Welcome to this week’s editorial, Australia, and Australians, have long been regarded as a stoic lot. A quick check of the dictionary will reveal stoic as “a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.” Hardship has been long associated with Australia. While there have been wars and the Depression the records also show that we live at the whim of climate. The Australian poet, Dorothea Mackeller has, in my opinion, a lot to answer for in the feeding this image of a laconic, stoic Australian, tough as the all outdoors and able to bounce back from adversity to “just get on with it”. In her famous poem “My Country” , written in 1906 whilst on a trip to England she wrote the following lines (below). I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror – The wide brown land for me!
But there are other verses that are rarely quoted such as this: Core of my heart, my country! Land of the Rainbow Gold, For flood and fire and famine, She pays us back threefold – Over the thirsty paddocks, Watch, after many days, The filmy veil of greenness That thickens as we gaze.
So back in 1906 Dorothea understood the natural cycles of weather, of flood, fire and drought and she seemed reasonably content with that though she did describe it as Terror as well. Welcome to Terror—Australis. The extents of the cycles that Dorothea spoke of in 1906 are incomparable to what we are now seeing from bushfires to drought and floods. These are new times. They are being called unprecedented and they are catching us off guard. One by one Australians are becoming less stoic. The person who could endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining is now wondering what Terror is around the corner. Across the political landscape and the media is the buzz word of Resilience. A need to build resilience. The dictionary explains this as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. We now have Resilience NSW and even a Federal Minister for Emergency Management and National Recovery and Resilience but all of that is reactive. These agencies and funds step in after the event. What Dorothea spoke of in 1906 was the predictability of the Terrors, the drought, the floods, the fires. As a nation we know they are ever present. And as a nation we now know that each will become more extreme, possibly to a level never seen before. Blind Freddy knows this, the insurance industry is realising this and at some point we, as Australians will need to look to our own decisions of where we choose to live, anticipation that sea levels are expected to rise, climate events are expected to become more severe and that the responsibility for proactive resilience rests with each and all of us. How will this look? Presently our affluent live by the sea, live by the water or reside in leafy estates. If they can’t insure those properties will they move to safer grounds. And what will become of those who already live in the normally affordable low lying areas or on the fringes? To answer that we only need to look at Eurobodalla and recognise that our community, once stoic, has been relentlessly hammered since the 2018 drought. It has been one event after another of ’unprecedented’ proportions and each time our response has been reactive. And each of our reactions, on analysis, has been found to be wanting. For one reason or another we continue to fail to be prepared. Prepared for what? Who knows. But one day, someday we need to look at where we live, how we live, and realise that we need to adapt to the next event that will undoubtably arrive. Just how resilient are we to flood, fire and famine? What of food supply, water supply and energy needs? Do we respond collectively or individually. There is much to consider but without leadership we are left to our own devices. Just how resilient and prepared we are will matter. In a perfect world we might ready ourselves. In a perfect world we might have leaders and visionaries. For the meantime our survival rests on our own personal resilience. That is all we have. Until next lei