The lines at Beeliar on 12 January 2017.

Some of the protestors are wearing masks.  This was due to the government’s failure to follow proper procedure concerning the asbestos which had been dumped in this bushland many years prior to the clearing of the bushland.  Such was the haste of the Premier to “get on with the job” of highway construction in the months leading up to the election.


First Contact

It has arrived
the giant bird
floating in a boat
five metres tall
cast aluminium
wings out
head turned
to past and future.
Laurel Nannup
gentle artist
Noongar woman
shines her life
from luminous
etchings woodcuts
telling her stories
of Noongar bush life
Pinjarra bush camp
and Wandering Mission.
Laurel’s shining bird
our shining bird
designed developed built
based on her drawing
first visions
of European settlers
distant sailing ships
bearing the white faced spirits
of Noongar ancestors.
Laurel’s shining bird
First Contact
has arrived
at William’s Landing
in the south west corner
of Elizabeth Quay
but we all know
it’s been there always.

©  Sandra Roe


Sculpture by the Sea is an annual event on Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Western Australia.  For 2016 Lithuanian sculptor Zelvinas Kempinas entered his work, Kakashi (the Japanese word for Scarecrow).  He was joint recipient (with Suzie Bleach and Andrew Townsend for the sculpture, A Burden) of the EY People’s Choice Award.

Two hundred snow poles
red and yellow.
Curving parallel lines
in deep drilled holes
secured by concrete.
Precise position
sides matching
poles vertical.
Strips of bird repellent tape
tautly stretched
between poles
thirteen feet high.
Red yellow canopy
billows shimmers
infinity from
sun and wind.
Wind on skin
shishing  tapes
pushing waves
as they sink SSSHHEW
into sea’s edge.
Feet sink into sand.
Corellas call from
Norfolk pines
on grassed terraces.
Sun is hot, bright
and infinite.

©  Sandra Roe


Sculpture by the Sea is an annual event at Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Western Australia.  In 2016 seventy sculptures by leading and emerging artists were displayed on the white sand and grassed terraces under the shady Norfolk pines, in view of the Indian Ocean’s clear blue waters.  The horse sculpture “Boxed”, featured in this poem, was made by Harrie Fasher from Oberon in New South Wales.


Stand still
see the horse
See the sea
through the horse.
Steel rod lines
a drawing in space
sensing movement.
Walk around the horse
it seems to move.
The equestrian athlete
was injured
when her horse
fell on her
and died.
Stopped from competing
she turned to painting
and found sculpting.
Cutting, grinding, bending, welding
steel rods into place.
Revising by cutting away parts
rebuilding the lines
with new steel rods.


Copyright   Sandra Roe


The Beeliar Beckons

Come and stand by our shoreline
under the trees
wander through our bushland
where the teal duck flies
the cockatoo feeds
the black swan nests
and the musk duck sings ping.
Come and stand by the shoreline
we will speak to you
with our many voices.
Microbes insects plants
amphibians reptiles
birds fish mammals.
Our energetic ecosystem
built on the detritus
from dead plants leaves stems
broken down in the water
enriched material
feeds us all and
speaks from long ago.
This is our world
and it’s your world.
We purify your water
and cycle your carbon.
We do what we can but
the more you push us
poke holes in our life’s web
change our world
the harder it is.
Don’t degrade our home
filled with diversity
don’t destroy our home.
No road and lights where our microbes lie
no bridge with cars and noise.
Come and stand by our shoreline
wander through our bushland
where the teal duck flies
the cockatoo feeds
the black swan nests
and the musk duck sings ping.


Copyright   Sandra Roe

John and George

This poem is not about two dead Beatles.  It concerns two explorers: Sir George Grey (1812-1898) and John Septimus Roe (1797-1878), my great great grandfather.  George went on to become Governor of South Australia, Governor of New Zealand twice, Governor of Cape Colony (South Africa), and Premier of New Zealand.  John was Western Australia’s first Surveyor General for 42 years, and was a noted explorer of regions of Western Australia.  This poem is based on the journals of Grey and Roe.

In 1837
George sailed a small vessel
from the Cape of Good Hope
to Hanover Bay
in Australia’s north west
to explore
and survey the coast.
His troubles began.
short of Hanover Bay
they landed at High Bluff Point.
George and his men
decided to walk.
But it was December
and it was hot
and they took only
two pints of water.
Their three dogs dropped dead.
George swam across the inlet
to signal the schooner
and they fired distress signals
from their guns.
The boat rescued them
and headed for Timor.
It returned with 26
half broken ponies
sheep and goats.
The rainy season set in
stock were dying.
Slowed down in
steep ravines and gullies
with half wild ponies
natives attacked and
George was badly wounded.
He found a river and
named it after Lord Glenelg,
his sponsor.
They followed it until
flooding forced them to
retrace their steps.
George sailed to Mauritius.

In 1839
George tried again
to explore the north west coast
in an American whaler
and three whale boats
with four former companions
a young volunteer Frederick Smith
five men
and one native.
They landed on Bernier Island
at the northern end of Shark Bay.
They left supplies in a depot
and their troubles began.
The whaler sailed away
with their supply of tobacco.
There was no water on the island
and one boat was smashed
as they tried to leave
stores were lost.
Forced to land on Dorre Island
by a violent storm
two of the boats were wrecked.
After repairs
they made it to the mainland
and found some fresh water.
George named the Gascoyne River
and they went further north.
Both boats were swamped
and provisions damaged.
Sick, hungry and weary
they waited a week
for the wind to drop.
They returned to Bernier Island
but a hurricane had swept in
and scattered their stores.
They had half a barrel of flour
buried in seaweed and
a barrel of salt provisions.
George put out to sea again
surveyed the coast within Shark Bay
and the surrounding country
and reached Gantheaume Bay.
His boat was dashed upon rock
as they tried to land.
The other boat was damaged
both boats beyond repair.
George’s only option now
was to walk to Perth
300 miles
with 20 pounds of damaged flour
barely edible
and one pound each of salt pork.
They argued about how best to proceed.
Short walks with long rests or
long rests with short walks.
Several men insisted on carrying articles
cordage, canvas, duck.
Men who refused to abandon their loads
were first to become exhausted.
Concerned for everyone’s survival
George pressed ahead
with those few men
fit and willing
to reach Perth
and send a relief party.
About 25 miles from Perth
they met a party of natives
who supplied a good native meal
and nursed them
like children.

In May 1839
John left Perth
with policemen and
Aboriginal guides
and horses
to rescue the trailing men.
He found three men
Ruston, Stiles and Clatworthy
gazing hopelessly at
a rocky headland
without the strength
to climb over it.
As John described it,
one man on his knees
with hands uplifted
supplicating assistance
from that Power
by whose will alone
it had now
been sent to them.
They all declared their
firm conviction
they could not have
proceeded forward
another day and should
have given it up
as hopeless.
They had left Frederick Smith
the volunteer
a few days since
in a dying state
six or seven miles
to the north.
John and his men
lifted the three men onto the horses
and conveyed them
to a place
above the sand hills
made a fire
and revived them
with boiled sago
rice, water and brandy.
John went with
one of the men and
an Aboriginal guide Warrup
and Ruston
to find Frederick Smith.
Warrup saw the traces
of feet in the sand
they ascended a bare sand hill
turned short round to the left
and there lay Frederick
Florence Nightingale’s cousin
extended on his back
in the midst of a thick bush.
He seemed to have laid down to sleep
half enveloped in his blanket.
His canteen quite empty
haversack with his few requisites
and his felt hat that lay near him.
His spirit seemed to have fled
from the dreadfully emaciated body
between two and three days ago.
They buried his remains
in the sand
uttered a short prayer
and smoothing over his solitary bed
placed at the head of his grave
a piece of wood found on the beach.


Copyright    Sandra Roe



A Decision

They say a bushfire kills
with radiant heat
and smoke inhalation.
This one followed a
catastrophic fire warning.
Lightning sparked fires
at Grass Patch, Scaddan and Salmon Gums.
To save his chestnut horse Cougar
from the advancing flames
burning embers flying
at 140 kilometres an hour
Tom from Sheffield
loaded the animal in the float
and went through the farm gate
with two other farm workers
Anna from Norway and
Julia from Germany
and on to the Coolgardie Esperance Highway.
It was thought they had time
to escape.
But he turned left
rather than right
and drove into the raging flames.
The truck and horse float
were found later
tipped over and burnt out.
The farmhouse was saved
but lost a cat and geese
a shearing shed
vegetable garden and
bits of gear.
The horse paddock
was untouched by fire.


Copyright Sandra Roe