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Environment and History

'Dust Bowls', TVAs and Snowy River Waters: John Heyer, The Valley is Ours and an Early Post-War 'Image of Australia'

Janette-Susan Bailey

Environment and History 22 (2016): 589-627. doi: 10.3197/096734016X14727286515853

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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.

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

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