Leanne Hales has a tune stuck in her head. “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore”. Odd? Yes. Even Leanne is not sure why, but she is prone to whistle this particular tune anytime, anywhere. Maybe it's simply all that “amore” that is floating around at Yourka, with which Leanne and her “armored” husband Paul, and their much “amored” children, imbue their environment and welcome their guests.
As a group of Bush Heritage bequest supporters and staff left the lush leafiness of the Cairns Botanic Gardens for Yourka Reserve, we were all unaware of the warm reception we would receive on arrival at “The Shed”. Paul and Leanne had handed over their three children to grandparents for the duration of our stay and Leanne informed all of us that hugs would be gratefully accepted in lieu of their presence.
And so began an awe-inspiring bequest supporter trip to a spectacular part of Australia that has brought many challenges since it was purchased by Bush Heritage in 2007. Our first glimpse of the expansiveness of Yourka was from “the lookout” where we could see diversity in landscape and vegetation in every direction towards the horizon.
With Paul tapping an unfurled map with a stick, we learnt that conservation techniques at Yourka are shaped around negotiating forested hillsides and rocky outcrops with regular rain events that can mean torrential flooding.
As we travelled around the property, Paul and Leanne outlined their work, and we were all astonished at the myriad considerations that need to be made in regards to weed control, fire management and species monitoring. Each does not happen in isolation and it requires a further layer of management and foresight to plan effectively for weather patterns.
In what can only be described as a true act of dedication to their work and the restoration of Yourka, Paul and Leanne walk every kilometre of creek line, getting down on hands and knees to crawl through twisted siam grass and lantana to spray and remove these choking weeds.
My abiding memory of this trip is waking each morning to a cacophony of birdsong that only subsided as the sun rose and the cold morning sharpness turned to bright warmth. From that early hour to day’s end, each of us learned about what connected us to the environment and therefore to each other.
As we all sat down to one of the many delicious meals prepared by Leanne (while whistling) we shared our admiration for what she and Paul have achieved through their determination, hard yakka, and “amore” for their work at Yourka.
In a recent blog I recounted a bequest supporter trip to Boolcoomatta and I ended it with the following words which I feel again, both as a bequest supporter and a bequest team staff member, express all that needs to be said. “An enormous 'thank-you' is due to those who organised this trip, those who shared the trip with us, and to all those who have chosen to support Bush Heritage both today and beyond their own lifetimes.”