Feeding the world

NEVILLE SIMPSON IS not your typical cotton farmer. He doesn't hold a university degree, nor does he command tens of thousands of hectares. He doesn't have time for cotton-industry PR, and he doesn't talk fast. He's not American or British, and neither is his business.

He lives where he farms, on the Darling River near Bourke, and this alone tends to set him apart. He's elderly, softly spoken, with a slight western drawl, and takes any opportunity to make a self-deprecating aside about his farming expertise. He's reflective, not reactionary, and this is probably why the good journalists often find their way to him when they report from a town that has long represented the quintessential ‘rural' locale in the Australian popular imagination.

I met Neville two years ago, when a colleague and I drove to Bourke to undertake research in the library's local-history collection. We'd also planned to fit in some time walking the floodplains, as well as hiking and camping at Mt Gundabooka National Park.

Over the past two years, I have been travelling the Macquarie Marshes and Barwon-Darling country, researching the history of agricultural and conservation science. Speaking to people like Neville, and wandering through the country, offers the chance for a better understanding of rural place, agriculture and the environment than could ever be achieved by listening to headline-grabbing lobbyists, politicians and agro-industrial input suppliers – those who say they speak for and want to improve the lot of farmers and rural communities, but who are motivated by a desire for votes and money, and who are working on a national or international scale, not an ecological or bioregional one.

Take the National Party's John Cobb, the Shadow Minister for Agriculture. ‘Why has the Rudd Government declared war on the town of Bourke?' he asked, after the British-owned Clyde Agriculture sold the iconic Toorale Station to the federal and New South Wales governments  in 2008. Toorale, at the junction of the Warrego and Darling rivers, is conspicuous for its squattocracy and corporate-farming heritage, as well as for being the place where Henry Lawson spent a month working as a rouseabout in 1892. The federal government has taken Toorale's water entitlements, and NSW National Parks is managing the 91,000 hectares of land. According to Cobb, the outback community of Bourke, sixty kilometres upstream from Toorale, was ‘sacrificed to the environmental green-shoe brigade' by a government that ‘couldn't care less about the future of regional Australia'.[1]

Bourke shire councillors, vying for re-election in the weeks following the purchase, staged a rally protesting against the government's actions. Their scaremongering spread fear in a community already doing it tough. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the local newsagent was ‘petrified' for the future of the town.[2]John Cobb described the purchase as an ‘anti-rural-Australia act'.[3] Inevitably, a well-worn political catch-cry appeared in media comments: if the government was putting the rural sector out of production, instead of supporting it, how could Australian farmers continue to ‘feed the world'?


THE GOAL OF feeding the world is an admirable one, but it does not reflect the reality of Australian farming. Most of Australia's wheat and meat are exported, and this has become the basis for a national myth, a comforting narrative that sees golden harvests and choice cuts being shipped and distributed to hungry mouths across the world. In 1925, the leading Australian meat-industry figure John Cramsie declared that the development of the ‘unoccupied northern areas' presented an opportunity to ‘feed the world with beef'.[4] The prominent doctor and journalist Edward Gault gave an address in 1943 arguing that Australia should not only feed India and China, but ‘it should be a permanent measure for us to feed the world as a whole.'[5] After the sale of Toorale Station in 2008, the Nationals' leader, Warren Truss, told parliament: ‘We cannot keep taking properties out of production and expect to meet our obligations to provide food to the world.'[6] Paul Myers, a former editor of The Land, wrote an editorial about agriculture and Toorale for theSydney Morning Herald, asserting that Australian farmers ‘contribute significantly to global nutrition'.[7]

In fact, Australia contributes less than 2 per cent of global food production. In 2004, Australian-grown wheat and other cereals accounted for just 1.39 per cent of the world's grain production.[8] It is a similar story for Australian meat, which provides 1.45 per cent of the world's share,[9] and for fruit and vegetables: a tiny 0.4 per cent.[10] These United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statistics have been consistent for the past quarter of a century. Consider, too, that most of our food exports are premium products, and we sell nearly half of all our export produce to just five rich nations: Japan, South Korea, the UK, New Zealand and the USA.[11]

Why have rural lobbyists talked about feeding the world when it is clear that Australian agriculture makes a very minor contribution to world food production, and hence has no significant role in nourishing the world's poor? Because, throughout the history of settler Australia, we have valued the social function of agriculture over its utilitarian function. We have cared more about the culture, character and work of agricultural production than the actual food and fibre it produces. That social function is being reassessed, and the role of agriculture in Australia might change – again.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the settler project was in a dire state. ‘The promised land was about to forget its promise,' Geoffrey Blainey wrote in A Land Half Won (Sun Books, 1983).[12] The pastoral industry had collapsed and economies sank into depression. Inland villages, in the words of one writer at the time, were left ‘sun-devoured and sand-swept'.[13] The colonies began losing their populations through emigration. Whenever the coast-hugging settlers turned their gaze toward the great interior plains, they glimpsed broken country, bloodshed and extinction. They saw skulls pierced with blunt lead bullets, ribcages cracked open with heavy spears, red country littered with ringbarked timber and the desiccated carcasses of millions of sheep, claypans, silted creeks and sagging slab huts; they saw the material remains of initial hopes and land lust bleached by an unrelenting sun. For governments, the frontier quickly became a liability; for pioneering colonisers, it was a path to ruin.

Governments needed to redeem the settler project, and agriculture based on scientific principles emerged as an unexpected solution. The idea that agriculture could play a significant role in the development of the colonies had been largely abandoned as settlers focused on mining and pastoral pursuits. Few people thought agriculture could pay in such a dry climate, with such a small population and long carting distances. In 1892, William Wilkins, the Under Secretary for Public Instruction, wrote a fifty-page treatise on agriculture in New South Wales, which began, ‘It was a maxim of ancient statecraft that the food supply of the people should be raised within its own boundaries.'[14] Wilkins went on to comment, however, that imperial relationships and international trade had rendered this obsolete. New South Wales, following Britain, could import its food. Although Wilkins was an advocate of agriculture in Australia, he cautioned that the necessary economic conditions must exist before agriculture could succeed.

At the same time as Wilkins was writing, there were others for whom the social function of agriculture was more important than any economic constraints it might face. The New South Wales colonial government established the Department of Agriculture in 1890 and, sixteen months later, the department reported on its operations. The report detailed the prizes being offered to farmers. These were judged not simply on yield or quality of produce, but on the ‘cleanliness' of the land, and the general ‘neatness and suitability of their house and farm buildings'.[15] The department saw in this work the opportunity to foster a moral sensibility. Its goal was to ‘raise Agriculture in New South Wales to the proud eminence as an honourable calling and an exact science which it has long enjoyed in the most highly civilised countries of the Old World'.[16] The developing field of scientific agriculture could deliver a new class of technically educated, semi-professional workers and small landholders for the new century. It would be a mode of production more suited to a modern state than squatting or mining. Agriculture promised to return civilisation to the frontier.

Further shifts and expansions in the social purpose of agriculture occurred over the twentieth century. In the 1920s, agriculture became a reward for returned soldiers; towards the end of World War II, the hope that agriculture could increase Australia's population became vital to a government worried about invaders from the north; and in the 1960s, a productionist approach to agriculture was supposed to increase Australia's export income.

In How a Continent Created a Nation (UNSW Press, 2007), the historian Libby Robin examines the ‘battler' ethos that emerged in this period. Robin shows how it was founded on a perception of the Australian environment as hostile and useless, and hence why the moral character of those who battled the land and made it grow European commodity plants was revered. The ethos was the basis of Australian national identity and culture for much of the twentieth century.[17]

Values about the Australian environment are changing. Some of us are slowly abandoning the ‘biological cringe', as Robin put it, and the continent is becoming unique and diverse. The environmental scientists David Lindenmayer and Mark Burgman, in Practical Conservation Biology (CSIRO Publishing, 2005), describe Australia as a continent in need of care, even in farm paddocks.[18] This has undermined the moral basis for agriculture in Australia.

The battler myth holds less currency now, and many sections of Australian society – from environmental activists to farmers struggling with debt – have asked what the social benefit of agriculture is. In response, agribusiness lobbyists and rural politicians deploy the ‘feed the world' slogan. What could be a more important moral imperative than feeding the world's poor?

Paul Myers, the former Land editor and now a freelance journalist, tried this line of argument in a column in the Sydney Morning Herald in April 2009. He suggested changing the word ‘agriculture' to something else, because ‘agriculture is no longer sexy'.[19] In his opinion, this will help the world's undernourished, because agro-industrial farming could then get on with business as usual, without input from ecological scientists, economists, policymakers and the people farmers depend on, consumers of food. In short, Myers argues for retaining the current structure of commodity agriculture without dialogue or co-operation.

Commodity agriculture is much more fraught than this implies. Marcel Mazoyer, a professor of agronomy at France's National Agricultural Institute and the author of A History of World Agriculture (Earthscan, 2006), writes that international agricultural commodity markets are ‘residual markets glutted with surpluses that are often difficult to sell'.[20] They are only a small share of world production, so they are not true global markets, but they have flow-on effects in local markets. Australia participates in a system of agricultural commodity trade between rich nations that disadvantages the poor and the hungry. Real food prices, despite the spike in 2008, are at historic lows – yet 850 million people suffer severe undernourishment, meaning they don't have enough food to cover basic energy requirements. Counter-intuitively, low food prices worsen the situation of the world's poorest people. This is because, according to the FAO, three-quarters of the world's undernourished are farmers or rural workers, and the lowering of world food prices through public subsidies for agriculture in rich nations pushes these farmers into extreme poverty.

Jean Ziegler, the UN's Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, observes, ‘You can go to the Dakar market [in Senegal] and find Spanish, French, German and Italian fruit and vegetables at half or one-third of the[ir] local prices.'[21] Farmers in developing nations struggle to compete with highly subsidised commodities dumped on international markets. It becomes more difficult to raise enough money to maintain the family farm, to replace necessary equipment such as shovels and hoes. Often, desperate farmers try to extract more from their land and resources, and revert to low-capital methods of cultivation such as slash-and-burn, leading to environmental degradation. With deteriorating tools and declining resources, their surpluses diminish, and farmers are often forced to sell increasing portions of the food that they would normally keep for their family.[22]

Eventually, these farmers lose their land and join the remaining third of the world's hungry: the urban poor. The current system of agricultural commodity trade creates a situation where low prices are detrimental to two-thirds of the world's undernourished people, while high prices are detrimental to the other third in urban slums. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forecasts that if food prices spike again as they did in 2008, this will improve the income of farmers, agricultural workers and local economies as a whole in countries with large agricultural populations, such as India, Peru, Kenya and Sri Lanka. But countries such as Egypt, Nigeria and Haiti, with less agriculture and high populations of urban poor, will suffer.[23] A spiral begins – of social and family breakdown, environmental degradation and landlessness, poverty and hunger. In this system, markets alone are ineffective in combating historical inequity and injustice.


THAT THE LOBBYISTS never say directly is that the system of global agricultural commodity trade that they advocate, the system that disadvantages the world's poor and hungry, also does little to benefit the majority of Australian farmers. This is where Neville Simpson, at Bourke, comes in. He's not a typical cotton grower – his farm is not a subsidiary of a multinational company – but the shape of his story is familiar. It is not a particularly bad story, but it is common among Australia's family and small farms.

We were introduced to Neville by chance. A local pastor, interested in history, offered to take us to meet one of his parishioners. He said the parishioner was a long-time resident and farmer in the district, and would be a good source of stories and information about changes in the Darling environment. The pastor called ahead. Neville was attending a wake but would be home soon, and the pastor assured us that visiting wouldn't be a problem.

On the way out of town, we noticed a police car parked on the lawn in front of a weatherboard house, red and blue lights flashing, prompting the pastor to express concern about trouble in Bourke. On the highway, we drove past bleak rows of citrus tree stumps, cut in an effort to save them during the drought. There was scarred earth nearby, where others had been ripped out. Then we made our way into the distinctive corduroy fields of cotton country, their laser-levelled furrows converging in the distance.

Our initial awkwardness at arriving after a funeral was overcome when Neville's wife introduced herself, asked us in and offered homemade lemon cordial. At the back door, we stepped around a knee-high pile of lemons – part of a local farmer's surplus that hadn't made it to market. We took chairs on the front veranda, overlooking the black soil plain and a line of red gums marking the banks of the Darling. We all held tall glasses, sipping the sweet, cool drink. The hand Neville used to grip his was arthritic; the skin on his face was flecked with sunspots, red capillaries and other marks. His appearance spoke of years of hard work.

It wasn't long before he started telling stories about his life and about farming in dry country. He was born in a boundary rider's hut, and his parents worked a run in the red country between Bourke and the Queensland border. A ‘starvation block', he called it. Wool prices declined steadily after the Korean War, and grazing in that dry scrub country was too much for Neville. He sold up with just enough money to move to town. When he had the opportunity to purchase land on the Darling in 1970, he jumped at the chance. It was a smaller block than he'd been on before, but it was rich black soil and close to the river. These characteristics, he thought, would ‘drought-proof' his farming.

His idea was to grow feed for cattle, as beef was doing much better than wool. He planted lucerne but most of it didn't come up, and what did was no more than an inch high. He had no experience of cropping or irrigation. ‘I made every mistake in the book,' he said, chuckling. Americans had recently bought land next to Neville, but they couldn't get a license to irrigate the cotton they wanted to grow. They saw Neville struggling, and said if they could lease some of his land and water they would teach him how to irrigate. That's when Neville was introduced to cotton.

In the 1890s, a government experiment farm had trialled cotton irrigation with artesian water at Pera Bore, twenty kilometres west of Bourke, but not in commercial quantities. No one else was irrigating the modern way in that region, treating cotton like an annual, and there was a lot of trial and error. They would benefit from a generous bounty that the government was paying to encourage farmers to go into cotton production, but they had to get a decent crop first. While they struggled to develop the cotton, Neville did contract farming for Edgell, the premium food company. With Bourke's climatic conditions being different to traditional horticultural areas, Edgell could ‘keep the factory running all year round', providing supermarkets and consumers with the same commodity foods regardless of season.

Neville and his family planted potatoes, but the bagging machine designed for European soils couldn't distinguish between a potato and a clod of black soil-clay. It bagged more clods than potatoes. He tried tomatoes and grew a lush crop, but after they were packed, the western heat turned them to mush and they ran out the bottom of the crates. Neville's wife was heavily involved in their melon-growing venture, shipping 100,000 cases a year, but the market changed and labour costs were high, so it became unprofitable.

When cotton started paying in the 1990s, with the right varieties, technology and prices, it brought in a lot of cash. It became the saviour of Bourke. The British-owned Clyde Agriculture, the company that recently sold Toorale, built massive off-river water storages and irrigated tens of thousands of hectares of cotton. Irrigators joined the ranks of community leaders and, as the historian Heather Goodall notes, displaced many pastoralists.[24] Neville and his neighbours expanded their cotton operations. Bourke was no longer running on welfare. That was until everyone upstream wanted to get in on cotton, too – that was, until this drought.

When I spoke to Neville, the drought had been going for five or six years, and he hadn't received any income for the past two. ‘Now we're broke again,' he said, with his palms out. He managed a grim smile, but there was sadness in his voice. His family had had enough, but no one wanted to take on their property. Once conditions were good again, they'd look at selling.

Neville illustrated his story with a worn sepia photo of wool being carted on a massive dray at his father's run, an almanac of Australia with the years that Bourke was in drought carefully bookmarked, and a thin sheet of fax paper with the daily cotton prices, which he still monitored even though he didn't have a crop.

Later, I read in a collection of Indigenous oral history from the Bourke district that Neville had earned respect among the labourers and cotton chippers who worked on his property. One worker spoke about Neville giving his precious household rainwater to the chippers, commenting that he was the ‘only cotton grower' who did that.[25] Perhaps Neville wasn't as distant or ruthless as corporate cotton growers; perhaps farming isn't just about money.

We need to be honest about the role agriculture plays in Australia and start developing support for a fairer system for Australian farmers, the environment and farmers in developing nations. Trying to force a productionist culture of farming isn't benefiting many people.

Neville Simpson's story maps the fortunes of Bourke. Cotton ended up like all the other commodity industries that promised wealth and ended in ruin: first, squatting and wool; then the meatworks, which took over for a while, but whose factory building stands derelict at the edge of town. Locals give different reasons for cotton's demise. Some agree with Senator Bill Heffernan when he says the water stops at the Queensland border now; others say it was never going to last long when dependent on a river as variable as the Darling. Neville doesn't blame Queensland, or any other upstream irrigators lured by the promise of cotton. Instead, he says, ‘When it rains, the river flows.'

As we were preparing to leave the property, Neville, his wife and the pastor stood under the carport and spoke gravely. ‘Looks like we had a suicide in town today,' one said. That's what the police had been attending when we saw them earlier. The conversation moved on to the hardship of mental illness, and the need to ensure the community received the support it requires.

The owner of the motel I stayed at on a subsequent trip to Bourke mentioned she was sad about another suicide. The black dog stalks Bourke.


AUSTRALIAN FARMERS ARE among the least-subsidised farmers in the OECD, but they compete against highly subsidised commodities on international markets.[26] They benefit from access to machinery and research, but the inputs are high and the profits marginal. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for 2006/07 show nearly one-quarter of Australian farms had an annual production value of less than $22,500, and nearly half brought in less than the average male full-time wage of $57,000.[27] Some farms do well. Around two-thirds of cotton farms had agricultural operations worth more than $500,000 for the year; but, as Neville's experience shows, not even cotton is reliable, and water is over-allocated in our stressed, life-giving river systems.

In a report commissioned by the FAO, Marcel Mazoyer found that only enterprises with the capital to continually find new competitive advantages can survive in a market where prices are artificially driven down.[28] Often this means ‘externalising' costs to the environment. Frank Vanclay, a professor of rural sociology at the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research, says Australian farmers either make do with less, ‘flog the land' or sell. He argues that the emphasis on restructuring the rural sector in line with ‘economic rationalism', and neglecting support for the many values and functions of Australian farming, results in social hardship and environmental degradation.[29]

The ways of tackling world hunger can appear hopelessly contradictory. If food prices rise too quickly, millions more of the urban poor plunge into a position of food insecurity and near starvation, yet subsidies that drive down the prices of a few market commodities in wealthy nations destroy the livelihoods of two-thirds of the world's starving people. If public subsidies are withdrawn from the farming sector in some wealthy nations but not others, the small and medium farmers who lose subsidies end up in relative poverty. Providing public subsidies can keep ‘bad' farmers in businesses and contribute to environmental degradation, but taking away subsidies can lead to extra pressure to extract more from the land, and cause environmental degradation. All such scenarios of interrelated failure rely on the market alone to solve political, historical and cultural problems.

Scarcity of food is not the reason that millions of people around the world suffer. There is enough food, but the current structure of global food production is inequitable and strongly guarded by the few who benefit. In July 2008, amid the price spike in international commodity markets, the world's third-largest pesticide and seed company, Syngenta, released a media statement, ‘Hungry mouths to feed: The role of Australian farmers in finding a global food solution'. It played on empathy for the world's poor and hungry to sell the company's products to farmers who only contribute a fraction of global food production. It pointed to food riots in developing countries and tried to elicit the perception that wealthy nations need to produce more food to solve the problem of world hunger. It played on the goodwill of Australian farmers, and urged them to buy chemicals, with statements such as, ‘Australian farmers will need to better their existing rate of productivity improvement (and importantly yield improvement) in order to stay a step ahead of growing demand.' Journalists could email Syngenta to obtain a photo of Syngenta's general manager, Paul Luxton, with the caption ‘Australian farmers who embrace new technology can help ease the current world food crisis.' [30]

The Swiss professor of sociology Jean Ziegler, in a report for the UN, cited FAO data that shows the world already produces enough food for its current population, and ‘easily' up to twelve billion people.[31]Alternative modes of producing and distributing food that move toward a more equitable system, such as fair trade and food sovereignty, can be hard to imagine as global alternatives, because we haven't seen them functioning on that scale yet. We can end up feeling overwhelmed by the weight of historical injustice, the power of vested interests, and our flawed relationships with non-human nature.

However, the American farmers Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton, in A Nation of Farmers (New Society, 2009), argue that wealthy nations have an obligation to begin changing the current structure of agricultural production and the global commodity trade. They argue: ‘Beginning from the assumption that greater equity is impossible naturalises disaster – it says that the reason people starve is because we can't do anything about it, and it makes it easy for us to wash our hands of the whole project of justice.'[32]

While global poverty and hunger can seem too complex and so large-scale that we feel disempowered, we do know about Australian farming; and we know that changing the current system of agricultural production in wealthy nations is a first step towards allowing farmers in developing nations to feed themselves, and a first step towards making a meaningful contribution to the injustice of world hunger. In Australia, we can start to think about a system of ‘regenerative agriculture'. George Main, in Heartland (UNSW Press, 2005), suggests we undertake this because it ‘acknowledges a painful history of suppression, fragmentation and disorder. Connectivity is acknowledged and nurtured.'[33]


LANDHOLDERS AT THE Macquarie Marshes have already started to turn their backs on productionist agriculture. In August 2008, a month before the federal and NSW governments purchased Toorale Station, these governments bought part of Pillicawarrina at the Macquarie Marshes, another historic property. There were no rallies in the nearby towns of Warren, Quambone or Carinda. Most landholders reacted positively to the purchase: they know the Marshes can't survive without water. They know the environmental degradation and social hardship associated with the current system of industrial agriculture threatens the long-term viability of agriculture itself.

The state needs to play a major role. It is not fair to outsource environmental problems to individual farmers. Most of the Macquarie Marshes are private land, and this necessitates dialogue between reserve managers and private landholders in the complex, interconnected ecology of the floodplain wetland. They are moving beyond a simplistic opposition between production and protection.

At Toorale, National Parks have assigned four rangers to oversee the management of the land. That means up to four families will be living there; when Clyde Agriculture owned it, there was only one resident family. The National Parks staff at Bourke are generous and capable. Many are traditional owners in the western area, and this adds another dimension of expertise and experience.

In 2008, I travelled to Bourke with the anthropologist and ethicist Deborah Bird Rose, and we spent three days with Phil Sullivan, a traditional owner and National Parks officer. Phil is working on a research project to collect and publicise Indigenous values for water. He is ensuring that Indigenous people have a say in the management of rivers, because ‘water is life'. For too long, he says, non-Indigenous culture has separated the human world from nature.[34] He is working to restore relationships of care and mutual benefit.

Similarly, in an article in The Economist, the head of an Indigenous organisation in Bourke said he is excited about the opportunity to get back on country at Toorale, to work with the National Parks officers identifying and preserving sites. He added, ‘I hope that one day a community like Bourke will be run by Aboriginal people.'[35] Hope is returning to Bourke.

Regenerative agriculture, the dialogue between state reserve managers and private landholders in the Macquarie Marshes, the culture-changing work at Bourke: all are a different way of thinking about the Australian environment. Deborah Bird Rose, drawing on Levinas, uses the phrase ‘nourishing terrain' to describe Indigenous relationships with, and notions of, the environment. She has written, ‘Country is a living entity with a yesterday, today and tomorrow, with a consciousness, and a will toward life. Because of this richness, country is home, and peace; nourishment for body, mind, and spirit; heart's ease.'[36]

That is a much more appealing position than a system which results in ecological degradation, stress and fear, poverty and hunger. Since Rose wrote this, in a report for the Australian Heritage Commission in 1996, the concept of nourishing terrains has been widely quoted, from land managers to historians and geographers. It might become the way Australians understand their environment. The function of agriculture would have to conform to this way of seeing, living and working. Perhaps the Australian experience could even be something that other wealthy countries exporting agricultural commodities could learn from.


IN FEBRUARY LAST year, Bourke received two hundred millimetres of rain in one day, two-thirds of its annual average. The town flooded, not because of the Darling River, but because of the sheer volume. The footage on TV, two months later, showed the country around Bourke in the best condition I'd seen it for years – a good time, it seemed, for Neville Simpson to sell up and move on.

I called Neville recently to see if he had made a decision. He sounded weary over the phone. Just before last year's rain the bank had forced his family off the farm. His water license had been permanently reduced without compensation, and the bank withdrew its backing. At eighty, he walked away with no assets. He had put every cent he made back into the property. ‘It was bad management on my part: I should have bought a unit on the Gold Coast,' he said wryly. Before the drought the farm was worth around ten million dollars; now he is living on the pension. Fortunately a family friend put him and his wife up on their property thirty kilometres outside Bourke.

Neville's son, who had also lived on the farm and had shared the debt, now has a permanent job with the shire council. He has taken out a loan to build a small house in Bourke. Neville said he has found security in old age. The family will live together again when the house is finished.


[1] John Cobb, ‘It's About People – So Why Has Rudd Declared War on Bourke Community?' Liberal Party of Australia,

[2] Daniel Lewis, ‘Town Pushes to Keep Toorale Alive,' Sydney Morning Herald, 17 September 2008, 5.

[3] ‘Opposition Brands Toorale Sale "Anti-Rural",' ABC News,

[4] ‘Meat Shortage: North Australia's Great Opportunity,' Northern Territory Times and Gazette 1925, 2.

[5] feed the world as a whole

[6] Simon Grose, ‘Hungry Planet,' About the House, March 2009, 28.

[7] Paul Myers, ‘Remember, Farmers Feed Us All,' Sydney Morning Herald, 3 April 2009, 13.

[8] FAO Statistics Division, ‘Table B1: Production of Cereals and Share in World,' Food and Agriculture

[9] ---, ‘Table B2: Production of Meat and Share in World,' Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

[10] ---, ‘Table B3: Production of Fruits and Vegetables and Share in World,' Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

[11] Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Australia), 'Australia's Top 10 Agriculture Export Destinations,'

[12] Geoffrey Blainey, A Land Half Won, Rev. edn. (Melbourne: Sun Books, 1983), 318.

[13] Ernest Favenc, ‘Unfulfilled Dreams of Australia,' Sydney Morning Herald, 23 November 1901, 6.

[14] William Wilkins, Agriculture in New South Wales, Commission for the World's Columbian Exposition (Sydney: Charles Potter, Government Printer, 1893).

[15] Department of Agriculture (New South Wales), ‘Report Regarding the Operations of the Department of Agriculture During the First 16 Months after Its Inception,' in Miscellaneous correspondence [Department of Agriculture] 1886-93, NRS 51 (Kingswood: State Records NSW, 1891), 16.

[16] Ibid., 22.

[17] Libby Robin, How a Continent Created a Nation (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2007).

[18] David Lindenmayer and Mark A. Burgman, Practical Conservation Biology (CSIRO Publishing, 2005).

[19] Myers, ‘Remember, Farmers Feed Us All,' 13.

[20] Marcel Mazoyer, ‘Protecting Small Farmers and the Rural Poor in the Context of Globalization,' Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,

[21] Christi van der Westhuizen, ‘Food for 12 Billion. So Why Did 854 Million Go Without?,' Inter Press Service News Agency,; Jean Ziegler, ‘Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development,' Human Rights Council of the United Nations,

[22] Marcel Mazoyer and Laurence Roudart, A History of World Agriculture: From the Neolithic Age to the Current Crisis (London: Earthscan, 2006).

[23] Loek Boonekamp, ‘Food Prices: The Grain of Truth,' OECD Observer 2009, no. 267 (2008),

[24] Heather Goodall, ‘The River Runs Backwards,' in Words for Country: Landscape & Language in Australia, ed. Tim Bonyhady and Tom Griffiths (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2002).

[25] Gillian Cowlishaw and Robert Mackay, Bourke: Our Yarns (UTS ePress, 2008),

[26] OECD Members Pay $283bn Farm Aid,' BBC News,

[27] Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘Agricultural Commodities 2006-07,' in Agricultural Commodities, Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008).

[28] Mazoyer, ‘Protecting Small Farmers.'

[29] Frank Vanclay, ‘The Impacts of Deregulation and Agricultural Restructuring for Rural Australia,'Australian Journal of Social Issues 38, no. 1 (2003).

[30] Syngenta Crop Protection, ‘Hungry Mouths to Feed: The Role of Australian Farmers in Finding a Global Food Solution,' Syngenta (Australia),

[31] Ziegler, ‘Promotion and Protection.'

[32] Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton, A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil(British Columbia: New Society, 2009), 218.

[33] George Main, Heartland: The Regeneration of Rural Place (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2005), 245.

[34] Deborah Bird Rose, ‘Wounded Rivers,' Ecological Humanities,

[35] ‘The Australian Outback,' The Economist,

[36] Deborah Bird Rose, Nourishing Terrains: Australian Aboriginal Views of Landscape and Wilderness(Canberra: Australian Heritage Commission, 1996), 7.

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