Australasian Journal of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology (AJE), Vol 1 (2011)

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The Tree and Its Voices: What the Casuarina Says

Barbara Holloway

Abstract


The tree known popularly and scientifically as the casuarina has been consistently noticed for the sounds made as wind passes through its unusual foliage of needles and leaf scales. The acoustic experience of the casuarina — with subspecies found throughout Australia — has been represented as ‘haunted’, ‘grieving’ and voicing the secret language of initiates. This essay traces intriguing conceptual and aesthetic representations of the ‘voice’ and its listeners found across both Aboriginal and white Australian cultures in traditional English verse, Aboriginal prose narrative, accounts of cultural practices, and hybrid blends of all three. The essay adopts the notion of ‘listening to listening’ to set out the many forms of story the tree’s sounds generate their contribution to identifying places, and to suggest a specific Aboriginal song-line appears to underlie the divergent replications of tree-'voice' across southern Australia.

 

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