Develop the north: Aborigines, environment and Australian nationhood in the 1930s

McGregor, Russell (2004) Develop the north: Aborigines, environment and Australian nationhood in the 1930s. Journal of Australian Studies, 28 (81). pp. 33-45.

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[Extract] Develop the north had been a cry of Australian nationalists since the prefederation era. It was part of a larger demand to develop the nation, to provide Australia with the economic and demographic resources requisite for prosperity and defence.1 However, the north (within which term I include the contiguous areas of arid central Australia) had particular pertinence to this national project, since it was there, facing the source of the feared invasion, that the emptiness of the continent was most starkly displayed. Northern development was not just a national ambition but, more importantly, a nationalist myth: beyond pragmatic matters of economic productivity and military preparedness, it embodied an aspiration for national unity and an incentive for collective action to remedy the supposed deficiency — even disgrace — of vast lands lying empty and unused. Like other nationalist myths, northern development inspired some extravagant visions of the future: the desert transformed into endless grain-fields and abundant orchards, worked by millions of sturdy independent farmers whose produce would be shipped out through numerous bustling ports along the northern coastline or via the network of railways that would crisscross the continent. Australians then could be proud of their national achievement and confident in their national future, for they would have validated their possession of the land by peopling the empty spaces and transforming the wilderness into farmland.

Item ID: 4507
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1835-6419
Date Deposited: 15 Sep 2009 23:56
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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