History - AustralianAustralian CultureAustralian IdentityAustralian animalsCultural Comparisons Between Australia and other CountriesAustralian Prehistory

Australian Environmental Issues

A true-blue battler

Box jellyfish
How to avoid the stings and what to do if stung

So you wrestle crocs...

Unfairly judged in killing off the thylacine?

The wise little gnomes of Australia

Victors of the great Emu war

Shaping everything from how Australians speak to how they salute

Funnel Web spider
Yyou'll never leave your ugg boots outside

Most herbivores don't grow a spine until they are the size of an elephant. Not so the roo.

Kill less people than cows

Shark attack Australia
How to ensure you don't go by the name of Bob

Tasmanian Devil
The solution to mainland extinctions?

Tasmanian Tiger
A sad tale

Keg of muscle

The mainland's largest marsupial carnevore

Mythical creatures
Yowies and dropbears; some say they are myths but those who are not afraid to talk have shared their stories







The High Country

The High Country, typically thought of as the area of the Great Diving Range on the borders of Victoria and NSW, has a very low population density, but has had a very significant impact upon the shape of the Australian identity. It is perhaps best thought of as a region of nomads that many have passed through by few have settled.

Initially the region’s influence on the national identity came in the forms of myths of the type of people that tried to forge a life in the tough conditions; best told in the poem the Man from Snow River. In his classic, Banjo Patterson wrote of a loner and his wiry horse who were initially written off as being unworthy to ride with the men. Only one showed faith,

So he waited sad and wistful only Clancy stood his friend
`I think we ought to let him come,' he said;
`I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred.

`He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen.'

For all the popularity of the poem about a man from Snowy River, it did little to help save the river itself. After World War 2, the Snowy River, and others of the high country, were damned in a hydroelectric scheme that had briefly been described as one of the world’s engineering marvels. It interlocked seven power stations and 16 major dams through 145 kilometres of trans-mountain tunnels and 80 kilometres of aqueducts. Captured water was diverted inland to the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers for irrigation.

The labour came from an estimated 100,000 workers, most of whom were migrants seeking a new life after the horrors of World War 2. Very few of the workers settled in the region, which was somewhat surprising considering that tourism it is one of Australia's premier destinations for domestic tourism; thus indicating the region’s attractions.

In the winter months, snowfields attract skiers and snowboards from Melbourne and Sydney. The snow itself is prone to be on the icy or slushy side while the runs are short; nevertheless, it is hard to have a bad time in snow.

Outside of the ski season, the highlands continue to attract tourists. On the NSW side, in October, the spawning run from Lake Jindabyne up the Thredbo River offers fly fisherman the prospects of the largest trout on the mainland while the smaller streams can net a great pan-sized meal. Bait fishermen can try their luck in the lakes of the Snowy Mountain Hydroelectric scheme all year round. They can plonk themselves on the water’s edge, hook up a worm, crack a beer and ponder strategies about how they will outwit an animal with a brain less than the size of a pea. Aside from fisherman, water sport enthusiasts take advantage of the clear lakes for water skiing, swimming and sailing while bushwalkers escape the heat while appreciating the pure alpine conditions.

On the Victorian side, the towns of Bright and Mount Beauty have become a summer alternative to inclement weather, and cold currents from Antarctica typically found on Victorian beaches. Caravan parks aside pristine mountain streams allow for kids to play in safe and fun environments. In addition, hang gliders head to Mount Buffaloe where sheer cliffs and escarpments producer an assortment of thermals that make for ideal flying conditions as well as attractive scenery when flying.

Aside from those in tourism associated industries, few people live in the High Country. Although there is farming, much of it is marginal. Conditions are tough and the land is littered with the abandoned houses and machinery of those who tried to eek out an existence off the land but failed. Some of the houses have been taken over by city slickers wanting to write the great Australian novel or hermits who feel more alone in Sydney or Melbourne life. Whether surviving on welfare, odd jobs or some kind of inheritance, they eek out an existence on the margins.


The High Country has quite a lot of bush huts, which make great bases for a fishing expedition. Some are on private land and need to be rented, while others are vacant for whoever turns up. It is common practice for guests to leave a bit of food in case a lost bushwalker stumbles upon them.

saltwater crocodile

Relics of abadoned farms are conspicous in many highland scenes.



The High Country turns and folds with gorges and ravines. Occasionally, bushfires raze the landscape; allowing a new chapter of life to take hold.



The Goodradigbee River begins with a spring known as Blue Waterholes and flows through natonal park, gorges and valleys on its way to a dam. It is a great stream for small trout.


Platypus have few predators but the heavy hooves of cows destroy their burrows. Much of the Highland is ideal for them as the difficulty in farming as kept cows away.


The Thredbo River up from Lake Jindabyne offers the largest and most educated trout on the mainland. Bait fishing is illegal, as is fishing in water aside a trout farm. 5 pound trout nonchalantly cruise past countless fisherman.  


Mount Perisher; there is good reason why Australia doesn’t win many winter Olympic gold medals. For downhill skiing and snowboarding, the runs aren’t long enough to get great pratice and the snow is prone to get icy and slushy. Cross country skiiing is perhaps better value as there are lots of hills where steepness and speed are not the prized qualities.

The Australian highlands in art

The highlands were a popular subject for many colonial painters. Common scenes juxtaposed mountains rising up in the background with diminutive human figures in the foreground.


Nicholas Chevalier The Buffalo Ranges (1864) Many colonial painters seemed to transplant their visions of Europe onto the Australian landscape. Swiss migrant Nicholas Chevalier’s image of the Buffaloes Ranges seems reminiscent of a Swiss cheese commercial. It is full of idealism, colour contrast, and deep monotone colours.



Eugene von Guérard (1864)

View of the snowy bluff on the Wonnangatta River (1864). Guérard was educated in a European artistic tradition that tried to link man and God through nature. His foreground shows a group of Aborigines relaxing by the river.


Eugene von Guérard (1863); North-east View from the Northern Top of Mount Kosciusko. His foreground shows a group of figures navigating cascading granite bolders.

Activity 1- Make an economic case for increasing water flows in the Snowy River

After the Snowy was dammed, head waters to the Snowy River were reduced to 1%. In the1990s, a campaign was launched to increase flows to 28%. Undefined environmental benefits have chiefly been used to justify the case. Because vague environmental mumbo jumbo is rarely understood by people who think in economic terms, create an economic case to increase flow.

  1. Explain how increasing water flow could lead to the flowing impacts
  • More recreational fishing in the Snowy
  • Urban development along the Snowy downstream of Jindabyne
  • Creation of caravan parks on the Snowy
  • More farming along the Snowy
  1. Explain how the following stakeholders could be impacted by increasing water flows:
    • Current uses of water from the Snowy Mountains scheme
    • Hotels, developers and caravan park owners in Jindabyne
    • Towns along the Snowy River
    • Power wholesalers
    • Electricity consumers
    • Tourism operators
  1. Make an environmental case. Either come up with some kind of persuasive idea that has more substance than a vague "protect the environment" or explain how increasing flows will aid:
    • Wildlife that currently suffer under present flows
    • Aquatic species that currently suffer under present flows
    • Flora that currently suffer under present flows
    • Biodiversity
    • How increasing flow will perhaps reduce pests that have thrived under present flows

    Activity 2 - Paint in the colonial tradition

    1. Choose one of the photos on this page or select your own
    2. Think of a human figure to put in the foreground
    3. Explain what feeling is created by the juxatposition


Invasive ferals


Carp and Trout
A tale of two ferals

New hope for Cane Toads
The many unknown predators of the toad

A fence almost 2,000 km long to keep rabbits out of WA? Sounds like a great idea! If it doesn't work, we'll build another one!

The Willow
How a change in its status from asset to weed led to fish kills with blackwater and blue-green algae outbreaks

To bait dingos?
Should the health of the ecosystem be considered or just the kennel club registration?

Koala control
What to do about the "koala plague" on Kangaroo Island

Apex predator in Australia. Confined to urban areas in America.

Environmental values

Environmental problems
How money and ideology shapes environmental "science."

Australia's Stockholm Syndrome with gum trees.

The Kangaroo industry
Should we eat skippy?

Climate change in Australia
Australia was once covered in rainforest. Could it be again?

The dark side of sustainable environmental policies

Native pets
Why no pet wombats?




Australian environmental science is defined by an ideology that is not unlike a prison warden. There, the scientists are not seeing themselves as part of the ecosystem, but as masters over it; protecting the rights of the species that they say have rights and killing those that they say do not…but inevitably killing both.

"It was always seen as desirable to remove or cull the introduced species. We also need to ask whether it was possible to do so, how it should be done, whether it could have unintended consequences and what it would cost? I don't think anyone really asked those questions." Physicist John Reid - 2012