... A land of drought and flooding rains
DOROTHEA Mackellar wrote about a land of droughts and flooding rain in her poem My Country.
Graeme Gillies has never missed an opportunity to photograph that same country during a lifetime of flying over it.
It is a sunburnt country that never ceases to amaze him with its ever-shifting personalities.
The Blue Tongue Helicopters proprietor last month ferried a helicopter from Maroochydore to Darwin, 15.5 hours of flying time that took him over thousands of kilometres of parched earth.
It was a desolate landscape created by four years of drought that has left farmers in despair as the bank bangs on the front door and cattle die a shocking death or are shot to free them from their misery.
Graeme has mustered cattle through the north since he was a young pilot and now trains helicopter pilots for properties across western Queensland and the Northern Territory.
He said farmer suicide was now a massive issue, with 10 dead in the Winton district alone in the past year.
"This is the worst I've ever seen it," Graeme said.
"Up round the northern end of the Diamantina (river system) there are dead cattle everywhere. Farmers are shooting their cattle and then themselves. It's terrible."
But the answer to any drought, he said dryly, is to just add water.
Mackellar wrote: "Her pitiless blue sky, When sick at heart, around us, We see the cattle die - But then the grey clouds gather, And we can bless again The drumming of an army, The steady, soaking rain."
And that's exactly what's happened after the heaven's opened following Graeme's trip, soaking the earth and drowning it below an ocean of water.
"The black soil plain is the bottom of an inland sea," Graeme said.
The photographs published here were taken over Brunette Downs Station, 216km north east of Tennant Creek and 229km north west of Camooweal.
On the black soil in drought nothing grows.
The ground splits with massive cracks and is impossible to traverse on foot, horse or vehicle.
"I've taken photos of nothingness," Graeme said of the vast, barren expanse that lies behind the coastal fringe of Australia.
A friend captured the post-rain image of a landscape transformed into an inland sea.