Around 60 people have already booked to fly, train, bus or drive from various cities in Australia to converge on Broken Hill in August - to mark the inauguration of a national industry award for Ecological Restoration named in honour of Broken Hill local Albert Morris.
Focus will be on the Broken Hill Regeneration Area ('The Regen') which is among the very first ecological restoration projects in the world.
To mark the occasion, Broken Hill City Council, the Barrier Field Naturalists, Landcare Broken Hill and Broken HIll Art Exchange are pulling out all stops to run events and make the visitors feel welcome. Members of the Broken Hill public are very welcome to join in on the free events and to attend the Awards dinner. (Dinner tickets have been heavily discounted for locals).
Bookings essential for all these activities through the website:
Activities for locals and visitors include a tour of the reserves on Tuesday 22nd of August – starting at 9.30am at Albert Morris Park (Zinc Lakes). This will involve a convoy of buses and cars stopping at three points in ‘The Regen’ to help visitors and locals alike earn more about one of Broken Hill’s best kept secrets.
On the mornings of the second and third days (23rd and 24th) Council and Landcare will be hosting bush regeneration-style working bees involving both visitors and locals at a couple of locations in the Reserves. Those particularly interested in learning about Broken Hill’s unique flora will have the choice of assisting with a plant survey of one of the reserves and hopefully gain more skills in plant recognition. This will allow you to find out how different the reserves are today compared to when they were first fenced 80 years ago.
Other ‘regen-themed’ activities will include:
An information evening on the history of the reserves (location TBC)
A small ‘regen’ archival materials display exhibited at the library
A selection of Margaret Morris’s hand coloured plant images displayed at the Regional Art Gallery
A mural, animation and kids artwork displayed at the Broken Hill Art Exchange.
The 3-days of activities will culminate in a semi-formal Albert Morris Award dinner at the palace Hotel. Tickets are $35 each for locals
This discount for locals made possible by the projects sponsors who are listed on the last page. Sponsors include Dr Barbara Briggs (niece of Margaret Morris), Broken Hill City Council, The School of Life and Environmental Sciences (SOLES) at the University of Sydney, bush regeneration contractor companies including Bushland and Rainforest Restoration & Consulting and Bushland Restoration Services - and Jane Lemann, bush regenerator.
TUES 22 Aug
9.30am - Tour of Regeneration reserves - meet at Albert Morris Park, Twin Lakes, Wentworth Rd.
2 pm - Guided Bushwalk Res 1a (guide: Wayne Lovis Landcare) - meet at Knox Lane
WED 23 Aug
8.30 - Working bees - participants will be notified of meeting places and what to bring
12.30 - Lunch (provided) all together Duff St - and viist pop up gallery BH Art Exchange Duff St
THUR 24 Aug
8.30 - Working bees - participants will be notified of meeting places and what to bring
12.30 - Lunch (provided) all together Duff St
6 for 6.30 - Albert Morris Award dinner at Palace Hotel - bookings only
FRI 25 - Official field trip ends. AABR bus leaving 10am and drives back via Nyngan
Broken Hill City Council / Barrier Field Naturalists Club Inc. / Broken Hill Art Exchange / Landcare Broken Hill
Platinum sponsors: Broken Hill City Council, Dr Barbara Briggs
Gold Sponsors: The School of Life and Environmental Sciences (SOLES) University of Sydney,
Silver Sponsors: Bushland and Rainforest Restoration & Consulting, Bushland Restoration Services. Little Gecko Media.
Bronze Sponsors: Jane Lemann
Hot off the press!!– A recently published chronology of the history of this project - which is of high significance to restoration in Australia.
‘Albert Morris and the Broken Hill regeneration area: time, landscape and renewal’ by Peter Ardill.
Peter Ardill’s article (recently published on the AABR website) - Albert Morris and the Broken Hill regeneration area: time, landscape and renewal - presents a detailed and highly valuable chronological narrative of the events leading up to and following the creation of the Broken Hill regeneration area. This document, complete with its separate chronology and schematic map, is the result of many months meticulously searching the archival records and newspaper articles of the time. Historical detail is provided of both the pre-war and post-war stages of this project – a project that is now recognised as one of the very earliest public ecological restoration projects in the world.
Like other writers on the subject Ardill provides an explanation of the context of the project and why restoration was needed. The environmental condition of the lands surrounding the inland NSW mining town of Broken Hill in the early 20th century was dire. The town common’s original mulga and saltbush shrublands were ‘completely decimated by livestock overgrazing, rabbits and timber felling… and by c1910 the local landscape consisted of large expanses of bare soil or, following rain, a sparse cover of grasses and forbs that was rapidly eaten by feral pests and stock.’ (Figures 1 and 2.) ‘Sand dunes threatened and overwhelmed homes and suffocating dust storms blew in from the degraded countryside to the west of Broken Hill.’
Ardill, like others, explains that local mining company assayer Albert Morris, conceived and led the project, and describes him as a talented self-taught botanist with extensive experience in tree planting. However, unlike others Ardill emphasises Albert’s ecological interests and insight, which were critical in his involvement in trialling ways to address the problem of wind erosion. As Ardill explains: “His [Albert’s] lectures and field notes of the 1920s indicate that he was aware that, given the presence of topsoil, the local flora had capacities for natural regeneration.” Albert’s own notes and the writings of his wife an co-contributor to the project, Margaret Morris, show that Albert had, probably since the 1920s, conceived of the idea of fencing an area from stock and rabbits extending a mile wide around the town (now city) of Broken Hill
Another important element of the Ardill article is its documentation of the state-wide, including state government, concern about the problem of erosion and how this led to submissions by the Barrier Field Naturalists Club (which Albert helped to form) to propose the fencing of the common to allow regeneration and a visit to Broken Hill by the New South Wales Erosion Committee in 1936. The article also provides detail on the fact that Morris worked concurrently on two tree plantation projects and two regeneration projects in Broken Hill between 1936 and 1938. While the planting projects were primarily designed for amenity purposes and the species were not all native to the sites, it is significant that one of the tree plantation projects (Plantation No. 1 for the Zinc Corporation) did play a key role in convincing the mining companies to support the main regeneration project which we would now recognise as one of the very first ecological restoration projects. This is because – prior to the planting – substantial regeneration had taken place. This convinced the Mine Managers Association to back Morris’s proposal to fence a substantial part of the common to allow regeneration.
One of the strengths of Ardill’s work is his clarification that this restoration project started in 1936 rather than in 1937 as was previously thought. The article documents some very important dates. The consent of Broken Hill Council to fence the public Common was obtained on August 27 and the start of the scheme was announced on September 7th. Newspaper articles of the day attest to the fact that the surveying for the first stage of the regeneration reserves was completed by the end of October, 1936 and a substantial component of the planned fencing had been completed by early November. On October 7, 1936, the Barrier Field Naturalists Club resolved to request the relevant authorities to have the fenced areas on the Common declared a sanctuary for flora and fauna – and the regeneration reserves located on Crown Land were gazetted as reserves “For Preservation of Native Flora” on the 18th of June, 1937. Citations for the sources of all these dates are provided in the article.
As is well known, regeneration did progressively occur with each subsequent rainfall in the late 1930s – and extensive regeneration occurred in 1939 after unseasonally high rainfall, which sadly Albert did not live to see. He died of a brain tumor in early 1939, after an illness of a few months. Less well known until Ardill’s essay, however, is the chronology of what happened between Albert’s death and the completion of the post-war extension of the reserves around the rest of the town. Ardill documents the important role played by Albert’s widow Margaret in maintaining the project and describes ongoing statewide and local concern about erosion. I read with great interest the then NSW Premier William McKell’s support of the regeneration reserves in the mid-1940s and his directive to arrange a regeneration conference in Broken Hill with the idea of “establishing some form of ‘Conservation or Regeneration Park’” heading the agenda. The regeneration conference was held in Broken Hill on October 9, 1946 and a Broken Hill Regeneration Committee was formed to ‘look at ways and means to extend the existing pre-War regeneration area around the rest of the city in order to mitigate the dust and sand nuisance’. Ardill documents that work on the first of these post-war reserves commenced in October 1950 and the final reserve was completed in June, 1958
Ardill rounds off his article by comments on the value and tangible results of the fencing scheme and significance of Albert’s early work in trialling regeneration techniques. He states that the results have been tangible, with residents being aware of the beneficial results and the role of the reserves in the fact that sand-drift encroachment is no longer an issue in the urban areas of Broken Hill. He concludes: “The Broken Hill regeneration area is a living tribute to Albert and his determination to implement his dream. He, Margaret Morris and their conservation minded partners were committed and successful restorers of life to the land.”
Review by: Tein McDonald, Australian Association of Bush Regenerators, July 14 2017.
Figure 1. Broken Hill 1888 (South Broken Hill Coll. Uni Melb. Archives 1974.0040.00392)
Figure 2 Broken Hill landscape: Cable Hill 1915 (SLSA 280/1/27/108)