October – November

What a journey!

Completed my Expedition back at Sydney, several weeks ago.
As a finale, I visited the Grave of Major Thomas Livingston Mitchell, at the Newtown Cemetery. It was very moving to see his grave, in this beautiful site, tho I’m sure he would have preferred to have been buried in bonny Scotland.

My return journey through NSW was very different to most of the previous, as it mainly followed major roads, including the Hume Highway: having first been traversed by Hume and Hovell in 1824, then Mitchell in 1836, and soon after by the ‘overlanders’ flooding from Sydney in hot pursuit of the fine lands Mitchell had described in such glowing terms.

Once again, the contrast between Victoria and NSW was marked by much larger Land holdings / farms. Clearly, Victoria was more fertile, and had quite different settlement patterns. Travelling through Victoria, following Mitchell’s track, was far more often through small country towns, and along back lanes and roads – consequently, more interesting, and very pretty, verdant green in its’ Spring flourish.

It is amazing to think also, about the speed at which the lands had been ‘taken up’ by squatters and settlers. Sydney was beginning to swell with new emigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland & the Continent, so there was a huge thirst for new lands. To this end, Mitchell made a huge contribution. There are many elements to this colonial expansion, especially in regard to the Indigenous peoples. They were rapidly dislocated/ ‘dispersed’ from their ancestral lands. And about this, I feel terribly sad.

I believe it is very important to understand and embrace this aspect about Mitchell, and the early explorers / settlers. It was not a peaceful ‘settlement’, but a violent invasion, and needs to be spoken of in these terms. It is amazing to me, how ‘politely’ our society has defined and described this process : denigrating the Indigenous peoples, and eventually making them ‘invisible’. We need only to recognise the multitude of Aboriginal names of Places, to understand that the clans and tribes owned and cultivated all of the Land. Sadly also, the most fertile and productive sites- on waterways, etc, were most rapidly ‘taken up’, with the ancestral owners either killed, or ‘dispersed’. A profound Apology to this extraordinary and ancient culture and Peoples, for these terrible actions and outcomes.

Following the completion of my Journey in Sydney, I returned to Mount Canobolas and Boree. Soon after I was joined by an old friend and Botanist: Sandy Cochrane. We then spent a further 10 days on the road, revisiting some of the sites, to observe and record the ecology. It was fascinating to see the land, flora, fauna, and especially waterways. Having travelled through, initially in the autumn, soon after rain. Now to see it again in the Spring time, after a wonderfully wet winter. The changes were amazing: creeks, dams and waterways now brimming: singing and croaking with life. Many of the trees, previously struggling with the effects of prolonged drought, again beginning to flourish with new growth. Conversely, the weeds were also in abundance, with a purple haze over much of the country, due to Pattersons Curse blooming in all its’ glory.

And now, back in Castlemaine.
So much to do! I have immersed myself in the process of painting my Exhibition: quite a task as there is So much to say. and so many questions from the Journey to explore.

My fascination in Mitchell continues to grow, and I believe many of the answers to my questions lie in Mitchells’ ‘correspondence’ – he was a great letter writer. Fortunately, the task of researching these documents is made easier with the use of ‘search engines’, and that many of the documents, letters, and articles are held by our State Librarys. There is much research to do.

The Event of Major Mitchell –175 years. 1836 – 2011, also requires much organization. At this stage I am feeling a little overwhelmed by it all, and I hope to ‘come up for air’ quite soon.