We now have mum established as Hon. Secretary of the Guilds. In this episode mum tells of her experiences when involved with the Swan River Conservation Committee.
Excerpt from 'THE CLOCK OF TIME" by Gertrude Ruston. (pp 116-120)
"The Guilds also participated, together with many well-known people and organisations, in the formation of the Swan River Conservation Committee, to care for the river and seek the establishment of a Swan River Conservation Board on similar lines to that of the River Thames Board which was cleaning up that waterway in the United Kingdom." (Our beautiful Swan River (looking toward the Indian Ocean) of which we are all very proud).
The investigations of the Swan River Conservation Committee resulted in the exposure of numerous manufacturing and government concerns which were constantly polluting the river with their effluent.
On the resignation of Mrs Isobel Johnston from the position of Secretary/Treasurer, she put forward my name as her successor and I was asked to take it over. I was Hon. Secy/Treas., for about seven years, after which the Swan River Conservation Board was formed making the Committee no longer necessary.
We had a number of amusing experiences during our investigations into the state of the river. Constant complaints were received from boat owners regarding the waters near the gas works, stating that their boats were discoloured by oil and grease when passing that way. One of our men volunteered to descend in bathers to test the truth of this and when he came up he was black all over, so we needed no further proof of the pollution at that point.
We also discovered that considerable undesirable effluent made its way into the river from the Spring Street drain, but nobody seemed to know the area from which the rubbish came and it may have been established in the early days of settlement. I believe it was eventually traced to the old markets. We used to hold our meetings in the office of Mr Max Kott, Lawyer, a member of our committee, as it was conveniently situated in St George's Terrace in the city.
He generally left his office open for me and returned in time for the meeting. One evening I arrived and found his door locked, so sat down to await his arrival. After some time I went downstairs to see if any of the other members of the committee were about, only to find that the caretaker had locked up the premises and departed. I opened the main door but could not open the grille. I was the only one inside and the other members we outside unable to get in. We found later that Mr Kott had forgotten the date of the meeting The grille was fastened with a padlock, and one of our members said he could spring it with a hammer, but they decided they had better find a policeman to stand by while this was done, and check that the place was fastened up after. This was quite easily carried out.
It was a great relief to be released, as it was an uncomfortable feeling to be like a monkey behind bars It took me quite sometime to live it down. A photographer from the "West Australian" took a photograph of me behind the bars and the photo appeared on the front page of the paper next morning. By kind permission of a member of the paper's staff we were able to hold our meeting in his office.
I wrote the History of the Swan River Conservation Committee for the archives and, at a public meeting, when we all resigned and handed over our responsibilities to the new Board, a nicely bound copy of the history was handed to retiring members of the successful committee and the members of the incoming board. A copy was also sent to the archives.
We still hear of the effluent in the river and wonder if the new board is as dedicated as was our committee. It is a paid government board and has the necessary teeth to enforce the law, but one feels there is still a need to be on the qui vive at all times.
At the time of writing the history I was no longer with the Guilds. but was confidential secretary to the manager of Bouchers' Industries."
Mum is quite right when way back in the early 1980s she said a lot more needed to be done to clean up our river. Unfortunately right up to this time there is a constant battle to stop it being polluted, often from unknown sources.