Rupert Colman Curnow (continued)

Rupert assisted Sister Vivian Bullwinkle who was a lone survivor from a Japanese massacre and internment. On her return to Australia, he helped with her repatriation into post war rehabilitation. She later became matron of the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital and a noted hospital administrator during the latter part of the last century.


Other members of the Victorian Parliament who were elected in that period were William Kent-Hughes, a former member of the 8th Light Horse and Sir Henry Bolte, both former Ballarat Grammar students. Sir Henry Bolte later became a long-serving Premier of Victoria for 19 years. They became close associates during this period of his life.


Another close associate was a former neighbour from his Biggara days and owner of Towong Hill, Corryong, Thomas Mitchell and his wife Elyne.

Tom Mitchell was elected as member for Benambra in the Victorian Parliament in 1947, serving for many years, at one time being appointed as Victoria’s Attorney General, under the John McDonald Country Party Government.  Tom Mitchell’s wife Elyne was the daughter of Sir Harry Chauvel, commander of the ANZAC Mounted Division (and later the Desert Mounted Corps) in Palestine between 1915 and 1918, under whom Rupert served during the war years.


As with all members of Parliament, he would get calls from the general public to rectify the large and small complaints that they had, ranging from blocked sewers to trains running late, or streets that had not been swept. People believed the local Member of Parliament ought to have influence with every Government institution and local municipal council!


During his tenure as the Member for Ivanhoe, he sourced the land for the establishment of the Banyule Primary School. Eventually the school was built and currently one of his great-grandsons is at the school.


He did much to increase the size of the Austin Hospital which today is a huge complex and many patients from around the state of Victoria are sent there for specialist treatment.

In late 1949 Rupert’s health declined rapidly as a legacy of his war service and other health problems that manifested from lung infections and asthma, and he died on the 18th of December 1950 at the age of 52.  Rupert was interned in the Warringal Cemetery Heidelberg.


The dairy farm at Biggara was kept through the years with the assistance of share farmers. This provided an income to Eileen and the family after Rupert’s death.  In 1958 a long-established share farmer on the property purchased a farm and was leaving the property.


A decision had to be made what to do with the dairy farm.  Ken Curnow who had recently married Lorraine was establishing a career in the Victorian Soil Conservation Authority which he joined in 1954.


In 1956 at the age of 23, Ken was appointed as the District Officer and manager of the Charlton Victoria region which had secretarial staff, earth moving plant and plant operators for major earth works associated with soil conservation projects in the district.

It was indicated to Ken that he might have a promising career ahead of him in the Victorian Public Service, and he was offered a free place at the Melbourne University to undertake a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Science on a full salary.


After much deliberation, Ken and his wife decided that as the farm had been held for so many years, and that as they had an interest in the farming scene, they would return to the farm at Biggara.

Rupert in 1947