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Writing and writers

May 3, 2009

Roadkill of the week - Kangaroos & Wallabies of the NT

Maybe instead of blaming the animals we should be saying "I committed a murder of a kangaroo today", "I was driving too fast to let the Wedge-tailed Eagle get enough height to get off the roadway" or "I didn't slow down to let that Goanna cross the road safely".

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Antelopine Wallaby (?) near katherine 2006
Antelopine Wallaby (?) near Katherine 2006

I’ll be chairing a session on Monday next as part of the Alice Springs Writers Festival at the wonderful Olive Pink Botanic Gardens in a session called Roadkill – the Festival program tells me that:

“The roadtrip is iconic in Territorian culture. Join Jennifer Mills, Richard J Frankland, Shane Maloney & Mary Anne Butler for some fine, highway cuisine and roadhouse yarns. Facilitator: Bob Gosford. Roo stew; free coffee to every driver. 12:30-2:00pm Courtyard, Olive Pink.”

So – be there or be elsewhere! as a Swamp Jockey once told me.

Unidentified kangaroo species, Tanami Track, 2007
Unidentified kangaroo species, Tanami Track, 2007

But more seriously, I’ve been taking photos of roadkill I’ve come across on the side of – or just on – the various roads I’ve spent so many hours driving and riding on over the years and I look forward to adding to my selection over the coming months as I travel the country to meet and talk with various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and groups about their local bird knowledge.

One day I’ll work on putting them together for an exhibition – and in this I’m mindful of the – apparently excellent – eponymous exhibition put together some years ago by the wonderful Fairfax snapper Narelle Autio.

Among many other national and international awards, in 2001, Narelle won a 1st Prize World Press Photo Award in nature and environment for her series on Australian roadkill – unfortunately I haven’t found any of these images online to share a link to…

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Unidentified Wallaby species - Stuart Highway 2006

For me these images of dead things are ineffably sad – they vary from the freshly dead – covered in flies and picked over by dingoes, eagles and hawks – to the dispersed and dessicated carcasses – sometimes scattered across the roadside – sometimes slowly being ground to paste or dust – dependent on the season or the location – on the roadway.

Unidentified species, Stuart Highway 2006
Unidentified species, Stuart Highway 2006

I have a compelling fascination with these poor dead and lost souls left on the highway – in some parts, particularly on the more well-traveled NT roads like the Stuart Highway, there are literally hundreds of carcasses littered along the particular stretches of the road – often near drainage lines and floodways – sometimes clustered together in an area with no indication as to why they cross the road at that point.

Many of the victims are birds – too many birds – and kangaroos and wallabies, horses, cattle, pigs, cats…all that crosses or intersects the road will at some time fall victim to our fast foolishness…

Wallaby, Stuart Highway 2006
Wallaby, Stuart Highway 2006

More, many more, to come…sadly…but I feel a need to bring these things to you – as a witness to the fact of their deaths, to prove that they did die and still live – in an image or in our minds and hearts – even as we pass their wrecked bodies in our behemoths, uncaring and unseeing.

deadFor most of us wildlife on the road are little more than bothersome intruders on our time or convenience – think of how we view them – “a kangaroo hit my car”, “A dingo ran into me”, “A bird hit my windscreen” – maybe instead of blaming the animals we should instead be saying “I committed a murder of a kangaroo today”, “I was driving too fast to let the Wedge-tailed Eagle get enough height to get off the roadway” or “I didn’t slow down to let that Goanna cross the road safely”.

Got a roadkill story – share it with us by leaving a comment.

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