Five Miles from the Sea is a look at the incursion (Five miles from the Sea) of non-indigenous Australians and their resulting mark on the land. Whether it is the erosion of the land or the erosion of the quarter acre block, how are we shaping and living in the hinterland? Who lives five miles from the sea? What does it look like though the eyes of ten diverse artists, some from different parts of the globe, who have indeed made Australia their home?
Adriane Strampp : Artist Statement
In considering the impact of European settlement in Australia, one of the most invasive and damaging migrants (other than European man), is the rabbit.
Although originally arriving with the First Fleet in1788, it was Thomas Austin, formerly of Somerset, who is held historically responsible for the spread of rabbits when he released 24 rabbits and 5 hares at his property Barwon Park, near Geelong in 1859.
A lack of predators and mild winters provided an ideal climate for year-round breeding and by the 1900’s the feral rabbit population had reached plague proportions across Australia. Despite the rabbits’ devastating impact on native flora and the environment, the introduction of foxes as a remedy only worsened the situation as the foxes found indigenous birds and marsupials easier prey. In 1907 the infamous rabbit-proof fence was built in WA, a futile attempt to control the spread of rabbits, and later in 1950 Myxomatosis was introduced, causing a slow and painful death that ultimately the rabbits became immune to.
In 1863 the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria set up on Phillip Island a breeding colony for hares sent from London by the Zoological Society. Although introduced at the same time as rabbits, hares had less of an impact on the environment being slower to breed and non-burrowing, and their spread was limited to the more temperate climate of South-Eastern Australia.
This work is from a series of recent drawings titled The Animal Gaze, examining the fragile relationship between animals and the human race. The hare stares back at the viewer, a symbol of strength and vulnerability, segregation and marginalisation. We are both migrants to this land and the animal gaze serves to remind us equally of our imposition on their world.
The Victorian Acclimatisation Society was founded in 1861 in order to introduce European plants and animals in order to make the alien environment economically productive, and to feel more like home. It folded 11 years later as the extent their damage was realised. (Source: Museum Victoria)