Making ‘a way in the wilderness’: the colonial hydrology of arid Western Australia, 1860s-1900s
Ruth Morgan, Senior Research Fellow, Monash University

Time: 11am – 12:30 pm ** note new timeslot
17 April 2018
Research Commons 2.10, Borchardt Library, La Trobe University, Bundoora campus

In 1896, Western Australia’s water dreamer, the engineer C.Y. O’Connor, designed a system to transport water from the Darling Range via a pipeline to the thirsty mines of the arid goldfields, nearly six hundred kilometres away. By the turn of the twentieth century, the development of the eastern goldfields had utterly transformed the lands and waterways of the Kalamaia peoples. This paper examines the colonial hydrology of water scarcity in arid Western Australia in the late nineteenth century. Such an analysis of the social worlds of water (and its absence) sheds light on the prevailing ideologies of aridity and the broader dynamics of colonial rule in this dryland outpost of the British empire.

Ruth Morgan is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies at Monash University. She has published widely on the climate and water histories of Australia and the British Empire, including her award-winning book,Running Out? Water in Western Australia. She has also co-edited volumes of Studies in Western Australian History; History of Meteorology; Rachel Carson Center Perspectives (2017); and International Review of Environmental History (2018). Her current book project, on water scarcity in the British Indian Ocean world, has been generously supported by the Australian Research Council and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Image: Roy Millar, Men with camels in front of large water condenser, c.1895, State Library of Western Australia.