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Joe Shaw 1930 - 2014        Joe's Interview

I was born on 27th of January 1930, Collingwood, Melbourne. My father was Patrick Shaw born in Glasgow on the 8th of April 1898 and died in Christchurch New Zealand on the 29th March, 1988 and my mother Isabella Stewart Low, called Bella.

My first memory in my life was taking off the socks of a man lying on a bed. It was my Uncle John Woods, injured in the Wonthaggi coal mine disaster of 1931.

The reader must try to appreciate just how difficult it was to live in these times. It was the beginning of the worst depression ever experienced in this country. Real hunger now being experienced in Africa was the norm in Australia.

The mine disaster in 1931 and the dismissals in 1932 in which my relations suffered paid out no compensation, there were no social security benefits, no work and no money. This led to people becoming swaggies, a common site in this country. A swaggie was a swagman who put his possessions (his swag) on his back, left his home to get itinerant employment, working just for food and a place to place his swag under cover of a shed or hay bale to sleep.

People were starving so sustenance was given to them. They lined up for food (sustenance) in the streets. I still call this chant...

   We're on the susso now
   We can't afford a cow
   We live in a tent
   And we pay no rent
   We're on the susso now

It was totally degrading.

My parents left Wonthaggi after the pit was closed because of the mine disaster. 

1929: Packy, my Father, injured when a pile of rocks fell on him underground in the Wonthaggi Mine Coal face. He injured his Spine and his knee. 

1930: Bella applied to the Magistrates Court for relief and was subjected to a rigid examination as to why her children were starving. The application reads "I declare that my children are without sufficient means of support. I am unable to provide for them.”

1931: Evicted from our home unable to afford the rent. Doctors kept insisting that Packy apply for a Totally and Permanently Invalid pension. In spite of the medical support it was continually refused. He is confined to bed for five months on Doctors orders.

1932: Bella gets a job two days a week as a Cleaner at the Queen Victoria Hospital. Packy is bedridden still, Bells has five children to feed, clothe, send to school shop, cook, and do the housework. 

1933: Packy wrote to the Welfare Department. : The children are hungry. If we can’t feed them your Department will have to take them." 

1934: Packy bedridden again. Notice to quit served for non payment of rent. 

May 1935: Packy left for Sydney with another woman. Tom Shaw his brother supplied the funds 

June 1935: Bella made an application to a Special Magistrate to have all five children made Wards of the State.

We were taken into Flinders Street Railway Station, walking there as we had no food and no money, and with the Certificates surrendered us to the Court.

We were Wards of the State.

Certificate number 62753 gave the Victorian State Government total control over my existence. Bella had no rights over us, and had to apply to even visit us for a maximum of 2 hours every month. I have a copy of that Certificate, and it has a strange effect on me. It is my history of a very sad and very difficult time on this earth, but I was far more fortunate than my Brothers as I was so young, and had them to protect me. I am in tears as I write this, the emotion is so strong. 

I was a ward of the state from 3 and a half years until 13 years old. 

A ward of the state meant that your parents passed over all control of you to the State of Victorian Government. You received a number - mine was 88 - and kept that during your length of stay. Your parent or parents had absolutely no say whatsoever in your management. The easiest way of the reader understanding this is to visualise Oliver Twist - but far less brutal with dedicated but severe Catholic nuns in control and proper food for everyone.

We were institutionalised and knew no other life. I was not greatly affected by this because two of my brothers were with me. 

We still wet our beds and every morning we had a cold shower. This was to punish us and make us stop. It never worked but the nuns persisted. 

Sister Mary died. She was in a coffin in the Church. Every boy had to stand on a stool, reach down into the coffin and kiss the dead body on the face. I am still haunted by it and still hear the children screaming and being held down to kiss this dead nun.

Catholics did not eat meat on Fridays so we had tripe. I vomited every Friday, got punished, vomited, got punished. Tripe is the only edible thing in this world I cannot eat. You now know why. 

As the head boy I had to be punished for any misdemeanor more severely than others to set an example. I recall with horror kneeling on a tiled area outside the chapel with arms outstretched like Jesus on the cross. If my arms dropped I received a whack with a feather duster on my bottom. I have no idea how long this was but I could not keep my arms extended. I was then given six whacks on each hand with a feather duster and told to offer it up to the Holy Souls. What could a seven year old boy do to deserve that? He lost his holy picture given to him at his first Holy Communion on October 3rd 1937. I can vividly recall this date. 

I do not want the reader to believe that the nuns were brutal. They were religious misguided fanatics who devoted their lives to looking after deprived children aged 3-8 years.

I was a good speller of words. I recall learning "Faith Of Our Fathers Living Still In Spite Of Fire And Dungeon Sword". I miss-spelt "dungeon" and was told as head boy to stay in class. To this day I can still see the urine running down my leg from sheer fright. I was belted with the feather duster for getting the word "dungeon" wrong. I was 7 years of age.

On 30th of October 1938 the head nun told me that I was to go to the big orphanage. A chubby 13 year old boy was at the front door and he told me that he was my brother Bunny. I had no idea of what a brother was, or who he was, nor any of my family.

I only recall that a woman came on the first Sunday of every month - 12 times a year - for two hours at a time. I had no idea of what a mother was nor her role in my life. 

She always brought a small bag of fruit. You did not dare eat it. After this visit, called "Visiting Sunday" the gifts were all put together for distribution as many children had no one to visit them. 

Packy had moved back in and terrorised Bella and Bunny, but at 16 years of age Bunny gave him a belting. Bunny had boxed for years at St Vincent de Paul. You had to do so. It was compulsory. After many traumas they got rid of my father Packy.

I was released on probation on 23rd of January 1943. The Welfare department checked out your future home. Bella had beds and some furniture and we were no longer state wards. 

I became apprenticed as a painter and decorator. Totally discontented my only saving was ballroom dancing. I went with my brothers to Coral School of Dancing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights for years and eventually completed my bronze, silver and gold medallions. 

I broke my apprenticeship, worked with some friends on contract work, and was painting the Yarrawonga Post Office when I met a local girl Margaret Clayton. We were engaged in June 1951 and married on 26th January 1952. Margaret was a school teacher.

I was employed as a maintenance painter at Mulwala Explosive Factory where I hid on the roofs behind various buildings to study. By doing this and attending night school after hours I completed what is now known as year 11 and 12. I was then transferred to office work.

Our first son Robert was born in December 1954 in Yarrawonga. We moved back to Prahran and lived with my mother Bella for a year, then on to our own home in Strathmore. I was still studying all this time and completed three years of law and accounts at correspondence school. 

Uncle Tom Shaw died. Packy, our father, came from Tasmania for the funeral. I took him home to meet Margaret. Bunny was furious with me. He hated Packy. I didn't even know Packy. Packy returned to Tasmania and caused us problems using my name with a firm to get a loan. From that time on we were never in contact again. 


On 1st May 1961 I left for Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. I was made the Clerk of the Supreme Court because of my legal studies. Margaret was left in Strathmore with Robert, Tony, Peter and Mark, and expecting Austin. She joined me in August 1961. We lived in a one bedroom unit above a shop in Boroko, rooms divided by curtains. 

We were cold, wet, miserable and poor in Strathmore so we took the risk and went into the great unknown. Everyone said we were mad. It was a great move for us and set us up for life. 

In 1961 a croup of Cannibals was located in the Star Mountains near the border of what is now West Irian. They were found after slaughtering the males of another group and eating them. They required Protein and this was normal for them in these circumstances. The surviving group of women and children, themselves Cannibals, were taken to Daru, confined and attempts were made to converse with them. This was impossible as they were nomads and no one spoke their language, not even the surviving women and children. There were 900 different languages, not dialects, in Papua New Guinea at this time.

The confined group was taught how to speak Motu, a common Papuan language in Port Moresby and the tale unfolded. 

They were taught how to grow food, make mud bricks and how to survive in one area then released back into their own area. This is all on record. Nelson Rockefeller, the grandson of the famous New York family, was caught and eaten in this area in the early 1960's.

I would doubt very much if any of you ever get to meet Cannibals as I have done. This occurred when I was employed at the Supreme Court, first as the Clerk of the Supreme Court, then as Sheriff, Registrar and Marshal.

In 1964 Parliament decided to appoint a Legislative Assembly with the local people for all around P.N.G appointed to Parliament. The elected members were brought to Port Moresby from their Tribal Lands by aircraft. You can imagine their fear of being swallowed by this "Balus", a giant bird to them, not an aeroplane.

Then we had to supply them with shirts, trousers and take them to Sogeri, just out of Port Moresby, and teach them how to use a knife and fork and to sleep in a bed. Do not forget that these Tribesman could not even talk to each other, yet were sitting in a House of Parliament. One tribal leader spent 3 years in Parliament and never even spoke a word.


Eventually after leaving Papua New Guinea I was employed at Medibank and became their first investigator into medical benefits fraud. I wrote the Medibank report showing that $100,000,000 was being unlawfully claimed by Doctors by over servicing, Fraud and illegal practices. This was the very first exposure of Medicare Fraud and produced major headlines in the newspapers and a national scandal, covered up by the Medical Association. A Senate Inquiry was held and a television program of Four Corners was produced but the political impact led to this Fraud being sidelined and today it is rampant. It will only get worse. 

In Papua New Guinea I was a member of the Royal Papua New Guinea Reserve Police Force, and trained the other members in Police Law while also being responsible for their physical training on the famous Kokoda Track, now incorrectly called the Kokoda Trail. This error occurred over time after the war. I walked this entire Track twice and all of our children have walked part of it. I was a non commissioned officer, the highest rank possible in the Reserve and received a Medal and Certificate as reward for my services.

I commenced squash in 1961 at Port Moresby. It was a new game at that time. 

I commenced international squash in Papua New Guinea by organising test with Fiji in 1974. Guam, New Caledonia, and Tahiti joined into this competition in later years. I was given a life membership of the Port Moresby Squash Club. I have completed the history of Papua New Guinea squash.

I returned to squash coaching and was the captain and coach of the Papua New Guinea Team for the first Squash International event in the South Pacific in 1974. Thus began Squash at International level in the South Pacific, the Asian team events followed and the sport progressed. Also on the trip to Fiji I began the Hash House Harriers, which is still being run in Fiji to this day. I was a member of the Hash Group in Port Moresby and many enjoyable runs. 

I coached Papua New Guinea to two South Pacific Games victories in the teams and the individual events and was advised that my services were no longer required for the third games in Western Samoa. Fiji approached me so I coached Fiji and again on the individual and teams events, defeating Papua New Guinea in the final of both, which gave me a great deal of satisfaction. 

1986: I coached England in the Boys World Junior Teams event and we came runner up to Australia, Jansher Khan of Pakistan winning the individual. Rodney Eyles, a future World Champion whom I coached for years, came runner up. Jansher won the world title 10 times.

1996: I coached Brazil in the World Titles after Margaret and I lived in Rio De Janeiro for some months prior to the World titles in Christchurch, New Zealand.

I traced my own father’s grave in Christchurch and ultimately discovered the person who handled all of the funeral details and was given photographs, tape recordings and poems written by my father. 

2001: Another one of my pupils, David Palmer of Lithgow, N.S.W became World number 1 and won the British Open, dedicating it to me. He also won the U.S.Open, and this is the player that Geoff Hunt kicked out of the AIS as not being good enough to make the top 50 in the world .

I was present in Hong Kong when David became the number 1 ranked squash player in the world. He was captain of the Australian team for the World Team Titles in Melbourne 2001 which Australia won, and he was again captain for the Commonwealth Games in 2002 in England.

I also Coached John White and he has been ranked number 1 in the world. 

In my playing career I became a veteran champion, reached the semi finals of the British Open in my over 55 age group, twice reached the quarter finals in the World Masters Games, won the Queensland championship beating Ernie Robins of Stafford. We won an Australian Teams title with Austin Adarraga with us. I was a semi finalist in the British Open in my age group of over 60 as was the great Hashim Khan, who actually stayed with us in Brisbane. I won two Queensland State Titles in my age group over the years, and we won an Australian Teams title with Austin Adarraga and Ernie Robins. I won the Papua New Guinea veterans title (over 40) from 1970 to 1974 inclusive. 

In 2002 Margaret and I celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary of 50 years, and we have five children and fifteen grand children, with our five daughters in law making a family of 27. 

Joe Shaw, Circa 2003


  Joe's Interview



Tom, Mum (Bella), Alex (Bunny).
Front Row: Charlie, Joe, John - 1939









Joe in bed in the infirmary at the 
Orphange (I am in the front bed)



Joe and John at the Orphagnage in their best Sunday clothes. 1940 
Handball courts in the background.


Joe Shaw: 
A Squash Biography

1961 Started playing in Port Moresby (aged 31)

British Open Over 60 

Queensland State 
age-group titles

Australian Teams title with
Austin Addaraga, Ernie Robins and John Vary

Papua New Guinea Veterans Champion 1970, 71, 72, 73, 74

Twice World Masters Games quarter-finalist

Life member of 
Port Moresby Squash

Players Coached:
Kate & Emma Major

Rodney Eyles – world champion 1997

David Palmer – world champion 2002, world number one 2001

John White – world open finalist 2002, world number one 2004

Team Coach:
Papua New Guinea, 
2x South Pacific Games Team & Individual Titles

Fiji, 1x South Pacific Games Team & Individual Titles

1986 England, World Junior Championships (runners-up)

1996 Brazil, World Team Championships



Joe in Prahran 1950, aged 20





Joe in the centre on 
the Kokoda Track
















Joe with the first PNG Team for the very first International Squash competition against Fiji.




The Brasilian Team coached 
by Joe  in 1996. Joe at back.


David Palmer & John White


Joe with the great Hashim Khan, the first of the Khans in the Squash world.


Wedding of Joe and Margaret in 
Yarrawonga on 26th January 1952

 Joe's Interview

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