Australasian bittern, Brolga, Bush stone curlew, Bushfire, Dingo, Freshwater catfish, Ian Lunt, Kangaroo grass, Matt Herring, Murray Cod, Ovens River, Red Gum woodland, Regent Honey-eater, Rufus Bettong, Silver Banksia, Stanley Plateau, Tiger Quoll, Tony Rinaudo, Trout Cod
For ecological inspiration, and climatic salvation, we need to revisit the ancient open woodlands of North East Victoria.
Note: This is a referenced transcript of the lecture I delivered at the Stanley Hall in the Spring of 2019 for the Geoff Craig Memorial lecture, organised by the Stanley Athenaeum.
I’d like to start by offering my thanks to the Friends of the Stanley Athenaeum for bestowing upon me the honour of giving this year’s Geoff Craig Memorial lecture, which I’ve titled ‘Revisiting the forgotten world of Victoria’s alpine valleys and ranges,’ and which I have decided to subtitle, ‘the case for restoring our ancient open woodlands’.
This lecture has its origins in the exhibition, Fire on the Plateau — A History of Fire and its Management in Stanley, which opened at the Stanley Athenaeum in May to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the 2009 bushfires. It was curated by Ali Rowe, and I was employed as the principal researcher for the project with the idea that I would produce some panel text and a short essay. I started researching, and before I knew it, I had enough information for a book.
Today I won’t be speaking directly to the content of the book. Instead, I want to tell you about some of the broader insights I gained while I was researching. At the beginning of the project, myself, Ali Rowe and the Friends of the Stanley Athenaeum — in this case, namely Chris Dormer, Helen McIntyre, Janet Sutherland and Valerie Privett — brainstormed what we knew about the history of fire in Stanley. I asked, When was the last big bushfire in Stanley, prior to the 2003 fires? There’d been some big fire events in Victoria the 1980s — Ash Wednesday in 1983, and big fires through Mount Pilot and Mount Buffalo in 1985, and we expected that Stanley would have a similar history of bushfire. But no one could remember a bushfire in Stanley in the 1980s. We soon realised there were no stories about Stanley being burnt-out even in the infamous Black Friday bushfires of 1939, when most of Victoria was burnt. I trawled through the archives, and what I discovered was quite unexpected, at least to us: that there had been no significant bushfires on the Stanley Plateau for well over 100 years.
On reflection, what’s really interesting to me, is that we had started out expecting that Stanley would have this long history of big bushfires — it was almost as if we had projected our current expectations of the environment backwards through time — and it took a historical study to correct our view.
There’s no hard scientific evidence as to why Stanley had so few bushfires prior to 2003, but quite clearly, the area used to be a pretty safe bet in terms bushfire risk. The Stanley Plateau had a cool climate, with a high ground moisture content, and wet peppermint and blue gum forests, with ferny gullies that remained damp even in Summer; in fact it was so damp that if you walked through the forest, you’d come out with leeches on your legs. But as we all know, something really big has changed. The Plateau is drier and Stanley is now officially classified as an area of ‘extreme risk’ on the CFA’s Victorian Fire Risk Register.
When I started the project, I didn’t realise that I would be charting such a big environmental change. But during the research, I was engaging with letters, diaries, reminiscences and government records dating from the time of the arrival of Europeans in North East Victoria from the late 1830s onwards; and I came to realise that the environment I was reading about in these historical documents was so different from our current understanding of the environment today, that it now constitutes a kind of ‘forgotten world’ to us. However through historical records, we can revisit this forgotten world of North East Victoria’s alpine valleys and ranges, and see what’s changed.
When I was at university I was very fortunate to be lectured by a historian called Greg Dening, who earlier in his life had been a Jesuit priest. Dening used to talk about a particular Spiritual Practice originally taught to the Jesuit order by theologian Ignatius Loyola, which he in turn applied to his own method of composing history — a practice called ‘composition of place.’ In composition of place, when one reflects on a scriptural passage or events, one first imagines the scene in concrete detail, places oneself inside that scene, and then attends to the thoughts and feelings that arise in order to comprehend it. And this is what I would like for us to be able to do today with some of the vivid sites, sounds and sensations, that I have found in the archives, relating to this forgotten world of our alpine valleys and ranges.
A good place to start composing our forgotten world, is by using the reminiscences of George Kinchington. Kinchington was a child when he first arrived in the Yackandandah Valley in the winter of 1838. He was in the company of his family; his father was to be the manager of the newly formed Kergunyah station. They were among the very first non-Aboriginal people to enter the Yackandandah Valley. And he would later recall of it,
‘As we approached the Murramerangbong Hills and crossed the creek, I thought that of all the pretty places I had seen, Yackandandah was the prettiest. As far as the eye could reach stretched a great park, covered with large timber and under-growths of luxuriant grass. The creek itself could be seen for miles, and wound along in a wide and continuous bed of reeds and raspberry briars, with here and there a lake, in which were immense flocks of wild duck, widgeon, teal, black swan, and pelicans. The water, too, was beautifully clear and abounded with fish. Occasionally some native dogs, of which there were large numbers, would run across our path, and we would some times catch sight of a herd of kangaroo or wallaby, or see an emu raise its startled head to look at us. The country was very open; and with the exception of some native hop, grass trees, gebung, a little ti-tree, and some wild cherries, the land was quite devoid of scrub….’ 
This valley, in fact all of valleys of North East Victoria, were like parkland: grasslands interspersed with stately trees spaced widely enough to allow for easy travel — you could gallop a horse or pull a wagon through a valley, completely unhindered by undergrowth. Pre-Raphaelite artist Thomas Woolner who visited in 1852, described it as ‘splendid country that looked like an immense park left to decay and run wild: the trees shoot in sinuous, fantastic growth … the ground [is] spangled with serene little wildflowers’.  Woolner’s description of this park as being left to ‘decay and run wild’, was entirely appropriate, because by the time he was seeing it in 1852, European settlement had interrupted the Aboriginal burning regimes that had helped give the countryside its manicured, park-like appearance.
The native pasture in these valleys was spectacular; the first Europeans could barely believe their eyes. Local squatter David Reid noted that along the banks of the Ovens River at Tarrawingee in the late 1830s the kangaroo grass looked ‘more like a field of barley, or rather oats, than anything else’ and was so tall, it could be tied over a horse’s withers as it grew on either side.  I thought this had to be a bit of an exaggeration, but William Hovell (of Hume and Hovell fame) wrote in 1824 that in Victoria, ‘The grass .. is … frequently as high as [our] heads, and seldom lower than [our] waists.’ 
We can add to our composition of place by knowing that the soils of these valleys was soft, even spongy underfoot, because it had never been compacted by hard-hoofed animals. Early European arrivals had found their way into North East Victoria simply by following the impressions of cartwheels left by Major Mitchell’s expedition of 1836, which had sunk into the soft soils. Some Europeans were even distrustful of this weirdly open soil. Ovens Valley selector Edward Hulme complained of his ‘inferior crab-holey grassland’.  When in the Buckland Valley in 1853, English author William Howitt complained that ‘everywhere the soil is of a light porous quality, which absorbs the rain like a sponge, and in the heat exhales malaria. You may smell the dry-rot of decaying roots of trees as you walk over the surface.’  Howitt thought the soils produced dangerous miasmas that were making the gold miners ill, but what he was describing was the rich smell of hummus, which retained moisture in soils, kept open and alive partly by the sheer mass of insect life.
You see, Howitt was a complainer, also about the insects here, which he said were ‘endless in numbers and form. Many are most singular and curious; but the ants, the flies, the centipedes, and the scorpions, are a terrific nuisance. … They cover the whole surface of the ground, I might almost say of the whole colony, of all colours and sizes; and almost every variety of them stings keenly. Nor is it the ground only on which they swarm; there is not a log lying on the ground, nor a tree standing in the forest, up and down which they are not creeping in myriads.’  And I think, one can only imagine that the sound of cicadas and crickets in the summer must have been deafening.
Which brings us to another aspect of this forgotten world — the way it sounded. It was noisy! Across much of the countryside in Victoria were vast woodlands of silver banksia, which the colonists called ‘honeysuckle’. At Wooragee, Greta, Carboor, Myrtleford, Mudgegonga, and Whorouly — where the banksia vied with grasstrees — these woodlands, in season, were dripping with nectar, supporting huge numbers of insects, mammals — and of course, birds: black cockatoos and parrots, and songbirds — the sittellas, robins, honey-eaters, spine-bills, wattlebirds and friarbirds, made the bush a noisy place. It had been rumoured in England that Australian songbirds had no song — but Australian birds are louder and more melodious than any birds on earth. In fact, we now know that Australia is the ancestral birth place of songbirds. 
But it was at night that the sounds of the alpine valleys and ranges really came into themselves. Assistant Protector of Aborigines James Dredge complained of a night spent on Bontharambo station near Wangaratta in 1840, that he was kept awake all night by the ‘romping of rabbit rats’,  which were probably Rufus Bettongs — cute little animals, which scratch about and make a noise like a chainsaw when annoyed. Around Stanley, we still hear the hideous, choking growl of koalas in mating season, but we no longer hear the wailing, banshee-like cry of Bush Stone Curlews piercing the darkness of local forests.  Imagine what these two hideous calls sounded like in combination; and on top of that, Emily Skinner, the wife of a gold miner living in the Buckland Valley in the 1850s, described how the howling of dingoes at the top end of the valley would set off the next pack howling, so that the howling would spread down the length of the Buckland.  In 1881, Beechworth’s Ovens and Murray Advertiser reported that Mrs Morrison of Mudegonga had been ‘almost frightened to death with the yells of the dingoes all night’ when stranded overnight on the road to Stanley. 
And dingoes weren’t the only carnivorous predators in these forests. On 4 July 1854, American gold seeker Gordon Tucker celebrated Independence Day in Beechworth with a day’s sport of ‘killing native cats’.  He was shooting the glorious Tiger Quoll, aka the Spot-tailed Quoll — the largest marsupial carnivore of mainland Australia — it’s roughly 2/3 the size of a Tasmanian tiger — really, it’s a mini-Tassie-tiger with spots instead of stripes — with a piecing rasp of a bark.
But one of the weirdest sounds was a booming noise that came from swamplands, that many people thought could only be the call of the mythical bunyip; for it was a noise that came from an almost equally elusive and secretive marsh-dweller. William Howitt described its call, while travelling alongside a vast marsh near Wangaratta — the Greta swamp — in late 1852: ‘the most extraordinary thing there, was the booming of the bitterns. I never heard anything like it, and could not have supposed any bird capable of producing such a sound. It was like the low bellowing of bulls… but perhaps still more like some one blowing into the spout of a watering-[can]. The force and [the] compass of it, and the distance to which the sound could be heard, were amazing.’ 
The shallow cane-grass marshes at places like Tangambalanga, Bontharambo, and Greta not only supported the Australasian bittern, but also attracted flocks of Magpie geese,  and the dancing cranes we call brolgas, but which the Waveroo people called birranga. 
The colours of our forgotten world were different too. The Ovens River at Wangaratta wasn’t just clear, it was described as being azure-green.  And if you looked into that translucent azure-green water, you would see shoals of fish. At Markwood, in 1871, it was reported that fish of all kinds were constantly turning up in James Henley’s waterwheel, so that in half-an-hour there would be two dozen fish, chiefly bream [probably Macquarie perch] — some three and four pounds each. The small ones were returned to the river, but at least a hundred weight [50kg] of saleable fish were pulled out every 24 hours.’ 
Being able to see clearly what was at the bottom of a river could be a wondrous thing, but at the same time, it might put you off swimming. In 1885, the Ovens and Murray Advertiser recalled a time, ‘before the Snowy Creek and Omeo [gold] rushes took place, when [on] any day, in the then pellucid waters of the Mitta Mitta, one could see… fish, from the size of a minnow to the “leviathan,” …voracious codfish that could swallow a dog — or, for that matter, a baby — whole, disporting themselves in the depths among the boulders which are so marked a feature in the upper reaches of this lovely and picturesque river.’ 
Even tiny streams like Holmes’ Creek in Beechworth (which crosses Camp Street at the bottom of the hill), such a minor creek that barely anyone today even remembers its name, was a ‘beautifully clear stream with crayfish in it; and wild hop and may over-hung the water which sheltered the wild violet and geranium.’  Beechworth was called Baarmutha by the Waveroo people, said to mean ‘many creeks’, which also suggests plenty of crayfish in winter. 
Creeks and Rivers often moved far more slowly than what they do today, as their banks were dense with reeds, and their waters snagged with timber. JFH Mitchell recalled that in his childhood, in the 1840s, the banks of the Murray River at Wodonga were dense with cumbungi and common reed, up to 20 feet high.  When it flooded in Spring, you could take a canoe from Wodonga to Townsend Street in Albury.  And when the water receded along the banks of the Ovens and Murray, it replenished the lagoons, whose warmer, stiller waters would be filled with river catfish, and thick beds of freshwater mussels. The catfish, which are now almost locally extinct, also thrived in the kinds of waterways like the Whorouly Creek and the Broken River, originally called the ‘Winding Swamp,’ that ceased to flow in summer.  George Kinchington explained, ‘The creeks stopped running about Christmas time [and] then became a chain of water-holes.’ 
What the woodlands surrounding these rivers, creeks and lagoons lacked in density they often made up for in height. In 1853, William Howitt reported fallen trees on the Nine Mile Creek up to 60 metres long.  That’s a tree which stood at least four storeys high; higher than the very top of the bell-tower on the old Beechworth Post Office. Today the tallest Brittle Gums we have in Beechworth, for example on the Golf Course, are probably 25 metres high. But where you have tall trees, you have a different animals. From the Gold Commissioner’s camp in 1853 on High Street in Beechworth, tent keeper William Murdoch recorded how, ‘One of the men shot a large flying squirrel, its length from the nose to the tip of the tail — four feet.’  This was the beautiful Greater Glider, a wholly arboreal animal with such a huge wingspan that it can only glide safely between very tall, widely spaced trees. The presence of this glider tells us that our forests in Beechworth had mammoth and widely-spaced trees, mature enough to sustain these large flying marsupials in their canopies.
And imagining these tall tree canopies brings me to one last sensation that was once familiar but is becoming increasingly rare, and this comes from a Beechworth resident who wrote to the Ovens and Murray Advertiser in 1907:
‘Next to the Buckland Gap, probably the most delightful spot in the neighborhood of Beechworth was what was called the Cemetery Creek, but which has been more appropriately styled the Emerald Cascades by recent visitors, since [this] more nearly describes its beauties. … this charming locality is at the rear of Baarmutha Park, and consists of a wild glen. The well-worn path charmingly follows the parting stream of crystal water, which leaps from cascade to cascade for at least a mile, between cool-looking, moss-covered rocks. On a hot summer morning this glen was a most inviting scene for the painter, owing to the rare color effects that were produced in the natural objects from the bright sunshine, which with difficulty glanced through the clefts of the dense and beautifully disposed eucalyptus and [native] pines, dappling the deep green moss and grey rocks with its glories. No one ever visited it who did not loudly praise its wonderful coolness or its delirious shade.’ 
However, this letter was one of dismay, for the writer continued, ‘On visiting this spot a few weeks ago, sir, imagine my feelings in discovering these lovely trees, which were the cause of all this charm, were all rung [ringbarked] and fast dying! In a year they will be dead and falling, and nothing will be left but a bare, bold blazing mass of rocks. In this case there is I think not even the semblance of an excuse for the destruction.’ 
If you visit the Emerald Cascades today, I can guarantee you won’t recognise it. It’s a gully near the old rifle range at the back of the Beechworth golf course; which has trickle of water but no cascades. Its tree canopy is sparse, and the granite boulders have been swallowed by a mass of blackberry briars. Only a solitary tree fern still struggles on. In so many ways, the Emerald Cascades is a microcosm of the kinds of environmental changes we’ve wrought on the environment, and how far we’ve got to go in terms of restoring it.
In fact, if there was one lesson from the research done for Fire on the Plateau, it’s that the greatest environmental challenge we have now is how to restore and conserve the environment in ways that will accomodate climate change, but remain in sympathy with the environment of old. Designing ‘climate-smart’ environmental projects might sound like a controversial issue, but the reality is that even locally, ecologists and environmental organisations are now making some pretty valiant attempts to future-proof our forests and fauna:
In Chiltern where conservations have spent decades trying to conserve habitat for the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater, Trust for Nature and BirdLife Australia have given up on the idea of relying solely on local trees like Mugga Ironbark to provide enough nectar. The ironbark isn’t flowering consistently enough to ensure the survival of the honeyeaters, so they’ve started trials, planting super-tough non-indigenous native species — things like Hairpin Banksia, Crimson Bottlebrush, Spotted Gum, and Silky Oak — in an effort to guarantee that there will be food for the birds all year-round. Not so long ago, this would have been considered a form of environmental heresy.
Over the border on the Monaro Tablelands, the majestic Ribbon Gums (E. viminalis) — kind of like the Monaro equivalent of Victoria’s high country Snow Gums (E. pauciflora) — have been dying across the landscape since the 1990s. The weather’s been just too hot, and there have been too many droughts, and the gums are so water-stressed that they’ve become susceptible to invasion by Eucalyptus Weevil, which have been literally eating the tree canopies to death. Now Greening Australia and Upper Snowy Landcare have started running trials of 16 genetically different varieties of Ribbon gum, sourced from areas where the climate is hotter and drier, to see which varieties can withstand the changed climatic conditions on the Monaro.
Like the regent honey eater, the elusive bunyip bird of the marshlands, the Australasian Bittern, is also now critically endangered; and in their case, it’s due to loss of natural wetlands. The total population worldwide is now estimated at no more than 2,500 adults; and ecologist Matt Herring has made the amazing discovery that 40% of this global population has been forced to adopt the rice fields in the Riverina as their habitat during breeding season. Matt’s Bitterns in Rice project has been working with Birdlife Australia and the Ricegrowers’ Association to help farmers adapt their farming practices — things like water depth, and time-of-harvest — to help out the nesting birds. And to their credit, many rice farmers are starting to take pride in having bitterns in their rice. Herring says that, ‘There’s a growing body of global research investigating how human-made habitats can help fill the gap left by our vanishing wetlands, from ditches for rare turtles to constructed ponds for threatened amphibians.’ (And here’s where I quickly take my hat off to Beechworth Urban Landcare for their new frog pond on Silver Creek).
In short, there are now many environmental projects aimed at safeguarding flora and fauna against climate change, but if this is the way of the future, one might well ask, what’s the point of environmental history? What’s the point of us reimagining those forgotten valleys and ranges of North East Victoria from 150 years ago?
I think that the tangible sensations of this forgotten world — the coolness of the shade at places like the Emerald Cascades, the softness underfoot of healthy soils, the azure green sparkle of the Ovens River, and the orchestra of songbirds rising from open woodlands of stately gums, banksia and grass trees — these are ideas worth holding onto. I think they provide us with a vision.
I think that we might be able to have something approaching this stable and abundant environment once again, if we adopted a vision for restoring the ancient parklike woodlands of old. We still have the remnants of this woodland — in the form of veteran paddock trees — but these have a limited life span, and we need to bolster their ranks. Writing of Dunkeld at the southern end of the Grampians, ecologist Ian Lunt has described the way in which the remnant woodland there, while filled with venerable paddock trees, has not seen any meaningful regeneration. And he states, quite poetically (in his blog post ‘The Candles of Dunkeld’):
‘The woodlands bear the weight of a generation gap 100 years wide. We can’t fill that gap. But we can belatedly heal it. If we don’t, the woodlands won’t go on forever, but will peter out… We owe a huge debt to the farmers of Dunkeld. Their stewardship has kept the trees of Dunkeld alive for over a century. But stewardship of the past creates no future for the trees of Dunkeld. The Dunkeld woodlands need stewardship and more. They need some Succession Planning (and planting). Without a rapid transfusion of new plants, the beautiful woodlands of Dunkeld are doomed.’
And of course, so are ours in the alpine valleys and ranges.
It sounds like a big job, restoring woodlands, but elsewhere around the world we’ve seen the most spectacular efforts at reforestation in regions far tougher than our own, and I have to raise the example of Tony Rinaudo: he was a Myrtleford boy, who went on to join World Vision and has been instrumental in the reforestation of 5 million hectares of land in sub-Saharan Africa, simply by helping farmers to regenerate existing tree stocks. The farmers initially had some incentives (which is only fair), but when they saw that reforestation boosted soil fertility and crop yields, the project took off on its own.
The localised benefits of restoring the ancient woodlands of our alpine valleys and ranges are are profound. It’s a simple observation but — woodland creates its own local microclimate: the delirious shade of its trees really does create a wonderful coolness; the shelter of trees protects animals and pastures, and the evapo-transpiration from their leaves actually recycles rain into more rain. More tree coverage means less drought. Even if we forget about global climate change priorities like planting forests to capture carbon — and I’m not saying we should (!) but if we did — we still have plenty of reasons to restore our woodlands.
There’s not a fisherman in the world who wouldn’t like a bag a trout cod big enough to swallow a dog, there’s barely a farmer who wouldn’t want to have their stock grazing on rich native pastures — spangled with wildflowers no less, not a child who wouldn’t love to have the pants scared off them by the boom of the Bunyip Bird in Greta swamp. And personally, I’d like to see more Tiger Quolls in our forests again. The last sighting was at Staghorn Flat in 2015, but this is one of only a handful of sightings in the last 20 years.
There are dozens of interesting ideas I’d love to mention in relation to restoring our environment, which of course isn’t just about the trees and shrubs — there are regenerative agriculture practices including the use of diverse native grasses and different grazing regimes to restore soils and pastures; and there’s also the special need to slow down and retain water in our landscape, in the form of unregulated rivers, peatlands, marshlands, lagoons, and of course — importantly for Stanley as a high recharge area — retain ground water to feed natural surface discharge.
In conclusion, acknowledging how much the environment has already been degraded, and how rapidly it’s still changing in the face of climate change, can be psychologically debilitating. But I think if we care about the environment, that one of the most profound acts we can do now, is to raise our baseline of expectations. To do this, we have to commit radical acts of community remembering — we have to remember by whatever means possible and in as vivid terms as possible, the richness, diversity, and abundance that our environment used to have. We need to adopt that old Jesuit meditative practice of ‘composition of place’ — to hold onto to the vision of our ancient open woodlands — and share this vision, to raise the bar on what we will accept and create as our future environmental reality.
This is original written content that is copyright protected to ©Jacqui Durrant, 2019. You are welcome to share links to this blog, but please do not use the content elsewhere without permission. Thank you!
 ‘YACKANDANDAH IN 1838. SOME REMINISCENCES. BY MR. GEORGE KINCHINGTON.’ Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Saturday 16 September, 1899, p.8.
 Thomas Woolner, in Amy Woolner [ed.], Thomas Woolner RA – His Life in Letters, London, Chapman and Hall, 1917, p.20.
 Reminiscences of David Reid: as given to J.C.H. Ogier (in Nov. 1905), who has set them down in the third person, type-written manuscript, National Library of Australia, p.37.
 Bill Gammage, The biggest estate on earth : how Aborigines made Australia, Allen & Unwin, Australia, 2011, p.175
 Edward Hulme, A settler’s 35 years’ experience in Victoria, Australia, M. L. Hutchinson, Melbourne, 1891, p.18.
 William Howitt, Land, Labour and Gold, or Two Years in Victoria, Volumes 1 & 2, Sydney University Press, 1972 [first edn: 1855]. This reference: Volume 2, pp.153-4.
 William Howitt, op. cit., This reference: Volume 1, Chapter 11.
 ‘Where Birdsong Began,’ Catalyst, ABC television, 10 March, 2015.
 James Dredge, Assistant Protector of Aborigines, Goulburn Protectorate, Three volumes and one transcript of the diary, a letter book and a note book are in the La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection of the State Library [MS 11625 and MS 5244 (transcript) Box 16]. The diaries contain daily and weekly entries from 1817 to 1833 and 1839–1843. This entry: 22 April 1840.
 D. M. W. McKenzie, “To the Pioneers” Looking Back, The Early Days of Stanley, 1891, re-printed in association with the “Back-to” Stanley, January 1976, from the original publication by the late D. M. W. McKenzie.
 Edward Duyker (ed.), A Woman On The Goldfields, Recollections of Emily Skinner, 1852-1878, Melbourne University Press, 1995.
 MUDGEGONGA. Saturday. Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Tuesday, 8 February, 1881, p.2.
 Gordon Tucker, Journal, 1853 Apr. 12-1857 June 6. Manuscript 10649, State Library of Victoria. This entry: 4 July, 1854.
 William Howitt, op. cit., This reference: Volume 1, Chapter 9.
 Mary Spencer, Aunt Spencer’s Diary (1854): A Visit to Bontharambo and the North-east Victorian Goldfields, Neptune Press, Newtown, 1981, p.46; for Waywurru language, see: Dictionary of Way Wurru and Dhudhuroa Language, Nyanda Ngudjuwa Aboriginal Corporation Way Wurru and Dhudhuroa Language Program, Wodonga, 2007/8 (draft edition).
 William Howitt, Land, Labour and Gold, or Two Years in Victoria, Volume 1, Chapter 9 (this edition Cambridge University Press digital editions, 2010, p.153).
Last summer (in early 2020), my son and I visited a swimming hole in the Upper King River. It was sufficiently clear enough that it did have a slight azure green tinge, and I was able to imagine what Howitt meant.
 ‘District Road Boards,’ The Argus Supplement, 25 January 1871, p.1.
 ‘Our River Fish’, Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Thursday, 6 August, 1885, p.2.
 ‘Old Memories’, Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 10 November, 1908, p.8
 Dictionary of Way Wurru and Dhudhuroa Language, op. cit.
 J.F.H Mitchell Papers, 1903-1923, State Library of New South Wales. Mitchell gives many descriptions of the environment around Albury-Wodonga in the 1840s in these often rambling type-written notes.
 David Reid, ‘Old Memories — Floods and Droughts,’ Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, 30 December, 1898, p.16.
 For an amazing historical account of local fish stocks including catfish, see: Will Trueman, True Tales of the Trout Cod: River Histories of the Murray–Darling Basin, (Ovens River catchment booklet), Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), Canberra, 2012.
 George Kinchington, op. cit.
 William Howitt, op. cit., This reference: Volume 1: Chapter 13.
 William Murdoch, A Journey to Australia in 1852 and Peregrinations in that Land of Dirt and Gold, unpublished diary manuscript (digital form), held by the Robert O-Hara Burke Memorial Museum. This entry: 26 November 1852.
 ‘The Destruction of Beautiful Beechworth’, Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 23 November 1907, p.6.
Leon J Lyell said:
Thanks Jacqui, Somewhere in this now lost landscape my great-great grandmother Catherine Dunn was born about 1843/4 and spent her infancy. How wonderful if it could be restored. Leon
Jacqui Durrant said:
Thanks Leon. Let’s hope you can recover her story.
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It was good to read and re-read this story of the lecture you gave at Stanley. It certainly raises critical questions about what we have to gain from the past well documented stories of what the country was like originally. So much valuable history and the lessons of the past tend to be ignored because they are old and supposedly dated.
‘Technology will save us’ is a term often used when the subject of addressing climate change is discussed. No it wont!
The descriptions of what the land was like reminded me of some of my father’s stories about driving horse teams through the forests. He used to speak about a pre 1939 period and a post 1939 fire period. Post 1939 the bush often became impenetrable.
Somewhere in my distant memory I recall a comprehensive sociological study done, I think by Melbourne University Researchers. The study asked people about what they saw as their preferred landscape characteristics. The overwhelming response was I believe, they hankered for open “parkland stye” landscapes with green grass and scattered large trees. An idealistic view perhaps? But not unlike what Ian Lunt described around Dunkeld and similar to the remnant Red Gum landscapes in the Upper Murray around Colac Colac and Maindample near Mansfield.
It may be that in the inter-generational psyche of western society there remains a memory of vastly different landscapes to most of what we see now. I would think that most Indigenous people would be saying to themselves, “when will they learn”.
Thanks for keeping the pot boiling on this critical issue.
Jacqui Durrant said:
Thanks for your kind words Foo. There is so much more that could be said in addition to this short essay, of course, but I imagine that after last summer’s bushfires, a lot of Aboriginal people would be asking when Australia will start to reinstate traditional fire management practices, among other things.