Thousands of bogans, seven chain mail sheep, six Christmas beetles, five hardwood poles, three old farm sheds & a sheep dog sitting on a rock wall

IMG_1470I had assumed that some sculptures at my local shops were dung beetles (amazing insects featured in an earlier post) – but the artist’s website says they are Christmas beetles.

The beetles are accompanied by other sculptures of sheep and a sheep dog, hardwood poles decorated with farm objects found in the area, and architecture that draws on the features of an old woolshed down the road – all of which hark back to the area’s former sheep and cattle grazing days.*IMG_1281

The sculptures were installed in 2002 and are by Matthew Harding. There is one carved granite beetle and five cast bronze beetles. The seven sheep are made from galvanised steel chain on a metal frame and the dog from rusted sheet metal.**

IMG_1273‘Inspired by the rural history of the area, the Kambah Village Shopping Centre artworks include elements depicting a rural iconic venacular such as livestock, working animals, Australian insects, corrugated iron, tools and hardware.’

The nearby woolshed and two other structures (a meat shed and a Nissan hut for hay) are remnants of a rural property called ‘Kambah’, that gave its name to the suburb. (However, the area was originally called ‘Sulwood’ when farming started in the area in 1875.)

IMG_1344The last leaseholder was a returned serviceman and grazier from Cooma, Sim Bennet. He worked the property successfully for around 30 years and won awards for his achievements in pasture improvement and experiments with different forage crops (mixtures of phalaris & subterranean clover dressed with superphosphate) that aimed to increase wool yields, boost lambing rates and address soil erosion.***

In 1970, the land was resumed by the government (having been purchased by the Commonwealth in 1913). It became the first suburb in the Tuggeranong Valley in Canberra’s south when it was gazetted in 1973.

Suburban settlement began in earnest from 1974 – with the area soon nicknamed ‘Nappy Valley’ (although the proportion of young children has dropped since then).****

1024px-Kambah_Aerial

After the Bennets moved out, Kambah Homestead was used for a while by the Canberra YMCA and a number of community groups but was demolished in 1981 after being repeatedly vandalised.

(See here for a photo of the homestead in 1970 and here for a map of its location in relation to the woolshed and Village Creek (that roughly runs alongside Drakeford Drive). The woolshed is located very close to the centre of the aerial photo.)

IMG_1357An interpretive sign recording the local history was erected at the woolshed in 2004 – but the sign has also been repeatedly vandalised.

The vandalism is perhaps less surprising given the number of kids and the fact that Kambah was named the bogan capital of the ACT and included in a list of the top ten bogan suburbs in Australia by The Punch in 2009.

(Wikipedia defines ‘bogan’ as an individual ‘from an unsophisticated background or someone whose speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour exemplifies a lack of manners and education’. They are commonly associated with footy (Rugby League or Aussie Rules), flannelette shirts, tight jeans, ugg boots, VB (beer), Bundy (Bundaberg Rum), hotted up cars and bad haircuts.)

The new breed of bogans with money (the ‘cashed-up bogan’) might not trash the place (and may even drink wine – see this post) but are still more likely to do circle work (doughnuts) and burnouts in the car park than read the heritage signs. At least their utes look right at home parked outside the Kambah Tavern. (For more about bogans and their utes, see this post.)

Whatever you are celebrating this time of year, have a happy and safe one!

kambah village 3.001

* There is still some grazing nearby but nowadays it is mostly kangaroos and a few cows.

** To see how they are made – check out the artist’s website – Kambah Village Shopping Centre Artworks‘ Matthew Harding website (Accessed 13 Dec 2013)

*** ‘Kambah Field Day On Pasture Improvement(17 November 1948, p.3) & ‘Mr. F. S. Bennet Wins Pasture Contest(3 November 1951, p.2) published in The Canberra Times

**** Kambah is the largest suburb in Canberra as it was originally intended to be four suburbs. The Kambah group centre master plan (ACT Government 2012, p.9) notes that ‘the population of Kambah is declining. In 1991 the population of the suburb was 18,400. By 2006 it had declined to 16,100 and is projected to fall to 14,250 by 2021. …Kambah’s population is also ageing.’

Other sources include: ‘Kambah District Park‘ (ACT Government website. Accessed 23 Dec 2013)

Photo credits: Aerial photo of Kambah from the east (Graeme Bartlett 23 August 2008/ Wikimedia Commons); other photos (Pip Marks)



Categories: Australiana

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11 replies

  1. Christmas beetles? That must a be a rare species, I guess?!!!
    Anyway, have a great Christmas!

    • In hindsight it makes perfect sense that the artist would choose to feature Christmas beetles. Apparently all but 1 of the 36 species in this genus are unique or endemic to Australia.
      I always remember them buzzing about the house or in your hair on summer evenings as they appear after summer rain (after spending 1-2 years in the soil) and are attracted by the lights.
      I haven’t see as many around lately. Not sure if it is because of us building on the grassy woodlands, the extended drought we had, my neighbours spraying to stop the larvae destroying her perfect lawn, or maybe i don’t spend enough evenings drinking on the deck anymore?!
      http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/blog/where-have-all-christmas-beetles-gone/

  2. Thanks for the history lesson and particularly for the explanation of the term “bogan.” This Yank really needs to obtain a dictionary of Australian vernacular!

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