Some Events

Recent Events:

In October there was a talk at Delegate School of Arts

at the Festival, October long weekend,

Inspirational Landscapes:  the art of walking and the Bundian Way
with John Blay
Saturday 1 October 2022
time: 3:30 pm (90 minutes)
venue: Delegate School of Arts


Dinner event + Panel discussion:
Storied Landscapes

with John Blay, Lucy Culliton,
Charlie Maslin,
and facilitated by Sophie Campbell
Saturday 1 October 2022
time: 6 pm (3 hours)
venue: Delegate Country Club

On Track Cover
On Track Cover

And, looking back at a recent remarkable event

Canberra International Music Festival

Saturday 7th May also Sunday 8th May 2022 

for more details see

2022 FESTIVAL:    “The Festival is an event of national significance:     stimulating, provocative and deeply satisfying on so many levels.” — Vincent Plush, The Australian


Contemporary Classical

This signature multi-media event involves new work by Kate Neal, Brenda Gifford, Eric Avery and Damian Barbeler. Instigated by Damian Barbeler, the 75 minute performance is immersive, with images from the track and music which captures the many aspects of nature and culture of the south east of Australia. Featuring John Blay himself reading from the book that captures the track, the performance will be followed by a Q+A with John Blay, the author of ‘On Track’.

  • May 7, 2022  2.30pm
  • Kambri Cultural CentreUniversity Ave, Acton ACT 2601


About the book:

On Track:  Searching out the Bundian Way

Is it possible to scale that dark mass, the highest part of Australia, and then walk all the way from the summit to the sea as the old people are said to have done?

On Track is the fascinating account of John Blay’s long-distance walking in search of the Aboriginal past and the old ways of travelling between the Kosciuszko high country and Twofold Bay near Eden on the New South Wales far south coast. The 360-kilometre route of the Bundian Way traverses some of the nation’s wildest, most remarkable landscapes from the highest part of the continent to the ocean.

This epic bushwalking story traces the region’s people, natural history, country and the rediscovery of an important shared history pathway. Now heritage-listed – and thanks to the work of Blay, Aboriginal communities and local people – the Bundian Way is set to be one of the great Australian walks.

Price includes postage within Australia (for international rates, please inquire).

This is the author site. All copies purchased will be signed by the author, or if you’d like a particular endorsement, please request this at the time of purchase in the ‘instructions from buyer’.




‘The Bundian Way is a reconciliation … This is a track, a meeting place, that links the freshwater to the saltwater, the beaches to the mountains. People traversed that track for a lot longer than most of us can get our heads around. And it should be a track for all of us to come together now.’
— MICK GOODA, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

‘On Track is proof that the land still has its mysteries, and that after more than 200 years, the age of explorers is not yet over. John Blay, with a poet’s sensibility and a poet’s eye for detail, takes us step by step across country as he puts the bundian way back on the map.’

Some reviews:
His epic journey of rediscovery, chronicled in On Track: Searching Out the Bundian Way (NewSouth, 2015), is much more than a bushwalking narrative; it’s a spiritual odyssey in which Blay uncovers the long lost history associated with this significant track. It also highlights the trials and tribulations of long-distance walking.

However, it’s Blay’s delightfully detailed descriptions of the varying country through which he travels, unmatched by anything else I’ve read about this region, that makes On Track a must-read for any lover of the Australian bush, bushwalker or not.
— Canberra Times

Pedestrian shouldn’t mean dull, it should mean enlivened. Heart and lungs doing their work, blood flowing, spine unfurled, the walker looks about, takes in sounds and smells with a mind at liberty to float from one thought to another, or to find a new way to tackle some persistent enigma that grew thorns while the body remained sedentary.

Bush walkers, early morning walkers in gym clothes, dog walkers, kids walking to school, saunterers, flaneurs, evening promenaders, walkers headed out for coffee, or to buy the newspaper. A walk can be taken alone or in company, shared in near-silence or filled with intense discussion. Walking offers pleasure, but the quality of a walker’s journey depends on the season, the weather, and the skills and knowledge of yourself and your travelling companions. You can’t try and bully or charm your way into an upgrade when you’re walking.

For writer and naturalist John Blay, setting out to rediscover the Bundian Way, an ancient path that links the high country and the coast of southeastern NSW, walking was part of his research. In between walks, he burrowed into documents — journals, parish maps, surveyor’s field books — and he talked to politicians, poets, novelists, librarians, old bushmen, conservationists, National Parks and Wildlife Service staff, scientists, the descendants of settlers and, most importantly, to Aboriginal communities still living in the southeast of the state. The result in On Track is a unique and detailed picture of a region too often overlooked, bypassed as it is by the traffic zipping between Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney on the Hume Highway.

Blay doesn’t avoid the ugliest, most disturbing history of the places he walks. He writes about the massacres of Aborigines carried out by settlers, the sometimes violent conflict between groups of Aboriginal people that was often the result of dispossession, and the more subtle forms of cultural pressure, perhaps well-intentioned — such as the handing out of woollen blankets that were an inadequate replacement, practically and culturally, for the fur cloaks that had kept people warm and dry.

Blay is equally direct about the difficulties experienced by the settlers, and he makes it clear that occupation of the Aboriginal land did not always result in wealth, success and contentment…
For all the compelling, detailed history Blay recounts, it is the experience of walking that is at the heart of On Track. Blay uses the geography of the region to structure his book, with three sections — The Higher Country, The Monaro and The Coast — becoming holdalls for the many trips he made, the years of documentary and oral research. Within this broad structure, he writes associatively, touching on the history of whaling, cattle and sheep farming, but returning always to the walk.

Blay’s descriptions of walking made me want to get out of my chair and put my boots on. He describes how walking affects him physically and emotionally, and the day-to-day necessities of looking for water, making camp, forcing his way through scrub. Slowly, sometimes painfully, sometimes in near-ecstasy, he traces and retraces the trails he has found on old maps, heard about in conversation, or rediscovered by reading the land itself to search out the near-forgotten route.
— The Australian

This impressive book sets out to achieve a regional reconciliation of history by walking the land. The book is about a journey, called the Bundian Way, that meanders over the Alps through the Monaro Tableland, the South East Forests and on to the coast at Twofold Bay.

Author John Blay takes you on a journey with different stories through time and space, and like a laid back Dr Who he took a decade to write the book, and it shows. At points the reader is lost in the labyrinth of narrative and history. I like that. This is not a trip report with GPS references, although the astute will pick up references to good camp sites and the potential of this walking route. This is as it should be, for the path to reconciliation must be walked. It is not something you drive down, it takes time.

On track is a book that takes you to the heart of the Country, its cultural and spiritual heart, with natural science providing counterpoint to John’s poetic reflections on history. There are many historical layers to this travelogue of John’s odyssey. Inevitably in this record of rediscovery, places are revisited, some more than once, as we journey from the Alps to the sea.
— Colong Committee for Wilderness Bulletin




And completing his trilogy, the epic story of his bushwalking maps the region’s beauties and terrors. Wild Nature is a journey to the heart of the great Australian forests and wild nature itself.

Purchase now, for signed copies.

Price includes postage within Australia (for international rates, please inquire).


Copies purchased now will be signed by the author!

Moving and vividly told. John Blay’s Wild Nature is a book like no other, written on the soles of his boots and in the wildness of his heart. At once personal, historical and political, it bears witness to the majesty and fragility of a unique Australian environment.         —Mark McKenna

What they’re saying about it:

This year of staying at home has made me ravenous for the wild places I can’t visit, and John Blay’s new book is a balm for this frustrated urge. Blay is a naturalist, best known for his exploration and recording of the Bundian Way, an ancient Indigenous route running from the Snowy Mountains to the coast. In Wild Nature, Blay sets out to walk as much of the south-eastern forests as possible, opening himself up to whatever experiences might come and recording them in his gently compelling style.

Blay’s writing has a quality very much like a long and satisfying walk. He describes the trails he takes with a steady rhythm, noting plants and changes in the landscape with an expert’s eye. Sudden, rich encounters flit across the page like rosellas hiding in a grove of tree waratahs in full bloom, or the dingo that steals his hat somewhere along the Genoa river. He writes with candour about frustrations and setbacks – a wrong turn, or a push through wiregrass so thick it shreds his trousers to ribbons – but these are outweighed by what Blay calls ‘wild ecstasies’, moments when wilderness rewards the quiet observer with connection and epiphany. Bushwalkers will recognise this feeling and adore this book.

It’s impossible to read about these places without thinking of the catastrophic bushfires that tore through while Blay was finishing off the book, and his writing provides important context for the history of forest management. Wild Nature is a social and political history of the forests, their traditional owners, foresters, conservationists, politicians and scientists: a whirlwind of interests and conflicts. He argues against oversimplification of the debate: it’s never just left vs. right, or greenies vs. jobs. Our forests are complicated places that demand accordingly nuanced management, and Blay is an excellent guide to navigating this complexity.


Readings Carlton.

Reading Wild Nature is itself a deep immersion experience in the teeming tapestry of these wild places and what connects us with them.


Sydney Morning Herald – Spectrum July 4-5 at P 11

Gleebooks Book Launch

John Blay – Wild Nature

Sunday 13 March 2022 starting 2:30 pm for 3:00 pm at Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Pt Rd  Sydney

Celebrating completion of the South East trilogy with James Griffin, Minister for Environment and Heritage, and Bob Debus.

Wild Nature, John Blay’s natural history of the South East Forests National Park also looks at the purpose and values of national parks. Widely praised in reviews and press articles it was recently included in the WILD’s top nature books of the world:

  •  It also freeze-frames nature’s wonder and worth: A dance party of bristlebirds, emu-wrens and fieldwrens is one      fireworks example. The book is an important social and environmental work, partly because of the land it documents, and also since it compellingly answers a question Blay himself poses: “How do you express the value of wild nature?”

Wild Nature completes a trilogy that began with On Track and Back Country.

Bob Debus is NSW’s longest serving Environment Minister, who increased its national park protected area by more than a third. He is a committed conservationist: chair of the Colong Foundation For Wilderness and of the Great Eastern Ranges Initiative, a project working for landscape-scale conservation across land of all tenures in eastern Australia.

Book at:

Poets and Mystery

The Australian bush holds its mysteries close. How can we follow its interconnections, find the disconnections, name things that are barely hints. The old world sent truths that became lies and we cannot blame the poets.


It is not only poets who are interested in puzzles. All of us live in basic mystery.

Science and religion jostle one another in the shadows,

throwing in each other’s eyes the dust of beauty, possibilities,

distant myths, and approximate truth.

-Pablo Neruda

Erratum – Back Country

Early copies of Back Country Trek through the Deua and Wadbilliga have a mistake in a page close to the end. There was  some text missing (under the photo) from the top of page 256.

Here is the missing text:


[…Someone needed to keep an eye on…]

it, and what else could I do? Accompanied by a few friends in retracing the route I had taken with Jacqueline, I was overjoyed to come onto the river again. But then dismayed to find trees and scrub filling places that had once been open and clear.

Along the river, on flats where I had once camped in open forest clearings and even on sand bars, young trees such as river peppermint and river oak had sprung up in wheatfield profusion. For kilometre after kilometre, due to the pencil-thin 2-metre-plus growth, it was difficult to find a place to lay down, let alone pitch a tent. Years before when I had first noticed the beginning of this regrowth, I thought its density would be sorted out by the cycles of extreme drought and flood, by competition, and yet they were surviving. The river

[often narrowed to a tunnel and you could only walk in the middle of the stream…]


It’s quite important text and Canopy Press is most dismayed the glitch occurred. The current print runs have been corrected and an erratum has been inserted into the copies still in circulation.

From the Edge by Mark McKenna – the book launch

For one moment I reflect on the irony of ‘launching’ a book that that features shipwrecks.

But it is a book that involves us all. The Bega Valley is on the south eastern edge of a continent occupied by our vast, imperfect nation state. This book reports from the edge.

In the introduction Mark visits Mascot, a symbol of how easy it is nowadays to roam the world and which looks across Kamay or Botany Bay to the place where Cook’s men shot an Aboriginal man and took his shield, which is currently being claimed from the British Museum by Rodney Kelly, a local Aboriginal man. This is a prelude to the key episode of the book, the wreck of the Sydney Cove, which led to the 1797 long walk during which the shipwrecked mariners made first contact with the Aboriginal people of our region. It’s remarkable that a written record of their ‘adventures’ survived. Significant events happened only 10 km away from the nowadays town of Bega. Read about their adventures near Tathra and the mouth of the river….

We’ll come back to that later, after the book is officially launched, when we’ll have a conversation and plenty of time for questions.

Meantimes let’s consider the other three corners of the book. From the Bega Valley and that very long walk, we have Cooktown only 2400 km as the crow flies,  Pt Essington 3000 and Murujuga a mere 3,400km away. That is some decent mileage that had to be covered during researches. Distances that would daunt less ambitious historians. The book covers, from the end, Gangaar or Cooktown, from Captain Cook’s visit to Kamay in the Prelude to his shipwreck. Gangaar is the point where everything changes on the way northwards, the last place of substantial settlement, still there after a chequered life. It’s here where we find ways to move forward.

The next place is now deserted: Port Essington, a strategic location to defend the continent, was a wretched, ill-fated, fever-ridden settlement in the far north visited by our own Oswald Brierly after his time on Twofold Bay. I must add that Mark has spared his readers some of the worst, I recall that one of the sailing boats visiting became so overrun by cockroaches they had to sink it. The cockroaches washed onshore in great mounds, only to be avidly consumed by Aboriginal people who appreciated the special delicacy. Who would not prefer cockroaches to the flyblown salt meats of the doomed garrison?

Coming closer to the beginning, we find Murujuga, the biggest and oldest art gallery on earth. Unfortunately the Pilbara has a sordid background in the treatment of its Aboriginal people, and in the disregard of the values of the Aboriginal artworks by industrialisation. Anywhere else in the world it would have world heritage protection.

And what is it that holds such diverse material together? What binds these 4 places at the edge of the continent so many thousands of km apart into a unified work of history?

It’s not just what is common to the stories, it’s not just the uncomprehending meetings between the Europeans and the old people, it’s not just the voice of a very special historian bringing the scenes so brilliantly to light. Essentially for me it lies in the rhythms of his prose, the majestic prose poetry that works on an epic scale like a Homer painting in word-music his Iliad and Odyssey, as if Mark is rediscovering songlines that connect these places in the imagination, that majestic McKenna music, as divine as Bach, that creates a new pastoral for the continent.

The old pastorals were about the rustic life, man and woman at peace with their countryside, shepherds and their sheep. Idealised, idyllic. But here, without rose-coloured glasses, we learn the shock of discovering each place as different Countries of one continent, of utterly disparate ways of life meeting for the first time. And those meetings are weirder than science fiction, stranger than the clash of alien cultures from far corners of the galaxy we get in the movies. Mark shows us that beside the tragedies & conflict & commonalities there are glimmers of hope for the future. But we don’t get there without acknowledging the past.

Here it is, a very beautiful book, generously illustrated and printed on a paper that will outlast most of us. It will take you to places you might never have imagined, places that demonstrate the many countries and needs of our continent, eerie, strange places once well populated and managed but not perhaps suited for settlement, they are places essential in the story of Australia, where we have come from and where we’re going.

Read the book. Take these journeys with Mark McKenna. It’s now launched, From the Edge


About the author

Mark McKenna is one of Australia’s leading historians. His most recent book, An Eye for Eternity: The life of Manning Clark (MUP) won five national awards, including the 2012 Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History. He is also the author of Looking for Blackfellas’ Point: An Australian History of Place (UNSW Press), which won the Book of the Year and the Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction in the 2003 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. His essays, reviews and political commentary have appeared in The Monthly, Meanjin, ABR, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian.

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