Toolangi, Greater Forest National Park and a little possum.

There is nothing so relaxing or awe inspiring than to visit the bush. Last weekend I went to the Toolangi forest in Victoria where the beautiful mountain ash forest is the last remaining habitat of the critically endangered leadbeater possum.

Standing with the many who are campaigning to protect Toolangi.

Standing with the many who are campaigning to protect Toolangi.

They live in the hollows of old trees which are disappearing as the loggers continue to destroy the area for pulp and paper. Honestly, you would think in an era of climate change that the carbon dense forest would be saved as a big contribution to climate action and preservation of plants and animals as well as co benefits of providing Melbourne with water and recreation.

One of the Healesville Sanctuary residents.

One of the Healesville Sanctuary resident leadbeater possums.

If you have never seen a leadbeater possum, let me tell you, they are are soooo cute. We need to make the area a National Park so that these wonderful animals, Victoria’s faunal emblem will be saved. It is incredible that after thinking they were extinct they were rediscovered in 1961 and now are being deliberately driven to extinction by state sponsored logging.

With Janet Rice at Healesville sanctuary.

With Janet Rice at Healesville sanctuary.

Knitting Nanna's of Toolangi

With the Knitting Nanna’s of Toolangi

Vic forests is losing money whilst wiping out possum habitat. I was incredibly lucky to enjoy a close encounter with a leadbeater at Healesville sanctuary after catching up with local campaigners and the Knitting Nannas. Isn’t it great that they are using their skills to draw attention to the web of llife and the future for their grandchildren? They remind me of the wonderful women knitting against coal seam gas. Women at work for nature are inspiring.

The Art of Dissent

I was really pleased to open the wonderful exhibition Giving voice: the art of dissent, curated by Dr Yvonne  Rees-Pagh at the Salamanca Arts Centre earlier this month. It is free! and open until September 14, so I urge you to get along if you can.

This exhibition couldn’t be more important or timely, showing the power of art to shine a light on aspects of our society we don’t always want to think about, and confronting us with issues of power, control and our own agency.

There are many extraordinary pieces of art from equally extraordinary artists in this exhibition.

Richard Bell’s works Kick Somebody Else and Scratch an Aussie, calling out racism in Australia, couldn’t be more timely as the Abbott Government outsources its Indigenous policy to mining billionaires like Twiggy Forest, who has demanded further institutionalisation of paternalism and control over Aboriginal Australians to tell them how to spend their own money and live on their own land.

James Barker’s two pieces on Gaza shine a light on the silence and complicity of our government, now on the United Nations Security Council, while UN shelters, schools and hospitals were bombed and thousands of innocent people in Gaza killed. 

Michael Reed’s work calls out the connection between multinational corporations and big business driving their agendas through government policy and against the common good.

Here in Australia where this year’s aid budget was not only cut back, our foreign aid budget, but has been rolled into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and 25 percent of the remaining aid budget is now to be given to trade for aid. It is going to be given to multinational corporations to be able to hand out part of that aid money so they can say to communities if you give us the licence to access your resource, whether it’s minerals, whether it’s forests, we will give you money for a school or for a medical facility or for something else, but it is tied to trade. The work that Michael has over there: soaked bandages, blood- stained bandages, multinational business, and genocide, it is very powerful and it is an important statement to make.

Megan Keating’s work meditating on the ripping up of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement and associated destruction of forests producing pulp and smoke is timely while we have a state Liberal Government determined to not only open up all our forests for logging, but bringing in some of the most draconian and anti-democratic anti-protest laws in the country. Never has it been more important that we all take a stand in this state, and voice our dissent.

Pat Hoffie’s work highlights the role of spin doctors in the use of smoke and mirrors to distract us all from the real issues, the things that matter. It is the story of our shameful national policy on asylum seekers at one level, but it is also the story of the fog that the Australian community lives in and then is told what it means by the people who are spinning stories.

All these wonderful artists and their work say to us: this is the reality of life for people, this is our reality, and why voices of dissent are so necessary.

All point to the question: who has the power in our democracy? Peter Hay’s essay to accompany this exhibition picks up on this theme. Do we still live in a democracy? Who is actually calling the shots, where is the power embedded?

You get to the point as I have now come to believe, that we no longer do live in a democracy, but a plutocracy – a country governed by the wealthy for the wealthy.

So how do we come back from where we are?  What I am asking from all of you if you get a chance to see this exhibition, or read this post,  is to say: What am I going to do about it? How am I going to respond to the situation?  We’ve already done it once in Tasmania, when Tasmania thought we would never get beyond Gunns running the state, and yet we did. Tasmanians took the state back. I think we now have to take our nation back. That is why I would encourage you to think as Schumacher has said, and this inspires me as we face up to a lot of these challenges:

 We must do what we conceive to be the right thing and not bother our heads or burden our souls with whether or not we’ll  be successful. Because if we don’t do the right thing, we’ll be doing the wrong thing. We’ll be part of the disease, not part of the cure.

I congratulate all of the artists, Yvonne for curating this exhibition and Salamanca Arts Centre. Thank you for opening our eyes to the power of dissent and encouraging us to take it on.

The Ravenswood community garden

Launceston turned on a spectacular clear August winters day last week, perfect for visiting Peter in his garden where he is propagating seedlings for the Ravenswood community garden that he will also help manage. We talked through his plans for the community garden, and how it will help local people connect and work together and experience the joys of growing their own food.


Peter was a wealth of information so I took the opportunity to ask him why my carrots fail to grow straight and he gave me the tip of digging in fertiliser deeper to encourage better growth. That was on top of a conversation on how to encourage broccoli to grow quickly.

Peter mentioned he didn’t really have room for fruit trees but nevertheless I decided to send a couple out with my Senate colleague Peter Whish-Wilson who was mucking in to help construct a poly-tunnel at Peter’s house. He will use the tunnel to propagate seedlings to be planted out into the Ravenswood Community Garden when the raised garden beds are complete, and Spring is in full swing.


It is always inspiring to see a community coming together to create shared garden spaces that enable people to grow their own food, and watch the changing seasons that are so beautiful in Tasmania.


Summer Garden Sanctuary

I used to long for the Summer. Long warm days, lingering twilights,time to visit friends and family and hours companionably watering the garden, smelling the tomatoes and anticipating the ripening fruit on the trees. Not to mention driving through the countryside seeing the potatoes paddocks in flower next to onion crops and drying heads of poppies.


Now it is a different story. Extreme temperatures have changed all that. Now I think of summer with a sense of trepidation as we all brace ourselves for more fires and heat waves and associated trauma in the community.

But the garden remains a sanctuary.



Winter in the Garden

On cold but clear days, it is such a joy to take a cup of tea into the garden to wander, relax and take stock of what needs to be done. There is nothing quite like sitting in the garden under a tree and this weekend has been such an opportunity for me in spite of the pressures of election campaigning.

Sitting in the garden

Sitting in the garden

First the good news. My spinach and silverbeet are thriving and I never cease to be delighted when I pick some and put it straight into a steamer and onto the plate. My mint is sprouting again after I cut it back hard and the pineapple sage is providing a splash of colour.

Greens to eat

Greens to eat

Mint coming back

Mint coming back

Pineapple sage

Pineapple sage

I have put some manure and lucerne in my veggie boxes and left them until the spring. Plus I have manured and plaited the raspberry canes in readiness for lots of fruit next summer. I can’t believe I have managed to get so much done in spite of so little time.

Veggie box

Veggie box

Raspberry canes plaited

Raspberry canes plaited

But there is always more to be done.

My lemons and Tahitian lime need feeding with the yellowing leaves a complete give away. And I can’t believe it, since it is only June, but the nectarine tree looks like it might be in blossom soon which means I need to get cracking to stop curly leaf.

Lemons yellowing - time to feed

Lemons yellowing – time to feed

Tahitian Lime

Tahitian Lime

The seasons are certainly changing with very dry winters, to the point of having to water and fill up my Chascade! Now jonquils are in flower in June. Even the daphne looks like it might flower shortly. I can’t wait for the perfume in the house.

Jonquils in flower

Jonquils in flower

Daphne ready to bloom

Daphne ready to bloom

Even as winter sets in, there is much to be grateful for.

Late afternoon sun

Late afternoon sun

Plants defying marsupials

I have had such a battle this year with possums and pademelons in my garden in suburban Sandy Bay.

At one level I am happy that marsupials roam in the city, at another level I am as frustrated as the next vegetable grower that everything I have worked to grow is at the mercy of our furry friends. It has become a battle of the wits.


Having lost everything from tomatoes, chives, parsley to native violets to animals.


I have taken serious precautions, now bringing the fire screen into action to stop access.


As you can see, I am having success with silver beet and spinach now established.

Harvest enjoyed.

I am now enjoying passionfruit! After all my travails with the browsing  Nellie Kelly, I can report success. Chelates iron and a good talking to is the key. It is clear that passionfruit is hungry and feeding is essential to get a good crop.

autumn passionfruit harvest

But there is nothing more satisfying than spooning out freshly picked passionfruit over vanilla ice-cream to remind you that it is all worthwhile.

Autumn Garden

Suddenly  Autumn happened in Hobart, snow down to the 900 metre mark and that inescapable chill in the air early in the morning and by 4.30 in the afternoon. The end to daylight saving brings it on as does an early Easter and 2013 is no exception.

As I wander around the garden all the signs are there. Close examination promises spring. It is as if Winter is bypassed.  Just as my weeping maple is turning colour, spring bulbs are appearing and roses are holding their own waiting for the hellebores or winter roses to bloom.



Browsing Animals go Gourmet

As much as I love our native animals, it is so frustrating to see vegetables denuded after a night’s foraging from possums and wallabies.

I must have a few gourmets amongst them because I have lost basil, parsley, coriander and even chives to go with the tomatoes which are now only stalks with fruit hanging.

It is time for a reality check. If I want vegetables, even in an urban environment, it is time for caging the vegetables in and the animals out. Netting saved the raspberries from blackbirds and I have now put a fire screen around the remaining tomatoes but it is a case of too little too late.


I do have the Satsuma plums still on the tree, uncovered and they haven’t been touched. I am living dangerously.


What a summer we have had and the heat keeps on coming. Around the country communities are devastated by bushfires as records are broken. Only last week Sydney and Canberra had record temperatures with Sydney at 45.8 degrees and wildfires burning. In Tasmania we had terrible fires following our hottest day of more than 41 degrees on Jan 4th.

Love and practical support is what we need to send to people who have lost loved ones, homes and stock. I met up with a terrific farmer Gabby Bresnaham who had swung into action at Sorell in Tasmania helping farmers with coordinating fodder drops and fencing supplies to help mend fences destroyed by the fires. What a great community effort!

Gabby Bresnaham

If you would like to help with the rebuilding efforts you can donate to the Red Cross Tasmanian bushfire appeal, and all monies donated go straight to those in need.

For people not in the path of bushfires, just looking after parks and gardens to keep them alive has been a full time job. Knowing how much love goes into gardens everywhere, my heart goes out to people who have seen their gardens shrivel and die in the extreme temperatures. We all need to take advice on planting more heat resistant varieties of plants and how to keep them alive when water is scarce or temperatures rise.

I was away from home during the first week of January when Hobart sweltered and the heat took its toll with my manferns shrivelling and my dogwood and other plants literally scorching.

fried fern

I am now in rescue mode and hopefully with more moderate temperatures and watering, they can be saved.