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The role of the environment in the KellyGang story


Major Mitchell called North Eastern Victoria 'Australia Felix' and likened it to an English park. The trees were spread out over a grassy plain. That appearance owed much to the practices of the Aboriginals who burn the kangaroo grass just before summer each year. That kept the land under the trees free of competing vegetation and allowed the grass to flourish with the spring rains. The trees were mainly grey box and redgums with stringbark on the hills.

In the higher country the grass stayed greener longer and some saw similarities with Scotland.

The from the arrival of the first Europeans in the area in the late 1830's until the late 1870's there had been nothing but change. The aborigines were the first to suffer from this change but soon the kangaroos and other local wildlife had to come to terms with sheep cattle men horses and dogs etc. While the environment had a short reprieve, gold frenzy had no respect for waterways or other things that got in the way. The lack of adequate land and Australia's hash climate meant that small scale selectors like the KellyGang had little chance to enjoy their world.

While the hills may not have changed since the time of the KellyGang, most of the other aspects of the countryside have been affected by our progress.

The bush was described in terms of being wild with deep gullies etc (Herald4/7/1880)

In the area near Benalla, on the other side of the Hume Highway, the country was a large flat plain covered with boxgum trees. Selectors cleared this and planted wheat (Argus19/4/80) (Argus21/6/80)

There are references to Violet Ponds and swamps at Greta and many other places that have been drained. The Strathbogies forest was a good hiding place and a barrier to police search parties.

We hope to start a major project in this area in the near future

Topics covered include

Kelly Country Mining in the Beechworth area ripped the country apart. The rivers were often full of sediment. Environmental concerns were neglected in the hunt for gold.