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One Hundred Years of Dirt

Rick Morton’s memoir of rural Australia is not simply an account of wrestling with the land. It’s bigger than that. One Hundred Years of Dirt follows the intergenerational trauma that underscores Morton’s paternal line and situates this trauma within bigger social issues facing rural Australians.

Morton is an award-winning journalist by trade, and this investigative impulse guides the book. In it, Morton asks hard questions about a way of life characterised by isolation and looks at the problems associated with limited access to medical services, education, and other support services – the fundamental things we tend to take for granted in our nation’s urban centres. He also discusses the
dwindling numbers of rural populations, which declined steadily throughout the twentieth century and now grow at half the rate of Australian cities.

But more than a piece of reportage, One Hundred Years of Dirt is a compelling story of a family just trying to get by. It is a homage to Morton’s mother, Deb, whose life is studded with seemingly endless trials – an abusive husband, a son (Morton’s brother) addicted to drugs, no money to speak of – and who manages, despite it all, to survive. Survival is at the centre of this memoir.

Full of heart, full of pain, One Hundred Years of Dirt is for anyone interested in rural Australia, Australian society and history, and stories of surmounting life’s significant challenges.

Reviewed by Charlotte