Desert Harvest History: No Place for a Woman?

Deme­ter, God­dess of the Earth, Fer­til­i­ty and Fruits of the Earth, is said to sym­bol­ize all things to do with food har­vest­ing’ or food farm­ing’. It is her sto­ry that inspired the nation­al theme for Women’s His­to­ry Month 2010 Demeter’s Daugh­ters: Women’s har­vest his­to­ry’ and the Nation­al Pio­neer Women’s Hall of Fame con­tri­bu­tion to this com­mem­o­ra­tion – a dis­play enti­tled: Desert Har­vest His­to­ry – No place for a woman?

Pri­ma­ry Indus­try’ in Cen­tral Aus­tralia has tak­en many forms over the years – from wild food har­vest, home­stead and mar­ket gar­den­ing and farm­ing for fam­i­ly sus­te­nance to large com­mer­cial graz­ing and hor­ti­cul­ture busi­ness­es. Tra­di­tion­al Abo­rig­i­nal lifestyles relied on use of the land in its entire­ty for sur­vival; and the pre­dom­i­nant land-use in Cen­tral Aus­tralia con­tin­ues to be large tracts giv­en over to graz­ing. Adap­ta­tions to the desert envi­ron­ment in the form of niche hor­ti­cul­ture crops and busi­ness enter­pris­es that part­ner food pro­duc­tion are also grow­ing in num­ber and importance.

Lifestyles of all Cen­tral Aus­tralians, Abo­rig­i­nal and more recent set­tlers, have changed over the years. The desert har­vest sto­ries depict­ed in this dis­play reflect this in the way the char­ac­ters, set­tings and cre­ative enter­pris­es have var­ied over time. How­ev­er the end results have a com­mon thread – coun­try once viewed as the dead heart of Aus­tralia’ has giv­en gen­er­ous­ly in the form of a rel­a­tive­ly boun­ti­ful desert harvest.’

Many thanks to vol­un­teer Anne Scher­er for all her hard work on design­ing and devel­op­ing this exhibition.