Summary

Interview with Robert, Merle and Micheal Pole by Deb Anderson at their 'Seven Pines' property near Walpeup in February 2005. Merle, Robert and Mick Pole are dryland farmers. Merle is originally from Rosanna, Melbourne and moved to Patchewollock to work as a teacher. She left her teaching position and moved to Underbool where she met her husband Robert. Robert was born in the Mallee in 1943 where he has lived his entire life. Robert bought his Walpeup property with his brother and has continued to live on the farm with his wife Merle and son Micheal. In this interview, the family discuss their experiences of working on their property and the drought and their thoughts on the future of the Mallee region.

This interview is one of 24 oral histories documenting the lived experience of drought, and the cultural and historical construction of climate, and which forms the Mallee Climate Oral History Collection. This Collection is an outcome of the PhD research by Deb Anderson. In 2003 Deb Anderson received a Doctoral Research Scholarship, jointly sponsored by the University of Melbourne (Australian Centre) and Museum Victoria. The key focus of her cross-disciplinary research was the lived experience of drought and perceptions of climate change in the Victorian Mallee.

These oral histories and photographs are featured in a book by Deb Anderson, entitled 'Endurance: Australian Stories of Drought', published by CSIRO in 2014.

The project has direct links to individuals, locations and themes featured in the Victorian Women on Farms Gathering Collection, Australia's Biggest Family Album and the Future Harvest project.

Description of Content

Robert, Merle and Micheal discuss living in the Mallee, their connection to the region and their property, moving from Melbourne to the Mallee, Micheal’s desire to be a farmer, farming season in the past year, impact of the dry weather, change in farming technology and development of new techniques such as direct drilling, Merle’s involvement in local community groups, Hopetoun’s Day of Listening event, the importance of family, drought-proofing, government policy, the future of the Mallee and science, weather forecasts and signs of rain.

Physical Description

Imation brand Compact Disc.

Significance

This collection documents the lived experience of drought and perceptions of climate change in the semi-arid Mallee wheat-belt of Victoria. This project coincided with a key moment in time when Australians were confronted with the issue of climate change and its meaning for their futures. The oral histories and photographs document the enduring historical narratives of Mallee life of endurance, adaptation and survival, which are placed in the context of contemporary concerns about drought and climate variability, and an uncertain future in a climate change world.

A ‘life history’ approach was used for each participant in the oral history project. The interviews allowed participants to talk about their lived experience of drought and perceptions of climate change, in their own terms. These 22 people come from a variety of backgrounds and community involvement: farmers, financial counsellors, members of social action and welfare groups, members of local government, a newspaper editor, a nurse, educators, administrators, agronomists and researchers. The photographs support the oral histories with images of the participants in the context of their family, farm, and broader rural landscape.

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