More specifically, absent history refers to the process of erasure of the historical landscape in the white setter narratives, and, in the case of the first peoples, to destroy the physical evidence of any connection of these people to their land. The Murray Mallee then becomes a place with no tangible past prior to the history of the clearing the land by the settlers; it is a place whose history prior to white conquest is wiped out and re-written by the colonial settlers.
This ancient land was erased and transformed into a terra nulla, an empty land, devoid of people and history, ready to be colonised and occupied as a vast and empty frontier for the white settlers to take. These aims and strategies of violence are enabled by, and erected upon, the absence of the past. Its destruction is a strategy of erasure, reconfiguration and conquest of land. In the face of a conspicuous glaring absence we can but search for traces of the past to recover what came before the present.
On this little trip I plan to return to Galga, which is where I had photographed in the 1980s without realising that I was in the Mallee.
This small trip is a modest one as photographing the sites of conquest along the Overland Stock Route is another trip. I only want to start with the early settler history of the Mallee (the Claypans church above); and explore the historical traces of the railway branch lines at Galga and Copeville that once connected the wheat silos to the main line (the Waikerie to Karoonda trunk line).
My understanding is that these branch lines, which were opened in the early 20th century to help agricultural development in the Mallee, were closed during the 1990s. There are very few traces left of these branch lines as they have been pulled up.
Update. I made the trip. It was much shorter than I’d planned, as I’d forgotten to pack my sleeping bag. So I had to camp out in the swag on a winter’s night in Copeville without the sleeping bag. Though I slept in my clothes in the swag, it was very cold. I could only mange swagging for one night out in these kind of conditions. I was lucky that I was able to photograph the Claypan church in the afternoon of the second day. I will need to make another trip to Copeville and Galga to pick up where have left off.