Bush – naming and possession

Bush Canning River Regional Park

The dust jacket of the book Gone Bush, edited by Roger McDonald, describes the Australian landscape as diverse. The writers’ essays in response to this landscape “explores a country defined by ideas of naming and possession”. In the next sentence if further elaborates that the collection of short stories by twelve Australian authors  also “… illustrates the fragility of an environment sometimes easier to hate than love….”.

The bush is a commonly used name for that area of relatively nondescript land covered in shrubs and vegetation. You can find remnants within the suburbs or it can also be a remote place far from any settlement. Unlike its fancier sister, Nation Parks, with her well defined borders, the bush is invisible on maps. Nor is it considered to hold any particular attractive natural feature or other value.

It is this invisibility and its relationship to the idea of naming and possession and therefore our perception of it that intrigues me. When further coloured with a love-hate sentiment it possibly flies under the radar of public scrutiny and enters the murky jurisdiction of bureaucrats. The area of land affected must be enormous. In European culture, maybe our problem is that we don’t have a name for this land. Not only does the nameless remain unspeakable, by definition it can be of no value and so it remains invisible to our psyches.

dumping rubbish bush canning river


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