My Country

Story Hub for MyCountry.

Its not really mine. MyCountry just refers to that ecleptic Australian landscape ranging from the tiny farming and coastal hamlets in Victoria’s south-west  named Killarney and Port Fairy,  to further eastward, away along the coast to Apollo Bay and Geelong and up northward to the hills of Ballarat  and even further into the tough country of the Wimmera and Mallee.

I say ecleptic because of the diversity of the areas.Gold mountains to sand dunes, quartz grounds to loamy, rich volcanic soils. Sandy swamps, fresh-water rivers to salty seas. Landmark mounts and abrupt ranges pushed up out of the earth by the extinct volcanoes now a tourist drawcard.  Limestone cliffs that skirt the Great Ocean Road to sand hills that sprung up as spits,  after volcano’s had done their damage and dropped the coast especially between Warrnambool and Portland bays.

Its an explorers paradise.

Some six generations of family have been and passed.

But there were other peoples there long before mine – the Indigenous Custodians who were robbed of hearth and home,  and who remain  still now constitutionally robbed of recognition of their rightful status.

We don’t own country, it belongs only to nature and we are mere borrowers Intime.

I love exploring the places family have been, and though much has changed it is the broad, rugged and often enchanting landscapes I love revisiting, to find and record their stories.

In the early 1970's students from St Patrick's school, Koroit planted trees inside the eastern ridge of Tower Hill,
In the early 1970’s students from St Patrick’s school, Koroit planted trees inside the eastern ridge of the extinct volcano that is Tower Hill, renewing the barren landscape stripped bare by settler folk in the century before.

I wonder how my tweener father felt, emerging from his familiar stomping grounds as an independent tip-truck operator in the misty, green hills of Apollo Bay to live his life out in the fertile volcanic flat lands surrounding Tower Hill.

I call his generation tweeners because they were born and raised between two world wars and were little children during the onerous Great Depression or teenagers in comparative poverty of the second world war.

A time where a cup was a tin can with a wire handle and young boys milked bare-footed to save their one and only pair of shoes for school.  Where school teachers belted children for not staying awake in class. Or young boys took to altar chores just to bring in a shilling here and there to supplement the family income. And where family sticking together  was made imperative by the hardships of life,  as well as bringing joy in the rough and tumble of large-family relationships.

I am curious how his parents felt and fared,  after moving their eldest few  children from the familiar mining grounds of Ballarat and the comfort of large families  to the tiny hamlet of Apollo Bay. A polio outbreak  and the want of employment seems to have been the impetus for the move, but its not easy to break away from family in an era without phones and TV’s and computers and the internet, and where the closest hospital is a couple of hours away even if you can find someone who owns a car, and can make the dangerous, winding trip through the Otways.

The want of employment literally sent one of my great-other uncles into an asylum,  after striking out on the  Kalgoolie goldfields over in the west, where like so many other Victorian’s he’d gone to seek his fortune and to escape the gerat 1890’s Depression. Even up until 20 years ago family were still trying to find what became of ‘Red Harry’.

And what about all the old folk, the great and the great great-grandparents, who made those lengthy voyages from overseas by boat, to start new lives in new countries where even the skyscape seemed upside down. To a country where people where held in open air gaols, or lived like Kings in grass castle albeit from bark huts and open plains.What where their experiences like. How can we learn from them and their adaption to landscape.

Take your pick , my mob  started arriving not long after the first mob of convicts rattled ashore, and they have been coming ever since . They were any nation, any religion and of walks of life.

Mycountry is just the place and space I like go wandering about, to see what those people saw and to know their story.

Its what changed, and what hasn’t changed that makes MyCountry so fascinating.

 

Extinct volcano Tower Hill,with Killarney and Port Fairy in the background. picture by Jenny Fawcett
Extinct volcano Tower Hill,with Killarney and Port Fairy in the background. Situated in a green triangle between Warrnambool, Koroit and Port Fairy on Victoria’s south-west coastline, Aust. picture by Jenny Fawcett
A painting of Tower Hill in 1855 by Eugene von Guérard. http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/conservation/eugenevonguerardtruenaturerevealed
A painting of Tower Hill in 1855 by Eugene von Guérard. http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/explore/conservation/eugenevonguerardtruenaturerevealed

 

Daniel Clark's Tower Hill, 1867. Source: Cowen Gallery, State Library of Victoria. http://gallery.slv.vic.gov.au/image.php?id=939
Daniel Clark’s Tower Hill, 1867.
Source: Cowen Gallery, State Library of Victoria.
http://gallery.slv.vic.gov.au/image.php?id=939

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