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Natural disasters

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Australia is famously a land of ‘droughts and flooding rains’. These weather extremes can be devastating to communities across the country, but are particularly heartbreaking for those on the land. Tropical cyclones will destroy acres of crops in minutes, drought kills sheep and cattle slowly and cruelly, and floods and fire sweep through the land ruining everything in their path. The economic impact of weather events on agricultural and pastoral productivity can be immense. Farmers often can’t do much to prevent these climactic events, but they do need to manage their land and resources carefully to attempt to minimize the damage caused by the weather.

Although Australia is probably more famous for drought, it is actually flooding which is the most damaging natural disaster in the country. Floods cause the most damage to land, property and have been responsible for nearly 2,500 deaths since 1790. Other costly disasters are tropical cyclones and severe storms, both of which can contribute to flooding – often in tropical areas. A recent example of a cyclone which affected a particular rural industry very badly was Cyclone Larry. It hit Queensland in 2006 ruining thousands of hectares of banana plantations and pushing the price of bananas up by around 300%.

Floods

About this item: 

Titled at top right of the 4th part of panorama. Each image is inscribed with a key to buildings & events in each panel

Sketch of the Inundation in the Neighborhood of Windsor taken on Sunday the 2nd of June 1816
1816
Artist unknown
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Digital ID: 
a1539005
About this item: 

Signatures / Inscriptions:Titled beneath image, being a later transcription of an earlier title. Title repeated, in a twentieth century hand, at lower right.
General Note: A severe flood swept the Hawkesbury River in June 1816.
Notes in pencil on back.

Hawkesbury flood, in 1816 taken from [?]rofton Cottage Windsor No.4
1816
Artist unknown
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Digital ID: 
a1528471
Looking back to out back : recollections of Bourke flood, 1890 and district by Mrs. Helen Dash, formerly Mrs. White [photographs and manuscript]
ca. 1886-1915
Dash, Helen
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Digital ID: 
a3441005
Looking back to out back : recollections of Bourke flood, 1890 and district by Mrs. Helen Dash, formerly Mrs. White [photographs and manuscript]
ca. 1886-1915
Dash, Helen
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Digital ID: 
a3441013
About this item: 
Supplementary Identifiers: Original item no. BCP 05348
Hansom cabs in street during 1893 flood - Singleton, NSW View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
bcp_05348
About this item: 

Signatures / Inscriptions: Title from album covers
Captions at lower edge of mounts
General Note: The photograph of the members of the expedition (Vol.1/no.1) appears to have been added in 1929 when it was donated by the wife of one of the Water Conservation Royal Commissioners, J. Donkin.
Another copy of this album is held at PX*D 255 (see contents list available at the Reference Shelves, Original Materials Reading Room, Mitchell Library).
Related printed item: First Report [Cartographic material] : diagrams and plans / New South Wales, Royal Commission, Conservation of Water (DSM/Q626.2/1A2)

Views of scenery on the Darling and lower Murray during the flood of 1886 / New South Wales Royal Commission, Conservation of Water ; C. Bayliss [photographer], Sydney
1886
Bayliss, Charles, 1850-1897
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Digital ID: 
a2548017
Views of scenery on the Darling and lower Murray during the flood of 1886 / New South Wales Royal Commission, Conservation of Water ; C. Bayliss [photographer], Sydney
1886
Bayliss, Charles, 1850-1897
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Digital ID: 
a2548034
Floodwaters in Echuca - Echuca, VIC
Digital ID: 
bcp_00127
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View of town in flood - Quirindi, NSW
15 January 1910
Digital ID: 
bcp_04012
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Floodwaters up to steps of Post Office - Narrabri, NSW
Digital ID: 
bcp_00352
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Flood in main street - Cobar, NSW
December 1915
Digital ID: 
bcp_05721
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Flood, Murray River at Albury, taken on Wodonga flats - Albury, NSW
1917
Digital ID: 
bcp_00539
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1917 flood, photograph taken at Edward River Hotel. Three men on horse - Deniliquin, NSW
Digital ID: 
bcp_06224
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Looking west along Bega Street from the Auckland Street intersection during the peak of the 1919 flood - Bega, NSW
Digital ID: 
bcp_02058
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Rescuing sheep in flood time at 'Barokaville' - Walgett, NSW
Digital ID: 
bcp_03182
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Flood in Port Germein, SA - Port Germein, SA
Digital ID: 
bcp_06101
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View of flood. Corner of Talbragar and Macquarie Streets - Dubbo, NSW
Digital ID: 
bcp_05176
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Sawmill under flood - Wingham, NSW
23 July 1921
Digital ID: 
bcp_01556
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Inscription on back of photo reads: [sic] "How the Brewarrina mail was delivered during flood." - Walgett, NSW
Digital ID: 
bcp_03183
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Train 210 unloading passengers at Gracemere during flood - Gracemere, QLD
Digital ID: 
bcp_03441
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Man surveys his vegetable garden in the Narrabeen flood
Digital ID: 
hood_06399
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Tom McMillen's horse team bogged during 1931 flood - Boonoke, 1931
Digital ID: 
bcp_06413
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Shearers and wagon tipped over on "Boonoke" during flood - Deniliquin, NSW
Digital ID: 
bcp_06565
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About this item: 
Taken for Newcastle Morning Herald.
Flood scenes, Maitland
August 1952?
Digital ID: 
hood_26639
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About this item: 

Published in "Newcastle Morning Herald", p 1.

Farmers gathering crops of carrots, Pilgrim's Farm, Swan Reach, as water recedes View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
hood_26653
About this item: 

Taken for Newcastle Morning Herald.

Loading fodder for Maitland flood areas
10/3/1955
Digital ID: 
hood_27889
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Mr Eric Girmon's farm on Ash Island, after the floods
Digital ID: 
hood_27935
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The Queensland floods of 2010-2011 and the New South Wales and Victorian floods of early 2012 are other examples of recent devastating events, but flooding has been a feature, particularly of rural life, for generations.  In 1955, the Hunter Valley region around Maitland flooded spectacularly; killing thousands of head of stock and fourteen people lost their lives.

Bushfires and drought are arguably Australia’s most ‘iconic’ natural disasters, although both have been a natural part of the Australian environment for thousands of years. Fire, in particular, has been harnessed by Indigenous people to encourage new growth and the development of grassland areas to attract game. This practice is known as firestick farming. After European settlement, farmers also use fire to their advantage in land clearing and back burning. However unplanned bushfires can have devestating consequences, and cause widespread damage to buildings, fencing and livestock.

Bushfires

Prevent Bush Fires [picture] : Carelessness cost lives and money, put these out / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fires Advisory Committee.
[Sydney] : The Committee, [194?]
Digital ID: 
a7317001
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Care costs you nothing and saves national resources [picture] : Put it out! Prevent bush fires! / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fires Advisory Committee.
[Sydney] : The Committee, [194?]
Digital ID: 
a7318001
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Rocket bomb on four wheels [picture] : Prevent bushfires / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fire Advisory Committee.
[Sydney] : The Committee, [194?]
Digital ID: 
a7314001
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Look what your match can do! [picture] : Prevent bush fires! / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fires Advisory Committee.
Digital ID: 
a7324001
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Prevent Bushfires [picture] : Crush it, break it, check, use it, drown it. / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fire Advisory Committee.
[Sydney] : The Committee, [194?]
Digital ID: 
a7329001
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What does this poster teach you? [picture] : Prevent Bush Fires / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fire Committee.
Digital ID: 
a7330001
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Smokey says: "Don't light fires on hot, windy days." [picture] : Prevent Bush Fires / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fire Committee.
Digital ID: 
a7331001
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Stamp out to preserve [picture] : Most bushfires are man made / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fire Advisory Committee.
[Sydney] : The Committee, [194?]
Digital ID: 
a7328001
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hey suffered through your carelessness! [picture] : Prevent bush fires! / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fires Advisory Committee.
[Sydney] : The Committee, [194?]
Digital ID: 
a7326001
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A private menace, a public enemy, a national tragedy [picture] : Prevent bush fires / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fire Advisory Committee.
Digital ID: 
a7323001
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Australia must lose these ashes! [picture] : Prevent Bush Fires / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fire Committee. View collection item detail
Digital ID: 
a7332001
Protect Australian birds and animals [picture] : Prevent bush fires / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fires Advisory Committee.
Digital ID: 
a7315001
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All this belongs to you, don't blacken it with fire [picture] : Prevent bush fires / issued by the New South Wales Bush Fires Advisory Committee.
Digital ID: 
a7316001
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It is thought that severe drought affects some part of Australia about once in 18 years, although natural climate and rainfall variation means that around three years in ten will be drier than average.  Severe droughts almost never affect the whole country at once, but those areas which are affected might stay in drought for anywhere between around two and nine years. The drought which caused the most dramatic stock losses was the Federation drought which occurred between 1895 and 1903 when Australia lost half its sheep and almost half its cattle to famine. Again in 1911, a five year drought began which killed almost 20 million sheep. Between 1965 and 1967, wheat harvests were 40 per cent lower than usual, and the 1991-1995 drought cost the Australian economy around $5 billion in lost rural production. 

It is a credit to the ongoing resilliance and determination of the Australian farmer, that they survive all manner of harsh conditions, weather extremes and natural disasters.

Drought

Country life & drought in western NSW, 2002-2005 / photographed by Darren Clark
2002-2005
Clark, Darren
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Digital ID: 
a1579001
Country life & drought in western NSW, 2002-2005 / photographed by Darren Clark
2002-2005
Clark, Darren
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Digital ID: 
a1579006
Photographs of the effects of drought on the landscape around Moree / by John Williams
1994
Williams, John A., 1958-
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Digital ID: 
a355005
Country life & drought in western NSW, 2002-2005 / photographed by Darren Clark
2002-2005
Clark, Darren
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Digital ID: 
a1579009
Photographs of the effects of drought on the landscape around Moree / by John Williams
1994
Williams, John A., 1958-
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Digital ID: 
a355001
Country life & drought in western NSW, 2002-2005 / photographed by Darren Clark
2002-2005
Clark, Darren
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Digital ID: 
a1579002
Brewarrina, 1932-1937 / photographed by Reverend Canon A. Leyland Bird
1932-1937
Bird, A. Leyland
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Digital ID: 
a5432065
Country life & drought in western NSW, 2002-2005 / photographed by Darren Clark
2002-2005
Clark, Darren
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Digital ID: 
a1579005
Brewarrina, 1932-1937 / photographed by Reverend Canon A. Leyland Bird
1932-1937
Bird, A. Leyland
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Digital ID: 
a5432054

This story has been developed with the support of the State Library of NSW Foundation.

We would like to acknowledge the generosity of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation.