Don Royal recounts his first weeks as volunteer ranger at Charles Darwin Reserve (WA).
The road north to the Charles Darwin Reserve passes through the Western Australian wheatbelt. Here, the only native vegetation visible clings to road verges or country that's just too rough to plough. Cleared and raked land extends to the horizon on all sides.
Walls of dust blow over expanding salted flats. It is a dismal sight.
As you get closer to the Reserve the landscape begins to change. The air clears as the bush takes over. By the time you cross the Reserve boundary, heath, acacia thickets and trees have turned the environment into one of exquisite and subtle beauty. Yet, this landscape is still vulnerable.
Goats, stray sheep, foxes, cats and weeds are taking their toll. There will be a lot of work to do to ensure that this area is properly protected.
From mid-March, for a month or more, I was privileged to begin the on-site work for the Reserve’s restoration and protection. Working as a volunteer in such a way enables me to indulge my passion for helping restore areas of Australia that are being ‘retired’ from the pastoral estate.
I was joined by a team from Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) for a week. Our primary task was to refurbish the main house which was in a serious state of neglect. The new reserve manager Leigh Whisson and his wife Jackie Courtenay were taking up duty in mid-April and it was important that their home-to-be was clean and liveable.
We gave the house a thorough clean, painted it fully inside and out, and made many, many repairs. Insect screening, a rangehood, fire blanket, extinguishers and smoke detectors were installed. Repairs and improvements were also made to other buildings around the homestead. Large quantities of garbage and debris were gathered up and disposed of.
Whenever I drove south to Dalwallinu through the wheat country to obtain materials and tools, I was reminded of the fate that might so easily have befallen the Reserve if Bush Heritage had not purchased it.
I applaud you, the people of Bush Heritage – supporters, volunteers and staff – for the enthusiastic and effective way you're buying back the bush.
– Don Royal, April 2, 2003