Reading the Loved Land by Dr Bruce Baskerville

Exploring Legacies in Western Australia’s National Trust Estate

‘Reading the loved land’. It’s an evocative phrase penned by Western Australia’s unofficial poet laureate Randolph Stow in 1966. It speaks to the heart of all who love country, who sense a spirit of place, who surrender to the genius loci. It also refers to a thematic matrix for storytelling being developed for the National Trust in Western Australia.

Themes for Westralian Histories, or TFWH, consists of six stories or themes of significance in Western Australia’s history that can be experienced through the Trust estate. It seeks to illuminate those histories that are evident in the buildings and landscapes of the whole National Trust estate and its collections. It connects the disconnected.

The world views and emotions of peoples past, the people who made and remade these places and wrote their histories as they did so, can be encountered and comprehended through TFWH. Visitors can envisage their own legacies within these continuing stories.

Places in the National Trust estate can be thought of as records in an open-air archive. They need to be conserved and curated, and made accessible to the story tellers of today and tomorrow. The themes act as finding aids to these places/records, and are named for our emotive responses to and entanglements with places. TFWH makes the open-air archive accessible to all.

The six themes are Resilience (coping with unexpected challenges, and adapting to new situations), Imaginaries (spiritual and creative identities centred on intangible things to make sense of the world), Marches (‘in between’ spaces where Indigenous and settler societies meet and interact, in both discord and concord, and create new pathways), Hesperia (visions of the future in a land looking west), Authority (making and enforcing decisions, and dissent and resistance to influences) and Exchanges (producing and communicating the necessities of personal and communal life). TFWH brings to the fore stories of inclusion for creating common futures.

Some readers may find the TFWH challenging, some may find it confusing or not ‘scientific’ enough, or just plain irritating.  Others may find it validating, or pleasurable, or thought-provoking, but none should be left cold-hearted. Western Australia’s patrimony has been created and curated by generations of dedicated women and men driven by passion, courage and dynamism. TFWH is dedicated to them, to the land they love, and to our shared destinies.