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'Dust Bowls', TVAs and snowy river waters: John Heyer, The Valley is ours and an early post-war 'image of Australia'.


This paper introduces the story of the 1940s debate between the Australian state of Victoria and the north-bordering state of New South Wales, over Australia's Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme. It describes the campaign imagery generated by the state of Victoria and the Murray Valley Development League (MVDL) to promote their vision for a Murray Valley TVA. The focus is on Australian documentary film-maker John Heyer and The Valley is Ours (1948). The Valley was created to support the MVDL's claims that a scheme to benefit their valley would be the best post-war scheme for both New South Wales and Victoria, and for the nation. This paper takes a transnational and cultural approach to investigating this story. This is because Heyer used nationalist US concepts to strengthen Australian national myths--the film's transnational content was set to a nationalist purpose. This paper describes the environmental imagery--not just images, but sound and text, used by Heyer and the MVDL campaign, to convey a transnational set of ideas. It retrieves a material record from the archives, of what these transnational environmental ideas actually looked and sounded like. And it sheds light on the cultural influences and political forces behind the Murray TVA campaign and the film's creation.


John Heyer, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Dust Bowl, Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme-Australia, Murray Valley Development League (MVDL)


During World War Two and the early post-war period Australians in the bordering states of New South Wales and Victoria debated over the most suitable post-war nation-building scheme for the country. Debate was centred around the waters of the Snowy River and how they might most fruitfully be utilised. The only snow-fed system on the continent, the Snowy River rises in the Australian Alps in New South Wales and flows through deep gorges before entering Victoria, while the state border is marked by the Murray River (Figure 1). The Murray Valley Development League represented Victorian interests in the Murray Valley but was supported by New South Wales communities also in the Valley. When the League turned to the concept of the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) to promote their vision, it was Australian documentary filmmaker John Heyer who portrayed that vision on film in The Valley is Ours (1948). (2) Heyer has been described as 'one of the most significant directors in the country's evolving cinematic history'. He founded the Australian National Film Board in 1945 and was its first senior producer and director. (3) He was active on the international film scene. This was a time when American films were said to be flooding the Australian scene, while local productions neglected to foreground aspects of life and landscape unique to the Australian experience. (4) Heyer aimed to change this in films such as Cane Cutters (1947), Journey of a Nation (1946), Men and Mobs (1947) and The Valley is Ours (1948), while, for his regional focus in Native Earth (1945), Heyer was runner-up for an Academy Award. (5) Later, Heyer further proved a sustained commitment to realism by winning the Grand Prix Assoluto at the 1954 Venice Film Festival for his documentary The Back of Beyond (1954). (6) In 1948 The Valley is Ours was recognised by the United Nations Organisation as a major contribution to documentary film-making In The Valley Heyer foregrounded Australian scenery and characters, the Australian accent and colloquialisms. He listed the names of Australian towns and rivers, showed snow-gums in the Australian Alps, listed Australian timbers ? Blackbutt, Red Gum, Ironbark--and featured the sights and sounds of Murray River bird-life. Heyer also turned to two powerful Australian mythologies ? surrounding the Snowy River, and the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). (7) The Anzac legend centred around ideas of masculinity, mateship and egalitarianism, born of the tragic World War One landing at Gallipoli of Australian and New Zealand Imperial forces in 1915. Heyer drew on the emotional power of the Anzac story in The Valley, listing units of the Australian Forces returning home from World War Two service from across the world. At the same time Heyer evoked stories about the legendary Snowy River. Part of bush mythology, ballads such as A.B. Banjo Paterson's The Man from Snowy River (1895) have been celebrated as expressing the essence of Australian national identity ? supposed to be the bush, the pioneer, the stockman, brumbies, the Anzacs, the Light Horse, the Snowy River, the rugged Snowy Mountains and, again, egalitarianism. (8) The aim of Heyer's film was a nationalistic storytelling, to promote the water conservation scheme favoured by the Murray Valley Development League as the best one for the nation. Despite the nationalistic objective of the film, however, its content was transnational. Heyer drew together two sets of national ideas, from both the Australian story and the American, to construct a film that conveys a nationalist transnationalism.

In The Valley is Ours Heyer evoked imagery of the US Dust Bowl, an American national narrative, and described by some as 'an historic event of mythological proportions'. (9) Heyer drew another element into this mix of ideas. It was the idea of a TVA or Tennessee Valley Authority. The TVA has been described as 'one of the nation's greatest mythical icons', while in the 1940s it was understood to be America's new 'symbol of the nation'. (10) Despite this, in the 1950s, Heyer was described as the one Australian film-maker who had done more than any to project what he called a realistic or documentary film 'image of Australia'. What he meant by this was a film expression of what was unique to Australia, as well as authentic portrayals of ordinary people going about their lives rather than high art, full of movie stars and affectation. (11) The documentary mode was developing at this time, and the lines between government propaganda films, newsreels, documentary or 'fact' films and fiction were often blurred. (12) While claiming to document reality or authenticity, these films were often expected to create a 'national viewpoint' and a sense of 'national purpose', while giving 'dramatic shape' to issues such as Murray Valley development and the Snowy Scheme. (13)

In The Valley is Ours, Heyer employed American imagery to strengthen a nationalistic Australian film but there is no awkard pasting together of American and Australian imagery in The Valley. It was not a poorly made film by an inexperienced film-maker. Heyer was a film-maker of great skill and his blending of both sets of national ideas requires an approach that can identify them, then prise them apart ready for discussion. That is why this paper takes a transnational approach, placing Australian nationalism in a context broader than simply Australia, or the British world. It also highlights the fact that American ideas were not simply adopted whole in Australia, but adapted and employed at a certain time and to suit local circumstances and ambitions. (14) When a 2013 issue of History Australia featured papers on nationalism and transnationalism in Australian historical writing, there was broad consensus. Australian historical writing needed to place the nation's history within the context of 'a range of processes that transcend national boundaries', and more historical work was needed that placed the national and the transnational side by side. (15) This paper aims to do both. A transnational analysis of The Valley aids in recovering the story of how two US-born ideas were blended into campaign arguments over Australia's major post-war scheme. It recovers a material record of the imagery produced by campaigners of the time who were advocating not only for the film to be made, but for transformation of the iconic Snowy River, in order to make that Murray TVA vision a reality.


The MVDL created imagery loaded with reminders of the US Dust Bowl on the southern Great Plains, in the semi-arid West. They did this to draw parallels between the fate of their Valley and the US case, suggesting a likely 'dust bowl' if they didn't get the Snowy scheme they wanted. However the water conservation ideas at the heart their narratives were not inspired by the example of water conservation in the West, on the Great Plains or anywhere else where aridity and wind erosion were of primary concern. Instead the League's campaign narratives drew on ideas surrounding the TVA, which is located in the humid east of the United States, affecting seven states--Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi. (17) The MVDL (the League) drew together Dust Bowl and TVA imagery. This means that neither the water reclamation schemes of the Bureau of Reclamation in the Pacific Northwest, nor the arid West are central to this paper. However, water conservation ideas of the New Deal era are central, and this makes the work of Paul Sutter and Richard White particularly relevant.

During the 1930s a technological optimism underpinned environmental thought generally. It affected New Deal conservation planning, during a period where, as Paul Sutter has expressed it, 'the lines between nature and artifice were less tightly drawn.' Nature, in this relationship was to be subdued, tamed by the sublime--the machine--in an 'annihilation of time and space'. In The Machine in the Garden, Leo Marx described this understanding of machines as visible evidence of progress that would put nature into the service of humans. (18)

Although the two might seem incompatible, to look, as Richard White has explained, for the natural in 'the dam' and the 'unnatural' in the salmon, is to understand conceptualisations of nature at the time, as 'organic machine'. In the context of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, preservation meant, 'to preserve nature' and conservation, 'to wisely develop its resources'. Sutter has argued for a deeper study of New Deal conservation to show that the gap between preservationist and conservationist ideas was not as wide, nor as clear, as has previously been thought. Preservationists and conservationists rarely saw 'any ideological inconsistencies in being both'. Certainly, to treat nature as something separate from humans, machines and their labour, cannot serve a study of the Dust Bowl idea. In the 1930s, American perceptions of nature reflected Ralph Waldo Emerson's expressions of 'how the human and the natural, the mechanical and the organic, had merged so that the two could never be ultimately distinguished'. The focus was on this juncture and it is here, as White has made clear, that humans confronting complex systems sought, through technology 'to alter them to produce relatively simple ends'. (19) These conceptualisations are equally pertinent to an understanding of the MVDL's ideas and Heyer's imagery--the sights and the sounds of a Murray TVA in The Valley is Ours.


Among those who have examined the TVA concept are Neil Maher in Nature's New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement. Maher describes the TVA in terms of 'total conservation', a term which reflects the holistic approach to whole of river basin planning described in more detail further on. (21) Other US-centred studies that have called attention to ideas and the TVA include Norman Wengert's 'TVA - Symbol and Reality'. But this paper is primarily interested in a broader focus, not within but beyond the US context. This is because, as Wengert has noted, TVA influences could be found not only in 'other major valleys in the United States', but in 'proposals for "TVA's" on the Jordan, in India, China, South America, and Scotland', while its influences are also evident in Australian and Russian contexts. (22) Work that both takes the analysis beyond a US focus and is rich in cultural detail is of even greater relevance here. This has included Dorothy Zeisler-Vralsted's, 'The Cultural and Hydrological Development of the Mississippi and Volga Rivers'. Zeisler-Vralsted describes the desire to transform nature during the 1930s as an optimistic 'ideology of high modernism' central to both US and Russian national narratives. She discusses the rendering of those ideas in painting, drawing, poetry and film. As in imagery portraying the transformation of the Mississippi, that of the Moscow-Volga canal is described as a 'rich visual culture' embodying the promise of a brighter future, grounded in the engineered transformation of a river. (23) In 'The Empire Meets the New Deal: Interwar Encounters in Conservation and Regional Planning', J.M. Powell examines the influence of New Deal ideology across the British Empire. New Dealers, including Walter Clay Lowdermilk and the TVA's David E. Lilienthal were involved in planning for a JVA or Jordan Valley Authority. In Powell's words, this was all part of a process of 'voracious global modernization', during a period of engineering 'ascendancy'. (24) But while Powell describes other international influences upon the Australian engineering imagination, narrative or its media manifestations are central. Along with Powell, Tom Griffiths, Tim Sherratt and Ian Tyrrell equally, have described Australia's Snowy Mountains scheme as 'greatly influenced' by the idea of US technology transforming desert to oasis. Most importantly they note that the final Snowy scheme displayed 'unmistakable echoes' of the TVA. (25) These studies all acknowledge TVA influences. However, along with Janette Bailey's recent doctoral study, 'A Transnational Environmental Idea', this paper offers the only cultural perspective to date, that analyses the TVA idea and imagery in war-time and early post-war Australia, along with its connection to 'dust bowls'. (26)


As in the case of water conservation, the historiography on the US Dust Bowl is vast. Donald Worster's Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s, has been the primary study on this topic and most comprehensive. He provides a thorough overview of the kinds of cultural material produced during the Dust Bowl, and the responses to such films, photographs, newspaper and magazine articles and novels, including the Pare Lorentz film The Plow that Broke the Plains. (27) Bonnifield's The Dust Bowl: Men Dirt Depression (1979), and Douglas Hurt's The Dust Bowl: An Agricultural and Social History (1981) have also provided different, yet thorough accounts of the Dust Bowl, including the possible causes and the social and cultural impacts. (28) In addition there have been studies too numerous to describe here, on American photography, popular literature, prints, painting and films generated by the US Dust Bowl, and Dust Bowl migration. (29) William Cronon's, 'A Place for Stories: Nature, History and Narrative', offers a most comprehensive survey of Dust Bowl histories and informative analysis of the Dust Bowl narratives that constitute this body of work. He has drawn on literary criticism in a way that makes clear just how vast the body of storytelling on the US Dust Bowl really has been and how important it is to understand how environmental stories have been constructed. (30)

However, it is Finis Dunaway's Natural Visions which provides a sustained analysis of bothPare Lorentz films, The Plow that Broke the Plains, which was a response to the Dust Bowl, and The River, a TVA propaganda film, centred on the Mississippi Flood disaster of 1927. Dunaway draws environmental questions into an in-depth analysis of Lorentz' work andUS government film and newsreel imagery of the time. He describes the use of camera, language, poetic rhythms and character to embody ideas about both ecological catastrophe and US government control of natural resources. (31) Made for the US Resettlement Administration (later the Farm Security Administration), these two Lorentz films influenced Heyer's creation of The Valley, making Dunaway's insights particularly informative. (32) In the US/Canadian context, film historian Blaine Allan provides a comparative study of J. Booth Scott's 'Canada's Heritage (1939) and America's The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936)', while film expert Deanne Williams has described Heyer's film-making, Lorentz and other US influences in 'International Documentary Film-maker: John Heyer [14/9/1916-19/6/2001]'. (33)

Among the comparative works on the Dust Bowl by environmental historians is David Moon's The Plough that Broke the Steppes on the Russian context; Sarah Phillips' 'Lessons from the Dust Bowl'; and, on Australia, Kirsty Douglas' '"For the sake of a little grass".' Douglas offers a comparative history of settler science and environmental limits in the Australian state of South Australia and the US Great Plains. (34) Where wind erosion in the US and Australia is concerned, the primary comparative study focused on the sciences and policy-making has been Libby Robin's work, including, 'Ecology: A Science of Empire?' Robin compares the development and application of plant ecology in the US and Australia, and the severe soil erosion experienced in both countries during the 1930s, all in the broader context of the British Empire. (35)

Among environmental historians who have applied the idea of a 'dust bowl' to describe the Australian case, are Neil Barr and John Cary who briefly describe 'our own dust bowl', in Greening a Brown Land, Libby Robin in 'Paul Sears', and Cameron Muir, who develops the theme with a comparative discussion of US and Australian conditions in a chapter on 'dust' in The Broken Promise of Agricultural Progress. (36) Environmental historians apply the idea of a 'dust bowl' retrospectively onto Australia's long history of drought and wind erosion for a reason. Muir and Robin, for example, apply the concept of a 'dirty thirty years' or 'dust bowl years.' This was a turn of phrase used by Americans to describe the 1930s as a decade dominated by not only Depression, but relentless dust storms and sand drift in the Dust Bowl region, while also used by Canadians. Australians borrow the idea to construct comparisons between Australian environmental conditions and US Dust Bowl conditions. They do this to draw attention to their continent's unique environmental history, and to social or economic, policy-making or scientific parallels, similarities or differences. (37) This paper takes the US/Australia 'dust bowl' theme in a different direction. To do this, it employs a cultural and transnational approach. The primary focus is on ideas. The aim of this paper is to make the distinction clear between the retrospective application of 'dust bowl', or TVA ideas in order to compare past environmental conditions, and recover an authentic historical record of that idea from the past.

To investigate the cultural and political context that conceived of and promoted TVA and 'dust bowl' ideas in war-time and early post-war Australia, this analysis distinguishes between wind erosion and drought conditions, and the idea of a dust bowl ? the threat, or dread of a 'man-made desert'. It also makes a distinction between the Tennessee Valley Authority, and an idea--the so-called utopian promise of TVA-styled planning authorities. This is important because the Dust Bowl is a US national story. It is connected to ideas about the American West and pioneering on the Plains. In the 1940s, many Australians were familiar with both of these ideas. Both had political currency, received wide publicity across the film, print and broadcast media and were very influential at the time. But the powerful influence of Dust Bowl and TVA imagery during war-time Australia has largely been forgotten. The US Dust Bowl story is not familiar to the wider general Australian public. There have been references to 'dust bowls' in decades following the 1940s. There probably always will be, particularly in the rural press, now and then, when there is dryness, dust, drought or political debates over water. However, a 'dust bowl' does not form part of any Australian national mythology at all. Neither does the TVA. Neither has been used to describe or debate ideas about national identity. On the other hand, the Snowy River and the Snowy Scheme have formed part of a powerful Australian national mythology, as has the Anzac story. Over and again, both have been said to describe the character of the nation. John Heyer did employ these two American ideas of a TVA and a 'dust bowl'. But he did so in order to restage a potent set of Australian myths, within the drama of post-war nation-building, and in a film expressing the broader MVDL vision. By drawing on TVA and Dust Bowl ideas, Heyer's imagery turned Snowy River mythology into a story of nation-building and the regional planning of grand water conservation schemes that crossed state borders.


By concentrating on film imagery, this study retrieves a material record from the archives of what transnational environmental ideas looked like and sounded like in the past. It answers questions as to what kinds of experiences Heyer tried to evoke in his audiences' imaginations. It sheds light on the political forces behind the making of that dramatic experience, and it contributes to the existing body of work concentrated on US/Australian connections. Among them is Donald Meinig's 1962 cultural landscape study, On the Margins of the Good Earth. Meinig recovers the story of an exchange of ideas on agricultural harvesting technology, between California and South Australia during the late nineteenth century. (38) In a section of his doctoral thesis, 'Mothering, Husbandry and the State', Stephen Powell has described the 1930s establishment of soil conservation services within a US / Australia transnational exchange of ideas about soil conservation. He provides solid background on the role of science and government bureaucracy in the establishment of soil conservation policy, legislation and programmes, and the key political players involved in New South Wales. (39) In True Gardens of the Gods: Australian-Californian Environmental Reform 1860-1930, Ian Tyrrell has achieved a transnational environmental history which investigates garden imagery ? the circulating idea or dream of transforming deserts to irrigated garden landscapes. Tyrrell concentrates on activity both in the US state of California and between California and Australia. He enriches the narrative of an idea by following its development within and between each nation-state unit and takes his investigation up to the 1930s. (40) Despite this body of work, however, the use of film to investigate such historical environmental themes in Australia has been under-represented, while work that clearly shows what transnational environmental imaginings of the past actually looked like is hard to find.

An exception is art historian Erika Esau's history of the circulation between California and Australia of commercial art, design, and architectural styles. In Images of the Pacific Rim: Australia and California, 1850-1935 Esau brilliantly illustrates how a transnational idea from the past can be seen today. She recovers a collection of images from posters to journals and fruit box labels, showing Eucalypts and flowering gums in Californian scenes that look very much like Australia. She also shows Californian architecture in Australia (such as the Californian Bungalow which can be seen all around Sydney). (41) We see images of the landscape that might be in California, or perhaps in Australia--with transnational images, as Esau makes perfectly clear, it is very hard to tell. (42) Ian Tyrrell has described Esau's work as 'the first to focus squarely on visual representations of Australian and Californian landscapes and culture in transnational perspective', adding that it contributes 'to a growing understanding of these cultural connections'. (43) Bailey's 'A Transnational Environmental Idea' has expanded on this body of work on US/Australia connections. It shows us what transnational environmental imagery of the 1940s looked like--and sounded like. The study investigates influences such as the TVA, the Bureau of Reclamation and the US Dust Bowl upon World War Two soil and water conservation imagery describing western New South Wales and the Wimmera and Mallee regions of Victoria. (44) The aim of this paper and its focus on the MVDL and The Valley is Ours, is to expand this body of work on US/Australia connections further into the World War Two and early post-war period.

Despite the film's status, unfortunately, audience critique of The Valley is Ours remains largely unknown. There are one or two newspaper reviews written by MVDL Secretary G.V Lawrence, offering a positive evaluation of the film. Other than this, no record of audience response at the time has yet been found. However, it is the ideas and influences behind the production environmental imagery--in this case Heyer's imagery--that are central to this paper. The Valley was the film that Murray TVA campaigners wanted made, in order to support their existing campaign. Highly influential, their Murray TVA campaign contributed to negotiation establishing the final Snowy Scheme, an agreement that challenged the constitution, and changed the course of a river and a nation. This exploration of The Valley is Ours demonstrates how evidence of this kind of transnational imagery can be recovered from the archives and witnessed again today. Like Esau's images of the Pacific Rim, it aims to shed some light on what those transnational environmental imaginings from the past actually looked or sounded like.


When John Heyer featured footage of the Snowy River in The Valley is Ours he would have known that the 'mighty' Snowy had been immortalised as a national icon, by poet A.B. Banjo Patersonin The Man from Snowy River (1890). He would have known that Paterson's horseback hero--now legendary--held meaning to generations of Australians and their growing sense of the national character, only 48 years into federation. And he would have known Paterson's words would come to the mind of any Australian who saw his footage of this beautiful Australian landscape. (46) Paterson invoked the rugged beauty of Mount Kosciusko where 'the pine-clad ridges raise their torn and rugged battlements on high', in the 'cold and frosty sky'. (47) And he created the legendary 'Man'. Paterson's scenes were set within the middle catchment, an area described as 'wild and rough and grand in the extreme'. (48) In the search for a lost colt, the Man from Snowy River is victorious over the Snowy Mountains' treacherous terrain and wild horses, and the only downhill rider able to return the colt home. (49) The story has been interpreted, reinterpreted and interpreted again. An image of Paterson, 'The Man', and the first lines of his poem appear on the Australian ten dollar note. (50) A 1982 film interpretation directed by George Miller (a love story starring Sigrid Thornton and Tom Burlinson) was widely celebrated, while The Man from Snowy River was performed as recently as 2013 at the Australian Screen Music Awards by actor Jack Thompson. Thompson himself, who also featured in the film, is also considered an Australian national icon. (51)

When Heyer himself referred to an 'image of Australia' he portrayed it in terms of a young nation forging itself onto a huge continent of varied landscapes --not only snow-covered high plains and lush pastures, but also, he noted, 'dust-bowls'. (52) But what did he mean by a 'dust bowl?' The idea of a 'dust bowl' grew out of the severe drought and soil erosion on the US Great Plains during the 1930s, when massive dust storms darkened the skies, sand drifted across farm properties and local newspapers warned of the end of the world. (53) The Dust Bowl included areas of south-eastern Colorado, north-eastern New Mexico, the northern two thirds of the Texas Panhandle, the western third of Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle. Dust storms in this region continued until 1941, peaking between 1934 and 1938 with some of the worst dust storms in recorded history occurring, such as 'Black Sunday', on 14 April 1935. (54) Unofficial reports of the time often located 'dust bowls' well beyond these borders, in the Dakotas on the drought-stricken northern plains, farther east in the mid-west or any region suffering under drought conditions affecting most of the continent. Even Steinbeck's Joad family of refugees hailed from Sallisaw in Oklahoma's east and not the Dust Bowl. (55) At the same time, the print and film media's Dust Bowl narratives suggested that the Great Plains were becoming a new permanent American desert made by man and his over-ploughing of soil to cultivate wheat. This, it was thought, would mean not only soil erosion, but 'human erosion'. (56) Government and non-government photographers, film-makers and writers such as New Deal photographer Arthur Rothstein and film-maker Pare Lorentz, used symbolism such as sand, or the skull, to portray the declensionist idea of a 'dust bowl'. (57) Lorentz dramatised the idea in the ground-breaking 1936 documentary film, The Plow that Broke the Plains. In a film made for the same agency a year later, Lorentz dramatized a second environmental concept. It was the TVA idea. And the film was simply called The River.

The TVA idea was about the Tennessee Valley Authority, a New Deal planning model for maximum use, multi-purpose resource-use across the entire Tennessee River basin. Its functions included improved navigation, food control, maximum generation of affordable hydro-electric power to improve rural living standards and soil conservation, with water or gully erosion a major focus. (58)

For many, however, the TVA idea was about more than the application of a planning model. It was an expression of ideas about American democracy, and individualism versus bigger government. The title of TVA Chairman David E. Lilienthal's TVA: Democracy on the March made that clear. (59) When President Roosevelt suggested 'legislation to create a Tennessee Valley Authority' in his 1933 address to Congress, he described 'a corporation clothed with the power of Government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise'. (60) TVA was described as a 'testing ground' for American democracy and its institutions. (61) In Rich Land Poor Land (1936) American economist Stuart Chase noted that cross-state river basin planning was a concept as yet unheard of and certainly not reflected in the nation's constitution. But he believed that, with public ownership of power facilities, the TVA could address America's problem of individualism--which he described as 'an inalienable property right to perpetuity [which] has been taken for granted'. (62)

There was also a human aspect to the TVA idea. In the same address to Congress, Roosevelt stated that the TVA model would improve the 'social and economic welfare of the Nation'. (63) As Sarah Phillips has explained, TVA became 'the most potent symbol of the new rural conservation'. That new approach treated rural living standards as crucial to both soil and economic stability. TVA would conserve 'human values' by creating sustainable communities that would bring an end to rural poverty and migration. (64) Chase summed it up--'let the valley people stay in their homes and recondition the resource base. That is what makes it so important and so human'. (65)

From a legal perspective, there were questions raised over the constitutional validity of a TVA inspired scheme in Australia, and solutions inspired by the American example, while most influential in the Australian case was the notion of the TVA as an expression of ideas about nature. As White, Sutter and Maher have explained, during this period it was unusual for people to see any ideological conflict embodied within the idea of an organic machinelike nature. (66) This understanding is clear in expressions of the 'TVA idea'. (67) Chase described it in 1936. With TVA's multi-purpose dam-building projects planned across a watershed, America would see 'a new kind of civilization', operating 'like one unified machine, one organic whole'. (68) He declared that TVA 'intoxicates the imagination' and would refresh the continent. (69) In unmistakable New Deal rhetoric, Lilienthal described 'a seamless web: the unity of land and water and men', and machines. Working 'in harmony with the forces of nature', TVA would neither 'despoil' nor waste its resources. (70)

Lastly, the TVA idea and its proliferation through media imagery was a measure of American, and later Australian, hopes for a future, modern utopia. (71) For Chase, the TVA heralded the coming of a new world 'replete with more freedom and happiness than mankind has ever known'. However, in the US, the issue of the government control of electricity was a political one. Opponents described it as 'the vortex of state socialism'. (72)

During the early post-war period, these US-born concepts came to life in one nationalistic Australian film. Combining both the 'dust bowl' and the TVA idea, The Valley is Ours illustrated an Australian understanding of nature reflecting White's claims for the American case: it was something inseparable from humans, machines and their labour--it was an 'organic machine'. (73) How and why did such a film come to be created?


By the time Australia had entered the war in late 1939, severe drought had reduced protective vegetation cover across the continent. Eastern Australia suffered widespread wind erosion of the soil, including dramatic dust storms. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology has described record low rainfall, dust storms frequently raging and major rivers, such as the Murray River drying up, as 'more or less endemic' conditions for eastern Australia between 1937 and 1945. (74) Among areas of major concern were north-western Victoria's Mallee wheatlands and western New South Wales' grazing and agricultural lands. These years coincided with the establishment of the pioneering New South Wales Soil Conservation Service (1938) under the direction of Sam Clayton. And they coincided with efforts to create a national soil conservation service modelled on the US example, something that never eventuated. Among the politicians, popular authors, film-makers and newspaper reporters who supported the national soil vision were New South Wales Premier, William McKell and New South Wales Soil Conservation Service director, Sam Clayton. Conservationists such as McKell understood fear to be a great motivator. When they generated US-inspired soil conservation narratives, these were loaded with declensionist Dust Bowl imagery including sand dunes and bleached skulls or anecdotes about American farmers watching Kansas farms blow by. (75) The warning was that, without a national conservation service modelled on the US example, Australia would see soil blown across the Pacific Ocean, lost forever. Then only windswept man-made deserts would remain, bringing with them human extinction. (76) However, the majority of these were comparative stories. They used the US Dust Bowl as a warning to Australia. There were occasional mentions in the late 1930s, usually describing erosion conditions in northern Victoria; however it was during the 1940s that the idea of a 'dust bowl' was expressed simultaneously as an American 'fact' and an Australian reality in media stories that circulated widely. The sense of panic that would power these 'dust bowl' stories and their proliferation came not only from drought but from World War Two and the 1942 fall of Singapore. The message was bolstered by the ascension of state and federal Labor governments bent on establishing national soil and water conservation programs. As the twin dramas of drought and world war escalated together in the region so did narratives identifying a new threat to the nation--that of soil erosion. Storytellers began to promote the idea of a specifically Australian 'dust bowl'. During the same period, water conservation narratives competed for the public's attention. In 1943 the Commonwealth Government called for the Australian states to propose a post-war, nation-building scheme for the country. The state of New South Wales was the only one to put forward a proposal. They argued for a water conservation scheme to divert the waters of the Snowy River to the west of their state only, to expand their existing Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) in the Riverina region (Figure 1). New South Wales threatened to divert sixty per cent of Snowy water flowing south into Gippsland's Orbost Flats, in neighbouring Victoria. (77) They wanted to send it into the MIA in western New South Wales (Figure 1). They had no ambition for a regional scheme that crossed the state border. (78) To support their claims they contrasted images--often of dams built by the US Bureau of Reclamation --against those of 'dust bowls' to suggest simply that dams were a technological solution to droughts and aridity. Experts of the time such as New South Wales Commissioner for Forests Edward H.F Swain called for more attention to be paid to forestry, soil survey and soil conservation rather than such engineering dreams. Ironically, when they did, they often turned to 'dust bowl' imagery to make an impact on their audience. And despite their concerns, for many, the dam symbolised an alternative future-world, one that had already begun in the United States with the Bureau of Reclamation, and dams such as Shasta or Boulder (79) Though the Bureau's projects did not occur in the Dust Bowl, nor were they proposed as a remedy (pumping plants were more likely), projects like these, the narrative went, could mimic nature on a grand scale, making 'dust bowls' and wasted water a thing of the past in Australia, at least in the state of New South Wales. (80)

Rival claims, however, soon challenged that New South Wales vision and they centred not simply around what Finis Dunaway has described as 'the symbol of the dam', but the concept of a TVA. (82) Snowy River communities in the states of both New South Wales and Victoria joined the MVDL campaign. These parties did not want to lose their supply of Snowy water, nor its hydro power potential, while the Commonwealth Government were keen to secure water supply for the new federal capital of Canberra. These communities developed opposing claims on that water, warning the New South Wales plan would make a 'dust-bowl' of the Snowy River, and any other areas in need of that water. (83) There was no point in watering western New South Wales with it, MVDL supporters said, because the Riverina was already a drought-stricken 'dust bowl' anyway. (84)

The Murray Valley Development League promoted this campaign. They described the TVA as the inspiration for their own 'national ideal' to develop 'the whole resources of the Murray Valley, from Mount Kosciuszko to the sea'. (85) The MVDL's membership included a strong contingent of municipalities and shires from the Murray Valley. Secretary G.V Lawrence co-organised 'documentary film lecture tours' with the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction, screening US films such as TVA. (86) The League called for Australian films that would promote the Murray Valley to potential immigrants and build its population and industry--they hailed a 'TVA for the Murray Valley' as a more democratic alternative to the New South Wales plan and attacked the opposition for creating 'misleading' propaganda. Without a Murray TVA they warned, not only would there be more 'dust bowls', but Australia would lose its hydro-power potential, and be left behind in a rapidly modernising post-war world. A post-war plan, Murray TVA supporters argued, must prioritise hydro-electric power development--not irrigation. Earlier in the decade, print and film imagery had focused on irrigation to water 'dust bowls', and promoted western New South Wales development of the Riverina. But as the 1940s developed, and the Australian imagination became focused on a brighter post-war future driven by hydro-power, artistic expressions of the Snowy controversy also evolved into a combination of 'dust bowl' and TVA ideas contrasted for dramatic effect.

Experts such as the chief of the conservation section of the Pan-American union, William Vogt, warned of the environmental dangers of dreaming up plans for too many TVAs without careful consideration given to environmental risks. (87) Despite any expert fears however, Murray TVA supporters promoted their cause on film, in the newspapers and radio broadcasts, with G.V Lawrence a speaker on the Nation's Forum of the Air. Advocates included Attorney General Bert Evatt, who had toured the TVA in the US and attended MVDL conferences in Australia. (88) Supporters empowered their message by contrasting the TVA idea against the idea of a 'dust bowl'. This kind of imagery justified visions of a regionally planned, green garden landscape, where the weather, controlled by just adding water, would allow the region to be populated by many millions. This contrast suggested that a TVA was the only alternative for the nation to an impoverished 'dust bowl' state. Newspapers noted a promise made by Evatt. The government, he said, would promote a Murray TVA as the basis of post-war reconstruction to fix Australia's 'weather vagaries' and unproductive soils. (89) The body of print, photographic, film and broadcast imagery generated by the campaign shows us how the relationship between New Deal environmental ideas and Australia's post-war vision was playing out in the Murray Valley imaginary of the 1940s.

Australian film-maker John Heyer expressed this Murray TVA idea in the documentary film, The Valley is Ours. Created for the Australian National Film Board, the film promoted regional development of the Murray Valley, while it was 'chosen by the U.N.O [United Nations Organisation] as one of the most important films of 1948'. (90) It was the Murray Valley Development League who requested that the Australian National Film Board (ANFB) produce this film. The Chairman of the ANFB (1945), Arthur Calwell also happened to be the Minister for Information for the Department of Information, the producer of the film. The ANFB, established to produce propaganda and educational films, was answerable to his department, while Calwell belonged to a government keen on creating water supply for their new capital city. Meanwhile, the MVDL promoted The Valley. They expressed reservations about images of 'sandy wastelands' in the northern Victorian wheatlands, but when contrasted against an optimistic ending, found this kind of 'dust bowl' imagery acceptable. All in all G.V. Lawrence reviewed the film most favourably, announcing, 'we asked them to make it, we almost despaired of seeing it--but now we acclaim "The Valley is Ours" as a grand film', which would 'thrill those who believe in the Murray Valley'. Lawrence added that distribution of the film to Australian cities and beyond would promote the Murray Valley as crucial to the nation's development. (91)


In The Valley is Ours, Heyer may well have captured the post-war mood of the nation along with the deeper cultural meanings associated with the Snowy River--but his documentary or authentic 'image of Australia' was heavily weighted with transnational ideas. (92) As documentary film expert Deane Williams has noted, Heyer's influences included US films such as The Valley of the Tennessee and Robert Flaherty's The Land as well as FSA photography by Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. (93) In The Valley Heyer's imagery brought together influences from both Lorentz films The River and The Plow that Broke the Plains. (94) What this combination suggested was that the TVA idea and large scale dam building projects were a solution, indeed an alternative, to 'dust bowls'. Heyer wanted to make clear that in choosing a postwar scheme for Snowy waters, the Australian nation must reject the New South Wales plan focused on irrigating the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA), in favour of a TVA for the Murray Valley. He portrayed the productive working lives of people of the entire valley, and across state borders. He portrayed regional planning resolving issues such as bush-fres, overgrazing and water erosion in the high country, then turned to wind erosion and images of sandy 'wastes', before final scenes of recently returned soldiers clearing land and settling in northern Victoria. (95)

Heyer's aim in drawing the influence of Lorentz into The Valley was to construct the idea of a cross-border regional planning authority for the Snowy River as essential to the Murray Valley, and both as essential to national post-war reconstruction. (96) Australian Prime Minister Chifey even appeared in a version of the screen-play to stress that 'the Murray Valley is to Australia what the Mississippi is to America and Nile to Egypt', and he wanted an appropriate policy. (97) But other than this, there are no literal references to the TVA or the US Dust Bowl in Heyer's film.

Rather, the transnational influences in Heyer's film are implicit. They are built into both the structure of Heyer's language and the visuals of every sequence. Heyer described the tragic alternative to Victoria's TVA vision, by taking inspiration from The Plow. The Plow portrayed the US Dust Bowl as an ecological and human tragedy, through declensionist images of abandonment, sand drift and 'Dust Bowl refugees'. Heyer juxtaposed such 'dust bowl' imagery against a TVA-inspired future for Australia--one lived in regionally planned, industrially progressive, well populated, hydro-electric powered river valleys. When the League's (MVDL) secretary G.V. Lawrence reviewed the film, he highlighted the contrast between scenes of a sandy dust bowl and those scenes the League preferred, portraying a well-watered green garden landscape in a profitable, industrious valley.

The Valley is Ours takes its visual and textual rhythm from The River (98) Early in the film, just like The River, Heyer begins with one drop of water. (99) The camera follows that drop of water through images of the Spring thaw, and on to water meandering through the Snowy Mountains and beyond. The composition of these opening sequences is almost identical to those of The River (Figure 2).

Lorentz created visual rhythms with cinematography and montage. Heyer mirrored those rhythms with his own cinematography and montage. Lorentz used the poetic repetition of words and phrases to create a rhythm suggesting the movement of the river. Heyer's text mirrored this use of poetic repetition while the lyrical voice of narrator, Nigel Lovell, and his easy Australian accent--not British, not neutral, not American, not regional, but omniscient, all-knowing, yet familiar--matched the mood of Heyer's text, the photography, and the musical score by John Kay, all of which echo the achievements of Lorentz. (100)

As we follow the River Murray along its course, Lovell narrates a long list of towns, places, fruits produced in the Valley and units of the Armed Forces returning home to soldier settlements. Heyer drew on the meaning of Anzac and the post-war mood for change when he featured images of Yarroweyah Soldier Settlement in north-western Victoria. We see homes being built, irrigation channels being cleared of sand-drift and new land being cleared to make way for farms for 'the men of El Alamein, New Guinea, Greece, Borneo', and Heyer adds, 'the Rats of Tobruk'. The Rats of Tobruk were the 14,000 men of the Australian Divisions who served at the siege of Tobruk in defence of Egypt and the Suez Canal against General Erwin Rommel's army. They were bombarded almost constantly by shelling, bombing and ground assaults. The Nazi radio propagandist, nicknamed 'Lord Haw Haw' (William Joyce) described these trench dwelling defenders as caught like 'rats in a trap'. The Anzacs embraced the irony and the challenge, named themselves the Rats of Tobruk and the men, their service and their name, became legendary ? part of the nation's Anzac mythology today. (102) Heyer portrayed these Anzacs as men of the Murray Valley, creating the future with shovels, with horses ? and with machines.

Similar to The River, Lovell's narration constructs ajourney along the course of the river, from the Snowy Mountains to the sea. Unlike The Valley, The River is focused on water erosion and food emergency created by American industry, such as cotton and lumber, or iron and coal being moved down the river system. But it is the language that is of interest here, where Lorentz uses poetic repetition to build a sense of the relentless momentum of nation building and eroded soil together, moving: (103)

Down the Missouri, three thousand miles from the Rockies. Down the
Ohio, a thousand miles from the Alleghenie. Down the Arkansas, fifteen
hundred miles from the Great Divide. Down the Red, a thousand miles
from Texas. Down the Great Valley, twenty-five hundred miles from
Minnesota. (104) Carrying every rivulet and brook, creek and rill.
Carrying all the rivers that run down two thirds of the continent--the
Mssissippi runs to the Gulf. New Orleans to Baton Rouge... down the
highway to the sea (105)... Down from Pittsburg. Down from St Louis...
Down the Ohio... we built a new continent. (106) We built a hundred
cities and a thousand towns but at what cost... left the mountains and
the hills slashed and burned and moved on.

The repetition continues as we see foods washing mud and soil 'down' every river 'down the Arkansas... down'. (107)

In The Valley, John Heyer used the same rhythm of repetition - then breaks in that repetition, in order to bring to life a sense of the Spring thaw sending melting snow from the peaks of the Snowy Mountains, through its creeks and streams, snow and water racing into the mountain valleys:

They run down the Dargels, the Spur and the Razorback. They run down
from Feathertop, Townsend and Bogong. (108) They run through the Ash
and the Pine of Tumbarumba [long musical pause]. Down from the
mountains into the valley. Down the Indi. Down the Swampy. Down the
slopes to Bringenbrong Bridge (109)--to make a river. The Murray--that
flows sixteen hundred miles to the sea... Down through the Murray River
Valley it lumbers. Down past Towong, Jingellic and Grenya. Gathering
the waters of the Mtta and the Kiewa (110)--swelling its streams. Then
into the Hume Weir to spill over the paddocks of the storage--and flood
back into the hills [30 seconds huge sound effect of water rushing over
a dam. See figure 8]. Then to the lowlands, gathering the Ovens. On to
Lake Mulwala at Yarrawonga Weir. On to... Echuca. Gathering the Lodden,
the Goulburne, Campaspie... Gathering the Lachlan from Condobolin at
Booligal. (111) Gathering the Darling from Bourke and Menindee. Fed by
the Warrego, Baroo and Castlereagh [30 seconds of music]. (112) Down
from the midlands into the lowlands, dams, wiers, lochs--the Murray
serves the people of the valley. (113)

As Deane Williams has shown in his US/Australian analysis, another element used by Heyer was the inner monologue that Lorentz had employed for The Plow. Heyer adapted this to the Australian story of north-western Victoria's Mallee wheatlands where many World War One soldier settlers walked off the land. The Mallee later suffered severe drought and wind erosion across the 1930s and 1940s. The film and print media often portrayed the region as a sand-swept 'dust bowl' 'Facing Ruin' at the hands of a neglectful, dust bowl-denying Victorian Premier, Albert Dunstan. Movietone's Spectre of Drought described the Mallee as a 'dust bowl' a 'desert of sand' strewn with the skulls of the dead, while local writers such as Hazel (Porter) Hogan penned stories for the Argus in defense of the soil-eroded Mallee. (114) Just as in visual narratives describing the US Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the Mallee was portrayed as a place ruined by farmer greed, leading to over clearing of native mallee vegetation over-cultivation and soils left exposed to the wind. In The Valley, one of Heyer's characters explains:

When I went into the Mallee twenty-five years ago, just after the First
World War, it was healthy country. As far as you could see, nothing but
tree-covered plains and rolling hills. All we had to do was clear a
thousand acres and help ourselves to bumper wheat crops. Money from
home! So we smashed up the scrub and rolled it over. Cleared it bare as
the back of your hand. Ploughed up every square acre we could lay a
hand on. Ploughed and sowed a thousand acres, then waited, watched. And
sure enough, we got full, heavy crops, fifteen bags for the acre. We
reckon we were made. So, rip it off and plough again... But we did it
once too often. The heavy loam soil became fine, red dust. We didn't
realise the scrub we cleared held it together. We soon found out. (115)

Heyer later set this kind of 'dust bowl' imagery against that portraying technological salvation. By setting such scenes against images of great dams, he was suggesting a TVA-inspired engineering project as the answer to Mallee 'dust bowls'.

Kay's musical score mimicks Virgil Thomson's for The Plow. Dark, discordant music accompanies Heyer's 'army' of tractors 'despoiling' the wheatlands--not on the Great Plains this time--but in the wheatlands of the northern Victorian Mallee. Not only do we see and hear echoes of Lorentz' tractor armies. Heyer reiterates classic 'dust bowl' images--echoes of Arthur Rothstein's Steer Skull and Lorentz' skull imagery are clear, while images of sand drift and blowing dust are all dramatised by the sound effect of howling winds (Figures 3-4). (116)

The Valley clearly borrowed visual and musical inspiration from both the Lorentz films. Heyer's camera first takes us to a drover and his wife in western New South Wales. As in so much dust bowl imagery, she is the picture of the 'attentive wife'. She makes a cup of tea for her husband by the wagon. Shoeless children and the family's working-dog sit on the ground. They appear to live in poverty, surrounded by 'desert', sheep and creaking windmills. Drovers are, by the nature of their work, nomadic and isolated. But Heyer aimed to make a visual link for the viewer to the idea of a Dust Bowl refugee and western New South Wales, thus providing a 'dust bowl' warning to Australians who chose to ignore the Victorian vision. That vision included linking Victoria's existing Kiewa hydro-electric scheme with the Commonwealth's plan for developing the Snowy River. This would increase Murray River flows and provide the hydroelectric power the MVDL and Victorian government wanted. In 1949, Victoria's Minister for Electrical Undertakings, William Kent Hughes, lobbied the Commonwealth to have the completion of the Kiewa scheme included in Snowy plans. (118) Heyer conveyed all this. He created a TVA-inspired visualisation of what the Murray River could do for the nation. His film described the conservation values of the time that were based on national economic development and industrial decentralisation. For the soldier settlers and the British and European migrants who were to populate it, there would be factories and jobs in a modern, post-war regional Australia.

Heyer set 'dust bowl' images against those of the Kiewa hydro scheme, seen taking water underground through tunnels to a power station. The voices of working men call over the hissing, clanking and clunking of metal-on-metal. Industrial noise shows us the transformation that can occur through water conservation. Water comes 'down the mountain dams and stations and becomes power for the valley and Australia beyond'. (119) Where Heyer portrays the role of forestry, contour-ploughing and bush-fire control as equivalent to dam-building he echoes Lorentz' portrayal of a machine-nature in The River In The Valley, earth-moving equipment, explosives, heavy machinery, drills and bores tunnelling through the mountains are all portrayed as part of the nation's conservation project.

The final sequences of The Valley is Ours cut between the silence of the Snowy Mountains, the origin of all this water, and the industrial sounds of factory machinery employing workers in a growing nation. The final message is that regionally planned conservation of nature focused on hydro-electric power can create industrial development and save the nation from an otherwise destiny of sand and dust. As in The River we see images of electricity generation, wires criss-cross the landscape to remind us that government-planned hydro-power, man-power and industry are all part of that one 'organic machine' (Figures 5-6). (120) Lovell explains in his mellow, soothing tone that 'these are the problems of the Valley' and 'of all great Valleys. The people of the Murray Valley together, supported by the Commonwealth and states are working them out'. You can tell they are working them out because across the valley echoes 'the sound of men and machines'. (121)

In the final sequence of The Valley is Ours, Heyer's dam imagery is almost identical to that of Lorentz. The sound track becomes overwhelmed by the deafening sound of water rushing over a dam spillway (Figures 7-8). Heyer continues to capture the the pace of the river, mapping its course across the region--'down from the midlands into the lowlands--dams, weirs, lochs'. All is as it should be in the Valley. Planning, technology and manpower have drawn the maximum benefit to the nation from every drop of Snowy water as it flows through the Murray system. Lovell's voice meanders with the flow of the river to its very end where--'the Murray serves the people of the Valley and then rolls into the sea'. (124)


In both TVA and in Snowy imagery, we see explosives and heavy earth-moving equipment employed to dam and divert river water and we hear strong echoes of Richard White's analysis of an 'organic machine'. The dam symbolised humans and technology operating in harmony with nature ? and it was coupled with 'dust and sand' symbolising nature 'despoiled' by humans and technology, just waiting for that dammed water to arrive. (128) This contradictory picture simplified the realities of a relationship between soil erosion, climate fluctuation and river ecology. At the same time, the political realities of establishing US river authorities was often simplified in Snowy imagery--even while those generating it in Australia were engaged in a drawn out political struggle of their own. Some newspaper reporters did address the political contradictions, including journalist and Murray TVA enthusiast, Mervyn Weston who toured the TVA, and promoted 'the TVA Idea', in a series of reports for the Melbourne Argus in 1945. (129) Environmental issues were also raised by a range of experts at the time including William Vogt. He warned there was a danger of engineers being 'turned loose' to create more TVAs before any assessment of environmental conditions was undertaken. There had been 'mistakes made in the Tennessee Valley, such as flooding productive land and neglecting the watershed' which may be even worse elsewhere. (130) Australian newspapers reviewed Vogt's 'current American bestseller'. While they reiterated his message about resource 'plundering' and population imbalance, reviewers also repeated his warning: Australians had outdone the 'folly' of Californian water use. Now Australia's soil, he stressed, was blowing to the wind, with rabbits and overstocking exacerbating the dust problem. The reviewer noted that Vogt:

has some harsh things to say of those enthusiasts who think that the
construction of great dams and hydro electric plants are the solution
of all problems. They have not been an unqualified success in the
United States. (131)

Forester Edward H.F. Swain also called for caution. At the Soil Erosion and Water Conservation Conference held in Sydney in 1945, he called for attention to forestry to save the soil. Swain attacked the influence of the dam in 'the popular imagination' and used the idea of great 'dust bowl' migrations to do so:

Canaan, once a land of milk and honey, is now a land of blowing sand
and crumbling limestone... The Mediterranean countries are in a bad
way. Erosion by deforestation, in Italy, Italianised the U.S.A. by
compelling migration therefrom, thereto. Hence, let us build dams to
conserve water-and have them filled up eventually by siltation. The
Boulder Dam and the Elephant Butte Dam-the two largest in the
world-will be out of commission by siltation within eighty years. (132)

These kinds of fears were not unfounded. Environmental impacts have included those upon the Snowy system itself such as 'massive sediment' choking the river after 99 per cent of its headwaters were diverted into the Murray-Murrumbidgee system. In 1998, fifty years after the scheme began, an inquiry was commissioned. This led to an agreement for much needed water flows to be returned to the Snowy from the Murray and Murrumbidgee irrigation systems. Commissioner Robert Webster described three national icons now pitted against each other--the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, the 'food bowl' of the Murray and the Murrumbidgee and the legendary, once-mighty Snowy River itself (133)


Despite such criticisms, the establishment of the scheme was a certainty whatever form it might take. Newspapers continued to cover the story, Heyer's film was screened, and debate dragged on into 1949. (134) When members of the Commonwealth and States Snowy River Committee raised the issue of constitutional challenges posed by the scheme, the TVA had further influence. Snowy Committee Chairman, Louis Loder, had studied the act under which the Tennessee Valley Authority was established and each of the lawsuits that challenged it. (135) He found that one of the grounds upon which TVA was held to be constitutional was that it was 'vital to defense'. Loder believed that similarly, the only way to establish the Snowy Scheme, was for the Commonwealth to draw on its constitutional defence powers. It did so by arguing that power supply must be secured away from coastal areas considered vulnerable to attack. Portraying it as vital to the nation's defence, they took control of the Snowy project in 1949. (136) The Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority was established by the Commonwealth as an independent authority with agreement from the states of Victoria and New South Wales. (137) Completed in 1974, the scheme provides for irrigation and hydro power. It impounds 'the south-flowing waters of the Snowy River at high elevations', diverting them to both the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, through tunnel systems carved through the Snowy Mountains. There are 'sixteen large dams, eighty kilometres of aqueducts, over 145 kilometres of trans-mountain tunnels and a pumping station with five surface and two underground power stations'. (138)

The now-iconic Snowy Scheme is celebrated as an expression of a great post-war chapter in the story of the nation. And it is. But as Australian environmental historians, Tom Griffiths, Ian Tyrrell and J.M. Powell have all noted, the final scheme displayed the 'unmistakable echoes' of the TVA. (139) A history of transnational ideas embedded deep in its walls, the Snowy scheme was recently acknowledged by the American Society of Civil Engineers as 'an international historical engineering landmark' and has become a part of national myth ? just like the now-ailing Snowy River itself. (140) And of course there was the influence of the Murray Valley Development League and their dedicated secretary, G.V Lawrence. The League had a major influence over the promotion and establishment of the final Snowy scheme. A part of that influence involved urging for the creation of The Valley is Ours. (141)


Cultural analyses have been successfully used to approach environmental themes by historians working on the US context. Finis Dunaway in Natural Visions, particularly, shows how in the New Deal era and beyond, national and environmental ideas have been brought to life, through a complex interplay of film technology, voice, volume, sound effect, musical score, framing, the use of properties, character, poetic rhythm, or textual elements, and the political and cultural forces driving its construction. Film remains an under-used resource in the area of Australian environmental history. Environmental historians visit places, such as the Snowy or Murray River, to locate evidence of environmental change and, as Ian Tyrrell has described it, to find evidence of 'aspirations located in historical time'. (143) For cultural historians focused on ideas, the film, radio and other archives are also a place of immeasurable value, one where a history of environmental ideas remains dormant, only waiting to be brought to life. By including voice, sound and textual elements in its analysis, this paper offers a brief opportunity to step back, into a sensory experience of the past. It is not possible to know how audiences responded to Heyer's film nor is this the goal of the paper, but we can witness the same imagery and value this as visual/auditory evidence of past ideas. This study offers a chance to gain a clearer impression of just what transnational environmental imaginings, such as the Murray TVA vision, looked like and sounded like to political backers, film-makers and audiences of The Valley.

A transnational analysis of the US and Australian ideas that come together in The Valley is important. This is because, although a TVA and a Dust Bowl are documented as part of the US national story, neither form part of Australian national mythology. Neither have they been used to debate national identity, while imagery describing 'dust bowls' or TVAs does not fill school books, museums, art galleries, nor take its place on the websites of national and state libraries or archives. On the other hand, the Snowy River, the Snowy Scheme and the Anzac story have all been said to describe the national character and their narratives are reiterated today. Where the Dust Bowl and TVA are concerned, however, war-time and early post-war Australians simply employed these ideas for a while--at a time when they had real political currency and a grieving, war-weary, drought-weary nation imagined a brighter, modern, post-war future. That political currency no longer exists.

Comparative analysis and the drawing of parallels to the US certainly has made for fruitful studies by environmental historians, particularly where science, policy and erosion of the 1930s has been concerned. However, this transnational analysis of Heyer's film imagery differentiates clearly between the TVA and the idea, and the US Dust Bowl and the idea. This is important, lest we give the false impression to the world that a 'dust bowl' is an Australian story, one familiar to the nation, celebrated or documented by the nation, or in Cunfer's words, something 'of mythological proportions'. (144) It is no such thing. Anyone approaching a study of Australian drought, aridity or wind erosion conditions of the 1930s, 1940s or any other decade needs to be sure to make the distinction clear. To attempt to impose the idea of a 'dust bowl' or TVA retrospectively, outside of the cultural and political context that conceived of and promoted it, might be to risk misunderstanding the reality that brought that idea to life, and made it either powerful or impotent in its own time and beyond. To begin to address this need, this paper recovers an authentic historical record of the idea of a 'dust bowl' and a TVA from the past. It does this by watching and listening to John Heyer's The Valley is Ours.

In The Valley is Ours, Heyer inscribed a combination of the dust bowl idea and the TVA idea onto the landscape of the Murray Valley. But, most importantly, The Valley describes a transnational landscape the way that Australians imagined it in the late 1940s. By drawing on TVA and Dust Bowl ideas, the broader MVDL campaign and The Valley helped turn Australia's Snowy River mythology into a story of nation-building and the regional planning of grand water conservation schemes. Snowy myth was transformed. The Man from Snowy River no longer rode a horse. He exploded, smashed and tunnelled his way through the Snowy Mountains to construct a gigantic organic machine. (145) After 1949, when Snowy Hydro Electric Scheme construction actually began, this group of ideas became inscribed onto the landscape itself forever by--as Heyer described it--those 'men and machines'. (146)


History Department, University of New South Wales Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia

([dagger].) Dr Janette Bailey sadly passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in March 2016, before final editing of this article. Her book, Dust Bowl: Depression America to Post World War Two Australia (Palgrave Macmillan) is in press.

(1.) On the 'image of Australia', see John Heyer, 'Geography and the Documentary Film: Australia', Geographical Magazine 30 (September, 1957): 5.

(2.) I am grateful to Ian Tyrrell for his commentary on this developing Dust Bowl/TVA narrative from 2010, and to both Ian and Grace Karskens for readings and commentary between 2012 and 2014. Thanks to Fiona Paisley, Prue Ahrens and Lamont Lindstrom for comments on 'John Heyer and Pare Lorentz: Transnational Film Imagery in the Valley is Ours', an earlier version of this paper presented at Broken Images: A Symposium on early American Photography in the Asia Pacific, 1850-1950, Griffith Centre for Cultural Research, Brisbane, July 2014. Thanks to Gregory Quenet and David Goodman for feedback in 2014 and to my two anonymous reviewers for their insights.

(3.) Heyer went on to receive an OBE in 1970 and became a member of the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities in 1986 and a Member of the Order of Australia in 1997.

(4.) On foregrounding Australia, see Heyer, 'Geography and the Documentary Film', 5.

(5.) Native Earth (1945) described Australia's role in aiding post-war development in New Guinea.

(6.) The Back of Beyond was made for the Australian branch of the Shell Film Unit, where Heyer became head of production in 1948.

(7.) On evolving meanings and the recent reinvigoration of the Anzac story see Christina Twomey, 'Trauma and the Reinvigoration of Anzac: An Argument', History Australia 10(3) (2013): 85-108.

(8.) Stockmen are the equivalent of cattlemen in the US, and brumbies are wild horses. On bush mythology and Australian identity, see Richard Waterhouse, 'The Vision Splendid: conceptualising the bush, 1813-1913', The Journal of Popular Culture 33(1) (1999): 32. For debate over the origins of bush mythology, see Graeme Davison, 'Rethinking the Australian Legend', 429-451; Bill Garner, 'Bushmen of the Bulletin: Re-examining Lawson's "Bush Credibility" in Graeme Davison's "Sydney and the Bush"', 452-465; Graeme Davison 'Just Camping Out? A Reply to Bill Garner', 466-471, all in Australian Historical Studies 43(3) (2012). On contemporary interpretations, see Leanne White, 'The Man from Snowy River: Australia's Bush Legend And Commercial Nationalism', Tourism Review International 13(2) (2009): 139, 146. On 20,000 years of indigenous history and mythology surrounding the Snowy River forest, coastal and plains tribal groups, see Claire Miller, Snowy River Story: The Grassroots Campaign to Save a National Icon (Sydney: ABC Books, 2005), pp. 220-233. On the history of how rivers have been associated with expressions of national character see Christof Mauch and Thomas Zeller, Introduction to Rivers in History: Perspectives on Waterways in Europe and North America, eds Christof Mauch and Thomas Zeller (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press Digital Editions, 2008).

(9.) On the Dust Bowl as an event of 'mythological proportions' which was 'defined by artists and by government bureaucrats', see Geoff Cunfer, What Was 'The Dust Bowl'? (2010). On Cunfer's stance and the connections to James C. Malin, see William Cronon, 'A Place for Stories: Nature, History and Narrative', Journal of American History 78(4) (1992): 1347-1376.

(10.) Brian Black, 'Authority in the Valley: TVA in Wild River and the Popular Media, 1930 -1940', Journal of American Culture 18(2) (1995): 13.

(11.) For Heyer's usage of the term 'image of Australia' see Heyer, 'Geography and the Documentary Film', 234.

(12.) On nationalistic Australian film content created by Australians, and on war-time film development, see Ray Edmondson, 'The Voice of Australia: Cinesound Review', Metro 137 (2003): 2. In his discussion of 1940s politics Frank Bongiorno explains 'there was more than one way of being nationalist', in 'Comment: Australia, nationalism and transnationalism', History Australia 10(3) (2013): 81.

(13.) On national viewpoints and purpose, see 7, and on national information, 15, in discussion over the development of films across the British Empire, in 'Agenda for Conference between Commonwealth and State Governments on non-theatrical exhibition of films, held at the State Lands Department Sydney, Wednesday 26th March, 1941', 6. National Archives of Australia, Series: SP107/1, Item: Bundle 2, Title: Correspondence re films, cables.

(14.) Sharon Crozier-De Rosa and David Lowe, 'Nationalism and Transnationalism in Australian Historical Writing', History Australia 10(3) (2013): 8-9

(15.) Ibid., 10-11.

(16.) On Emerson, the human, natural, mechanical and organic see Richard White, The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995), p. 108.

(17.) For the TVA region, water erosion and regional planning, rather than aridity and wind erosion, were the key issues. In the Australian context, the influence of the Bureau of Reclamation upon Australian film, print and broadcast media imagery has been examined in Janette-Susan Bailey, 'A Transnational Environmental Idea: reception, interpretation and employment of US Dust Bowl imagery in World War Two and post-war Australia' (Ph.D. diss. University of New South Wales, 2014). The Australian state of New South Wales, their vision for a national water scheme and their claims for Snowy River waters is investigated in terms of the film, print and broadcast media imagery constructed to support it in Bailey, 'A Transnational Environmental idea', 325-352; The following papers have discussed both New South Wales and Victorian campaign imagery, and US/Australian water conservation/ 'dust bowl' imagery including the TVA and US Bureau of Reclamation influences: Janette-Susan Bailey, The Dust Bowl and Australia: A transnational study of the reception and interpretation of environmental ideas', School of History and Philosophy Postgraduate Seminar, University of New South Wales, 14 Oct. 2010; Janette-Susan Bailey, 'Deserts, Old World civilizations and New World Dust Bowls: Something to fear in the nineteen thirties and forties', UNSW School of History and Philosophy 3rd Annual Postgraduate Research Conference, 8 Sept. 2011; Janette-Susan Bailey, 'Australia's Dust Bowl: Reception and interpretation of an environmental idea', American Society for Environmental History Conference, Mar. 2012, Madison, Wisconsin; Janette-Susan Bailey, 'A Dust Bowl in Australia?: US and Australian newsreels of the nineteen-thirties and forties as transnational carriers of an environmental idea', School of Humanities, History Postgraduate Seminar, University of New South Wales, 15 Mar. 2012; Janette-Susan Bailey, 'Writing Stories about Stories about Soil: a transnational Challenge', ANU Centre for Environmental History, Ph.D. workshop, 2012; Janette-Susan Bailey, 'Dust bowls', TVAs and Snowy River waters: transnational environmental imagery in John Heyer and Pare Lorentz' "The River, The Plow and The Valley is Ours"', Broken Images: A symposium on early American Photography in the Asia Pacific, 1850-1950. Griffith Centre for Cultural Research, Brisbane, Jul. 2014; Janette-Susan Bailey, 'Australia is Developing a Dust Bowl: a heritage of transnational environmental ideas in one image of a dam', United States Studies Centre / ANZASA conference, University of Sydney, Dec. 2015; Janette-Susan Bailey, 'Watering Australia's "Dust Bowl": An American Idea in the Minds of Australians of the 1930s and 1940s', Australia and New Zealand American Studies Association (ANZASA) 2012 biennial conference, Brisbane. The US-centred studies focused specifically on water and the American West, have included Donald Worster's Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity and the Growth of the American West (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985): on water conservation in terms of freedom and enterprise see pp. 7-11, on imperial power, p. 4, and on 'state socialism' see also White, The Organic Machine, pp. 51-52. Some additional studies focused on the West, include Marc Reisner's Cadillac Desert: The American West and its Disappearing Water (New York: Viking, 1986); Mohamed T. El-Ashry and Diana C. Gibbons (eds), Water and Arid Lands of the Western United States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988). For a China/US comparative study see Donald Worster, 'The Flow of Empire: Comparing Water Control in the United States and China', RCC Perspectives 5 (2011).

(18.) On 'nature and artifice', see Sutter, 'New Deal Conservation', 101. On the sublime, see Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (New York, Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 194; on time, space and ideas about the progress of the white race see p. 197, and on service to man see p. 201.

(19.) On salmon, dams and nature see White, The Organic Machine, p. xi; and on seeking simple ends see p. 110. On ideology, preservationists and conservationists, see Sutter, 'New Deal Conservation', 95, and on the creation of 'a vast new public landscape', 93. See also Sarah T. Phillips, This Land This Nation: Conservation, Rural America, and the New Deal, pp. 6-8, 73, 79. On Emerson, the human, natural, mechanical and organic see White, The Organic Machine, p. 108. On irrigation seen as 'conservation' during the 1930s see Patricia Nelson Limerick, Desert Passage: Encounters with the American Deserts (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1985), p. 169.

(20.) J.M. Powell, 'The Empire Meets the New Deal: Interwar Encounters in Conservation and Regional Planning', Geographical Research 43(4)( 2005): 339.

(21.) For example, see Neil M. Maher, Nature's New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 209.

(22.) Norman Wengert, 'TVA - Symbol and Reality', The Journal of Politics 13 (1951): 370. See also William U. Chandler, The Myth of TVA: Conservation and Development in the Tennessee Valley, 1933-1983 (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1984).

(23.) On 'high modernism', see Dorothy Zeisler-Vralsted, 'The Cultural and Hydrological Development of the Mississippi and Volga Rivers', in Rivers in History: Perspectives on Waterways in Europe and North America, eds Christof Mauch and Thomas Zeller (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press Digital Editions, 2008), p. 73. On a brighter future and the 'rich visual culture' generated by the project, see Zeisler-Vralsted, pp. 71-2.

(24.) On engineering ascendency see 350, in Powell, 'The Empire Meets the New Deal'.

(25.) On 'unmistakable echoes' see Powell, 'The Empire Meets the New Deal', 339. On influences, see Tyrrell, True Gardens of the Gods, p. 173. On the TVAmodel see, Tom Griffiths and Tim Sherratt, 'What if the northern rivers had been turned inland?' in What If?: Australian History as it Might Have Been, eds Stuart Macintyre and Sean Scalmer (Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Publishing, 2006), p. 238. On TVA influences across the world, see Wengert, 'TVA - Symbol and Reality', 370.

(26.) Bailey, 'A Transnational Environmental Idea'.

(27.) Donald Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 96. On Worster's history, Dust Bowl as mythology and New Deal mass-marketing see Geoff Cunfer, 'Scaling the Dust Bowl', in Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS are Changing Historical Scholarship, ed. Anne Kelly Knowles (Redlands, California: ESRI Press, 2008), pp. 102, 117.

(28.) Mathew Bonnifield, The Dust Bowl: Men Dirt Depression (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1979); Douglas Hurt, The Dust Bowl: An Agricultural and Social History (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1981).

(29.) A sample includes Paul Hendrickson, Looking for the Light: The Hidden Art of Marion Post Wolcott (New York: Knopf: distributed by Random House, 1992); Stu Cohen, The Likes of Us: America in the Eyes of the FSA (Boston: David R. Godine, 2007); Milton Meltzer, Dorothea: A Photographer's Life (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1978); Warren Motely, 'From Patriarchy to Matriarchy: Ma Joad's Role in the Grapes of Wrath', American Literature 45(3) (1982): 397-412; Anne Whiston Spirn, Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange's Photographs and Reports from the Field (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); Charles J. Shindo, Dust Bowl Migrants in the American Imagination (Lawrence: The University Press of Kansas, 1997).

(30.) William Cronon, 'A Place for Stories: Nature, History and Narrative', Journal of American History 78(4) (1992): 1347-1376.

(31.) Finis Dunaway, Natural Visions: The Power of Images in American Environmental Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), particularly pp. 40-86. On controlling nature, see p. 78.

(32.) See Robert L. Snyder, Pare Lorentz and the Documentary Film (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968); Gregg Mitman, Reel Nature: America's Romance with Wildlife on Films (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), pp. 100-101.

(33.) Deanne Williams, 'International Documentary Film-maker: John Heyer [14/9/1916-19/6/2001]', Metro, 129/130 (Spring 2001).

(34.) Sarah Phillips, 'Lessons from the Dust Bowl: Dryland Agriculture and Soil Erosion in the United States and South Africa, 1900-1950', Environmental History 4(2) (1999):245-66; Kirsty Douglas, '"For the Sake of a Little Grass": a comparative history of settler science and environmental limits in South Australia and the Great Plains', in James Beattie, Emily O'Gorman and Matthew Henry (eds), Climate, Science, and Colonization: Histories from Australia and New Zealand (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp. 99-117.

(35.) Libby Robin, 'Ecology: A Science of Empire?' In Ecology and Empire: Environmental History of Settler Societies, eds Tom Griffiths and Libby Robin (Carlton South, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1997), pp. 63-76.

(36.) Neil Barr and John Cary, Greening a Brown Land: The Australian Search for Sustainable Land Use (Crows Nest: Macmillan Education Australia, 1992), pp. 131- 132; Libby Robin, 'Paul Sears: Deserts on the March, 1935', in The Future of Nature, eds Libby Robin, Sverker Sorlin and Paul Warde (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2013), p. 184. Cameron Muir, The Broken Promise of Agricultural Progress: an Environmental History (Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2014), pp. 128-132.

(37.) On the American use of 'dirty thirties' see Worster, Dust Bowl, p. 13; Sarah Smarsh, It Happened in Kansas: Remarkable Events that Shaped History (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2010), pp. 81-86.

(38.) Donald Meinig, On the Margins of the Good Earth: The South Australian Wheat Frontier 1869-1884 (Adelaide: Rigby, 1970), p. 25; and on the transformation to specialised grain regions, see p. 5.

(39.) Stephen Powell, 'Mothering, Husbandry and the State: Conservation in the United States and Australia, 1912-1945', (Ph.D. Diss., Monash University, 2000)

(40.) Ian Tyrrell, True Gardens of the Gods: Australian-Californian Environmental Reform 1860-1930 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), p. 2.

(41.) For an example, see Rockdale City Council, 'Distribution of California Bungalow Buildings in the City of Rockdale', 1915-1945, (2015),

(42.) Erika Esau, Images of the Pacific Rim: Australia and California, 1850-1935, 1st ed. (Sydney: Power Publications, 2010).

(43.) Ian Tyrrell, foreword to Erika Esau, Images of the Pacific Rim, p. 8.

(44.) Douglas, '"For the sake of a little grass"; Bailey, 'A Transnational Environmental Idea', 144-199.

(45.) Heyer, 'Geography and the Documentary Film', 234.

(46.) To locate the Snowy River, see Figure 1. Its headwaters can be seen to rise in New South Wales. The term 'mighty' Snowy commonly describes the snow-fed river's once great capacity and fast flows to the east coast.

(47.) At 2,228 m (7,310 ft) Mount Kosciusko is the highest mountain in Australia. The Snowy River receives a semi-permanent supply of snowdrift from the eastern side of Kosciusko.

(48.) Miller, Snowy River Story, p. 234.

(49.) On the 'magnificent horsemen' of the Snowy, see George Sedden, Searching for the Snowy: an Environmental History (St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1994), p. xxii; Miller, Snowy River Story, pp. 242-243.

(50.) Paterson also authored Waltzing Matilda. See the most recent ten dollar note design (1993) in Simon Caterson, 'Banjo Paterson: is he still the bard of the bush?', The Guardian, Australian Culture Blog, 30 Jan. 2014,

(51.) Andrew Barton Paterson, The Man from Snowy River and other Verses (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2009). For the 1982 film see The Man from Snowy River, Australian Screen, National Film and Sound Archive,; On the meaning of the Snowy River and Paterson's poem to Australians, see Miller, Snowy River Story, p. 220. Thompson's Man From Snowy River, Live, can be found at Bandcamp Fine Poets site on Jack Thompson, Jack Thompson Live. See (Accessed 20 Oct. 2013).

(52.) On Heyer and 'dust bowls' see Heyer, 'Geography and the Documentary Film', 234. On envisioning the landscape and 'imagery of the garden' see Tyrrell, True Gardens of the Gods, p. 2. On Australian identity in the context of war-time sentiment, Britishness, US influences and transnationalism see essays in History Australia 10(3)(2013) including Christopher Waters, 'Nationalism, Britishness and Australian History: The Meaney Thesis Revisited': 12-22; Marilyn Lake, 'British World or New World?: Anglo-Saxonism and Australian Engagement with America': 36-49; James Curran, 'Australia at Empire's End: Approaches and Arguments': 28-29; Frank Bongiorno, 'Comment: Australia, Nationalism and Transnationalism': 83.

(53.) See Worster, Dustbowl. Classic texts include Mathew Bonnifield, The Dust Bowl: Men Dirt Depression (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1979); Douglas Hurt, The Dust Bowl: An Agricultural and Social History (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1981). See also Geoff Cunfer, 'Scaling the Dust Bowl', in Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS are Changing Historical Scholarship, ed. Anne Kelly Knowles (Redlands, California: ESRI Press, 2008), pp. 95-123. For a sustained transnational analysis of 'dust bowl' as an idea in the US/Australian context see Bailey, 'A transnational environmental idea'.

(54.) On the location of the Dust Bowl, see Donald Worster, Dustbowl, p. 12; See also Vance Johnson, preface to Heaven's Tableland (New York: Farrar, 1947).

(55.) On the official location of the US Dust Bowl, see Worster, Dust Bowl, pp. 28-29, on dust storms beyond these borders see ibid., 13 and on 1930s drought conditions across the US, ibid., p. 11. On the geography of the mid-western states or 'heartland' (including the eastern parts of Kansas that are not in the Dust Bowl), see Andrew R.L. Cayton, Richard Sisson and Christian Zacher (eds), The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006),

(56.) On the idea of human erosion, see Dorothea Lange and Paul Schuster Taylor, An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion (New York: Reynal and Hitchcock 1939); On human erosion narratives in Australia see Bailey, 'A transnational environmental idea', 200-281.

(57.) On wilderness and other meanings embedded in skull images, see Wanda M. Corn, The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935 (Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 270-271, 272-27, and on 'bleached bones' in American modern art of the 1930s see pp. 245-249, 268-271.

(58.) On TVA functions see Stuart Chase, Rich Land, Poor Land: A Study of Waste in the Natural Resources of America (New York; London: McGraw Hill Book Company 1936), p. 270; On ideas see Chandler, The Myth of TVA, p. 1.

(59.) Lilienthal was TVA chairman from 1941 to 1946. See David E. Lilienthal, The TVA: An Experiment in the 'Grass roots' Administration of Federal Functions, Address before the Southern Political Science Association, Knoxville TN: 10 Nov. 1939, 1. On TVA's democratic spirit, see ibid. p. 14, and on technology and science enhancing democracy see p. xxii. On TVA as 'total conservation', see Neil M. Maher, Nature's New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement (New York: Oxford University Press 2008), p. 209.

(60.) A Congressional Act (18 May 1933) created the TVA. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message to Congress Suggesting the Tennessee Valley Authority, 10 Apr. 1933, The American Presidency Project, eds John Woolley and Gerhard Peters (University of California, Santa Barbara 1999-2013),

(61.) Wengert, 'TVA - Symbol and Reality', 370. On watershed planning and the constitution, see Chase, Rich Land, Poor Land, p. 268.

(62.) Chase, Rich Land, Poor Land, p. 231. On water erosion images in the Chase text see Paul Sutter, 'What Gullies Mean: Georgia's "Little Grand Canyon" and Southern environmental history', The Journal of Southern History 76(3) (2010): 831.

(63.) Roosevelt, Message to Congress.

(64.) On the new conservation, see Phillips, This Land This Nation, pp. 80-81, on human values pp. 30-31, 80-81, on raising US rural welfare standards nationally, p. 82. Phillips discusses Gifford Pinchot's 'Giant Power' model for affordable electric power in 'FDR, Hoover, and the New Rural Conservation 1920-1932', in FDR and the Environment, eds Henry L. Henderson and David B. Woolner (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2005), p. 113.

(65.) Chase, Rich Land Poor Land, p. 242. On economic and social wellbeing, see also p. 270.

(66.) White, The Organic Machine.

(67.) On preservation and conservation, see Paul Sutter, 'New Deal Conservation: A View from the Wilderness', in FDR and the Environment, eds Henderson and Woolner, p. 95. See also White, The Organic Machine, 108.

(68.) On planning across a watershed, see Stuart Chase, 'Behind the Drought', Harper's Monthly Magazine 173 (September 1936): 377. On new civilisation and happiness for mankind see 35, and on the organic, unified whole, 110, in Stuart Chase, 'A Vision in Kilowatts', Fortune 8(5) (April 1933). On 'state socialism' see White, The Organic Machine, pp. 51-52. On individual enterprise and freedom, see Worster, Rivers of Empire, pp. 7-11, on imperial power, p. 4. For critique of such planning, see Reisner, Cadillac Desert, 142.

(69.) Chase, Rich Land, Poor Land, p. 287.

(70.) On the 'seamless web', see David E. Lilienthal, TVA: Democracy on the March, Twentieth Anniversary edition (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953), p. 62. On 'harmony' see p. xxii. For an example of the use of the term 'despoiled' see 'A Grim Warning', Sydney Morning Herald, 21 Nov. 1944.

(71.) Dunaway describes the TVA embodiment of New Dealers' utopian hopes in Natural Visions, p. 77.

(72.) On new civilisation and happiness for mankind see 35, and on the organic, unified whole, 110, in Chase, 'A Vision in Kilowatts'. On a modern civilisation, see Chase, Rich Land, p. 288. Paul Sears referred to engineered river planning as creating an 'integrated whole', in Deserts on the March, 3rd ed. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964), p. 198. On 'state socialism', see White, The Organic Machine, pp. 51-52; and on the negative legacy of irrigation dreams in the American West see Worster, Rivers of Empire, pp. 7-11 and on imperial power, p. 4.

(73.) White, The Organic Machine, p. 108. See also Sutter, 'New Deal Conservation', 95; Dunaway, Natural Visions, pp. 52, 78 and 86, on The Plow reviled, pp. 54-55, on Lorentz and evolving grasslands, p. 42, on absolving nature, p. 49. On Lorentz and 'cinematic jeremiad', see Finis Dunaway, 'New Deal Jeremiads', Environmental History 12(2) (2007): 312, and Dunaway, Natural Visions, pp. 50-51. On the The Plow as educational, see Richard Lowitt, The New Deal and the West (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), p. 45.

(74.) On widespread erosion of the period, see G.H. McTainsh, J.F. Leys, T. O'Loingsigh and C.L. Strong, Wind Erosion and Land Management in Australia during 1940-1949 and 2000-2009, Report prepared for the Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities on behalf of the State of the Environment 2011 Committee (Canberra: DSEWPaC 2011), p. 17, Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, 'The World War II droughts 1937-45',

(75.) See Bailey, 'A Transnational Environmental Idea'.

(76.) In early 2010 I described the transnational connections linking a group of US, Australian, British and Canadian narratives on international soil erosion by water and wind, human erosion, the fall of ancient civilisations to desert and the contemporary international concern over 'dust bowls'? just a few of the Australian contributors were John Heyer, popular writers Elyne Mitchell, Ion L. Idriess, Mallee writer, Hazel (Porter) Hogan, NSW Soil Conservation Service director Sam Clayton, NSW politician William McKell and journalist, Noel Adams. Conference/seminar papers describing these connections have included Janette-Susan Bailey, 'Deserts, Old World civilizations and New World Dust Bowls'; Bailey, 'Australia's Dust Bowl: Reception and interpretation of an environmental idea'; Bailey',Watering Australia's "Dust Bowl"'; Bailey, 'The "Soil Menace to Civilisation" in the Australian Imagination of the 1940s: Gendered media responses to the alarm', (ESEH 2013, Munich); Bailey, 'The Australian Media of the 1940s and Gendered Expressions of "Natural Disaster": Responses to Severe Soil Erosion in Australia's South-East', Universitat Tubingen, Germany Collaborative Research Centre, 'Threatened Orders' research project BO4 'Sand and Dust Storms. Workshop with 'The Australian Natural Environment as a Threatening and Threatened Entity, 15-16 Aug. 2013.

(77.) Earlier Snowy diversion schemes had included a proposal in 1884.

(78.) For the history of Orbost Flats in Gippsland, east of the Snowy River, see Sedden, Searching for the Snowy, p. 275.

(79.) Shasta Dam was constructed in Central Valley, California, and Boulder Dam (renamed Hoover in 1947) on the Colorado River. On US imagery and dam symbolism see Dunaway, Natural Visions, pp. 78, 82.

(80.) On dam building as mimicking, as opposed to conquering nature, see White, The Organic Machine, p. 57. On water conservation strategy for the Great Plains see Morris Llewellyn Cooke, The Future of the Great Plains: Report of the Great Plains Committee (Washington D.C: G.P.O, Great Plains Committee, 1936), pp. 76-77. In Land of the Underground Rain: Irrigation on the Texas High Plains 1910-1970 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973), pp. 134-5, Donald E. Green discusses water facilities legislation that provided only for 'the installation of pumping plants', and even then, did not even specifically mention them. See also Worster, Dust Bowl, pp. 252-3.

(81.) See The Snowy River Scheme: Region Affected by the Diversion Proposals, 1946, Department of Post-war Reconstruction-Snowy River Diversion, National Archives of Australia, Series: A12542, Item: 12.

(82.) On dam symbolism, see Dunaway, Natural Visions, pp. 78, 82.

(83.) 'Protest Against Filching Snowy River Waters', Morwell Advertiser (Morwell, Vic.), 1 Feb. 1945.

(84.) 'Snowy River Diversion Opposed', Argus (Melbourne, Vic), 15 Feb. 1945. See Miller, Snowy River Story, pp. 15-17 on inadequate official investigations undertaken into the Snowy River Protection League and their concerns regarding Orbost. Despite 20,000 years of spiritual and environmental significance, of Snowy's three indigenous groups, none was consulted over its future, according to Miller, Snowy River Story, pp. 232-3.

(85.) 'The Murray Valley Development League', Murray Pioneer (Renmark, SA : 1942 - 1950) (21 Feb. 1946).

(86.) On 'misleading' propaganda, see G.V. Lawrence, 'The Best Use of the Snowy River Waters', Murray Pioneer, 2 Sept. 1948: 2. TVA screened in Perth in 1946 and toured the Murray Valley, see 'Tennessee Valley', West Australian, 1 Nov. 1946. On MVDL's TVA inspiration see 'The Murray Valley Development League', Murray Pioneer, 21 Feb. 1946.

(87.) William Vogt, Road to Survival (New York: W. Sloane Associates, 1948), pp. 126-127.

(88.) Speakers for 'The Best Use of the Snowy River', Nation's Forum of the Air, Australian Broadcasting Commission, (21 January 1948), held in Town Hall, Albury, in southern New South Wales also included G. V. Lawrence, the Chairman of the Number Two Region of the MVDL Councillor W. L. Moss, and representing the opposing New South Wales irrigation vision, was grazier L. P. Connellan, and MIA representative A. C. Enticknap. See National Archives of Australia, Series: SP369/3. Item: Volume 4/3.

(89.) 'Murray May Have TVA.', Sydney Morning Herald (16 August 1944); G. C. Bolton, 'Evatt, Herbert Vere (Bert) (1894-1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography,

(90.) For press coverage on the U.N.O see 'Film Classics', Albany Advertiser (Albany, W. A., 1888-2003), 14 November 1949.

(91.) The ANFB was established in April 1945. In July 1945 Prime Minister Chifey made Calwell Australia's first minister for immigration. Film review by G.V. Lawrence, 'The Valley Is Ours', Wodonga and Towong Sentinel (Vic. : 1885-1954), 13 May 1949.

(92.) On Heyer's 'image of Australia', see Heyer, 'Geography and the Documentary Film', 234.

(93.) Deane Williams, Australian Post-war Documentary Film: An Arc of Mirrors (Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2008), p. 107.

(94.) FSA indicates the US Farm Security Administration. See Williams, 'International Documentary Film-maker', 252. On the formal similarities with The River in Heyer's text, see 249. On Lorentz and Heyer's The Valley, see Williams, 'Heyer, John', 589. For the US films see Pare Lorentz, The River (Farm Security Administration, 1937), Prelinger Collection Internet Archive,; Pare Lorentz, The Plow that Broke the Plains (Farm Security Administration, 1936), Prelinger Collection Internet Archive,

(95.) Heyer, The Valley is Ours.

(96.) Williams, 'International Documentary Film-Maker', 249.

(97.) For the part of Chifey see, The Valley is Ours-Commentary (Dec. 1948) Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Information, Films Division-Burwood NSW (file FB/13/49), National Film and Sound Archive, Box: ALIR0001.

(98.) In poetic verse such as that of Lorentz and Heyer--the metre, or rhythm is created by a recurrence of regular-and approximately equivalent--units of stress pattern. A stress pattern refers to the 'pattern of stronger and weaker syllables' that make up the words in the verse. The pattern of strong and weak accent on certain syllables, gives the speech a particular rhythm (as opposed to tempo, which is also a factor). See M.H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms 7th edition (Boston: Heinle & Heinle 1999), p. 160.

(99.) Dunaway describes The River beginning with 'drops of water' and ending with images of modern technology, in Natural Visions, p. 81.

(100.) On Lorentz, see Finis Dunaway, Natural Visions. On the voice of an omniscient or 'all-knowing' narrator asserting the writer's ideas, see Abrams, A Glossary, pp. 94-96. On the Australian preference from the 1920s for an Australian accent, as opposed to the 'offensive, coarse, and harsh' American accent see Joy Damousi, '"The Filthy American Twang", Elocution, the Advent of American "Talkies", and Australian Cultural Identity', American Historical Review 112(2) (2007): 410, and on Australian identity, 397.

(101.) John Heyer, The Valley is Ours, Australian National Film Board, Department of Information, 1948. Moving History: 60 Years of Film in Australia (Australian Broadcasting Commission, 2014).

(102.) On Australians in the Middle East campaigns, see Barton Maughan, 'Tobruk and El Alamein', Australia in the War of 1939-1945 3 (1966), 401, For a list of the Australian Divisions at Tobruk and a list of Australian casualties, see Australian War Memorial, Siege of Tobruk, See also Mark Johnston and Peter Stanley, Alamein: The Australian Story (Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2002). On the name 'rats' see The Siege of Tobruk', Imperial War Museum, London,

(103.) As in these films, repetition 'may have an incantatory effect as in the opening lines of T.S. Eliot's 'Ash-Wednesday':

'Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn'.

In addition, a change in mood, scene or tone can be created by shifting from that repetition 'in the words following the identical phrases'. In both Lorentz and Heyer's case, the words 'down the' are repeated before the change, and Heyer also repeats 'on to' and 'gathering the' before the Murray finally rolls into the sea. See 'Modern & Contemporary American Poetry: Repetition', Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Department of English, 2007),

(104.) The rhythm of repetition is broken at this point for effect.

(105.) See Pare Lorentz, The River (at time 4:49).

(106.) The rhythm of repetition is broken at this point for effect.

(107.) Pare Lorentz, The River.

(108.) The headwaters of the Kiewa River rise between between Mt Bogong and Mt Feathertop and flow into the upper Murray (see notes below).

(109.) The rhythm of repetition is broken at this point for effect.

(110.) The rhythm of repetition is broken at this point for effect.

(111.) The Mitta Mitta River and the Kiewa River mentioned by Heyer are on the upper Murray on the Victorian side of the border and Echuca, on the Central Murray in Victoria. The Hume Weir (now Hume Dam), Jingellic, Mulwala, Yarrawonga, Booligal, as well as the Darling River, Bourke and Menindee are in New South Wales (see Figure 1).

(112.) The rhythm of repetition is again broken at this point for effect.

(113.) See Heyer, The Valley is Ours.

(114.) See for example, Cinesound Productions, Mallee Country Facing Ruin (Nov. 1944), Australian National Film and Sound Archives Title no: 068224, with repackaged sequences from Movietone News, Spectre of Drought, 1938, National Film and Sound Archives Title No: 52955. On transnational print, film and broadcast media 'dust bowl' narratives linking the US Dust Bowl to northern Victoria's Mallee and Wimmera regions and much-maligned Victorian Premier Albert Dunstan, see Bailey, 'A Transnational Environmental Idea', 200-281, 325-397. On the life and writing career of popular Mallee writer, Hazel (Porter) Hogan, see Bailey 'A Transnational Environmental Idea', 282-324; also discussed in Bailey, 'The "Soil Menace to Civilisation"'; and Bailey, 'The Australian Media of the 1940s'.

(115.) In 'International Documentary Film-Maker', Williams suggests that this sequence 'takes the spectator with the character/narrator on a personal journey which evolves into a didactic cadenced speech reminiscent of Lorentz's films' (251). On the voice of first person narrator see Abrams, A Glossary, pp. 233-234, on the dramatic monologue, p. 70.

(116.) Rothstein's Steer Skull was a photograph created for Roy Stryker's FSA photographic project. The River and The Plow were both created for the US Government Resettlement Administration. On Steer Skull, see Robert Hirsch and Greg Erf, 'Perceiving Photographic Truth', Photovision 2: 6.

(117.) Rothstein's image can be seen at

(118.) For a map which includes the Ovens River see 'Kiewa Scheme?general plan', Melbourne: State Electricity Commission of Victoria, 1945, State Library of Victoria, For the press coverage see 'Kiewa Scheme to be Speeded Up', Argus, 14 Mar.1949; 'Snowy River Diversion Opposed', Argus, 15 Feb. 1945; Parliament of Victoria, 'Kent Hughes, Sir Wilfrid Selwyn', About Parliament: Members,

(119.) Heyer, The Valley is Ours.

(120.) White, The Organic Machine, p. xi.

(121.) Heyer, The Valley is Ours.

(122.) Records of the Information Division ?Motion Pictures, Central Office Records of the Farmers Home Administration and its Predecessors, US National Archives and Records Administration. See also Prelinger Collection Internet Archive.

(123.) White, The Organic Machine. Image from Heyer, The Valley is Ours.

(124.) Heyer, The Valley is Ours.

(125.) Dunaway, Natural Visions, p. 86; White, The Organic Machine.

(126.) Image from Heyer, The Valley is Ours.

(127.) See Edward. H. Swain, 'Without Forest Conservation?' Soil Erosion and Water Conservation Conference: Summary of addresses, Sydney, 20th & 21st April, 1945: The Magnitude of our Soil Erosion Problem compiled by the Association of Scientific Workers.

(128.) Sutter, 'New Deal Conservation: A View from the Wilderness', 95. See also White, The Organic Machine, p. xi. For an example of the use of the term 'despoiled' see 'A Grim Warning'.

(129.) Mervyn Weston, 'Report To Australia - XII. We Could use the TVA Idea Here', Argus (Melbourne, Vic.) 13 Oct. 1945. See also for example, 'American Trends in Resource Planning', Argus, 15 Sept. 1945; 'Report to Australia--IV. Great Achievements in Tennessee: A 'Soft Spot' had to be Healed', Argus, 26 Sept. 1945; 'Report to Australia - VII. TVA Electricity has Triumphed', Argus, 3 Oct. 1945; 'Report to Australia-VIII. How TVA Gets Things Done', Argus, 4 Oct. 1945; 'Report to Australia-IX. How a Big US Project is Financed: Power is the Banker', Argus, 6 Oct.1945; 'Report to Australia - XV Problems of Setting up an MVA', Argus, 27 Oct. 1945.

(130.) Vogt, Road to Survival, pp. 126-127.

(131.) Reference to plundering and to 'folly' are from 'Coolie's Fate Will Menace World Unless Food Sources are Conserved Immediately', Northern Times, 14 Oct.1948. On 'folly' also see Vogt, Road to Survival, p. 236. On readiness for TVAs see 'Road to Survival', Camperdown Chronicle, 27 June 1949.

(132.) See Swain, 'Without Forest Conservation?' Swain was Forestry Commissioner, New South Wales Forestry Commission from 1935 to 1948. On Swain's perspective reflecting the conservation and planning ideas of the time, by embracing both preservation and conservation, see Gregory A. Barton and Brett M. Bennett, 'Edward Harold Fulcher Swain's Vision of Forest Modernity', Intellectual History Review 21(2) (2011): 150; on his post-war planning vision see 144. On Swain's 'tender, lyrical poetry' and speech writing on forests see L.T Carron, 'Swain, Edward Harold Fulcher (1883-1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography,

(133.) Miller, Snowy River Story, pp. 167, 249. Robert Webster, 'Snowy River Enquiry: Final report', Sydney: Snowy Water Enquiry, 23 Oct. 1998, 5.$FILE/1998%20Snowy%20Water%20Inquriy%20extract%20pp1-40.pdf. 'On 26th Feb 2013 the NSW Government proposed to replace the Snowy Scientific Committee (SSC) with a new group'. See Snowy River Alliance, 'Important news: NSW Government wants to eliminate the Snowy Scientific Committee', (21 Mar. 2013), On recent developments see also Ben Cubby and Tom Arup, 'Fears for Snowy River as scientists ditched for industry-funded group', Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Feb. 2013: 2.

(134.) On coverage of the continuing debate see 'McGirr Reports To Cabinet On Snowy River', Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Mar. 1949; 'Favour Diverting Third of Snowy River into Murray', Argus, 10 Mar. 1949; 'NSW Opposed to Diverting Snowy River Water', Argus, 16 Feb. 1949.

(135.) On Loder's knowledge of TVA, see Lionel Wigmore, Struggle for the Snowy: The Background of the Snowy Mountains Scheme (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 138, 141-142. The committee's first meeting was in December 1947.

(136.) On coastal power supply, see Wigmore, Struggle for the Snowy, pp. 141-2; Miller, Snowy River Story, p. 6; Michael Cathcart, The Water Dreamers: The Remarkable History of our Dry Continent (Melbourne: Text Publishing 2009), p. 241.

(137.) The Snowy Hydro authority more recently became a corporation with the states as shareholders.

(138.) Australian Bureau of Statistics, The Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme (1301.0 -1986),

(139.) On 'America watching', see Powell, 'The Empire Meets the New Deal', 344 and on 'unmistakable echoes' of the TVA, see 339. On influences see Tyrrell, True Gardens of the Gods, p. 173. On the TVA model, see Griffiths and Sherratt, 'What if the northern rivers had been turned inland?', 238. See also Cathcart, The Water Dreamers, p. 241.

(140.) On the Snowy Mountains Authority as part of national myth see Sedden, Searching for the Snowy, p. xxiii. For engineering facts and figures see Grahame Griffin, 'Selling the Snowy: The Snowy Mountains Scheme and National Mythmaking', Journal of Australian Studies 27(79) (2003): 1. For a timetable of the Snowy construction process from 1951-1975, see Brad Collis, Snowy: The Making of Modern Australia (Canberra: Tabletop Press, 1990), p. 315.

(141.) For press announcement of the scheme's commencement see 'Govt's Decision on Snowy Diversion', The Land, 11 Feb.1949. On US engineering and influence during this period see Powell, 'The Empire Meets the New Deal', 350.

(142.) 'Snowy Waters Almost Lost', Gippsland Times (Vic), 29 Nov. 1945.

(143.) Ian Tyrrell, True Gardens of the Gods, p. 2.

(144.) Cunfer, What Was 'The Dust Bowl'?

(145.) Claire Miller describes the Snowy Scheme's appropriation of both the Snowy River and its mythology in Snowy River Story, p. 225. On the Snowy's cultural/social history that developed particularly in the post-war period from 1951 see Collis, Snowy: The Making of Modern Australia; Stephen Thompson, New Australia: The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme 1949-1974 (Sydney: Migration Heritage Centre, Powerhouse Museum, 2011), pp. 1-2; Margaret Unger, Voices from the Snowy: The Personal Experiences of The Men And Women who Worked on One of the World's Great Engineering Feats: The Snowy Mountains Scheme (Kensington, N.S.W. University Press, 1989), p. 145.

(146.) Heyer, The Valley is Ours. On landscapes as evidence of 'aspirations located in historical time', see Tyrrell, True Gardens of the Gods, p. 2.
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Title Annotation:Tennessee Valley Authority
Author:Bailey, Janette-Susan
Publication:Environment and History
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Nov 1, 2016
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