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This report is taken from PN Review 104, Volume 21 Number 6, July - August 1995.

G'Day from W.A. Anne Born

Writers in Perth, Western Australia

When Captain James Stirling sailed up the Swan River in south-west Australia in 1827 to stake Britain's claim before the French could get there, he was immediately enraptured by the beauty of the place. Almost 170 years later Perth, capital city of the State of Western Australia, has a population of one million, grown from the 300 first settlers of 1829. From a distance or the air today's city looks spectacularly shining-new, its group of virile skyscrapers a confident statement of economic success, the highest like clean Gothic spires to Mammon. The best, much photographed view of Perth is from the hilltop of King's Park, from where the city is seen beside Perth Water on the Swan, with the Indian Ocean in the background.

The source of this symbolised wealth is evident south of the city in the huge bleak industrial area where minerals are processed; in other areas, all with English names, a well-proportioned grid system of perfectly groomed bungaloidal suburbs, each with its interface of shopping malls, health centres and schools, houses Perth's citizens, while the wealthy dwell in lofty millionaires' rows overlooking the river or in high-rise apartments. A city far from that portrayed by Tim Winton in his novel Cloudstreet (1991) as squalid and poverty-stricken in the 50s and 60s. Yet today there are several thousand homeless (though not much in evidence), and the prosperity is precarious.

Perth is the most isolated city in ...

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