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Cloud Land : The dramatic story of Australia's extraordinary rainforest people and country - Penny van Oosterzee

Cloud Land

The dramatic story of Australia's extraordinary rainforest people and country

By: Penny van Oosterzee

Paperback | 31 January 2023

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A sweeping account of Australia's wet tropical rainforest country, from deep time to the legendary time of Australia's first peoples; from the killing times and maniacal destruction of the forests by European settlers, to the present time of growing awareness of forests as the life-force of the planet.

Wreathed in morning mist, the rainforest is a place where evolution and legend rule. Where the thunderbird once roamed, now kangaroos climb trees, which reach into the clouds to strip them of water.

On their property on the Atherton Tablelands, Penny van Oosterzee and her husband are regenerating rainforest from paddocks, reconnecting fragments into a living corridor that will run to the Daintree and beyond. Penny weaves this personal experience into a sweeping account of Australia's rainforests, from their swampy birth millions of years ago to the present.


Creation stories and science bleed together for rainforest people who remember through legend the volcanic creation of the tablelands. They managed Country for thousands of years, stitched into the patterns of the forest. Then came the European settlers and the killing times. The giant cedars were pillaged in a frenzy, and the richest rainforests in the world were cleared to make way for small unsustainable cattle farms for the settlers.


After bitterly fought battles against logging, much of Australia's remaining wet tropical rainforest is now World Heritage-listed and is once again being managed by Traditional Owners. Will the unique capacity of these rainforests to counteract climate change be their salvation, or will they continue to be vulnerable to exploitation for short-term gain?

'I challenge anyone who starts this book to put it down without first devouring it from cover to cover'- Professor Mike Archer AM, University of New South Wales 

'A delight to read' - Mike Berwick, former mayor of Douglas Shire

'Driven by a love of the wet tropical forests, Penny van Oosterzee tells their story from deep time to the present' - Libby Connors, author of Warrior

About the Author

Penny van Oosterzee is an Adjunct Professor at James Cook University and has won two Eureka Science Awards and several Whitley Awards for her writing. She has run several private enterprise environmental businesses in tourism, ecosystem services and environmental consulting, and has been a Governor of WWF Australia and a board member of the Federal Biodiversity Advisory Council. She is author of The Discovery of the Hobbit, Dragon Bones, and A Natural History and Field Guide to Australia's Top End.

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