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Tim Acker, The Australian Alps. Photograph courtesy of Tim Acker.
When people think about Australia, they often think of the beach—surfing at Bondi, swimming at Cottesloe, boogie boarding at Rye, diving in the coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef, or riding camels along Cable Beach, Broome, as the sun goes down.
But Australia has a significant and untameable high country where another set of Australian myths and traditions of Australian identity were born—the high country of the Snowy Mountains. This is the locale of Australia's most famous man of the mountains, 'The Man from Snowy River'.
The Man from Snowy River is one of Australia's most famous poems written by one of Australia's most famous poets, Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson.
The poem tells the story of a valuable horse which escapes and the princely sum offered by its owner for its safe return. All the riders in the area gather to pursue the wild bush horses and cut the valuable horse from the mob. But the country defeats them all, except for 'The Man from Snowy River'. His personal courage and skill has turned him into a legend.
It is thought that Paterson based the character of The Man from Snowy River on Jack Riley from Corryong, although this is often disputed with the argument put that Paterson created a composite character from a number of people he met.
Every year The Man from Snowy River Bush Festival is held in April at Corryong. It celebrates the heritage of the high country with Riley's Ride, bush poetry, a parade, a wine and food festival and much more.
The poem spawned two movies, The Man from Snowy River and Return to Snowy River, as well as a TV series Snowy River: The MacGregor Saga.
Much of the high country is now part of the network of national parks, nature reserves and wilderness areas which make up the Australian Alps National Parks system. The high country is a particularly sensitive environment and long term grazing had a negative impact. Europeans settled in the alps in the 1830s and grazing began around Omeo and later extended into the high country in summer.
The Australian Alps National Parks are managed cooperatively so that environment policy is applied consistently to Australia's alpine region. The Parks contain more than 1000 native Australian plant species and a number of threatened species such as the Long Footed Potoroo, the Spotted Tree Frog and the Mountain Pygmy Possum.