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AUDIO:Solutions to the Housing Crisis II

The joys of camping

I was listening to a recent ABC Radio National Hindsight program on camping:For work or for pleasure? A history of camping in Australia --
Buried within modern recreational camping is an almost unconscious history of other forms of camping that have been necessary in Australia, particularly from the time of settlement. – Bill Garner From Sydney Cove to the goldfields, the overland telegraph to the Snowy scheme, camping has enabled almost every phase of our historical development. Camping has been the unexamined circumstance for explorers, surveyors, settlers, gold diggers, itinerant workers, landscape artists, bush poets... and for Aboriginal people, whose ancient camping practices were altered irrevocably by the onslaught of Europeans and their stock through the nineteenth century. A former cattle station on the Murrumbidgee River embodies much of this history. From the time it was first gazetted in 1847, until its sale to NSW National Parks in 2005, Yanga was one of the biggest freehold properties in all of Australia. Generations of families lived and worked on Yanga—drovers, rabbit trappers, commercial fishermen, itinerant workers—and most of them camped. There are Aboriginal midden sites, canoe trees and ring trees on Yanga; evidence that camping was underway well before the pastoral industry took hold. Then there were the holiday campers for whom Yanga was a well-kept family secret; people whose idea of camping was isolation, self-sufficiency, and a bit of pig shooting. In Hindsight we visit Yanga and talk to old campers, probing personal histories of camping, where the line between work and pleasure was always blurred. But first we talk to the writer Bill Garner, who has spent two years searching for traces of old campsites in poetry and song, in paintings and explorers' logs, in colonial records, family albums and anthropologists´ field notes. He guides us on a quest for the origins of a quintessentially Australian leisure tradition. With special thanks to Dr Stephen Gapps for pointing Hindsight in the direction of Yanga.
I was listening and struck by the core relevance of the argument.We are a nation of campers such that for one month a year we will voluntarily in our hundreds of thousands forgo our triple fronted brick veneers or McMansions or inner city terrace houses and rough it with the kids on a patch of bush or sand and call it relaxation.

The Odd Preference

Odd isn't it? As though that's our unspoken preference -- at least occasionally.

But we don't do this in pristine isolation from one another. When we go bush or to the beach we choose to live "ontop on one another" (as my mother used to say) in caravan and camping parks.

We think it's OK that the toilet and shower block is shared and located 50-100 metres away and that the only air conditioning is what blows through the tent flaps.

Given the vagaries of history, Australians would make excellent refugees.

No wonder a favoured put down here, uttered as the voice of experience, is " shut the bloody door. You must live in a tent."

Of course there are tents and caravans and pop ups -- the variations on the mobile camping theme almost seems endless. Then there's the BBQ, the Dutch Oven and the 4 wheel drive culture...

It's almost as though we have been forced to live differently -- despite the grey nomads culture, we're alienated from a preference we choose to ignore: we'd rather live all together than alone.

It's the running treacle effect .

The story so far:

1 Com:

Ben Courtice | April 04, 2009

I have never understood the people who go camping on top of each other. It's not just the company (although some do like to go in a big group of friends/relatives, fair enough). I think it has as much to do with clustering around the security of official camp sites, with toilets and showers provided, the very basic but nevertheless "essential" amenities. I don't think they are essential, and go camping by preference where there's no-one else around, but I'm not your usual camper. I grew up in the bush sans electricity, mains water, telephone, street lights. "Far from the madding crowd" is my ideal of camping...

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