A journey around Australia will bring the traveller in contact with some of the most interesting and creative art in the world, Indigenous, European descended , Road and Urban The first great artists of this stunning country where the Aboriginals dating back some 50,000 years. The creativity of this highly sophisticated people is now legendary. One fellow traveller meeting me by chance on an outback road told me ‘ Europe has history Australia has art’.
Many Australian outback centres have established artist’s names past and present associated with their local community some with international reputations, Albert Namatjira, Pro Hart , Howard William Steer, Arthur Boyd – worth seeing the Broken Hill desert sculptures. It would take some time to name all the talent that is and has created the Australian unique character.
Much of the art of Australia contains great humour of a real Australian Character. The vibrant hard colours of Australia make for strong clear work by artists. Ochres reds of the dust, blue of the never ending sky make for some of the most vivid images that can be recreated by artists. As you move away from the green coast travelling over the great dividing range the landscape moves from a light ochre to a ochre red dust and then to the red heart with the bright red dust covering the car. As you get to the red heart the sky becomes clear and cobalt blue.
This is what many Australian artists from the aboriginals to the humorists of the European descended art community depict somewhere in their art. Australia is a country close to the earth the aboriginals mixed earth colours the European community recreates those colours. The traveller looking closely will also discover the abundant road and community art of this incredibly creative country with its stunning landscapes and history of 50,000 years and the development of the second nation from the late 1700s to present day . Australia is a country of Artists.
I recently had the privilege of photographing and filming Kelpies working with Merino sheep the invitation came from Peter and Terrie L’Estrange, they are the owners of a station on the outskirts of Condobolin Central NSW called Belswick Merino Stud. I believe they have around 7000 acres running mainly Merino sheep including prize animals that are regularly shown at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney .
The Merino is of course the sheep that gave Australia its place in history as the leading wool producing country in the world. Wool production of Australia accounts for approximately 30% of world production.The Merino originally from central Spain (Castille). Its wool was highly valued even in the Middle Ages.
The fine micron quality of Merino wool gives this commodity its reputation as the highest quality of all wools.
Merino sheep introduced into Australia from Spain in the late 1700s and developed by Captain Macarthur in the early 1800s into the valuable commodity it has now become for Australia. The production of Merino wool adds some Aust $2 billion annually to the Australian GDP. From the 1800s it was generally accepted that Australia rides home on the Merino’s back. The droving and organising of the sheep has always been a hands on exercise however those hands do have assistants – the Kelpies.
Although different breeds of dogs work with sheep it is generally Kelpies that the the Australian stations use. These dogs tend to have great personalities and have an inbred desire to work and to organise.
The Kelpie tends to be a one man dog and is great with children if brought up in an environment with them. A good working dog is prized and can change hands for anything up to $30,000 Australian Dollars and as one station owner pointed out is worth 2 men. Watching the two drovers working with the dogs moving some 100 sheep around was an incredible experience. The handlers shouted orders to the dogs more or less indicating to them where they wanted the sheep to be directed. The dogs quickly respond to signals even to a glance. To see a sheep cut from the group and the speed of the dogs forcing the sheep to rejoin its mates gives an insight into how intelligent these animals are.
The Australian Kelpie is the most popular of working dogs and their agility gives them the ability to move around tightly packed sheep, see the dog in the photograph clearing the sheep by jumping them. They are workaholics easily trained herding is in their nature.
The workaholic nature and energy of this breed can be demonstrated by the image of the Station hand hosing the dogs down following an intensive working session. The dogs actually seek the cooling hosing when work is finished.
Boredom is the Kelpie’s worst enemy they are working dogs.
When travelling in Peter L’Estrange’s 4×4 one of the dogs Lucy sat between us. This particular dog is as pointed out the house dog and rarely leaves Peter’s side however she still needs to work and knows when he is preparing to move the sheep and more or less demands participation. She can be seen travelling on the back of Peter’s quad bike waiting for one of the flock to make a false move.
I recently finished a photographic tour of inland western and northern New South Wales my home state. its development has been an interest for me for sometime. What I found during this trip was a worrying trend of an’ I’m OK Jack’ culture..
Australia is a country that offers so much especially from it’s richness in commodities much of which it has a ready market for in China. The issues that worried me were ones of development and management. When I first travelled from Australia 40 years ago the country had a population of around 9 to 10 million, today it is 23 million mainly coastal inhabitants. However much of the wealth is not drawn from the coast but the Outback once the great dividing coastal mountain ranges are crossed. The country has the potential to be commodity self sufficient.
The potential for self sufficiency is confirmed by the amount of mines, farms, cattle ranches and sheep stations. Merino wool is still the world’s finest.
Much of Australia’s manufacturing industry has been lost, the final blows coming with the withdrawal of the car industry manufacturing including the Australian iconic Holden brand.
Union and government inability to see eye to eye and manage this incredible country has been a contributing factor. however having said this the attitude of the coastal Australian is one of ‘ let’s have another barbie and go to the beach’ few even realise that their farmers have failing crops due to lack of rain and many have had their land repossessed by greedy banks who don’t give a damn for the development of the country. The immediate quest for short-term profit seems to be the goal of many banks the world over. I have always said that ” banks that do not contribute to the management of society are irrelevant to society”.
A major contributor and hinderance to Australia’s development is infrastructure. Bring this up to most Australians and the retort is but we don’t have the money or people and to add we don’t give a damn, Taxing major corporations properly could change this issue. The only time that the average Australian will give a damn is when food and retail commodity prices hit totally unaffordable levels. Then their will be wailing and gnashing that the prices are too high and still it will take a term for the penny to drop that the farmers and commodity developers should have been taken care of.
Infrastructure there are many developing regional centres, you only have to look at the size of the supermarkets that have grown up in regional centres mainly Woolworths and Coles but now challenged by Aldi. These groups are the real business people and see the advantages and potential for growth. If you look at Spain and the infrastructure that is going into place in a country that has just gone through a major recession you have to ask why not Australia. The average myopic Australian would argue that Spain has a larger Population. The average European will say that Spain has ripped of the Euro Zone for that money – better than being spent on expenses by corrupt Euro politicians. Spain now has one of the finest high speed rail networks in the world after China. Link Sydney, Dubbo, Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and you will develop the interior of those states. Link Perth and you will develop Western Australia. Have the guts and the people will come. Getting a bus from the national capital Canberra to the major centre of Dubbo is a substantial exercise. Only one goes on Saturday and it goes through half of New South Wales.
Australia gets only 5 million tourists per year, half of those probably Chinese coming in and out to visit family; Spain gets 65 million, France 85 million and the UK 35 million. Now some would say that this is due to Australia’s isolation. I would however argue that the differential is too great and needs a closer look. Australians seem to be in cop-out mode. Promotion of Australia is mainly in English in the UK and yet the cross section of other nationalities in Australia has now become great indeed.
It is almost a no brainer to develop a rich country like Australia if there is a government without vested personal interests.The Australians are so limited in their thinking that unless they take action to manage this great country they will lose it. Already the Chinese own almost everything employing the Australians. Now I don’t have a problem with the Chinese investment in Australia without it the Australians would have bankrupted the country. The Chinese bring a lot of good things and should be welcomed. However when you own something and sell it you should retain a interest in what you have built especially as it is your main home.
The damage done to the Darling river and many other rivers adding to the mismanagement of water through the country. Once steamers travelled along the Darling river. Australia’s Artisian Bore covers 23% of the country one of the biggest water basins in the world yet it is not tapped properly in times of distress for farmers. The Snowy river scheme which was one of the engineering wonders of the world is not working properly and generating the irrigation that it should. Cubby station in Queensland dams off more water than Sydney Harbour contains. The South Australians are plundering the great Murray river without a management system in place
To get the development right you need a government with the will. , Link the great centres and the people will come; Australia has one of the best living possibilities in the World and could be the leading light in Asia.
Pelicans and Galahs these may seem strange creatures to use in the context that I’m about to write about; however In Aussie speak a pelican or a galah is a synonym for stupidity especially related to an action; ‘you pelican’ or ‘what a bunch of galahs’. Not totally fair on those exquisite creatures but what in this world is fair. Especially when it comes to the myopic views of our leaders who govern by vested interest many of a personal nature. I don’t presume to be a great expert on the Middle East, however I have spent sometime there on business and I would like to share some views.
Although an Australian with a trained photographic and creative background having held positions in major advertising agencies as a creative director including the then largest Young and Rubicam working on accounts such as Time Magazine, Time Life books, Michelin, Yamaha, Camel Cigarettes and later financial accounts such as Fidelity, Midland Bank, Royal Life, Eagle Star Insurance and others; by way of the creative world I drifted for a time into the financial sphere including eventually running and representing hedge funds. Some of the companies that I worked with during my time in the City of London were many of the most successful in the industry including a stint forming SECAVs in Luxembourg for the then second largest UK insurance company Norwich Union, SECAVs were a form of open-ended fund used mainly by the French, SECAFs being closed ended. I was IMRO(Investment Management Regulatory Organization) registered, now defunct a bit like me. The largest unit trust industry is in France but of course Luxembourg was then offshore using French fund structures. The position with Norwich union gave me the status of a General Manager in a mutual insurance company this equated to a director’s position. It was through producing creative work for city institutions that I learnt a great deal about how the financial world works.
During this period of my life I became an advisor on product development to the largest of the islamic banking groups Dallah Al-Baraka of Saudi Arabia. I was involved in the creation of a joint venture company between Dallah Al-Baraka and the Johor Bahru corporation of Malaysia locating the joint venture in Bahrain. I was included in their strategy in order to marry western fund ideas into the Islamic system.
My work in the Middle East brought me in contact with such institutions as ADIA(Abu Dhabi Investment Authority) and its associate ADIC plus many of the private departments of the Shaikhs including the private department of the then Life President of the Emirates Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan. I spent a considerable time working throughout the middle East including in Kuwait with the massive fund run by the Kuwait government under the KIO(Kuwait Investment Office). I made many Arab friends and found them to be one of the most hospitable of people.
However as a westerner having worked with Sharia committees made up of scholars who were not banking or financial people but religious academics and judges, I found that there are enormous differences in interpretation and implementation, it is these anomalies that have caused much misunderstanding between people. Couple this misunderstanding in the Islamic world with the total lack of understanding in the western world and the vested oil interests of the West and you have a formula for disaster. The history of the west in the Middle East has been one of planning only for the financial gains driven by oil. Not only has there been no respect for the differences of interpretation in the Islamic world but there was also no respect for tribal borders. Many borders were created on a divide and rule basis or on the premise of who was the strongest and who could be purchased the easiest and give added control to oil rich regions. Although not really an oil issue both Palestine and Israel have been caught up in this border or land manipulation. I believe strongly that both these groups should exist in their own states within their own borders. There is no doubt that the Palestinians have had a raw deal all people should have the right to exist. There is also not doubt that the Arab world could have assisted in the correction of this issue.
For centuries Arabs and Jews lived in harmony. During the medieval periods of the crusades the secular thinkers where in educated Islam. When the West was living in mud and cold castles cities such as Constantinople and Cordoba Spain(the two largest of Islamic cities) had street lighting – Islam was the educated world. Saladin rebuilt the Christian churches and synagogues and protected them following the fall of Jerusalem around 1187. At sometime a halt must be called to revenge, revenge creates more revenge and then the story is never ending destroying the future for subsequent generations.
The US is becoming more and more oil self sufficient and of course the large deposits of shale now being discovered in North America are adding to this independence. As the US pulls away from the Middle East the violence may intensify. Much of this violence will be about the realigning of borders back to their more legitimate pre-western involvement days, real tribal boundaries. The issues in the Middle East are much more than Sunni and Shia an easy Western simplification. The realigning of boarders is not a bad thing as smaller autonomous actor states are much more manageable than large continental groups. In most major countries there is considerable autonomy given to cities and individual states. The real problem is how do they live together with understanding and acceptance of differing ideas and opinions. To quote one of my uncles a successful academic who said ‘ variety is the spice of life’. It is difference that creates progress. Religion and lateral thinking should not be used as an excuse for hate and gain. The great prophets and thinkers would be horrified by much of our interpretation.
We can’t keep looking back and blaming the crusades, holocaust and remember the Russians lost 20 million people during WWII and the same again under Stalin. These debacles must be guides to help us construct a better future not a route to hatred. The next issue will be relating any relative DNA extension of Alexander the Great to some form of criminal activity that took place in 340 BC. Mind you I should not have mentioned this as once the legal fraternity gets hold of it dollar signs will appear and blame could be apportioned. Somewhere without the necessity to apologise we need to say enough is enough.
Because I believe in everything and nothing some have called me an atheist but how can you follow that doctrine atheism is an absolute and a close relative of fundamentalism, it means you know, agnostic is a much calmer interpretation. In the greater galactic scheme of things we are all small fry and much of our nonsense is irrelevant and damaging to our development as a successful species. Unfortunately many of our leaders are intellectual minnows, Pelicans and Galahs stuck in the muddy banks of dogma.
From the time of the arrival of the First Fleet under Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788 Australia has been developing a unique Character that makes Australians who they are today. A greater proportion of the people who came with the first fleet and subsequent fleets were transported and then given land grants. The growth of the colony was of up most importance and transportation key to the colony’s development. The Australian climate dictated the type of living structure that gave the best lifestyle. A climate hotter and dryer than England’s and Europe’s required the development of living structures with broad and low roofs creating a cool internal environment that would also hold heat during winter months.
It was the heat of this dry land that was mostly addressed by early settlers giving Australia the ‘Veranda Towns’. Towns with homes with broad verandas for enjoying those balmy evenings on, shops with cool shade giving awnings. This type of architecture really started to come into its own in the 1800s as settlers moved inland from Sydney, much of it still exits on a habitable basis today. All across Australia can be found towns with architecture straight out of a Western film set and houses with broad verandas. This architecture coupled with the Australian Landscape and the hard working people in the commodity driven industries, mining, wool, cattle and grain farming gives Australia a unique character that make Australians who they are today. It is the ‘Time Warp’ veranda towns of Australia that i found most interesting from a photographic point of view. Towns like Condobolin NSW, Braidwood NSW, Molong NSW, Wellington NSW, Cowra NSW, Sofala NSW, Bungendore NSW, Boorowa NSW Clunes Victoria, Ballarat Victoria
That self confessed capitalist Nick Hanauer wrote a most interesting piece ‘the Pitchforks are coming for us’. I also believe in the free market system however there are some worrying trends gaining momentum. The pressure to keep wages down, the continuation of cost cutting at the expense of workers and the middle classes. Mix these elements with the greed levels of a considerable number of the management elite and the massive year on year increase in living costs, political games over fuel and profit pressures along with low salary increases and you have a formula for disaster. It would seem that the political and management classes are moving towards a major own goal for society in general.There is no balance to the direction currently being taken by business and political leaders apart from maximizing profit for a select few.
We are moving towards a working class and middle class society that will not be able to afford proper living conditions. The gap between the working class, middle class and wealthy is widening at an alarming greed fueled rate. As a society we are fast reaching a stage where the classes below the extremely wealthy will not be able to sustain paying rising fuel, utilities and food bills. Without the less wealthy classes it will also be impossible for the wealthy classes to maintain themselves. Once you have a breakdown within the producing classes there is no production from which the wealthy can profit. You can add to this in an aging world population, poor pension performance and annuity rates all adding to a majority deprived of a reasonable lifestyle.
Once the greater population can’t sustain itself there will come more and more civil unrest and there will be only one of two outcomes total economic breakdown or a war – history repeats. I am not saying this is the current conclusion what I am saying is it is becoming imperative that our leaders get a strong grip on living costs and living income while curbing the greed levels of management. Nick Hanauer is correct push the producing classes to Banking Practices,a level that they can’t survive at and you leave the wealthy classes with no buyers and no profit.
In a changing and progressive Australia the towns small and large of the outback have retained the Aussie character. The large sloping roofs to protect against extreme heat, the verandas to sit out those warm evenings on. The pubs with their great beer and rustic 1800’s charm. You can almost feel the miners and drovers of old drinking in the bars.
Yet towns with young residents attracted by the money to be made in the wealthy commodities industries, a country rich in minerals wool, cattle and grain. Australia is a country driven by the land and a new breed of hunter gatherers. Towns with architecture stuck in the 1800s to 1950s, Architecture that shrouds the delicatessens and coffee shops selling panini with Mediterranean vegetables..
When I first left Australia to travel to Europe the country had a population of 8-9 million today it is 23 million and growing. In those days through a feeling of isolation it was the ambition of most young Australians to travel especially to Europe. Not so now the preference is to see Asia and not be too far from home. The country has grown sophisticated in communications and offers one of the highest lifestyles in the world. As a Chinese resident said to me “once Australia was a backwater but not so now”.
Most people know Australia by the traditional icons, Sydney harbour Bridge, Opera House, Uluru/Ayers Rock, long beaches with surfers, the Barrier Reef. There is another Australia that I grew up in travelling west inland from the east coast and northern Victoria. This region is where Australia began as people moved inland from Sydney and Melbourne in order to work and mine the land and is where much of the current exciting development is today.
When I first left Australia it was a country of 8 to 9 million people, today it is a nation of 23 million. A country rich in commodities, gold, tin, copper, bauxite, sheep, cattle (beef and dairy) and fine wines. I found large numbers of prosperous small towns, looking like something out of the wild west with their typical awning and veranda architecture stuck in a ‘time warp’ from the 1800s to 1950s, towns with young populations. Driving into a town full of period history and finding a delicatessen selling food products from all over the world and a coffee shop promoting panini with Mediterranean vegetables and of course the inevitable Chinese restaurant. Small towns with massive Cole’s or Woolworth’s supermarkets servicing the outlying sheep stations, farms, mines and now vineyards spread out over 1000s of kilometers from South Australia across NSW and into Queensland. Towns full of young people working in the the lucrative world of physical commodities. Australia is a country of growing importance and influence in Asia, a country that has become of great importance to the development of China.
The Chinese the greatest of trading people have seen the importance of this commodity rich country and have in great numbers began to call it home. While sitting in Condobolin a small sheep and mining town inland NSW, I was asked by a cousin what we should do tonight, “do you want a Chinese” he asked. Of course three shops in town, coffee shop, supermarket and Chinese restaurant. i should add there is always a pub selling great old and new beer. Most pubs in this region have a history dating from the 1800s. The Chinese are bringing real wealth to the country and are living alongside the Australians and easily integrating. Australia is a country in transition a country that is creating a new race of people who are developing and promoting its exciting commodity wealth. Sales of Merino wool are on the increase again. Merino wool the world’s finest wool in the past too expensive for the Chines market, however many sheep stations have lowered the micron quality and can now put this fine wool into a cost bracket that suits the Chinese market, allowing them to still brand products Merino.
There is so much life in the Australian outback its commodity wealth and its vast beauty from red ochre laced dust to the never ending cobalt blue skies. The wealth of this region is now attracting the young. I have added a quote I found on the the front of a pub in an outback town.
I currently live in London for business reasons, working as a photographer, am an Australian citizen and proud to call myself an Australian.