Writing and Society Centre member Dr Chris Fleming on Conspiracy Theories

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Saskia Beudel on 'Gallant desert flora': Olive Pink's Australian Arid Regions Flora Reserve

Friday 10 October
11.00am -12.30pm
Building 3.G.55, Bankstown Campus, UWS

In the mid–1950s Olive Pink campaigned to have an area of land in Alice Springs set aside as a flora reserve. In 1956 the area was gazetted as the Australian Arid Regions Flora Reserve, with Pink appointed as honorary curator. Pink was an artist, botanical illustrator and anthropologist rather than a professional horticulturalist or botanist. However, she established a garden that marked itself out from contemporary public gardens that were similarly committed to showcasing indigenous Australian plants. Pink's approach was pioneering in that she aimed to create a collection of plants selected by a delineated 'climatic zone'; and she developed an early example of extensive 'habitat' rather than 'taxonomic' planting. This paper argues that Pink created a distinctive form of horticultural work informed by her passion for and close artistic observation of desert flora; her long experience establishing and maintaining gardens under central Australian ecological conditions; along with her anthropological insight into Indigenous knowledge of flora gained through her studies with Arrernte and Warlpiri people. Today we might recognize the principles that informed Pink's garden through the concepts of 'water wise gardens' (that work within given ecological constraints), and environmental sustainability practices.

Saskia Beudel is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Sydney and was previously Postdoctoral Research Associate at the National Institute of Experimental Arts, UNSW. She is a writer and has published on place, memory, ecological thought, and the contribution of the arts to urban futures. Her books include A Country in Mind (UWAP, 2013), the novel Borrowed Eyes (Picador, 2002), and Curating Sydney: Imagining the Future of the City co-authored with Jill Bennett (UNSWP, forthcoming 2014). Her essays and articles have appeared in The Iowa Review, HEAT, Overland, Best Australian Essays, Cultural Studies Review and Historical Records of Australian Science (forthcoming 2014).

View the 2014 seminar program.

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