Author(s): Michael Cathcart
The story of the settlement of Australia and how our culture has been shaped by the scarcity of water and by the need to fill the imagined silence of the continent with the sounds of civilisation. It's the story of who we are today as much as a history of how the country grew. From the moment the First Fleeters stepped ashore, water determined progress. The tank stream that flowed through what is now the Sydney CBD provided fresh water until settlers and their livestock fouled it. Then water carriers carted buckets from a nearby swamp, which was later piped, in a major feat of engineering, into the growing settlement. When it ran dry sights were set further afield. And so the story continued. Explorers followed waterways. Frontier battles between Aboriginal and white Australians were as much contests over water as they were of land. Grand irrigation plans and dreams were based on a notion that water was a resource to be exploited. This is an illuminating look at the ways people have imagined and interpreted Australia while struggling to understand this continent and striving to conquer its obstacles. It's an important work of environmental and cultural history with an unmistakable sense of how, today, we are part of that continuing story.