Forging continuing bonds from the dead to the living : gothic commemorative practices along Australia’s Leichhardt highway
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Donna Brien
The Leichhardt highway is a six hundred-kilometre stretch of sealed road that joins the Australian Queensland border town of Goondiwindi with the Capricorn Highway, just south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Named after the Prussian naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt, some of this roadway follows the route he took as he crossed northern Australia from Moreton Bay to Port Essington (near Darwin). Ignoring the usual colonial practice of honouring the powerful and aristocratic, Leichhardt named the noteworthy features along this route after his supporters and fellow expeditioners. Many of these names are still in use and a series of public monuments have also been erected to commemorate this journey. Unlike Leichhardt, who survived his epic trip, some contemporary travellers who navigate the remote inland roadway named in his honour do not arrive at their final destinations. Memorials to these violently interrupted lives line the highway, many enigmatically located in places where there is no obvious explanation for the lethal violence that occurred there. This discussion examines the memorials along Leichhardt’s highway and considers them in terms of his own journey. Such a contextual perspective illuminates some of the uncanny paradoxes around public memorials, as well as the loaded emotional terrain that such commemorative practices may inhabit.