Ruth Morgan Seminar

Ruth Morgan presenting ‘Making ‘a way in the wilderness’: the colonial hydrology of arid Western Australia, 1860s-1900s.’

Sukhmani Khorana launches her book: The Tastes and Politics of Inter-Cultural Food in Australia

CASS members and friends enjoying the festivities!

Dr Ruth Morgan: Senior Research Fellow, Monash University

When: Thursday 24 May, 3:00-4:30pm

Where: Building 24, Room G02

Making ‘a way in the wilderness’: the colonial hydrology of arid Western Australia, 1860s-1900s.


In 1896, Western Australia’s water dreamer, the engineer C.Y. O’Connor, designed a system to transport water from the Darling Range via a pipeline to the thirsty mines of the arid goldfields, nearly six hundred kilometres away. Even the engineering schemes of ancient Rome had not been so bold as to pump water such a distance, let alone uphill. At its opening in 1903, Sir John Forrest, the state’s first premier, referred to Isaiah (43:19) when he suggested that future generations would remember this achievement: ‘They made a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.’ This so-called ‘Golden Pipeline’ followed a trail of waterholes that local Aboriginal guides had revealed to colonial explorers in the 1860s, who sought to develop a pastoral economy in a region where permanent water sources were scarce. With pastoralism and gold came more people and livestock, which combined to exert unprecedented pressures on these shallow groundwater reserves. Around the goldfields, for instance, Kalamaia Indigenous peoples found themselves competing with prospectors, cameleers, horses and camels for access to these precious reserves. By the turn of the twentieth century, the development of the goldfields had utterly transformed their lands and waterways. This paper examines the colonial hydrology of water scarcity in arid Western Australia in the late nineteenth century. Such an analysis of the social worlds of water (and its absence) sheds light on the prevailing ideologies of aridity and the broader dynamics of colonial rule in this dryland outpost of the British empire. 

The paper will be followed by the launch of Sukhmani Khorana’s book The Tastes and Politics of Intercultural Food in Australia (Rowman and Littlefield 2018). Maria Elena Indelicato (Zhejiang University) will launch the book and Fiona Probyn-Rapsey will MC (4:45pm-5:30pm).

Drinks and finger food will follow the seminar. Please click here to RSVP for Catering Purposes