Tag Archives: #MetropolitanSewerageFarm

Farm Reflections: Gratitude

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It seems fitting that finishing off my PhD research should come with a last Farm Reflection. I only wrote a few over the three years of the research and perhaps should’ve written more, but this last reflection is a most important one.

A dear friend sent me this quote when I began my research and told me to stick it on my wall in my office, knowing what only a few knew at the time, of the turbulent change occurring in my life. And so I did, stuck it right above my computer monitor so I could see it daily, or at least every time I looked up.

Part of me dismissed the quote though, as being some new age saying. I believed that hard, tough change could never be gorgeous at the end. Change was happening all around me and I found it anything but gorgeous. But I did realise fairly quickly that part of the change I had to make was to loosen my noose of independence and stop believing I could do everything myself. I had always been the solver of problems and issues in my ‘other’ work, and I was a mother working inside and outside of the home. I knew nothing other than being Ms Independent.

Undertaking research meant I didn’t have answers: the whole point of research was to find them. It meant I had to ask questions, and ask people those questions to find those answers; that meant asking for their help.

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Interestingly and without realising, I’d put the quote beside another quote on my wall, about giving things a try. If ever I was being ‘told’, this was it: “Give it a try” whispered the heart. So with much effort, I began to ask the questions, and ask people to take time out of their day to help me. It was a tough mountain to climb.

Three years later, I have no idea how many people I have asked for help. Hundreds of people, I guess. And people have responded most generously, spending hours talking to me, sharing photos and other memorabilia, helping me to piece together the puzzle of the social history of the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm. My family and friends, supporting me to the finish, even when I had to disappear into a cave over the last six months to write up findings and finish by Christmas.

I’ve been able to write over 100 years of social history into a book and have enough material to write two more books at least. I don’t have any publishing details as yet, however I will share them when I do have them.

Even in the last weeks, after I finished my thesis and handed it in to the university for examination, people are still helping me to create a picture of the cricket team that formed on the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm in 1897, before the Metro Farm football team. Information on the cricket has been scarce until recently, but is now starting to form. It will most definitely feature in the second book.

The thing is, without the generosity of so many people giving their time and being patient to chat with me, even when I may have been a pest with a constant stream of questions and being pedantic with details, the work would not have been completed. It’s like there exists this band of pixie helpers who are invisible until I ask a question and then out they fly, from everywhere.

Generosity comes with kindness, and a willingness to help. The world can’t have enough of the stuff. Kindness and generosity are incredibly humbling too. I’ve often been blown away by people’s willingness to help and their patience and grace in doing so. It has inspired me to make the research count and that what is captured, is authentic and real. The harder I worked and the more questions I asked, the more obvious it became that documenting the social history of the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm was important to many.

The act of giving is so selfless, so sincere, warming and nourishing, and then to receive it …. it melts my heart, makes me gooey putty in anybody’s hands. Had I known this sooner, I would have learnt to ask for help a long time ago. In fact, if I could bottle it, I would. But I wouldn’t sell it. It’s too precious to sell. I’d give it away.

So, my public announcement here: my eternal and sincerest of most precious thanks to everyone connected to this research — the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm community, their families and friends; my university research team, family and friends; my special HDR writing group and fellow PhDers; organisations, the media, politicians, everyone involved that has supported me and the research, and who has an interest in the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm and its social history.

Thank you. Without you, we would not have captured a truly significant part of Melbourne’s history. We would not have been able to document the first social history of its kind of the community behind the making of one of Australia’s most important civic works projects in the 1890s and into the 1900s. And away from the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm, the work gives a new understanding of communities living isolated from broader society. The findings can be applied to any isolated community.

I’m most grateful for the time you’ve given me. It has been an honour working with you. You generosity and kindness has overwhelmed me at times, and inspired me.

I can vouch for change being hard and messy, but oh so, so gorgeous at the end.

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I should add that the two quotes sit next to another quote on my wall, about life being too short to not just go for it and never regretting anything that makes you smile. Life’s too short for regret. And we all want to be happy. Life is all a learning.

And so on that note, I’m taking a break to explore and hopefully see the northern lights in the arctic circle.

Happy new year and I hope 2020 flares exceptionally for you.

 

 

 

NOTES

These Farm Reflections come from a PhD research project investigating a community that grew after the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was founded in 1891 to treat Melbourne’s sewage at Werribee. As Melbourne grew, so did the work force to manage the treatment of the sewage, and a community of workers and their families grew to live on the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm. The population peaked to over 500 in the 1950s. The last family moved off the main part of the sewerage farm in 1984, while a few employees and their families lived on the boundary of the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm into the 1990s. However they lived as part of the main Werribee community.

The plant continues to treat Melbourne’s sewage and is now known as Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant.

For more information on the research project, please visit https://www.facebook.com/MetropolitanSewerageFarm

If you’d like to read other Farm Reflections, they can be found here:

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/farm-reflections-the-hickeys

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/farm-reflections-beryl

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/farm-reflections-a-faraway-land

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/farm-reflections-the-migrant-camp

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/melbung-smellee-welly-high

https://gr8word.com/index.php/entry/lands-faraway

 

 

 

 

 

Faraway lands

Death and Life, 1910-15 — Klimt

Death and Life, 1910-15 — Gustav Klimt

Tennis courts may be covered over and croquet lawns may have disappeared beneath overgrowth upon overgrowth, but the football pavilion still stands and dalliances within them and by the workshops nearby continue. No-one sees us, although some sense our presence.

The oval where football and cricket were once played still exists, even if smothered in a dense, undulating cover of green with goal posts standing on command at each end, said to serve the dual purpose of ventilation through their tops for pipes running below the ground’s surface. The reservoir is gone, the church and schools too. No abode or home exists or gardens well tendered or the cows that came with homes for milking. All are gone. In physicality, that is.

In the sublime of the underworld in this living ghost town of lands faraway, many breathe beneath the earth from where they once stood. Archaeologically, a sleeping beauty awaits her Prince Charming awakening.

Cheers to a life, wistful of lands faraway, in an honouring that’s grounding, appreciating and trusting, in the extremes of the harsh to the supremes of the magnificent, the challenging and enchanting, all collected and padlocked in a tiny box of hearts and souls as jewels protected within, of the most precious … the jewel of the crown is life on lands faraway.

A town of living ghosts in a life at honey speed, a calm and peace unwavering in the howl of withering leaves. Crested cockatoos streaming between trees of bare, shrilling whistles of a time unmoved. Ghosts of yesterday dance in sleeping ruins, among flying spiders’ webs glistening in the glory of the day, and families playing and living in a vast back yard of lands faraway.

The physical is fading. Drains where pumpkins once entwined the trunks of fruiting plum trees are now barren, date palms and cypress trees, pies at the football and beer behind the goals, whiskey at half time, the intrigue of the water tank, cream lilies and milk coffee, cows for milking .… they’re all dissolving, vanishing in lands faraway.

Yet it’s not gone, not this life in a ghost town oozing more spirited than the Mona Lisa, not even in the veil of isolation where mosquitoes gorge on the intoxicating imbue of twinkling dew and fat of fog. Of stockmen pulling up under apricot and apple trees for juicy sampling, of cannon balls in the swimming pool, sneaky peeks into the change rooms and bolting after stealing knickers … I’ll get you! Playing cards into the morning and raising money for those in need, men and women’s football … credit to the gals. Cricket, tennis and croquet, swimming in a land faraway.

Hinged in a haunting of melancholy is a place that once thrived, where homes of yesterday sleep in their tombs and ashes of those gone fly as a rising phoenix, beguiling ghosts to rejoice in their century old tales of yesterday. Wood chopped for the stove and to heat the copper, feeding the pigs and milking the cows, churning the cream and butter to a one-two, a chasse in the Pride of Erin. Listen and you’ll hear it, as a lifelong gloating gilded in gold dust, a rose of gold of never-ending that connects souls over lifetimes. This space of breath is a vast expanse of clarity, a bounty of beauty in perfect imperfection.

Cheers to a life in a living ghost town, a life at honey speed, wistful of what’s to come with lands faraway.

The air below thins, chokes in an asphyxiating exodus. All families and kin are gone, all have left, all homes disappeared. The hall sleeps peacefully by the swimming pool, two hearts beating as one, and all working in the old office have moved into a new building full of modernity. We follow them, our escapades above their beavering. Some look up at us and smile, wonder if we’re there.

All is gone. All jewels fall from crowns, eventually.

Up here, we gather by the day in blissing glee, more illuminous by the week with the lost and disconnected on a quest for this place of no place. They know where the warmth is and seek it out – the little boy falling into a street drain, the weather presenter disappearing with her belongings, and the man of discontent who flees in an alcohol infused bender, to suicide by the river. They’re all here, even those that chose to leave the planet in the years of turbulent demise of this land faraway are here, lost in their own cloud but intrinsically weaved into the fabric of this dignified and honouring place, rejoicing in the pleasure as above and so below.

Jewels may fall from crowns, but they never fail to sparkle in the brilliance of the most brilliant, multi-faceted gems. Whether in a white yellow, green or rose of gold setting, they shine a forever shine.

Cheers to a life in a living ghost town, in a life at honey speed, of a house and two cows and a land faraway.

 

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