A place to breathe

Wednesday 20 March, 2013

As a Dutch-born immigrant, Grietje Croll first saw the Australian bush with fresh eyes - from the comfort of her new husband's tent. This was the start of a lifelong love affair, and a shared commitment to help protect the Australian bush.

Grietje CrollGrietje Croll decided to honour her late husband by leaving a bequest to Bush Heritage in her Will. "He wanted to preserve parts of the bush while he was still alive". Photo: Bec Walton

When Grietje Croll first arrived in Australia from her native Holland, her impression of the Australian landscape was "Wow, this is space".

She had just arrived in the country to join Bob, an Australian agricultural scientist she had met at a rural sciences seminar in her native Holland. They drove from Sydney to Melbourne through Bob's beloved "back country", camping along the way.

"In Holland we could never be anywhere where we couldn't hear traffic. Here you could breathe in and breathe out and say, ‘Isn't it wonderful!'." Australia soon became Grietje's permanent home.

The camping trip is just one of Grietje's memories of exploring the bush with her husband. When Bob passed away in 2003, Grietje decided to honour him by leaving a bequest to Bush Heritage in her Will. "I know," says Grietje, "that he wanted to preserve parts of the bush while he was still alive".

The couple started donating to Bush Heritage in 1997 because they were impressed by the way we systematically purchase land based on scientific research, and focus on caring for that land. Grietje saw our philosophy in action when she visited Nardoo Hills Reserve.

"I was happy to see the area was being maintained and the weeds had been taken out."

My hope is to preserve the immensity of the landscape, and that's what Bush Heritage is trying to do. 

After Bob retired in 1980, the couple took to their campervan and experienced much of the Australian landscape they were so keen to see protected, including iconic destinations like Kakadu and Carnarvon Gorge. Bob, a botany enthusiast, would identify plants and trees by their Latin names, while Grietje took out her sketchbook and attempted to capture the vastness and the atmosphere of the landscape - an "impossible, but fun" task.

One place that holds special memories for Grietje was in South Australia's mulga country, where the couple had camped in a "magical spot", far from the road, fascinated by the diversity of plants.

They had finally decided to pack up and move on, and had driven for about 200 metres, when a plant captured Bob's attention. They stopped and got out. "I looked down," says Grietje, "and saw the most beautiful little piece of jasper, full of different colours. We said, ‘Let's camp here and have another look around'. And so we did. This land is full of surprises. We had only driven 200 metres but the magic had become overwhelming all over again."

Grietje's wish is to protect forever the natural wonders, big and small, that she and Bob adored. "My hope is to preserve the immensity of the landscape, and that's what Bush Heritage is trying to do."

Since Grietje first supported Bush Heritage ...

Grietje and Bob have helped to make so much possible since they first supported Bush Heritage in 1997. Here’s just a glimpse:

1999 Bush Heritage played a founding role in Gondwana Link, a project reconnecting habitat from the south-west forests of Western Australia to the edge of the Nullarbor Plain.

2001 We purchased our first large-scale property, Carnarvon Station Reserve.

2011 We signed a ground breaking ten-year agreement with the Wunambal Gaambera people to work together to keep their homeland healthy.

2012 With the help of supporters like you, we purchased our 35th reserve, Naree Station, a remarkable property in the heart of the last free-flowing river system of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Bush Heritage thanks Grietje, Bob and all our supporters for helping protect our vast open spaces. A bequest, no matter how large or small, helps our wild places to thrive far into the future.

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