I now realise what it means to travel to a remote community. Reaching Tjuntjuntjara from Perth is a 7 hour trip to Kalgoorlie, and from there, there’s just a dirt road and 10 hours of brain-rattling driving. Hours can pass on the road without seeing anyone. The roadhouse is the side of the road, where you build a fire, get your billy out to make a cuppa, and find a bush for other needs! We transported volunteers, equipment, and even the trees out to the community. A huge thank you to the WA Water Corporation, who sponsored this part of the trip.
The Tjuntjuntjara community has 23 homes, an Arts Centre, a school (where we stayed), a Women’s Centre, and amenities such as a health centre and a local store. We felt very welcomed by the community, but I was surprised by how quiet it was. It’s also, as you would expect for a desert community – very dry. Water comes from a bore and is desalinated for use in the community.
The project was to plant native trees for shade and dust suppression and fruit trees across the 23 homes in the community and was initiated by the Women’s Centre – “Greening Tjuntjuntjara.” The women in the community chose the trees.
We planted several species, including Acacia, Casuarina, Eucalyptus, Dodonea, plus various fruit and nut trees. The Arts Centre is thriving, and they assisted the project by donating 50 fruit trees. We were lucky to spend some time with the artists, listening to stories about their paintings.
The Rangers, Debbie, Gina, Nancy, and Ethan fully supported us in the community and shared their Ranger facilities. As it was school holidays, the children helped with the first stage of the planting, which was to put some shade trees around the Ranger buildings and facilities, particularly where new nursery benches will be installed for future seed propagation. All of the kids in the community now have their own special tree.
For the second stage of planting, the children came back, and we took trees to the houses. The women chose the trees they wanted and where they wanted them planted. By day four, we were in full garden makeover mode, and it felt a little like one of those gardening shows, where there’s limited time, and you still have ten houses to finish! Everyone got involved in digging the holes for the trees in the ground that even a motorised auger found difficult.
Debbie came to the rescue with a more traditional method involving a crowbar and a bit of elbow grease. It was chaos with trees, kids, puppies, water, and hoses but came together in the end, and everyone was very proud of what was achieved. After we left each house, everyone visited each other’s homes and made sure that the elders had the nicest trees.
There has been much grief in the community, and we were told that the tree planting was a real mood lifter for everyone.
“Please accept Pila Nguru’s, Tjuntjuntjara Community’s, and my profound appreciation of the tree planting program you were all involved in last month. It has changed the look and feel of the community, and people are still talking about it and watering their plants.” Ian Baird – General Manager Pila Nguru Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC.
We are very grateful for the support of Pila Nguru for allowing us the use of one of their vehicles and for their support in the community.
Our thanks are also extended to the Townley family and particularly Catherine, John, Amaya, and Daniel, who led the project, organised our accommodation, and worked with the community on the ground to ensure that the trees we planted were what the community wanted and needed. Daniel even stayed on after we all left to assist the Rangers. Our thanks also to the volunteers who gave their time to come out to the community and take part in the planting. Twenty-three garden makeovers in six days is a huge achievement! The Rangers are continuing to plant the other shade trees we brought with us within the communal areas of the community.
We very much hope to return and assist the community with propagation and planting in the years to come. The community have some ideas for growing native bush tucker and medicine trees for multiple benefits, which we will share more about in due course.
Words: Louise Tarrier – CEO.