Sunday, June 19, 2011

Up the road from where I live - the story continued...

This story is an update of an earlier one from a month ago... which you can read here.

I then posted this question "would you lock the gate if they came for your town?" here two weeks ago.

And then last weekend - which was the annual June long weekend - I drove up the road west of my home in the city on the coast to visit for a couple of days staying on the farm below and attending a special Art Exhibition in a nearby town.

Hakea species

Bracychiton bidwillii or Little Kurrajong

the garden at the entrance of the house - just a small part of extensive gardens

Rustic fence panel made by Sean Lloyd.

The Sugarloaf. There are a lot of Sugarloafs on the Downs, which are volcanic plugs.
This is near Kingsthorpe and did have an underground colliery there once.
I stayed at this Farm on the Darling Downs - home to Nicki and Glen Laws. This was the view from the garden at the front of their house. The views at different times of the day were spectacular ... but my camera and I could certainly not do justice to that. I really should have asked Nicki to send some of her favourite photos.

I'm going to tell this story backwards.

On the Monday when family and friends had dispersed in many directions to return home - the day after the celebrations - Nicki took me driving across country to the town which was the subject for her Textile Art Exhibition. This is coming into the outlying area of that town ... Acland. If your look closely you can see Open Cut Mines ... and the signage points out the fact of what's ahead!

The road to Acland
Glen Beutel

Yesterday this photo above was included with a feature story in the Australian Newspaper this weekend. All the other photos in this post is mine... this I have added along with this story   
"Coal meets the last man standing" Glen Beutel is the only resident left in the Acland township on Queensland's Darling Downs.   Picture: Jack Tran  Source: The Australian  
GLEN Beutel's story is almost a parable of modern Australia.

As the last man standing in the Darling Downs town of Acland, where mining company New Hope has been buying its 50 houses in a bid to expand a coalmine, Beutel is one of the forgotten faces of the two-speed economy. Mining may have enriched the nation as a whole, but individuals such as Beutel are feeling impoverished and frustrated.
Beutel's former neighbours have taken New Hope's money and moved to nearby towns, leaving the 58-year-old the sole landowner in a town situated squarely in the middle of a planned 7km-wide open-cut coalmine. And yet Beutel, who grew up in Acland, would never live anywhere else.
"I've travelled a lot, but this will always be home," he said. "I've got an attachment to the town that I feel I'd regret if I abandoned it." Read more here.

The town of Acland... what's left of it! These are not playing fields... rather they are the blocks where houses once stood. One can see an abandoned school, a couple of churches a few odd buildings here and there like the one above ... and the house where Glen Beutel lives is actually surrounded by garden and is a kind of sanctuary of normality from the street.

I collected these species shown below as I looked around the town with Nicki and she explained the various landmarks, the public gardens still being tended... the War memorial, the old mining buildings (below) from the past when there was once underground mining taking place.

Acacia species... sorry I dont have the name.

the pods form species above... opened with seeds dispersed.

Ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon)- great hardwood, termite resistant - in flower

blossoms a day later

Bracychiton bidwillii or Little Kurrajong

Bracychiton bidwillii or Little Kurrajong

The photos from here down are from Sunday at the Rosalie Gallery in Coombungee where the Textile Art work of Nicki Laws told the story of this town .... from fossil finds dating back millennia to the present. Nicki gathered local stories and researched far and wide when necessary to gain the back ground information which she stitched into this work. 

Consequently the impact of this show is many-layered. 

For locals it touches deeply on what has been lost... giving cause to both celebration and  mourning. For someone visiting from away it brings back instantly the myriad memories I hold of growing up in a country community... experiences born of such closer connections, and why it goes so against the grain for these people to lose the place at the centre of their lives. So much in a  community such as this is created out of the effort of its people... the communal fund-raising, joint endeavours... pulling together in tough times. In fact the locals were out in force at this show... a sumptuous display of baked treats laid out on tables to accompany the serving of tea and coffee was a feast for the eyes after the speeches.

Then, onto all this, is the story of the Mining Companies sweeping into hill and dale in this region... the "food bowl"of the nation as it was always known. Notices being slapped on towns, farms, everywhere in fact it would seem! When a notice went on Nicki's farm early this year she decided to call on an ex-Acland local ... moved to the big smoke years back... but one who'd not forgotten his roots.

Where others had ignored, politicians played deaf and the city was aloof .... he heard her out and said yes to opening her show last weekend. So... this man - infamous for upsetting people via his radio shows -and not known for taking conservations stands - came on board. 

He said things the locals were afraid to say.... he asked questions and pushed the dialogue that had been suppressed or set aside again and again. I'm talking about Alan Jones ... who did give this community a sense of optimism at this recent opening... certainly the message that one deserves a voice at times like this. Hear his interview with Glen Beutel on Tuesday, 14th June.

NB: Nicki has told me that attendance of her show is extremely high as people make their way from all over to view and read the works, discuss and learn more. Last I heard there were still $15 books available on the show. I hope Nicki reprints them ... they are a great resource for community and artists who might want to read more about this example of a poignant topic brought to the public through Art.

From:  The TOOWOOMBA ‘CHRONICLE’ Saturday 18 June 2011

     Review:   Around the Galleries with Sandy Pottinger Saturday 18 June 2011:

The Rosalie Art Gallery in Goombungee is presenting a textile exhibition of local significance by Nicki Laws. However, “Acland: Fragments and Memories from a township undermined” does not offer the usual expectations of a textile show. This body of work, despite the tonal delicacy and the understated sameness of its colouration, packs a vigorous punch, albeit couched in the nostalgic glove of memory. The illustrative panels are stitched, painted, and printed with love, respect, and sympathy. They tell the story of Acland, a small coal mining town on the Downs, now a ghostly vestige of itself as it waits to be claimed by the encroaching open-cut mining machines. Broadcaster Allan Jones, who grew up in Acland, gave the opening address. His eloquent and emotive rhetoric was well received, but his message, and that of Nicki Laws, must extend beyond the already-converted. It is a story, all too common today, of the little people, the Aussie battlers trying to eke a living from land which is over-shadowed by the threatening advances of the mining industry. Their stories and sacrifices are a part of the history and the very framework of this country. Laws has created a moving document, often from actual fragments of clothing and found objects, which is both a homage and an acknowledgement. The exhibition, in its entirety, should become part of a national collection, but before that it should be seen by people in the capital cities as well as regional Australia. The exhibition continues until 19 July.  

Review reprinted with kind permission of Sandy Pottinger and The Chronicle.

Nicki and Glen Laws

The Old Acland Mine Series 2011-05-1

Sections of a work titled "Qld's first Tidy Town" - a celebration of the gardens in the town.

I'll finish with this image of the nearby tunnel .... which is now part of a reserve. It was awfully dark looking the other way... lets hope that this is a fitting symbol for the future of this regions. Not only the light at the end of the tunnel... but the vision of preservation of habitat and care for the land and all living systems on this land. We can only hope for and work towards a future where the land is not simply seen as something to be exploited but a place to find workable solutions to meet all kinds of presently conflicting needs.

Its pointless us denying the fact we need to produce energy... we are all so keen to be plugged in! But we all need to become smarter to lobby for things to evolve. Mining companies come if permission is granted. Perhaps we are all "landlords" in a sense... and instead of complaining about bad tenants we need to demand better answers and far better systems be put in place. We let our Govts make these decisions ... what are we doing to ensure the best decisions are made for the greater good? We get what we deserve if we are complacent and leave it to the few to take care of!

We are extremely reliant on Mining in this state... we can't simply say no to mining... but we have to be clear about what, when, where, how and why.  The Acland story happened with little attention to highlight the consequences. It stands as a reminder that we must sit up and take part in shaping the future we want to see... that we actually need to lobby for the industries we want to see and the land stewardship models we desire to have in place. 

Bravo to Nicki for not only gathering a dispersed community together again... and providing such rich material for reflection .... but also having the foresight to bring life to a much needed dialogue by bringing someone into the centre who is more than capable of sparking issues along.

The Darling Downs is seeing bridge-building between farmers and environmentalists grow in direct response to Govt sanctioned mining development that seems, thus far, to be largely without any community consultation of any kind. The agricultural sector is responding to all kinds of challenges thrown at them.... extremes of weather and climate, demands for better, more sustainable practices and on the other hand critical cost rises and pricing demands from monopolies like Australia's two supermarket companies. To top all that off ...the Govt in this state persists in asking for minimal accountability pre or post mining re sustainability ... and do let me know if I'm wrong on that account!! 

My weekend in this region however brought me face to face with calm, hospitable and gracious people ... Sunday night dinner for around 20 was relaxed, friendly and full of conversation... with people who know the cost of every step they take ...  are politically alert and NOT taking anything for granted.

Read More at:

The Chronicle - Toowoomba's regional Newspaper 


EVERYTHING TAKEN BY THE MINES - related story from a former Acland resident



Lynda @ {ubersavvy} said...

The photos are beautiful- what an amazing liitle Kurrajong!. These are the stories that we don't hear about...

Sophie Munns said...

Hi Lynda,..
glad you weren't put off by my tricky commenting function ... its plays up for me!
Inspiration for kids classes here I think .arent they wonderful the kurrajongs!
Yes.. the Acland story needs to get out... its a reminder of what is happening or set to happen in SO many places. Once they went underground or further away from people ... not now!

So pleased you stopped by here!

KatrinaRecycled said...

Another amazing thought provoking post, thanks Sophie.
How's this for coincidence, I'm pretty sure I met Nicki last year at a screen printing workshop at Thea and Sami's. I got to see some of her amazing textile art that she'd brought along to print on.

Sophie Munns said...

Hi Katrina...
great to read your comment ... I'll bring the catalogue of Nicki's exhibition to show you! Thea has a great workshop set up happening... love the way she invites people back to use/hire the space!
seer you soon!

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