Day ten

by stronged

Another superb day out in the Bend. The sun was shining, the temperature was quite warm. For a change, a Northerly was sweeping through, adding some nice texture to my sound recording.

I started my day dropping in on Tarq and Dan across Gongflers to print off some more consent forms. Had a nice chat with Danny about some of the places I have been checking out and her experience with some of the characters of the Bend. I then headed back to my bro’s for a quick breaky before walking up to the Fisher’s property for #1 interview of the day.

Tom Fisher is a retired academic who has been living with his wife Carolyn in the Bend for almost 30 years. He spoke of the early days with unease, explaining how his first impression of the Bend was quite a negative one. He and Carolyn trekked their way to the Co-op property from upper Catani on a hot day. The place was dry and he wasn’t wearing appropriate footwear. It wasn’t the best way to initiate themselves with the Bend, but for some reason they persevered with purchasing and building on a property on Upper Catani.

Tom dived into BICA in the early days, but was soon disheartened due to their aggressive tactics in solving issues around the Bend and their dogmatic approach to the ELZ. He soon bowed out, only to involve himself more recently since retirement (much like the Mildenhalls). He has been a key instigator for the recent connection with the Wurendjeri people of Healesville and an organiser of the Australia day clean-up (which involves the removal of fences, clearing the tracks of old and new litter, and clearing willows and other introduced flora). It was interesting to hear about the negative aspects of BICA (the internal politics) and some of the recent goings on of the BICA initiatives (their dealings with Wandins Narrap Team and Bill Nicholson’s address at the BICA AGM – he apparently asked the BICA members why they are here in the BOI. This opened up much reflection and rumination about their sense of place).

I felt like I was in good hands speaking with Tom and (briefly with) Janet, as they are educationists and could explore the theoretical aspects of my research topic. Tom spoke about The Book of Changes – from what I can remember, he explained it as an ancient Chinese numerical system based on divination that explores notions of jungian synchronicity – and Janet mentioned she had read about Humanist Geography back in her uni days.

But I am getting ahead of myself. After interviewing Tom I took some video of him outside (unfortunately, this seemed to concern him as his eyes were darting and he seemed to withdraw a bit) before departing from their beautiful property.

I dropped in on Mia on the way back to my brothers, handing her a consent form to pass onto her fella Luke to sign. We chatted about possibly interviewing her on Friday. I feel I need to get on top of editing the interviews in order to see where the gaps of the story are before continuing on with interviewing more members of the community. I’ve been enjoying the process, but must put the breaks on and refine what I have before I strategically plan my next move. Otherwise this project will turn out bigger than Ben Hur!

Next, I drove out to the Co-op to interview Frank, who moved into that particular house in ’82 with partner Janet. An engineer by trade, Frank has pursued a double life out in the Bend as an avid twitcher and invertebrate enthusiast. Birds began as his specialty, and since having retired he has pursued his interest in butterflies and dragonflies. We spoke at length about two types of knowing the land: 1) learning habitually about the place around by living in it (walking the same route each day, noticing different things – the changing of the seasons prompting these realisations) deepens your spiritual and emotional connection with the land, and 2) setting out with a clear objective (stalking birds or dragonflies) separates the intimacy you feel with the land as you focus in on a singular aspect and do not sense the bigger picture that you do in the first way.

Frank mentioned some great anecdotes about his exposure to the flora and fauna of the Bend. My interpretation of what he was telling me that the place begins to talk back to you once you cross a particular threshold of experience and gained knowledge about your environment. When this occurs, particular narratives emerge from the bush, as animals interactions are reactions from particular incidents that have occurred elsewhere. It is only through connecting with other community members and being out amongst the bush that Frank is able to piece together the puzzle.

There seems to be particular common themes that surface from chatting with people around the Bend:

  • The Bend is about “guardianship” of the land as opposed to “ownership”
  • There is widely spread apprehension that the ELZ could potentially be thrown out the window if the current government does not find it suits their agenda
  • The Bend is about the connection of two worlds: Conservation and Community = Residential Conservation.
  • The zoning guidelines are the reflection of the original ethos and ideology of the early days of BICA (1960’s-70’s), that has become the spirit of the Bend. This ideology and sense of symbiosis or living in natural harmony with the bush is what attracts many residents to the Bend. It is also the binding agent that brings both the South (subdivision) and North (co-op) Benders together.
  • Bush fires are a serious threat that the community cannot be safeguarded against.
  • It is not about your individual block of land as much as it is about the overall conservation of the ELZ. With a collective vision comes a collective responsibility.

I got part of the way through an interview with Janet when I ran out of memory on my memory card. Unfortunately RMIT does not supply a second card so I had to wrap it up there. I have made arrangements to return on Friday to continue on where we left off. Janet seems to be a wealth of knowledge and is passionate about the community aspects as much as the fight to uphold the ELZ and autonomy from the Nillumbik Shire. I’m looking forward to hearing what else she has to say about placemaking in the Bend.

Tomorrow I am meeting up with Adrian and I have nothing really to show him. I feel like cancelling the meeting but feel that perhaps we can utilise the time to plan out my exegesis and interface design. The meeting is also well timed to allow me two more days out at the Bend to collect material that Adrian may suggest I should obtain.

It is nice to see the Choughs out and about at this time of year, collecting material to build their nests. They are so intently focused that my walking past them does not deter them in the slightest. I should take a leaf out of their book and stop letting my anxiety get the better of me and continue to plod along making, writing, and making some more.


Here’s a bearded orchid.

and Frank from today having a giggle about being in a video portrait.