Jan 18, 2012
A couple of hours south of Darwin, in the Daly River region, the immense scale of the Northern Territory landscape has already humbled those who traverse it. There is a sense of calm. Red dust covers everything in sight.
The cycle of life and the necessity of death underpin life in the Territory. You see it as you rattle along ungraded roads lined with the charred remains of eucalypts – burned by locals to encourage regrowth during the wet season.
The word “sublime” – which the philosopher Edmund Burke defined as beauty and terror in equal measure – seems appropriate. In this landscape, death is ever-present: whether evidenced by the magnificent eagle wing abandoned at the side of the road or in the stealthy crocodile lurking nearby as fresh barramundi is cooked on the fire.
Yet the sheer honesty of daily life on a cattle station is more powerful even than the brochure-ready highlights of Litchfield National Park: the magnificence of Wangi Falls just after sundown or the swimming holes at Florence and Robin Falls. What is so striking is the way in which the young stockmen demonstrate a purity of purpose and spirit. Every action is a necessity: to eat, to drink, to herd, to fish. Even the cattle dog radiates a powerful intensity, embodying this idea of hardship endured for the greater good. The pace is slow and determined – and driven by the seasonal variations; not a conversation is overheard that does not include either “the wet” or “the dry”.
The concept of “Territory Time” was summed up in an eponymous exhibition at the Chan Contemporary Art Space in Darwin, as we left the region: “Isolation and extreme seasons limit one’s activities and daily achievements, and create a sense of time that is fluid, warped; marked by waiting ‘Territory time’ controls the lives of residents, who must adopt an attitude of acceptance”
It was breathtaking to observe the dusty landscape brought to life by these determined stockmen. Little time or opportunity for luxury, but then again, little need. The landscape and solitude seemed to provide all the nourishment their souls required.
Source Qantas The Australian Way February 2012