Saturday, August 15, 2009

Venturing into the interior of the State

I am off to Yalgoo and Paynes Find tomorrow (Sunday August 16), a couple of small towns north east from Perth to talk with residents and staff of the local Shire about the likely social impact of the Barnett's government proposal to force the amalgamation of small local government authorities. All part of a small consultancy project.

Its a long drive, some 6.5 hours through the central and north midlands, northern wheatbelt and into the Gascoyne. The countryside changes enormously from the Perth coastal plain, through the Ranges and Hill surrounding the city into the rolling hills around towns such as Bindoon, Toodjay and New Norcia. By the time you get past Moora the expanse of the Wheatbelt surrounds you and rolls on for hundreds of miles.

Its not until you are on the backroad from Morawa to Yalgoo that the landscape and countryside changes. Once you leave the Shire of Morawa and enter the Shire of Yalgoo the change is noticeable. All of a sudden you are into the Gascoyne, where the dirt is redder and the vegetation very different. Yalgoo is where the outback begins. Out there is a uniquely Western Australian and Australian landscape.

I am planning to take some non- fiction and poetry to read while I am out there as there is plenty of time at night in the small and very basic motels and hotel rooms. No Foxtel or in - house movies. So my poetry traveling companion is Judith Wright's Collected Poems, for there is no better poet writing about the Australian landscape. And Wright's poetry confronts the dilemma that is so present in the interior of WA - how can white Australia come to grips with Indigenous people's presence and circumstances and the history of dispossession, as well as a landscape that is both under immense pressure from its human inhabitants. This quote from an article by Gig Ryan captures something of the essence and power of Wright's poetry:
For Wright, poetry aspires to resolution, a treaty between the world and oneself. Yet Wright's poetry, perhaps like any great poet's, has conflict and paradox at its core, as Australia does also - love of a damaged country she can only possess uncertainly, and love of effortless nature which can only be claimed in her language .
I am also going to re- read Fiona Capp's deeply moving piece in The Monthly about the 25 year long relationship between Judith Wright and Nuggest Combs and a similar piece that appeared in Meanjin

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