Australia and New Zealand are today commemorating Anzac Day. In Australia, at least, it’s our unofficial national day and an ideal that’s come to be embodied by the concepts of mateship and hardship.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been travelling in outback Queensland, a part of the country that might easily be described as the most Australian part of Australia. It’s a place also where, right now, mateship and hardship are on full display.
Large parts of western Queensland have been in severe drought for about 18 months. Farmers and towns present stoic, defiant public faces, but they’re hurting – a policewoman in one town described her community to me as being in crisis. Yet as the heat seeped from the land each sweltering afternoon, storm cells such as the ones in these photos would brew across the sky, offering temporary promise.
Across narrow lines, the storms would dump torrents of rain. These photos were taken around Bladensburg National Park, at the edge of Winton. Most of the land was bone dry, but at least three such storm cells jostled across the horizon at any one time. As I crossed the path of one, the road was suddenly underwater and even in a 4WD I began to sink into the notorious black soil.
The trouble with this outback rain is that it’s so haphazard, and the lines it travels are too narrow. Farmers watch the storms roll past but more often receive frustration instead of rain. Tiny patches of land drink up the water and the rest continues to suffer.
As I journeyed through Bladensburg National Park, I could only hope that the weather gods also had some sense of mateship, and some of this rain was falling where it was needed.