Authors: Ivan O’Mahoney & Steve Bibb
Harper Collins RRP $59.99
Review: Monique Mulligan 

9780733332111Great Southern Land has been published as a tie-in to the ABC-TV documentary of the same name. I haven’t seen the documentary, but looking through this picture book, I feel like I’ve missed out on something that would have made me think a lot more about my surroundings.

The coffee-table book takes readers on an epic journey across Australia, with stunning aerial photography by Richard Woldendorp giving a bird’s-eye view. Series producers and writers Ivan O’Mahoney and Steve Bibb have compiled informative, educational and at times, detailed, text to complement the incredible photos. What sets this book apart from those in its class, however, is its focus on challenges facing Australia, such as land management, sustainability, environmental cycles and population. Yes, we live in the Great Southern Land, and yes, it’s beautiful … but we need to seriously re-think about how we live.

The images take readers from the top of the Snowy Mountains to the tropical wilds of the Gulf of Carpentaria; the irrigated farms of the Murray Darling Basin to the ancient forests of Tasmania. Some of these images are truly breathtaking; others are intriguing in their patterns and textures. Contrasted against the beauty of this wide brown land are images showing human impact, as well as the necessary networks that keep a 23-million population moving and thriving. Readers journey from places of refuge and peace to busy urban settings – in and out of comfort zones.

Great Southern Land has more than 280 photos and it’s heavy. If you’re after a pretty book full of lovely descriptions … then this is probably not quite what you’re after. Blue Eyes looked through it, but as a man who dreams of living in the bush, the urban/man-made images didn’t appeal to him at all, even from an artistic perspective. However, if you take the time to look beyond the pictures and absorb what is being said, there are some strong and pertinent messages there.

Available from good bookstores and ABC Books. This copy was courtesy of Harper Collins Australia.