Monday, November 6, 2017


Tassie devil pen - sleep time
This is the full text of my article submitted to BMCS's "Hutnews". The editor, in her infinite wisdom, chose to publish an abridged version, without pictures, in November's edition. 

What kind of future should a female Tasmanian devil have after she has fulfilled her breeding duty for a conservancy?  Secret Creek Sanctuary at Lithgow felt she should be shown all care and consideration in her senior years. Trevor Evans, owner of the sanctuary, took charge of precious cargo from Devil Ark several months ago, as I mentioned in my article in the July “Hutnews”. A friend and I went to visit ‘the retirees’ in mid-July, and were very interested in what the Australian Ecosystems Foundation is doing for these and other endangered species.

a cool shelter for macropods in summer

All the animals are kept on 10 hectares within their own spaces, inside a well-engineered fence which runs into the ground. The two devils have big dens and a big swimming hole to cool off in the warmer weather. Lithgow is a suitable climate for them, being 1,000 metres up and therefore somewhat Tasmanian. Although they’re creatures of the night, one of them poked her nose out of her den briefly to check us out. It took Trevor seven years to get the license to keep devils. The Tasmanian government “owns” their iconic species, and this creates complications, not only for Secret Creek but for devil  conservation efforts. In the Tarkine, Channing Hughes ( University of Sydney, see previous article) spoke about the unfortunate effects of this policy.

The Australian Ecosystems Foundation’s mission is to breed endangered species at the sanctuary, species that were common to our area before the advent of European settlement. They have been breeding quolls, both the eastern Dasyurus viverrinus (endangered in NSW, critically endangered in the Commonwealth) and the spotted-tailed quoll Dasyurus maculatus. I was thrilled when I saw the spotted-tail female, sunning herself. She was pregnant. She moved slowly away from my gaze and my camera. After hearing about this quoll for 20 years, and musing on the Gurangatch (giant eel) and Mirragan (quoll) songline of the Gundungurra nation, this is only the second one I’ve seen. D. maculatus is rare in the mountains.

pregnant spotted-tail or tiger quoll - D. maculatus

On our first visit, Trevor talked about the little floor-dwelling mammals that are ‘forest engineers’. Bettongs, potoroos and bandicoots were once numerous in our area.  In various ways they act like little mulching units on the forest floor. Bettongs are bred at Secret Creek and also at Mulligan’s Flat in the ACT, following a very similar model. They have had remarkable success there by first building a fence, clearing the grassy woodland of exotic pests such as foxes, cats, rabbits and hares, and then introducing bettongs (miniature kangaroos). 

Trevor showed us another ground-dwelling species, the bush stone curlew, inside the large aviary. It is a night bird and eats insects, grassy box woodland is its habitat. It was last sighted on the Newnes Plateau in the 1970’s (NPWS). Other species in the aviary included a double-barred finch, a white-browed woodswallow and a dusky woodswallow.

Apart from the fence, the sanctuary is protected from introduced predators such as foxes and cats by dingo urine. Every morning two honey-coloured Alpine dingoes patrol the outer perimeter of the fence with their walkers, and naturally they relieve themselves. They’re marking their territory with a urine message: “This is ours! Keep out!” Walking the dingoes is one of the opportunities for volunteers. The Australian Ecosystems Foundation is a not-for-profit and relies upon input by volunteers. It was founded by Trevor, who is currently its secretary. Briefly, the sanctuary also performs other functions such as hosting scientists. They’re building accommodation for researchers which is a miracle of recycling, reflecting the values of “conserve”.
in background, the fence - dam for waterbirds
We returned to the Sanctuary in mid-August, and all the quolls had pouch young. Over lunch at the vegan cafĂ© there, Trevor said, “We are about educating people about what they’re missing out on because of foxes and cats”. The leek soup that my friend ordered was magnificent, my tea was great, and the bill was modest. This place is looking to the future in more ways than one. gLithgow has more to offer than coal-based industries. Here is one example of a local leading the way.
Trevor with Riley 

If you’d like to visit the Sanctuary,  contact Trevor Evans on: M.  0408 695 958. The restaurant can be contacted on: P. 6352 1133
Their websites:

"I'm getting away from this pesky human!"

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 szc website, here:

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New Voices write in Centennial Park

In March I taught a workshop to the New Voices writing group, who meet in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. Following our heatwaves of summer, we’d had dumpings of rain. I took them for a ginko into Centennial Park, from the Bondi Junction end. Here are our best efforts, with my echo to one of the haikus in each person’s work. 

pressing my nose
to the tree’s trunk -
Maori greeting


after the rain
blotched lichen on tree trunks
glows, grows.

this bare stick
plaything of dogs
once a flourishing branch


yes, always weeds,
happy about the rain -
I also


A cascade of branches
kissing the earth.
Not bending, connecting


it emerges
from under tree-skirts
perky white terrier


Centennial Park has multiple uses, and users. I love seeing the dogs so happy, free to bound around in a big space, with so many different smells.

burnt branch
shape of an iguana
car revs its nonchalance


like thunder
but more determined
an aircraft coming in


...and yes, it is a city park.

Poised trembling
Momentarily sun-kissed
A dewdrop waits

Bronze fronds
Spirally wrapped
Uncoil in grace

big juicy lillipilli
he picks them
she eats them


Haydn fortunately knew that it was okay to eat these fruit, which looked like they were dressed for the gym in bright pink lycra.  It brought back childhood memories of what we used to nibble on - we called them “monkey apples” in New Zealand.

Vertical gash
on spotted gum
red sap healing

Through spider’s web
moss encases
rough black trunk


the insects
have come out to play
a break in the rain

 I wanted to convey to this group that you can write from “don’t know mind” where things present themselves in a bare way.

ash colored curlicue prints
head of leaves
the blue gum is.


Yes, essentially  things just are. “Don’t know” does not mean that you don’t know that it is a blue gum.  Rosalie has captured this sense. Be it human greed or belligerence – that too, just is.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Talk "Haiku in the Tarkine" at Bluegum Sangha, Sydney

Pieman River at Corinna

I'm giving a talk entitled "Haiku in the Tarkine" to the Bluegum Sangha on Tuesday April 18th. They meet at 7pm, at 2 Young St, Neutral Bay. This is an Iyengar Yoga studio. We meditate for about 40 minutes at first, starting I think at 7:20 pm. I will have come straight back from the Frankland River & Tarkine in Motion, so I look forward to telling the gathering about it all.

These photos are of the Pieman River at Corinna, and the lookout near Waratah. Everyone is welcome.

Old growth

Tarkine from lookout near Waratah

clear afternoon -
the smoke of old growth burning
has blown away
Forests are the lungs of the planet. We need them more than ever - the Tarkine is the largest cool temperate rainforest in the southern hemisphere. The Bob Brown Foundation is raising money through Pozible, and we need to raise about $17,000 in the next 2 days, or else all the $ raised so far will be relinquished. 
While I've been in Waratah, there's been a haze from the burning of the old growth, which is bulldozed to make way for the Nitins, a hybrid eucalypt from Victoria and plantation tree. This tree does major damage: it sucks up water 20 times faster than the native trees it replaces, thus lowering the water table. It is equipped with natural insecticides which wash into the soil when it rains.
Donate if you can, to: for Tarkine in Motion
Should the Tarkine transform to this?  on the road to Rosebery

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

WEA in February - next course May

Gay's drawing of me

The WEA students soaked up the spaciousness of the Botanic Gardens in the middle of Sydney, on their ginko. We’d had several heatwaves, at last some cool weather!
Gawaine Powell Davies wrote this:

Splashed paint
On those leaves

We wandered towards the bamboo groves near the pond.

kisses under
the bamboo?
JAC loves MEL


I liked Gay’s approach, which was to respond to the gardens with drawings. In the spirit of first impressions (impressionism?) I wrote a very minimalist

pink on blue
on green on
sunlighted bamboo

I think this suffers from what some people don’t like about haiku: it is a bit thin. 
 But haiku can be a way of bringing you into the present. Gawaine wrote:

Just now, the birds were singing,
And I was here,
Writing this.

And Jan said, when we’d finished, “Wow! I haven’t felt this peaceful for a long time.”

My senryu:

commentary train
an English accent talks of

Well, this is the modern world! We are from everywhere, and a Botanic gardens contains plants from everywhere.
Final words from Trisha, on the study part of the course. We had read a Santoka haiku. She said, “It’s so beautiful it touches me inside – how can I explain how it makes me feel?”
And about the gardens, she said, “This is a magical place”.

Look at that!
I want to say –
divine lotus flowers


My next course with the WEA starts on Monday May 1st. It will again be a 5-week course, 9:30 am to 11:30 am. See the WEA website for details.

the ibis chick
shrieks about starvation
Mum honks back

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Treehugger arrives in Tas.

2012 - on the edge of the Tarkine
Would you like to support my endeavour? The money raised by the Bob Brown Foundation for the Tarkine in Motion project will feed us, transport us to our destinations, provide facilities. I am going to the Frankland River!

I was musing over the contents of my luggage last night. In it were so many gifts: mittens, a jacket, a top, a toiletries bag, my haiku bumbag, one of the wheelie bags - Ruby has lent me her good sleeping mat which I must not puncture. What else? A book, a set of eye exercises printed off specially for me, a woolly hat, a pair of lounge pants... given freely, just like the trees. Undies, my mobile phone, a scarf...