Gondwana Link

Posts By Amanda Keesing

About Amanda Keesing

Amanda's passion has always been the natural environment. Amanda has a degree in Biology from Murdoch University, plus Honours in Microbial Genetics, and has worked in various university laboratories. After several years editing and publishing a magazine on viruses in Asia, Amanda moved to the south coast of Western Australia where she and her husband raised a family and ran a small farm. During this time Amanda was very involved with the Walpole-Nornalup National Park Association. After moving to Albany in early 2003 Amanda began work with Gondwana Link. Her leisure time is spent exploring and photographing the natural wonders of the area. Amanda's current role is the Gondwana Link Ltd's Information Manager.

Feral Cat workshop

Last Friday's Feral Cat workshop, organised by Oyster Harbour Catchment Group, was a great success. The day consisted of a series of self-managed, open discussions on topics put forward by the participants! The flavour of the topics varied from ‘Is it worth undertaking a feral cat control if it is not part of an integrated feral control program?’ and ‘How can we collaborate more effectively?’ to ‘How do we win the hearts and minds of people to better manage cats?’

I take my hat off to Jenni Loveland who had done a fantastic job of inviting participants with a range of viewpoints on cats. Jenni had strived to ensure all aspects of feral cat control were considered. The 30 participants included representatives of local environmental groups, shires, agencies, universities, wildlife carers, traditional custodians, vets, RSPCA and landholders. 

After sharing knowledge, opinions, and viewpoints the participants contributed to listing the actions for next steps in coordinated feral control across a region. Jenni then received expressions of interest for the formation of a feral cat working group. I look forward to seeing the ongoing work to manage the wicked problem that is feral cats.

Posted by: Amanda Keesing
Celebrating the Fitzgerald Biosphere renomination

Yesterday was awesome. Along with 160 others, I attended the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Fitzgerald Biosphere and the successful renomination of this remarkable place into the global UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme.

The program included speeches by the many committed people involved with the Biosphere, including local Noongar Elders, the performance of Eugene Eades' original song by the Eklektika Choir, wonderful Noongar dancing by the Gnowangerup dancers, and the official launch by the cutting of a wildflower ribbon by the Honourable Melissa Price (Federal Assistant Minister for Environment).

I loved that school children from around the region attended and they too gave lovely speeches about their connection to this special place. Prof Steve Hopper did a smashing job as MC. Bravo to all involved (especially Johanna Tomlinson) and may the Biosphere, particularly the Fitzgerald River National Park, remain special forever.

Posted by: Amanda Keesing
Two way learning at Nowanup with Curtin University

Two way learning at Nowanup got a lovely boost yesterday. Curtin University staff and Noongar Elders met at Nowanup to plan out a program of learning from and supporting each other. Curtin University is expanding its program of bringing groups of students to Nowanup to camp on country and learn about Noongar culture and land management. In return these students will use their skills and knowledge to assist the Noongar people with specific projects in the Fitz-Stirling section of Gondwana Link. For example the students could assist with the design of walk trails and interpretive signage, undertake specific business plans or plan the repair and management of special places. This will involve Curtin University students from a number of faculties camping at Nowanup and contributing to Noongar aspirations across the area while they learn about Noongar culture.

Associate Professor and Curtin University Elder in Residence Simon Forrest stressed that it would be ‘the Noongar way of thinking and doing driving the things that happen here’ to support the University ‘being engaged with another world view’ underpinned by a recognition of the need to see ‘the old ways becoming the new way’.

Simon told the gathering how his students have been 'transformed' by their time at Nowanup with Eugene Eades. Being on country, sleeping in a tent, visiting special Noongar places, finding bush foods and medicines, hearing the Noongar songs and stories and just talking around the campfire is a very effective way for the students to explore and have insight into Aboriginal values, culture and spirituality.
Bring it on Curtin University!


Posted by: Amanda Keesing
Glen Steven wins Greening Australia's New Leader Award

Congratulations to our colleague Glen Steven who has won Greening Australia’s New Leader Award. Glen helps to manage three of Greening’s properties in the Fitzgerald to Stirling section of Gondwana Link and is a leader in direct seeding technology and the use of Geographic Information Systems. Glen is also the on-ground person implementing their Gondwana Link 20 Million Trees project, which is restoring some 800ha on numerous properties across the central Zone of the Link. When we heard Glen had won a leader award we were intrigued as Glen often works on his own, even when the tractor is bogged. So who is Glen leading? This significant recognition is because Glen is leading in the development of his craft – large scale biodiverse restoration. Glen is a very easy going chap, a delight to work with – helpful, resourceful and capable. With his self-help approach, ability to problem solve and unwavering good humour, Glen is leading by example. Well done Glen.

Posted by: Amanda Keesing
Ngadju Conservation team review actions and plan next steps

The last 3 days have been very rewarding. The Ngadju Conservation team and others met in Norseman to review their priorities for Ngadju land management. During the discussions the older Ngadju women expressed a desire to get out on country with the younger women to clean out rock holes, find bush foods and medicines and hand down their knowledge to the younger generations. There is now a plan to make this happen.

 With Paula Deegan's assistance the Ngadju Rangers reviewed the progress they have made on the year one Conservation Action Plan (CAP) strategic actions. Everyone was pleased to see how much has been achieved and that the CAP implementation is broadly on target. Well done to all involved especially the Ngadju Rangers and Mike Griffiths who mentors and guides the ranger team. And all the best with your next year of planned work.

Posted by: Amanda Keesing
'This Visceral Landscape' exhibition

‘This Visceral Landscape’ exhibition opened last night at the Vancouver Arts Centre in Albany. A big crowd was there to see Keith Bradby open the exhibition of photographic images and video-sound works by Louise Allerton and Julian Knowles. Visceral means instinctual, primitive or gut. But my reaction to the works was from the heart and emotional. Perhaps these reactions are visceral – I’m still thinking about it. Louise’s gentle images of familiar landscapes created with a polaroid camera are soft and moody giving rise to emotive responses. And Julian’s soundscapes are motionally evocative too. We all know a movie producer uses sound to set the scene. Julians’ use of the local weather information to create a musical score was fascinating. 

Thank you Louise and Julian for giving us a new ‘look’ at our very old landscape.


Posted by: Amanda Keesing
Balijup: A Jewel in Gondwana Link

'Balijup: A Jewel in Gondwana Link' is a great ~6 minute film on Balijup Farm available on YouTube. Balijup is a special property in Western Australia’s Great Southern region. Today it is a shining example of landcare. Settled by the Hordacre family in the 1920s, this unique farm comprises over 700 hectares of lakes, wetlands, bush and plantations, as well as 120 hectares of cropland. This film shows how community group Green Skills is partnering with the owners on an exciting range of nature restoration, citizen science, eco-art and Noongar cultural projects. This includes the Balijup Fauna Sanctuary where bandicoots have been released. Balijup forms a vital link in the Gondwana Link program. Well done to everyone involved especially Craig Carter who filmed and edited the video.

Posted by: Amanda Keesing
Bill and Jane Thompson's restoration work

The wonderful Bill and Jane Thompson have also just featured in a great story in the Albany Advertiser which notes that Carbon Neutral Fund executive director Ray Wilson said "the Thompsons and Albany planting contractor Justin Jonson [Threshold Environmental] had created the Fund’s most successful carbon farming project in Australia, in terms of the number of plant species."

Here is the full story from https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/regional/great-southern/a/31843408/future-face-of-farming-in-great-southern/

When Queensland couple Bill and Jane Thompson moved to a property in an area recognised internationally as a biodiversity hotspot chasing a tree change, they ended up with more than 800,000 of them.

Mr and Mrs Thompson’s Yarraweyah Falls property, between Stirling Range and Fitzgerald River national parks, is situated along one of Australia’s largest conservation projects, the Gondwana Link, which aims to connect 1000km of bush between Margaret River and the Nullarbor .

Almost three years after the first seeds were sown as part of the Thompsons’ bid to restore 100ha of unproductive farmland to native vegetation, their tireless efforts are evident.

As well as providing crucial habitat for native animals, their restoration project helps reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions through carbon sequestration.

About 180,000 plants will provide an estimated 26,500 tonnes of carbon over the next 30-40 years, which can be bought as carbon offsets by businesses and households through not-for-profit organisation Carbon Neutral Charitable Fund.

Fund executive director Ray Wilson said the Thompsons and Albany planting contractor Justin Jonson had created the fund’s most successful carbon farming project in Australia, in terms of the number of plant species.

Mr Thompson said they were set to exceed 300 plant species this year, and had more than 800,000 individual trees and shrubs.

“We have identified over 600 species in our bush (section), so it’s a very diverse area we are trying to replicate in the revegetation site,” he said.

Seedlings propagated by the Thompsons on site and at two nurseries are planted by hand, while other seed hand collected by the couple is direct seeded.

Mrs Thompson also documents a specimen of each plant species with a photograph and illustration in their herbarium.

Mr Thompson said it had been a steep learning curve but rewarding work.

“It’s amazing the way things grow out here,” he said.

“You can feel like you’re in the desert, but everything has been growing like crazy.

“It’s looking really good.”

Mr Thompson said challenges included replanting areas that had been unsuccessful, battling prolific weeds and emus trampling seedlings.

The Thompsons, who are in their 70s, have also installed 30 bird perches and 25 nesting boxes to attract wildlife to the property. 

Mr Thompson said the highlight of the experience so far was seeing firsthand what could be achieved in a relatively short timeframe.

“When you think it is all getting too much, you go and have a look and think ‘it is looking pretty good — there is hope for the planet yet,” he said.

Posted by: Amanda Keesing
'Living Gondwana: A Sense of Place' exhibition currently in Albany

Pleased you have a second chance to take in the 'Living Gondwana: A Sense of Place' exhibition that is now hanging at the Vancouver Art Centre in Albany. This exhibition showcases the artworks inspired by two Eco-Art retreats at the Balijup Homestead (Tenterden, WA). Exhibition finishes 23 June 2016

Posted by: Amanda Keesing
Release of the 'Birds of the Great Western Woodlands' report by BirdLife Australia and The Nature Conservancy

Late May 2016 saw bird enthusiasts and others come together at the University Club, University of Western Australia, to celebrate the release of the 'Birds of the Great Western Woodlands' report by BirdLife Australia and The Nature Conservancy.

Although the Great Western Woodlands (GWW) covers 16 million hectares little was known about the region’s birds. In 2011 BirdLife and TNC established a project to address this knowledge gap. Over the next 3 years, hundreds of skilled volunteers conducted 4,374 bird surveys from 231 sites across the region. As a result, 182 species of bird were recorded, which is 85% of the 214 bird species ever recorded in the GWW region. Even more impressively, the surveys showed that for most species, bird populations of the GWW appear to be abundant, resilient and stable. This is attributable to the size and relative intactness of the GWW. With large, relatively undisturbed tracts of mature woodland across the region, bird populations have the ability to move across the landscape in response to the conditions.

 This project has built a solid foundation for ongoing, long-term bird monitoring in the GWW. Congratulations to all involved, particularly Liz Fox and Shapelle McNee. The work was supported by The Nature Conservancy’s David Thomas Challenge and individual supporters from BirdLife Australia.

 Summary and full reports are available from http://birdlife.org.au/p…/great-western-woodlands/gww-report

Posted by: Amanda Keesing
Opening of the 'Living Gondwana: A Sense of Place' exhibition

Great opening of the 'Living Gondwana: A Sense of Place' exhibition last night at the Old Buttery Factory Studios in Denmark. Joey Williams gave a welcome to country and explained the story behind the large canvas that many were involved in painting. Jessie Gloede read some beautiful poetry inspired by Balijup farm and Marie Limondin accompanied the reading on violin. Then we watched the short film created by Craig Carter 'Balijup Farm: A Jewel in Gondwana Link'. Will be on YouTube soon.

 Was a pleasure to finally meet one of the members of the family that own Balijup - Alan Hordacre. The family are extremely generous in letting people visit their farm and are very supportive of conservation management work.

 Exhibition was full of great artworks - prints, sculptures, paintings, fabrics. Well done to everyone and special thank yous to the ever innovative and energetic Nikki Green and Basil Schur.

Posted by: Amanda Keesing
Cultural art camp at Balijup

“We have met here on the same page that we call art and the thread of creativity has drawn us together” said Nikki Green last weekend at the ‘Living Gondwana’ Eco-Art Camp. Basil Schur from Green Skills facilitated the camp at Balijup Farm in Tenterden, in the middle of the Forest to Stirlings section of Gondwana Link. Eager participants, from budding to experienced artists, were joined by Carolyn and Cheryl Narkle from Mungart Boodja Art Centre in Albany, Joey Williams of Denmark based Poornarti Tours and Nikki Green and Janine McCrum from Denmark’s Old Butter Factory Studios and Gallery.

We all responded to the bushland, views, skyscapes and lakes of Balijup in different ways. Carolyn and Cheryl painted the landscape as their mother, Bella Kelly, had before them. Joey designed a huge canvas based on an aerial view of the property and we all knelt on the canvas and joined in the painting. There was lino cuts, dying silk and paper with leaves, drawing, rubbings on all the marvellous old farm equipment and of course photography – that was me!

Evenings by the fire gave us opportunity to exchange cultural knowledge as well as talking while we worked.

The camp also gave me more insight into all the work Basil Schur, Green Skills and others do in the area. Fencing to protect bush, work to maintain lake health, revegetation, predator proof area with bandicoot release and relationships with landholders….. Very impressed.  

Posted by: Amanda Keesing
What difference do tracks make?

Many thanks Keren Raiter for making time during your Easter break to give Albany folks a rerun of your final PhD presentation on the enigmatic effects of linear infrastructure on the Great Western Woodlands. Through your work you estimated that there are 150,000 km of roads/tracks in the Great Western Woodlands with 74% of these unmapped. Impressive work to quantify linear disturbance and the effects it is having.


Posted by: Amanda Keesing
Waterfall flows after recent south coast rains
It has been a while since the waterfall on Bill and Jane Thompson's property 'Yarraweyah Falls' has thundered down the rocks like this. The land received 3 soaking days of rain (totaling 44mm) then another 43mm during a storm the following day. The restoration plantings as well as the bushland will be enjoying a drink.
Posted by: Amanda Keesing