By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A school-girl’s sketchy line-drawing remains the first image from one of Australia’s most famous UFO events.
Fourteen-year-old Marilyn Eastwood sketched what she saw of the Westall UFO incident on 6 April 1966, which remains one of the few daytime UFO sightings by scores of witnesses.
It was seen by about 150 students and teachers at Westall High School, including Marilyn – now with the surname Smith.
On reflection, Ms Smith feels privileged to have seen the event. It girded her belief that there’s life “out there”.
“When you’re young and when you see these things, you think was it real? Did I see it?
“But there were hundreds of children that saw it.
“When the day comes, when aliens come and land on Earth, I’d say: ‘See, I told you’.”
At the time, she sketched what she saw for the Dandenong Journal – the only newspaper that reported on the event at the time.
The object was “round, with a hump on top and round things underneath,” she told the newspaper.
The Journal wrote: “Her sketch closely resembles sketches and photographs of other unidentified flying objects reported from many parts of the world.”
She remembers the Journal interviewing her as well as Westall High School teacher Andrew Greenwood – despite the school slapping a media-ban on students and staff.
“They asked if I’d do a drawing. I don’t remember how the Journal got in touch with me,” Ms Smith said.
Ms Smith will share her story along with other witnesses at a 51st anniversary event – Westall: The Witnesses Speak.
People are fascinated when she tells them about the fast-moving silver object that flew over the school and disappeared behind pine trees in The Grange Reserve.
She and many witnesses adamantly refute the official explanation that it was a weather balloon. It still seemingly defies rationalisation.
According to Victorian UFO Action director Ben Hurle, it’s the event that “refuses to go away”.
“This is a special event that challenges our belief systems.”
Mr Hurle said the witnesses’ testimonies were “raw expressions of encounters with the unknown” that defied attempts to “cover-up” the event.
Witnesses had been intimidated and silenced for many years about the “significant” encounter, he said.
Their reputations were threatened, property confiscated and evidence destroyed.
“Unknown flying objects – without authorisation… or regard for air space regulations compromised safety and, fortunately, no harm was done.
“Who or what were they?”
Ms Smith’s recollection was that the object hovered and moved erratically – “up and down, across the sky”.
It caused other students to go a “little bit ballistic”.
“We thought it was the end of the world, that we were about to be invaded,” she said.
“It was terrifying. We were hysterical, crying and screaming.”
They were still “hysterical” when a Channel 9 reporter interviewed her at the school that afternoon.
“We were told not to have anything to do with the TV and the media.
“The headmaster was ropeable.”
Neither footage of that interview or another TV interview she did with psychic Kevin Annett in the mid-1970s can be found.
It makes Ms Smith think there was a possible cover-up by authorities.
Colin Kelly, a plumber and former Westall student, is travelling from the Gold Coast to publicly share his version of events for the first time at the witnesses’ forum.
“I haven’t been back there for 50 years but it’s so clear in my mind.”
He was standing with a mate on the school oval as part of a PE class at the time when he saw not one UFO but three – a large one flanked by two smaller flying objects – for up to 30 minutes.
“They just elevated while on their sides and disappeared at an ungodly speed.
“They were faster than any aircraft of the common day.
“There’s no way known they were weather balloons.”
Students jumped the fence to follow the UFOs, which appeared to land in The Grange reserve.
Mr Kelly remembers an ambulance being called for a distressed student as well as air-force and army trucks driving in and cordoning off the area.
The students were told to “forget what you actually saw,” Mr Kelly said. “You saw nothing.”
He shares a common passion with other witnesses, who want the world to know they saw a UFO.
“We’ve lost a few of the witnesses along the way. It’s important to get as much information down while we can.
“We just want some answers.”
Westall: The Witnesses Speak is at Kingston Arts Centre, 64 Parkers Road, Parkdale, on noon-5.30pm, 2 April.