NGT says farewell to a friend: Vale Martins Nikolajs Reinfelds

Martins in warm work clothing and his favourite bush hat at Mt Burr Swamp.

Earlier this month we were saddened to hear of the passing of Martins Reinfelds, an NGT volunteer in the South East of SA. Martins had been involved with NGT projects for a number of years, and was passionate about First Nations peoples, their languages, cultures, and connection to our environment. Simultaneously he was deeply ingrained in Latvian culture and traditions and how the passing of the seasons and celestial events such as solstices marked important traditions and transitions in culture/nature. He was passionate about preserving and teaching culture, natural environments and the strong links between people, their cultures and nature.

Martins often shared his observations and experiences at NGT Reserves with me or other NGT staff via text message. The following is an excerpt from a message that he sent while camping at NGT’s Hutt Bay Wetlands Restoration Reserve over the January 2021 long weekend.

This place was a saviour from yesterday’s heat, even though it got up to 420 on the deck here by early afternoon. Floating on my back in the bay was beautiful…

I even found a companion – a cyclist riding back roads from Melbourne to Adelaide rocked up to the gate just as I did, and explained how Google maps kept sending him down roads to private property! It was already 5:30pm Saturday, so I hope you don’t mind that I invited him to stay the night… I was planning on leaving today, but my soul is getting so much nourishment I’d like to stay until tomorrow, if that’s okay…

Martins’ vehicle and the cyclist’s bike at the Hutt Bay shack. Photo: Martins Reinfelds.

Martins also loved spending time at Mount Burr Swamp Restoration Reserve, as an active participant in the Cultural Camp held for Tenison Woods College Year 7 students in November 2020 and the Creation Stories Walk project in 2020-21. Both projects were about sharing knowledge between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians and learning about First Nations cultures and ways of life; this area was a key passion of Martins. During the school camp, Martins spoke very fondly of his time in northern Australia with First Nations communities and how they taught him about hunting and gathering, language, and story lines.

Martins, and other volunteers, working on cape daisy weed removal at Hutt Bay. Photo: Rose Thompson.

Another time at Mt Burr Swamp, three large piles of pine debris needed to be burned and Martins, an enthusiastic camper and lover of bonfires, was eager to attend. He ended up camping out overnight with another volunteer to ensure the fires were safe by the morning.

The large heaps burning at the hand of Martins – Mt Burr Swamp. Photo: Martins Reinfelds.

Martins had a positive impact on those who had the opportunity to spend time with and learn from him during our volunteer and education activities at NGT Reserves, and will be sadly missed.

Martins’ family and friends have asked that in lieu of flowers, you consider making a donation to NGT to support a future conservation initiative in his memory.

Unless you wish to remain anonymous, your name and messages of support will be provided to Martins’ family.

You can make a once-off or regular contribution, and all donations over $2 are tax-deductible.

Bryan Haywood