Just East of Now

Claudia Caporn

2019 - Ongoing

Western Australia, Australia; Australia

Rural Australia is dying. It once used to be a thriving, prosperous area, with millions of Australians choosing the freedom of the bush over the crowded, fast paced city life. Recently however, many people have chosen to walk off the land and move to the cities, leaving very few remaining rural residents to grapple with the strain of such an isolated and arduous existence. This series documents the demise of my hometown, and depicts the blue collar people living lives of quiet desperation, portraying everyday struggle and ordinary tragedy, as they feel their way in dark, hoping that things will get better.

The extensive rural-to-urban migration has left small regional communities seemingly stuck in a downward spiral of declining public services, social infrastructure, and commercial facilities, as residents continue to relocate to larger population centres where there is the greater availability of employment, education and training opportunities, and social services.

Exploring the disintegration of regional communities in Australia as a result of the unprecedented increase in rural-to-urban migration, this series documents the present state of my hometown, Quairading, in rural Western Australia, and investigates the relationship between the identity of the town’s remaining residents, and the fracturing demise of their community’s landscape. Through capturing the underlying vernacular aesthetics of regional Australia, I document the merge between natural and man-made spaces and objects birthed from an isolated agricultural town in decay, and give emphasis to the unobserved details that produce the stark contrast between rural and urban civilisations.

'Just East of Now' chronicles the emotional, social and economic toll of the mass migrations on these once-thriving rural and remote Australian civilisations, as they continue to be pushed to the precipice of extinction.

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  • A farmer's gun placed at the backdoor after returning from shooting kangaroos and foxes. The kangaroo is seen as an icon of Australia, but in reality they are one of the biggest pests that farmers deal with. Wild kangaroo populations are out of control country wide, and many turn to eating the various crops grown in the area, such as wheat, barley or lupins. Foxes on the other hand pray on the livestock reared by farmers. Lambs are particularly vulnerable as they are small, weak and slow. The night before this image was taken, the farmer was out hunting the foxes and wild cats as their first few mobs of sheep had started to give birth that week. The local and state governments haven't provided rural residents with any pest culling programs, leaving farmers to take matters into their hands and fend off pests themselves.

  • My mother, Lisa, chopping wood in the rain on a particularly cold and miserable morning. From the day she was born, my mother has spent her entire life on a farm in rural Western Australia, and for the last three decades has owned and farmed an 18,000 acre wheat and sheep property with her husband in Quairading. Being a farmer's wife is often very lonely as he works long hours. She solely takes care of her household, chopping the fire wood, mowing the lawns, and doing the farm bookwork. She has also a school teacher and for the last 25 years has regularly taught at the local school. However the number of children enrolled and attending school has dropped dramatically in the last three years, as parents are seeking better schools and education for their kids in the capital city. As a result the classes at the local school have been getting smaller and smaller, and the number of teachers needed has dropped. Last summer Lisa lost her permeant job as a kindergarten/pre-primary teacher.

  • A dead bobtail found on the barbed wire fence. Traditionally bobtails are seen as a symbol of regeneration and renewal due to their ability to completely shed their skins, and are an important, sacred animal in local Aboriginal culture. They are gentle and slow creatures, posing no threat or harm. Bobtails are not able to climb. Someone deliberately impaled and killed it.

  • The oozing, open wound of a collapsed ceiling in a local resident's living room after a severe storm. The lack of infrastructure and services within the area meant that this family had to wait 18 months before a builder could repair it for them.

  • Phoebe, a 16 year old local, in her backyard. She loves the freedom and space of living in rural Australia, but she is very apprehensive about her future here. Phoebe suffers from severe dyslexia and struggles enormously at school as they can't provide the learning support she needs. Although she would love to move to the city where opportunities are plentiful and get a job there, she doesn't have the education or any qualifications. She dreams of being an education assistance or teacher so she can helping kids with learning disabilities like herself.

  • The fresh grave of a local 20 year old boy killed in a car accident. Quairading has gained the nickname "The Death Zone" due to the high number of fatalities resulting from car crashes on the roads in the area. The community has had to bury six young locals under the age of 25 in the last eight years as a result of motor vehicle accidents.

  • Nine year old Cy is looking to alleviate the boredom of a Sunday afternoon by playing on the scoreboard by the town oval. There are currently only six other children in his class at school, and they all live on farms outside of town, so he often spends his weekends alone, looking for fun around the town. His best friend Ben moved out of Quairading at the end of 2018 because there were not any jobs available for his mother in the town, and his parents wanted him to go to a better school in the city. One day Cy hopes that he will be reunited with Ben.

  • An old, grumpy and eccentric man who lives out of the town on a small hobby farm, placed this turret from an army tank next to the main road and entrance of his property to scare off passersby. It sits boldly on top of the hill, jutting out of the barren, brown landscape, asserting it's presence to all that pass. How he came to acquire the tank turret, no one knows.

  • The empty football club change rooms. Club sport used to once be the foundation that the community was built on. With dwindling population numbers as more and more residents leave the town, sporting clubs no longer have enough people to make a team. "Together we stand, divided we fall" remains the teams motto.

  • A brand new bicycle that was hung up on a post next to the old, disused railway in the bush on the outskirts of town, and abandoned.

  • Beryl, 83, walking her dog through the town backstreets. She has lived her whole life in Quairading, and is one of the pillars of the community. She fondly remembers her childhood growing in the town with hundreds of other kids to run around and play with. Recently Beryl was heavily involved with the shire council and aided in various campaigns to boost the town's image and attract new long term residents and families with the promise of fresh, country living. Sadly however, the outcome hasn't been successful and the town seems to be declining faster and faster. All of her children and grandchildren decided to leave the town and rural life behind, starting afresh in the city. Beryl says she wishes to live out the rest of her life here in Quairading and be buried with the rest of her family in the local cemetery.

  • A rolled over car that was the result of drink driving after a Friday night at the local pub. Shortly after the accident, the driver (a local farmer), got out of the wreck and continued to walk home. The car has remained on it's side in the paddock for four years, and is slowly being assimilated into the land as the grasses and exposure to the elements reclaim and weather it away.

  • A local farmer's personal landfill on his property, filled with rubbish, discarded goods and dead livestock. Recent droughts have taken their toll, with many farming families losing large numbers of livestock due to lack of drinking water and feed available. This heartbreaking reality, of watching your animals die in front of you due to the drought, and knowing there is nothing you can do to help them, has resulted in two farmers committing suicide as the financial suffering and emotional anguish became too heavier a weight to bear. The impact on the small rural community has been devastating.

  • A vandalised public art piece that intended to celebrate various members of the community. It was one of the many attempts to raise community spirit and morale in these difficult times.

  • Quairading suffers from a high amount of drug and alcohol abuse. The town's main street is home to a stretch government housing properties. Sadly the residents of these homes, who are often shifted from town to town via rural government homes, suffer from drug and alcohol abuse. This water fountain at the Community Building is often to sight of drug deals and drunken gatherings they initiate.

  • In the summer of 2017 a large storm hit the town and surrounding areas. For weeks the entire landscape was flooded. This lake, known as the "Pink Lake," continued to flood for two more years, as water seeped out of the ground, inundating the nearby road. After being manually drained to stop the flooding, it revealed trashed goods that had remained submerged for many years.

  • An illuminated "M" for Matchie, a beloved local resident and pillar of the community, at the front gate of his farm after he passed away suddenly tragically.