Alfred Date is the oldest person in Australia. At 109, he has lived long enough to bear witness to some of the most important historical moments in his country’s collective memory; the Whites Only immigration policy; the court martial of Breaker Morant; the carnage at Gallipoli; the Eurovision Song Contest. He lives in a nursing home and spends his days knitting, a hobby he learned from his sister-in-law in the 1930s. He knits sweaters. Lots of them. Little sweaters, mostly, because they’re for penguins. Two years ago, Phillip Island’s Penguin Foundation made a request of Australia’s knitters: make woolen jumpers to the protect the birds against oil spills. As ninemsn.com reports, “Oily birds become distressed, cold and less-effective hunters. They can also swallow the sludge when they pick at clumped-up feathers. Slipping the knitwear on them helps prevent this.”
Knowing he was a keen knitter, staff at the nursing home left Alfred some heavy wool for his project. He has no time for any other kind. “If you’re using a light wool, you’re wasting your time.” The Penguin Foundation knew that Date is its “most senior little penguin jumper knitter,” but was unaware he is Australia’s oldest citizen. “It’s amazing and we feel quite privileged to have him dedicating his time and effort to the Penguin Foundation,” said a Foundation spokesman.