On a stony lava plain in remote south-west Victoria, mainland Australia’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial is being encouraged to return to its previous hunting ground through the restoration of its manna gum woodland home.
The once statuesque manna forests, roamed by the striking but fierce Spotted-tailed Quoll, have all but disappeared from outside the town of Tyrendarra due to farming. The remaining gums were ravaged by a bushfire which swept the region 12 years ago.
Over the next two years, ‘Restoring Budj Bim’, will return trees to 400 hectares of Aboriginal land to restore country and provide habitat for the region’s unique wildlife including the Spotted-Tailed Quoll.
To cater for the harsh, volcanic terrain, which makes traditional tree planting impossible, thousands of specially crafted native manna seed clay balls are being dropped from a plane. It is the largest project of its type in Australia.
To provide the ‘seed bombs’ with a healthy environment to sprout in, the Gunditjmara are using traditional burns to prepare the ground. The project is characterised by extensive collaboration, with Budj Bim Rangers closely involved in all on-ground work.
The launch of the project was celebrated by Gunditj Mirring traditional owners and the local community on Thursday 19 July at the Tyrendarra Indigenous Protected Area.
Damien Bell, CEO of the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation said to The Age, “As a community, we get together to talk about country and to tell the old stories, and only a few weeks ago we came across a story about one of the old uncles shooting the last tiger quoll in the 1950s.”
“We always talk about the impact on country that has happened since white settlement and forget about the impact our own people have had.
“So we’re taking the opportunity to heal and restore country. It’s a privilege.”
“We are really excited to be operating this project within the Budj Bim landscape and to be working with the traditional owners,” says Dave Warne, Greening Australia Project Manager.
“As well as being a nationally endangered vegetation type, Manna Gum Woodlands also provide critical habitat for a number of animals and are one of the few remaining vestiges for the endangered Spotted-tailed Quoll. It’s now time to put Manna Gums back into the Budj Bim Landscape to benefit nature and people.”
Parts of Budj Bim, meaning “high head”, have only recently been returned to the Gunditjmara traditional owners. The stony country, which contains the traces of over 7,000 years of Gunditjmara history, is so culturally valuable that it has been earmarked as Australia’s next World Heritage Site.
“This project will provide healing for us, and for country, through old methods and new,” said Bell.
“It will be good to learn how the country was, and how it can be again.
“And yes, when the trees have grown, we hope to re-introduce tiger quolls.
“They belong here.”
The project is funded through the Australian Government’s 20 Million Trees Programme (part of the National Landcare Programme) and is one of Greening Australia’s Great Southern Landscapes projects.
For more information about this project, please feel free to send us an online query.