Yesterday I interviewed the community liaison officer who has signed permission to release his name to the public – Rudi. It was a slow build, but turned out to be an appropriate starting interview for the project. He was minding his younger son Ned who was a delight to interact with. After some brief niceties we sat down to have a cuppa.
Unfortunately I had to rely on my iphone as my primary recording device. As we sipped on our cuppas Rudi would occassionally name bird songs he could identify. I was impressed by his knowledge and fatherly skills as Ned crawled over him like a playground apparatus.
Rudi and his partner have lived in the BOI for 12 years. When they originally bought into the Bend the house was quite a strange combination of different elements, the most impressive of which was a metal geodome as the second storey. Rudi and his partner have since renovated the house to suit their own aesthetics and functionality. There are some features that are still left over from the last structure though; notably an old ship beam that runs vertically up between the spiral staircase.
Rudi found it hard to articulate what the BOI’s is for him. He seemed to stress over finding the one story from his experiences that would sum this place up. I reassured him that he doesn’t need to encapsulate his thoughts and feelings about the BOI in one story – fragments are fine. Anecdotes, descriptions, sensations.
It was quite awkward to video him at the end of the interview. He was incredibly happy for me to film him any which way I wanted to – even allowing me to get up close and personal with my macro lens. In hindsight, I feel I should have instructed him more in regards to how to react in front of the camera.
He has given me the BICA calendar and I’m borrowing his copy of the BICA Land Management Plan to help me get my head around identifying the flora and fauna of the region.
Rudi and his family are heading off for several weeks on Friday so I will have to do without his friendly advice and expertise.
Leaving Rudi’s I noticed I was running late for my next interview with Mick Woiwod. I quickly had a bite for lunch before jumping in the car headed for Eltham.
Mick lived in the Bend from 1979 – 2007. He was an active member during that time, researching, writing and championing the ongoing protection of the Yarra Valley region. Unfortunately, due to health reasons, he had to move from the Bend to Eltham to be cared for by his daughter. I was impressed with how switched-on he is for an 84-year-old. We ended up chatting for roughly three hours where he delineated upon the BOI and provided a geological and socio-historical context. He has written extensively upon the BOI and the greater Yarra Valley region. I am now working my way through his The Christmas Hills Story: Once Around the Sugarloaf II and his Birrarung Database that is also digitised.
Every sentence he uttered seemed to be riddled with gems of useful information. It was great to hear about the Indigenous history of the place; how the BOI came into being geologically (the Shire of Nillumbik – that originally was called the Parish of Sutton – is an Indigenous name meaning “bad” (“Nillum”) “earth” (“bik”) to describe the poor quality of soil due to geological fault lines pushing the BOI’s region up into rocky clay ridges. BOI can be contrasted to Kangaroo Ground (KG), that offers farmers rich volcanic soil to produce exceptional crops. The Indigenous term for KG was Moorrul, which means “Dark Red Earth.” I like how the uniqueness of BOI has come from it being an underdog, abandoned by pastoral ambitions.); the first squatters of the region; the flora and fauna; how particular places received their names; and the more recent conservationist history from the 1970’s cohort (Tim Healy, Neil Douglas, John McCallum, etc.).
Despite hearing about the tragic circumstances of colonisation (which involved the genocide-like deaths of 90% of the indigenous population over 16years of settlement), Mick encouraged me to look at the present day BOI’s to understand how strong, unique, and sustainable a community it really is. It has taken us this long to understand our effect on the environment, but at least we now do!
I find myself in quite a bind, as I need to focus on writing my draft exegesis for submission on Friday but feel like I will be looking a gift-horse in the mouth due to having the Bend on my doorstep over these two weeks. Feeling very torn.