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Lost in the Bush

Lost in the Bush

Many European settlers found the forests forbidding and alien: they used words like 'sombre', 'monotonous' and 'melancholy' to describe the Australian bush. The first British observers focussed on the grotesque perversities of nature. McCoy (1862) spoke of the forests' 'savage silence, or worse'. Poets tried to describe the contrast between the Australian and British landscape: Adam Lindsay Gordon, for example, wrote of the bush 'Where bright blossoms are scentless, and songless bright birds.' These quotations are evidence of an emotional alienation, a feeling of aloneness and abandonment.

painting Lost, Frederick McCubbin
Frederick McCubbin, Lost, 1907
Source - Felton Bequest, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Stories of people lost in the bush have become part of Australians' psyche. Children and adults lost their way, wandered away from picnic grounds, followed streams which seemed to lead nowhere, became lost and were never found. The artist Von Guerard was part of a group picnicking party at Fern Tree in 1858 when a young boy, Louis Viewsseux, became lost; the party searched frantically for him, but his body was not found until two years later. Patrick Moylette, a mounted policeman from the Emerald Station, became hopelessly lost in 1859; although his horse found its way back to settled areas, his body has never been found. Aboriginal trackers were often used in an attempt to find missing people. Illustrated newspapers published paintings with titles like Found-Too Late, which expressed a very real fear of the dangers in the bush. One of the most-read Australian children's books of early this century, Dot and the Kangaroo, took up the theme of the child lost and afraid in the bush.

gravestone detail gravestone gravestone detail
Lost Children gravestone at Daylesford
Photographer - Rhys Jones
Source - Museum Victoria

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