These knee-high marsupials, distant cousins of the kangaroo, have survived the fur industry, hungry Aboriginals, and the governor’s hunts as well as droughts and famines. Today they are a protected species (page 655). They also play an interesting role in medical research. “Studying the Rottnest Island quokka, we proved for the first time that damaged muscle tissue can completely repair itself,” said neuropathology�s Dr. Byron Kabulis, medical director of the Muscular Dystrophy Research Association of Western Australia. “During droughts on the island these animals, lacking sufficient greens, come down Perth�Fair Winds and Full Sails with a serious vitamin deficiency that ravages muscle tissue and can even cause paralysis. “Once I sat up all night nursing a paralyzed quokka with doses of vitamin E,” Dr. Kakulas said. “By morning the little fellow was walking around again. Ultimately all its damaged muscle regenerated itself. It was a breakthrough.” The quokka’s disease and muscular dystrophy in humans may involve essentially Mythological images surround Professor R. M. Berndt of the University of Western Australia’s Anthropology Museum. The center, dedicated to the preservation of the Aboriginals’ heritage, was opened in 1979 and houses hundreds of art pieces, many collected by Berndt himself. Playing his didgeridoo, a traditional instrument, Kept Colbung, an Aboriginal (above right), keeps young hands clapping at the Nyoongah Cultural Complex, which he directs. Long a resident of the outback, Colbung, 51, was a stockman and served a stint in the army before deciding to devote his life to helping Perth’s 9,500 Aboriginals. Many live in trailers (facing page) on the outskirts of the city where, Colbung says, the unemployment rate is persistently high. Colbung also founded the Nyoongah Aboriginal Community College, supported by state and federal funds. Its 35 students range in age from 4 to 13. Colbung hopes eventually to enroll 500 persons of all ages and provide “cradle to the grave” education. In a temporary classroom (above left) a barefoot youngster listens as an instructor teaches basic reading, writing, and math skills. “We’re teaching people how to live off the family apartments in London, as well as by the computer,” Colbung says. “Some want to keep their traditional ways of living and, in a democratic country that should be available. We’re like a religious order, filling spiritual needs as well as physical ones.” ATPARLIAMENT HOUSE back in Perth, I paid my respects to the Honorable Sir Charles Court, KCMG, OBE, MLA, Western Australia’s premier until this January. A lifelong Perth resident, Sir Charles, at 70, remains one of its most energetic boosters. “Perth is the most isolated capital in the world,” Sir Charles said. “But we have proved isolation can be a blessing if you manage it properly. “Cut off from the world, Western Austra�lians were always obliged to think for them, to innovate,” he continued. “To educate our outback youngsters, we devel�oped Schools of the Air, classes linked to�gether by a radio sparked by foot-pedal generators. For rural health care we orga�nized the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Much of our soil was poor, so our scientists pioneered treatment with trace elements.”
These trees from France’s Chateau of Versailles survived the French Revolution and two World Wars but were no match for a storm that struck last December 26. Winds of 100 miles an hour destroyed 10,000 trees in the Versailles area alone. That squall and another one the next day in the south of France wiped out some 270 million of the nation’s trees. Damage to Versailles is estimated at 35 million dollars, but the lost history is irreplaceable. Eighty percent of its rare groves, planted in the 18th and 19th centuries, were uprooted. “They include a pine from Corsica planted during the reign of Napoleon and two junipers planted during Marie Antoinette’s time,” says Ariane de Lestrange of the château. More than 5,000 new trees have been donated to begin the long replacement process.