The June long weekend saw a flurry of activity in Matong. Local residents and out of town Burners came together for a Red Earth Ecology planting with an urban focus. It was a fun weekend with new and old friendships forged and strengthened, and was the culmination of many months of research, planning and site preparation. As usual there was a lot of great food, laughter, sore muscles, beautiful bonfires and inspiring conversation.
About two dozen folk planted 1200 locally indigenous trees, shrubs, ground covers and grasses over seven different sites around town - from landscaping the local park, to creating bird and insect attracting enhancement to resident's gardens, to screening shelter belts. It is going to be awesome watching them come to maturity - check it out on your way to Seed this year.
Over the past five years Red Earth Ecology has worked with local farmers to offset the biodiversity loss at Matong State Forest which occurs each year as a result of 4000+ punters creating Red Earth City. The decision to begin planting in town was informed by several years of ongoing drought in the district in combination with the uncertainty of regeneration work in the face of noticeable climate change. Also, more and more locals are coming to Burning Seed each year, and we wanted to celebrate the ongoing blurring of the line between local and 'Burner'.
For many of us who have been working in the bush regeneration field for decades, it's like being a beginner all over again. The plant selections and the timing of plantings that used to be viable are just not surviving in the field anymore. Planting in an urban environment where the seedlings are able to be watered more frequently and have a closer eye kept on them is part of Red Earth Ecology's expanding vision as we continue to experiment and transition with new species selections and techniques into ongoing climate disruption.
It's always been a learning process, but the curve is getting steeper.
The next collaboration between Matong village and Red Earth Ecology will be in late Spring, with a weekend of local Seed collection and propagation workshops being held (TBA). We aim to grow many of our own seedlings for next years plantings. The closer the seed is collected to the planting sites, the better genetically adapted it is to the location, with a significantly enhanced chance of survival. There are so many benefits associated with urban planting - from cooling the environment, to raising the medium housing price, creating habitat for native animals and birds, better mental health outcomes in the community, to strengthening community resilience and connectedness.
Many thanks to all those volunteers who gave up their weekend to assist. To the locals and Matong Community Group who embraced this project so enthusiastically, Sonya Spencer and David Currie who generously allowed us to camp at their farm, and to Coolamon Shire Council for their in-kind support which enabled us to begin transforming Matong Park. This was the first in a series of ongoing Red Earth Ecology projects focusing on Matong township, and felt like the beginning of a wonderful collaboration.
This year sees Red Earth Ecology bringing a physical space to Burning Seed for the first time. We'll be located at First Camp, providing a library of ecological resources, some workshops, ecology and birdwatching walks, as well as a ecology based collaborative artwork exploring the local landscapes, their Wiradjuri history, and the way that the written word erases oral culture. Come and say G'day and let's continue the conversation around ecology, Country, justice and climate.
by Jo Roberts
Photos by Alanjohn R Jones, Sonya Spencer,Leanne Shultz and Mal Evans