BY CLARENCE SLOCKEE
World Environment Day on 5 June will be a chance to celebrate our amazing bush heritage. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on the importance of caring for Country, just as we continue to care for our built heritage treasures.
The Australian bush is extremely diverse and holds ancient stories from our past. From the islands of the Torres Strait, the rainforests of the far north, to the vast expanse of the Top End and the West, through the outback and the desert plains, up through the Snowy Mountains and Great Dividing Range and on to the Southern Wilderness of Tasmania, we are lucky. The ecologies and biodiversity of our country is immense. Indeed, in First Nations terms, one Country, Australia is made up of many Countries, many peoples, many languages.
The appreciation for our bush heritage is inherent in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples through our connection to Country. We are custodians, carers and guardians of our sacred spaces. Moving forward together into the future means acknowledging the shared history of all Australians and taking greater responsibility in caring for Country. The Australian bush is a shared legacy, a cultural and natural heritage to be protected and celebrated.
The layered stories of heritage
When I was asked to write this article for the National Trust, I must admit I found the task somewhat daunting.
Although of course a huge honour, the work of the National Trust (at least through my eyes) seems weighted towards landscapes and buildings that stem from our colonial past. Having been fortunate enough to visit many of these wonderful properties that hold incredible stories of our shared history and represent, in many cases, a majestic beauty from times long past, I still felt a little uncertain.
As an Aboriginal man, I am both in admiration of the stunning architecture and craftsmanship portrayed in the built form of the fantastic heritage buildings, though aware of the dispossession of place experienced by traditional custodians upon whose lands these structures inhabit. So too, the labour, time and passion employed in the establishment of the spectacular landscapes and gardens that so often complement and enhance these properties are spaces that I find incredibly inspiring, yet at the same time a reminder of our traditional custodians.
How enlightening to learn that the establishment of the National Trust stemmed from the work of Annie Wyatt and, no doubt, many others including the Ku-ring-gia Tree Lovers League way back in 1945, raising awareness of the destruction of both the built and natural heritage in Sydney. The work of the Bradley sisters throughout the 1970s, the ongoing legacy of bush regeneration and the safeguarding of our built and natural heritage are astonishing achievements.
Caring for Country together
I have been incredibly fortunate to have visited so many amazing places right across our stunning continent and throughout my life I have been blessed to have met so many remarkable people. The knowledge and stories shared continue to expand my own appreciation of what we have as Australians. We are all of us connected to this beautiful Country.
The work of my colleagues researching, producing and presenting Gardening Australia is inspiring and a whole lot of fun. My day job is working as part of a team to design, install and manage native landscapes. Having the opportunity to improve urban biodiversity through the re-introduction of endemic plant species and a few choice natives continues to be incredibly rewarding.
I certainly appreciate the many and varied styles applied to gardens and enjoy the fact that so many people are into gardening. To be inspired by the Australian bush, to enjoy it, to care for nature and to highlight the need for preserving our natural heritage is a wonderful gift for all beings, not just us humans. Let’s use this World Environment Day to celebrate this gift and reflect on how we can sustain it for generations to come.
Managing bushland for over 45 years
The National Trust started a bushland management service in 1976 when sisters Joan and Eileen Bradley were employed to restore a remnant of blue gum forest at Beecroft in Sydney. The sisters developed a series of weed control and native vegetation recovery techniques that revolutionised the industry. Their adaptable and straightforward approach is based on helping the bush to help itself, and the principles still guide modern techniques today. Today, our Bushland Management Services (BMS) continue to grow, stretching from Sydney to the South Coast. BMS remains true to its original vision to advocate and implement best practice methods for natural area restoration and to conserve the educational and scientific values of bushland.
Clarence Slockee is a presenter on ABC’s Gardening Australia, focusing on medicinal, cultural and edible native plant species unique to the Australian landscape. Clarence’s passion for ‘ensuring the biodiversity of native species’ comes from his farming roots. He also has vast experience in environmental and cultural education through his roles with the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney and the Barangaroo Delivery Authority. Clarence is a Cudgenburra/Bundjalung Aboriginal man who grew up in the lush Tweed Valley with a long family history of bushmen, farmers and fishermen. His love of plants, education, culture, design and the arts is intertwined into his role as Director and Founder of Jiwah, a 100% Aboriginal owned company delivering Indigenous cultural perspectives into native species urban design projects.