Summary

Interview with Brent Morrish and Melissa Pohlner by Deb Anderson and Liza Dale-Hallett, Ouyen on 8 September 2004. Brent Morrish and Melissa Pohlner are harvesting contractors and farmers in Ouyen, Victoria. Brent was born and raised on his family's Ouyen farm. His wife Melissa was born in Ouyen and moved with her family to Ningan, New South Wales when she was five. She recently returned to Ouyen with Brent.

This 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

Brent discusses the 1982 drought which resulted in his family moving around while droving sheep and subsequent droughts. Brent also recalls his first job working as an apprentice mechanic and servicing machinery in Euston, Robinvale, Mildura and the Wimmera region. His boss' firm expanded into a harvesting contracting business and Brent began travelling to New South Wales and Queensland with header harvesters. Brent started his own contracting business in 1998. Brent talks at length about his contracting business including about witnessing farmers' crop successes and failures, farming equipment he owns, traveling from southern Queensland to South Australia for business and different farming practices, attitudes and soil types in these states. Other issues discussed include changing generational attitudes and environmental impact of drought. Melissa compares the Mallee land to Ningan, farm pests, contracting with Brent and working in the Northern Territory. The couple mention climate change, keeping rainfall records, environmental signs of a pending drought, weather predictions and impact of the State government's planned toxic waste dump in Tiega.

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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