Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Solastgia by Mardi Sands

Long time Wandoan resident Mardi Sands has captured the current state of her community caught at a time of rapid change with alarming clarity in this brilliantly sad poem, Solastalgia.
Wandoan is my closest town, Mardi has recorded all too accurately the sense of loss of a community that once was a major beef cattle centre transforming beyond the control of locals to coal & gas. 
Solastalgia * by Mardi Sands
(* Feeling homesick when at home) 
My town is under siege by columns
of clean white vehicles
large black numbers stamped on their doors
flying flags and with piercing beep beep beep
reversing over our lives.
Shops replaced with offices with names
of coal and gas
their HQ in far capital cities or foreign countries
making decisions on our lives. 
Three offices – one grocery shop – the ratio is wrong 
The Post Master who cheerfully delivers
letters addressed to “Grandma Jones”
and knows the secretaries of all the organisations
in six months has  lost fifty addresses. 
There’s talk he will retire 
Friends have fled, tourists pass us by,
replaced by uniforms fluoro red and yellow
The friend who yelled ‘Hi Mardi’ across the street
has left to work with strangers, his house rented
cars clutter the driveway, weeds replace his roses. 
Drive in – drive out have no time to care. 
On Sunday we stood outside the Church
and talked of this and that and who needed help.
The building is going to the Historical Society
We are trying to decide what to do with the font
given in memory of my children’s grand-father. 
For sixty years friends met at the Show – cattle horses cakes fun of the fair
I stand in the sun and help the kids with their ponies
encourage the shy, quieten the fractious.
The judge says ‘I like coming here, the kids are great.’
But will there be a Show next year? 
fewer volunteers growing older 
Clubs merge in the hope of survival
The CWA rooms are closed
The library cluttered with tomes
of  EIS’s and progress reports with maps of
‘proposed development’ 
School buses now stand silent
Not enough children to keep them rolling
The school itself a shadow
The future unclear 
The town has surrendered its spirit.


  1. Well said Mardi. Many people don't realise the impacts of these huge CSG / LNG projects on people's lives. We are told to put up with it, get on with it. Here in Gladstone lives have been wrecked, seafood businesses have gone broke, the harbour has become a polluted toxic waterway, but hey it's all for the greater good and an industry built on a bubble which might not last long before it gets pricked by rapidly falling international prices and sharply rising construction costs for the LNG plants.

  2. Over 40 families were bought out for the proposed Xstrata Wandoan Coal mine alone. Takes out near 30,000 ha of good beef production country, most has the ability & has in the past grown crops such as wheat.
    Now Glencore is taking over Xstata, they will make sure that a mine lience is granted but the community strongly believes that with the falling coal prices the mine wont go ahead in the near or medium future.
    The community really felt the lost of 40 families in one go.

  3. One aspect of all of this which will increasingly swing back into focus is a re-newed interest in (yes, old fashioned) underground mining. Vastly less intrusive on productive land, and with the development of modern technology (where in mining, Oz is now a leader), potentially cost effective too.

    Our legitimate lifestyle / environmental interests, and the need for continuing economic development, have to find ways to live in balance.
    Cheers al

  4. The problem in these parts for underground mining could be methane. Moura is to the north that after at least two fatal mine explosion events, the mine is now shut down. Methane of course is a commercial gas known as coal seam gas. If it's a problem for underground mining why don't then suck it out first & then start coal mining. Only thing is that then raises other problems that no real solutions have been found. Not of least is to make the gas move up the gas wells, the coal seams have to be dewatered. Then a whole variety of problems arise.
    All the above are important resourses and I'm not one to say never; just let us for the moment leave it where it is until we can work out how to extrat it without buggering up everything else.

  5. People on the Tara Estate / Darling Downs are having huge health problems from CSG which so far seem to be unresolved. Young children with nose bleeds, painful rashes, last I heard the Health Dept and Minister Laurence Springborg were investigating but had no answers.

  6. What an insight this poem gives, into the plight of rural towns where mining has become the new ' royalty'. Wandoan came into my life when my stepdaughter got a posting to the school two and a half years ago. Enrollment s have dropped and she doesn't expect that her position will still be available next year...reading the poem, I see why :-(

  7. Thanks, Maria, for drawing attention to this sad poem revealing the desolate situation for Wandoan - a town whose heart and soul is being sacrificed along with the exploitation of its resources.

    Can't you sense the despair, typified in its concluding words: "The town has surrendered its spirit."


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