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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

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


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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