A productive volunteer stint at Boolcoomatta

Published 24 Sep 2015 
by Richard Pass & Julie Brennan 
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New signage! Richard Pass and Julie Brennan with Healthy Landscapes Manager Glen Norris.<br/> New signage! Richard Pass and Julie Brennan with Healthy Landscapes Manager Glen Norris.
Richard getting the signage ready in the workshop.<br/> Richard getting the signage ready in the workshop.
Julie's beautiful Boolcoomatta textile dying.<br/> Julie's beautiful Boolcoomatta textile dying.
Boolcoomatta creekbed.<br/> Boolcoomatta creekbed.
Julie's textile dying tools.<br/> Julie's textile dying tools.

Volunteers Richard Pass and Julie Brennan recently spent three weeks volunteering at Boolcoomatta Station Reserve. Here they share their experience of their time installing signs, exploring the saltbush plains and planting seedlings.

We arrived at Boolcoomatta Station Reserve about midday Monday after a leisurely camping trip along the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers then up to Broken Hill. Glen, the Reserve Manager, showed us our home for the next three weeks, the former Overseer’s cottage, a three-bedroom house with a modern gas cooking appliance, deep freeze, big fridge and a slow combustion wood heater in the lounge room that hardly went out all the time we were there.

After a workplace safety induction and being shown how the Bush Heritage worker monitoring system worked, it was off to the workshop. Our primary job was to install about 20 polycarbonate direction signs in various locations around the 63000 ha Reserve.

This involved manufacturing and rust-proofing the brackets, attaching them to the signs, then at each location, digging two to three holes with a post hole digger mounted on the back of the tractor, placing red gum posts in the holes and attaching the signs.

By Wednesday we'd finished all the brackets and were ready to do a test run at the first location close to the homestead under Glen’s watchful eye. Then we were on our own.

During the next six days Julie drove the Hilux with signs, tools, food and a safety grab bag in the back while I came behind at a steady 12km per hour on the 4wd tractor with a load of posts in the bucket. I drove over 100km on the tractor. The average day saw us leave the house at about 8:30am and return by about 5pm, picking up the tractor wherever we'd finished the day before.

We got to see just about all aspects of the Boolcoomatta landscape, from the western hills to the eastern saltbush plains. There were lots of emus with their chicks, kangaroos galore, wedge tail eagles, kites and corellas and the odd shingle back lizard. Some bird watchers that were camping there noted 48 species in the first three days they were there.

The next project was to raise some polypipe line crossings across two creek beds to prevent them from getting washed out in floods. This involved drilling post holes about a metre deep, putting in posts that would be about a metre out of the ground, running some twisted wire cable between the two posts then attaching the pipeline to it.

The last week Glen was off site so we were caretakers and gardeners. We planted 60 saltbush seedlings to make a hedge in front of the metal fence around the reserve office and cleaned up a bit around the Overseer’s cottage. Julie, being a registered pharmacist, was also well suited to the job of updating the RFDS medical chest.

In amongst all of this, Julie found time to indulge in her passion for textile dyeing. Red gum and black box leaves, mistletoe, saltbush and bits of rusty junk from the tip all got used in dyeing silk, felt and even a pair of long johns!

We hope to get back to Boolcoomatta again next year.

Richard getting the signage ready in the workshop.<br/> Richard getting the signage ready in the workshop.
Julie's beautiful Boolcoomatta textile dying.<br/> Julie's beautiful Boolcoomatta textile dying.
Boolcoomatta creekbed.<br/> Boolcoomatta creekbed.
Julie's textile dying tools.<br/> Julie's textile dying tools.