Hustling “Jack” Cornwall, boxing manager, 1954

Hustling “Jack” Cornwall and his Queensland University boxing “boys”

This old black and white snap captures my brief turn as Hustling “Jack” Cornwall (all Johns were Jacks in ‘50s Queensland), secretary-manager of the Queensland University boxing team, about to board an Ansett DC3 at Essendon airport with “my boys” for the return flight to Brisbane, August 1954.

As a young veterinary student I was always on the look out for ways to stretch my modest quarterly university allowance of £50. After a short but ruinous stint as the resident student SP book maker – where I’d punted away the profits and then some – my turn as a boxing promoter-cum-manager meant I could tap into the richly funded student union’s “all expenses paid” deal on the intervarsity sporting circuit.

My ‘boys’, students from courses ranging from medicine and engineering to forestry, won every bout they contested from flyweight to light heavyweight in the Intervarsity finals in Melbourne.

Note the Ansett DC3 in the background. Ansett had not yet become a major player in Australia’s two airline policy but was the only airline giving student concessions. His DC3s flew the ‘milk run’ from Melbourne to Brisbane, landing at Wagga, Sydney, Coffs Harbour, Coolangatta and finally Brisbane in a flight that took more than eight hours.

Those were the days, strolling onto the tarmac and climbing up two stairs at the rear of the aircraft for our next big adventure. In fact the DC3s had an excellent safety record. World War II versions had numerous names, particularly the Dakota and the Gooney Bird.

Extract from “After work, After play, After all”  ( pp 41-42

‘In 1954 I became aware that the University Students Union was relatively flush with funds and that a substantial amount of this money was allocated each year to pay the fares and expenses of students participating in intervarsity sporting contests. There was no chance of selection in any of the team sports but I thought I must be in with a chance of selection as a lightweight in the boxing team and that year the national university boxing championships were being held in Melbourne. This might be a way to get to Victoria and home for the second term vacation at the union’s expense. I attended  the gym three times a week, did a little road work, punching the air like a pro, and took some advice from an old timer who was training us – left lead, right cross, feint, counter punch, uppercut.

‘When my mate Tony Johnston queried the adequacy of my training regimen and more particularly my ability I assured him that I was ‘good with my hands’. It was unfortunate for me that in 1954 the lightweight title was contested by a third year medical student, a skilled and lightning fast southpaw. All my instructions on defence and counterpunching came to nothing and at the end of the first round I felt as though I had been run over by the proverbial Mack truck. I agreed enthusiastically with my seconds and the referee that it would be unwise and probably dangerous for me to emerge for the second round.

‘It was clear that I was not good with my hands so the time had come to use my head. The AGM of the Boxing Club was upon us and they needed an experienced secretary. My credentials for the job were impeccable – six weeks of light training and two minutes of boxing made me a clear choice. Within a month I was flying to Melbourne as secretary-manager of the very successful University of Queensland boxing team’.

Extract from After work, After play, After all  (



Camping out in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands – 1979

Camping out in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands – 1979
Half a dozen stubbies – entry “fee” to Vokes Hill l”Country Club’. South Australian Outback ,1979
South Australian desert in full bloom, 1979

‘When we camped at sundown the experienced bushmen In the party lit the camp fire, carved the mutton chops for the evening meal on the tailgate of one of the Range Rovers and produced some very welcome cold cans of beer from the portable refrigerators. night (in zero temperatures) we slept snug in our sleeping bags under the stars, covered by small tarpaulins, feet towards the fire. No pitching tents to slow us down on this trip. As we woke at first light the occasional dingo could be seen, shy, careful but interested in what we were up to’. Extract from “After work, After play, After all” 

In July 1979 I was little more than two months into incumbency as South Australian Minister of Environment and Lands and blissfully unaware that Premier Corcoran would take us to a disastrous early state election just three months later.

I wanted to find out about this vast arid area in the north west of the state, particularly the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands. Legislation recognizing the rights of the traditional owners to their land had been introduced while Don Dunstan was still Premier and was still on the parliamentary notice paper for debate when he retired in February.

With half a dozen experienced officers from both departments we set out from Coober Pedy, travelling north west, paying our respects to the Aboriginal communities in the area.

At Vokes Hill we got a taste of the larrikin outback humour in a photo we took of an improvised signpost for the ‘Vokes Hill Country Club’ where the track from the now deserted township of Cook on the Trans Australian Railway joins the Anne Beadell ‘Highway’. Closer inspection reveals the true magnificence of this mirage in the desert, under the management of ‘Fred and Bryan’. A swimming pool and sauna complement the licensed bar-restaurant and golf course. Membership fees ‘ ‘½ doz ECHOS’, a particularly South Australian name given to ‘stubbies’

We turned south off the Anne Beadell ‘Highway’ (named after his wife by the legendary surveyor Len Beadell) and travelled a further 270 kilometres to Cook, at that time still a small township serving the Trans Australian Railway. Just prior to our trip there had been almost two inches of rain in parts of the desert country and the ephemeral plants were in full bloom.

Gary Foley and the Beechcraft Queenair tour of the APY Lands 1983

The man under the hat is Gary Foley. Photo taken  after an overnight stay at Uluru during our visit to the APY Lands in 1983. We visited several Aboriginal settlements in the Lands to consult the communities, bumping through turbulence in the Beechcraft Queenair.

During the trip we negotiated details with Yami Lester for the agreement that established the Ngnampa Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Council. I had recruited Gary to review Aboriginal health and services and in 1984 he presented  the Report of the Committee of Review into Aboriginal Health in South Australia  which led to the establishment of several other Aboriginal community controlled health services around the State.

I met up with Gary for lunch in  Sydney last week, the first time I had seen him since he completed and wrote the report well over 30 years ago. Pleased to find him as committed and irrepressible as ever.


Book launch photo gallery: 13 October 2017