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Fitzgerald River National Park. Supplied by Tourism Western Australia.
Fitzgerald River National Park. Supplied by Tourism Western Australia.

Phil Doring's happy place

Words by Phil Doring, lifelong Bush Heritage supporter
Location Koreng, Menang and Wudjari Country, Western Australia
Published 27 Mar 2023

This story begins in one of Sydney’s many estuarine river systems, where kids would gather to wash off a day of school and immerse themselves in the natural world.

Surrounded by striking rock formations and forest-clad hillsides, the tributary of Salt Pan Creek and its mangroves near Lugarno, Dharug and Eora Country, was the place that sparked my attraction for the Australian bush. It was close to my home. I’d return home after dusk, mud-covered and inspired by the plants and species that the brackish wonderland supported.

The bush quickly became the central focus of my hobbies and over the years I’ve dedicated all the time life can allow to it. Early on, this was participating in the local scouts and then in a 4WD group that would see me visiting different National Parks in New South Wales nearly every weekend.

Fitzgerald River National Park. Photo supplied by Phil Doring

After 20, work pulled me interstate and wherever I travelled my spare time was spent outdoors. I have been lucky to experience many of Australia’s special places from arid deserts, thick rainforests to sweeping coasts and rugged mountains.

Now, I would call myself a certified ‘tree-nerd’ and a total plant lover.

My time in the bush has taken on a deeper purpose and I’ve found through this, my experience is more interactive – I get to give back to something that has given me so much.

In Fremantle where I live, I’m involved in a number of volunteer bush care and environmental groups. It’s tricky to find a nature fix during the week – spare the birdsong I listen to with my morning coffee or the fresh breeze cycling to work – so these groups help me feel connected to the natural world before my weekend adventures begin.

With a group called Friends of Hollis Park, we’ve been replanting an old former tip site that sits on the edge of town. Since 2017, we’ve managed to put around 20,000 trees and shrubs in the ground. It’s deeply rewarding watching this distraught patch transform into the ambitious beginnings of a thriving tuart and melaleuca forest.

When the weekend arrives, I might get a chance to visit another thriving landscape, my happy place. The drive takes roughly six hours. Everything seems to decompress as the city’s buildings and traffic transition into quieter eucalypt lined roads.

My destination is the Fitzgerald River National Park, Koreng, Menang and Wudjari Country.

Tucked in the continent’s south-west corner and facing the Great Australian Bight. The park is also the happy place for many of our native plant and animal species.

Photo by Phil Doring

There are more plants found here than in the entire United Kingdom and observing this level of diversity is an absolute treat.

My days begin early with birdsong, a ritual I keep no matter whether I’m in the city or the bush. When visiting between July and November I’ll spend time on the white sandy shore listening to whale song as Southern Right Whales teach their eager calves the ways of the world.

If my energy allows a walk up one of the Barren mountains might be on the cards. Elevated from coastal mallee-scrub, it’s humbling to take in these age-old granite boulders. My nights are slow – taking in the peaceful surrounds as the campfire crackles.

Leaving is hard, but on the drive back I feel refreshed and alive, inspired by nature’s power and beauty.

I’m also reminded of the need for its protection and my time in the bush affirms the decision I made to leave a gift in my Will to Bush Heritage.

This is a legacy I’m deeply proud of and one that ensures our natural spaces can continue to thrive and be enjoyed.

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