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: www.avocapicturetheatre.com.au

** 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.