Australia’s Iconic ‘Dry Stone Walls’ To Be Heritage Listed?

An iconic aesthetic feature of the outback...

An iconic aesthetic feature of the outback…

For those familiar with traveling through rural Australia, the dry stone wall is synonymous with frontier living. The hand-made walls, which were often constructed without the use of mortar, are frequently found on private properties and are a testament to the ingenuity and skill of the indigenous peoples, colonial landholders and later agricultural workers, who constructed the walls. Now, enthusiasts and other interested parties are calling for the walls to be heritage listed.

Jim Holdsworth, President of the Dry Stone Walls Association of Australia (DSWAA), says that the walls should be protected by cultural authorities.

“One of the great goals of this association is … all those municipalities across Australia that have dry stone walls [should] recognise they have a responsibility to maintain them and work with landowners to achieve that end,” he told the ABC.

Though many of the peculiar walls can be dated back to the pre-European colonisation (Indigenous Australians were constructing these kinds of fences as far back as 6000 years ago!), a majority of the walls were constructed in the 1850’s and 1860’s by stoneworkers from across the United Kingdom.

“They were craftsmen. A lot of those stations would have their own blacksmith, their own cobbler, their own saddler and they would have their own waller,” Mr. Holdsworth explained.

But despite their obvious cultural significance, some are concerned that many of the walls have been destroyed by modern landowners.

“Farmers want more efficient farming practices, and if there is a dry stone wall running across their paddock and they can’t get machinery in or their endeavours to be more efficient are blighted … that is a problem,” Mr. Holdsworth explained, referring to a spate of recent bulldozing.

With more information coming to light, some modern farmers, such as Nick Cole, are happy to acknowledge the importance of the structures. Speaking from the West Cloven Hills sheep station outside of Camperdown, Mr. Cole discussed the importance of a top-down approach to preservation.

“Well, if they want to heritage list it, I am happy for them to come and repair them too or help subsidise them,” he mused. “Otherwise, they’re just going to be a pile of stones in another 100 years probably, and there won’t be any of them left.”

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