Hard Hooves on an Old Soil. "Wool: The Australian Story" by Richard Woldendorp, Roger McDonald and Amanda Burdon. [review]
The extraordinary photographer Richard Woldendorp joins writers Roger McDonald and Amanda Burdon in "Wool", a sumptuous presentation that celebrates with every glossy page. But is "Wool" a celebration or a wake? Why publish such a book in 2003? Who is it for? Is the industry really in decline? Or is it just waiting? A 100 years ago, the nation saw the flock reduced from seventy-five to fifty-three million sheep in the 1901–03 droughts. Today, there are more than 123 million sheep on the mainland alone. Each animal is, on average, bigger and carrying a much heavier fleece than in 1901 on those same small, hard hooves. Wool’s significance to the nation’s wealth is in decline, but sheep continue to inflict damage, even more than before, particularly in Australia’s arid zone. Our identity politics need review, not celebration. Wool is no longer 'the' Australian story. It is more a case of mistaken identity.