Manage episode 347013362 series 2381791
I had a pretty terrific stay down the Snowy Mountains last weekend and amongst some spectacular views, incredible animal spotting and good times with mates it also got me thinking about my reading.
One book in particular sprang to mind, but before I get to that I wanted to reflect on this whole reading thing we do and why I love spending so much time reading, reporting and sharing books.
Books are wild when you think about it. These portals to other times, other worlds, other people's thoughts and perspectives. They’re so wondrous that I think sometimes it washes over us and we don’t take note of what’s happening to our little gray cells.
But this weekend as I wandered the high country and discovered mountain streams and platypus dens a book I had read was recalled to me and I suddenly had a whole lens to look at what I was discovering.
All this information came flooding back to me and as I recalled I shared with my friends. In this act of sharing I had to come to terms and reframe what I had understood and then have that understanding interrogated. My perspectives mingled with the writer’s and were challenged or agreed on by my friends.
Together we took this information and compared it with what we were experiencing. My mates are great conversationalists but having this extra dimension just took it to another level. Reading had transformed our interaction.
So what was the book?
The Brumby Wars - The Battle for the Soul of Australia by Anthony Sharwood
Anthony Sharwood is a Walkley Award-winning journalist. He loves the high country as evidenced in his 2020 book From Snow to Ash, and his 2021 book The Brumby Wars.
The Brumby Wars chronicles the history of the ongoing battles between supporters of wild horses in the Australian Bush (known as Brumbies) and those who see the destruction they cause to fragile ecosystems and want to see them controlled.
The book takes an open approach to the debate, as Anthony tries to hear all sides. We begin with the challenges of confronting and contrasting the scientific and ecological understanding of feral horses with the cultural understanding of Brumbies. With some surveys noting that 78% of Victorians didn’t know that Brumbies were listed by Parks Victoria as pests Sharwood comes to the conclusion that “Mythology has become reality” and the power of storytelling has overtaken the reality of what is happening in the landscape.
But this is a battle that literally plays out on the Mountains and in the halls of political power. With passionate, often extreme supporters on both sides Sharwood sounds a warning against tilting towards these extremes.
In the year since the books was published we’ve seen one of the Brumby’s biggest supporters John Barilaro leave politics, a plan to manage Brumby populations in Kosciusko was established by the NSW government and protestors have filmed themselves dismantling Brumby trap yards. It’s apparent that even when settled the issue remains alive for so many.
The Brumby Wars is a fascinating look at modern Australian culture. It takes in thousands of years of Indigenous History and the extraordinary damage done in the relatively short period since invasion.
The book even questions the ways stories can be co opted to the cause. One mythology that is central to the story of brumbies in the high country is the work of Banjo Patterson and particularly his poem The Man From Snowy River. In the book Sharwood uncovers scholarship that suggests the eponymous ‘Man’ may have been Indigenous. This may seem an historical footnote to the everyday destruction of hooves on fragile ecosystems but it speaks to the lengths that storytelling may go to shape reality to its own ends.
This is just a taste of what you’ll find in The Brumby Wars. It’s no hyperbole when the subtitle proclaims this The Battle for the Soul of Australia. Do yourself a favour and check it out…