Flinders University Speleological Society Inc.

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History of FUSSI


Malcolm Robb, the inaugural FUSS President, wrote in the FUSS handbook, published in 1974, how the club came into being:
	There has been at the University a group of people active in caving for a considerable 
	time, their interest being done in conjunction with the South Australian Museum and the 
	Tourist Commission and is primarily designed to assist with the excavation of animal bones 
	in the caves and other related matters.

	It was decided in 1974 to incorporate this group, (‘The Naracoorte Group’) into a new 
	organisation with a much broader base and appeal. This is now the Flinders University 
	Speleological Society.

	The aims of the Society are not only to introduce people to the work of the Naracoorte group, 
	but to introduce people from all over the campus to the numerous facets of caving which are 
	possible within this state. One of the problems with a club of this sort is the belief that 
	it is restricted to persons of scientific orientation. This is not so. Speleology may be 
	regarded as the study of caves and this may be done purely out of interest in this completely 
	different environment, or with scientific aspirations or just because you like grovelling in 
	bat dung.
FUSS, as it was known before it became incorporated, was formed during the second term of 1974, when a group of approximately twenty people interested in caving met to discuss the possibility of the formation of a club or society. The Annual General Meeting was held on July 24th 1974 at 1.10pm and a committee of six elected. J. A. Sinclair was the Secretary.
Membership Fees were set at $1.00ea, and there were 18 paid up members. By October there were 26 members.

The 1970s: Paleo Kings

FUSSI membership over the first decade consisted of both staff and students of Flinders University. The staff came from Biology and the School of Medicine. Lecturers, such as Dr Rod Wells, Dr David Catcheside, Biology Workshop Manager John Warman and fossil preparation guru Ed Bailey, feature as founding members, remaining active in the club from 1974 to the early 1980s. Peter Daenke, a member in 1978 was, and is, a biology laboratory technician at Flinders Uni. Students also came from these departments, one in particular, Dominic Williams completed his PhD under Dr Wells, working on the Late Pleistocene sediments and faunas of the Mt. Lofty and Flinders Ranges. He went onto become one of Australia’s prominent palaeontologists. Indeed most of the people from the Naracoorte Group were palaeontologists, or geneticists, or microbiologists or had some connection to Biology. For example, Dr Ken Sanderson, from Biology was FUSS treasurer in 1979 and then around 2008 helped FUSSI members identify bat call recordings from the Flinders Ranges and the Nullarbor.

The domination, over the first 10 years of the Society, by the Biology Department (in 1982 all 17 members came from it), and in particular by the Palaeos, certainly influenced its trips to Naracoorte and the Nullarbor. Their work, no doubt, led to Flinders University leading in that field of academic endeavour. Importantly, the fossil discoveries they made, and are still making, were ultimately to give Naracoorte Caves both its National Park Status and its World Heritage Listing.
By September 1974, the Society affiliated with the Flinders Uni Clubs and Society’s Association and was provided with a grant to purchase gear. The committee, of course, went gear freaking buying the basics from Bushgear in Melbourne.
This is what they purchased:
Carbide Lamps2 @ $14.00ea$28.00
Helmets6 @ $2.00ea$12.00
Karabiners5 @ Cassin s/g $3.20ea$16.00
"15 @ Cassin c/g $2.50ea$37.50
Tape: Waist band150′ @ 10¢/foot$15.00
Slings:50′ @ 20¢/foot$10.00
Tubular Tape20′ @ 17¢/foot$3.40
1pr. Jumars $14.00
Ladders: Wire2 @ $20.00ea$40.00
Equipment sack$10.00$10.00
Safety Rope, Kernmantle$40.00$40.00
Table1: Club Equipment Costs in 1974

A 40 page FUSS Handbook (a copy of which is in the FUSSI library) was published. It contained information such as the constitution, committee members – who they are, how to contact them, what is expected of them in their elected positions and included detailed notes and diagrams on safety and training. The safety section came from the Uni of Queensland Speleo Society’s handbook.
Tantanoola Lake Cave. Looking down from the Drop-Off In the Annual Report for 1974, Malcolm Robb outlined the activities for the latter half of the year:

“On Sept 14th, 1974 a Saturday, from 12 noon till dusk a safety and training day was held at Brown Hill Ck Quarry, where the various methods of abseiling were taught and tried. So too, was belaying, the use of Jumars and types of knots. The activity attracted 17 attendees. Members then went off to Tantanoola and environs for the long weekend of Oct 12-14th”.

In 1975 Russell Starr, the club Secretary, wrote in the Annual Report that:
“The Club has had a few organised trips down to the Naracoorte Caves, and also one trip to Yorke Peninsula, throughout the year. There have also been two safety and training days, so as to familiarize freshers to basic safety techniques and to try out new equipment before using it in caves”. Further, “a highly successful trip to the Naracoorte region resulted in the location of suitable sites believed to have caves below and also a cave new to all members of the club. A trip to the Nullarbor Caves is a major project for the future, yet to be finalised”.

The Society's records are fairly scant concerning its activities over 1976 or 1977. Membership fees remained at $1.00 with 15 members belonging to the club in 1976. In 1977, according to a minimalist annual report, some fossil material was removed from Vic Fossil cave at Naracoorte and radio-carbon dated. Also computer programming using ALGOL 60 was used to crunch some CEGSA survey data.

By 1978 membership was high, with 17 paid-up members and lots of caving. According to M. Rochler, the club Treasurer, “Caving trips occurred in April, June and August to the Naracoorte and Tantanoola areas. Victoria Fossil Cave and Beekeepers Cave were visited. Fox Cave and Tantanoola Lake Cave were both visited a number of times, with photographs being taken. The Society purchased equipment consisting of 20kg of carbide for $15.00, 200 lamp jets and 12 reflectors at $36.00.” Amazingly the Society took a party of 15 people into Tantanoola Lake cave. The report from the logbook stated ‘that it took one and a half hours to get everybody down the caving ladder to the lake. They started back up the ladder at 4pm and were all out by 6pm’. The trip from the entrance, along the rift and down the pitch to the lake would normally take a person around 15 mins.

Income and Expenditure 1976-1980
Balance B/F$81.31$114.12$151.11$156.16$296.93
Total Income$38.41$110.99$91.82$685.24$44.36
Total Expenditure$5.50$74.00$86.77$544.47$19.07
Balance C/F$114.12$151.11$156.16$296.93$322.49
Michael Rochler. Treasurer. 4. Dec. 1980.
The original Club letterhead
The original Club Letterhead. The person on the ladder is Ken Smith.
FUSSI Equipment, January 1978,
3 x wide-brim safety helmets2 x 10m wire-rope ladders
1 x white light-duty helmet6 x Carbide Lamps, with 6 spare jets
3 x narrow-brim safety helmets2 x Haversacks
 1 x 100m tape measure
5m length of red 20mm tube tape 
2 x 1.5m neckbands 20mm tube tape1 pr Jumars
8m length of blue 20mm flat tape4 x Cassin Screwgate Karabiners
2 x 1m neckbands of 20mm flat tape15 x Cassin Clipgate Karabiners
2 pr caving gloves48m length red kernmantle rope 9mm
10 x 5m waistbands, black 50mm webbing45m length white kernmantle rope 11mm
4 x Swami-seats of black 50mm webbing24m length white kernmantle rope 11mm
Dominic Williams. Equipment Officer, 1978.

In 1979 things really got on the road with the Nullarbor featuring highly in the club records. Here is a trip report from the November Nullarbor trip of 1979. The author is unknown and the report is from the FUSS Logbook:

Party: John Warman, David Catcheside, Rod Wells, Annette Rogers, Ken Sanderson, John Ellis, Merrilyn Browne Friday Nov 9th: Camped at Wudinna Hill. Saturday 10th Camped just out of Eucla.
Sunday 11th Morning: Weebubbie. Party entered Weebubbie and swam to back of lake where we saw a few bats. Afternoon, drove west along the tableland to Chowilla landslip then south to Abrakurrie. Photographic expedition to Abrakurrie. Camped overnight on the edge of the doline. Saw quite a few grey kangaroos and some red kangaroos on the tableland.
Monday 12th Travelled slowly south to Kutowalla doline where we collected a few quandong seeds from trees in the doline and Rod collected a lot of recent bone material (small mammals, including bandicoots, rats, dasyurids) from fox lairs around the edge of the doline. We lunched at Winbirra Cave and then photographed the doline, flushing out a Major Mitchell Cockatoo. We had a short trip into Winbirra, inspected the very small lake at the bottom and followed the indistinct track south through the mulga to about half a km from the escarpment. We retraced our route north to the Chowilla landslip and then drove slowly west towards Mundrabilla. We camped on the edge of the escarpment and had a swim in a farmer’s dam, in a creek cutting through the escarpment. There was a magnificent night sky and good sunrise.
Tuesday 13th Called in at Mundrabilla Station and then visited Witches Cave. This was a rather nice shallow cave with some decoration and a fair amount of recent skeletal material. (Dingo skulls, hairy-nosed wombat skull, kangaroo, bettong, bandicoot, rabbit. Rod did not find any significant fossil material.)
Wednesday 14th We camped on the escarpment. There were brief showers at 3-4pm and quite a sharp squall at about 7am. We watched the rain front advance east across the Roe Plain. We drove along the highway to Madura and visited Madura Six Mile Cave. A rather grotty shallow cave used by the locals for barbecues. Rod dug out some fossil material. We inspected the widespread rubbish dump for Austin 7 parts, but in vain. Called in at Madura for a shower in their hard water and a few beers and then set off for Mullamullang. In the late afternoon John Warman and Rod went to Kalgoorlie on the Flying Doctor Service.
Thursday 15th. We reached Mullamullang about midday after camping on the tableland and went in after lunch. The Southerly Buster was blowing out quite strongly on our way in. We soon reached Oasis Valley and then inspected the “coffee and cream” and “salt cellars” in the Easter Extension. Most of the party reached the one mile cairn and then we retraced our steps. We passed the Southerly Buster at about 6pm and the air was almost still. We camped in the scrub near Mullamullang overnight and on Friday the 16th returned to Madura, picked up John and Rod, who had returned on the bus from Kalgoorlie. We drove most of the day, stopping at Yalata for tea and at Ceduna in a motel for the night.
Saturday 17th a very leisurely day was spent at Laura Bay, near Ceduna beachcombing, sandhill walking, swimming and snorkelling. The evening was clear, and occasionally lit up by lighting from a large distant storm.
Sunday the 18th four of the party returned into Adelaide about 8pm in the evening. The other three arrived home on Monday about 8pm. A successful trip.

And the Presidents report from 1979:
Club membership stands at 20, and this is expected to be maintained in 1980 
due to the enthusiasm of John Warman, David Catcheside and other members.

Expeditions have continued regularly, since the August 1978 trips to Naracoorte 
Caves and to the Nullarbor Caves in December. Four trips though 1979 were to 
the Naracoorte Caves and Tantanoola Caves. Activities included photography, 
exploration and clean ups in several caves where rubbish had accumulated. 
Typical weekend trips involved about 10 members and an overnight stay at the 

During the same period the cave divers spent many weekends exploring sinkholes 
in the Southeast of South Australia, these divers have added greatly to the 
knowledge of the water-filled caves. In one case, Peter Rogers and Clive Mills 
rediscovered a fossil deposit. Two especially organised expeditions led by Dr 
Rod Wells and Dominic Williams resulted in a large and valuable collection of 
fossil kangaroo skeletons. This is of great scientific interest.

Another highlight of the year was the Nullarbor Caves expedition. On the January 
trip of 1979, John Warman, David Catcheside visited Murra-el-Elevyn and helped 
remove 2 truck loads of rubbish from the doline. All of this would have to have 
been hauled up as the doline is sheer all the way around. The divers spent a 
week exploring underwater in the caves during August. In November, the dry 
caves were visited by another group from the club. In both instances, scientific 
data on cave formation, fossil bones and plants was collected. Spectacular 
photographs were taken which it is hoped will form part of an Orientation week 
activity in 1980. There is every reason to expect that a similar level of 
activity will be maintained in 1980.

                                                      Dominic Williams, President

Office Bearers, 1974—1984
YearPresidentSecretaryTreasurerEquipment OfficerSafety Officer
1974Malcolm RobbSecretaryMike RileyBarry BoultonTerry McKenzie
1975Malcolm RobbRussell StarrRussell Starr  
1976 Jenny HiscockMark Buckerfield  
1977John MarshallMarilyn FisherMichael Rochler  
1978Russell StarrMarilyn FisherMichael RochlerDominic Williams 
1979Dominic Williams Michael Rochler  
1980John WarmanJeff RouterMichael RochlerJohn Warman 
1981John Warman, Peter DankeJane RiceMichael RochlerPeter Danke 
1982Sue DankeJohn WarmanKen SandersonPeter Danke 
1983John MarshallPam StorerKen Sanderson  
1984John MarshallPam StorerRoger DrinkwaterHeiko Maurer 
Membership fees remained at $1.00 per person until 1983 when they went up to $5.00ea.


FUSSI meetings seemed to have been originally held in the basement level of the Biology building at Flinders Uni. From there they progressed to any vacant room within the University campus, to caving trips, people’s houses etc.

The 1980s saw memberships around the 30 members mark, with most being active. Trips ranged far and wide to the Nullarbor in 1982 & 1985, Jenolan, Bungonia and Yarrangobilly in 1988. But at Naracoorte, around mid-1985, most of the caves on the Reserve, that members visited - Victoria Fossil, Blackberry, Fox, and by 1987 Lake Cave, became off limits to all cavers and were to remain so, on and off for the next 30 years. There were visits to the Mt Gambier area, Flinders Ranges, Kangaroo Is and to the Yorke Peninsula. The club expanded its equipment store and took up Single Rope Techniques with gay abandon. Late in the 1980s we began an association with the SES and its members took to caving with us.

Over the 40 years of FUSSI’s existence it has remained, however, a staunchly student club, with members coming from all over the University: Philosophy, Computing Science, Politics, Medicine, Biology, English, Economics and Earth Sciences. Arguments around campfires raged, no doubt aided by the usual bottle/cask of red wine. The words, ‘I have a theory’ were heard more often than not! Apart from the 10-day trips interstate the club managed a caving trip every six weeks or so and held a meeting every month to discuss the state of karst and caving.

Given such an eclectic bunch, at times you had to wonder what planet the club was on: From the minutes of the meeting of August 1985 the club treasurer, Wendy Babbage who studied Economics stated:

A few more words to do with the history (glorious or otherwise) of FUSS.
It is suspicious that following a particularly
risque episode in late 1989, the name was changed
to FUSSI - to cover the tracks of the "innocent" perhaps?

Australian Speleological Federation


Although a great deal of cave exploration took place in the period 1880-1910, there are few records covering the following 40 years. The first organized cave exploration club, the Tasmanian Caverneering Group, was formed in 1946. However, within the next ten years there was sufficient support for the formation in December 1956, at Victor Harbor of the Australian Speleological Federation
It is the only national speleological body with a club based representative structure. The Federation was set up to collate information on caves and stimulate further exploration. Since that time it has encouraged caving for both pleasure and research and built a national and international social environment for Australian cavers.


The ASF consists of a number of regionally based caving clubs each catering for local activities. The local clubs elect representatives onto the national Council. Meetings of the Federation's Council are held annually, with a Biennial National Conference alternating around the States. Club representation on the national Council is defined by the number of members each club has. So the more club members who join the ASF the more votes the Club has. Currently FUSSI has 2 representatives on the national Council. FUSSI was involved with the ASF on a brief occasion in 1983 as a co-coordinator, with the Cave Exploration Group of South Australia, (CEGSA), of the Biennial ASF, Speleo Vision Conference that was held at Flinders University. FUSSI became an Associate of the ASF in 1988 and a Corporate Member in 1990. Since then its members have held Vice President positions on the ASF National Executive, edited its national newsletter, Australian Caver, as well as been in involved in the drafting of cave management plans and the establishment of Leadership standards.


The major activities of the Federation are:

  • The formulation of national policies relating to caving standards and ethics, cave safety, documentation procedures and survey standards.
  • Preparation of a national automated data bank, cataloguing all Australian caves, including cave maps and primary reference sources.
  • Sponsoring of biennial national speleological conferences and irregular Cave Management Conferences.
  • An extensive publication programme in association with the above aims.
  • The maintenance of a Library.
  • Sponsoring of specialist consultancy services for preparation of karst and cave management plans.
  • Sponsoring of Speleological projects.
  • Active protection of the Cave and Karst Environment via its Environmental fund.
  • The Promotion of Cave Research.

Since the formation of the Federation, Australian speleology has been well organized and active on both a national and local level, with separate regular national publications of cave research, cave exploration, and cave management in addition to numerous club newsletters.
Research on caves and karst has been carried out primarily by qualified individuals with the active assistance of speleological societies. Major research programmes have been directed from the Australian National University, Canberra, and the Universities of Sydney, New South Wales and Tasmania and from the various state museums. There is sufficient original research to support a high-quality international referred journal, Helictite, Journal of Australasian Cave Research. Now in its 40th year, Helictite has a standard similar to the Transactions in BCRA, NSS Bulletin and Annales de Speleologie.


Membership is open to anyone who has a continuing interest in caving. You can join as a member of a club, as an individual member or family member or as a student. Membership will entitle you to receive the ASF's quarterly journal, Caves Australia and introduce you to the various commissions and activities of the ASF.

Your current ASF liaison officer is: Tania Wilson.

FUSSI Members who held ASF Positions:

Clare Buswell.
ASF Vice President 92-94.
Editor of Australian Caver. 1991-1994

Dr. K. Magraith.
ASF Vice President 92-94.


Web address: www.caves.org.au

FUSSI Constitution

Statement of Acknowledgement The members of Flinders University Speleological Society Incorporated would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and we will endeavor to show respect to the religious and spiritual beliefs of these peoples and their cultures.
  1. NAME:
    1. There shall be a club called the Flinders University Speleological Society Inc., hereinafter referred to as the Society.
    2. That the club be known as FUSSI.
    1. The objects of the Society shall be:
      1. To foster interest among University members and members of the wider public in all aspects of caving with particular interest in S.A. caves.
      2. To promote interest, exploration and preservation of these caves.
      3. To maintain records of all trips and record results of all trips and record results of all investigations.
      4. To foster scientific work in relation to caves and the karst environment.
      5. To co-ordinate with other clubs to further these aims.
    1. All members of the Flinders University and the general public shall be eligible for membership of the Society and shall become members of the Society upon payment of the Society membership fee.
    2. Membership of the Society is open to any member of Flinders University and the general public interested in speleology, who concurs with the aims of the Society.
    3. That membership of the Society be divided into Full and Associate members.
    4. Full membership is open to those who, in addition to the basic requirements above:
      1. Have completed at least 30 hours of caving in non-tourist areas of caves, have been on four club trips in the previous year and have completed basic competencies in caving practice.
      2. Have a thorough knowledge of the Australian Speleological Federation's (ASF) Safety Regulations and Code of Ethics in particular, and knowledge of its codes and guidelines.
      3. Show a sufficient degree of responsibility for themselves, others and the karst environment.
      4. Or have satisfied the above in respect of membership of any other ASF member society.
    5. Associate membership is open to any member of the Flinders University or the general public who satisfies the basic requirements above and does not wish to be a Full member.
    6. The Society Membership Fee shall be payable by 31st March each year and is valid till 31st of December of that year and shall be determined by the Society.
    1. The affairs of the Society shall be managed by a Committee comprised of:
      1. President
      2. Honorary Secretary/Public Officer
      3. Honorary Treasurer
      4. Immediate Past President
      5. Equipment Officer
      6. Safety Officer
      7. Librarian
      8. ASF Liaison Officer
    2. The Committee shall meet at least once each month during the academic year.
    3. The Committee shall have power to make any regulations necessary to put this Constitution into effect.
    4. A member of the Committee shall cease to be a member of the same upon any of the following happening:
      1. He/she submits, in writing, his/her resignation to the Honorary Secretary;
      2. He/she is absent from three consecutive Committee meetings without leave being granted by the Committee;
      3. He/she ceases to be a member of the Society.
    5. The Committee shall have the power to fill any vacancy occurring on the Committee provided that such action is ratified by a General Meeting of the Society, to be held within one month of such action being taken.
    6. The Committee shall have the power to appoint, from time to time, such officers and sub-committee as it deems necessary. The duties of such officers and sub-committees shall be defined by the Committee to which the said officers and sub-committees shall be responsible.
    1. A bank account in the name of the Society shall be kept at a Bank or Credit Union.
    2. All funds of the Society shall be kept in the Society bank account and appropriated only with the approval of the Committee.
    3. The Honorary Treasurer shall keep proper books of account or the Society and shall prepare such statements of the Society's financial affairs as the Committee directs.
    4. The financial year of the Society shall be from 1st January to 31st of December.
    5. The Honorary Treasurer shall prepare, at the close of each financial year, a statement of the Society's financial affairs which shall be duly audited.
    1. There shall be an Annual General Meeting of the Society to be held by the end of May each year to:
      1. Receive a report from the Committee,
      2. Receive the audited statements of Tegan and Rochelle resting in Clara St. Dorathe financial affairs of the Society for the previous financial year,
      3. Elect the Committee, and
      4. Consider such other business as is properly brought before the meeting.
    2. The Honorary Secretary shall give 14 days notice of the Annual General Meeting by means of a notice placed conspicuously on a noticeboard in the Flinders University Union Building.
    1. The Honorary Secretary shall convene a General Meeting of the Society:
      1. At the direction of the Committee,
      2. Within 14 days of receipt of a petition signed by one-third of the total membership, or ten members of the Society, whichever is the least; provided that such a petition shall state the business to be discussed at the General Meeting.
    2. The Honorary Secretary shall give 7 days notice of a General Meeting by means of a notice placed conspicuously on a noticeboard in the Flinders University Union Building.
  8. VOTING:
    1. The Chairperson at each meeting of the Society shall be the President or in her/his absence a person eligible to vote and elected by the meeting.
    2. Persons eligible to vote shall be:
      1. At Committee Meetings, members of the Committee,
      2. At General and Annual General Meetings, those members, both full and associate, of the Society present.
    3. The Chairperson of each meeting of the Society shall have a deliberative vote only.
    4. All questions before a meeting of the Society shall be determined by a simple majority of those voting except where stated otherwise in this constitution.
    1. The quorum for a Committee Meeting shall be four committee members.
    2. The quorum for a General or Annual General Meeting shall be one third of the total membership or ten members of the Society, whichever is the least; provided that, for a General Meeting called under clause VII.1.b of this Constitution, the quorum shall include at least fifty percent (50%) of the petitioning members.
    1. The procedure for altering this constitution shall be:
      1. The proposed amendments shall be set out in full and posted conspicuously on a noticeboard in the Flinders University Union Building, at least fourteen days before the (Annual) General Meeting at which they are to be discussed.
      2. The amendments shall be agreed to by at least two-thirds of the members of the Society present at the (Annual) General Meeting at which they are to be discussed.
    1. Should the Society be disbanded or in any way become defunct, then all physical assets of the Society shall be distributed to the Australian Speleological Federation's university member clubs and any funds shall be given to the ASF Environmental Fund.
March 2007
    • Should any member violate this Constitution or Standing Orders of the Society or for any cause be deemed an undesirable member, then they may be expelled, suspended requested to resign or cautioned by a 75% majority decision of committee members or the designated representatives present at a meeting of the Committee called for that purpose.
    • Any member so disciplined shall have the right of appeal to the next GM of the Society.
  • Cave Maps will only be given to trip leaders and then the maps are to be returned to the secretary by the trip leader immediately after the trip. (The reason for this stems from the importance of not having maps in wide circulation so as to prevent the possibility of caves being vandalised if maps go astray.)
  • A new member of the club must attend a meeting of the club before they attend any trips.
  • The trip leader has the right to refuse permission for any person on a trip to enter a cave.
    • An individual or caving group admitting responsibility for the loss or damage of FUSSI equipment should pay the cost of replacement or repair of the equipment. Price to be determined by the executive.
    • If no individual or caving group will take responsibility for the loss or damage of FUSSI equipment, then all individuals participating in the trip shall equally share the costs of replacement or repair of lost or damaged equipment.
Note: A caving group is considered to be a group of people who enter and exit a cave together and cave as a team whilst underground.

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