I’ve been taking my walks through the Tahbilk wetlands and wildlife reserve for a while now, so peaceful and beautiful. It is my place for contemplation and reflection. The colours of the Australian bush feel like my home, I feel like this is where I belong.

In 2010, just after I had decided to return to the family business, I was lucky enough to have some time with Uncle Roy Patterson, a local Taungurung elder, who gave a welcome to country as part of Native Fish Awareness week. The Taungurung people were the first people to look after this land and have an intimate knowledge of the environment. It was a memorable experience, one I won’t forget.

While we talked about the history and culture of the indigenous people he also told me a story which will stay with me for a very long time. He said, when we are born a string is tied from our heart to the moon. That is why we always feel connected to a place.

This story has never left me and at the time struck at my core.

Since then my fascination with the bush has grown. What is it about the Australian bush landscape that is so powerful?

It has formed a part of my identity and that of Tahbilk which is  unshakable. From the derivations of our name tabilk-tabilk, ‘place of many waterholes’, an indigenous word of the Taungurung people; to the reason why we came to be here, with the abundance of water for sheep as part of Major Mitchell’s first overland stock route between Melbourne and Sydney.

The environmental landscape is in our hearts.

As Uncle Roy Patterson and I recognised at the time of our meeting, while I am not proud of the way our ancestors severely disrupted the Taungurung people, we both agree we are all custodians of the land and it’s our responsibility to care for it for the next generation.

Next time you are here at Tahbilk I encourage you to walk in the wetlands.

You might just have an experience like mine.

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Did you know?

Two distinct indigenous tribes occupied the Goulburn River region, later referred to as BayungaWaters, from time immemorial. They were the Daung-wurrung, also spelt Taungurong, and the Ngurai-illum-wurrung. The landscape of ‘tabilk tabilk’ was covered with succulent pigface, myrnong or yam daisy, and scattered patches of native honeysuckle, seasonally important vegetable foods to the Daung-wurrung and Ngurai-illum-wurrung. During late spring and summer, the winter rains and snow melt ensured bountiful supplies of fish, mussels, yabbies, frogs, turtles and waterfowl.

Fay Woodhouse, Vintage Stories A 150 Year History of Tahbilk, Tahbilk Pty Ltd, Tabilk, 2010, p 22


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