Tuesday, 6 January 2015

"Land Hunger"; or The Great Australian Dream

Commentators often note that the Australian obsession with home ownership is a cultural peculiarity. In Europe and Britain, where a great deal of Australians originated, renting is not seen as a financial black hole that will ruin your life, as it is here.

In Australia, every man's (or woman's) house is their castle. In the case of this 1860s house near Colac, it helped it that looked like an actual castle.

Image: THE RESIDENCE OF W. ROBERTSON, ESQ., NEAR COLAC. (1868, February 4). Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 - 1875), p. 5 Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE ILLUSTRATED AUSTRALIAN NEWS

Reading very early newspaper articles from the Colonial Era gives interesting impressions about the reasons people came to the colony. The shared interests of these early colonists shaped the culture of our nation, and by all accounts one of the great draws of coming to Australia was owning property.

The following excerpt is from an advertisement for land in Colac, near Geelong. The language, though of course intended to persuade the reader, nevertheless used gives a clear idea of just how passionate the average colonist may have felt about the Great Australian Dream of land ownership:

"There is now no impediment to the gratification of land hunger to the extent of a man's means, and to all who covet a portion of the earth's surface, who wish   to try Sir Waiter Scott's recipe   for an appetite—" walk a mile or two on your own land before breakfast"; who wish to stamp their heel on the ground and say " this is mine from the surface to the centre
of gravity," now is the time."
THURSDAY MORNING, NOV. 15, 1860. (1860, November 15). Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 - 1924), p. 2. Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article148887775
It is also interesting to note that the view that one could own land was the basis for many misunderstandings between the European colonists and Indigenous Australians who see themselves as custodians rather than owners. When Indigenous people were offered goods by colonists to buy their land, they often thought they were being given a gift to allow the colonists safe passage through their tribe's territory. It must have been a nasty surprise indeed when the colonists began to set up a homestead instead of passing through.
Having said that, I fully admit to being a product of my culture. The day my wife and I bought our cottage was the culmination of a dream I have cherished since childhood. When I walk up the driveway of my cottage today, I may just give a little stamp, and say "this is mine from the surface to the centre of gravity".