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Dennis Murphy Awarded Life Membership to UNIMA Australia – His gift to us was an incredible Bibliography of Puppet Character Comedy!

Dennis Murphy was our special guest speaker for UNIMA Australia’s World Puppetry Day on 21st March, 2024.
At the end of his Artist talk, we awarded Dennis with a Life Membership to UNIMA
Australia, in appreciation of his contribution to Australian Puppetry.
Congratulations Dennis!

His gift to us was an incredibly extensive bibliography of Puppet Character Comedy, which you can download here below. Thank you so much Dennis!

Download Bibliography of Puppet Character Comedy compiled by Dennis Murphy

Thank You Richard Hart

After 6 years as President of UNIMA Australia, Richard Hart has stepped down from his role. We thank him for his years of service and significant contribution to our organisation – especially developing ties with UNIMA International as well as the Asia Pacific Commission.

He represented UNIMA Australia in the 5th China Quanzhou International Puppet Festival in 2017 and has advocated for artistic partnerships and skills exchanges with artists in Australia and overseas.

He will be sorely missed, and we wish him all the best with his future endeavours.

Best regards,

Kay Yasugi
General Secretary
UNIMA Australia

Vale Harry Gardner, Life Member of UNIMA Australia

GARDNER. Harry. 1927 – 2018.  Dr Harry Gardner of East Ringwood passed away peacefully on Sunday, 18 February, 2018. Harry was beloved by his family and friends and acknowledged for his many contributions to science, ethics education, humanism, folk music and the community. [Published in the Herald Sun 21-2-2018]

Harry Gardner performing ‘Waltzing Matilda’
(Photo courtesy of Jenny Gardner).

Few people watching the elderly man doing a street-performance of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with marionettes made by the late Ann Davis, or playing the fiddle as a busker in East Ringwood, would have realised the intellectual breadth of this remarkable human being. Those of us who knew him valued his friendship, wisdom and humility.

Harry Gardner was born in Perth and attended the University of Western Australia where he specialised in chemistry, and from where he eventually went as a Fulbright Scholar to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York. On a blind date he met a Cornell chemistry graduate, Lorrie Niedeck. It was a happy match and after they married the couple moved to Melbourne where Harry had landed a job with the CSIRO.

Lorrie had become a Quaker, and that is how she met a fellow Quaker visiting Melbourne, Dora Beacham, who came from London in 1966-7 and did some teaching in an Aboriginal community in South Australia. In London Dora was a member of the Educational Puppetry Association and later became a much valued supporter of the Puppet Centre. She introduced Lorrie to puppetry and put her in contact with Edith Murray whom Dora had met in London in 1963. It was Harry who built Lorrie her first puppet theatre and encouraged her to go into business.  ‘The Gardner Puppet Theatre’ became a regular visitor to schools in Victoria for 40 years; it was also a training ground for some talented puppeteers, such as Frank Italiano, Ian Cuming and Ralph Baker.  Lorrie was President of UNIMA-Australia for three years and in that role did considerable groundwork in preparation for the 2008 UNIMA Congress in Perth.   She retired in 2004 because of ill health and a grateful UNIMA-Australia awarded her a Life Time Achievement Award.  When she died in 2005 Harry carried out her wish to endow a puppetry scholarship for UNIMA which bears her name.

Lorrie and Harry Gardner in their backyard
(Photo courtesy of Jenny Gardner).

I got to know the Gardners when I began touring schools in Victoria in 1969 and was often invited to their happy home in East Ringwood. Harry worked at the CSIRO in Port Melbourne, quite the opposite side of Melbourne from where they lived, a three-hour daily commute. I have a memory of visiting him at his work once where steaming retorts on his bench were part of his research into aluminium.  In retirement he visited local primary schools with experiments designed to encourage an interest in science.

Harry was a keen collector of Australian folksongs which he played on his fiddle. Sometimes Lorrie would accompany him on the flute and their son Henry, now a reader in computer science at ANU, continues the violin tradition. Once when Harry and Lorrie were visiting the Southern Highlands some of us puppeteers were having a meal with them in a Thai restaurant and people at the next table started singing ‘Happy Birthday.’ Harry instantly produced his violin and provided an accompaniment.

In later life Harry, who was a member of the Humanist Society of Victoria, became a strong supporter of the teaching of ethics in schools and devised courses for classes.  One of his ethics lessons was based on ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and on at least one occasion he used his puppets to illustrate it.  A rational thinker, he was also a strong supporter of assisted dying and urged Victorian MPs to pass legislation to allow it, personally visiting some 50 parliamentarians in and around Melbourne.  Happily he himself died peacefully and naturally in hospital, surrounded by his children.

In recent years Dennis Murphy, who often visited Harry, has kept me informed of his health. Harry was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2003 but it had already metastasised so was inoperable. His survival in good spirits to the age of 91 in 2018 is quite remarkable. At Christmas he wrote:

“My family collected here yesterday, which saved me a lot of effort because I’m nearly 91 (three weeks) and was in the final stage of prostate cancer. However on my own initiative I discovered an isotopic therapy that has worked wonders. I’ve been to Sydney for two such injections of lutetium 177 that has relieved the pain and kept me going. My oncologist is much delighted after originally opposing it.”

Those in the puppetry community who knew Harry have lost a great friend. Our sympathy goes out to Henry, Gayle and Jenny on their loss of a wonderful and impressive father.

I am hoping that the following link still works when you read this, because it will give you a chance to hear Harry speaking last year on assisted dying and hear him play his fiddle. Click here to be taken to the article.  [It will call up a video, so please be patient.]

Although Lorrie was the professional puppeteer, Harry’s ‘Waltzing Matilda’ puppet show was popular at events such as folk festivals. He last performed it in mid-January to a group of elderly citizens. Click here to find out more about Harry’s musical legacy.

[Richard Bradshaw, with help from Henry Gardner, Gayle and Jenny.]


Applications are now open for the 2018 Lorrie Gardner UNIMA Australia Biennial Scholarship!

Closing date: Saturday 31st March, 2018

Scholarship amount: $2,500 AUD

Projects must start no earlier than May 1st 2018.

Successful applicants will be notified by Saturday 21st April, 2018.

Please send your application to the General Secretary, Kay Yasugi at

She will forward them to the current scholarship committee: Joanne Foley, Philip Millar and Sue Wallace.

About the Scholarship

Lorrie Gardner of Gardner’s Puppet Theatre was a longstanding and active member of UNIMA Australia. She was President for 3 years until illness forced her to retire in 2004. In 2005 Lorrie Gardner bequeathed a substantial contribution to the fund and the renaming of the scholarship fund is to honour not only her financial contribution but her artistic contribution as an outstanding puppetry practitioner, teacher and colleague. The Scholarship Fund has been created through the individual contributions of members.

Purpose of the Scholarship

The purpose of the scholarship is to assist the development, evolution and growth of Australian puppetry arts & culture by benefiting UNIMA Australia Inc. members.  All activities, projects and situations must be puppetry oriented.

The Scholarship is offered to individual puppetry practitioners to further develop their puppetry practice.

Click the link below for more information and details on how to apply:

Congrats to Lorrie Gardner Scholarship 2016 Awardee Katherine Hannaford!

Katherine Hannaford with Peter Linz and Noel MacNeal at Beyond the Sock, 2015

Katherine Hannaford with Peter Linz and Noel MacNeal at Beyond the Sock, 2015

Congratulations to Katherine Hannaford who has been awarded the UNIMA Australia Lorrie Garner Scholarship for 2016! From May 30 to June 19, 2016 she will be travelling in the United States of America to Atlanta, Georgia for a return visit to the Center for Puppetry Arts, Texas to attend for the second time, “Beyond the Sock: Puppetry for Film and Television workshop” and Los Angeles to visit the Stan Winston School of Character Arts.

Katherine is a professional puppet builder, emerging puppeteer and she is currently teaching Puppetry as a year-long elective at the high school in NSW where she works at full time as Teacher Librarian.

If you’d like to join Katherine at Beyond the Sock (June 7-11, Texas), registration is still open until May 24, 2016. Workshop participants get to design, build and perform hand and rod puppets while learning from Muppet and Sesame Street performers Peter Linz and Noel McNeal (shown in the photo with Katherine in 2015) and puppet builder Pasha Romanowski from Project Puppet.

For those interested in the Lorrie Gardner Scholarship, the next one will be offered in 2018 to the value of $2500 AUD. The scholarship is only available to UNIMA Australia members who have been continuous for at least 2 years before applying. To allow for new or expired membership, UNIMA Australia is giving the opportunity to join/renew before the 30th of April, 2016.

If you are already a current member, you just need to keep updating your membership.

For more info about membership and to join/renew, go to

An Exciting New Puppetry DVD

"Murray Raine is... Highly Strung" DVD - see more info at

Marionettist and UNIMA Australia member Murray Raine has recently had a documentary made about his life’s work, which was released on DVD in November 2014. The film was produced & directed by Tasmanian documentary film maker Peter Oldham.

“Murray Raine is…Highly Strung” is are a rare gem of a documentary – the film not only guides you through Murray ‘s fascinating journey as a puppeteer but it has rare archival footage of other Australian puppetry greats like Peter Scriven’s Tintookies, Norman Hetherington’s Mr Squiggle and Marti McClelland’s marionettes. There are insightful interviews from leading puppeteers like Richard Bradshaw, Sue Wallace and Steve Coupe from Sydney Puppet Theatre, Peter Oldham (from The Tintookies) and Marti McClelland.

The film captures Murray’s spectacularly flamboyant style and mastery of marionette design and manipulation. It showcases several of his stunning marionette creations, including Vegas showgirls decked in gorgeous plumes of pink, a koala on a flying trapeze and a whole host of hilarious celebrity caricatures like Madonna, Liza Minnelli, Elvis, Pavarotti and Dolly Parton. There is also some lovely footage of Murray creating his “Madame Tipsy McBoozle” puppet from start to finish in his workshop, which is particularly interesting for puppet makers.

This is an important film for Australian puppetry history and particularly good for people interested in marionettes.

The DVD costs $25 AUD (with $5 AUD Postage within Australia. International shipping is available). For more information about the DVD go to: