Between 1880 and 1930, a series of schemes brought thousands of settlers to Victoria’s Mallee region. At the same time, a number of railway lines were constructed through the area, with towns constructed approximately every 10 miles.
Now, almost a century after the settlement schemes ended and the depopulation of the Mallee began, a team of Australia’s best rural documentary photographers including Andrew Chapman, Jaime Murcia, Noel Butcher, Melanie Faith Dove and Erin Jonasson,along with writer Adam McNicol, who grew up in the Mallee town of Manangatang, retrace the railway lines to see what remains.
They traversed red dirt roads, stayed in tiny towns with quirky names and dropped by classic country bakeries for pies and vanilla slices. They also had a few beers with people like ‘Boozer’, ‘Disco’ and Jono at their local pubs.
One particular focus is the growing interest in the area from tourists, who in recent years have flocked to the Silo Art Trail, breathing new life into a region becoming famous for its brilliant sunsets and hospitable locals.
All the while, they often rose before the birds to shoot glorious sunrises in places like Lake Tyrrell and the Pink Lakes. The book takes readers on a nostalgia trip to see what remains of the grand scheme to populate the region.
The result is a stunning photo book, containing over 150 full colour images and a foreword by Back Roads presenter Heather Ewart, captures life in the small towns of the Mallee and on the farms that surround them.
The book includes a written portrait of the Mallee, which is the work of writer and founder of Ten Bag Press, Adam McNicol, who grew up in the Mallee town of Manangatang. “The photographers have done an amazing job capturing the essence of the Mallee,” he said.
“The book is not only a sentimental journey. It also highlights the green shoots of revival, like the Silo Art Trail. I think it will remind people that there are genuine outback experiences only four hours’ drive from Melbourne.”
“It was also important to us that The Mallee: A journey through north-west Victoria was completely Australian made from start to finish, including the design and the printing, which was done in regional Victoria,” said McNicol.
The Mallee: A journey through north-west Victoria is a portrait and celebration of the small communities that dot north-west Victoria and the people who call them home.
Image: The Mallee: A journey through north-west Victoria – cover photo by Andrew Chapman / courtesy of Ten Bag Press