Journalism lecturer Dr Deb Anderson has published a fascinating collection of oral histories in her book, Endurance: Australian Stories of Drought.
Here is an overview … As the Big Dry swept across large tracts of Australian land last decade, a dramatic rise in public awareness of climate change intensified debate over rural futures.
It was an era the Federal Government recorded as having “severely tested rural endurance”.
What might it mean, though, to endure drought in a climate-change world?
This book sheds light on what drought and climate change mean to rural Australians – in their words.
Endurance begins by tracing the power of battler histories in Australian culture and politics, exploring the relationship between climate and identity in a dry place.
Here, the past informs the present: this book underscores the significance of lived experience for people whose communities are in long-term decline.
This holistic approach offers a much-needed context for the life stories at the heart of the book – of rural Australians faced with the frightening prospect of more severe and frequent droughts under climate change.
For four years during the millennium drought, Age journalist and historian Deb Anderson recorded oral histories in drought-affected communities dotted across the semi-arid Mallee wheat-belt in Victoria.
In these stories, people shared how they live with, represent and struggle with drought as a core component of regional life and identity.
Fortuitously, the history collection captured a marked shift in public ideas on Australian climate – a moment of big history – prompting reflection on the meaning of drought and exposing the core interpretive problems of climate change.
Amid the apprehension of climate change, a greater narrative resurfaced: a battler history of endurance, revealing livelihoods and identities were at stake.
Endurance presents twelve of these multi-generational stories of climate, which form a new collection for Museum Victoria, accompanied by a striking series of documentary-style photographs.
By sensitively and compassionately seeking answers to historical questions of cultural adaptation, this book shows how conceptions of climate are shaped by narratives of identity – in this case, forming both a cultural legacy and a shield from anxieties about the future.
As the nation looks ahead, Endurance uncovers a rural Australia clinging to its past, and now gearing up to endure more.
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