A Darwin OM:NI Story – By Ken Ramplin

We have only been here three days and I am sticking to my premise that this is the hottest June we have ever experienced here!

Just the other day, it rained during the afternoon! Never had that before – in 29 visits here to visit our children – no rain in June.

Have to get out of the house for a while or I’ll go up the wall.  Announcing this, all sorts of reasons for not going out anywhere  were

offered by my wife Lorraine and Daughter Lianne.  I’ll drive you says Lianne.  I’ll walk on the shady side of the street, says I.

I’ll have my walking stick and my hat.  My walking stick Belonged to Dad who died thirty years ago. A bendy, sticky sort of

affair which I’m sure he didn’t buy.  Never bought much at all really.  Always making do.  Picking up stuff off the street, scrounging at the tip,

adopting other people’s cast offs.  Where did that walking stick come from?  There must surely be a story there somewhere?

The sticks origin  is just something else I should have asked Dad before he passed away all those years ago. I really do need to move on.

Anyway, against the families wishes, I set off for Nightcliff Shopping centre – on the shady side. It didn’t take all that long – but,

boy, was I hot! Maybe I should have accepted that lift in the air conditioned car.  Heading straight for the café to order an iced coffee,

I noticed three or four elderly men sitting enjoying their coffee and chatting.  With my coffee in hand and aided by my walking stick, I chose a table nearby.

My curiosity aroused, I watched and listened as  (OK – eavesdropping) one by one, they were joined by other men until there were twelve gathered.

The last to arrive made up for lost time by completely taking over the conversation and extracting many laughs. The whole tenor of the meeting had

 changed by this this fellows arrival. Almost another Sir Kelvin of Diamond Creek!

Another opportunity to experience a model OM:NI Group so I asked if I could join them and was accepted immediately. Makes you feel special.

Well, it turns out, every man in this group were retired from the Public Service in Darwin. Different departments but all with links to one another.

 One man – of Chinese descent, sixteen years ago,contacted a few who passed the message around and  now there are eighteen men

 enjoying each other’s company together, reflecting on their past, keeping out from under their wives feet and supporting each other.

 An OM:NI Group by any other name.

Memories of a Traveller – By Daryl Morrow

It was early morning by the creek with the Bellbirds in full voice and the mist rising from the water when I glimpsed the overgrown dwelling hesitating I ventured further not knowing if it was still someone’s home or what maybe inside, the iron roof was very rusty and covered in fallen leaves, but the wooden door was ajar and no smoke was evident from the tin chimney it certainly looked abandoned so i crept into the darkened room when my eyes got accustomed to the available light I could see an old table with four chairs with a setting for one, an old tin plate, one bone handled knife and fork two Vegemite jars with nail holes in the lids for pepper and salt the single panel window had a fragile curtain barley hanging over a smoked glass panel, obviously cooking was done on the open fire in the tin chimney which still contained burnt wood ashes, now I could see much better, the walls were lined with old newspapers which told the date and news with pictures when the paper was added to the walls to keep out the cold winds.

The frame work was of timber saplings held together with wire and the ceiling was now of falling hessian.

The bed was also made from timber poles with old potato sacks forming the mattress and a Kapok filled bags to make it more comfortable .

The mantle piece over the fireplace still had the frozen wind up alarm clock stuck on 12, was this the end of life here or was it indicating the start of a new life.

I just had to investigate outside past the old galvanised tank leaning over to one side because the rust had weakened and it held water no more, the old chipped enamel washing dish was still wedged in the fork of a nearby tree.

I felt great concern as to what this family must have endured trying to survive during the great depression .

Inside again I saw three tin plates neatly arranged on one end of the mantle piece  and on the wall was printed Ruth, Billy, and Claire nothing else.

I decided it was time to leave when upon leaving I saw a hardly used path leading further down an old garden path, pushing aside the shrubs  I was able to see two rock piles with wooden crosses that had fallen over now with Ruth and Billy carved  into them I guessed with a Penknife.

I have been left wondering now for years what happened to Claire and her father with no name.

I also left the wind up clock on that mantle piece stuck on 12.

Ride For Nick 2021

On 27th June 2018 the Diamond Creek OM:NI Group and Eltham Mens Shed lost a valued friend. Sadly, Nick Grange passed away after a battle with cancer. Nick was a long standing member of both groups, with OM:NI being a keen member of the cycling group, encouraging us to ride further and more widely astray, and with the Men’s Shed he started the bike repair group.

We all had fun riding alongside NIck on the trails, chatting about cooking and life in general, and enjoyed comparing coffee notes during the mid ride break. Nick also started this web site, which became one of his passions as he converted it from a simple blog to a formal web site. All who knew Nick were influenced by his dreams – the blog, the bike repair group and the peleton.

He is still sadly missed, but his memory lives on in our minds and in the annual Nick Grange Memorial Ride. Each year close to his anniversary, the group goes on a ride which duplicates the last ride Nick rode with the group.

This year the ride was held on July First.

Ron, Joe, Bill, Lindsay and Bruce started the ride from the usual meeting place at the Eltham Tennis courts.

The first stop was on the way to Diamond Creek, in a gentle bend in the creek where Nick’s ashes were scattered. This was a time for a gentle reflection on Nick and life in general and the realisation that it can be shortened at any time. The learning here was to make the most of each day and enjoy it.

The ride then continued on to Hurstbridge via the new section of the Diamond Creek Trail to Wattle Glen, then on the road to Hurstbridge and back to the cafe at Pepper’s Paddock where Peter, Lou, and Steve joined the group for coffee and friendly chatting.

Then the peleton returned home to Eltham Tennis Courts, stopping to walk the labyrinth near the Diamond Creek Play Ground. Nick, together with Ken Ramplin was largely instrumental in persuading Nillumbik Council to construct this project, and after a number of years and much consultation the labyrinth was completed. By good luck the labyrinth is just across the Diamond Creek where Nick’s ashes were scattered, a lovely example of good karma.

Finally the group rode home to Eltham, gently reflecting on our friendship with our mate Nick, who still rides with us in our hearts.

                   CHEERS TO OUR MATE NICK

WORKING IN WESTERN UZBEKISTAN by Lee Chenoweth (Diamond Creek Om:Ni)

In 1966, while working as an exploration geologist for Western Mining Corporation, I was sent to the remote Kyzylkum Desert in Western Uzbekistan to report on various gold projects. This area is near to the Aral Sea, which has essentially dried from a large fresh-water lake with a thriving fishing industry into a dried dust bowl with a saline playa in the lowest portion.

The trip was organized by the Geological Survey of Uzbekistan and we flew out to Nukus where the vehicles were waiting for us. We travelled to the Karakalpakistan Gulag at Sultan Uizdag, which was a women’s prison from the former Soviet era.

This was to be our base while we explored the gold workings in the area. We slept in cells on old prison bunks using our super-down sleeping bags. The gulag was being used as a storage compound for drilling equipment.
One morning I got up early at about 5 a.m. to photograph an old fortress about one kilometre from the gulag. It was named Fortress Gyraur Kola and was built in the 4th century AD from mudbricks. Due to severe damage over the years from Mongul attacks, it was rebuilt in the 14th century AD into an interesting structure. However, with the salination of the river basin by excessive upstream irrigation, the water table of highly saline water has risen and is gradually destroying it. What a pity!

While there taking photographs, I noticed a vehicle approach the gulag entrance and four guys jumped out armed with Kalashnikov rifles. Two of them stayed to guard the gate while two entered the gulag. I also noticed that one of the two Russian-speaking geologists had gone out to the pit-drop toilet well outside the gate just before they arrived. I sneaked around to the toilet to talk about how we should proceed. In the end we decided to bluff it out and approached the gate openly and cautiously. We were pointed into the prison at gun-point by the guards.
On entry we quickly discovered that they were Islamic extremists who had come to capture us for ransom. Luckily, the Tartar Russian-speaking geologist, who had been employed back in Melbourne, knew the leader of the group (they went to university together and had been friends). This leader decided to let us off this time.
In order to celebrate this very fortuitous meeting, we purchased a sheep from the locals. I watched as it was killed by pointing its body towards Mecca and then cutting its throat with an evil-looking Islamic knife. It was quickly dressed and the cook turned it into a sumptuous meal. The excess sheep meat went back with the extremists as a token reward to their colleagues back at their camp.

This was just a typical occurrence when I was working around the world in all the places tourists never see. The odds of employing a Russian-speaking geologist in Melbourne, who knew the leader of some Islamic extremists in Western Uzbekistan, is mind-blowingly miniscule! We completed the trip safely.

OM:NI Diamond Creek Tenth Year Anniversary Celebration.

A Tenth year celebration of Diamond Creek OM:NI was held on 16th March at the recently refurbished Diamond Creek Netball Clubrooms, the venue of the Diamond Creek group since its inception.

About 50 guests attended, including members from the Nillumbik, Banyule and Whittlesea area groups, family members, the Mayer of Nillumbik, staff from Council On The Ageing, sponsors, and representatives from Nillumbik Council. Before the proceedings the audience was entertained by a band ‘Luna the Moon” an enthusiastic trio of young women who won the Young Creative Leaders award recently.

Daryl Morrow, one of the original members of the group facilitated the event, and opened by acknowledging the Wurundjeri People, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet, and paid respect to their Elders past and present. He thanked the local traders who have supported the group, including Mason White McDougal Real Estate, Reece Plumbing, Coles, Diamond Valley Hire, Valley Financial and Bendigo Bank. Daryl also thanked the Netball Centre for their assistance in supplying a venue for the group over a number of years.

The celebration then continued by various people telling their stories of their involvement with the group.

Michael Slaughter, Manager of Bendigo Bank congratulated the group on operating for ten years, stated how he has enjoyed the relationship and looked forward to an ongoing support.

Ken Ramplin, the originator of the group, spoke on the importance of OM:NI in engaging older men, particularly after their retirement. He gave a moving tribute to the group members who have passed away – Kelvin Kaires who was the respected elder of the group, Tom Hendry an original group member who was a keen traveler, Les Robertson the group’s bush poet, and NIck Grange, who started the Diamond Creek Group blog which contains the mens’ stories, and who with Ken came up with the idea of the Diamond Creek Regional Playspace Labyrinth and worked with the Nillumbik Council to enable its construction.

Tina Hogarth-Clarke, CEO of Council On The Ageing, presented a ten year certificate to the group. She stated the importance of OM:NI in supporting and bringing men together after their retirement. Even during the recent restrictions OM:NI managed to meet in various ways, principally via Zoom. She congratulated the achievement of the group in continuing for ten years. Karen Ivanka, also from Council On The Ageing, congratulated the group, saying how she has enjoyed supporting the group, and in general interacting with the now 28 Victorian groups.

Peter Perkins, Mayor of Nillumbik spoke on how he was first introduced to the idea of OM:NI groups at the launch ten years ago, and how he met with Ken from time to time on a park bench in the area. He acknowledged the work of Ken within the community and OM:NI, and paid tribute to Ken and NIck Grange’s work in getting the labyrinth going.

Anna Maio a council Officer from Nillumbik Shire Council was also acknowledged by Daryl for her assistance in obtaining grants and other help and encouragement to the group.

Representing Banyule group, Ken Young spoke, stating how he started in OM:NI in 2006, and has had an enjoyable time, meeting good blokes and making new friends.

Graham Gobey from Watsonia group spoke on how he has shared many life experiences over the years, but how sadly a few blokes have passed away, however their families always say good things about OM:NI. He was proud of how Diamond Creek group has lasted ten years.

Lindsay Clarke and Ian Sandham, representing Eltham spoke on how the Eltham Group has been going for nine years, Lindsay saying how OM:NI has given him increased confidence, Ian mentioned their new location at the footy clubrooms, and also thanked Diamond Creek Group for their support.

From the Hurstbridge group, Peter Clarke stated how OM:NI is the best kept secret, and how he is enjoying bringing OM:NI into other parts of the state, particularly in areas where there is a range of ethnic groups.

The final representative to speak on behalf of a group was Ken Ramplin. Ken told how his involvement with OM:NI began after a health issue when he retired. He started attending the Greensborough Goup. After about three years, he was challenged to start up a new Group in Diamond Creek.

After an exhaustive advertising campaign, a meeting was held to launch the new group on 15th March 2011. About fifty three people attended the launch and the new Group had its first meeting at Creek’s Cafe on 29th March. Ken then led a committee starting the Eltham Group, launched a year later with more than ninety people attending.

Two years later, another committee was formed to launch another Group in Hurstbridge, confirming Ken’s conviction that there were many men in the community needing this type of service. Since then, the groups in the Diamond Valley have disproved the notion that men don’t talk, all groups have great discussions on a wide range of topics.

The formal part of the proceedings finished with an old standing member, Jim Duncan, cutting a splendid ten year anniversary cake, which all present tasted together with an afternoon tea and socialising.

Thanks are also given to Darryl Morrow, for his excellent job of facilitating the celebration.

Diamond Creek Regional Playspace Labyrinth

Three and a half years ago, OM:NI – Diamond Creek put a proposal to Nillumbik Shire Council that a labyrinth be built at the Diamond Creek Reserve.

To test the concept Council built a temporary hay bale labyrinth next to the netball courts. This was a runaway success with the younger members of the community.

After many conversations and onsite meetings, the labyrinth is now a reality. Council were able to incorporate it as an integral part of the Diamond Creek Regional Playspace.

What is a labyrinth?

A labyrinth is a simple contemplative pathway used for walking meditation. The labyrinth has a history of more than 4,000 years. It has been described as a stress management tool and watering hole for the spirit. Walking the labyrinth is a detour from the everyday path of our lives – an opportunity to slow down and reflect. It’s an easy way to meditate – to simply quiet the mind and open the heart.

How do you walk a labyrinth?

There is really no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. On the inward journey, it is an opportunity for personal reflection. Pausing for a moment in the centre, refocus your mind, think about the difficulties you may have had in the recent past, then retrace your steps, refreshed and anticipating a brighter future.

The local Nillumbik OM:NI groups have greatly appreciated the assistance of Nillumbik Shire Council and their cooperation in bringing this community project to a successful conclusion. For more information about this project click on the following link.


Beneath My Feet – By Daryl Morrow

Walking past a small spiky bush on the way into the veggie garden I felt a sharp sting, I hadn’t noticed this plant before it appeared overnight, strange feeling was overcoming me the plant in my eyes suddenly became very large, like a mature Gum Tree . I was becoming scared every thing was large, overpowering like being in the amazon rain forest, it was then it became apparent that I had shrunk down as small as and even smaller than the inhabitants of most home gardens. As I ventured timidly further amongst the vegetables I was confronted by a monster grub on a cabbage leaf.

I quickly scurried under the leaf out of sight. Shaking I ventured further into the garden when I heard a very loud croaking noise by a large expanse of water and standing higher than me I saw a monster frog dancing and croaking, enjoying the sunshine.

Dashing further into the foliage I was confronted by an armoured beetle on the war path. He headed straight for me, smashing through the forest with little effort, I thought this was my end – things flashed before my eyes.

Then I heard a thunderous crashing of some dry limbs. Glancing behind I saw a coloured dragon lunge forward and save me by eating the attacking king beetle. A giant Slater was dashing by in a great hurry pretty much camouflaged watched by a very patient Spider. But alas he will go hungry I assume as the Slater slid under cover. Some onlookers watched silently from their escape routes expecting to witness the demise of some other competition in the plant eating chain.

I couldn’t believe the horrors that exist in the garden where survival of the fittest and most aggressive still rule today
Even the field rats have learnt to fly as they offered me a free ride out of danger, but I declined as l am scared of heights and flying owls. As the rat took to the sky he frightened the grasshopper who had eaten too much and found getting out of the way and airborne much to his dislike and he said it is all your fault planting those climbing beans which have blocked our flight path, to home.

The flowering Wattles were trying to avoid the yellow Grubs from destroying their yellow blossom before fertilisation, they had grown spiky thorns but some how the grubs had developed a way of avoiding those spikes.

Some unnamed residents tried to hide fearing my intrusion into their world.
This one was trying to wrap its legs around me then devour my body for its next meal and protect its babies.

But I was rescued by this Soldier Ant just in time, he suggested I get back into my own world and to inform our species to be more considerate when working in the their world.
The Blue Tongue also issued a stern warning as it protected its strawberry patch.
He was backed up by by some other quiet inhabitants.

Suddenly I started to resume my full size again, but was left with a new awareness and respect of the homes and food of the world beneath our feet.

The Adventures of Barry Bullshark – by Daryl Morrow

At last I was on my way .A great adventure was in front of me, heading into NSW to fly along the Blue Ranges in a light aircraft across high ridges and foggy valleys, the pilot said no one flies this way as there are only sketchy maps, but you wanted a spine tingling adventure he said as we suddenly dived into a deep ravine, my blood pressure nearly made me pass out when with a blood curdling laugh the pilot banked to the left nearly touching the tree tops and then levelled out above the craggy mountain top, civilisation had disappeared, no roads or houses were visible. I started to become scared, the pilot was no doubt an odd ball, he laughed again and started to do a barrel roll as we entered into a cloud bank. Visibility was like zero. Suddenly the motor started to cough and splutter, we must have been upside down because I fell out and started to tumble towards earth. I could see the ground now rushing toward me only the sound of the wind in my ears made me realise I was still alive, what to do now before it’s to late; luckily the mad pilot insisted I wear a parachute – all you have to do if you fall out is pull this cord, I never found out what happened to him or the plane but thank the lord the parachute worked and I landed on the mountain side all in one piece except for a bruised bum, it was about two pm and further along the ridge I could see the sun reflecting off some metal, thinking this was the plane or a building I hurried towards it. It was getting cold and I hoped to find shelter there.

Upon arrival I firstly found a cave and nearby was a cigar shaped long metal object with its door or hatch wide open. I was really scared and alarmed by now, but proceeded to inspect the cave and found signs of activity, but no body was there , although there appeared to be radios or radar equipment and other unfamiliar stuff, it was very eerie so so I went back to the cigar shaped object, inside was more equipment with lights flashing and buzzing still no one to be seen.
Deeper into the vessel it was obvious that it was occupied there were seats, beds and Control panels and windows. At that moment I felt my shoulder being gripped firmly. I was immobilised and laid on a bed with wires attached  to my brain area, the figures were grotesque but inquisitive.

They started to control my brain and were downloading all my knowledge and language, my biological structure and ability to reproduce.

Suddenly they were talking in English to me about knowledge gained from their download,

They explained they are here to help our survival, they told of what happened to their world, they had searched the Galaxy to find a uninhabited planet where they could stay to no avail. They would help and guide wherever they could but would be staying out of sight, deep in the sea in the mountains and on the dark side of the moon. Their civilisation is doomed as they can’t reproduce.They will capture some one from all countries so they could learn all spoken languages and cultures they would be trying to avoid our self destruction.

With that they put me into their drone and flew me back across the mountain range asking that I tell people about what all those mystery sky lights were doing for our world and they should not be afraid. We do look spooky but they will do us no harm.

When I walked up to the small farm house circled by police , fire brigades and SES personal and people on horseback and told them who I was, there  was shouting and cheering amongst the rescuers, hugging and even some tears.

 Bursting with excitement I quickly started to tell my incredible story but the Ambulance Doctor gave me a sedative and I remember him saying, look he’s has had a traumatic experience and is delirious – some people never recover and continuously tell stories of extra terrestial fantasies , I guess we will never know what happened to him out there.

Ken’s Birthday Bash

An important event occurred on 11 June last year. Ken Ramplin turned 80 and some of his friends gathered for lunch at the Diamond Creek Tavern to help him celebrate this major milestone.

Over the last decade, Ken has been a major force in creating three OM:NI groups in the Diamond Valley area, namely Diamond Creek, Eltham and Hurstbridge. People from these groups joined him, along with members of Banyule and Greensborough groups, plus staff from the Bendigo Bank and local council, plus a few more friends he has gathered in a long life.

The lunch was good, (the usual senior’s meal, but good value), there were drinks to be consumed, there was a massive birthday cake with candles, plus more sweets. Daryl  made a touching speech outlining Ken’s life and local achievements.

Ken received a long waited for birthday present – a brand spanking super duper new electric bike, something he had wanted for a long time, so after furiously saving and with his family chipping in, the bike finally arrived.

Everyone had a great time enjoying celebrating with Ken, because along the way in his caring and kindly manner touched the lives of quite a few people.

Ken was last seen on the day, mounting his bike, complete with balloons streaming out the back.