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Photo by Amelia Caddy

Defined by the bush

Published 15 Apr 2021 by Amelia Caddy

Susan and Peter feel an intimate connection to the Australian bush, which is why they’ve left a gift in their Wills that will help ensure its protection into the future.

Susan Ball and Peter Turnbull have just seen two Sugar Gliders climbing the limbs of a Messmate tree on their 44-hectare bush property in Victoria’s Otways region, Gadabanud and Eastern Maar country, and they are ecstatic.

It’s the first time they’ve seen the nocturnal marsupials here, despite having often heard their high-pitched ‘yip, yips’ during many a dark night.

For the Melbourne-based couple, being able to observe such natural wonders – be it a new species sighting or an orchid in bloom - is one of the great joys of the Australian bush.

“You never quite know what you’re going to find here - there’s always an element of discovery, and that’s an incredible thing for us to have – to be able to witness the changing nature of the land, and just be in awe of it,” says Susan.

Susan and Peter watching the tree canopy. Photo Amelia Caddy.Susan has been supporting Bush Heritage since the beginning, having first heard about the organisation when Bob Brown was canvassing support to purchase what would become Bush Heritage’s founding reserves – Liffey River and Drys Bluff – thus saving them from wood-chipping. The concept of buying land to guarantee its protection struck a chord with the couple.

“I thought that was the best idea; to put endangered land in private hands that would take care of it,” says Susan. “Buying this property was our contribution to that idea, on a smaller scale. We just had to secure it to ensure it stays as it should be: a home for all the plants, animals and birds that live here.”

Never logged or grazed, and completely weed free, the bush block is, as Peter describes it, “a rare and beautiful thing.” Predominantly Messmate and Narrow-leaved Peppermint forest, with smooth-barked eucalypts in the gullies, it contains a diversity of species that keeps Susan and Peter constantly reaching for their binoculars: Gang-gang and Black Cockatoos, Sugar Gliders, Long-nosed Bandicoots, kangaroos, potoroos, wallabies, and echidnas all call this place home, and they’re discovering others every day.

Later that same evening, when the Sugar Gliders have scurried away and we’re tucked up in our tents, we all hear the deep growls of Koalas reverberating through the trees – a new sound for this region as Koalas from the famed Cape Otway population slowly expand their range.

The sun sets over a pristine bit of bushland in the Otways. Photo Amelia Caddy.

It’s now over two decades since Susan and Peter first took over custodianship of this property, and it is still as close to its original condition as could be hoped.

But the pair wanted to also support conservation on a broader scale, so, in addition to regular donations to Bush Heritage, they decided to bequest their Otways property and others to Bush Heritage in their Wills.

Revenue from the eventual sale of these properties will go towards the future protection and connection of threatened landscapes across Australia – “and that’s a fine legacy by me,” says Peter.

For Susan and Peter, their decision to remember Bush Heritage in their Wills comes back to safeguarding the places that have brought them joy in their lifetimes.

“For me, I am nothing without these landscapes, without the bush in my life, without Australian landscapes in my life. They sustain me, they define me,” says Susan.

“It gives me a lot of comfort to know that something worthwhile will come from my death, that the places that have sustained me in my life can continue and that bushland like this will be secure.”

If you’re considering leaving a gift to Bush Heritage in your Will or would like more information about our Gifts in Wills program, please contact our team on 1300 628 873 or email

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