Beauty Versus Ugliness

Objection to Mining in East Gippsland by Jo Moulton.

'Ibis on the River Flat' by Walpa Artist Gordon Bain Acrylic on Board 40x40 cm

'Ibis on the River Flat' captures the threshold on which we stand, facing the prospect of extensive open-cut mining in East Gippsland. It is a reminder of where our economic reliance on the extraction of earth resources has brought us to, and it reminds us of how

mining companies continue to impose their ignorance, arrogance and atrocities that obliterate the sacred knowledge, culture and custodianship of the Traditional Aboriginal owners of Country.

Mining companies have a definition of land ownership that is focused on short-term gains with little regard for the pollution and pockmarking of landscape that is left for future generations to deal with. The ugliness of open-cut mining pits is irrefutable. The proposed open-cut mines proposed by Kalbar Operations and prospectors, Illuka Resources, will have long-term impact. They will destroy the beauty, heritage and gentleness of the East Gippsland landscape, forever.

This blog is extracted from the Objection to Mining Application No MIN007363, submitted to the State Government Natural Resources regulators in August. It features artists and makers, past and present, to expose the deep beauty and heritage of the East Gippsland. . It explores the definition of Environment, including the 'social aesthetic factor' (beauty) and "harm to the human senses' (ugliness) outlined in the Victorian Environment Protection Act (EPA). (a full 30 page version of the Objection can be downloaded at the end of this shortened blog version)

'Stingray' by Gunaikurnai Artist Ray Thomas

Defining 'Country' & Culture

Dr Danièle Hromek, a cultural scientist and a Saltwater woman of the Budawang tribe of the Yuin nation rethinks the values that inform Aboriginal understandings of space through Indigenous spatial knowledge and cultural practice, and in doing so she considers the sustainability of indigenous cultures from a spatial perspective.

“Country (capital C) has a different meaning to the western understanding of the word ‘country’ (small c). The western experience of land is one of property, an appropriated ground given a monetary value, a landscape that is tamed, built upon, produced, owned. In the Aboriginal sense of the word, Country relates to the nation or cultural group and land that they/we belong to, yearn for, find healing from and will return to. However, Country means much more than land,

it is our place of origin in cultural, spiritual and literal terms. It includes not only land but also skies and waters. ‘Country’ soars high into the atmosphere, deep into the planet crust and far into the oceans.
Dr Danièle Hromek, Indigenous Architect and Cultural Scientist

Romantic Landscape Painters Found 'Sublime Beauty'

The 19th century European Romantic landscape painters, such as, Eugene von Guerard, Nicholas Chevalier and Walter Seehusen made their way to remote East Gippsland from the 1860s to capture what they saw as a 'grand expansiveness and rugged beauty'. The Objection explores the image and identity, our cultural heritage, the intangible aesthetic values of the region and its brand attributes through the eyes of landscape artists and contemporary artists and makers.

Junction of the Buchan and Snowy Rivers (Gipps Land Eugène VON GUÉRARD 1866-68 Medium: Coloured lithograph on paper Size:33 x 50.6cm (image); 48.4 x 64.5cm (sheet)

Dargo Valley Gippsland by Nicholas Chevalier 1865 lithograph printed in colored inks from multiple stones NGA

Brand E.G. Makers Draw on Nature,Culture & Heritage

The perception of Gippsland’s & East Gippsland's image and identity is affected by its key markets, namely, the food and fibre markets and the tourism market. The food and fibre market has a long-held reputation for clean green produce – dairy, beef, seafood and the quality, fresh vegetables that are grown, packaged and processed adjacent to and in the vicinity of the The Mitchell River Valley precariously close to the proposed Glenaladale mine.

Chef Mark Briggs of Sardine Restaurant, Paynesville.

Situated on the Sydney to Melbourne travel route, East Gippsland attracts a substantial international tourism market, first night out of Melbourne, last stopover from Sydney. Tourists are seeking experiences unique to this part of the world – immersive ‘wildlife in the wild’, its rich biodiversity - sweeping coastal beaches, lakes and river valleys, mountains and forests and ‘a taste of the abundance’ - cool climate wines and crafted beers, quality cheeses, free range meats, organic fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and seafood.

Sallie Jones of Gippsland Jersey 
The emerging stars of Brand East Gippsland are no longer cows but sophisticated and resilient ‘makers.’

Brewers Chris and Gabrielle Moore of Sailors Grave Brewing P/L

The Sailors Grave Brewing brand, for instance, aligns itself with the iconic heritage of the Snowy River, the pristine environment and heritage of Cape Conran shipwrecks. It connects to indigenous culture via Bruce Pascoe of Dark Emu and his native wheat splashing it into their crafted beer recipes. It collaborated with Gippsland Jersey and Float community enterprise to reinvigorate the fishing industry heritage by restoring the Slipway shed at Lakes Entrance as a cultural space.

A stone’s throw from the proposed Glenaladale mine are two of brand Gippsland’s rising stars. The Long Paddock eatery located in a heritage bakery in sleepy Lindenow, recycles fine bone china of yesteryear and serves cuisine plucked from the eye-to-eye carpets of seasonal vegetables growing around them in the rich Mitchell River soil. They collaborate with winemakers, Lightfoot & Sons, perched on the ridge and blending their Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Shiraz served with Long Paddock delicacies.

This is not the place, nor the time, for a mine that will suppress the progress and building of brand value that has taken generations of producers, tourism operators and ‘makers’ to create. An ugly mine site and the culture of a mining community will destroy Brand East Gippsland and could send our value-adding economy into serious decline.

Lightfoot & Sons Winery Overlooking Mitchell River Valley, Lindenow

East Gippsland’ unique environmental “beauty" underpins service industry livelihoods and occupations. Retirees don’t flock to East Gippsland for jobs or to settle near mining operations. They come to experience its environmental beauty. Gen X re-settle in East Gippsland to raise their children in the clean air and the beauty of a pristine environment. Local farmers adopt regenerative farming techniques and create refuges to protect the environment and its wildlife. The majority of employees and volunteers are in value-adding services; aged-care, health and allied services, land management, citizen scientists, wildlife-carers, ecologists, researchers; bio, marine and agricultural scientists, teachers, artists and artisans (including designers, architects, wine and cheese makers, brewers, chefs etc.) and tourism operators; galleries, accommodation, cafes & restaurants, retailers, supply chains - transportation, water management etc. Indeed, the majority of our population (employed and voluntary workers) has a strong vested interest in preserving and securing the region’s biodiversity, its history and its unique beauty.

Brand attributes AT RISK

  • environmental ‘beauty’

  • our unique regional heritage and culture – Indigenous and Post-European

  • sites, traditions and knowledge of First Nations people

  • rich biodiversity - species and eco-systems

  • connection to wildlife and immersive nature ‘experiences’

  • generations of land-care and horticulture

  • the imagination and creative energy of our artists and artisans

  • the clean, green freshness and provenance of our produce and cuisine

  • the quality of marine & aquatic eco-systems - aquifers, rivers, lakes, estuaries, ocean

  • service economy growth and jobs.

Enclaves of Artists Threatened by Mining

East Gippsland is home to many enclaves of diverse artists and artisans. In the 1980s the late Margaret Alexander took up painting late in life. A sheep grazier's wife, she was inspired by the beauty of her surrounds at Glenaladale and in need of bolstering farm income. Margaret took lessons, exhibited her paintings in small community halls and generated an enthusiastic group of collectors in East Gippsland and in England where she visited her son each year in the Lakes District, all paid for by the income she earned from her art. Her work captures and celebrates the idyllic rural setting, the light and gentle atmosphere of the landscape, the unspoiled beauty of the environment in which she lived, now threatened by the immediate proximity of the proposed Kalbar mine.

Looking Towards Glenaladale 1990 Watercolor by Margaret Alexander Courtesy of Ken & Judy Alexander

Fishing Trawler Lakes Entrance by Margaret Alexander 

Since then, artists have come, created enclaves and invested in purpose-built studios to live and work where they can capture the beauty of the environment, its light, warmth, gentle atmosphere and rich eco-systems. Amongst the pockets of artists living and working in East Gippsland is a leading Australian silversmith and sculptor, Hendrik Forster (pictured teapot) and his wife, jeweller, Kerryn Forster, revered potter Malcolm Boyd and painter Gordon Bain who was drawn to Walpa upstream from the Gippsland Lakes to immerse himself in the profusion of birdlife on the Mitchell River, marshes, creek beds and lakes.

These established artists have invested in technologies and, as businesses, created optimum conditions for the creation of the highest quality artwork that is exported around the world. The proposed mining exploration threatens their livelihood. It will destroy the beauty of the environment from which they draw inspiration and destroy their ability to sustain a livelihood in this region.