23 January, 2016 10:35
CLANCY OVERELL | Editor | CONTACT
Banjo Paterson once wrote about the Barcoo shire in Western Queensland.
The opening line of of his 1890 poem “A Bush Christening” gives profile to the district:
“On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few, And men of religion are scanty”
In the century and a half since this poem was written, nothing has changed. Other than a lot of hollow promises from the thirty Prime Ministers that have followed, of which only two have actually visited this landlocked desert that has seen much more tears than rain.
When considering the harsh, drought-stricken conditions of the First Nations people and descendants of white settlers in this area, paired with the lack of internet access, it is no surprise that Far-Western Queensland has the lowest rate of religious radicalisation in the entire country, according to Australian Bureau Of Statistics.
“My boys are too busy shooting dying heffers to fly over to another desert shithole on the other side of the world to start shooting people” says local farmer Mike Heathen (38), who’s twin sons Jamie and Roddy (13) have been able to drive a manual transmission Landcruiser since they were toddlers.
“But if they did find some reason to go leave their old man and fuck off to Syria, they’d be pretty handy terrorists – I can tell you that for free. Jamie can take a roos head off from two miles out,”
In September last year, The Barcoo shire became eligible for the community funding of up to $1.5 million, to build 55 kilometres of fence around Jundah, Stonehenge, Betoota and Windorah to keep out the Kangaroos who make their way in to town to scavenge water.
While this bizarre million dollar grant was a relief, the shire should never have been left off the drought list in the first place, according to locals.
“Mate this place hasn’t had any rain since the fucking forties,” says Heathen.
“We thought there were a few drops back when I was a boy, but turns out it was just the sewerage dump from Paul Keating’s low-flying private jet on the way to Paris,”
Heathen says that if the religious denominations that once held a presence in this town were still here, there’d be a lot more trouble.
“Mate you want to talk about radicalization? I can tell you that the western world is very fucking lucky that God left this town. If the people out here were given someone to blame, they’d load up their rifles and head straight to the city,”
“If a kid living in an suburban Sydney unit complex can become radicalised by religion, imagine what would happen to my boys… ”
“…Some of the contractors they have met out here in the badlands make ISIS look like drunken roo-shooters,”
Mr Heathen says although he is currently ‘at war’ with the banks, he ‘couldn’t give two fucks’ about any of the wars happening elsewhere in the world.
“We’ve got enough destitute out here, we’ve got cattle licking blocks of salt and eating cotton seeds. The only time my sons see the colour green is when we are watching the Rabbitohs games on television,”
“Sometimes I wonder… will God ever forgive us for what we’ve done to each other? Then I look around and I realize… God left this place a long time ago,”
“There’s no Holy Water out here, mate. Closest thing we’ve got comes in a can with four x’s down the side,”
“We don’t even have a holy book out here to read, other than the TAB form guide. And the only form of religious ceremony we see is on NAIDOC day in town,”