Yesterday we went to the National Arboretum which was a great way to spend a bit of time on a Saturday afternoon.
The Visitor’s Centre is a beautiful building, with some stunning design features which I hope I have captured below. The use of local timbers and stone has been used to great effect and it is a lovely building to enjoy both from the inside and the outside.
What is the Arboretum?
An arboretum (pronounced ar-bo-re-tum) is a collection of living trees, cultivated for conservation, scientific, research and educational purposes.
The National Arboretum Canberra first opened in February 2013, and has attracted many visitors from Canberra, Australia and around the world. The Arboretum website says that:
It is already contributing to the protection of tree species and tree diversity world-wide, as well as generating new research and understanding about how trees grow, survive and adapt.
The aim of the Canberra Arboretum is to become one of the great arboreta in the world; a place of outstanding natural beauty, community amenity and scientific value.
The Arboretum is home to 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from Australia and around the world. More than 48,000 trees grow on the 250 hectare (618 acres or 2.5 million square metres) site, with species from over 100 countries. Map of the Arboretum (PDF). You can also take a number of walks around the Arboretum. At the Village Centre you can get a free map of the self-guided walking trails or downloaded the guide here (PDF).
Day 73: Barmah National Park, Yorta Yorta Country, Australia
Today I go back to thinking about interconnecting stories, cultures and worlds. One of the ways I have been influenced to think about the connectedness of place, identity, culture and life has been through my experience with First Nation Peoples. In an earlier post I talked about Yorta Yorta Nation and the work that this community has done with scientists.
For example, one project titled A monitoring program to determine the watering requirements of floodplain populations of the southern pygmy perch, Nannoperca australis, in Barmah-Millewa Forest focuses on the pygmy perch, an endangered species found in the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers. The summary text on the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre website states that:
The pygmy perch has undergone a dramatic decline in NE Victoria over the last 15 years (now ‘Vulnerable’ (VIC) or ‘Endangered’ (NSW). Despite this species’ attractive appearance, its ecology is poorly understood.
This project is a great example of how scientists have had the good sense to engage the people who have lived in this area for 60,000 years. Like the ecology in which this particular species resides, there is a larger story here, one that connects through the food chain and through time.
When I think about the connectedness of our world and of our part in it, I am drawn to consider more deeply the role of knowledge. In our society, expert opinion is usually assuaged to formal knowledge, the learning and research of institutions: ‘book’ learning. This I believe is a blinkered view, one that removes the other types of knowledge that is embedded in sharing stories, oral histories and lived experience. However, the research I have seen through my connection with the Yorta Yorta Nations, demonstrates how linking in the environmental knowledge of the First Nations peoples brings about a more robust and complete picture of the land.
Other academic researchers do not seem to be so aware. For example, this post, titled Be the protector of my species recently published on the La Trobe website does not acknowledge any of the vast research that has already been done on other fish species in the Murray. What seems to be an even bigger omission is to talk about the surrounding environment as a great ‘supermarket’ without acknowledging the land management practices of the Yorta Yorta and neighbouring nations over thousands of years.
GIS ontologies comprise categorised labels that represent lived contexts, and these ontologies are determined through the shared worldviews of those labelling spatial phenomena for entry into GIS databases. Although Western ontologies and spatial representations reflect Western understandings of human experience, they are often inappropriate in Indigenous contexts. In efforts to be represented in courts and land management, Indigenous groups nevertheless need to engage Western spatial representations to ‘claim space’. This paper examines what GISs are and do and shows that GIS technology comes with strings attached to the myriad social contexts that continue to shape the field of GIScience. We show that Intellectual Property Rights Agreements can sever and control these ‘strings’; the agreement between the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and university researchers reframes GIS from a technology of erasure to a technology of opportunity that enables Indigenous groups to define their own engagement. The visual and narrative outputs will contribute important understandings of the environmental crisis facing the Murray–Darling Basin and connect older and younger generations through knowledge sharing.
This paper covers some very interesting ground (pardon the pun) and looks to how GIScience needs to address the social constructs in which the science operates. By using an example of how researchers have worked with the Yorta Yorta Nation, the article explores some highly relevant topics, such as how community-based and participatory mapping can have positive social benefits and contribute to community empowerment. The conclusion of the paper argues that “GIScience is a fundamentally relational praxis that always expresses particular world views through its immersion in social relationships.”
writing and art depicting the land before Europeans changed it
anthropological and ecological accounts of Aboriginal societies today, especially in the Centre and north
what plants tell of their fire history and habitats.
Bill Gammage also acknowledges that because this text focuses on the whole of the continent, he did not draw many sources directly from Aboriginal people. This was because he was drawing a picture of the land and its history from the European context and did not want to make presumptions. He comments that:
I had neither the time nor the presumption to interrogate people over so great an area on matters they value so centrally.
In Gammage’s case, the fact he is drawing from other forms of knowledge (writing, art, plants plus anthropological and ecological accounts) one step removed from direct consultation with Indigenous Peoples, serves to strengthen his argument that indeed Australia was not a virgin wilderness. His proposition is that the land was managed in a sophisticated and holistic way and that once Aboriginal people were no longer able to tend to their country, it became overgrown and vulnerable to bushfires.
I often reflect on how different Australia would be if Europeans came to this country to learn about the land and not to impose values from another hemisphere; which have wreaked so much damage on the land and its plants and animals. One only has to think of the Cane Toad to realise that lack of foresight and common sense that has been used. No one thought about the bigger impact that Cane Toad would have, thinking only of getting rid of the beetle that was destroying the sugar cane. Now, the Cane Toad has invaded most of Australia’s north and there is no way to stop it. It destroys ecosystems in two ways – by eating everything in it wake and killing everything that tries to eat it, as it has poisonous flesh. Short term solutions without thinking of long-term effects – this seems to be the only answer.
But I am no scientist and it would be foolish of me to try to engage in a scientific discussion about the peculiarities of an introduced species and the vulnerabilities of a threatened species. For me, I think there is an urgent need to think differently about how we still compartmentalise the world; believing that one event is removed from another to start to see the connections between our behaviour and the impact that it has. The Yorta Yorta and other First Nation communities all over the world have managed to care for their environment for thousands of years by acknowledging and respecting the delicate balance of the ecology. Liz Bentley states in her article The Earth is a Sentient Living Organism
The strong Gaia hypothesis states that life creates conditions on Earth to suit itself. Life created the planet Earth, not the other way around.
This quote reminds me that as living beings our impact on our earth doesn’t have to be passive. By opening our eyes and learning about the places where we live from the people whose culture extends back for thousands upon thousands of years, we can actively learn how to repair some of the damage done and improve the environment for all living things.
Day 72: Kangaroo Island, South Australia, Australia
I am writing about Kangaroo Island as it is both a beautiful place and it also reminds me of a wonderful journey we did at the end of 2012, where we travelled along the Great Ocean Road to South Australia. We spent some lovely time with my uncle (and regular contributor) Garry Benson and then headed to Kangaroo Island for a couple of days. We then stopped back to see Garry, catching up with friends and then made our way inland across Victoria. On the way we stayed with some other dear friends for New Years Eve, before heading back to Canberra.
This trip was not only a journey across new landscapes, it for me was also a journey of inner discovery, not just about myself but about learning by sharing time with people I love. Anyway I digress, back to Kangaroo Island. Mr Wikipedia says:
Kangaroo Island is Australia’s third-largest island, after Tasmania and Melville Island. It is in the state of South Australia 112 km (70 mi) south-west of Adelaide. Its closest point to the mainland is Snapper Point in Backstair Passage which is 13.5 km (8.4 mi) from the Fleurieu Peninsula.
To get to Kangaroo Island (or KI as it is affectionately known), you catch the SeaLink ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw. SeaLink operates two large, modern vehicle and passenger ferries, SeaLion 2000 and Spirit of Kangaroo Island. The journey takes about 45 minutes for the 16km crossing and there are some great views of both the mainland and KI coast on the way. The ferries are well equipped with a fully licenced café and free wifi.
KI is an incredible place, there are many amazing natural places to see: The Remarkables, Admirals’s Arch and Vivonne Bay are a good start. Seal Bay is also spectacular as you can see up close Australia’s third largest colony of Australian Sea-lions. Also, there is a lot of other wildlife not easily found in other Australian settings any more, for example we saw Koalas, which are sadly becoming a rarer sight.
What is also great about KI is the local produce, there are a number of wineries and KI is also known for its delicious cheese.
One aspect of the history I found intriguing is that the island was deserted by the local people thousands of years ago. The island’s name in the local language means “Island of the Dead”. Mr Wikipedia says:
Known as Karta (“Island of the Dead”) by the mainland Aboriginal tribes, the existence of stone tools and shell middens show that Aboriginal people once lived on Kangaroo Island. It is thought that they occupied it as long ago as 16,000 years before the present, and may have only disappeared from the island as recently as 2000 years ago.
M.H Munroe documents a mainland Aboriginal dreaming story which tells of the Backstairs Passage flooding:
Long ago, Ngurunderi’s two wives ran away from him, and he was forced to follow them. He pursued them and as he did so he crossed Lake Albert and went along the beach to Cape Jervis. When he arrived there he saw his wives wading half-way across the shallow channel which divided Naroongowie from the mainland. He was determined to punish his wives, and angrily ordered the water to rise up and drown them. With a terrific rush the waters roared and the women were carried back towards the mainland. Although they tried frantically to swim against the tidal wave they were powerless to do so and were drowned. (M.H. Munroe, Karta: Island of the Dead – Kangaroo Island http://www.austhrutime.com/karta_island_of_the_dead.htm)
It a story that is cloaked in mystery and one we will never know for sure. I would love to learn more about this history and the people who lived on KI. When you are on the island you get the feeling that it is a place of many stories and of many secrets.
We stayed two nights in the American River area, but could have easily have stayed longer in KI and camped on other parts of the island. The township of Kingscote is also well worth a visit, with lots of galleries and cafés, it is well set up for tourism. Kingscote is situated on the shores of Nepean Bay, has lovely views of the harbour and is home to about 1,800 people. I hope one day to travel back to KI as it is a place that inspires and intrigues me.
Ginninderra Falls is located less than 10 minutes drive from where I live, but I have never been there. It is a place that my husband Marty has talked about often as somewhere he used to go swimming in the summer months when he was growing up in Canberra.
In years gone by, the falls used to be open to the public, even though they were on private land. In more recent years the land owners stopped people from visiting this lovely location.
I am not totally sure why the falls are no longer open to the public, perhaps the property changed hands? This lovely photo by Roy Torkington shows how picturesque the site is.
Strange animal the size of a 3-month-old calf seen basking on a sandbank near water’s edge. The creature wriggled into the water and disappeared from view.
For readers unfamiliar with the term Bunyip, it is a mythical Aboriginal creature that dwells close to waterholes and creeks. Mr Wikipedia says about Bunyips:
The bunyip, or kianpraty, is a large mythical creature from Aboriginal mythology, said to lurk in swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds, and waterholes. The origin of the word bunyip has been traced to the Wemba-Wemba or Wergaia language of Aboriginal people of South-Eastern Australia
Through the energy and commitment of a local conservation group, there are moves to establish the area as a national park, which would be wonderful. Local environmentalist and media personality Tim the Yowie Man, wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2011, titled Ginninderra Falls For All of Us.
I hope one day to visit this lovely site as it would be wonderful to experience such a magnificent place so close to home.
Eden is a beautiful place on the far south coast of New South Wales. In many ways it is considered remote, as it is a long way from the capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
Located at the edge of Twofold Bay, Eden has the third deepest natural habour in the Southern Hemisphere. In addition, it was once considered as a potential site for the national capital, because of its proximity to Sydney and Melbourne and the deep harbour. Thankfully these plans didn’t go ahead, leaving this region as a treasure for locals and visitors alike.
The ocean here is like a sapphire and the temperate rainforest surrounding this region is stunning, making for great bush walks and explorations of nature.
The Visit Eden website says:
It’s a truly stunning location with a host of unique attractions. The heart and soul of Eden – and its history – is Twofold Bay. It was home to shore-based whaling stations and Old Tom, the legendary killer whale whose story can be learned at the Eden Killer Whale Museum.
It was the centre of operations for entrepreneur and pioneer Benjamin Boyd who built Boyd’s Tower, Boydtown and the Seahorse Inn as part of an extraordinary empire, before the vision crumbled.
A few years ago Marty took me to the Seahorse Inn for my birthday, which was a wonderful gift. We spent a wonderful time checking out Boyd’s Tower, the ruins of the Davison Whaling Station and the lovely little township of Eden.
The Whaling history for me sits uncomfortably, especially as it is the only place in the world where Orcas helped whalers to catch smaller whales. Visit Eden says:
Incredibly, Eden’s Twofold Bay is the only place – worldwide – where there has been documented evidence of orcas working in co-operation with man to hunt smaller whales. The orcas herded the whales into the bay and even into particular whaling stations. They would then alert whalers of their arrival by splashing and flop tailing. The orcas would also herd whales onto the beach, where they were an important food source for the local Indigenous people.
As with all histories there are always gaps and omissions, and I would love to know more about this time from the perspective of the descendants of the local Indigenous people, to yield a fuller understanding.
Day 36: Howard Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Howard Springs is about 1/2 an hours drive from Darwin and a place where many Darwin people go to relax, have picnics, go swimming and explore nature. It has swimming holes, bush walks and lots of lovely areas to just sit and relax.
The main swimming pool was formed by a low weir across the natural spring, constructed in WWII. The Enjoy Darwin website says:
The weir for the main pool was built in 1944 by the Royal Australian Engineers to improve the swimming hole to provide a recreation area for Australian and US servicemen.
It is a place of many happy memories, as when we lived in Darwin in the late 1970s and early 1980s, we would often go there with friends to relax and have fun. It was a lovely place to go swimming, relatively safe with no Salty’s (Salt Water Crocodiles), expect perhaps in the Wet Season when all of the waterholes are overflowing. One thing I remember about swimming at Howard Springs were the gorgeous water lilies that grew there. We could feel their long roots brushing against our legs, at times making me nervous that there were crocodiles. Another very clear memory was of a massive Goanna running across our picnic blanket and running up a tree.
Howard Springs also has the honour of being the first recreational park in the Northern Territory, in 1957 under the NT Reserves Board, now the Parks and Wildlife Service. It is home to many species of plants and animals including barramundi, turtles, wallabies and lizards. I have not been to Howard Springs for many years, but I understand there has been a lot of work done to improve the park as a recreation area.
Many people internationally are familiar with Kakadu and Uluru as being parts of Australia’s Northern Territory, but the NT is rich with beautiful parks with all manner of wildlife, vegetation, activities and stories. Howard Springs is just one small example.
It was purely by chance that I noticed the Botanic Garden in Coffs Harbour. I now know that it is an incredible source of relaxation, research and recreation for Coffs Harbour residents and visitors alike.
In what was originally a night soil and rubbish depot in the 1900s, now exists a wonderful collection of botanic gems that the Coffs Harbour Advocate applauded when it was first suggested in 1973:
Garden a Visionary Plan… such a scheme would transform a neglected area in the centre of our future city into a garden wonderland…
Early in 1981 the Friends of the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden was formed to transform the extensive area that became North Coast Regional Botanic Garden.
Working bees of dedicated volunteers started to remove all sorts of rubbish by the truckload, grub out weeds and unwanted trees, plan walking tracks and generally clean up the area. the local council made funds available the following year.
It covers 20 hectares of Crown Land and is bounded on three sides by Coffs Creek, a wide mangrove-lined, tidal estuary. The garden was designed to feature natural forest, rare and endangered Australian species, and exotic plants from other sub-tropical regions of the world.
Officially opened in 1988, the Garden continues to expand, with the newest addition being a Japanese Garden featuring a lake, arched bridge and teahouse. There are five kilometres of well-made paths and boardwalks for visitors to explore this lovely botanic garden.
The North Coast Regional Botanic Garden is designed to feature the forest and plants indigenous to the local Coffs Harbour area, as well as rare and endangered Australian Native species, and species native to other parts of Australia in specifically designated areas. Exotic areas display flora from parts of the world suited to the sub-tropical climate of Coffs Harbour.
Special sections have been set aside to feature important information. These include the waterwise garden, the mangrove boardwalk and the Aboriginal plants walk. Informational signage describes important topics such as the role of mangroves in ecosystems, biodiversity and methods of coping with the changing climate.
So if you’re in the Coffs Harbour area take an hour to explore his great botanic resource – you’ll love it!