A Message from our ambassador Professor Andrew Campbell
To find out more about our Ambassador click HERE
Cavendish Red Gum Festival 2020
The inaugural Cavendish Red Gum Festival in 2018 was a great success, despite bitterly cold, wet, windy weather. I’m looking forward to the sequel this year, with fingers crossed for classically autumnal western district conditions.
I live in Canberra these days, and we’re enduring a summer from hell. The unprecedented heat, drought, fires and hailstorms have burnt millions of hectares of bush, killed hundreds of millions of animals including thousands of stock, and destroyed fences, farm buildings, machinery, vehicles, gardens and homes. Tragically, around 30 people have lost their lives. Many more have lost their livelihoods and are suffering physically and mentally. The long-term impact of this summer is impossible to calculate, but right now it feels immense and fundamental, as if the world has shifted on its axis.
So getting back home to greener pastures and full dams for a week or so seems pretty enticing. In particular, once again to celebrate the beautiful red gum country and its iconic symbol, the majestic old paddock trees, timeless and immutable.
But if I’ve learned one thing this summer, it’s that in a hotter, drier climate, let alone the climates we’re heading into, we can’t take anything for granted. As young forestry students at Creswick in the 1970s, we were taught that ‘spotted gum doesn’t burn’, yet I’ve just driven through half a million hectares of burnt spotted gum forests between Canberra and the coast, with even wet ferny gullies of rainforest species incinerated to a blackened crisp.
The red gum country is a managed landscape, socially constructed by two hundred years of European settlement, but happily still dotted by magnificent trees that were already big and old, centuries before Captain Cook was born. We can try to preserve these living relics like museum artifacts, or we can try to create new red gum landscapes that are ecologically richer and more resilient, while trying to retain the productive landscape character we know and love. But the ‘do nothing’ or ‘business as usual’ options seem to me to be recipes for on-going decline and eventual disaster, sooner or later.
Figuring out how best to manage the red gum country is a fascinating challenge. The environmental symposium will bring together some great people with interesting perspectives. I would drive a very long way to listen to Bruce Pascoe or Charles Massy, but you can hear them both at the Cavendish Red Gum Festival. Flash writers’ festivals in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney – eat your heart out!
Bruce is challenging long-held, but rarely examined ‘wisdom’ about the land management practices of Aboriginal people in south-eastern Australia prior to European settlement. I find it astonishing today, that over my 13 years of schooling in Cavendish and Hamilton, never once did we get a single lesson introducing Budj Bim, a World Heritage site half an hour from Hamilton. We learnt more about English history than our own. Few books have confronted Australians’ understanding of our heritage as profoundly as Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe.
Dr Charles Massy is a woolgrower and industry leader who has thought more deeply about the Australian wool industry than most of us would ever want to. The Call of the Reed Warbler is an eloquent cross-examination of current farming systems and industry structures, and a passionate argument for a different relationship between people and country.
These are just two of many interesting speakers at the symposium. The beauty of the Red Gum Festival is that we celebrate these wonderful trees and landscapes through many lenses – science, poetry, music, painting, photography, woodwork and creative arts. The biggest challenge will be trying to take it all in, while enjoying the warmth of Cavendish and western district hospitality.
I can’t wait!