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A Tribute to Victor Ludwig O.A.M. and Sadie Ludwig

The following extract was taken out of Hansard dated 25/5/96 record No 22 and said by the Chief Minister (of the day) Mr Stone about the Ludwig family in parliament on that day. It has been updated in the last couple of paragraphs to include Vic's present day achievements.

Tough times certainly were the order of the day for the Ludwig family who arrived in Australia from Germany in 1910. The Ludwigs were attracted to the town of Bundaberg, possibly by the European sound of the town's name. They had left Germany with a deep premonition about Germany's uncertain future, and they saw their future in Australia. The Ludwigs moved on to an acreage block on the northern coast, which was 10 miles from Bundaberg. There they busted their guts on unproductive land, growing vegetables in competition with every other subsistence farmer in the district.

The family was shocked and traumatised when its patriarch died. Sadly, Vic Ludwig never knew his father, as he was the second youngest of 6 children. Vic's older brother and sister, who were of working age, moved away from the family home and secured jobs in a hotel and as a cane cutter. They sent money home to their widowed mother, which helped maintain the family during this bleak period. The mother used to drive the horse and cart into Bundaberg to obtain stores and to market their produce. This was a long and arduous trek. When she upgraded her animal to travel into town a bit faster, she discovered that the stubborn animal used to balk when going past the hotels on route. Apparently, its previous owner had been a boozer, with a reputation for staying for lengthy periods at each pub.

In 1937, the family moved to Lowmead, about 100 miles north of Bundaberg, where they share-farmed a dairy for a couple of years. This venture brought about a new low in misery, one from which they walked away with nothing but what they stood up in. At the outbreak of World War 11, one of the boys had joined the army, and another sister had married and left home. The land in Bundaberg was sold to the Fairy Mead Sugar Company and the family moved to Gladstone, and then to Townsville, where Mrs Ludwig worked as a domestic helper.

In 1942, she settled in Mt Isa, where improving copper prices had created new employment opportunities and, with thousands of soldiers being moved north to fend off the Japanese invaders, she believed her family would progress and prosper. Mt lsa was a sea of army tents and the family managed a small business, selling pies to the army personnel. Vic left school at this juncture and was employed in a soft drink factory while making pies for the shop after hours.

Vic Ludwig also worked on cattle stations before realising that his future was back in town. At times, he was involved in the building industry, constructing single men's quarters around Mt lsa. At 18 years of age, he started with the Mt Isa Municipal Council during the construction of the first sewerage scheme. Vic was using explosives and a jackhammer to create the trenches for Mt Isa's new sewerage outlets and, on one occasion, he nearly blew the Argent Hotel away, which caused quite a stir. This period of development, and the construction experience, especially with concrete, was to become an important foundation for the next 40 years of his employment. When the miners went on strike over the amount of the lead bonus, Vic headed west to Tennant Creek and, in February 1948, he arrived in Darwin that had a population of less than 5000.

In 1948, Darwin was a neglected backwater and a disgrace to the Commonwealth administration. There were bombed-out buildings still needing reconstruction after the 1942 bombing, and a proportion of the roof was still off the airmen's mess. Vic moved into a shed at Salonika as he accepted a position with the Department of Works and Housing. He later moved into the K40 single men's huts which were located behind where the Mararra Hotel now stands. In fact, apart from about 4 houses in the Bagot compound, and the Retta Dixon home on Bagot Road, there would not have been more than a dozen souls living east of the Ross Smith airstrip, now Ross Smith Avenue. It was here that Vic began his long and satisfying association with Darwin. He worked tarring the roads and working with concrete, kerbing and channelling at the RAAF. He then graduated to a plant operator's job, operating for the main gravel pit at Rapid Creek. He drove graders, worked hard and life was good.

Two years later, Vic visited Bundaberg and Brisbane, but returned to the Territory which had become his home. Vic was married to Sadie McGinness in 1951 in Darwin. Sadie's father, Jack, was a well-known and highly respected citizen of old Darwin. He was a railway man and he was known as a bridge carpenter, having retimbered Darwin's wharf after the war. Jack was also very involved with the union movement and he was decorated by the Queen for community service. Jack came from a large family, and the McGinness families are well known around the Top End. Sadie was born in Darwin and grew up in Katherine.

After the wedding, the Ludwigs moved into a house at Bullocky Point, which had begun as an office for the rest of his meatworks. Vic and Sadie were very happy. Their children came along, Alan in 1953, Wendy in 1957, the twins, Gregory and Robert, in 1958, and Steven in 1961. They were all Darwin born and very industrious. The children all had an extensive education which included boarding colleges in South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia

In 1956, Vic was transferred to Katherine, with the prime responsibility to get the roads open as soon as the dry season commenced. This involved team' s of grader drivers and supporting plant working east and west of Katherine to open the roads to the settlements and the stations. As you can imagine, creeks had been washed out and new crossings had to be cut to let the vehicles through. Those early grader drivers were resourceful bushmen who led a lonely life, working the long hours required. Their contribution was indeed a heroic one. Vic believes these grader drivers and their offsiders should be the subject of further recognition.

In 1957, Katherine recorded a record flood level when the river broke its bank at the Knott's Crossing. Vic's gang was occupied with evacuations, including all hospital patients, to the highest ground near the town - just part of the job for this dedicated public servant.

After Katherine, Vic spent many years in Darwin as a supervisor working from AW7, near where the flyover is on the Stuart Highway. This involved maintenance on the defence bases as far south to Hayes Creek and east and west of that line, on minor repairs and maintenance. He had eight foremen working for him with an establishment of 140 men.

Vic was a keen worker. He could not bear to stay at home. But the years took their toll. Bush work had become very demanding and dangerous. In those days it took 2 days to get to Oenpelli via Pine Creek. Vic had the responsibility to open up and straighten what had been bush tracks created by the buffalo shooters which usually went from billabong to billabong, following the buffalo herds. Over time, with an engineer called Greg Redecki, Vic opened up a track through Jim Jim Creek across the South Alligator and cut a road through Marrakai to the Stuart Highway at the 47 Mile. Oenpelli was at the other end. This new road cut travelling time to Oenpelli by about 7 hours.

After 20 years, Vic called it quits with the department when he was offered a position as the manager of Ready Mix Concrete with Peter La Pira and Joe Vogliotti. Peter and Joe's company, lnterconstruction, was well known during this period. Vic was associated with a number of important developments in his new role, and played a large part in the construction and building industry after Cyclone Tracy.

Vic and Sadie are well known and highly respected Territorians. Vic had carved a name for himself by hard work and by his contribution to Australian Rules football with St Mary's Football Club. Those achievements are fairly well documented.

In 1982, when Ready Mix was the subject of a takeover bid, Vic accepted a retirement package and with Sadie went to work on their retirement home on Paperbark Way at McMinns Lagoon.

Just when life should have been easy, at age 63, disaster struck when Arafura Finance went down, taking Vic and Sadie's retirement nestegg and $160,000 that belonged to the St Mary's Football Club. Vic felt responsible for the investment of the club's money. He set about resolving the club's financial position, firstly with a grant from the NT government and then with the help of a dedicated band of workers. The clubhouse is now debt-free and valued at $1,000000.

These days, Vic and Sadie live quietly as pensioners. They are enormously proud of the progress of their children. Allan is a prison guard at Berrimah Correctional Centre; Wendy, who holds 3 university degrees, is associate director of the TAFE College in Cairns, Qld. Greg is an analyst in a coalmine in Maitland, NSW. Bob is a boilermaker-welder in Darwin; and Steven, another university graduate, is working for CRA, based in Jakarta.

In August 1999 Vic will have been president of St Mary's for 37 years equalling an Australian record. He still fronts up every day to keep an eye on the club's operation. He and Sadie recall with great pride one of the highlights of their lives - their introduction to Her Majesty the Queen in 1976. On that occasion Queen Elizabeth wore the colours of the Waratah Football Club and it was Waratahs that defeated St Mary's in the 1976 grand final. Vic says that was not a highlight of the day.

During Vic's time as president up to the end of the 1998/99 season St Marys have won:

16 League premierships

11 Reserve premierships

13 senior colts premierships

22 junior premierships

 

Vic's other involvements and personal honours include:

Life member of St Marys

Life member of the NTFL.

AFL certificate of merit for outstanding service - 1983

Member of several NTFL standing committee's.

Sports administer of the year - 1991

NTFL delegate for more than 30 years

Vic was awarded the Order of Australia Medal ( O.A.M.) in 1997 Queen's Birthday Honour List for services to football an award I think was long overdue.