Family of Alice Evans and Robert Gibson Birt
GORDON ROBERT BIRT
Gordon Robert Birt (the fifth born to Robert & Alice)- born on the 21st February, 1904 in Quorn, South Australia. (src.birth cert.)
At the age of 14 years, Gordon left school. He later became a clerk with Reynella Wines, then a book-keeper at Mt. Lyndhurst Station (Beltana Pastoral Co. - subsidiary of Elder Smith). He stayed there for three seasons, but asked for a raise and was sacked instead. One of his interests at Lyndhurst was being a Sparring partner for Roy Kane, who was the Book-keeper there before Gordon. He drilled for water on an artesian basin at Murnpeowie Station. In 1925 he bought a Dodge Buckboard.
In 1927 (1st July), Gordon joined the S.A. Police Force (following his father's footsteps) and achieved the rank of Sergeant. At one stage he was a Gold escort from Tennant Creek to Alice Springs with the Manager of E.S.& A. Bank. As there were no roads in those early days, he had to follow the telegraph poles.
Gordon wrote many letters on many subjects to the Editor of the Advertiser. He also enjoyed football.
On the 14th March, 1947 at the Church of Christ Manse, Glenelg by the Rev. Douglas Pike, Gordon married Inez Jean Rankine.
Gordon and Jean had one son.
He died in July 1993.
Gordon gave his police equipment, plus his number 196 to Cliff Evans his first cousin.
Birt, Gordon Robert (1904 - ), clerk and policeman, was born at Quorn, South Australia, on 21 February 1904, the son of Robert Gibson Birt, a South Australian policeman who rose to the rank of Superintendent. Gordon was educated at schools in Mount Barker and Port Augusta, where he had his first contact with Aborigines. When he first left school he had several clerical jobs before he joined the South Australian Police Force in the mounted division on 1 July 1927, but his appointment was terminated a little over a year later due to poor eye sight. That problem did not, however, hinder him from joining the Northern Territory Police Force on 3 July 1929. At that time only single men were appointed.
He spent his early policing years in Darwin and in 1931 was commended for his assistance in the suppression of a demonstration by the unemployed. Early in 1932, as a young Constable, he was suspended and charged over alleged improper relationships with a part Aboriginal girl. He was found guilty and was to have been dismissed but an appeal which commenced on 4 May 1932 and lasted three days was sustained in the courts. At that time the Administrator was Commissioner of Police and in the first instance had been prosecutor, judge and jury, a point not overlooked by the bench. Birt's own memoirs leave no doubt that he was guilty as charged.
As as a result of this charge the Chief Protector of Aborigines, Dr. C.E. Cook (q.v., vol.1) refused to consent to Birt being sworn in as a Protector and this meant that he was unable to be posted to a country station 'in charge'. He had been posted to Timber Creek late in 1932 but he was returned to Darwin on clerical duties. In February 1934 he again saw brief service at Timber Creek but only as a junior officer, as the Chief Protector of Aborigines still refused to appoint him a Protector. During this period he was involved in the recapturing of the famous Nemarluk (q.v.,vol.1), who had escaped from Fannie Bay Gaol. Birt wrote of his admiration of Nemarluk's dignity, stamina and cheerfulness. He always gave credit to the Aboriginal trackers with whom he worked. Back in Darwin he was on duty when the competitors in the 1934 London to Darwin air race arrived. The end of the year saw him serving another few months at Timber Creek.
In February 1935 he was posted as the junior man to Tennant Creek where for two years, from a tent, he assisted in the policing of the gold mining town, just then being put on the map. Escorting the gold to Alice Springs was only one of many tasks. October 1937 saw him back in Darwin, in plain clothes, at a time when the town was full of men working on defence installations and police duties frequently involved raids on illegal gambling dens. From 1938 to June 1939 he served as headquarters clerk in Darwin.
He was stationed at Borroloola in 1939 and 1940 when severe floods struck the area. During this time Birt shot and killed a white man who was resisting arrest on a number of charges, including arson. The inquest by a magistrate from Darwin found 'justifiable homicide' and the matter proceeded no further. By then Birt had been gazetted Protector of Aborigines as a new Chief Protector had been appointed. The 'outback' policeman of the day was also something of a district 'nanny', and in Borroloola could be called on to act as harbormaster, doctor, dentist and general factotum.
In August 1940 Birt was returned to Darwin where he was among those involved in the establishment of a Police Association. He was manpowered when he endeavoured to join the Army though he believed that was the result of his many complaints about police conditions, among which was that the Administrator (in his capacity as Commissioner of Police), C.L.A. Abbot (q.v., vol.1) and his wife, Hilda Abbott (q.v.,) used the younger policemen as chauffeurs.
He was appointed Acting Sergeant Second Class in June 1941 but was then struck down by German measles. He was travelling between Birdum and Pine Creek, returning from sick leave, on 19 February 1942 when Darwin was first bombed. He met the Administrator in Pine Creek and returned with him to Darwin on 23 February where he was appointed officer in charge with the rank of Second Class Sergeant, having relieved William McKinnon (q.v.) Orders were given that the civilian police could leave Darwin on 5 April and the following day he travelled to Alice Springs (by then the Northern Territory administrative base) and was then posted District Sergeant ot Pine Creek, the most northern civilian town at the time. In July 1942 he was sent to Borroloola in charge of the coast watching station for three months, and then to Newcastle Waters but in November collapsed and was sent to Adelaide on sick leave. He returned to Alice Springs in January 1943 but was retired medically unfit on 31 August 1943.
Birt had been reared in the Church of England faith but was a non attender as an adult. He claimed to be a socialist and a recurring theme in this memoirs was his disgust with the level of racial discrimination which existed in the Northern Territory during his years of residence. During his formative years in South Australia he had frequently mixed with part Aboriginal people with whom he said he got on well. He also wrote about the difficulty he had in adjusting to the differing policies promulgated by South Australia and the Northern Territory on the policing of Aborigines. His writings are spiced with a commentary on his various 'affairs' with girls of all colours, although he did not marry during his service in the Territory. Although he undoubtedly enjoyed police work, in common with many of his contemporaries he was not happy with police conditions, particularly in Darwin. In 1939 he claimed to have arranged for questions to be asked in the Senate concerning the Administrator also holding the rank of Commissioner of Police.
He was a prolific writer and his stories were frequently published in "The Territorian". It was not uncommon during the 1970s and 1908s to see his name on letters to the Editor in such publications as 'The Bulletin' and the 'Australian'. He was not apparently a sportsman but in 1931 sailed an 18 foot cutter on Darwin Harbour.
After he left the Territory he was employed in the South Australian Highways Department until his retiremen in 1965.
(Northern Standard, 6 May 1932; The Territorian, 1967, April 1968; R.Birt, 'Northern Territory Policeman', unpublished manuscript, Northern Territory Archives Service, N.T.R.S. 850/P1; Birt Papers, Northern Territory Archives Service, N.T.R.S. 270; Northern Territory Police Department Records Helen J. Wilson