Forty + Years of Community Effort » Landcarer

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by Published on February 18, 2020

Over forty years ago, the Innisfail State High School Grade 12 class Student Council came up with the idea to plant a rainforest revegetation plot in the school grounds.  In subsequent years, encouraged by a young biology teacher, the plot was maintained and increased. 

Then in 2006 came Category 5 Cyclone Larry, with severe damage to trees throughout the area.  Within school grounds, the powers-that-be decided trees were a hazard and many other schoolyards around our area were denuded, as trees which had survived the elements succumbed to chainsaws.  After being contacted by the biology teacher, the high school principal stared down the tree-felling contractors and made sure that the trees lived on.  The trees became a symbol of community recovery when the Backyard Blitz TV programme came to town in the cyclone aftermath.  Aided by volunteers from the community, their team constructed boardwalks, an outdoor stage, a wetland pond, an outdoor classroom and nesting boxes. 

In 2011, the trees survived another Category 5, Cyclone Yasi, but sadly the school did not, and the reconstruction was done on another site.  With the old school site (and the trees!) up for sale to a developer, the community came to the rescue again.  After much negotiation, the Johnstone Region Landcare Group and Johnstone River Catchment Management Association became joint lessees of the tree plot and an adjacent demountable building.  The state government agreed to transfer that section of the site to the local Council instead of to the developer, with the Council agreeing to the arrangement on the condition that maintenance was the responsibility of the volunteer groups.

Maintenance over the years has variously been done by volunteers from the Society for Growing Australian Plants, Work for the Dole participants under programmes run by Landcare, and by Landcare volunteers.  We have been delighted that some of our Work for the Dole people have chosen to keep coming though they are no longer required to do so, and now are part of our regular volunteer group. 

As well as maintenance, the volunteers germinate and pot out rainforest seedlings, so the site now has a substantial rainforest nursery, providing trees for revegetation projects at a very modest cost.  Thousands of trees from the nursery have recently been used in the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project.  

The site has for several years been visited regularly by groups from child care centres and a kindergarten.  This year its use in education is being extended as a “Nature Play” based independent school has been established nearby and will use the site in their educational programme.  It is currently the base for an education programme aimed at recent school leavers funded by the state government, Ready for Work. 

In late 2018, the class of 1978 returned to Innisfail to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their high school graduation.  One of the events on the programme was a Sunday morning return to the old high school revegetation site.  They were able to wander the paths through the trees that now towered over them, and plant a few more trees. 

Also present was the “young” biology teacher, who kept the tree-planting going in the early years and urged the principal to save the trees after Cyclone Larry – now retired from teaching.  He is a life member of Johnstone Landcare as well as being deeply involved in many other local environmental organisations (pictured talking to SGAP secretary).

The past students were joined in the tree-planting by six-year-old Glenne, probably the only one present who will be around to return and check out her tree when another forty years pass. 

And of course there was cake!

 

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,  and 2 others reacted this
Trish O'Gorman
That's a beautiful story Jeanette - thanks for sharing
An encouraging story about a community asset that could so easily have been lost. Thanks Jenny for telling the story.
Thank you Peter, it's far more your story than mine, but needed to be told.
Malcolm Fisher
A brilliant story of passion, resilience and commitment. Thanks for your great work!!
4 people like this.
,  and 2 others reacted this
Trish O'Gorman
That's a beautiful story Jeanette - thanks for sharing
Like February 20, 2020
An encouraging story about a community asset that could so easily have been lost. Thanks Jenny for telling the story.
Like March 16, 2020
Thank you Peter, it's far more your story than mine, but needed to be told.
Like March 18, 2020
Malcolm Fisher
A brilliant story of passion, resilience and commitment. Thanks for your great work!!
Like March 25, 2020