The 79th reunion of members and friends of the Dunera Association was held on November 10 at Sukiert Hall, Caulfield Shule. Around 70 people attended and enjoyed the new venue and afternoon high tea format.
Peter Felder welcomed everyone present and remarked that it was the first time ever that, sadly, there were no Dunera men present. Peter thanked members for supporting him as president for the previous two years and announced that, following the AGM held earlier Ron Reichwald was the incoming President, Tori Tilley Secretary with Geoff Winter continuing as Treasurer. Peter welcomed all on the incoming committee.
The guest speaker was Professor Justin Zobell who spoke about the life of his stepfather, Dunera Boy Werner Pelz (25/09/1021 – 21/05/2006). Justin began by indicating the Pelz’s life was in many ways shaped by his time in internment. Pelz was born into a well off Jewish family and had a privileged childhood in Germany. He was allowed to go to the UK in 1934, as a farm worker, however, as a German refugee was rounded up in 1939 and sent to Australia on the Dunera.
Pelz described the richness of intellectual thought, and inspiration from his teachers at the classes held in camp at Tatura as “an awakening”. It was also the time that he converted to Anglicanism. He returned to the UK in 1942, became Reverend Werner Pelz married and took a position as an Anglican minister. Later he became disenchanted with Christianity and re invented himself as a commentator and columnist. He was prominent in the left wing press and on the BBC, Pelz wrote “Distant Strains of Triumph” – an autobiography.
Following his second marriage to Mary, Pelz attained a Phd in Sociology and migrated to Melbourne with Mary and stepchildren (including Jusitin). He spent 14 years at La Trobe University and later continued to lecture on western philosophy and sociology and continued to publish.
Justin described his stepfather as an amazing mix of cleric, sceptic, broadcaster and academic- much of it due to the formative experiences he had while interned at Tatura.
News from Hay and Tatura
David Houston from the Hay Dunera Museum reported on events in Hay. As visitors to Hay know, the Dunera Museum is housed in two restored railway carriages at the former Hay railway station. Years ago a third carriage was obtained but funds have not been available to restore it. Grants are now pending, at both local and state level, and the museum committee is optimistic that funding will be forthcoming to restore the third carriage. This will provide the cabling, solar power and display space that is badly needed.
Evert Worm from the Tatura Historical Society reported on the opening in September 2019, of a large extension to the Tatura Wartime Camps museum. It has doubled the size of the museum and provided greatly improved conditions for display of the exhibits. There are plans to continue the upgrade of kitchen and bathrooms going forward.
Evert reminded all present that the museum is open every day from 1.00 -3.00pm and houses a large collection of artefacts, memorabilia, diaries and art work form the Tatura camps.