As we drove through the Pilliga Forest south of Narrabri, I felt like I knew the area intimately. And I do, because I was introduced to this section of the country by historian and and naturalist Eric Rolls whose best-seller A Million Wild Acres was first released in 1981.

Looking at a million wild acres, south of Narrabri, NSW, October 2013
As we pass through the country described by Eric Rolls in his book, I'm thankful for the way he has enhanced my appreciation for Australian landscape.

Meticulously researched and yet presented in a interesting, informative style, A Million Wild Acres tells the natural history of this part of the country from the time of the earliest European settlements to Rolls’ personal involvement on his land in the seventies. In terms easy for a layperson to understand, Rolls details the geography, the land wars, the wildlife, the changing flora and — most importantly — the overall impact that Europeans have had on the Australian landscape.

Ecos Magazine writes:

The book is about settlement and life in inland New South Wales, from the arrival of the First Fleet until the 1980s. It depicts the dynamics of life, government and landscapes.

More specifically, the book highlights conflict and reconciliation between European settlers and Aborigines, the role of legislation on land management practice, the importance of developments in machinery, plant and animal breeding on primary production, and landscape changes invoked by humans and the natural elements of fire, drought and flood.

A Million Wild Acres is more than just a historical account of the movement west and northwards of settlers from Sydney Town towards the Pilliga Scrub; the author also brings to life those who played a role in opening up the country for Europeans.

Pilliga Forest, NSW, October 2013
We make several detours from the main highway to explore sections of the Pilliga Forest and Gilgandra Native Flora Reserve.

One of the most important things that I have taken away from the book is Rolls’ premise that much of the Australian landscape that we consider “native” today hardly resembles what existed here before white man arrived. European settlement — with its introduction of non-native plants and animals and disruption of Indigenous land management practices — has forever changed the flora and fauna of the continent.

Goanna in the bush, outside Gilgandra, NSW, October 2013
Even in the middle of the day, there's wildlife around — kangaroos, wallabies, insects and reptiles. We stop to watch a large goanna among the trees.

Reading this book has enhanced my understanding and enjoyment of the Australian bush. As we travel throughout this country, I’m thankful for those who have taken the time to research, record and share the details that could otherwise get lost in the vastness of the continent. If you’re interested in Australia, travelling Australia or would like a greater understanding of the the impact European settlement has had on the Indigenous population and native landscapes, find a copy of A Million Wild Acres to read!