Sixty-five people turned out at Robin Ballinger’s talk on the environmental history of Forest Creek on 8 September. Robin used many early documents and maps to demonstrate the interaction between the indigenous people, squatters, goldminers and the local environment.
She outlined the early geological history of the Forest Creek and the relationship between the Aboriginal people, the Dja Dja Wrung, and the land prior to white settlement. Robin then described the impact on the landscape and the Jarra people of the mass influx of squatters which followed the 1838 publication of Major Mitchell’s diaries.
This pastoral development was followed by the gold rushes and the devastation of Aboriginal life continued. Gold mining had an enormous impact on the landscape in a very short time. However, while in 1852 there were 25,000 people, by 1854 Forest Creek was virtually deserted. The easily-obtained gold had all but gone.
From the 1850s onwards, the actual course of Forest Creek was changed. The creek was straightened to facilitate mining operations and reduce flooding in the town. The emphasis continued to be on controlling the creek, not controlling mining. An 1871 report emphasised this utilitarian approach to the environment. Revegetation was advocated to address the forest devastation noted in this report but only because future mining operations would need timber.
Robin also drew attention to the conservation efforts that began in the 1930s and continue to this day. She concluded by raising the question of what exactly are we trying to preserve given that we cannot hope to restore Forest Creek to its original state.
The talk was the last of the three formal Connecting Country educational talks for 2011, although details are soon to be published on a revegetation evening to be held on 13 October and a series of Eucalyptus identification workshops in Oct/Nov. However, Connecting Country is now also planning its 2012 educational program. If you have any comments on this years’ program or suggestions for next year, let Connecting Country know by calling Chris or Krista on 5472 1594.