Introduction

Forty years association with the Shire of Eltham has indelibly imprinted on my mind that it is entirely different-both environmentally and socially from any other locality in Victoria, or indeed Australia. As one crosses the Yarra River, either at Warrandyte or at Templestowe, there occurs an immediate change of character and mood. Outer suburbia gives way to the red gold colour and light of the dense native bush. A strong mingled scent of wattle and eucalypt pervades the atmosphere. The calls of magpies, kookaburras, currawongs and other larger birds pour out from the higher trees on the hillsides, while the bellbirds reply from the watery gullys below.

The indigenous quality of the Australian bush occurs because of this ethereal liquidity of the senses-light, colour, scent and sound. It evokes a spirit of wonder as emotive as the measureless caverns of Zanadu, more wistful than the slender columns and water gardens of the Alhambra Palace.

It is impossible to fully define why this atmosphere occurs in Eltham, but it does involve the felicitous combination of the antideluvian character general to the continent, with a pungent zest caused by the confluxion of the strong winds and wild waters of the adjacent Bass Strait. Its effect on the writers, the painters, the poets and all those other creative citizens who have lived in the district is ample evidence of its ability to hold them in a very special way. When they come, they see and they are conquered and are never quite the same again. Most will, if possible, become permanent citizens who will seek ways to enhance both their adopted community and its environment.

This indigenous environment causes us 'to become what we stand on', and it~ essence passes through our senses to generate an inner voice that identifies us with the power of perfection of creation. It can relate man to man in his visions and works, and turns self centredness into dynamic community.

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