Heritage lecture to examine ‘drought-proofing’ in the 1880s

Published 26 April 2012

A public lecture at the University of New England on the 1st of May will examine the success of technologies used in the early 1880s to “drought-proof” properties through the use of surface water infrastructure.

Dr Luke Godwin, a leading cultural heritage consultant and academic, will discuss the “drought-proofing” strategies employed on the massive “Wellshot” sheep station in central western Queensland in the late nineteenth century.

Dr Godwin will present a paper prepared by himself and Scott L’Oste-Brown demonstrating that the highest rates of stocking on “Wellshot” were achieved during the period when surface water, rather than ground water, was harvested.

The paper describes the infrastructure and its archaeological footprint, and points out that the use of such technology on “Wellshot” and throughout the region resulted in massive profits for pastoralists during the last few decades of the nineteenth century.

“The pastoralists deployed these financial resources for larger economic and industrial purposes, which in turn triggered unexpected responses that have had political ramifications through to the present day,” Dr Godwin says.

The free lecture – “Water, water everywhere: attempts at drought-proofing properties using surface water infrastructure in central western Queensland in the early 1880s” – will be in UNE’s Arts Building (Lecture Theatre A2) at 5.30 pm on Tuesday 1 May. It will be this year’s event in the annual John Ferry Heritage Lecture series, organised by UNE’s Heritage Futures Research Centre to honour the memory – and the work – of the UNE-based historian Dr John Ferry (1949-2004).

Luke Godwin, who holds a PhD degree from UNE, has 30 years’ experience in cultural heritage management both as a private consultant and in government, and has taken a leading role in establishing and managing many cultural heritage projects associated with large-scale developments in Queensland and NSW. In the 1980s he was involved in a number of heritage projects in the New England region – including research into McCrossin’s Mill in Uralla. He is currently an Associate Professor (Adjunct) in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at James Cook University in Queensland.