Australia, Dryland Irrigation, environment, geography, National Party, Politics

Cubbie: An Uncle’s Tale

This is a story from Ronni Salt, @MsVeruca on Twitter. I’ve restructured it a little and added some supporting links, articles and active graphics.


“Back home at the farm,” she said, “uncle called and regaled us with a yarn about Cubbie Station, the largest private water holder in the southern hemisphere.” The gist of his story is this.

Cubbie is a series of holdings located near Dirranbandi and St George in South West Queensland. It’s total area is 930 sq kilometres containing 22 sq. kilometres of irrigated fields. These days it’s owned by a Chinese and Japanese consortium. It can suck up to 500,000 megalitres of water from . . .the Darling Riverine plains, starving the rivers, towns & floodplains downstream of water. (A megalitre is 1 million litres of water) To emphasise, Cubbie Station’s water allocation can leech the equivalent of an entire Sydney Harbour out of Australia’s waterways yearly.

Since uncle sat on several federal environmental committees back in the 90s, and 2000s, he was familiar with David Kemp,  Minister for Environment and Heritage from November 2001 to July 2004 and also Vice-President of the Executive Council from October 1998 to July 2004.

Uncle also met John Howard in those days, along with a new senator from Queensland, a man that always had ‘an aggressive interest in Cubbie Station.”

Buying Back Cubbie

In 2002-05 Cubbie Station wasn’t doing too well & was quietly on the market. The asking price was about $300 million & uncle says his fed govt committee contacted David Kemp & the Howard govt in 2004 urging them to purchase the property.

This committee was made up of scientists, academics, farmers & Indigenous reps & they all warned the federal govt that Cubbie Station’s massive water holdings were a disaster waiting to happen. The fed govt had the opportunity to put all those millions of litres of water back.

This move to buy back Cubbie and its water rights drew widespread support.

In 2006, WESTERN NSW mayors and irrigators are urging the Government to buy Australia’s biggest irrigated cotton farm, Cubbie Station, as the most effective means of returning water to the stressed Murray-Darling Basin.

The Federal government refused saying “the compulsory purchase of irrigation entitlements is not on its agenda.” 

Uncle continued, “It was environmental vandalism of a kind I’ve never seen before & the Queenslanders were the biggest vandals.”

So, the Howard Govt sought advice from the Nationals. The Nationals sought advice in particular from a young gun candidate who lived in the area that. They had up for the Senate in the 2004 election. The new guy had a large accounting practice in the Cubbie Station area & his clients also included many of the irrigators sucking the #MurrayDarling system dry.

Journalist Phil Dickie flags the problem as early as 2001.

What was now consolidating as a major problem had already been flagged by journalist Phil Dickie, back in May 2001. Phil’s investigative journalism was highly regarded and had already been instrumental in bringing on the Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption in Queensland.

In this instance Phil wrote;

Rogue elements of Queensland’s farming and fishing communities seem to have a fairly simple approach to natural resource management – use, grab or destroy as much of the resource as possible while tying the government up with an endless stream of demands for more and better consultation.

Down on the lower Balonne however, where Queensland’s one-third share of the Murray Darling Basin slips into New South Wales, the strategy has come suddenly unstuck.

The Queensland government, staggered at the scale of a two year dam building orgy that threatens to completely derail attempts to cap water usage on the river, last month slapped a ban on the bulldozers knocking up dam walls all along the river.

Years of lax interpretations of tax laws has meant that in rural Queensland an outdoor dunny can need more planning permission than a 50,000 mL dam with walls no more than 4.99 metres high.

Around St George and Dirranbandi, cotton growers and water hoarders now have about 40,000 hectares of dams at best four metres deep in an area where the annual evaporation rate is about two metres a year.

More than half of this storage has been shoved up in the last two years in such a way that extensive leakage of the water resource is going to be as much a factor as massive evaporation.

Around a third of all the storage is on just one property, Cubbie station, with enough capacity to more than swallow up Sydney Harbour. Cubbie holds licences which mean that in a good year, even more water than this can be taken from the river, for the total payment to the State of just $3700 a year.

“Effectively, their water is free,” said Queensland Natural Resources and Environment Minister, Mr Rod Welford.

For St George Irrigation Area cotton grower Ray Kidd the water is anything but free. He pays about $30,000 a year for his allocation of around 1000 mL from the government’s Beardmore Dam, and pays even when the government can’t supply the water.

Of course such commentary failed to stop the events uncle revealed in his story

The Sinkhole Exposed

Continuing he explained that Cubbie Group Ltd donated thousands & thousands of dollars to the young gun’s senate election campaign. According to uncle, the young gun was good friends with many in The Sinkhole – the nickname given to the powerful irrigators and National Party supporters of that area who take all the water meant for the rivers, floodplains and towns along the darling.

Further explaining the work of The Sinkhole on  29 August 2005 The Sydney Morning Herald published an opinion piece under the heading, A National Party that is anything but. It’s lead paragraph confirms uncles view. It reads:

At the Lightning Ridge Bowling Club last Tuesday, 45 farmers confronted the Sinkhole. It is an uneven struggle. The Sinkhole is huge, wealthy and politically connected. It is a goldmine for the few and a disaster for the many. It also serves as the embodiment of the National Party’s drift towards becoming a collection of featherweights, opportunists and “states-rights” fundamentalists who call themselves “Nationals” yet are anything but.

National disgrace perhaps. This is a party that won 5.8 per cent of the national vote at last year’s federal election and is now in the process of blackmailing the 94.2 per cent who didn’t for vote it.

The Sinkhole, for example, breaks every rule of communal morality. It is better known as Cubbie Station, and it is an act of economic war by one state, Queensland, against another state, NSW. Cubbie is a source of rage for the former NSW premier, Bob Carr. Privately, he urged his fellow Labor Premier, Peter Beattie, to buy the station and take it out of production for the national good. Beattie was sympathetic, but Queensland is Queensland, the bulldozer is still king, and the Queensland Nats will die in a ditch to protect Cubbie Station.

Consequences of large scale Cotton Farming

These Aussie Fishermen Cradling Dead Fish 

One of the young gun’s prominent & vocal supporters in his race for the senate was a man named John Grabbe, who was also coincidentally the Managing Director of – Cubbie Station.

And the young gun senator from Queensland’s name? Barnaby Joyce.

Barnaby Joyce and the Shepparton Pub Talk

Still a militant advocate for the irrigators Barnaby Joyce has, according to journalist Phillip Coorey, confirmed that under Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership he effectively made Turnbull:

take water away from the environment portfolio and give it to him so he could protect upstream interests.

 Phillip Coorey’s assertion in an article from 27 July, 2017, is based on the recording of a speech made by Joyce in which he rubbished the ABC Four Corners report on the previous Thursday night while talking to irrigators in a Shepparton pub.

While the recording is available in the original article it is worth drawing out two paragraphs by way of conclusion:

He said:

We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask,” he said in the recording.

A couple of nights ago on Four Corners, you know what that’s all about? It’s about them trying to take more water off you, trying to create a calamity. A calamity for which the solution is to take more water off you, shut more of your towns down.

Asia, Australia, environment, geography, history, Malaysia, Singapore

Where Australia Collides with Asia – by Ian Burnet

Some historical narratives can be difficult to follow when they are punctuated by countless footnotes and bibliographic references, or broken by a frequent need to delve into appendices. Ian Burnet frees his work from these impediments.  By seamlessly embedding his sources he has produced an almost conversational style. The result is an erudite narrative flow, free of distractions.

Where Australia Collides with Asia chronicles the reflections and discoveries of great minds and adventurous spirits. Both Darwin and Wallace who feature read Humboldt’s Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equatorial regions of the New Continent. This work introduced the notion of a web of life where no single fact could be considered in isolation. Humboldt created a new genre in writing that eloquently described nature as part of this web of life. Ian’s book is firmly in such a tradition.  It is not just a treatise on Alfred Russell Wallace any more than it is a static account of biogeography. He draws on his extensive knowledge of geology and his long engagement with the Indonesian archipelago to reveal a world shaped by tectonic dynamism producing countless variations and contrasts.

Plate movements create areas that are distinct yet often close to one another.  Both the Galapagos islands and the Indonesian archipelago display such features. In these places, biogeographic contrasts and transformations are easily observed. We learn that it was the distinct differences in distribution of flora and fauna along the archipelago, abruptly changing between the islands of Bali and Lombok that so intrigued Wallace. Through his research, he established this as a biogeographic boundary between Asia and Australasia.

This work allows us to see the development of Wallace’s research to the point where he summarised all the main principles of Darwin’s ideas on species. When he received Wallace’s ‘Letter from Ternate’, in 1858, Darwin’s surprise was such that he was prompted him to write: ‘I never saw a more striking coincidence, if Wallace had my manuscript sketch written out in 1842, he could not have made a better short abstract.’

Darwin’s fear of challenging the literalist account of creation in Genesis certainly placed a break on this desire to publish.  Wallace’s work pressed him to finally publish in 1859. All of this is and the warm friendship that developed between the two men is well covered, so too is their subsequent collaboration.

The selection of photographs, maps and illustration in this publication not only add graphical power to the work but also display Ian Burnet’s meticulous patient gathering of archival material.

Asia, Australia, environment, geography, history, indigenous, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam

#BookLaunch of ‘Seen & Unseen: a century of stories from #Asia & the #Pacific’

 

This is a Chitter Media Production, produced and edited by Adrian Metlenko, camera operators Adrian Metlenko and Evan Darnley-Pentes.

Aboriginal, Asia, Australia, environment, geography, history, indigenous, Indonesia, Malaysia, religion, Singapore, sociology, Thailand, travel, Vietnam

A sampler of ‘Seen and Unseen: a century of stories from #Asia & the #Pacific’

Here is an overview of my book Seen and Unseen: a century of stories from Asia & the Pacific with a selection of images reflecting aspects of the stories that unfold in its pages.

Both paperback and kindle versions of the book are available through Amazon.

Further background on my book is also available on it’s website.

Australia, environment, geography, history, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, religion, sociology, travel

The author on “Seen and Unseen: a century of stories from #Asia and the #Pacific”

Common views of Asia and the Pacific, from the outside, often confer undue prominence to such things as typhoons, tsunami, earthquakes, malaria or even magic. While these can be confronting realities in the Asia-Pacific region beyond such differences even more remains unseen and misunderstood. Frequently unacknowledged are the influences Asian and Pacific cultures exert far beyond their borders.

 

Seen & Unseen: A Century of Stories from Asia & the Pacific is 29 stories inspired by one family’s experience spanning three generations of change. It blends anthropology, botany, ecology, economics, geography, history, politics and spiritual traditions. While each story is cradled in reality and crafted with a careful eye for historical accuracy, frailty of memory, the natural passing of people and the need to protect others has rendered some fictional even when they are not.

Influencing this work is an acceptance that interactions with people from our own culture are generally tangible and familiar, but when beyond our immediate culture things change. Now meaning and understanding must often be negotiated in intangible, non-rational and unseen ways. Foucault’s notion of the third space has influenced this work. Another influence is the Balinese belief that reality is an interaction of Sekala (The Seen) and Niskala (The Unseen).

Precisely what comprises the unseen realm varies throughout the region. What might be understood as mere micro ecology, in the developed world, can have spiritual explanations in some Asian and Pacific cultures. In rational secular society people commonly eschew magic as mythology or superstition, yet in parts of Asia and the Pacific what might be seen as myths and misconceptions can possess the power of reality.

The stories

I begin this journey in 1914 with Sid Thompson and D Company, a tale inspired by the little known ANMEF sent to capture New Guinea from Germany. While easily defeating the enemy unseen forces took an enormous toll. Sid Thompson also appears in Red Poppies and Janur. Several stories address changing Australian views of Japan through the encounters of ordinary people. Joss Sticks and Cracker Night and An Encounter with White Australia reveal Asian influences in Anglo-Australia of the 1950s. First Landfall and The Sublime to the Horrific chronicle my own first bumbling attempts at being in Asia. Some 15 stories are set over an 18-year period in Indonesia from the comfort of urban to life to that of forest people yet to develop the habit of money. These begin with tales about engaging with manifest cultural differences and lead into matters of more global significance. Campaign and The General Election take two Australians and Indonesian friends through a transition to democracy. An Unusual Kind Of Thunder and In The Charnel House deal directly with the Bali Bombings of 2002 while My Second Meeting With Jonathan unfolds in its aftermath. Singapore 43 years On is about returning to Singapore, a city transformed. Vietnam A War Revisited is a story of the anti-war movement and the draft told retrospectively from Hanoi. Finally, Sid Thompson returns in the more metaphysical tale Headland.

The basic and enduring interplay of the seen and the unseen worlds is of great significance to those of us from the land that’s girt by sea. While we might choose not to see, to look inwards and to rejoice in the notion that our land abounds in nature’s gifts, regional and planetary systems are unfettered by such introspective cultural constructions.

Sales

You can purchase the book now from Amazon

 

 

Australia, environment, geography

Revisiting Wind Turbines and Fuel Subsidies

Some years ago my son Rob and I went kayaking on Lake George. My intention, after visiting the lake, had been to write a follow-up blog post on wind farms given there is a large one in the area. Then some dear friends told me that there was a wind farm to be built near where they live.  When my friends unanimously started to protest about the building of the second largest wind farm in Australia, just near their place, I couldn’t at first understand what the problem was.  For me wind farms have always been a somewhat romantic event.  I associate them with Southern Cross wind pumps that were once such a feature of the Australian landscape. I also recall the demonstration wind pumps that used to whirl above the old RAS Sydney Showground, now Fox Studios and the brightly coloured novelty windmills on a stick that were so highly prized by children visiting the Show. Then of course there are the adventures of Don Quixote who tilted at the windmills of La Mancha.

La Mancha’s windmills.  (This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons)

I could never understand why the Don found La Mancha’s beautiful windmills so daunting but then I suppose his madness is all part of the romance as well.  Then I went for a close-up look along the hills the east of Lake George.  After this close-up encounter, I do understand why Don Quixote was so in awe of wind mills.

Encountering these wind turbines would have been as alien to the Don as the thought of travel to the moon. They are huge.  One doesn’t really gain a sense of just how big they are from the vantage point of the Federal Highway far to the west.  To my mind that still look rather romantic from that distance but the close up encounter soon dispels the romance.

My account of wind farms in neither Quixotic, being far from an impractical or romantic quest, nor is it a formal technical account of the obvious benefits of this form if renewable energy.  Such accounts are easy to find, the Wind in the Bush site has copious technical detail and facts, and the NSW Wind Atlas provides a huge infographic that could make a great display for teachers.

Anyway back to the story. My first encounter with a wind farm was really just a by-product of another and far more romantic quest, the plan to paddle a kayak and a surf ski on Lake George.

Wind turbines and an old Southern Cross windpump near Lake George, NSW

Taking wind farms for granted
Actually I’ve always taken wind farms for granted, probably because I don’t live near them, well actually I live near a wind turbine, but more about that some other time. This encounter caused me to think more about them. I’d often gazed at the distant fields of wind generators that have been sprouting along the lake’s eastern edge for some years now. Although the initial reason for the wind farms is less inspiring, to supply power for Sydney’s dubious and extravagant desalination plant, their flourishing embellishes the eastern margins with kinetic sculptural forms that respond in unison to pulses of katabatic and anabatic energy. So when Australia’s Treasurer, toeing the party line the other week said that ”

“We have some beautiful landscapes in Australia, and frankly, putting up those towers is just to me, quite appalling in those places. . . I drive from Sydney to Canberra … to go to parliament, and I just look at those wind turbines around Lake George and I am just appalled.” I was amused.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott also had something to say about them adding, “when I’ve been up close to these windfarms not only are they visually awful but they make a lot of noise.” When I read this I wondered if he had ever stood at the foot of one of these structures.

Wind turbines on Taylors Creek Rd, Tarago, New South Wales, east of Lake George.

I just didn’t get the PM’s point.  In fact when I had visited them on that visit to Lake George I took sound readings with my decibel meter that were consistent with these data.

windscale

Much has happened over the years since my first visit to Lake George but back then as my friends confronted the new wind farm, I recognised that they had a point, perhaps not the point they regarded as most important, infrasound, and not the point recently articulated by Hockey and Abbott, but the development my friends faced was on a landscape little changed since the end of the last ice age.  This wind farm site was on land with immense heritage value simply because of its primal nature. So despite the excellent winds in the area, I think it was wrongly sited.

Coal subsidy blindness
Back then some of the other people who flocked to assist my friends brought more extreme views into play. One of the most absurd was that wind farms were simply uneconomic and couldn’t survive without massive subsidies.

I listened to the argument and thought about just how they were assessing the economics. Plainly they weren’t taking any of the environmental costs of coal-fired power stations into their cost calculations. Then I realised that they were probably climate change deniers. That didn’t worry me greatly as I realised they, along with the Liberal National Party government, would eventually be shown to be gravely mistaken and that they were also overlooking the enormous subsidies paid both directly and indirectly to fossil fuel based energy generation.

I looked for the figures.  Meanwhile the clamour for an energy and export future based on coal rose.

A coal is good ideology captured the mainstream media, and only The Greens seemed to be sticking to the fossil fuel was attracting large subsidies argument.

The International Monetary Fund
Eventually I came across this report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) How Large Are Global Energy Subsidies?  This was an eye opener. It read in part:

  • Energy subsidies damage the environment, causing more premature deaths through local air pollution, exacerbating congestion and other adverse side effects of vehicle use, and increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.
  • Energy subsidies impose large fiscal costs, which need to be financed by some combination of higher public debt, higher tax burdens, and crowding out of potentially productive public spending (for example, on health, education, and infrastructure), all of which can be a drag on economic growth.
  • Energy subsidies discourage needed investments in energy efficiency, renewables, and energy infrastructure, and increase the vulnerability of countries to volatile international energy prices.
  • Energy subsidies are a highly inefficient way to provide support to low-income households since most of the benefits from energy subsidies are typically captured by rich households.

The IMF report went on the explain that:

  • Among different energy products, coal accounts for the biggest subsidies, given its high environmental damage and because (unlike for road fuels) no country imposes meaningful excises on its consumption.
  • Most energy subsidies arise from the failure to adequately charge for the cost of domestic environmental damage—only about one-quarter of the total is from climate change—so unilateral reform of energy subsidies is mostly in countries’ own interests, although global coordination could strengthen such efforts.
  • The fiscal, environmental, and welfare imp acts of energy subsidy reform are potentially enormous. Eliminating post-tax subsidies in 2015 could raise government revenue by $2.9 trillion (3.6 percent of global GDP), cut global CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent, and cut pre-mature air pollution deaths by more than half. After allowing for the higher energy costs faced by consumers, this action would raise global economic welfare by $1.8 trillion (2.2 percent of global GDP).

Then in the same week the G7 meeting agreed to phase out the use of fossils fuels by the end of the century.

So that was it. Now our country’s leadership has been revealed as wildly out of step with global developments, not that this was a new idea for me it was simply quite affirming to have my concerns confirmed by such powerful global institutions.

The New Generation of Wind Turbines
Also heartening has been the release of this report on a new era of wind generators employing the Venturi effect.

SW-How-it-works-ill-598x360

In this system wind is:

  1. captured at the top of a funnel
  2. funneled through the system
  3. concentrated and further accelerated in the Venturi effect
  4. delivered to the turbine/generators to convert the accelerated wind to electrical power
  5. released through a diffuser and returned to the environment

Aboriginal, Australia, environment, geography, history, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea

Can Australia ever have sovereign borders? We never really have and the porosity is ancient.

A simple Google search reveals that as an adjective sovereign means ‘possessing supreme or ultimate power. These words are also offered as synonyms: supreme, absolute, unlimited, unrestricted, unrestrained, unbounded, boundless, infinite, ultimate, total, unconditional, full, utter, paramount.

Powerful as the invocation of sovereign might be the simple answer to the question ‘Can Australia Ever Have Sovereign Borders?’ is no. Yet in the land that is girt by the myth of the sovereign border has the power of reality. While we Australians might choose not to see, to look inwards and to rejoice in the notion that our land abounds in nature’s gifts, regional and planetary systems are unfettered by such introspective cultural constructions.

In the face of this simplicity, I offer a very simple post. It’s pitched at secondary school level.

The ice age
During the Ice Age the seas between Indonesia and Australia were lower and also narrower than now. At this time Australia was actually connected to the land masses of West Papua and Papua New Guinea. Theoretically it would have been possible to walk between present day Darwin and Merauke in about three weeks.

Australia, West Papua and Papua New Guinea formed a continent that geographers call Sahul. The rest of Indonesia, west of Lombok, on the other side of the Wallace line, with its tigers, rhinos and elephants is part of Sunda and is closely allied with the rest of Asia. Eastern Indonesia has strong and unmistakable biogeographic links with Australia.

New Guinea including West Papua was originally a northern peninsula of Australia. Both areas have largely Australian fauna and flora. Egg-laying mannals such as echidnas, marsupials such as kangaroos and cuscus, birds like bower birds, cockatoos and birds of paradise, and reptiles such as skinks and side-necked tortoises are common.  Amongst the plants lillipilli, eucalypts and melaleuca, are all testimony to ancient links with Australia. There is even a close relative of the Huon Pine growing in the mountains of West Papua and some of the indigenous Melanesian people of West Papua have recently claimed to have seen an animal resembling the Thylacine inhabiting mountainous areas.

The Settlement of Australia
Whenever settlement began movement must have been through the archipelago to the north. It probably began around 70,000 years before the present.

The Dingo
About 4 000 years ago the Dingo appeared in Australia. The Dingo resembles the Ajag (anjing hutan) which originates on mainland Asia and Sunda. It probably migrated into Sahul, perhaps with help from people. It was probably brought to Australia by people. It is likely these people came from Indonesia or Nusantara as it was called in former times.

Ajag (Cuon alpinus)
Ajag (Cuon alpinus)

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/Cuon.alpinus-cut.jpg

The Baiini Story
The Yirrkala people of Arnhem Land tell of a people called the Baiini who came from the north. They are said to have arrived in sailing ships as families, long before European settlement in Australia.

The Baiini built houses of stone and timber on the shore line. They planted rice which they called luda. As well as this, the Baiini wove brightly coloured cloth called jalajal and wore colourful sarongs.

It is said that the Baiini finally left Australia sailing back over the sea to the north, leaving behind their rice lands. Today a kind of grass grows on these lands; it is used as food by the Aboriginal people.

The stories of the Baiini were passed on by word of mouth. It is difficult to know whether these stories are mythology or not.

Sailings ships and monsoon winds
When people developed sailing canoes, and later sailing ships, travel by sea became possible. This probably made contact between Indonesia and Australia easier. The north west monsoons helps sailing ships travel from Indonesia to Australia. When the winds reverse direction, at the beginning of the south east monsoon, the return journey to Indonesia is possible.

The earliest recorded contact
Makassan, Bajo and Buginese fishermen regularly sailed into northern Australian waters from at least 1650. These voyages probably began during the time of the Makassan kingdom of Gowa. The Makassan and Buginese sailors called Arnhem Land, Marege, and they called the north western parts of Australia, Kayu Jawa.

Unlike the legendary Baiini the Makassans, Bajo and Buginese brought no families with them. They voyaged in fleets of 30 to 60 praus, each boat had up to 30 men on board. Their objective was to fish for trepang which they smoked. Then they carried the trepang back to Sulawesi from where it was exported to China.

Fishing fleets “fished three areas: the Northern Territory coast from Cape Don to the Gulf of Carpentaria; parts of the Kimberley coast of Western Australia from Cape Londonderry to Cape Leveque and perhaps further south towards Port Hedland; and the offshore reefs and islands in the Timor Sea.” See, Natasha Stacey, ‘Boats to Burn – Bajo Fishing Activity in the Australian Fishing Zone. Ch.4 pp58 ANU Press 2007

Their voyages were timed so that they arrived on the north coast of Australia in December which was the beginning of the wet season. They returned home in March or April at the end of the wet season.

The trepang fisherman built temporary houses, dug wells and planted tamarind trees. The groves of tamarind trees which they planted exist today.

Aboriginal people, like the Yolgnu, worked for the trepang fishermen, learning their language, adopting the habit of tobacco smoking, painting pictures of perau, learning their dances and borrowing some of their stories.

Some people went with the fishermen on their return voyage to Sulawesi, returning with the next monsoon, some remained in Sulawesi.

The influence of the Macassans, Bajo and Bugis, in particular, can still be seen today in the language and customs of the people.

Listen to Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunipingu.

 

For a more scholarly account of the pre-European settlerment of the north and the Macassan voyages read ‘Turning The Map Upside Down’ by Regina Ganter

Trade with Australia’s European settlers
When food supplies dwindled and the colony of New South Wales faced starvation the first ship to bring relief was the Waaksamheyd, in 1790. It brought supplies from Batavia (Jakarta), including 171 barrels of beef, 172 barrels of pork, 39 barrels of flour, 4,500 kilograms of sugar and 31,000 kilograms of rice.

Traditional fishing today
Traditional Indonesian fishermen continue to visit Australian waters. They fish around the reefs and islands between Australia and Indonesia. Although these are now Australian waters traditional Indonesian fishermen are granted fishing rights. In return for fishing rights they must use traditional sailing boats and traditional fishing techniques.

Ashmore reef is a group of three small islands. It is a National Nature Reserve, administered by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. No fishing is permitted in the reserve, but fishermen are permitted to land on West island to obtain water. The reef was known to Macassan, Bajo, Bugis and Rotenese before it became part of Australia.

Australia's Environmentally Sensitive Maritime Border
Australia’s Maritime Border

Natasha Stacey writes that “During a visit to Kupang in 1803, Flinders obtained information linking Macassan trepang fishing activity to ‘a dry shoal lying to the south of Rottee [Rote]’ (probably Ashmore Reef) and met a number of Macassans on the coast of northern Australia in the same year (Flinders 1814: 257). 2 Since Ashmore Reef has a supply of fresh water and a sheltered lagoon, it has long been an important ‘staging post’ for Indonesian perahu on their voyages further south to other islands and reefs (Fox 1998: 117). Matthew Flinders learned of the existence of Ashmore Reef in Kupang.” op cit page 59