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Where the wild things were

Australia's settler culture has the worst record for mammal extinctions in the world. But on a journey through inland Western Australia, one of the country's leading novelists discovers grounds for optimism

By Tim Winton   May 2009

In the great sickle-shaped hinterland of the Western Australian wheat belt, trees have been exterminated. A few lonely specimens mark the corners of paddocks but most of what you see is a land scraped utterly naked. Today, as I drive north from Perth toward the old pastoral lease at Mt Gibson Station, a wicked easterly howls in off the desert and the sky is pink with dirt. Less than a century ago this bit of country was a series of eucalypt woodlands, but they were bulldozed and burned at the urging of successive governments to make way for cultivation. The…

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