Monday, 29 April 2013

Snowy Mountain records

There are several places to search if you are trying to find information on someone who worked on Snowy Mountain.  A reference in a previous blog entry refers to a list compiled by Ron Cesna.  The Australian Lithuanian Archives has a copy of that list which has been transcribed.  Ron has used his personal knowledge and references from the National Archives to compile a list of over 200 names.  

Some employments lists can be found in the National Archives.  These however only list employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydo-Electric Scheme and not those hired by subcontractors.

The NAA hold
Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority employment records
It is important to note that government employment records are only retained for 75 years after the date of birth of an employee.

Item title Date range Series number
Employee history cards 1949–91 A11395
Personal history files 1949–98 A11394
In addition to those employed by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, some people were contractors employed by companies such as Utah, Theiss Brothers, Selmer Engineering and American firm Kaiser-Walsh-Perini-Raymond (Kaiser).  The NAA does not hold the employment records of these contractors.

The records are held in Canberra.  A few have been digitised and can be viewed online.

Series number A11395
Title Employee history cards, alphabetical series
Contents dates 14 Sep 1949 - 15 Jan 1991
Agency/person recording 14 Sep 1949 - 15 Jan 1991
CA 75, Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, Head Office

These cards contain the following information:
Service No
Surname and given names
Date and place of birth
Date commenced
Date ceased
Marital status
Next of kin
Address of next of kin
Employment details (previous and with SMHEA)
Leave details (recreation, special and sick).

Series number A11394
Title Personal history files, alphabetical series
Contents dates 01 Aug 1949 - 10 Jul 1998

This series was created to maintain information about each employee. The files document such matters as:
personal details, 
correspondence between the individual and SMHEA
medical reports
employment history
leave history summary
rehabilitation reports
redeployment details
OH&S matters
separation details
notifications of transfer 

There are a few easily obtainable books on the Snowy mountains.

COLLIS Brad (1990) Snowy the making of modern Australia, Tabletop publishing

The Snowy : the people behind the power (1989) McHugh, Siobhan; William Heinemann Australian 

Snowfraus : the women of the Snowy Mountains Scheme McGoldrick, Kirsty

You can also try these resources

BRAZAITIS Kristina (2006) Australian Lithuanians and the Snowy Mountain Scheme Lithuanian Papers No.20 2006 p41-46

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Death of Lithuanians who worked on the Snowy Mountains

There were numerous fatalities on the Snowy Mountain Scheme, several of those Lithuanians.

JOSIUNSKAS Jonas was an Electrician and was electrocuted

Accidental Death From Fumes
COOMA, Wednesday 

The Cooma District Coroner, Mr. H. V. Brigden, J.P.,  returned a finding of accidental death today at an inquest on Basyl Blazinskas,43, a Lithuanian, who was found dead in his hut at the Tolbar camp of the Snowy Mountains Authority, 16 miles from Adaminaby, on August 18.

The coroner found that deceased died from carbon monoxide poisoning accidentally caused from the fumes of a heater in his room.

27 August 1953 Sydney Morning Herald

Monday, 15 April 2013

Snowy River Hydro Electric Scheme

The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme was one of the largest engineering ever undertaken in the world.  It is the most complex, multi-purpose, multi-reservoir hydro scheme in the world with 80 kilometres of aqueducts, 140 kilometres of tunnels, 16 large dams and seven power stations, two of which are underground.  The project commenced under an Act of Federal Parliament in October 1949 with the goal of diverting the Murrumbidgee, Snowy and Tumut Rivers in south western NSW to provide irrigation water for the western side of the Great Dividing Range, and in the process generate hydro-electric power.

Romas Genys (left) Ron Cesna (right) with Italian
electrician (kneeling)
Brazaitis Kristina (2006) Lithuanian Papers No.20 2006 p41-46
In 1949 many migrants with engineering or construction skills and experience in working alpine conditions were targeted for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.
One hundred thousand people worked on the Scheme and 121 lost their lives in industrial accidents. Those workers were Australian-born, German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, British, Polish and Yugoslav.  Most migrant workers on the Scheme arrived under assisted migration schemes.

Of the 100 000 workers, there were approximately 200 Lithuanians.  The Lithuanians were often employed as skilled tradesmen and in most cases as First Class miners.  Most worked for Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Authority  (SMHEA) and were involved in the excavations of the Eucumbene tunnel, T2 Power station, the Headrace and Tailrace tunnels, the shaft and the access tunnel to the Power Station. (Brazaitis, 2006).  Many other Lithuanians were employed by the Norwegian firm, Selmer Engineering.
The work was hard and the conditions were tough.  Because ninety-eight per cent of the Scheme was underground, there was a lot of tunnelling, often through solid granite rock. Work in the tunnels was dirty, wet, noisy, smelly and dangerous.  Most worked as miners, dug tunnels, blasting rocks, laying pipes, others drove bulldozers and cooked in the company’s canteen.
Living conditions were also hard in the camps and towns built in the mountains to house the workers and their families.  Often these dwellings were not suited to the freezing conditions. They were cold and the water would freeze in the pipes. When the workers’ wives came to join them in the townships, these women had to work hard to overcome the hardships and establish communities in the strange new wilderness environment.  When work in one area was completed, the dwellings were dismantled and moved to another area, so very little remains of these towns today.

A working week was six days a week.  At any time of the day or night the mess halls were filled with noisy workers sitting at long wooden trestle-tables eating or relaxing after a shift.  Following initial problems between Polish and German workers at East Camp in Cooma, all nationalities were mixed in together and this erased nationalistic tensions.
The Lithuanian migrants who accepted work on the Snowy Mountain Scheme were both married and single men who had completed their two year compulsory work contract with the Australian government.   The high wages for unskilled manual labour attracted men. 

In 1952 a small group of Lithuanian workers met in the cafeteria of the Island Bend Camp.  The men had come from work camps located at Guthega, Addit, Surge Tank, Munyng and Island Bend of found the Guthega-Snowy Mountains Lithuanian Elderate (Seniūnija).  They elected Albertas  Alyta as their alderman.  The community formed a basketball team and several chess teams, collected money monthly to send to countrymen still living in refugee camps in Western Europe.  They wrote articles and essays to fill one complete edition of the national paper Mūsų Pastogė (Our Haven).  In 1953 they donated £21 to the Greek Earthquake appeal.

The workers stayed from a year onwards.  By 1955 the number of jobs was decreasing, and at that time the Lithuanian Elderate was dissolved.

Former Lithuanian miner Ronaldas Česna wrote a memoir about his time as a Snowy miner.  He also compiled a list of Lithuanians he knew had worked on the scheme.  His list contains over 200 hundred names, while officially there were 185 Lithuanians.
worked for the Norwegian company Selmer Engineering Company, in the Surge tank Guthega tunnel camp in 1953.  It was a dangerous job in the Surge tank chamber shaft tunnels.  The tunnels were old and only the experienced miners could work them.  Ronaldas likens the Snowy Mountain to the ‘Wild West’ especially on the weekends after pay day.

Several Lithuanians were among those who created a world record tunnel excavation.  A medal was awarded for the record for hard-rock tunnel-drilling  on 16 March 1963.  The Australian company Thiess, drilled 165 metres in a six-day week in the Snowy-Geehi tunnel.  Lithuanian Romualdas Genys was amongst those awarded with a medal.

Throughout the project, construction contracts were awarded to overseas and Australian companies.  The American firm Kaiser-Walsh-Perini-Raymond (Kaiser) revolutionised engineering practice in Australia.  It consistently broke tunnelling records and completed projects ahead of schedule.

In 1958 Thiess Brothers became the first Australian company to win a major contract on the Snowy. By the time construction was completed in 1974, Thiess had built a quarter of the entire scheme.

Fourteen major contractors and consortiums were engaged on the project. These included French and US companies as well as Australian. Thiess Bros Pty Ltd, Australia, had the biggest contract.

Hostel stories

Many Lithuanians who came to Adelaide resided in hostels while they worked their contract for the government. The University of Adelaide and the Migration Museum are seeking stories on workers and residents who lived in hostels. Throughout History month in May they will be holding session so you can share your stories and to contribute to a research project.

Here are the details for the Woodside migrant talk.
Wednesday 22 May, 6 - 7.30 pm
Woodside Library, 26 Onkaparinga Valley Rd, Woodside
Contact: (08) 8313 5570
Hostel Stories project

You can find out the other hostel session times by visiting the AboutTime History month website at

Monday, 8 April 2013

Father Juozas Kungys

Father Kungys the day he was made a Priest


14 February 1919 – 4 March 1962

Born in Rensciu village near Telsiai in Samogitia, Lithuania.  He attended the Telsiai school and then the Telsiu seminary.  The war intervened and he was unable to complete his studies.  Following the second Soviet invasion of 1944, he fled to Germany.  Here he attended the Eichstaett seminary which he finished on 29 July 1945.

From 1946 to 1949 Father Kungys lived in Freiburg, Germany where he furthered his theological studies in the Frieburg University.  He provided pastoral care to Lithuanians in Hechingen, Rottweil, Trassingen, Schweningen.  He joined the Ciurlionis choir during those years.

On the 31 May 1949, father Kungys arrived in Melbourne aboard the ship Skaugum, which carried many refugees from war torn Europe.  He first resided in Uranquinty migrant camp just outside the township of Wagga Wagga, then in 1950 moved to Brisbane where Lithuanian religious language services were introduced by Father Kungys.   In 1951 he moved to Melbourne, as second priest to the community.  Whilst in Melbourne he was one of the first teacher offering Lithuanian language courses for people who were not able to complete their secondary studied in Lithuania or studied Lithuanian in Displaced Persons camps prior to coming to Australia.  Not long after he moved to Geelong to St Mary’s an Australian parish. 
Father Kungys with the first child he christened

Father Kungys was very involved in the Lithuanian community in Australia.  He instigated the Australian Lithuanian Catholic Federation and later served as president and spiritual leader.   He was one of the imitators of the Melbourne Catholic newspaper “Teviskes Aidiai” (Echoes of our Homeland).  The newsletter is still published.

He came to Adelaide in 1957 and was thrust into the establishment of the Lithuanian Catholic Centre and church.  A petition signed by 480 Lithuanians was organised to gather support for the communities own church.  Permission was granted and a suitable place was sought.
On 30 November 1960 the church was consecrated in honour of Lithuania’s patron saint, St Casmir, situated in Third Ave, St Peters.

On 7 August 1960 the Adelaide community celebrated Father Kungys 15 year anniversary of becoming a priest.

He was a member of the Australian Lithuanian National Committee, and 1954 – 1955 was Adelaide Community President.  His health was failing and in 1957 he spent a time in hospital recovering. 

In 1961 Father Kungys moved into the Adelaide Lithuanian Catholic Centre all priests since that time have resided.  His health deteriorated further, a bad heart combined with asthma restricted his activities.  On 16 February (Lithuania’s Independence Day) 1962, Father Kungys gave his last mass.

On March 4th 1962, Fr Juozas Kungys died at the young age of 43 at Calvary hospital.  The corridor was filled with Lithuanians who spent his last moments as near to him as possible.  Father Vaseris gave the last rights. The following day Father Kungys was laid out at St Casmir’s  church where Father Vaseris and Father Butkus presided over the funeral.

Father Kungys is buried at Centennial Park cemetery.
Father Kungys with girls at their first communion

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Adelaide Catholic Women's Society

Adelaidės Lietuvių Katalikų Moterų Draugijos 
(Adelaide Lithuanian Catholic Women's Society)

The Lithuanian Catholic Women’s Society (LKM) is an old organisation that began in Kaunas in 1907.  It began at a time when the Russian occupiers of Lithuania wanted to extinguish all things Lithuanian and all things Catholic.  During Lithuania’s independent years the society worked for the improvement of women’s lives, and to assist and improve the disadvantaged.  In the free world the LKM society exists to strength Catholic women so they can work for God and their homeland.

Adelaide Lithuanian Catholic Women’s society was formed in March 13th 1960.  However the women were working informally for ten years before the official start date.  The beginning started in September 1956 when Father Jatulis formed the Lithuanian parish council Caritas.  Caritas is a Latin word meaning love and compassion.  At that time, the church had purchased a property at Christies Beach and work had begun on the new church in St Peters.  There was a lot of work for women to do.  Amongst the first volunteers were K. Dičiunienė, M. Gerulaitienė, A. Mainelienė, A. Stepanienė.  At the beginning the women would travel each Saturday with the men to Christies Beach to give them a hand.  The women worked for the parish at were known as “Karitietemis” (A derivative of the word Caritas).

In September 1957 a new Catholic priest came to the parish, Father Juozas Kungys.  The women’s involvement in the parish increased.  Balls, catered occasions, events at Christies Beach, camps, farewells, visits from other Catholic clergy all involved the women.  On the 20th October 1957 Birutė Budrienė was elected to oversee catering.  Any profits made from events would go to Caritas, but from November that year the women’s group separated themselves and formed the Lietuvių Parapijos Moterys” (Lithuanian Parish women).   A committee of five was elected, A Stepanienė (President), A. Mainelienė (Treasurer), B. Budrienė (Catering), K. Dičiunienė(Information officer), and member G. Opulskienė.  This group existed until 13th March 1960 when it transformed into the Lietuvių Katalikų Moterų Draugijos.  K. Diciuniene, M. Gerulatienė, A. Stepanienė were chosen to organise the charter.  The new committee consisted of K. Diciunienė (President), M. Gerulaitienė, A. Mainelienė, E. Kervelienė, G. Opulskienė, Saulenė Pušdesrienė, and A. Uldukienė.

The society made lunches and dinners on various occasions, a hot traditional lunch every Sunday after mass, a light lunch for the Lithuanian school on Saturday for the teachers and students.  A community Christmas Eve was held, feast days observed, and the sick visited in hospital.  

The group would raise money through fairs, lotteries, buffets, weddings and Sunday lunches.  The money raised would be reinvested into the church, in the form of clothes for the priests, coverings for the altar, carpets for the floors, the library, and the general upkeep of the church.  Kitchen white goods were purchased, fridge, stove, cutlery and crockery, lawn mower, curtains for the stage.  Money was donated to Lithuanian Catholic newspaper in Australia and overseas.  Donations were given to the poor, disasters, and hospitals.  

An annual concert “Šiupinys” was held. A concert of various acts, music, skits, recitals etc.  

The Adelaide branch is a member of the World Lithuanian Catholic Women’s Association.