions, and are sometimes associated with special occasions and celebrations such as Easter, Christmas, New Year and national days.  In addition to the strong tradition of cultural persistence within particular ethnic groups, considerable cultural interchange takes place, in Moe as elsewhere in Australia.  There would be few Australians who do not, at least sometimes, both eat and attempt to cook Italian or Chinese food, to give only two examples.  Similarly, Mrs Marie Smith cooks a traditional English Christmas dinner for her son and Malaysian daughter-in-law and grandchildren.  Many individuals contributed recipes to the foodways project, and it is planned to produce a 'multicultural Moe' recipe book as one of the outcomes of the Moe Folklife Project.            


Varieties of food in Moe

Although interviewees represented nineteen ethnic communities, there are many more communities in Moe who were not interviewed for the project, because of limited resources.   Mrs Fatima Turbic (Bosnian) and Mrs Margaret Sim (Burmese) are two recent arrivals in the district who cook their traditional foods. 



Mrs Rosa Shirato is from Ecuador, and she and her husband grow vegetables and grapes and make wine at their property in Erica.  She has adapted some of her cooking to Australian conditions:


Sometimes I cook white rice and have meat with bread crumbs like a schnitzel and continental beans with onion and capsicum.  This is a traditional meal from my country.  The traditional food from my country is rice, plain white rice and you can mix it with onions, capsicum and tomatoes and you can use the juices and put on top and a little bit of meat because there is not a lot of meat over there like there is in Australia.





Peter Beasley is an Anglo-Australian one of whose ancestors came to Australia on the First Fleet.  He runs the Coalville winery:


We only grow one wine a year, a Cabernet.  We are at silver medal level and it's possibly the best Cabernet in Gippsland, and one of the best in Victoria...we have ten acres of land and nine acres under vines and we produce about 10,000 bottles per year.



Apart from its wines, some distinctive local produce includes pine mushrooms.  Ironically, this gourmet fungus flourishes in the ubiquitous and often hated pine plantations around Moe, many of which replaced local orchards.  Nina Burke told Gwenda Davey of a profitable foray she organised during 1995 to pick pine mushrooms and sell them to specialty fruiterers in Melbourne.  Otherwise the district is noted for its potatoes, especially those grown at Thorpdale.


Like Moe's disappearing orchards, some skills are disappearing too.  Mr Jurgen Dworznik, a German meat smoker, regrets that today there is little call for his specialist skills.


Foodways and calendar customs

Most families or individuals have elaborate or expensive 'special occasion' foods, such as Peggy Fisher's sponge cake or Suchitra and Narendra Shankar's gulab jamun, sweets prepared for guests.  There are also traditional foods associated with or required by special religious occasions.  Mrs Panayiota Lehos of Tanjil South gave her recipe for Magiritsa, the traditional offal soup eaten by Orthodox Greeks after the midnight church service on Easter Saturday.  The recipe includes


lamb shanks, lungs, hearts and tongues

lamb small intestines and tripe

beef and pork shanks

dill, shallots, anise or fennel

butter, rice, eggs and lemon juice

salt and pepper



Mrs Mirjana Lazarevic described the Lenten foods eaten by members of the Serbian Orthodox Church during the fasting period before Easter when no meat, dairy food or liquor are consumed.  She was taught to make a special fish salad by her mother, and serves it at other fasting times such as Christmas.  A contrast to this spartan fare is provided by Mrs Esme Dick's Christmas cake or Mrs Margaret Krall's Dutch Christmas cake and Mrs Effie Gotis's melomakarona.  The latter are rich Christmas sweet biscuits soaked in honey and sprinkled with chopped walnuts and cinnamon.  Effie Gotis also makes a special New Year cake, Vasilopitta.  Mr Bharanshek Rai from Nepal described selroti, a sweet bread cooked in oil like doughnuts.  Selroti are served at celebrations and festivals among the Nepalese community.  Increasingly, many Australians regard Anzac biscuits or Anzacs as something to be made and eaten around the 25th April, Anzac Day.



Backyard orchards in Moe



Although Moe is in severe economic difficulties, its residents have houses (many publicly owned) and big backyards.  Backyard vegetable plots and fruit trees are almost universal, a situation confirmed by the results of a survey conducted by the Moe Folklife Project in the Moe-Narracan News.  The most commonly grown fruit trees seem to be nectarines.  There may be some economic potential in the harvesting of these home-grown crops, as is done in the inner suburb of Carlton in Melbourne, where home-grown grapes are sold to door-to-door collectors for wine making.  There is a gourmet market for tree-ripened fruit already established in other parts of Australia, and possibilities for links with the Gourmet Deli Trail tourist initiative already existing in Gippsland.









In conjunction with the National Library of Australia and the National Folk Festival, the AFN is convening a one-day conference on ‘Folklore Collections’. Linking with one of the 2005 National Festival themes, the conference will focus on the roles, responsibilities, approaches and problems of collecting folklore in Australia, including the linkage with archiving, interpreting and disseminating material collected in the field.


Some speakers will be invited and we would also like to receive proposals to present a 20-minute paper on some aspect of collecting. There will be ample time for discussion. Proposals to the conference convener at: by December 17, 2004.


DATE: Thursday March 24, 2005.

VENUE: Ferguson Room, National Library of Australia.







Edited by Marie Korpe, executive director of Freemuse (Freedom of Musical Expression), this book considers the many cases of censorship and suppression of music, song and musicians around the world. Most of the musics involved are traditional or tradition-based and/or carry lyrics against one power structure or another. There is an introductory section on music censorship and power, while the rest of the book is divided into geographical sections looking at specific examples of censorship in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and Europe. It includes a CD of some of the material discussed in the book. Most of the contributions come from the 2nd Conference on Music and Censorship held in Copenhagen, September 2002.


Published by Zed Books ( in conjunction with Freemuse (







Saltwater Songs: Indigenous Music from Tropical Australia features Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers from Queensland and the NT and was produced through Central Queensland University.


It is produced by Karl Neuenfeldt & Nigel Pegrum and includes songs by: Black Image [Wujal Wujal/Cooktown]; Dujon Niue [St Pauls Village, Mua Island]; Maningrida High School Boys Band [NT]; Brenda Hall [Hopevale]; Barry Cedric [Yarrabah]; Saima Cultural Group [Rockhampton]; Seaman Dan [Horn Island]; Stray Dogs [Rockhampton]; David Hudson [Cairns]; Manuel Namoa [Badu Island] and Yirrkala Community Education Centre Big Band [NT].


For information contact: Karl Neuenfeldt CQU Locked Bag 3333 Bundaberg 4670   7-4150-7019







Living legends of traditional Tasmanian folk music Edie 77 and Paddy Dawson 86 have just released a CD.


Famous throughout Australia as performers of authentic traditional music, as passed down to them from parents and uncles and neighbours, Paddy and Edie still play the old Apple Shed Dance Tunes that accompanied dances in rural Tassie from 1840-1950.


The CD was produced and funded by Marjorie and Steve Gadd as part of the Real Island Roots series which features recordings of music rooted in local Tasmanian traditions.


The Recording and mixing were done by Geoff Francis of Huon Delta Studios and the cover photography by Mike Peters of Franklin.


Most of the tracks were recorded live in the Dawson's lounge room while others were recorded last year live in the Palais at Franklin.

The tunes include schottisches, barn dances, reels, quicksteps, polkas and waltzes. Played on two button accordions with the spirit and strong rhythm required for dances this music will take you back to the era when the local apple shed doubled as a dance venue.


While the music draws on Celtic, European and American influences it has its own Tasmanian flavour combining folk, ballroom and music hall into our own local equivalent of old-timey music

The CD retails at $20.00 and can be ordered from 03 62663446 or by email from

For details ring Steve on 62663446







The latest edition of Play and Folklore includes news of the Australian Children’s Folklore Collection’s acceptance onto the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, accompanying the journals of Captain Cook, the designs for Canberra city and the Mabo case manuscripts. This edition also includes articles on children’s play in Australia and Vietnam, childhood recollections and a book review. Available from History and Technology Department, Museum Victoria, GPO Box 666E, VIC, 3001. Web:








ABC Radio’s Hindsight program has produced a social history documentary featuring fieldwork interviews of AFN Affiliate Karl Neuenfeldt and colleagues at:








TI performer Seaman Dan ,featured in Verandah Music, has won an Australian Recording Industry Award (ARIA) for his third CD "Perfect Pearl" in the World Music Album category. Congratulations to all involved, including Karl Neuenfeldt and Nigel Pegrum.








Songs, poems, stories, etc. for this book on Australian rail heritage should be in the hands of the editorial committee by November 15th 2004. All material to be forwarded to


What we require is an email copy of the song or poem musical scores etc that you have or might suggest together with clear details of their origin. Details on each item to included (if known) the author’s name, (date written, published or recorded) the title of the item, details of publication or recording if previously produced of contact details of contemporary writer. Clearly mark any copies of song or poems at this stage " For research purposes only”. A copyright release form will be forwarded where necessary. We also welcome the reference details of any Australian Railway Songs and Poems that you feel would assist our research.


General background details of the Australian Railway Story project to-date can be had from Brian Dunnett 02 96689051.









The award of a national folk fellowship will enable folklorist Graham Dodsworth to rejuvenate and repopularise many of Australia’s forgotten folk songs.
The joint National Library of Australia / National Folk Festival Fellowship, now in its second year, is awarded annually for a project that will revitalise the collected folk songs gathered over decades into the NLA’s archives. The decision to award the Fellowship to Graham was announced in October at the National Convention of Folk Alliance
Graham, who has a Masters Degree in Australian Folklore, submitted a plan for a project that will entail selecting little-known songs from the collections of such people as the late John Meredith, arranging  them in a way that reinvigorates them without corrupting their traditional essence, then making them available to the public via recordings and public performances at the National Folk Festival.
It is envisaged that songs will be compiled for inclusion on a CD and songbook, as well as making bytes of the music from the National Library available online, to encourage people to make their own journeys of discovery into the archives.   
'My main concern ­ one that John Meredith shared ­ is that Australian people should be listening to these songs that are reflections of our cultural heritage,' says Graham.
'What we have in these collections isn’t an invented heritage but the real, raw material, a cross-section of the genuine thoughts of the “people in the street” through the ages. To make these songs available to the people of
Australia today will give back to them the thoughts and attitudes of those who have gone before, concepts with which they can identify. Having online access to the songs will hopefully encourage some people to go to the archives, find the old material and arrange it for themselves.'
Mark Cranfield, head of the Oral History and Folklore Branch at the NLA, says that traditional songs are a crystallisation of the country’s oral history. ‘'The Festival is very pleased with this decision,' he says. 'We’re sure that Graham Dodsworth will continue the excellent standards set by the previous Fellowship recipients, Jane Brownlee and David De Santi.'









Appalachian traditional songs and singers

from the Cecil Sharp Collection



Cecil Sharp, a music teacher from south London, is England’s most renowned collector of folk music and dances, noting down nearly five thousand tunes on his travels throughout England and the Appalachian states of North America up until his death in 1924. The previous volume in this series, Still Growing, demonstrated the richness of the song tradition that he found in his native England. But perhaps the most significant part of his vast collection is that assembled during the First World War years in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. At the instigation of American enthusiast Olive Dame Campbell, he embarked with assistant Maud Karpeles on a truly remarkable journey through America’s southern uplands, to discover a living tradition of songs and ballads, largely of British origin, which had all but died out back home.


Dear Companion is a collection of fifty-three songs and ballads from Sharp’s American collection. An authoritative introductory essay by collector Mike Yates, together with biographical sketches of the singers and notes on the songs, are copiously illustrated by previously unpublished photographs, extracts from diaries, letters, and biographical writings.


Dear Companion is a celebration of the close links between the musical traditions of Britain and North America.


Published by the English Folk Dance & Song Society in association with Sharp’s Folk Club, November 2004

ISBN 0-85418-190-3

[vi], 137p, illustrated.

£14.99  plus £2 p&p (UK) / £3.95 (Europe); air mail: £8.60 (Zone 1), £10.10 (Zone 2); surface mail: £4.75 (Zones 1 & 2)


Trade terms available on application to:


EFDSS, Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regent’s Park Road, London NW1 7AY

Tel: 020-7485 2206

Fax: 020-7284 0523












The Australian Folklore Network (AFN) is a national coalition of individuals and organisations with an interest in one or more aspects of folklore collection, archiving, research, teaching, administration and performing. The AFN holds an annual Forum at the National Folk Festival, Canberra, publishes a regular newsletter, coordinates the Register of Australian Folklore Collections, carries out projects and generally promotes Australian folklore in all its varieties throughout the national community.


Individuals and organisations with an involvement or interest in these activities are invited to affiliate with the AFN. Affiliation is no-charge and obligation-free, entitling the affiliate to receive the newsletter and take part in AFN activities and projects.


The AFN is coordinated and resourced through the Australian Folklore Research Unit at Curtin University of Technology, Perth, WA.


To affiliate with the AFN simply fill in the details below and return to the address provided at the bottom of this sheet.
























Please mail this completed form to:

Australian Folklore Research Unit

Curtin University of Technology

GPO Box 1987



email details to:










Australian Children’s Folklore Collection, Museum Victoria

Beth Sowter

Bill Scott

Bill Wannan (dec.)

Bob Bolton

Brian Dunnett

Brian Shepherd

Brian Wilkins

Bruce Cameron

Bob Rummery

Bush Music Club

Campbell Irving

Chloe Roweth

Chris Kempster

Chris Woodland

Chris Wright

Christina Mimmocchi

Cliff Hanna

Colin McJannett

Dani Rocca

Danny Spooner

Dave Hults

David De Santi

David Mulhallen

David S Azzolina

Dawn Anderson

Dieter Bajzek

Folk Alliance Australia

Graham Seal

Gregan O’Leary

Gwenda Davey

Hugh Anderson

Ian Russell

Jan Orloff

Jason Roweth

Jenny Gall

J D A Widdowson

Jeff Corfield

Jim Low

John Harpley

John Low

John Marshall

J S Ryan

June Factor

June Nichols

Karl Neuenfeldt

Katie Andrews

Keith McKenry

Kel Watkins

Kevin Bradley

Les Montanjees

Luisa Del Giudice

Mark Cranfield

Mark Gregory

Mark Moravec

Martin Chatfield

Martin Goreing

Maureen Seal

Mike Martin    

Moya McFadzean

Museum of Childhood, Edith Cowan University

Noris Ioannou

Olya Willis 

Patrick Watt

Peter Ellis

Phillip Ashton

Philip Hayward

Phyl Lobl

Robert Smith

Rob Willis

Roger Hargraves 

Ron Brown

Ron Edwards

Ruth Hazleton

Steve Bullock

Steve Gadd

Susan Faine

Terry Clinton

Tony Suttor

Top End Folk Club

Valda Low

Vic Orloff

Victorian Folklife Association

Warren Fahey

Wendy Corrick

Western Australian Folklore Archive






National Register of Folklore Collections


Folklore Australia – resource base


Australian Folklore Research Unit – Australia Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology


Simply Australia Online magazine of folklore and social history


National Library of Australia Oral History/Folklore Archive


Trad&Now – Australian Folk Music magazine


Play and Folklore- Australia’s journal of children’s folklore


Graduate Diploma in Australian Folklife


Moonlit road – traditional tales and associated lore. An excellent American website that uses spooky folktales to interest the young, and not-so-young, in folklore. Have a squiz if you dare at:


Verandah Music: Roots of Australian Tradition - A joint project between the AFN, Curtin University and the National Library of


Folklore Weather Forecasting – well worth a look. Also Weather Forecasting and Folklore at


Useful Ballads link