National Geographic : 1971 Feb
National Geographic, February 1971 Nigretta South and leases a third sheep sta tion. Together they form a domain of 7,000 acres supporting 10,000 Corriedale sheep and 3,000 polled shorthorn cattle. Mr. Moodie breeds prize sheep whose blood lines go back to 1874, and silver trophies crowd every mantel and table in his large house. We inspected some rams awaiting shipment to Red China, and then we drove and drove through his parched pastures. The weather had turned so dry that Mr. Moodie had been forced to truck hay into the fields as supplemental food. But that's life in rural Australia, where water is gold. The Grampian Mountains to the north afforded relief to my spirit as well as my eyes. They rise abruptly and spectacularly in sharply tilted sandstone peaks of more than 3,500 feet. Jagged, fractured, bizarrely eroded, they look from a distance like rogue waves endlessly breaking. Seeking out the dirt back roads over and between the mountains, I chanced upon a herd of emus, big ostrichlike birds, the first I had seen in the wild outside the Kulkyne State Forest near Mildura. Gold Miners Mount a Bloody Revolt My route back to Melbourne took me through Ballarat, a place famous, or perhaps notorious, as site of the only armed rebellion in Australian history. Every Aussie schoolboy knows the story of the Eureka Stockade. In 1854, angered by chaotic conditions in the gold fields and inept administration, a group of miners swore allegiance to a new Aus tralian flag and built a stockade against an expected onslaught by government troops. It came. Five soldiers and 22 miners were killed before the 128 remaining rebels surrendered. They won acquittal at their trial, and many of their demands were granted. Today Ballarat, with a population of 60,000, ranks as the second largest inland city in Australia, after Canberra. No city in the nation is more conscious of its history-and not just because of the Eureka Stockade. Rich strikes at Ballarat fired the gold rush of the 1850's that did so much to open up Aus tralia's interior. By 1868 some 300 mining companies operated in the district. From rich alluvial deposits and quartz veins, miners dug more than a hundred million dollars in gold. Time and feverish diggers eventually ex hausted the gold, but the city relives its days of glory in the Ballarat Historical Park. Still unfinished, the park features a reconstructed mining village and old mining equipment. For years Ballarat has also lured tourists with a begonia festival, and this colorful civic frolic was at its height during my visit. But it conflicted with an even bigger bash, Mel bourne's annual Moomba Festival, so back to the capital I went. Moomba is an aboriginal word meaning "let's all get together and have fun." That's packing a lot into one word, and Melbourne packs a great deal into its two week celebration: plays, concerts, lectures, sports events, balls, and a mammoth parade. Traditionally, a fireworks display on the banks of the Yarra River provides the finale. As the glare of rockets reddened sky and waters, it reminded me of my own country's Independence Day celebrations, and I remem bered a conversation about the similarity between Americans and Australians that I had held with the eminent Lord Casey. Brisbane-born Richard Gardiner Casey, Baron of Berwick, is a former Minister of External Affairs and, more recently, Governor General of Australia. From 1940 to 1942 he served as his country's first minister to the United States. Now 80, he is retired from public life. "Our two peoples are much alike, a most extraordinary phenomenon, and very real," he said. "There are no two nationalities in the world that get on so easily and so well. That fact has been reinforced in my mind many times since my first visit to the United States in 1913. It isn't an easy thing to explain. We are both pioneering people from pioneer ing stock, but that doesn't explain it. Perhaps it's partly because we are both a free and easy people; we take others as we find them." Those words came back to me often as I traveled about Victoria. I took Victorians as I found them-and I found them and their state very good indeed. [" Where Victoria began in pioneer austerity, the good life prevails; the state's first permanent settlers arrived at Portland in 1834. "To be 'one of the mob,' to accept one's environment and get on with the job, to be friendly with one's neighbors," wrote Donald Home in The Lucky Country, "these are notable Australian characteristics, part of the Australian genius." KODACHROME © N.G.S.