The following year I attended a similar Victorian Archaeological Survey at Wood Wood on the Lower Murray where a different ‘mound people’ had built far larger mounds to maintain their presence throughout the annual flooding of the Murray. Some of these mounds were up to a metre in height and diameters of up to thirty metres. Here our excursions had been mainly into the Mallee country around Lake Tyrell where we learned about local squatter William Stanbridge. In the early days, Stanbridge had sat down with the local Dja Dja Wurrung and recorded their belief that everything that takes place here on earth is replicated in the heavens. For example, the constellation of Orion tells the story of a possum in a tree, the annual Magellan meteor showers told them that the Mallee Fowl had begun scooping out her massive mound to lay her eggs.
Experiences such as these had motivated me in following years to indulge in bushwalking around Victoria and Tasmania - see photos below. This in turn, led to exponential growth in my interest in native fauna and flora.
Bush-walking for days on end, either alone or with kindred souls, with all survival requirements in a back-pack, had given me all the incentive I’d ever required to develop an ever deeper understanding of the Aboriginal world. I also had the pleasure of introducing my family to this privilege. Furthermore, it gave me the satisfaction of promoting community support for the cause.
And so the years had rolled on until our young family of four had grown to adulthood and begun raising families of their own. During this time my wife Margaret and I managed briefly to escape the conformity of suburban living by the purchase of a ten-acre farm at Pearcedale and subsequently a grocery store in East Ringwood. Our big break with suburbia though came in 1979 when we made a dash for it and purchased a five acre bush-block on the Yarra, in Bend of Islands.
One of the highlights of this camp had been a four-wheel drive journey deep into the Mallee country to a remote desert soak. One hour into the Mallee Scrub brought us to a clearing about the size of a football ground with a lone kangaroo digging in a low-point at its centre. Upon our approach, the kangaroo bounded away leaving a tiny pool of water that it had scooped out. Around this pool were literally millions of discarded stone-flakes transported in to the spot and worked upon by the Dja Dja Wurrung. For thousands of years they had seasonally camped around the soak - the only water within perhaps a day’s walk. This was worked stone in a desert without local stone for hundreds of surrounding kilometres - living proof of the sustainability of Aboriginal lifestyles.
At last, we were both where we had always wanted to be. The ‘Bend’ had just been declared an Environmental Living Zone — the first ever in White Australia. No cats or dogs were allowed, no fences or non-indigenous vegetation. It was simple living in the bush, in a community of like-minded
souls living with as little as possible lasting environmental impact.
But of course the years had taken their toll. Some might say that hard work never hurt anyone but my forty years of contract bricklaying had definitely left me a little bent. One day a university lecturer for whom I’d been building a build a mud-brick home suggested that I ought to retire and apply for a place at La Trobe University and sign up for a Degree Course. At first, I laughed at the thought but in due course I applied and was accepted at La Trobe Uni. Three years later I'd gained my Degree, majoring in Aboriginal History, Aboriginal Religion, and Archaeology. Following this, I was invited to complete an Honours Year which unfortunately, having commenced this, I was unable to complete complete due to hospitalisation.
Having commenced my Thesis, I then decided to convert it into my first book, Once around the Sugarloaf: The Transformation of a Victorian Landscape and the Story of its People - a 300 page tome that sold out in a month. I was hooked!
Commissions followed and during the next twenty-two years, I have written a further twenty books, all with considerable Aboriginal content.