On Wednesday 10 October, more than 50 people attended the Castlemaine Golf Club to hear well-known writer Don Watson talk about his upcoming book, The Book of the Bush.
Don grew up on a dairy farm in South Gippsland that is still farmed by his brother. Don has spent several months travelling the country talking to ‘bush’ people and observing political and social life outside the cities. In a wide-ranging and allusive chat Don made several thought-provoking points. He believes that having made their ‘clearings’ in the bush, Australians are unusually aware of what has been lost and that after 10 years of denial, they are also deeply conscious of the violent ‘theft’ that enabled their settlement. He claims that it is this inescapable consciousness that explains the ‘melancholy’ that permeates much bush life. He also described vividly the anger that is also an important motif of rural life.
He argues that the real bush folk weren’t the squatters, who came and went quickly, but the selectors who followed. Their struggles to survive on what were often inadequate blocks are a legacy that still permeates farming life and culture today.
For the audience the talk was a fascinating glimpse into the making of a book with all its rich byways and complications. A feature of all Don’s work is the refusal to simplify politics or moralise too easily, and given his ongoing battle to preserve simple public language his own ways of describing the world are refreshingly direct, colloquial and witty. We suspect that the local sales of the book will be very good indeed.
We are also hoping to feature more fascinating speakers at events throughout the year.
A most entertaining and thought provoking talk from Don. This, demonstrated by the amount of discussion afterwards and the number of people wishing to engage in conversation with him (or voice their point of view) after the presentation.