Mat McLean's special year at Carnarvon

Thursday 21 June, 2012

When the McLean family moved to your Carnarvon Station Reserve 12 months ago, they discovered a very special place – one that thrives thanks to help from Bush Heritage supporters like you.

Lucinda and Annie at Woolshed FlatsLucinda and Annie at Woolshed Flats.

When Bush Heritage reserve field officer, Mat McLean first drove onto Carnarvon Station  he fell in love. "It's wild country," he says. "There are healthy bluegrass plains rising up to sandstone escarpments and all you can hear is the breeze, the birds and the noise that you make yourself - it's awesome."

Mat moved to Carnarvon, Central Queensland, last June, with his young family - wife, Jo, and daughters, Annie (4) and Lucinda (six).

They were amazed by the vast ranges and rocky escarpments, which stretch over 60,000 hectares. "I love the cold, frosty winter mornings, which turn into beautiful crystal blue days," says Mat. "Then the moisture and warmth of summer makes everything bloom!"

Mat and the kids

A long way home

The family have never lived anywhere so remote. "We haven't had a mailman for 18 months, and it's a nine-hour round trip to get a loaf of bread," Mat says. The area's also had three exceptionally wet years, which makes managing and living on the reserve challenging.

Jo, however, takes the isolation in her stride and has sometimes gone ten weeks without leaving the reserve. "I think it's exciting!" she says. "You really get to appreciate the remoteness and the beautiful surrounds."

Her favourite pastime is an early-morning jog or walk with the children. "We've seen emus out in the flats with their young; red-necked wallabies lolling on the grass; and we have a resident sugar glider in one of the trees close by."

Protecting Carnarvon's future

Though the girls are too young to help Dad out on the reserve, they are already learning the importance of its long-term conservation.

"They can identify most weed and grass species and will tell you about the impact feral animals have on the bush," says Mat. "They get conservation - why burning's important and what we, together with all our supporters, are working hard at Bush Heritage to achieve."

For Mat, it's been a privilege to share such a wonderful experience with his family. "Being together, watching the sun go down over the grass - this year will stay with us for the rest of our lives," he says.

Jo's top spots on Carnarvon

Carnarvon has been a special place of discovery for the McLean's. Here are Jo's favourite spots on the reserve.

The Verandah lookoutThe verandah lookout

"You can see the open flats, savannah woodlands and the Brigalow. It's perfect at sunset when you're listening to the dingos calling out."

Channin Creek

Mt Lambert

"This landmark changes so much with the seasons. It looks amazing when the cold weather frost has just arrived."

The Channin Creek

"We've spent countless hours swimming, rock-hopping and discovering this creek, which runs the length of the property. Previous reserve managers and their families knew it as a dry creek bed, but we've seen it flowing year-round."

How you've helped protect Carnarvon

Thousands of Bush Heritage supporters generously responded to our call in 2011 to help reserve managers like Mat meet the challenge posed by excessive rainfall and floods, bushfires and a cyclone.

At Yourka Reserve, 800km to the north of Carnarvon, you helped to repair roads after Cyclone Yasi hit the reserve in 2011.

This year's heavy rains at Carnarvon, however, have continued to create problems and we're still waiting for dry weather so we can repair the main access road. Bush Heritage volunteers have been unable to get onto and around the reserve. "So they can't help us with vital work like our weed control program," says Mat.

Lucinda and Annie

"The damage done to the roads also means we can't access key parts of the reserve to carry out early-season control burning." And since there is so much vegetation on the ground after three wet years, fire management is even more important than usual.

But thanks to your support, Mat has done the work that will help safeguard Carnarvon against destructive wildfire by burning those areas of the reserve from a helicopter.

"Having the support to do this is essential to the survival of this gorgeous place," Mat says.

Carnarvon Station Reserve was acquired in 2001 with the assistance of the Australian Government's National Reserve System Program.

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