Hornsby talk

For interested Sydneysiders, I’m speaking at Hornsby Library at 10 am on Friday 8th June. Phone (02) 9847 6904 for details.

Having spoken there for each of my other books, I know it’s always a good event, with keen readers and a lively Q & A after the talk.

Novella Fine Books from Wahroonga will be there with books to sell — and be signed!

Eltham event

After winning the Alan Marshall Short Story Award in 2002 I spent three months at an historic and extremely atmospheric mud brick house, ‘Birrarung’, near Eltham.

This was a writers’ residency courtesy of Parks Victoria and Nillumbik Shire. It became a chapter in my first book, The Woman on the Mountain.

So I have a special spot for Eltham and Meera’s terrific Eltham Bookshop, and have spoken down there several times.

If you’re in the region, come and meet me on Sunday afternoon, June 10th, 3:00—4:30pm at Edendale Farm, Gastons Lane, Eltham.

Bookings are essential: Call (03) 9439 8700 or email Eltham Bookshop. Refreshments are included in the $5.00 entry.

Find your way to Edendale Farm by checking Eltham Bookshop on Facebook.

Media alert

My new book, Rich Land, Wasteland, will be in the shops this coming week.

Now begins the media — the using of the tool, which is how I see the book.

I’ll be on the panel of ABC News 24 TV’s ‘The Drum’ at 6.30 on Monday 23rd — that’s today —and I’ll also be a guest of Phillip Adams on Late Night Live which airs tonight at 10.00pm on ABC Radio National (repeated tomorrow at 4pm).

And tomorrow, Tuesday 24th, I’ll be talking to Alan Jones on 2GB at 7.40 am.

Friday 13th: a black and white day

Last Friday I collected a special parcel at the post office: my copies of the new book!

After two years, it’s reality, quite a hefty reality at 453 pages, but that includes the many references. It’s half as many words again as my first book, and in a larger format.

The cover looks great, and despite the size, the pages flip easily. So a great production job by Macmillan, following on from Exisle.

Both teams are working hard to promote it, as they are right behind the need for Australians to know of the urgency and gravity of this issue.

I think maybe at last I do feel proud of it, as people keep telling me I should; until now I’ve just been relieved to have survived to finish it! Cathy Smith took the photo.

I understand from Exisle that copies are already being sent to those who pre-ordered online.

I possibly need to explain that I don’t have (or own) the books myself so I can’t sign them, but bring them along to any talk I give near you and I’ll write in them for you. 

So that was the white side of the day.

At 11 am I had to be at a rally outside Singleton Civic Centre, where a public forum was to be held on the Coalition’s  Strategic Regional Land Use Plan. About 300 people were there, bearing signs expressing their concerns and their wishes, like ‘AGL go to hell!’  Merriwa, Putty, Bunnan, Bylong, Bulga, Jerrys Plains, Gloucester… all fighting for their futures.

Nobody was happy about the quite insultingly glib ‘plan’ which broke just about every promise made before the election.

That became anger and frustration in the actual forum as Planning Minister Hazzard in particular seemed to dismiss so many concerns in a manner that to me seemed quite patronising.

Apparently he can’t exclude or ‘ringfence’ areas from mining or drilling because they could be changed at a whim later; why not do it anyway, as Murray Armstrong asked, while they get their plan finalised. And why, I ask, can’t they legislate so they’re not subject to whims?

It would appear that obvious defects in the mapping were news to him: like no mention of a viticulture industry cluster for Upper Hunter wineries; almost nothing worth protecting, so needing to go through the ‘Gateway’ process, in the Gloucester Valley, nor on the cropping and grazing lands of Merriwa.  It seemed like deliberate sacrifices of some areas had been made to coal and gas.

Farmers and residents stressed that Cabinet needed to realise this that was a matter of survival, to be aware of the ‘mental anguish’ of people forced into this daily battle against coal and CSG, and the critical importance of surface and groundwater to farmers. If they don’t, who knows where will it lead? 

The feeling was that Planning was looking after the mining companies; there was no confidence in ‘answers’ given to the limited number of questions able to be fitted in. Surely more than two hours could have been allowed?

But would they listen anyway?

Everyone needs to have their say officially by making a submission by May 3rd. 

If possible, join the rally on May 1 in Sydney: see the NSW Farmers website or call 02 8251 1700.
Submissions can be lodged online, by email or by post to
Director, Strategic Regional Policy,
Department of Planning and Infrastructure,
GPO Box 39

Visit the Rich Land, Wasteland Facebook page

Bimblebox and beyond

Many of you will recall my several posts on Bimblebox, the Nature Refuge in Queensland’s Galilee Basin that Clive Palmer wants to dig up for his China First mine. (See Outback Eden under threat and Speak up for nature)

Now there’s a film about its plight — but not only about this one precious place.

The documentary Bimblebox, by U.S. film-maker Mike O’Connell, spans the coal and CSG frenzy in Australia generally. The poster image was provided by associate producer Eleanor Smith.

It’s hoped to be Australia’s Gasland, to wake up the city and the country and add to the growing popular rejection of this mindless resources rush, set to ruin Australia, as it is ruining the lives of so many Australians.

DVDs are currently being prepared, and the film is available for screenings.

Find out more at the documentary’s website, via Facebook or Twitter.

I saw it at the premiere in Byron Bay in March, were I was delighted to meet Paola Cassoni, (left) one of the caretakers of Bimblebox, and driving force behind this film, and to re-meet Lindsay and Avriel Tyson, with whom I’d stayed at their Springwood property, under serious threat from the neighbouring Xstrata’s Rolleston mine. See my posts When the neighbours get pushy, Coal floods? and Blackening the Golden Triangle.

Avriel’s segment in this film is extremely moving.

All three feature in my new book, Rich Land, Wasteland — how coal is killing Australia.

Visit the Rich Land, Wasteland Facebook page.

My new book

At last I can tell everyone what I have been working on for the last two years, monopolising my mind and my heart, and near breaking both at times.

My new book, Rich Land, Wasteland — how coal is killing Australia, will be in bookshops at the start of May, a joint publishing venture by Pan Macmillan Australia and Exisle Publishing.

I knew the Hunter had been — is being — trashed by coal, and the wishes and wellbeing of its residents apparently treated with contempt by both corporate coal and government. Was this unique or could it possibly this bad elsewhere?

To find out, in 2010 I took my tape recorder and travelled to other coal areas around Australia  — a black road trip in more ways than one.

What I found nationwide shocked me with its scale and scope and speed — and the awful human toll from the frenzied push for profits by the coal and CSG industries.

This was an industrial invasion — ‘a taking over of land and a clearing out of people’ — and it was by mainly foreign forces, with full government support via their loose and biased laws and processes — at best.

In the face of all the spin from industries with bottomless pockets and from gormless governments, I wanted ordinary Australians to know what was happening to their country and their countrymen behind their backs — in the confidence that they will say ‘This is not the Australia we want to be’ when they do.

Food and water security, health and social structure, precious natural resources and places, both environmental and agricultural, were being taken away from us and from future generations — and nobody apart from those immediately impacted knew much about it.

And, tied up and worn down with their specific local battles, nobody knew the full national picture.

Read more

Two by two

The Maned Wood Duck couple are back on the little dam, and enjoying being able to wander up the slope without having to fly over a netting fence or waddle along to a gate opening.

It’s rather late for ducklings, so I assume they’ve done all the baby business elsewhere and arrived here as true ’empty-nesters.’

The other day, the pair happened to be hanging about near two young kangaroos, just above where the fence used to be. They made a serendipitous picture and I was yet again grateful that no netting loomed behind them.

It reminded me of the tiniest tale in my book Mountain Tails, where something similar happened.


Once I saw a strikingly symmetrical composition of creatures in the orchard, a line-up of paired animals.

Two kookaburras sat opposite each other, on two stakes of a netting guard; below each one stood a magpie; and just beyond them, outside the fence, two kangaroos faced each other as if posing for a coat of arms.

It was a fortuitous flash that soon broke apart, but it made me think of the animals queuing for the Ark, and thus my Refuge as being like that. Only it’s not God’s punitive Flood they need refuge from — it’s Man.

Book duo

My first book, The Woman on the Mountain (2007) is sold out, but my publishers, Exisle, have the last 30 copies, returned from shops, so deemed ‘shopsoiled’.

I bought ten such myself, as gifts, and I actually couldn’t see anything wrong with them.

I have just found out that Exisle are currently offering a special double deal — one of these plus a new copy of my second book, Mountain Tails (2009).

So you get the two books for the price of Mountain Tails ($24.99), a collection of short tales about the critters with whom I live — and whom I photograph for these web posts.

I’m telling you in case any reader wants to get in while there are still some copies of The Woman on the Mountain left.

Here’s what the ABC’s Gardening Australia magazine said about Mountain Tails (although it’s not a novel!):

‘This delightful novel gives a lively and personal account of the animals that share the author’s wildlife refuge. The book is clearly written and is illustrated with the author’s own whimsical drawings.  Read about romping joeys, quolls in the kitchen and marsupial mice in the bedding pile. It would be enjoyed by anyone with even a passing interest in the natural world and is the sort of book to while away a winter afternoon.’

or as The Adelaide Advertiser Magazine said:

‘You may think your neighbours are eccentric, but Munro’s are animals: spotted quolls, possums, wallabies, koalas, snakes, frogs and echidnas to name a few. She describes them in short, often humorous vignettes of her life on the edge of a national park, 90 minutes from the nearest town.

‘Her style is engaging and informal as if telling stories over a cuppa, and her enthusiasm and concern for the creatures are infectious. The stories are illustrated with her own sketches. Munro ends with a restrained but passionate call for action to protect wildlife. As a reminder she includes a list of species already driven to extinction.

‘A good read.’

Visit Exisle here for this offer.

See you at Toukley

For anyone who lives on the Central Coast and would like to say hello in person, I am giving a talk at Toukley Library this Thursday 28th October.

It will be between 10.30-11.30 at the library in Victoria Street, Toukley. All welcome.

Enquiries or bookings to the library on 02 4396 4247.

Kookaburra kingdom

This photo of a vigilant kookaburra on my yard gate suits this extract from the chapter on Kookaburras in my book, Mountain Tails:

Moist ground, short grass, worms a-wriggling, birds a-watching — snap!

Kookaburras claim my fence posts, my gates, my tree guards, my guttering, the glasshouse roof and the bare wintry branches of my stone fruit trees. Like sentries in castle turrets, they keep constant watch on their kingdom. For ages they stare fixedly at a spot in the apparently motionless paddock. It’s as if they are commanding a worm to emerge there by such concentrated power of will.

‘In a cold wind they fluff up their feathers: basic off-white, elegantly speckled and heavily striped in chocolate brown, barred with black, underscored by amber, and with those sometimes hidden, so often surprising, sky-blue dabs and dashes on the wings. A backcombing breeze makes their flat heads look ruffled and peaked like punks, but their heavily made up eyes are not distracted from their task.

Their beaks are big and tough and capacious, hooked at the end. Good for catching much bigger prey than worms or beetles, but that’s what’s on the menu in this clearing. Just a snack in between the morning and evening song sessions.

These are Laughing Kookaburras, sometimes called Laughing Jackasses, the largest members of the world’s kingfisher family, all of whom are carnivorous for more than fish. This sort likes mice, as well as worms and insects and reptiles, and there are lots of small mouse-like marsupials here to make residency in my Refuge worthwhile. There are also lots of tree hollows, so it’s a good nesting and breeding place for kookaburra families.