On Returning to Mallacoota from Abroad

Mallacoota exists only because it is a beautiful place. Sometimes we 
who live here forget that extraordinary fact. Its one token justification 
to the industrial age is a small abalone canning factory at the edge of 
town which is owned by local divers and employs a handful of workers.

The township lies along the southern edge of an inlet which has a 
narrow and uncertain outlet to the ocean opposite Gabo Island on the 
southeastern tip of the Australian continent. During the winter Mallacoota is 
most like itself. And what is that?

This town is unique on our continent. It has always been a place that 
draws people because it is the furthest along the coast that one can 
travel away from either Sydney or Melbourne. It is so far from twentieth 
century fever that big developers have passed it by time and again. Its 
pristine beauty attracts thousands at holiday time who then return to 
their workaday lives to earn the privilege of viewing it for another 

When I am far away and think of Mallacoota, I think of beauty. I see in 
my mind's eye horizontal lines of calm, a town where one can still 
cross the road without looking and a wild duck waddles down the median 
strip looking for worms in the middle of the working day. On the roundabout 
at the entrance to the shopping centre a completely dysfunctional willy 
wagtail has lived for years cursing at cars and passers-by and, when 
the traffic stops, swinging its tail impatiently.

The noise of bird traffic in the air is louder yet than car engines in 
my reverie, my crystallised image of Mallacoota that I take with me 
when I leave. Consider the raucous morning kookaburras and later the mew 
of seagulls and occasional deep throb of the wonga pigeon from the dark 
rainforests around and throughout the town. Now in winter the 
spurwinged plover is protesting and nesting along the cleared and mown 

The resistance of the birds to our human presence is minimal and some 
even thrive on it. Parrots flutter like multi-coloured flags outside 
almost every home at mid-afternoon feeding time and on each lawn a magpie 
patrols its territory proudly. To my delight I sometimes glimpse the 
large-eyed shy thrush hopping thoughtfully in the shadows of my 
shrubbery. I know some people who have a bower bird mimicking the world from the 
bottom of their patch of bush.

These avian noises are definitely Mallacoota but so is silence, a 
spreading silence. When I walk in the early morning towards the eastern 
horizon I see wide spaces of land and water and sky in ever-lightening 
monotones of silence. I breathe it in through my eyes and my body. At the 
same time that I expand outwards into this landscape it fills my inner 

The same silence is there at night under a complete hemisphere of 
blazing stars. One can swing along the town's empty roads in the late 
evening and walk into a noiseless splendour. How long is it since city folk 
have been able to see a star low on the horizon or walk down the middle 
of an empty high road?

The Mallacoota silence is a coloured one, too. Colours are part of the 
Mallacoota crystal I touch in my mind's eye and of course blue 
dominates. Almost every hue of blue ranging from the black-green of the the 
forests, through the ever-changing mercury colours of the lake to the 
smoky layers of the distant ranges, and the egg-shell and mother of pearl 
of the skies above.

Inseparable from these aspects of course are the people who live here 
without whom these qualities would not be expressed or admired or give 
nourishment. Mallacoota must always have had people coming here, using 
and celebrating its spiritual and natural resources of beauty. I do not 
only think of the people of today, its present custodians, but of the 
army throughout time who have pitched a camp by these shores and looked 
and listened as I do.

Many of us in this town make a livelihood from what Mallacoota beauty 
means to others. Those of us who live here all share a custodianship of 
our town which entails a balance of both rights and responsibilities if 
we are to retain its uniqueness and its value to ourselves and to our 

A beautiful place does something good to the human spirit. No one 
person can put that meaning into words although generations of Mallacoota 
poets and writers and song-makers and artists have tried. Perhaps we do 
not need to make it explicit but merely to acknowledge, honour and 
respect its value to the sense of well-being and to the wallets of all of 
us.Long may Mallacoota give its beauty to the world.

Wide sky wide
And wide the lake 
Low the hills and spreading

High clouds high 
And high the light 
Where my steps are heading.

In beauty in 
Into the heart 
Out on each beat breathe new life.

Give world give 
Give to open spirit 
Wash from the soul all strife.

Sit being sit 
Sit and be 
Still, open, free and me.

Copyright 2000 by Maria Brandl

For other works of Dr. M.M. Brandl click here