The road down through the Monaro towards Cooma is lined with innumerable advertising billboards, navigational signposts and ‘Welcome to…’ signs. My favourite is a sign which simply declares: “Monaro Merino Country”. It’s straightforward, unequivocal, indeed perhaps a little blunt. This is sheep country.
The passing motorist is left with no doubt about how they should regard the landscape that expands before them as they head south – the gold and brown treeless plains and the undulating wooded hills, with here and a view to the more distant ridges and peaks of the Great Dividing Range. Alternate readings of the land are not countenanced – or even acknowledged.
A little further south, and on the other side of the road, beside a long straight line of old power transmission poles, is another sign to warmly advise all and sundry that “Cooma Welcomes You”. Similar signs can be found on the outer perimeters of most towns, and are probably a world-wide phenomenon. (“Pyongyang Welcomes You”?) But I’ve always been puzzled by these all-encompassing, anonymous messages of civic goodwill, because I’m sure that there are people who are NOT welcome in Cooma (or other places), and to say otherwise is frankly misleading.
In this image, I’ve inserted another, more enigmatic sign, with the slightly cryptic assertion (as a billboard within the billboard) that this is in fact ‘Vacant Land’. All claims on the land, all claims of possession, control or exclusive usage are rejected, as this is Terra nullius. (But if this were indeed the case, who would have the authority to erect such a sign?!)