Thursday, August 18, 2016

Australian Sojourn – May 2016

Part 5: Albury

I continue this evening my special Wild Reed series documenting my recent visit home to Australia. (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

Tonight's installment features photos and commentary from my time in Albury. My good friend Kate lives just outside of this rural New South Wales city.

Albury is separated from Wodonga, its twin city in the neighboring state of Victoria, by the Murray River, which is Australia's longest river. Together the two cities form an urban area with an estimated population of 90,000.

I traveled to Albury from Melbourne on Saturday, May 14, a journey of three hours or so. Kate and her partner Shane met me at Albury Railway Station, where the photos above and at left were taken. The platform at this station is one on the longest in the southern hemisphere.

About the Aboriginal history of the area, one online resource (a community health resource) notes the following.

The original inhabitants and traditional owners of the Murray River area near Albury and Wodonga are the Wiradjuri, Wavereoo and Dhudhuroa people. Albury was a resettlement area in the 1970's and many Aboriginal people moved to the area at this time, particularly from western New South Wales.

We are quite a transient population with many new faces around at the moment. There are currently around 2,500-3,000 Aboriginal people in our community living on both sides of the Murray River.

Aboriginality is in the heart. In our community there are as many fair skinned Aboriginal people as there are dark skinned people. In some respects, we are quite invisible as a community. The Murray river is considered the giver of life, not a divider of communities, but it can be challenging to collect accurate data about health needs and service usage as the organisations used by community members are located in both NSW and Victoria.

I first met Kate in 1984 in Armidale, where we both were attending our first year of college. The photo above was taken in 1985 when I traveled with Kate and a number of other college friends to the New South Wales/Victoria border area for a friend's 21st birthday party. Pictured from left: me, Nikki, Mickey (partly obscured), Dom, Kate, and Kathy.

Above: Kate and I on beach near Coffs Harbour with our mutual friends Kathy and Melinda – October 1986. Kate's boyfriend at the time, Brett, took this photo.

Above: With Kate in January 2001. This photo was taken in Goulburn during one of my visits home to Australia after my move to the U.S. in 1994.

Up until my Australian sojourn in May of this year, the last time I saw Kate was in early 2003, when she visited me in Port Macquarie where I was staying with my parents – again, during one of my visits back to Australia from the States. That was 13 years ago! It was high time we saw each other again. Hence my (albeit brief) visit to Albury.

Above: When I visited Kate and Shane in May they were care-taking a farm cottage on the outskirts of Albury.

Above: Kate and Shane.

Right: Shane with his Brazilian parakeet.

Shortly after my arrival in Albury on May 14, Kate and Shane were called to go check on one of Kate's horses that was on agistment on a farm in the nearby hill country. Having already traveled for over three hours, I opted to stay at their place while they went and did this.

It was a beautiful autumn evening, and I spent much of it simply being outside in the coolness of the fading light. I guess I just wanted to soak up all the unique beauty of the Australian landscape at dusk. I took some photos (above, left and below) but they don't do justice to the beauty I witnessed.

Once darkness fell, I went inside the cottage and read by the fire one of the books I'd brought with me on my sojourn: Posthumous Keats by Stanley Plumly.

Shortly after Kate and Shane's return at around 11:00 p.m., we experienced a black-out – a common occurrence at the cottage, I was told. Power was restored a few hours later. Kate and I talked long into the night, catching up on the events of the many years since we'd seen each other.

Above and below: Sunday morning, inside and outside the cottage.

Above, right and below: Paying a visit to two of Kate's horses, not far from her family home at Table Top.

Above and left: Visiting Kate's mum, Alice – Sunday, May 15, 2016.

The portrait in the background of the photo above is of Alice as a child. It was painted by the revered Australian artist Russell Drysdale (1912-1981).

Drysdale won the prestigious Wynne Prize for his work Sofala in 1947 and represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1954. He was influenced by abstract and surrealist art, and, according to the Oxford Companion to Art, "created a new vision of the Australian scene as revolutionary and influential as that of Tom Roberts."

NEXT: Goulburn

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 1 – Maroubra
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 2 – Morpeth
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 3 – Melbourne
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 4 – Hanging Rock

Photography: Michael J. Bayly.
Aboriginal artwork: Artist unknown.

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