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Sewerage ghost towns. They exist. Just ask Sorrowing Father, Dear Daughter and Blackened boy, and Yankee doodle dandy that smiles with the eyes and his shadowy mate. 

They and other characters tell the untold story of the community once living isolated on Melbourne’s sewerage farm through a timeless reality. The faraway land of the house and two cows is a story like no other. Unique because it’s the story of a tight-knit community living alongside sewage lagoons and land and grass filtration paddocks being watered 24 hours a day with Melbourne’s sewage. And it’s told by characters with their own connection to the place in a way that combines fact, memories and legendary tales. 

The faraway land of the house and two cows is a must read literary nonfiction about the families that built and maintained the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm: from early workers and their families arriving in the 1890s to camp on the foreshore, living and working through the great Depression, both world wars and boom times of the 1950s, to ultimately move away from the four main settlements spread across the sewerage farm, to leave an abandoned town in the 1970s. A sewerage ghost town. The community was behind the making of one of Australia’s most important civic works projects from the 1890s into the 1900s, providing job security during the 1890s economic crash and the 1930s depression. 

 There are highs and lows, as in any community, and historical moments that mark time. Where tennis courts and croquet lawns are now covered over beneath overgrowth upon overgrowth, under the eye of the football pavilion still standing and where dalliances within them and by the workshops nearby, continue. The oval where football and cricket were once played still exists, even if smothered in a dense, undulating cover of green with goal posts standing on command at each end, serving the dual purpose of ventilation through their tops for sewage pipes running below the ground’s surface. 

The community hall still stands, now refurbished as a centre for education, and the swimming pool exists, although set to become a rain garden. The change rooms were demolished and rebuilt to serve as public toilets, and the heritage listed water tank commands as a reminder of Melbourne’s first water supply. The reservoir is gone, the church and all four schools too. No abode or home exists or gardens well tendered or the cows that came with homes for milking. 

All are gone. In physicality, that is. In the sublime of the underworld in this ghost town of lands faraway, many breathe beneath the earth from where they once stood.

Australian story, Literary non-fiction

About The Author

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Dr Monika Schott is a Melbourne-based writer and researcher giving voice to communities and their stories that struggle to be heard. Monika is particularly interested in those communities that have been isolated, marginalised or disadvantaged in some regard, and focuses on industrial communities across Australia and Europe and how they flourish in their abject margins. 

Monika has written several publications, was shortlisted in the Ada Cambridge Writing Prize and is currently writing about the history, personalities and science of the community once living and working on the Victoria’s State Research Farm. Monika wrote the story about the community once living on Melbourne’s Metropolitan Sewerage Farm called 'The faraway land of the house and two cows', which included collaborating to write the accompanying song, 'A land faraway'. 

Her latest book has been acclaimed as the children’s book every adult must read, as a timely and compassionate story about mental ill health called 'My dad built me the best and wackiest cubby ever'. Monika’s experience spans more than 35 years, working with communities in often issues rich and complex environments for the corporate, community and government sectors in aviation, heritage, education, water, waste, bushfires and the environment. 

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