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Desert survival stories on Environment Day

2 JUNE 2005

Birdsville Track mailman Tom Kruse will join Tanami Desert trekker Kieran Kelly and four-wheel-drive expert Allan Whiting for a discussion on desert survival at the National Museum of Australia this Sunday.

The Surviving the Desert forum is being held on World Environment Day to coincide with the exhibition Extremes: Survival in the Great Deserts of the Southern Hemisphere.

The forum will be led by archaeologist Dr Peter Veth from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Other speakers include Extremes curator and desert archaeologist Dr Mike Smith and Dave Sutton and Peter Reynolds from the Southern Tablelands Four Wheel Drive Club.

The panel will explore the allure of Australian deserts and experiences ranging from Dr Smith losing his son overnight in the Strzelecki Desert to Mr Kelly completing the first crossing of the Tanami, finally connecting the routes of early explorers John McDouall Stuart and Augustus Gregory in 2002.

"The key to desert survival is preparation and experience," Mr Kelly said. "Most expeditions into desert country fail before they have even begun due to a lack of one of these two factors."

The free Surviving the Desert forum takes place in the National Museum's Studio on Sunday, June 5 from 2-3.45pm. Several 4WD vehicles will be on show.

The National Museum is also screening the 1954 film The Back of Beyond, which followed outback mailman Tom Kruse along the Birdsville Track, in the Visions Theatre all day. Mr Kruse, now in his 90s, is travelling to Canberra from Adelaide with his wife Valma.

Extremes: Survival in the Great Deserts of the Southern Hemisphere continues at the National Museum until August 21.

The Birdsville Track and its place in outback mythology are examined in a new National Museum exhibition, In Search of the Birdsville Track, opening on June 23. The exhibition features the previously unseen sketches of English artist Noelle Sandwith.

For interviews or images please contact Sandy Forbes on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481; Leanda Coleman on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or email media@nma.gov.au