Healing the land

"The tests I need to pass are prescribed by the spirits
of place      who understand travel but not amnesia"

Much of my inspiration comes from the land, sea and sky. Therefore it seems only right to give back.
I come from a long line of folk closely connected to land, even though most of my recent ancestors are part of one diaspora or another. As a 'new Australian' I have gradually learned to understand and embrace this land for what it really is, rather than to impose an English country garden on it! Don't get me wrong though, I like dahlias as much as the next person, but we've got to get real, there's not the rainfall to sustain them in South Oz. Anyway, since I moved to the coast in the late eighties I became immediately involved in the Coast care movement. 95%, (yes, that's 95%!) of South Australia's native vegetation has been cleared since colonisation. Partly that's because: the land, by and large is relatively flat and accessible; there was a long term government requirement for land owners, especially returned servicemen, to clear land for cultivation; and, the rainfall is sparse making regrowth and recovery much more of a challenge than in,say,Tasmania.
I began growing and planting local species in 1989 when I knew bugger-all (as we say in Australia!) about it. Since then myself and loyal collaborators have significantly re-altered the landscape and have reintroduced around 200 species to the local area, as well as significantly reducing the weed problem, and helped to alter the culture and attitude to land care within the local council and community.
I have been fortunate to have had the help of some good friends and knowledgeable people over the years who have together contributed greatly to the development of local biodiversity. With the help of friends I ran a community plant nursery since 1999 and grew plants for local projects, local council, and also for local landowners. Late in 2016 I retired from this work to save my hands for art, but the nursery carries on in other good hands. Increased numbers of bird and insect species are just one of the side benefits of the work so far! In 20 years, the bird count in the immediate area has gone from 10 species to 110!

'The land is not the enemy' tryptich (panels 2.5 mx 60cm)acrylic paint,ochre and engraved steel on canvas.

The text engraved reads left to right thus:

"The ever louder cry for a move towards humanitarian values reflects a strong impulse in us to evolve emotionally and spiritually. The death of taboo,the loss of spirit, and bankruptcy of ethical codes points towards a madness; a death of all that makes us human. When genocide is ruled legal*, when value is measured in fiscal terms,when limitless atrocities are justifiable, when the ability to learn from mistakes is suffocated by denial; our future is in real danger.
The power structure at whose mercy we lie is without boundary. It's perpetrators have placed themselves above nature, and above any concept of god. They have no visible system of accountability. They are creating a physical environment that will soon no longer be able to support us.
They are creating successive generations of damaged psyches; people for whom acts of abuse are deemed normal.
It is the role of culture to venture into the shadow that lurks between function and dysfunction. For it is the time honoured ritual of
storytelling and
that brings us together,
gives us a sense of belonging
and restores our faith."
Barbary O'Brien 2008

* Genocide is not constitutionally illegal in this country. I may be drawing a long bow here, but you do the maths!

The lines from "The Spirit of Place", Copyright(c)2002, 1981 by Adrienne Rich, from THE FACT OF A DOORFRAME: Selected Poems 1950-2001 by Adrienne Rich. Used by permission of the author and W.W.Norton & Company, Inc.

Here is a view of the Eastern end of Basham Beach Regional Park in 1999, looking fairly bare. Earlier reveg work was done at the Western end near Port Elliot, starting in the late eighties.

Here it is in 2016:

The Park is run by the Basham Beach Advisory Committee; the Basham Beach Trust; Alexandrina Council; local volunteers including the Friends Group; and now also The Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority. We are very happy to be collaborating more closely with Ngarrindjeri to ensure works are carried out in a more culturally appropriate and sensitive way. To this end, the NRA have asked that the park be renamed Ratalang, Bashams Beach Conservation Park. I am currently working with the NRA to alter interpretive signage. Go to the relevant page on this website for more info.

These before and after images are of Middleton Point
In 1999 with a dominant weed and broken fence

and in 2016 with native plantings, and thanks to local Council, new paving, fence, and seats.

The view down to the Creek mouth at the end of the Point. The toilet block had one of our murals on it, but the block had to go eventually!

and in 2016 a brand new block, nice stairs, some attractive stone walls, and a new mural on the from of the amenity. See murals page for image.