Perth (The City Series)
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David Whish-Wilson's Perth is a place of surprising beauty, of sand-swept peace and brilliant light, yet a place where the deeper historical currents are never too far beneath the surface. Like the Swan River that flows in two directions at once at certain times, with the fresh water flowing seawards above the salty water flowing in beneath it, Perth strikes perfect harmony with the city's contradictions and eccentricities. We look beyond shiny glass facades and boosterish talk of mining booms to the richness of the natural world and the trailblazers, the rebels, the occasional ghost and the ordinary people that bring Australia's remotest city to life.
resupply. Perhaps the best that can be said of Perth’s early failure to thrive is that it served as a lesson to subsequent colonisers. One of the colony’s chief critics was Edward Gibbon Wakefield, an agitator for the model of ‘systematic colonisation’ that was soon to find expression in the settlement of Adelaide. Wakefield regarded the Perth model as an object lesson in how not to conceive a colony: mistakenly offering generous land grants to masters who would struggle to hold their servants
have done so, let the water run off you, and have a look at the result. That is alluvial.’ When Vosper was elected as an independent to the state government’s lower house, the Legislative Assembly, he moved to Perth, married a widow and drew on her money to start up The Sunday Times. Among other things, he used the paper as a mouthpiece to hound John Forrest for what he saw as ducking the issue of better representation for the miners of Coolgardie. Vosper had exploited the vehicle of an earlier
that, of course, the rest is history. Writers Niall Lucy and John Kinsella, in their recent collaboration, The Ballad of Moondyne Joe, take J.B. O’Reilly’s 1879 novel Moondyne as a starting point from which to examine the meaning associated with the life of Joseph Bolitho Johns, by way of ‘a work of the imagination informed by conversations on history, literature, philosophy and AC/DC’. Using a mixture of poetry, parody and reflection, the life of Moondyne Joe is drawn into broader discussions
comically rendered floor-to-ceiling mural in lurid colours called ‘Wayne and Willie’s Swimming Lesson’. It depicts a river of blood, a rape scene, some mates drinking in a bar, a robbery in progress, a woman being dragged off by her hair. This image captures most people’s worst fears regarding the minds of prisoners, the callous cycle of life of the recidivist criminal. But this painting is a minority in the broader gallery of paintings, sketches and scrawls. In the nearby cells there are the
years. It’s hard to overstate how poor Western Australia would be without their books. Kudos to funding bodies, publishers and editors, past and present. For readers interested in pursuing a more comprehensive recent history of Perth than I’ve been able to provide here, I wholly recommend Jenny Gregory’s City of Light: A History of Perth Since the 1950s. I also recommend the various municipal histories of Perth that are too numerous to mention but are often crammed with fascinating detail (they