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“There are still in Australian suburbia many indigenous ingredients mixed up with the stone-veneer garden barbecues, the flourishes of wrought iron and other features of the fashionable home which seem like a distorting-mirror image of the advertisement pages of the Saturday Evening Post. The essence of Australian suburban life is unreality: frank and proud artificiality. To this extent it is English. In some countries, like Sweden, the suburb may be supracountry. In America it may allow itself to be coyly rustic. But in Australia it is the city’s bastion against the bush. In certain areas – parts of Wahroonga and Castle Crag in Sydney, Beaumaris and Blackburn in Melbourne, St Lucia in Brisbane – gum trees prosper among the houses and a countrified air is not discouraged. But for the most part modern Australian living is represented best by the shorn look already noted.

The countryside in which the suburb grows is shorn of trees. The plot in which the house builds is shorn of shrubs. The house itself is shorn of the verandas which the colonists knew, shorn of porches, shelter and shade. It sits in sterile shaven neatness on its trimmed lawn between weeded, raked, brilliant beds of annuals, between the grey paling fences which separate each private domain from its neighbours. Very little is planted in the first place which is expected to be or is capable of growing high; and nature never can escape the tidy gardener’s shears. The pioneering spirit still means change from nature, right or wrong, and the Australian suburban objective is still to carve clearings in the native bush and to transplant on to naked soil a postage stamp replica of the ruling idea in international high-life.


But while the pattern of imposed fashion has thus fluctuated over the years, the basic policy of tidy artificiality has remained unchanged since the moment when Governor Phillip’s sailors of the First Fleet leapt ashore and made the first clearing by the beach.


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