Harvest drawing to a close brought to my mind an historical Western Australian event of epic proportions.
Post WWI, many Australian and British veterans took up parcels of land to farm in remote regions of Western Australia. When the Great Depression hit in 1929 farmers were encouraged to plant more wheat, with the promise of government subsidies (which never came). Inland drought and annual migration bought wildlife to the grain rich paddocks and livestock soaks of marginal farming land around Campion and Walgoolan.
Some of the older people in WA still recall the emergency in the second half of 1932: a wildlife plague that reached such desperate levels that troops were called to (f)arms, under Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, Sergeant S. McMurray, and Gunner J. O'Halloran. Settlers familiar with war requested Lewis automatic machine guns to brace themselves against the tide of 20,000 ravenous Murchison yallabiddies (more commonly known as the humble emu).
The Great Emu War was so hotly anticipated that a Fox Movietone cinematographer was dispatched to capture the battle for the rest of the world, but in what can possibly be described as a comedy of errors, the war against the emus was largely thwarted, not only by the desultory behaviour of the emus themselves, but also by weather, equipment, and morale.
Recently, in my research of the supply chain radio doco, I've come across quite a few people who identify as animal activists, but actually just reserve their animal welfare activities to the rescue of rabbits.
That's just what Australia needs more of. Rabbits.
Gabbing to them got me thinking more about one of Australia's iconic man-made structures. The Rabbit-Proof Fence.
Most people in Western Australia have seen the signs for Rabbit-Proof Fence Road. A century ago everyone knew about the fence, but in recent times many Australians weren't particularly aware of the rabbit-proof fence until the eponymous film came out in 2002, based on the 1996 book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington.
But what is the story behind the Rabbit-Proof Fence?
Although many of Australia’s early colonial settlers of the eighteenth century were not of the highest moral fibre, by the mid 1800’s various affluent Britons were relocating here. Welcome the Acclimatisation Societies.
Oh! Acclimatisation Societies. That sounds lovely, you think. They obviously wanted to acclimatise to their new home, Australia, right?
No. Not exactly.
Acclimatisation Societies were created in order to “enrich the fauna of a region with animals and plants from around the world.” Of course, today we find that idea abhorrent, having seen the ruinous affects of introduced species on endemic flora and fauna. But the real purpose of the Acclimatisation Society in Australia was to make Australia more like Great Britain. Early acclimatisers had introduced domesticated rabbits (among other things), but these were not good for hunting, and didn't survive very well in the scrubby landscape.
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