Summary

Interview with Des, Maree and Andrew Ryan by Deb Anderson at Manangatang in February 2006. Together with their son Andrew, Des and Maree are dryland farmers on their family farm in Chinkapook, via Manangatang, Victoria. Des’ grandfather selected the property in 1912 and the family continues to reside on it. Des’ great-grandfather was originally from Clare, South Australia. Maree is the daughter of grape farmers from Robinvale. Her mother grew up on a dryland farm near Nandaly and had connections to Des’ family. Both Des and Maree have extensive farm-related training and have been actively involved in local farming initiatives, including FarmSmart, Women on Farms Gathering and a farm management and sustainability course offered through the Department of Sustainability and Environment and the Department of Agriculture. The purpose of this interview is to tease out ideas covered in their first interview in 2004, provide an update on the previous farming season and to discuss further their views of climate change.

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

Des, Maree and Andrew discuss last season’s weather and lean cropping yield, transition to direct drilling on the farm, plans for a new property acquired near Swan Hill, involvement with the local Landcare group, government funding and policy, views and media coverage of climate change, grain prices, crop resilience and predictions for the coming year on the farm.

Physical Description

TDK MC-60 mini cassette.

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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