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Nick Charchalis (Chief Geologist 1974-77)

VALE Nick Charchalis 1935-1992

Nick Charchalis was employed as Chief Geologist of Planet Resources NL 
from early 1973 to 30 June 1976 when PR went into liquidation.

Immediately prior to being employed as Chief Geologist of Planet 
Resources, Nick spent 3 months (October to December 1972) at the 
Narbalek uranium deposit (owned by Queensland Mines) to assess the  to 
deposit, supervise percussion and diamond core drilling, and to log the 
core. Having never in his lifetime spent time at any other uranium 
deposit, we assumed his lung cancer (not smoking related) was due to his 
3 month period at Narbalek practically 20 years to the day prior to his 
death. His condition deteriorated rather rapidly and he died peacefully 
at home in Lemon Tree Passage, Port Stephens, NSW, from a heart attack.

I attended Nick at home during his sickness with advice from the cancer 
specialist at The Mater Hospital in Newcastle, and assistance from his 
local doctor in Tanilba Bay and the district nurse.

Nick worked for several companies during the 1976-1988 period but 
decided to retire at end of 1988. We sold our Sydney home in March 1989 
and had already moved to our "holiday cottage" on the Tilligerry 
Creek/Estuary waterfront reserve in Lemon Tree Passage by April and yes, 
the fish continued running well and the home extensions worked well for 
us. With only a two and a half year stint in Ettalong Beach, I continued 
living there until late 2009 when I sold and relocated to my current 
home in Newcastle. There was no space suitable for my large gas fired 
pottery kiln (installed in 1987 at LTP) at my new place so that side of 
my own early retirement came to a halt.

However, my membership at the Newcastle Lapidary Club in 1998 extended 
my personal mineral collection (initially started as Syd Carter's junior 
secretary in the Geology Dept. at MIM in 1960 - that's where I met Nick 
- when MIM geologists gave me native copper specimens and other mineral 
specimens I was interested in ) continues to grow but I've been in the 
process of passing on items to my immediate family members and finding 
buyers for what I've decided to part with.

There is one side of Nick Charchalis that very few people know about:

During his employment as Project Geologist for Australian Geophysical 
P/L (one of the Kenneth McMahon and Partners group of companies) and 
based in Alice Springs in early 1965, Nick became a close associate of 
Walter Smith, an Aboriginal prospector of the Harts Range, NT, area. 
Walter Smith had been recommended to Nick as the foremost authority on 
the mining and prospecting areas in the NT. During their friendship over 
the next +2 years when Nick visited Walter Smith's camp on the Plenty 
River, Nick took him about the areas where Walter collected the crystals 
and mineral specimens he sold to dealers, collectors, tourists etc. Nick 
developed an interest in the Aboriginal culture, and after about 18 
months of learning, Walter Smith initiated Nick into the Arrernte Clan 
in late 1966. So that I and our children could have Aboriginal family 
connections, I was adopted as the adult white daughter of Walter 
(Purula) Smith (1893-1990) and his Aboriginal wife Mabel (Andana Kamarra 
1919-2012) - they had been "proper" married, and their marriage 
registered, on 26/1/1961.

It wasn't until early 2003 that I learnt the package Nick had brought 
home for me, a gift from my adoptive Aboriginal parents, was a set of 
Aboriginal women's sacred objects - Churinga Crystals...women's 
business. It's a pity I hadn't learnt anything about them, but I've 
certainly caught up with everything since a very lucky connection (by 
phone) with one of my extended family in late 2008. My contact person 
got back to me a couple of weeks later to advise discussions with Smith 
family and other Aboriginal family members revealed that my having these 
Churinga Crystals in my possession since late 1966 were proof of Nick's 
initiation and my adoption into the Walter and Mabel Smith family were 
conducted properly under Aboriginal Law. I was welcomed into the large 
Smith family, mostly in the NT, and in 2010 I met a few of them. In 2012 
I met my adoptive Aboriginal mother Mabel at her Aboriginal community in 
Atitjere/Harts Range and prior to that, a mutual friend told me Mum 
Mabel loved seeing the family album I'd prepared and sent in 2009, and 
yes, she fondly remembered Nick and the help he had given in the early 
days when the drought was really bad. It was wonderful to meet her at 
long last, but Mum Mabel passed away in late September 2012 at the Alice 
Springs Hospital - soon after a hip operation in Alice Springs when 
she'd fallen down the steps where she lived at the Age Care units at 
Atitjere only a week before.

I was not aware of any Aboriginal names being given to us, but I've been 
reliably informed that Nick, as a white man initiated into the Arrernte 
Clan, would have been given the Honorary Arrernte Skin Group name of 
Purula, and as Walter and Mabel Smith's adopted white daughter, my 
Honorary Arrernte Skin Group name would be Kamarra. The Arrernte Skin 
Group of Kamarra are custodians of the Pleiades Star cluster - the women 
"own" the Seven Sisters stars and the men own whatever section of the 
night sky that relates to the young men forever chasing/lusting after 
the Sisters. With that special gift in late 1966, I became, and still 
am, a Keeper of Churinga Crystals which are the physical representation 
of the Seven Sisters - taboo to Aboriginal men. I pay my respects to the 
memory of my late adoptive Aboriginal parents (who had no children) by 
way of making gemstone and crystal jewellery items that represent many 
aspects of the Aboriginal culture and when available for sale, I will be 
contributing 20% of sales to the Harts Range Public School (years 1 to 
9) for extra education materials/equipment. Walter and Mabel Smith "grew 
up" many Aboriginal children during their lifetimes and this, in a small 
way, will carry on the responsibilities they had in preparing them for 
their adulthood in the Aboriginal and whiteman worlds.

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