Monday, August 21, 2017


Things that are flowering now: Hardenbergia violacea &

Bosseaia rhombifolia &

I've had a haiku accepted for publication in the next "Windfall". Appropriate title of this Australian journal for the season! My haiku is about a native bee, the stingless native bee Tetragonula carbonaria.
Acacia ulicifolia - prickly moses &

Boronia ledifolia

I can't gazump its publication - but here is a haiku for our current season in Sydney, to go with the flowers of "sprinter":

bounding across the road
don't run over it
....wind-blown magazine

Thursday, August 3, 2017

WEA haiku ginko ; WEA history walk

Hmm, writing a poem about this flower. Could you do it? I bet you could, if you came on my next haiku course, through the WEA.
Or what about this? It's all rather grand - but if you walked through it and kept your hand moving and your senses alive, there'd be something, maybe in the grass? Haiku is especially suited to the small and insignificant - but in that small thing, may be the whole world.

My course starts on Monday August 28 at 9:30 - 11:30 am, runs over 5 weeks. We'll have two wonderful ginkos in the course, maybe here, maybe elsewhere.

Here's the link:,+tours+and+travel/educational+walks

I'm also leading a history walk here in the Blue Mountains, Wednesday September 6. See the above link for details.


I've just edited "Mind Moon Circle" for the Sydney Zen Centre, the theme was "trees". You can get a taste of it, by looking at SZC's website:

A haiku for the season...

let the sunshine
of that wattle
bloom in me

Acacia terminalis on Newnes plateau

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Second place, Big Beet Poetry Slam, Katoomba, 15 July

Me at the Frankland 

Frankland River forest - 41A & B* 
took the judges' fancy at the Big Beet, Saturday night a week or so ago. It has also just been published in Mind Moon Circle - Trees, the autumn/winter issue of the Sydney Zen Centre's journal, which I edited. You can read another article, "When you Breathe in Thank a Tree" by Gillian Coote on their website:

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tarkine in Motion - Part 2, Tasmanian Devils

Jean-Francois DuCroz releasing a devil with GPS collar     Photo: Kyler Abernathy, National Geographic

We who were camping in the Tarkine with the Bob Brown Foundation over Easter were not the devils, though some in the resources industry might think so. We had the exciting opportunity to meet up with Channing Hughes and his team from the University of Sydney, who were researching the Tassie devil in our area, the Frankland river. As you may know, this carnivore is under threat from a deadly facial tumour which has been spreading rapidly throughout the population. Until recently it had not percolated through to Tasmania’s northwest, but the researchers are now finding some individuals with these horrible lumps on their faces. However the conservation effort is taking a hopeful turn.
On the second day several carloads of us found Channing and team out in the forestry roads, where they were checking traps. He had just released a devil from a trap which it had been lured into with a fragrant piece of pademelon. (A pademelon is like a kangaroo but terrier-sized and very cute.) We did not see the devil but smelled it - the stink! Channing was engaged in cleaning the trap in preparation for the next night. He told us that the tumour is very unusual, because it is a cancer that is transmittable. The devils bite each other on the face, especially in the mating season, or if they’re scrapping over some carrion. The cancer cells then carry over and lodge in the competitor’s face. By contrast, when devils are being handled by people they go into a kind of torpor. They’re so passive that researchers can open their mouths ( no doubt pegging their noses first) and fiddle with their teeth. Some of these little guys are fitted with GPS tracking devices and ‘devilcam’.
Myrtle foliage

We were keen to see a devil for ourselves so we followed the team around as they checked their traps.  That morning there were no more devils. Channing had told us that a vaccine has been developed for the tumour and it is working. I was traveling in our guide Jef’s car, and he told us what is happening on Maria Island, where he works. It is functioning as a grand devil experiment. They were not an original part of the island fauna, neither were the feral cats. Devils were introduced to Maria Island, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, with GPS collars and without. Jef says, “The devils were released on the northern end of the island and quickly established themselves down to the southern end.” They have outcompeted the cats who  now reside in extremely steep and rugged areas on the eastern side of the island. “Gps trackers and remote cameras are evidence of this”.  Isn’t this great news? A bushwalker who’d been on Maria last year, told me of the numbers of devils scavenging around campsites. There are also eastern quolls on the island, and they form part of the native predator mix.
But there is a down side for the island.  Two years after the devil release, penguin numbers plummeted. They are now surviving “on the south end of the island where steep granite cliffs by the water offer refuge from devils,” says Jef.

wildlife in a myrtle tree
 The second day of devil-hunting yielded two treats for the little boys at our camp. They saw a  trap containing a devil, and later on another trap contained a mother devil with a baby in her pouch.
Channing told us that their program, the Carnivore Conservancy, is linked with universities both here and overseas,  and zoos. There is an international effort going on. In our region, the sanctuary at Secret Creek near Lithgow is partnering with the devil breeding program at Barrington Tops. They have just begun to provide a “retirement package”, two months ago they took charge of two females who’ve done their breeding duty.

Me having quiet time by the Frankland River    photo credit: Isabel Mai Owe Young  

By the time you read this, the wedge-tailed eagle breeding season begins, which means a ban on logging in the Frankland river coupes. The devils and their dinners have a reprieve until February 10th, 2018.

You can read more about the Carnivore Conservancy at:

Tuesday, June 6, 2017



Bob Brown spent many years saving wild places in Tasmania. Now the people who have agglomerated around him and created the Bob Brown Foundation are campaigning to protect the Tarkine.  This area is in northwest Tasmania, “out of sight and out of mind”, but it contains the largest temperate rainforest in the southern hemisphere. In order to bring it into focus, they adapted the idea tried elsewhere in Tasmania,  of bringing artists to an area to respond to a landscape in their chosen medium. Mine is poetry, and I went to the third year of these camps, called Tarkine in Motion, over Easter.

leatherwood blossom

120 artists and 30 volunteers camped in about half a dozen different spots, some “ramblers” went on hikes, and some people kayaked up rivers. The Bob Brown Foundation launched a Pozible fund-raising campaign to pay for the food and transport needs of the artists. This exceeded the target, through a last-ditch effort. Above a certain amount, contributors were rewarded with little gifts; I have just received some greeting cards with beautiful photos of ‘takayna”, as the area is known to the indigenous people. Speaking of which, an important aspect of this campaign has been to partner with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.  

 I spent Easter camping at the Frankland river site, with  a group of about 20 people. I had asked for “river” : “coast” and “forest” were the other options. Turned out that the Frankland had been a protest camp, 100 people have engaged in various tactics and held up logging since the 14th February.*  Conditions were rough but that was amply compensated for, by the company I was in. We had volunteers who cooked wonderful meals for us over fire and gas, and a guide. One of the volunteers was Jenny Weber, who was one of the Gunns 20**.
Frankland river

A happy coincidence was the presence of researchers from the University of Sydney nearby, who were gathering data on the Tassie Devil. There are some very hopeful developments here, which I’ll write about in Part 2.

 I chose to saturate myself with that place, going with Jef, the guide, when he took us into the forest or to the river. It is a most  marvelous thing, to be in a forest with huge myrtles towering above you. As we walked around, or sat by the river writing or photographing, he would answer innumerable questions. He said, “ There’s more life in a dead tree than a live one” ( meaning one that is vertical). In the dark greenish light, crayfish chimneys poked from the ground.
crayfish chimney

a tangle of rot
the moss pretending
to be a tree

We swam in the tannin-coloured water knowing it is pure, and home to the giant crayfish (Astacopsis gouldi), the largest freshwater invertebrate in the world.

Frankland river

Over the days Jenny outlined the threats to the Tarkine. They are various and include off-road vehicle driving, mining and logging. The logging conducted by Forestry Tasmania makes no economic sense at all. It is in fact costing the Tasmanian taxpayer, last year’s bill was $67 millon.  I was shocked to learn that apart from the wedge-tailed eagle, any other species that is threatened or endangered gets no protection of its habitat under Tasmanian law.

If you’d like to see some of the beautiful work that was inspired by these places, go to:
The work from Tarkine in Motion 2016 has just been on exhibition in Hobart, and will travel to Melbourne in July. The exhibition of our work will open next year in Hobart around April. You might like to journey up to Avoca Beach Picture Theatre on Thursday June 6, to see “Tarkine in Motion”, a film by Dan Broun. There’ll be great roots music by Scott Bird and his band (he was at our camp) and a Q& A session. 7 pm, $20, see:

** in 2004 the woodchip company Gunns pursued legal action against 20 activists and organisations, who were campaigning to protect old growth forests. Eventually Gunns lost.

*On the 25th May peace will have reigned over the Frankland for 100 days.

This article was published in "Hutnews" Issue No. 348 June 2017

Friday, June 2, 2017

"John Jingery, Gundungurra man, and Robert O'Reilly in the Burragorang valley"

Kowmung river, below Portion 20

My article has now been published in Issue 7 of the Blue Mountains History Journal. Here is the link. It examines more closely the relationship  - the black stockman, the white Irish catholic grazier and postmaster.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

poem from takayna/Tarkine TAS

the "house tree" - a myrtle
I read this poem at Poetry Live in Auckland on Tuesday night, at the Thirsty Dog in Karangahape Rd. A great night, I was very impressed with the standard of NZ poetry.

Frankland River forest - FR41A & B*

It was war
and the giants fell
despatched by a scadgett,
take this coupe and make of it
a timber soup says the Forestry,
so a yellow machine
with a saw and a claw
tracks its way to 41A,
and the man inside
with a job and a plan
cuts the elders and shoves them, 
they’re pushovers,
claws them into a pile,
the ‘log landing’.

Then the leaves leave
the birds go
the marsupials go
and what was it I heard last night
from the snugness of my tent?
voice high in a tree,
a faint reply further out,
all these creatures go
but where is their refuge?

Horizontal now, the Tarkine giants
are a cracking bleaching abandoned
tumble jumble, 
with a rubbish pile of bones high at the back,
in the middle of a forest where few set foot,
not since it was called “takayna”.

Are we the last to have Tarkined here
shouting as we swam in the freezing Frankland River,
skipping stones or glimpsing
a brook trout flee across
the shallow pebble bed?
the last to watch the wedge-tailed eagles
soar above a pebble picnic
where we drank cocoa
and fed out souls
through our very pores?

*FR41A & B are the names of the coupes that are due to be logged - again. 
leatherwood blossom

Support the campaign to stop this reprehensible vandalism of our heritage. See for further information, and beautiful images of takayna /Tarkine.  

purple berry seen near Frankland