Page 2349 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 5 June 2013

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Jennings Germans

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (6.36): Tonight I pay tribute to the group of skilled craftsmen known as the Jennings Germans. I had the pleasure of meeting several of them on the weekend and presenting them with certificates from the Chief Minister recognising their important contribution to the building of Canberra in the 1950s. They included Karl Kloos, who documented his experiences in his book To Build a Nation’s Capital: A Migrant’s Story; Konrad Dimpel; Hans Pillig; Klaus Scharrer; and Alfons Stuetz, author of the book The History of the Jennings Germans.

The men I met on Saturday were just some of the 150 tradesmen from Europe, mostly from Germany, who came to Canberra in the 1950s to work for AV Jennings and became fondly known as the Jennings Germans. Much of their work still stands in the 1,800 houses they built in O’Connor, Ainslie, Narrabundah and Yarralumla. When the AV Jennings’ founder, Sir Albert Jennings, was confronted by the task of building this vast number of government houses during the critical labour shortage of the early 1950s, he looked to Europe for the skills he needed.

These men have had some recognition over the years as a group, but we had a special opportunity last Saturday at the launch of the new exhibition Fred Ward: A Life in Design at the Gallery of Australian Design. The connection is that many of these fine European craftsmen, especially the carpenters and joiners, went on to work on Fred Ward’s beautiful furniture designs for the ANU and other commissions. The gallery is making a unique contribution to the centenary, with this exhibition and others highlighting the visionary designers of our past and our designers of the future. I thank Derek Wrigley for championing Fred Ward’s place in design history through his biography of Fred Ward.

Derek Wrigley, AV Jennings, the craftsmen and their families have all supported formal recognition of the Jennings Germans’ role in building and enriching our city. Their story is little known outside Canberra, unlike international workers who came to our region at about the same time to work on the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme. I believe there is an application in for the recognition of the Jennings Germans with a plaque in the ACT honour walk, which would be appropriate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

The Assembly adjourned at 6.38 pm.

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