Elsie Gadd’s growing legacy in Western Australia

Elsie Gadd’s racing team in 1968 (L-R): Sheila Kemp, Elsie Gadd, Jenny Tudor-Owen and Anthea Castell.

A strong and determined British-born businesswoman, Elsie Gadd is perhaps best known for leading a driving team in the first ever London-Sydney Marathon in 1968.

Like her car-racing legend, her love of the Australian bush lives on, thanks to an incredible legacy left to Greening Australia.

Gadd gathered an all-female team to drive a beat-up Volvo station wagon (with a few weighty modifications) in the 1968 non-stop car rally, covering 11 countries and almost 17,000 kilometres. Driving across Europe and through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the cars were transported by boat to Perth for the final leg to Sydney.

Of the 100 teams who started in London, only 56 made it to the finish line. Elsie Gadd and her team not only finished the race; they took home the trophy for the women’s classification.

The Volvo driven by the team from London to Sydney. Supplied: Anthea Hartley.

It’s a legendary story of endurance – much like the story of the enduring legacy left to Greening Australia by the Trustees of Elsie Gadd’s estate in 1995: a bequest of $1.8m for restoring landscapes and improving biodiversity in Western Australia.

Over the years, Greening Australia has utilised this vital funding in several long-running initiatives to create a growing impact for both people and nature:

  • Living Landscapes (1999–2005), which saw development of nature conservation plans in the central Wheatbelt and environment-based education programs for teachers and students
  • Seed management (2004–2005), including development of the ‘EGadd’ direct seeding machine. Our EGadd machines in WA have sown thousands of kilometres of native seed and the original is still going strong today
  • River Recovery (2004–2009) – river restoration in the Peel region
  • Gondwana Link – Peniup Creek, including purchase (2007), direct restoration of the land and ongoing management (2007–2017).

An EGadd seeding machine in action. This equipment has enabled Greening Australia to sow thousands of kilometres of native seed in WA, mirroring the thousands of kms Elsie’s team raced around the world.

Most recently, in 2020, Greening Australia used the remaining funds to assist the purchase and development of Jarrega Farm, a property in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt.

In consultation with Traditional Owners, the local community and regional businesses, Greening Australia is working to establish more than 1.4 million native plants over 1,400 hectares of the property.

This restoration project will rebuild crucial habitat for threatened flora and fauna of the Wheatbelt, including the beloved Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo, an endangered species currently threatened by habitat loss and reduced food sources.

Direct seeding of native plants on a massive scale at Jarrega Farm in WA. These plantings will significantly extend and buffer the adjacent remnant habitat (visible at top right). Photo: Jesse Collins.

Importantly, Jarrega Farm also enables Greening Australia to trial new experimental restoration techniques to overcome challenging conditions often found in Western Australia, such as acidic, sandy soils, low water storage and ever-narrowing planting windows.

So not only is Elsie’s legacy rebuilding nature – it’s also supporting research into practical solutions that can be shared to increase the positive impact of the wider restoration sector in Western Australia and beyond.

Elsie and her team epitomised guts and determination on their epic race around the world – we are just as determined to ensure her legacy to the Australian bush grows in ever-widening circles to benefit both people and nature.

By supporting Greening Australia with a gift in your Will, you can leave a vital legacy that helps heal our continent, and our planet. Find out more about Gifts in Wills.


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