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Marlak Niran: Returning Country to Bushland

Some of the native wildflowers growing on Avondale Farm. From left to right: Dampiera, Fringed Lily and Acacia pulchella. Some of the native wildflowers growing on Avondale Farm. From left to right: Dampiera, Fringed Lily and Acacia pulchella. Photos by Jesse Collins.

Tucked between the Dale and Avon Rivers east of Perth sits scenic Avondale Farm, an 837ha property owned by Yaraguia Enterprises Inc, a family group of traditional Ballardong Noongar landholders. Riparian vegetation along the rivers forms a vital corridor for local wildlife that extends all the way to the state forests of Perth.

Since 2008, we have been working with the Yaraguia group to restore and relink their land, and reverse the damage caused by a century’s worth of farming and unsustainable grazing. This is being achieved through strategic revegetation, removal of sheep from planting areas and eradication of weeds.

Over the last two years, we have significantly ramped up our efforts to restore Avondale through the Australian Government’s 20 Million Trees programme. Marlak Niran (Nyungar language for ‘Returning Country to Bushland’) will establish over 240,000 plants on 300 hectares of Yaraguia land over the next few years. The work aims to convert Avondale to a healthy habitat node in the corridor, and improve and create habitat for a host of species including the endangered Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo.

Our board visited Avondale Farm in 2017 to view the progress of onground work. Our board visited Avondale Farm in 2017 to view the progress of onground work. Photo by Jesse Collins.

“The country at the heart of the project, Avondale Park, is a traditional mixed farming property in the Avon Valley  which like much of the wheatbelt, was extensively cleared for agriculture,” says local Greening Australia Program Manager, Anne Smith.

“More important to the family is that this is their country as Ballardong Noongars. Now as the custodians they are focused on healing their land through a structured revegetation and conservation program to regenerate the property back to a more natural and healthier state.”

The property is managed by landholder and prominent Indigenous leader, Oral McGuire, together with his family who have been working closely with our local team. Traditional knowledge and Indigenous land management practices are playing a core role in onground work.

Seedlings are flourishing on Avondale despite the tough conditions. Seedlings are flourishing on Avondale despite the tough conditions.

“Our collaboration with the indigenous landholders has proven very educational and productive. Sharing of traditional knowledge by Oral and his family has enabled us to really maximise the benefits of our onground work. Employing Indigenous land management practices, such as using controlled patch burning to manage weeds. has reduced the amount of herbicide needed and also cleared the remnant biomass away. This has provided our direct seeding operator with a clearer view of the rocky terrain, making it safer for him to work.”

“Removing sheep from planting areas has also proven extremely beneficial to plant growth rates. Dormant seeds that would not get the chance to grow without being eaten are now sprouting rapidly and due to a reduction of fertilizers and manure in the soil, it has become healthier and better suited for native plants and grasses.”

“I feel genuinely privileged and blessed to have been able to work so closely with Oral and his family, and my learning through the journey has been profound,” says Anne.

The next generation of plants sprouting on Avondale Farm. The next generation of plants sprouting on Avondale Farm. Photo by Jesse Collins.

“Our partnership with Yaraguia is a great showcase for what can be achieved through uniting with local Aboriginal groups to restore country. Marlak Niran is not just a project title, it is an underlying ideal that we carry across into all of our work”.