Having travelled extensively in the Country of my birth. I felt as a photographer I would like to show a side of Australia that tourists rarely see. The working and gritty side of a commodity driven country.
I have used black and white for strength. I see much of Australia as time warped in the 19th century. Much of the attitude beyond the populated coastal regions is early 20th century to 1945 the 50s and 60s. When I left Australia the first time the population had not yet hit 10 million. Today it borders on 25 million and should continue to grow exponentially. However still most new comers cling to the coastal regions like clinging to the gunnel of a boat. Little effort has been made by successive governments to develop the interior of this vast continent Island for community growth.
The main development has been for short term commercial / profit driven gains. Such objectives have caused the plundering of one of the world’s great commodity reservoirs with little thought for the landscape or its inhabitants. Many will say irrigation is a problem however Australia has one of the great sweet water catchments of the world in the Great Artesian Basin covering in excess of 1/3 of the country.
The country suffers from lack of real communication infrastructure development, railways and roads. There has been too much profiteering by small groups in power that have been too quick to take the vast sums of corporate cash on offer by the multi-nationals that covert the buried riches of Australia. The country is the epitome of the good life for the few a promotion of the 1%. This issue manifests in the lack of of support for the farming communities, wildlife protection and the governments inertia related to fire seasons.
Still many commodity industries are producing as they have for the last 150 years through the blood sweat and tears of hard yakka (yakka Australian for work). As an example Australia produces 1/3 of the world’s wool this wool from the Merino sheep is of the finest micron quality on the globe. Although some of the micron quality ( not all ) has been purposely lowered for more cost effective Chinese manufacturing. Shearing still takes place in the shearing shed on the sheep stations as it has for 150 years. Many commodities are mined in small holdings by sweating miners sometimes working in dangerous conditions, Lightning Ridge, Coober Pedy, White Cliffs to name a few.
Some time ago I wrote a blog on the issues of bad water management in Australia. A country that many believe is one of the driest in the world. In fact Australia has one of the largest catchments on the globe of fresh water in the Great Artesian Basin covering a third of the country.
The Artesian Basin can be mapped from the top north through Queensland into New South Wales and the Northern Territory. Yet water from the Darling, Murray river system one of the greatest river basins in the world is being plundered. This water system covers 3,375 Kilometers (2,097 miles) in length. The Darling, Murray basin spreads out over 1,061,469 sq Km (409,835 sq ml). Water is being pumped out of this great river system at an alarming rate an example is Cubbie station Queensland the largest irrigation property in the southern hemisphere damming off from the Darling river system more water than is in Sydney harbour. This water theft continues along the entire system into South Australia with large properties pumping these great rivers dry in many cases to irrigate crops that are not natural to the country, cotton being one such crop. This mismanagement is placing pressure on the natural environment and indigenous commodities. In the 1800s and early 1900s this great river system was alive with water traffic, steamers carried passengers, wool and grain .
Today especially the Darling river it is lucky if a rubber bath duck could navigate the system. Management of the Artisian basin would not only take pressure off the great systems of the Darling and Murray it would also open the potential of the great Australian inland. The plundering of the two great rivers of Australia in currently a major issue of anger towards the federal and state governments especially from the smaller property stations that need fresh water irrigation along the system. There is also anger from the aboriginal community who own many of the river bank rights in Australia. There is a great feeling in the Aboriginal community that the natural environment is being plundered by an uncaring ethnic European government thus widening the gap between these two indigenous groups.
The issue of Water management in Australia is not dissimilar to the problems faced by communities along the Colorado River in the United States.
The Colorado River starts in Rocky Mountain National Park along the jagged edge of the Continental Divide at over 12,000 feet of elevation. The river cascades, flows, tumbles, and rumbles through 1,450 miles of mountains, canyons, high plains, and low deserts on its journey to the Sea of Cortez
in Mexico. The entire Southwest United States completely depends on the Colorado River and its tributaries – the states of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, and California use the river’s water for farming, drinking, growing lawns, and generating hydroelectric power.
Thirty million people in the Southwest use the Colorado River’s water for their material sustenance; millions more use the river itself for recreation and spiritual enjoyment. The river quenches our thirst, feeds our souls, enlivens our senses. And we are not the only inhabitants using this river – its waters, canyons, and habitats provide a vibrant but deeply threatened ecosystem for untold numbers of plant and animal species. All of these competing demands make the Colorado River one of the most contested and controlled rivers on Earth. Over the last decade, humans have drained all of the river’s water – all 5 trillion gallons – before it reaches the Sea of Cortez. The Colorado River is in very bad shape and deeply threatened.
To serve the needs of human populations, for the last decade the Colorado River has been completely drained dry by the time it reaches the Sea of Cortez. While the destruction of the river is a clear and obvious consequence of our actions, additional threats to the Colorado River – from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park, all the way to its dry destiny near the Sea of Cortez – are increasing with each tick of the clock.
Climate change is looming, population growth is escalating, more dams and diversions are planned, species are on the brink of extinction, oil/gas/mineral exploration near the river is increasing, and invasive species are continuing their march up and down the river and its tributaries.
The Save the Colorado campaign won’t be able to address all of these threats, but it’s important to tell the whole story and begin the critical work of restoration. http://savethecolorado.org/
As a species we are extremely bad at managing our natural resources.
Australia, the 11th wealthiest country in the world with a debt ratio to GDP of 31% far lower than the UK’s is underpopulated and lacks a cohesive tourist marketing plan Australia is a country of global interest that receives only 5 million tourists per year and many of those must be Chinese families visiting the growing Chinese diaspora living in the country .
A country of such vastness that all of Europe can fit into it has so much to offer in the way of wildlife, Art, History especially relating to the 1800s. The aboriginal community a historic longevity that few countries can offer, a continuous and cohesive society lasting longer than the ancient Egyptians and possibly the Chinese that can be traced back 50,000 years.
A historic social and artistic infrastructure that many races should envy.
Most marketing of Australia is aimed in a limited way at the English speaking world and tends to promote mainly beaches and the common knowledge icons, Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge Uluru /Ayers Rock warm beaches and the Barrier Reef.
There is however much more to Australia and current promotion does not illustrate the tremendous variations that this great country has to offer, the desert, the commodity industry, a country that supplies one third of the world’s wool,
Merino the finest micron wool in the world, the real history of the Aboriginal people.
Promotion tends to give a potted history of the Aboriginal never with the depth that illustrates the the evolution of these
accomplished people through the ages, the great literature that they have illuminated through storytelling, art and music. The cost of getting to Australia as a tourist from Europe can be high and once there travel around this vast country is not made easy for the visitor.Canberra the national capital has a long train trip to Sydney, Canberra to Dubbo (a major central NSW city) can only be accessed by car or bus. The bus only operating on Saturday and travelling to Dubbo via dozens of small towns. Car hire is expensive and usually carries anything up to a $5000 excess, insuring this excess can also be expensive. There seems to be a paranoia within the rental car industry that the car will be damaged or not returned. Also the cost can rise if the car is taken from one state to another. Such costs need to be looked at more closely.
There is of course the problem of many dirt roads a majority corrugated in the Outback not a plus for car suspensions unless . This does present a problem for rental car companies however there still needs to be a more tourist friendly rental structure. Australia has many rail arteries most now closed due to the lack of usage,When I traveled from the shores of my home country the first time there were only 9 to 10 million inhabitants, today that has increased to 24 million. This vast country could support many more. Controlled population growth brings many benefits, it increases the market size thus giving real reason for manufactures to exist as they have both export and home market. Australia lacks diversification and is dependent upon the commodities industry and the market fluctuations of pricing within that industry.
The Aussie Dollar is a commodity driven currency.
Car manufacturers have mostly pulled out of Australia even the iconic Holden is now manufactured overseas. Most business people will tell you that diversification is important in any business strategy if helps to flatten out the market controlling fluctuations.
Goods in Australia tend to move around by truck Road Train this is expensive and lowers the volume of product that can be moved quickly from manufacturer to consumer.
Many of the railway lines carefully constructed from the early 1900’s have been closed. The development of the interior has been neglected for lack of water yet 23% of the country is covered by one of the world’s great sweet water caches the Artesian Basin to this day greatly underutilized and still the 3 to 4 year droughts cause consternation or should I say constipation. Stretching from Cape York in the north, down to Dubbo and across to Coober Pedy, the Great Artesian Basin covers almost a quarter of the Australian continent, and contains enough water to cover the world over. Much remains to be known about this valuable resource that has enabled life in inland Australian to develop over thousands of years.
Look at the irrigated development of Israel and no Artesian Basin. The Darling Murray river system is being plundered without thought. Great rivers that once were busy arteries carrying paddle steamers transporting goods and passengers would be lucky to see a canoe.. Mines are closing even Broken Hill the beginning of Australia’s largest company Broken Hill Pty Ltd a region of more variation in differing mineral deposits than any other place on earth seems to be scaling back.
By 2050 the population is expected to reach 42 million. The infrastructure to cope with this increase needs to be kick started as soon as possible. I think that I pointed out in a previous blog that if Woolworth and Cole’s had waited until their current 18 million supermarket customers had been lined up in front of the first plot for the first complex they would never have reached the market saturation levels they have reached today. When reading papers on population growth and how the terrain can support the projected numbers what I find missing is projected figures based on future investment and development most papers only discuss the here and now, Australia needs some serous modeling put into place, such a vast country is a blank sheet of paper and possibly the world’s real last frontier.