How to eat a wilderness

Featured in

  • Published 20150127
  • ISBN: 9781922182678
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

LATE JULY 1923, Newdegate district, Western Australia. It is not a sublime landscape, but beauty may yet be found in its intricate, fragile detail. The slender trunks of the merrit mallees glow pink in the light of the rising sun. Yellow-throated miners chase noisily in the upper branches, watched keenly by a brown goshawk in a nearby salmon gum. Below, between the melaleucas, a mallee fowl scratching in the sand finds a legless lizard and devours it in two gulps. Giant ants crawl busily around sandalwood stumps and emus drink from a shallow pool on a flat granite outcrop. A rabbit pauses beside a ti-tree not yet in flower, sits upright and delicately cleans its nose with its paws, much like a cat.

As the sun rises, the aroma of wood smoke and frying bacon mingles with the subtle scent of the eucalyptus and melaleuca. Soon the noise of axe biting into wood joins the chatter of the miners, the thumping of the buck rabbits. This is a landscape already bearing the imprint of colonisation, but about to undergo a more visibly dramatic transformation as government policy and popular aspirations together mobilise an army of settlers to eat away at the ‘wilderness’.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at

Share article

About the author

Andrea Gaynor

Andrea Gaynor is a professor of history at The University of Western Australia. Her books include Harvest of the Suburbs: An Environmental History of Growing...

More from this edition

The worm in the bud

ReportageI’M SITTING IN the climate-controlled archival room at the Battye Library in central Perth, reading through old Police Gazettes. With a fifty-year buffer maintained...

The man without a face

EssayBEFORE I WAS born, my family arrived in Western Australia from Europe and moved into a ramshackle brick house on three-plus acres in Kelmscott,...


GR OnlineIN 2013 A total of 429,000 Western Australians visited Bali, with more than a thousand arriving every day. Most were tourists, but a relationship...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.