The story of Bush Heritage Australia is quite incredible. From humble beginnings in what was essentially a Hobart broom cupboard in 1985 to one of Australia’s largest conservation organisations in 2017, it’s a story of grit, passion and lots of hard work.
Author Sarah Martin documents the development of Bush Heritage into the behemoth it is today – over 1 million hectares of private land managed for conservation across Australia. Over the two and a half decades of its existence, Bush Heritage has grown from a simple vision to a group that will likely manage some of Australia’s most important plants and animals forever.
Bush Heritage Australia: Restoring Nature Step by Step showcases the first part of that story, exploring the history of Bush Heritage chronologically. It’s an insight rarely offered by conservation groups, particularly in such a warts and all fashion. For example, the description of Bush Heritage’s pivot, led by Stuart Cowell, to pull some of its focus away from intact, perfect landscapes, in favour of those requiring a little more elbow grease to be restored. This led to projects like Gondwana Link—a one-thousand-kilometre-long restoration program in Western Australia, and now one of our nation’s conservation success stories.
Another observation made by the author is the importance of reaching out to the Traditional Owners to assist in managing the land Bush Heritage protects. Something that stands out in particular is the significance of the different knowledge systems used by scientists and Traditional Owners and the difficulties, but also immense benefits of integrating them.
The text is supplemented by some beautiful pictures that not only capture the wonder of Bush Heritage’s most far-flung properties, but also the people that have shaped the organisation over the years. In particular, the office photos from Bush Heritage’s early years make one wonder how any work was done in such cramped conditions.
Given the high profile of some of the people involved in the Bush Heritage story, such as Bob Brown, the author could have been forgiven for focusing on their role in the organisation’s story. However, where the book succeeds is celebrating the personal stories of the many diverse backgrounds and skills that are brought together to form its rich tapestry. This includes interviews with reserve managers, scientists, supporters and more, ensuring a vast range of views are captured in the construction of the text.
Of most value, though, is the complete honesty with which Martin communicates the Bush Heritage Australia story. For readers interested in a real conservation success story, this book would make a fine addition to the collection, even if skimming between chapters.
Purchase your copy of Bush Heritage Australia: Restoring Nature Step by Step from NewSouth Books.