Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Ffion Murphy


This thesis comprises a collection of five poems, five short stories and an essay. Each story is written from the point of view of a different character, but all are linked to form a continuous narrative. The poems and stories are based on the lives of five women who live on farms on the edge of the Fitzgerald River National Park, near Ravensthorpe in the south-west of Western Australia. Attitudes ofthe women and details of their lives were obtained through biographies, formal interviews and informal conversations with the women during two visits to the area in January and March 2006. The stories are set mainly in the mid 1970s but begin with reflections of the early 1960s and end with a story set in 2006 projecting into the future. The poems form a bridge between the stories, introducing a character or an attitude which is then expanded upon in the ensuing story. In 'Mad as a cut lunch' the main character's reflections on her first impressions of the new land farm in 1962 are the catalyst for the main part of the action which is set in 1974. After twelve years, she still lives in a machinery shed in poverty with a lack of utilities and transport. While she is walking through the bush to deliver lunch to her husband, she is bitten by a snake. 'The rattler' is a continuation of the first story. A neighbour takes care of her friend's children. The children's antics remind her of her own children who have grown up and left the farm. As she attempts to protect the children from being frightened by her pet carpet snake, she ponders on the effects that poverty and the brutality of farming might have on children. She maintains a sense of humour throughout. 'The new community hall' depicts community spirit. Eight local farming men agree to perform a rendition of the ballet Giselle, and although it is for the serious cause of raising funds to pay for the new community hall, proceedings get out of hand. In two parts, 'To fly like an eagle' is written from the perspective of the son of one of the women. The first section is set when the boy is ten years old and is present at his mother's attempted suicide. The second part focuses on the life of the same boy at the age oftwenty-one. When his mother's voice is silenced because of her injuries, she is no longer able to comfort him with stories of farming life. This has a devastating effect. 'Dusty-faced neighbours' reflects on forty years of farming at Fitzgerald. It is told by alternating the memories of a mother, and a child who she cared for. The two narratives illustrate a bond that exists between the woman and her daughter's friend. The connection is strengthened and projected into the future when the next generation of children play together. The essay discusses the relationships among the women of the Fitzgerald farming region and some familiar depictions of country women in short fiction. Making reference to stories by Henry Lawson, Steele Rudd, Olga Masters, Joan London, Murray Bail and Tim Winton, the essay refers to an eclectic range of myths in these stories. The essay compares these myths to the lives of the real country women interviewed and depicted in the stories in 'She's a beautiful woman'.