Biographies of AUF Life Members

Biography, Graham Henderson
AUF Life Member

Graham Henderson Joined the AUF in 1977 through his association with the Latrobe University sub Aqua club Victoria, he was a keen SCUBA diver and Spearfisherman who subsequently become an avid player in underwater hockey.

He had an active role in the formation of the Victorian Octopush league and went on to be a founding member of the first AUF Underwater Hockey Commission in 1980.  He has represented Australia as a player on 5 occasions and also was a coach and team manager.

He was instrumental in setting up a referee accreditation system in Australia and co-authoring the first standards and procedures manual for referee training, the same manual that is used throughout the world today for underwater hockey referee training.

Graham started his administrative service in the AUF in 1979 when he became secretary of the AUF Victorian Branch; he went on to hold the positions of Vice President and President.  Also during this time he was the convener of 2 national skindiving championships held in Victoria.

During the eighties he was elected to the position of chairperson of the AUF underwater hockey commission a position which he held for 7 years, he then went on to be the chief referee for the commission for a number of years. During this time he formalised the commission by-laws and was instrumental in obtaining government STEP grants of $200,000.00 for our world champion underwater hockey teams.

In 1995 he focused his attentions on the AUF Federal body becoming Federal Secretary and then becoming the Federal President in 1997.  He oversaw a total restructure of the AUF and rewrote the federal constitution.  He became the public officer of the federation in 2000.  Also in 2000 he was awarded the Australian Government sports medal for his contribution to sport and the community.

He was elected to the position of President of the CMAS (World Underwater Federation) underwater hockey commission in 2005  He also held the position of tournament director for the CMAS Underwater Hockey Commission and has overseen the running of  4 world underwater hockey championships.

Graham Henderson was awarded life membership of the AUF in 1996 for outstanding service to the federation and the sport of skindiving. He is the current president of the AUF.

Biography, Toni de Fina
AUF Life Member

Toni de Fina was the Federal President of the AUF for 28 years; he was also a some time member of the CMAS governing council. He created with the late Peter Cullen the Federation of Australian Underwater Instructors, for many years the only Australian Diver Instructor organization ultimately subsumed by an international diving instructor organization.

Toni designed and developed the first balanced first stage valves for single hose SCUBA, he also designed and developed diving systems for then developing cultured pearl farms in Northern Territory and Northern Western Australia.

He was instrumental in creating many of the diving standards still used today, he attended the world championships in Croatia (Yugoslavia) as a competitor.  He has continuing involvement in water sports, particularly spearfishing.

On occasion he is invited to prepare opinions on diving accidents and diving equipment and practices for civil court cases and inquests.

He is still diving and actively engaged in water sports.

Biography Sue Dockar
AUF Life Member

Susan Dockar started Snorkelling and then Spearfishing in the early 1970’s with the St. George Spearfishing & Freediving Club.  She picked up skills from some of the older members as well as being doggedly persistent in learning about the underwater world, both with fish species, habitats and weather conditions. There were many past and present inspirational divers in the club, which encouraged Sue to gain as much knowledge as possible.

An overseas jaunt for six years and then back to the Club and travelling to the many and varied competitions along the NSW coastline. Also competing in many State and National Championships with the highlight being the 1986 National Spearfishing Championships held in Sydney coastal areas and winning the AUF National Ladies Trophy.

She was asked to be part of these 1986 combined National Championships and joined the mixed State Ladies Underwater Hockey comp. which was the beginning of at least 25 years of underwater hockey competitions, representing the Sydney UWH Club, NSW UWH and then an Australian representative member of a Mixed Masters Trans-Tasman team held in Rotorua, N.Z.  Also a year later in 2002 joining the Australian Ladies Masters team at the Underwater Hockey World Championships in Calgary, Canada.

Along the way, also working behind the scenes in administration with the Club and then AUF State Spearfishing Commission, the AUF NSW Underwater Hockey Commission as well as the AUF NSW Snorkel & Coaching Commission. She gained Life Membership of the St. George Spearfishing Club, mid 1980’s, then the AUF NSW Underwater Hockey Commission in the 1990’s and then awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000.

She has held and still holds positions with the National Exec. of the AUF including Memberships & Secretary/Treasurer over the past 15 years and gained Life Membership with the AUF in 2009.

She also continues to participate with her St. George Spearfishing & Freediving club at social dives as well as being involved in administration and training.
Sue is the current Secretary/Treasurer of the AUF

Biograhy Mary-Anne Stacey
AUF Life Member

Mary- Anne is a spearfishing champion, coach and underwater hockey player.

Her achievements include:

  • Twice South Australian Ladies' Spearfishing Champion.
  • Six times Australian Spearfishing Mixed Pairs' Champion.
  • Six times Australian Ladies' Spearfishing Champion.
  • Australian Scuba Divers Ladies' Champion.
  • Numerous Australian records for speared fish.
  • National Director of Coaching (AUF).
  • Underwater Hockey Coach.

Mary-Anne Stacey started snorkelling in 1975, while teaching swimming in an Education Department Program at Unley Pool, South Australia. By 1979, she had acquired her open water certification at the South Australian School of Scuba Diving. In 1981, Mary-Anne took up spearfishing and, in 1985, she started competitive diving. She was a member of the South Australian Women’s Underwater Hockey Team from 1985 to 1992; the South Australian Women’s Team Coach for Underwater Hockey in 1989 and 1992; and an Australian team member of Underwater Hockey in 1986, 1989, 1991 and 1993. She was awarded the Best and Fairest Player in 1990, 1991 and 1992 and, in 1991, she became the Australian Team Coach.

Mary-Anne’s spearfishing records are impressive. In 1987 and 1992, she was the South Australian State Ladies' Champion and, in 1990, she helped to win that state's Mixed Pairs' Spearfishing title. She has also won the Australian Ladies' Championships numerous times.

As regards her professional future, Mary-Anne intends to continue her work as National Director of Coaching; improve her skills in underwater photography; study part-time marine biology; attain a Level 3 Snorkel Coach accreditation; and become a scuba diving instructor.

Mary-Anne is the current National Director of Caching for the AUF

Biography Richard (Dick) Charles
AUF Life Member

A founder (1927) of St George's Motor Boat Club, Charles enjoyed motorboat racing, fishing and swimming; in 1932 he had built a 10,000 gallon (45,461-litre) pool in his backyard. About 1937, before the days of fins or snorkels, he became interested in spear-fishing. Using 'an old mirror with the silver scraped off, fitted into an old tyre tube', he made his first mask and 'opened up an entirely new world'. For a spear, he 'bought some shark hooks, straightened them out and fixed them on an eight feet [2.4 m] piece of wood'. The pastime expanded after the war and attracted antagonism from shore fishermen. Fearing that disorganized activity would bring increased restrictions, Charles founded a 'Speargun Fishing Association' at a meeting at Long Reef in April 1948, the forerunner of the Underwater Skindivers' and Fishermen's Association of New South Wales of which he was president in 1948-53. Once it had overcome an unwarranted fear of sharks, skindiving surged in popularity after equipment improved and Hans Hass visited Australia in 1953. That year an inaugural meeting at Tweed Heads elected Charles founding president of the Underwater Spearfishermen's Association of Australia. Active in promoting and defending the sport, he devised rules for interstate competitions and represented the association in negotiations with maritime authorities.

A balding, bulky, 5 ft 11 ins (180 cm) tall, hazel-eyed livewire, usually sporting a battered yachting cap, Charles was acknowledged as 'Australia's leading skindiver'. With a pioneer's resourcefulness, he invented cliff-rescue apparatus, a fish-bite indicator, a spear gun and a safety belt for divers. In retirement he enjoyed world travel. Survived by his wife, daughter and twin sons, he died on 11 July 1974 at his Hurstville home and was cremated. A trophy which he had presented for the Australian Underwater Federation's annual championships commemorates him. His sons were sick of fish.

Biography Walter Hamilton Gibbins – Australian Diving Pioneer
AUF Life Member

Here we focus on one of Australia’s pioneer SCUBA divers. Australia has produced many outstanding scuba divers, underwater film-makers, equipment technicians, spear-fishers and innovators. It all started in the late 1940s, when the sport of spearfishing was pioneered by Sydney divers including Dick Charles and Edward Du Cros, who formed the Underwater Spear Fishermen’s Association (USFA) and immediately began promoting the sport around the country …… it grew rapidly! In this report, HDS Aus-Pac historian Mel Brown salutes Sydney pioneer sport diver, Wally Gibbins.

Walter (Wal) Gibbins was born in Sydney in 1930, finishing his schooling at Crow’s Nest Technical School in 1944. His pioneering diving career began in 1947 when his family moved to Middle Head, where the clear waters enticed him, in the summer of 1947, to fashion some diving gear and develop an interest in spearfishing.

He dived alone around Middle Head for some months without meeting any other divers, until the Underwater Spear Fishermen’s Association (USFA) was formed in April of 1948 by Sydney diver Dick Charles. Wal enrolled as a member and was elected to the committee shortly after. The USFA began a vigorous period of promotion of the new sport. In late November 1951, 21 year old Wally and fellow USFA committee members Edward Du Cros and Dick Charles visited Tasmania’s north coast region, to promote the USFA on behalf of the newly formed Underwater Spear Fishing Association of Tasmania. A report in the Burnie Advocate newspaper of November 26th advised they would give “demonstrations of underwater spearfishing at Wynyard, Burnie, Penguin and Devonport” over a three day period during their tour. The article included a picture of the three men with some of their diving gear and trophies they had won in competition. Wally was a particularly gifted spearman, who was unbeaten in spearfishing competitions in the ensuing years.

In 1953, Wally discontinued club activities to undertake a six month trip to the Great Barrier Reef for the filming of Australian actor Chips Rafferty’s classic film “King of the Coral Sea”. This ground-breaking Australian movie required particular expertise in underwater filming and swimming and Wally was just the man for the job. He supplied the film production team with unique Australian-made “Lawson Lung” scuba units, which he had assisted in designing and building in Sydney. They were used extensively during the production of the film and Wally also doubled as stuntman, for one of the actors.

Three years later, Wally began his professional salvage diving career in Dutch New Guinea (now Indonesia’s West Irian province). Then, on his return to Sydney, he began working for Barnes Scuba Service, another Australian manufacturer of scuba equipment, before founding his own company known simply as “The Diving Company”.

At the urging of Ben Crop and Ron Taylor, Wally returned to spearfishing competitions, competing for the first time at the 1961-62 National Titles at Currarong, where he was runner-up in the pairs, third in the open and headed the winning team on the final day. In 1965, Wally was chosen to represent Australia in the World Spearfishing Championships in Tahiti.

Shortly after, he left Australia again to work as a diver in salvage operations in the Solomon Islands, where there were a great many WW2 wrecks. He also joined Ben Cropp, assisting in the making of a number of TV documentaries based on a trip around Australia and a return to New Guinea and the Solomon Islands revisiting the many wrecks he had discovered there.

During his career, Wally’s various diving interests had seen him hired out as a guide-diver on the Barrier Reef, making underwater movies and recording more documentaries with the Japanese, again in the Solomon Islands on WW2 wrecks.

Wally was engrossed in shell collecting, with an amazing collection and was instrumental in locating the habitats of some very rare shells, which had been previously been unknown to science.

Wally was a true Australian pioneer underwater man, he bridged the transition period from spear-fishermen to scuba diving enthusiast and played a significant part in the development of very early Australian-made scuba equipment, namely the “Lawson Lung”. He passed away in 2006.

Biography Barry Andrewartha
AUF Life Member

Barry has had a long and distinguished involvement in Spearfishing and SCUBA in Australia. His involvement in spearfishing began when he was 11 years old – almost 60 years ago! He still holds several state and at least one national record Blue Rock Whiting Neoodax semifasciata.

During his career he’s been active in State and Federal development of spearfishing . He was instrumental in establishing the Eden 3-State Competition and the Coffs Harbour Bluewater Classic and still contributes generously to event sponsorships such as the Australian teams attending the National and Interpacific Championships. In 2010 Barry donated money for a perpetual Australian Filmfishing trophy in his name “The Barry Andrewartha Australian Filmfishing Championships”.

For 30 years he’s been involved in manufacture, importing and distribution of specialised spearfishing gear. He currently imports leading brands from France, Italy and South Africa.

Barry has a long and distinguished career in diving publishing and has written at least 5 books (below) co-publisher of numerous magazines including International Freediving and Spearfishing News, SportDiving Magazine, and Dive Log Australasia.

SPEARFISHING IN VICTORIA.  Barry Andrewartha. Published 1967.
SPEARFISHING FOR SPORT AND PLEASURE. Barry Andrewartha and Lindsay Stewart Early 1968.
SPEARFISHING IN SOUTHERN N.S.W.  Barry Andrewartha and Robin Montcalm. Published 1969.
SPEARFISHING IN NORTHERN N.S.W.  Barry Andrewartha and Peter Kemp. Published 1969.
A Guide to SKINDIVING AND SPEARFISHING. Barry Andrewartha. 1970

Barry has been a great supporter of Australian divers and the Australian diving industry and is often at shows such as the recent DiveExpo in Brisbane as well as international events. He is a true ambassador for diving in Australia and a worthy life member of the AUF.

Biography Helen Lane
AUF Life Member

CMAS reported in 1980 that Finswimming was accepted that year as an accepted Olympic sport.
Helen was approached by the AUF secretary to form a Finswimming commission while she was attending a coaching course at the AIS.  At the time she was a level 2 performance swimming coach with national swimmers.
She coached and managed the first Australian team to compete at Asian Championships in Seoul, Korea
Since that time she has Managed Australian teams to the World Finswimming Championships in Greece 1990
World Championships Dongguan, China 1991
Asian Championships Wuhan, China 1992
Asian Championships Hobart, Tasmania 1997
Australia vs Japan Hobart, Tasmania 1998
Australia vs Japan Masters competition, Hobart Tasmania 2001
First Commonwealth Countries competition, Hobart Tasmania 2004
Japan, New Zealand and Australia, Sydney 2012
Japan, New Zealand and Australia, Sydney, 201
World Masters Championships, Majorca, Spain 2018 where Australians won their first gold medal and set a world record.

Helen is the current AUF Finswimming Commission Chairperson

Biography George Davies BEM
AUF Life Member

George could rightly be described as the father of Spearfishing in Australia. George’s interest in spearfishing began when the July 1939 issue of “Popular Science” magazine contained an article
“Human Submarine Shoots Fish with Arrows” and a lifelong passion for the sport of spearfishing was aroused. At this time there was no equipment available and George found himself experimenting with homemade equipment designs. Face masks were made from a piece of oval glass and rubber cut from car tyre tubes.
George was joined by his younger brother Trevor and together they spent many hours, often late into the night, perfecting a ratchet loading pneumatic speargun they named the “Aquamatic”. A CO2 gas powered speargun named the “Sea Wasp” was also made.
Having heard of Cousteau’s Aqualung they set about designing and making their own, one of the first Scuba units to be made in Australia. With his brother Trevor, George was a foundation member of the Newcastle Neptunes in 1953– the first club to be formed outside the USFA. George Davies with Experimental Aquamatic 1949
In 1964 George was elected to the position of national Secretary/Treasurer for the Australian Underwater Federation and held this position for 27 years until his retirement in 1991. Also during 1964 was appointed as Manager/Coach for the NSW team to the Australian Underwater Championships and was retained as manager for the next 15 years.
In 1967 George was awarded with Life Membership of the USFA and was also presented with the Ron McNiven award for outstanding service to skindiving activities. During 1967 George was also awarded the AUF’s Beau Beere Trophy for outstanding service at a national level.
With the formation of the NSW Amateur Fishermen’s Advisory Council in 1968 George was appointed to represent spearfishing and served on this council until 1992.

Biography Mel Brown AO
AUF Life Member

Mel first began spearfishing in 1962 at 18 years of age.  Over the last 53 years he has held numerous vital roles within spearfishing and government bodies.
His first ever dive was on the south coast of NSW at Bulli Point, just off the rock pools.  He affectionately remembers shooting his first fish, a Rock Cale, with his trusty 2-piece brass hand spear.  He then upgraded a few years later to a telescopic model with which he was able to secure fish up to 10kg.  “After losing a few 20kg Kingfish,” he chuckles, “I thought it was time to upgrade.  My first gun was and Undersea Bantam.  I am still using a gun almost as old as that now.”
Mel began his representative duties as USFA Minutes Secretary in 1971, before moving on to other roles such as Treasurer.  He was there when the USFA changed to the NSW Underwater Federation and then again to the AUF NSW Branch.  Mel is now USFA Historian and is Australia’s greatest custodian of spearfishing history.  He has all of the original minutes, magazines, photos, t-shirts, equipment catalogues and documents dating back to April 1948 when Australian Spearfishing first took shape and the USFA was formed.  His records continue on to include the formation of the AUF in the following years up until present day, making for a rich collection of our spearfishing history in Australia.  He also owns what could easily be described as the largest collection of spearguns and early diving equipment ever seen in Australia, which he often takes to displays and events around the country.

“Things have changed a lot since those first days”, Mel recalls, “back then everything was written out by hand and then later transferred onto a typewriter.  We then used a Gestetner machine, which was a manual printing press of sorts, using paper stencils.”  “You might run off 50 copies and then they would have to be mailed out to the clubs and executives.  It is much easier today.  I can just send an email.”
When asked how he found the time to get all this done Mel confessed, “I was fortunate to work nightshift in the mines where I was an Electrician.  I’d get on top of my work then duck off to a quiet corner to attend to spearfishing matters.”
It is not practical to list all of the positions that Mel has held over the years and the representative and advisory bodies that he has been a part of.  However, of important significance some of his roles included:  the Advisory Council on Recreational Fishing, NSW DPI (1991 – 2006); Jervis Bay Marine Park Advisory Committee (1998 – 2003); Abalone Management Task Force (1994 – 2002); Grey Nurse Shark Recovery Team.
It was, however, his role on the Rock Lobster Management Advisory Committee (1995 – 2001) that Mel feels he did his proudest work.  Today’s Rock Lobster fishery is thriving and is in the best condition seen for decades.  Mel explained that back when he first joined the committee “the fishery was not doing very well at all.”
“There was no maximum size limit and the minimum size was far too small.  Even today it is still a little small.  They don’t really breed until they are about 2kg in size.  I’d like to see the minimum size increased. However, by us introducing the maximum size limit to protect the breeders and through the success of other management strategies we have seen a positive result.”
Further to this Mel recounted that “back then the ‘black market’ was out of control and the commercial fisherman had no real controls in place.  Through the committee we established protocols on the minimum/maximum size limits and introduced tagging and quota systems for the commercial lobster fishermen.”  “There was a lot of politics involved back then”, “They were going to close the recreational catch altogether”.   “It is definitely a pleasing and positive outcome that I am proud to have been a part of, especially considering I was the first ever person from a recreational fishing background to be appointed to a Commercial Fisheries Management Committee.”
When asked what he saw as the most critical issue facing today’s spearfishers, Mel indicated that “access issues and Marine Parks were probably our biggest threats” and that “education and the club systems” were our best defences available.
Mel is currently working towards gaining some federal support to realise his dream of truly documenting Australia’s spearfishing and diving history.  He would like to setup a diving museum and have all of his records professionally digitised and catalogued along with all his early spearfishing and scuba diving equipment displayed for all to see and enjoy.  “It would be a terrific thing.  It is important to know your sport.  To know where we have come from and how it progressed.”
“It was not that long ago that spearfishers were wearing jumpers to keep warm and making masks out of truck inner tube tyres and glass.”
“There has been such a dramatic technological development in materials and manufacturing.  It really is marvellous”.

Biography, Gordon (slim) Ward
AUF Life member.

Slim was one of our spearfishing pioneers possibly starting out at Lake Conjola around 1948. Slim had his own business called Slim Ward Cycles in Greenacre, making, selling and repairing bicycles until he sold the business and retiring to Kangaroo Valley.

AUF Life Members