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Minister visits Tim Hughes room

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Visiting a room in honour of Tim Hughes MBE at the Lucindale Museum was a highlight for senior government minister Kyam Maher during the recent SA Country Cabinet visit.

The room features stories and pictures of Mr Hughes, and an article written by his wife Eileen, along with references to other family members, including daughter Denise, and son Paul.

Mr Maher is the State’s Attorney General and Industrial Relations minister as well as SA’s first Aboriginal Affairs minister with Aboriginal heritage.

He and his advisers were welcomed to the museum by representatives John McLean and Shirley Goodman on behalf of a hardworking and dedicated committee.

The museum was officially opened on February 3, 1995 by former SA Governor, Dame Roma Mitchell.

It resulted from the 1987 State Government closure of the district’s railway which had operated for 111 years, transporting people and produce between Kingston, Lucindale, Naracoorte and beyond.

A group of residents soon set to work gathering historical items from around the district, and stored and displayed them in the vacated railway buildings.

As time flicked by, the collection grew along with memorabilia of the Lands Department Soldier Settlement Scheme – including one of the many sheds where families were housed in “camps” at Lucindale, awaiting their farm blocks.

Under department orders, each week the returned soldiers were taken out in groups to work on land acquired under the scheme. Together they had to clear each of the blocks of trees and scrub, put up fences, install windmills and set them up with tanks and troughs for livestock.

The government of the day also provided “tiny” transportable asbestos houses on each of the blocks.

Mr McLean recalled living in a lands department shed at Penola, just as the Hughes family had done at Lucindale, followed by one of the houses on a block at Furner.

It was from there he went to Mount Bruce School and met Paul Hughes.

“They were a highly respected family,” said Mr McLean, leading the way to the Tim Hughes room, “and Tim Hughes was a very decorated soldier”.

Among the medals and accolades, Tim was awarded a Military Medal for his actions at Buna in New Guinea. Mr Maher said he had read the citation.

According to the official citation, Tim’s platoon was under heavy machine gun fire so he “volunteered” to climb on top of a dispersal bay. While under fire from three directions, Tim threw grenades at two Japanese posts.

Armed with a machine gun, Tim then used it to protect his fellow soldiers, enabling them to move away and take cover in a safer place.

But members of Tim’s platoon often talked of another version of his actions as a “volunteer”, which Mr McLean explained.

According to platoon members, Tim believed they would all be killed, so before throwing the grenades and providing protective machine gun fire, he knocked out the officer in charge, and took control.

While he was awarded a Military Meal, his platoon believed he deserved a Victoria Cross.

After six years at war, Tim was discharged in 1945.

Tim successfully farmed south west of Lucindale for 22 years, and the family were popular members of the entire community.

Tim gained the community’s support to lobby against the SA Aborigines Act which prevented indigenous people accessing the benefits of other citizens. Most who knew Tim were aware of how much he resented his “dog licence” – a written exemption from the Act he had to always carry.

“It has been a really pleasant surprise today to be at Lucindale (museum) and see the Tim Hughes room,” Mr Maher said.

“Having known about Glenys Elphick and the massive amount that she contributed last century to the advancement of Aboriginal women … she was Tim Hughes’s mum.

“I know Tim Hughes’s son Paul Hughes, the first Aboriginal person to become a professor in a university in South Australia.”

Mr Maher explained that to have a family who contributed so much to Aboriginal people in SA was unique.

It was therefore a highlight to see the room dedicated to Tim Hughes, and how he too forged a path for Aboriginal people.

“He was the first person to chair the Aboriginal Lands Trust – the first Aboriginal Lands Rights legislation, and obviously the role in gaining recognition as an Aboriginal person coming back from World War II and becoming a soldier settler in the Lucindale area. It’s pretty good,” Mr Maher said.

Born April 28, 1919 at Point Pearce SA, Tim Hughes died on April 1, 1976 of a coronary occlusion.

Mr McLean and Mrs Goodman thanked Mr Maher and his advisers for taking the time to visit the museum, which opens on November 25, coinciding with the SA All Stars Tennis Competition, or by appointment.

Naracoorte Community News 15 November 2023

This article appeared in the Naracoorte Community News.

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