What a month for wetland restoration! The Walker Swamp story reaches around Australia… and the world

It is a bit hard to know where to start with this blog, as the past few weeks have been a wild ride!

The Walker Swamp Live ABC Broadcast Team: Doug Craig, Mark Bachmann, Rod Bird, Neil Murray, Jeremy Lee, Gavin McGrath, Julie Dohle and Greg Kerr. Photo by Heather Fleming, Ararat Advocate.

It actually started about 5 weeks ago, when I took a call from Gavin McGrath from ABC Ballarat, who asked if we had any news to share. Gavin hosts a mornings program and we keep in touch about NGT’s latest work, with NGT staff sometimes giving updates on his program.

When I mentioned that Walker Swamp had filled to capacity for the first time since full restoration works were completed in 2019, he said now might be the time to consider an outdoor broadcast from the site. “Great idea” I replied, and perfect timing with World Wetlands Day on the 2nd of February not far away.

We got busy planning who would speak, and how we might structure the hour broadcast, but every time we chatted the plans had expanded a little.

“Our producer has asked around and it looks like the broadcast will be statewide to all regional ABC radio stations across Victoria” Gavin said first. Then during the next conversation he added “looks like our rural reporter in Warrnambool, Emily Bissland, might write a short companion piece to go on-line ahead of the broadcast”.

No big deal… right? I was thinking this might be a great way to get a few extra listeners to tune in.

Little did I know that Emily’s wonderful article – which you can read here – would take on a life all of its own, and rapidly do the rounds all over Australia, and the world, and set off a few weeks like we have never experienced before in the almost 10 years of plugging away, quietly doing what we do at NGT.

The first warning I had that Emily’s article (which at that stage, I hadn’t seen myself) had even been published, was when I started getting text messages and emails on a Sunday from all over the place. Plus, throw in lots new subscribers signing up to our newsletter (welcome to you all!) and a number of very generous donors who felt sufficiently motivated after reading the article to financially support our work. Something strange but wonderful was happening, as our simple message of repairing and restoring wetlands was now resonating with a whole new audience!

For an environmental story, I have been told that this is as close to “going viral” as it gets. Not a great saying at the present time, but you know what I mean!

Starting with the special radio broadcast, a range of media has followed – each sharing different elements of the Walker Swamp story. If you are interested to learn more, you can find these here:

1. The on-site broadcast that started it all, hosted by Gavin McGrath and Jeremy Lee, went ahead at 10 am on Tuesday the 9th of February:

  • Part 1: Introduction with Mark Bachmann, and landholder perspectives with Doug Craig
  • Part 2: Education with Julie Dohle, and aquatic ecology with Dr Lauren Brown (and Emily Bissland)
  • Part 3: Biodiversity with Dr Greg Kerr, on the water with Dr Lachlan Farrington (and Emily Bissland), and a local community group perspective with Dr Rod Bird.
  • We also had a wonderful and fitting musical performance from Neil Murray from Lake Bolac, which can be heard and viewed by clicking on the image below:

2. Emily also produced and shared a great little video to complement her on-line article, which went up on the same day (9th February 2021). At the time of writing this blog, it has had almost 380,000 views! You can watch it by clicking on the image below.

3. Later that week, I was asked to do an interview with radio station 6PR in Perth early on Saturday morning, the 13th Feb 2021. As you will hear, they were especially interested in the change of land-use, from blue gum plantation back to wetlands – given the abundance of blue gum plantations in South West WA:

4. Then on Sunday the 21st of February, I chatted with Suzanne Hill on ABC Radio’s Nightlife Program, which broadcasts across all local ABC radio stations nationally each evening. This is where I was able to go into a bit more of the history of how the project came about, and also finally got a chance to properly explain the story surrounding the platypus video!

5. Finally, in the past few days, a video assembled from an interview I did with Isabelle Rodd from the BBC was placed across the various BBC media platforms. At last count, the Facebook video version was up to 160,000 views, and the Instagram version up to over 730,000! The regular BBC website version (which is in landscape rather than portrait view) can be viewed here or by clicking on the image below.

So yes, I am just about all talked out, and February has been a very surreal month!

Needless to say, while we appreciate the temporary burst of positive attention, NGT’s important work continues – so a huge thanks to all of you for being part of our ongoing journey. We hope this new and growing interest in our wetland restoration work also brings you some joy and satisfaction.

Finally, a quick but very sincere thank you to our partners in the project over the past 8 years, as this has been a great example of how genuine partnerships across non-government, government and community organisations, working with private landholders, can deliver results.

is grateful for the support of the following partners:

Mark Bachmann