by Jessica Yuille, Coordinator of the Blue Mountains Retreat Centre, Australia
In Australia the Brahma Kumaris are fortunate to have four Retreat Centres all with varying amounts of beautiful natural bush and native animals. As custodians of these areas we do our best to care for them. This can mean leaving them alone but may also mean doing bush regeneration.
Our Retreat Centre in the Blue Mountains is on 136 acres of mostly natural bush, adjacent to The Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. It is a special piece of land with natural swamps, springs, a creek and wallabies (small kangaroos), marsupial mice, possums, parrots and owls.
When the Brahma Kumaris bought the land it had large patches of Blackberry, and flowering Scottish Broom lining the creek. This may sound lovely, however plants that aren’t native to a place do not provide food & shelter for the native animals. Instead, they can take over areas and create a type of desert with little wildlife there. Like the Blackberry, plants from another country often thrive because there may not be the usual animals to eat them and keep them in check.
Soon after acquiring the Retreat Centre, the Brahma Kumaris started up a Landcare Group – a group of locals who come together regularly, such as once a month, to do bush regeneration, i.e. removing non-native plants from the bush. Seeds are always carried off site, but the weeded plants may be left as mulch, sometimes being hung in a bush to dry out first. The native plants can then spread back into the area naturally. We only do planting if a bare patch is created which may erode.
In our first year, the Landcare Group removed all the Broom along the creek on the property, but for the following 20 years they’ve been pulling up Broom seedlings! Broom plants produce up to 18,000 seeds per year, which remain viable in the ground for up to sixty years! So, there is still many years of work to be done. At least nothing is flowering and sending seed down the creek into the National Park.
The Blackberry was too big a task for the Landcare Group, so a grant paid for professional bush regenerators to come in and remove it. It now only appears when a bird drops a seed from eating blackberries on a neighbour’s property.
We feel very fortunate to have a beautiful piece of land on which to live and invite others to enjoy, and also honoured to have the opportunity to take care of and nurture the flora and fauna here.