Rottnest Island Project,
Conservation Volunteers Australia:
I was lucky enough to score the last position available on the annual Rottnest Island Project with Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) for 2013. I have grown up staying on Rottnest Island and looked forward to giving something back to place that has given me so many fond memories. Rottnest Island holds a very special place in my heart and in the hearts of all my family, for it was during a holiday program camp with the City of Stirling way back in 1995 that we received notice that my dad had passed away. It was great to see that Rottnest Island Authority and its many superb volunteers are looking after the island.
My week started with a train ride down to Fremantle B’ Shed terminal. I had to negotiate the new Perth Train station which I must say is so much better than the old run down station. I have seen many main, central train stations all over the world and our dilapidated station was a discredit to Perth. It is great to see that it is receiving some loving. When I
reached Fremantle I was greeted by the “super moon” and found myself standing in the middle of the railway crossing staring at its beauty, where I quite literally bumped into a guy by the name of Darren. Darren was heading over to Rottnest for 4 days to work security. I found this a bit odd at the time as I have always known Rottnest to be a rather quiet and chilled out place. Little did I know that I had booked smack bang in the middle of Uni Holidays and heaps upon heaps of drunken Uni students would descend on my peaceful Rotto for 4 days.
I met up with the crew that I would be spending the next 5 days with and we hit it off straight away. We jumped on the ferry and chatted all the way over to the Island. The journey now only takes 25- 35 minutes which is much faster than the old 1 hour that I remember. It was a little rough and one of the crew got a little sick, but I think it had more to do with the guy sitting across from us spewing into the bin.
On the first day Sarah, one of the Rottnest Island Authority Environmental Officers showed us around to where we would be working and settled us into our home for the week. Throughout the week we worked in many places all over the island that you just do not get
to see when you are a tourist. We changed tree guards at the Roland Smith Memorial at Narrow Neck and gave the beach a quick clean up. Tree Guards are very important on the island. The green ones are installed when the seedlings are planted and they create a micro eco system around the young plant, help to collect water and keep the plant safe from the destructive but super cute Quokkas. Quokkas are a native marsupial to the island and are where the island gets its name. William de Vlamingh an early European explorer named the island Rats Nest Island after mistaking the quokkas for rats.
We completed tree and shrub plantings at Porpoise Bay to help re-vegetate an old beach access path with over 500 seedlings. We also planted over 500 seedlings in the Porpoise Bay central woodlands area. The Porpoise Bay central Woodlands area was magnificent, full of birds and many
beautiful “Golden Orb” spiders. We removed some of the old metal tree guards and replaced some with the new and improved guards.
We completed our largest planting near the road to Porpoise Bay with over 700 plants. It was an old track from when the island was a farm and was no longer in use. Down another of the many unused tracks around the island Sarah is trialling out a direct seeding site. In this site they are seeded and have fenced off the area to keep the Quokkas out. We helped lay down brushing over the site. Brushing is a layer of native and local tree cut offs, laid directly over the soil which helps to reduce erosion caused by wind and can also assist in producing more seed into the area. The Rottnest Island Authority has a few sites throughout the island that they are trialling this style of revegetation. I look forward to seeing the results in a few years time.
We found ourselves at Gov’s bar (Governors Bar) pretty much every night. It was a great way to relax after a full day of working and getting eaten by the islands very friendly sandflies (midges). We got to know each other through the many different events that Gov’s Bar put on. One evening they had a quiz night which we had to beat the other weeks CVA group by at least coming 2nd. Which we did, only after 2 draws and a tie breaker to the “Hardcore Guys”. We called ourselves “The Crazy Midgets” after a language barrier issue between the Australians and the Brazilians. They thought we were saying “midgets” when we were complaining about the “Bloody Midges”. That night our fearless leader guessed “The Baffler” correctly, which was “Dust”. Gov’s Bar also had a “Minute To Win It” night. This proved to be a lot of fun. We all gave it a shot at different games and came away winning the grand Final. Well we did have to members play it off in a tiebreaker to win, thanks to Brad and Chris.
As I had been to Rotto plenty of times over the years I found myself as the accidental tour guide. This was great as I could show other travellers my back yard, where I have spent my child hood and tell them all the stories and show them some secret places. We went
for a long walk one afternoon through the Bickley Battery and found many cool war relicts and some cool spots. We watched the sunset from the Jubilee Observation Post which the Rottnest Island Authority is now rebuilding. We went for a late night walk up to the Lookout that just happens to be behind the cemetery, we also walked up to the Bathurst Lighthouse for a great view over Perth at night.
It was sad to say farewell to our group when we arrived back in Fremantle Port but I am certain that we will stay in touch via facebook. It was a great week over in Rotto with some amazing people and some amazing work completed. I look forward to my next volunteering adventure.