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Let it rain – refilling a natural water tank

This experience made my week! We had rangers Vaughan Lane and Lindsey Callow, both Badimaya men from the Midwest Aboriginal Ranger Program who are working in partnership with the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council and Western Mulga, out at Charles Darwin Reserve in Western Australia recently to clear out a rock hole. What happened next was just extraordinary.

Rock holes such as this on Charles Darwin Reserve in Western Australia are natural cavities commonly found in hard rock, particularly granite outcrops.

They act as natural water tanks. They're replenished from underground stores and rainwater run-off and used to be one of the main water sources for Aboriginal people.

The Badimaya word for such a formation is nyingari gabhida, meaning Zebra Finch rock hole.

This particular rock hole had been filled in with large rocks by station owners before the property was purchased by Bush Heritage. Lots of silt had found its way to the rock hole, filling it completely. It had not been in a functioning state for decades.

After cleansing the hole and ensuring the land could breathe again, Vaughan said, “Okay, let’s get out of here and let it rain”.

Less than 24 hours later a huge front passed over the section of the property where the hole was located. There were high winds, heavy rain, lightning and even hail. The storm lasted for around half an hour, by which point the rock hole was overflowing. It was an incredible sight to see, particularly as 2017 has been one of the driest years in recent history, with only 1.2mm of rain recorded in the previous month at the Reserve. My wife Liv and I couldn’t stop grinning – it was a really special moment.

Ensuring the rock hole remains healthy is vital for the Badimaya people and also for local wildlife who will now be able to rely on a water source that had been missing from the landscape for a long time.

There are more examples of cultural sites on Charles Darwin Reserve and nearby properties and the rangers said they were keen to return all of these sites to good health as soon as possible. This was only Vaughan and Lindsey’s second time visiting us and already they're making amazing improvements to the landscapes of the Midwest.

This work is once again displaying the value of working with Traditional Owners and we're seeing the land benefit from their expertise.

Our son Hamish with Lindsay and Vaughan. Our son Hamish with Lindsay and Vaughan.
Crate temporarily covering the hole to prevent wildlife falling in. Will be replaced with sticks so any wildlife can climb out. Crate temporarily covering the hole to prevent wildlife falling in. Will be replaced with sticks so any wildlife can climb out.
Lindsay (left) and Vaughan. Lindsay (left) and Vaughan.
Vaughan cleaning out the hole. Vaughan cleaning out the hole.
24 hours later the rock hole was overflowing! 24 hours later the rock hole was overflowing!

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