Author(s): Chris McConville (Editor);
Hanging Rock Reserve is a popular recreation arena, north of Melbourne. At its heart stands the Rock itself, a massive volcanic outcrop rising above undulating forest and farmland. Hanging Rock is celebrated as the site of outdoor concerts by popular music legends such as Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen. Great Australian artists and pioneer photographers came to Hanging Rock, trying to capture its enigmatic spirit. What's more, Joan Lindsay's novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Peter Weir's 1975 film of the same name, have added to that aura of mystery surrounding Hanging Rock. Visitors wonder if, as in both novel and film, a group of schoolgirls really did vanish there, during a St Valentine's Day picnic in 1900.Hanging Rock though has a deeper history. Its fortress-like rock walls fascinate all who visit the recreation reserve, and are the result of rare volcanic events, some six million years ago. For thousands of years, Hanging Rock was a meeting place for Aboriginal people, a centre for barter in greenstone and the site of ceremony. It has been at the centre of disputes, between farmers using its water, and picnickers holidaying in the reserve. Hanging Rock horse races are much loved as the classic bush meeting. But horse racing, gambling and drinking within a recreation reserve have raised the ire of environmentalists and anti-gamblers. There have been many plans to `improve Hanging Rock; to turn it into a quarry, a zoo, or a theme park. But despite all the grandiose schemes, Hanging Rock still holds a special place in the Australian imagination. This is the story of how Hanging Rock survived all of these `improvements, to remain a special place for visitors, an icon of global popular culture, and a place that raises new questions about Aboriginal history.