Recapping NGT’s recent 10th Anniversary event at Walker Swamp

NGT’s 10th Anniversary celebrations finally got underway over the past few weeks, with our first community event held at the Walker Swamp Restoration Reserve on the 30th April and 1st May.

The weekend involved a series of events between midday Saturday and 4pm Sunday, and was enjoyed by over 100 people from nearby and as far away as Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. After a catered BBQ lunch on the Saturday, served up by the Dunkeld Refugee & Asylum Seeker Support Group, we were treated to a wonderful Welcome to Country by Lee Morgan, on behalf of the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation.

NGT’s Lauren Brown (right) helps to identify the waterbugs of Walker Swamp. Photo: Sandy Goddard.

Attendees then split into five groups and went on a short walk, rotating around five stops over a two hour period to learn about different aspects of the wetland restoration project and the recovering plants and animals now present at the site. Highlights included the stop with NGT’s Dr Lauren Brown, who showed people the wide range of waterbugs living in Walker Swamp, and the stop with NGT’s Dr Greg Kerr, who talked about the recovering birdlife of Walker Swamp, including waterbirds that have returned to feed and breed at the restored wetland. This is an example of how the food web at Walker Swamp has been reinstated.

Birdwatching was a feature of the weekend, with side-activities later on Saturday at nearby Green Swamp, also a restored NGT wetland reserve, and at dawn on Sunday morning at Walker Swamp, giving attendees a glimpse of majestic brolgas among a wide range of other species.

Spotlighting on Saturday night with some of the dozens of people who camped on site was led by NGT’s Bryan Haywood, and resulted in memorable encounters with possums, birds and insects.

NGT’s Greg Kerr explains the birds that have returned to Walker Swamp. Photo: Sandy Goddard.
Bill Weatherly of Friends of the Forgotten Woodlands, led the tree planting activity with NGT volunteers. Photo: Sandy Goddard.

On Sunday morning a large crew of volunteers helped us plant over 100 seedlings to kick-start the recovery of parts of the property above the high water mark. This is a zone where we do not see the same rapid spontaneous habitat response, when compared with the wetland areas which tend to bounce back more quickly of their own accord once the water returns. We were delighted to have Bill Weatherley, the President of the Friends of the Forgotten Woodlands, join us to help lead the planting exercise and also explain the importance of our missing woodlands species from the plans of western Victoria – especially Sheoak, Banskia and Bursaria trees.

Then on Sunday afternoon, approximately 40 people came for the final activity, a hike around Walker Swamp, with the opportunity to see all the key features that have made the restoration of flows and inundation of Walker Swamp possible. This included looking at the upgraded road crossing, the drainage inlet, levee banks which protect neighbouring farmland from extra water flowing across their paddocks, and the spillway where flows from Walker Swamp now leave the property before entering the Grampians National Park next door. We also stopped by the final remaining original Sheoak at Walker Swamp, which will now not be the last thanks to more seedlings being planted by NGT volunteers, helping to recover this and other missing woodland species from the property.

The Sunday hiking group stop for a discussion next the last original sheoak at Walker Swamp. Photo: Mark Bachmann.
NGT’s 10th anniversary cupcakes! Photo: Liz Fenton

A highlight of the hike was when our guests observed a pair of brolgas and their chick, which is now almost fully grown, putting on a loud calling display before flying off to a quieter part of the property. This brolga pair, which bred at the site in spring 2021, has given the restoration project a stamp of approval, with their chick being the first brolga recruited at Walker Swamp since the wetland was fully restored in 2019.

To close, I would just like to say a big thankyou to the team at NGT for your commitment, especially Toni, Jess and Tom, who put in a lot of time behind the scenes to ensure the event went smoothly, and also to long-term NGT volunteer and supporter, Gordon Page and his wife Kathy, for being our campground hosts over the weekend. What a fantastic team effort.

And of course, to everyone who came along and were part of the weekend – thank you!

It was wonderful to spend time with you and take a brief moment to pause and celebrate what we have achieved together over the past 10 years. We’re looking forward to seeing you at other events throughout the year, and look forward to your ongoing support as we continue the NGT journey over the next decade!

PS – below is a nice little overview of the event that appeared in the Hamilton Spectator on the 10th May.


Mark Bachmann