Peats Ridge: a sandy track, citrus farms, springs, valleys, dams and the politics of ground water

Trish FitzSimons


This piece of writing is part of an exploration of ‘the personal voice’ within a Doctorate of Creative Arts. I come to this degree with a background as a documentary filmmaker and oral historian and with recent experience in the curation of a social history exhibition. My dissertation is entitled "Braided Channels: Reflections on the 'Voice of Documentary' from a cross media and inter disciplinary perspective." The doctorate uses and examines several modes of address and definitions of communicative voice in order to extend our knowledge of how discourses can be delivered in a range of modes and media to engender a sense of veracity in the 'audience'.

In this essay I apply the quintessential documentary practice of metonymy to the medium of non- fiction writing, as a way to get to broader issues through individual example and personal experience. This paper then is a personal account of the uses of land and water on the Hawkesbury Sandstone ridge I lived on as a child and a consideration of how and why these patterns are shifting. This remembering has been motivated by current debates about water use, especially as it relates to bottled water coming from underground aquifers, alternatives to dam storage as the source of urban water supplies and the zoning of arable land adjacent to a growing city. I write in the spirit in which Katrina Proust of the ANU’s Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies notes that environmental history can be a valuable tool in planning for the sustainable future use of a resource. This style of ‘personal memoir meets environmental history’ has of course antecedents not only in documentary film but also in print based work. One example of such work is the collection Landscapes of the Heart: Narratives of Nature and Self, edited by Michael Aleksiuk and came out of the University of Alberta in 2002.

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Clarke, T. (2005) Inside the Bottle: An Expose of the Bottled Water Industry. Ottawa: The Polaris Institute.

Murray, J., Spratt, K., Lewis, P. & Reimer, B. (2001) A study of groundwater quality in rural areas on the NSW Central Coast, Central Coast Public Health Unit.