No simple twist of fate

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  • Published 20080808
  • ISBN: 9780733322839
  • Extent: 296 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

ON THE DAY we left Townsville for Bowen, a photo of soldiers wearing white hoods graced the cover of the Townsville Bulletin. On a bleak stretch of highway, we narrowly missed the debris of a freshly smashed semi-trailer. This was uncomfortable country. Closer to Bowen, green replaced brown in the rear-vision mirror as we sped by images of tourism kitsch. In the gathering mango plantations, we glimpsed roadside toilets labelled ‘Man-goes’ and ‘No Man-goes’. Driving into Bowen, the town seemed deserted, hot and dusty, its boulevard-wide streets testimony to the broken dreams of a magnificent future. Then, at the far end of Herbert Street, we saw our destination: the harbour – a perfect picture postcard of azure sea and sky fringed by white sand and wisps of cloud.

The harbour makes Bowen. Welcoming Hollywood to town in 2007 for the filming of Baz Luhrmann’s movieAustralia, Mayor Mike Brunker celebrated his ‘Gem of the Coral Coast’ as the site for recreating the port of Darwin in the 1930s. Lest the world misjudge the town’s tardy progress, he added that it was just lucky ‘the planets lined up’ to delay development of the foreshore. The harbour was the reason for the town’s proclamation in 1861 as the first port north of Rockhampton and the pipeline for men and goods to the new pastoral hinterlands. Today, this link is reversed as coal from the Collinsville mines pours into bulk carriers docked at the harbour’s deep-water pier destined for markets in Europe and Japan.

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