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The long-awaited history that will change the way Australians think about their country.
The Water Dreamers is the story of the settlement of Australia: of the scarcity of water and the need to fill an imagined silence with the sounds of civilisation. From the moment the First Fleeters stepped ashore, water determined progress. The Tank Stream that flowed through what is now the Sydney CBD provided fresh water until settlers and their livestock fouled it. Then water from a nearby swamp was piped into the growing settlement. When it ran dry sights were set further afield.
The Water Dreamers is an illuminating account of the ways people have imagined and interpreted Australia while struggling to understand this continent and striving to conquer its obstacles. It’s an environmental history and a cultural history with an unmistakable sense of how, today, we are part of that continuing story.
‘Both rollicking yarn and scholarly essay, this wonderful book offers an archaeology of our national psyche. With vivid imagery, irreverent wit and penetrating insight, Michael Cathcart reveals the subterranean contours of the Australian geographical imagination and exposes the cultural forces that still powerfully shape our plans for this land. The Water Dreamers is exhilarating to read—intelligent, wry and compelling.’
‘This is a fascinating history that fits nicely into the larger picture of Australia, while exploring some of the things we take for granted in our national psyche.’
‘Desert continent, newcomers, clashing with threatened locals, resource-sharing unheard of and the water of life is a touchstone for all manner of endeavour… After years of drought, this historical account show—from Port Jackson’s Tank Stream through explorers and the Snowy scheme—just how political this resource has been and remains.’
‘Water defines Australia. It is the economy’s lifeblood and the reason for national patterns of settlement. This is the foundation idea of this timely book. …Author Michael Cathcart offers a measured perspective for many farmers and increasingly, city dwellers….This is a very readable book with immediate appeal for farmers, irrigators and primary producers broadly.’