In Kiandra Gold I wanted to tell the story of the amazing Kiandra gold rush. But I didn’t want it to be a dull chronicle of facts and figures. The best way I could think of bringing the place and the people to life was to tell the story as a fictional narrative. But the narrative is closely based on the facts. The horrendous snow storms, the injustices, the bullying and the intimidation by a mob acting at the behest of a corrupt Gold Commissioner, are just as they happened.
The story of Kiandra since those heady initial days, when it was thought the field would rival the riches of Ballarat and Bendigo, is a sad story of decline, neglect, and finally, of death at the hands of the National Parks Service.
Kiandra began with 10,000 eager diggers scouring the district. It ended in the 1980’s with National Parks bureaucrats trying to remove the last remaining vestiges of human habitation left over from the gold rush by bulldozing buildings.
Why was Kiandra killed? Look at other failed gold towns. Beechworth is perhaps the most successful. It now makes its living out of tourism. There are others too, in New South Wales - even Mogo, on the South Coast. All of these have been brought back from the brink of decay.
The story of Kiandra is a story of lost opportunity - of deliberate neglect by the people given responsibility for its control when it had the accident to become part of the National Park. Kiandra, Australia’s unique snowbound gold mining village, was surrounded by irreversible and historically significant scars of mining. Yet it was killed. Why? At the same time those Parks bureaucrats were authorising desecration of other previously pristine parts of the Park, such as Thredbo and Perisher. I can only leave you to draw the appropriate conclusions.
Since those dark days in the 1980s the Parks Service has varied its approach. The installation of a heritage trail now goes some way to recognising the historical significance of Kiandra, where Australians first began to ski. Unfortunately nothing can bring back the bulldozed heritage.
The story in my book concentrates on the exciting early days. By writing it I hope that the memory of Kiandra, and of its unique history, will not be forgotten.I really appreciate the recognition given by this award, which I share with my publisher, Stephen Matthews, and with Helen Walker, who was responsible for the book’s beautiful cover. The design is based on a 19th Century photograph of Kiandra – you can see the original on www.kiandra.net - it is the Charles Kerry one in the Gallery showing the three skiers – brake hard on!
Thank you all.
Note: The above text is an edited version of an address given at the ACT Writer’s Centre Publishers Awards on 16 December 2004. Kiandra Gold was highly commended by the judges.