In Lieu of Walking

I found some links:

  • Here is a pdf of a book on the early settlement of the Illawarra.  Interesting how the focus is mainly from 5 Islands south and how much emphasis is placed on describing places (land allotments) in terms of their bordering waterways – Mullet Creek, Macquarie rivulet, the Shoalhaven river, etc:  illawarra_settlement
  • Found this oral history site on Lake Illawarra (with Warren Burt as VO!)
  • Mullet (the film):

And I had some thoughts:

People living on Illawarra Creeks, risking flooding, land slippage, etc.  Do they do everything to deny their precarious status?  Do they have faith in the the integrity of their land and the contemporary engineering of storm water drains, etc. or do they have an apocalyptic imaginary – stories of rising water levels, of terrible flooding events?  Does the flow of water soothe and reassure them or does it frighten them?  Are they happy with where they are or would they prefer to be elsewhere?  Are they curious about the creek?  Have they wandered its length?  Are they interested in where it comes from and goes?

So we could perhaps consider the variety of ways that people live next to creeks, the ways in which they manage and imagine the correspondence of suburban order and creek-side existence.

Good to attend an auction of an ‘awkwardly positioned’ creek-side house.  How is creek-side identity negotiated, imagined and marketed?  I recall, Lucas, how you thought better of buying a house in Thirroul that was positioned beside a gully/creek and how I have bought a house beside a creek on two occasions, but now, like Kim, live on a slight hill.

As an example of all this, I think of two houses on Collins Ck in Woonona.  The map of Collins Ck suggests quite misleadingly that it stops just a few hundred metres inland:

collins_ck_woonona_map

But the satellite map demonstrates that it runs much further:

collins_ck_satellite_woonona_map

My interest is in the branch that runs to the south just inland of Grand Pacific Drive and then snakes across to the Princes Highway.

On opposite sides of the Princes Highway are two creek-side houses:

collins_ck_satellite_detail_woonona_map

Both properties are run-down.  I am particularly interested in the one labelled Lot B because, unlike the one located on the other side of the highway, it does nothing to separate itself from the creek.  Instead it seems to descend into to it – to have established its identity precisely in terms of being low, dark, green and persistently wet.  The property runs all the way to a turning circle dead end and is completely over-grown and unruly – but people live there, right beside the highway and yet completely immersed in the creek.

Since I lack all social graces, the two of you would be great to tease out the background to this place – to knock on the door and ask how they have come to live in this way.  I even imagine something like a formal sociological survey with multiple choice and short answer questions.  We could ask them, for instance, “From which direction will the apocalypse come?” and “Do you hear voices of despair late at night?  Do they come from the creek?  How regularly?”

Anyway, I offer these thoughts in lieu of doing any actual walking.

One thought on “In Lieu of Walking”

  1. Great! This is all fantastic Brogan. Good to see you are putting your formidable brain to work on the many possibilities for this project. I think you are underestimating your social graces – however, if you really wanted to play the ham you could dress as a ghoul and knock on doors at 10pm to ask your listed questions, particularly the one “do you hear voices of despair late at night?”
    Seriously though, I think the creeks as catchments and conveyors of water are a really interesting physical presence in this residential environment, particularly when you think about what’s going on under the surface. Given that the northern suburbs are located on coal seams – ‘slip’ country – there is the persistent possibility of calamity when there’s a lot of rain.
    When I first came to Wollongong in 1989 ( I can hardly believe I’ve been here so long!), I had come from Melbourne, the place that people usually associate with dreary rain. It was hot and dry there, summer. I arrived in Wollongong for two glorious weeks of sunshine, followed by four months of torrential rain. It became quite apocalyptic – Lawrence Hargrave Drive kept literally collapsing around the Stanwell Park Coalcliff area where I was staying; it felt like the land was sliding away. A woman and her child were killed in their home when the railway line caved in above their house. My permanent footwear was a pair of gumboots. Everything, but everything, went mouldy. So, that gives you an idea of the potential of this place. Then of course there were the ’98 floods, which I had direct experience of. Those seemingly insubstantial creeks that back on to so many yards just carried everything away towards the sea. It all makes sense in the light of the topography of this place.

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