Do you live in the hinterland? Unless you’ve been living under a bush (native, of course), you’ve probably heard of Barung Landcare. Based in Maleny, this leading community organisation works tirelessly to develop better solutions for a sustainable future. And they’ve been very busy of late…

by Stephanie Hicks

It’s beautiful around here, isn’t it? And there are certain groups who help keep it that way, such as Barung Landcare, who are all about conserving and enhancing the rich diversity of natural resources of the Blackall Range and the surrounding areas. 

This vital community organisation has recently welcomed two new members of staff to their Maleny team, to add to its zest for all things green and growing: General Manager, Doug Evans (a new position), and Education and Communication Officer, Megan Lee.

Doug comes from a background in business, followed by a career in not-for-profit organisations such as Boystown, driven by his deep sense of social purpose, and he believes that efficiency is key to any enterprise.  

“If you run a business more effectively, you can do more of the good stuff!” Doug shared with a smile. 

“Sometimes people think you’ve gone over to ‘the dark side’ if you are business-like, but it’s what helps a not-for-profit organisation like Barung achieve its goals.”

One of Doug’s first goals will be to launch into fundraising for Barung’s new home on the precinct, a challenge he is looking forward to.  

“If you want people to support you, you have to give them a reason,” Doug explained. “Barung has a compelling story to tell. What it does is important, and we have to educate people to understand its importance.”

Educating people to understand the importance of looking after our environment is where Megan Lee comes in.  

Megan’s career seems almost tailor-made to suit Barung’s needs, starting from a position with Conservation Volunteers Australia and moving to Intrepid Landcare (which she co-founded) in 2015, and bringing more than 100 young people into the Landcare fold through the youth program!

Megan moved to the Sunshine Coast from the Illawarra in New South Wales two years ago to be closer to family, but during the Covid year worked remotely with the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council and as a Landcare consultant.  

“I’m looking forward to meeting everyone and working with the local community,” said Megan.  

“I’ve always felt that Landcare is one big family and Barung Landcare is part of that family! I truly believe in its ability to create a long-lasting impact for a sustainable future.”

With all the projects Megan has in mind – from working with schools to getting to know Barung’s 700-plus members – she will certainly need every minute of her full-time role!

Doug and Megan were recently photographed on Barung’s new premises in the precinct, where the gardens planned by Nursery Manager, Cam Burton, are already thriving.

The last community planting (on April 24) established the outlines of the rainforest-to-be, and it won’t be long before the gardens are a joy and a delight for Maleny residents and visitors.  

The success rate of the first two plantings is remarkable – some trees are already almost head high after just a few months!   

“Last October’s planting had ideal conditions with the summer rains,” said Cam. “We’ve been really lucky with the weather!”  

The April planting extended the rainforest area, covering the slope from the top of the site down to the level area where the buildings will be located, with paths wandering amongst the trees.   

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can hear wompoo pigeons and the miaow of catbirds (though some people say they sound more like babies crying) almost in the heart of Maleny.

Cam’s plan also includes what will be a native garden showcasing local plants, to create a garden for wildlife, with grasses and shrubs for our seed-eating birds, a special area designed for frogs and lizards, and homes for native bees.  

Cam is planning to use the native garden as inspiration for local gardeners. “Even in a small garden we can help the insects along, such as our blue-banded bees, by planting appropriately,” he said.  

“I’d love to see gardens incorporating important plants for insects, which will repay us by pollinating the plants we love and by keeping pests down.”  

Barung is about community just as much as it is about plants. More than 30 enthusiastic people came to get their hands dirty and put these plants into the ground.  

Black felt pens were provided so participants could write their names on the labels of the trees they planted – and one day, when the trees are tall and magnificent, our planters (or their children – or their children’s children – some of these trees are very long lived) will be able to say, “I planted that!” or perhaps, “Grandad planted that”!

The results of such community effort are highly visible. Aerial photographs of Maleny from the 1950s show an almost denuded landscape with just the odd Moreton Bay fig left standing in a paddock as shade for cattle, but stripped bare of every other bush and tree.  

Aerial photographs today show the enormous revegetation that has occurred over the past 70 years.

“Not all of the revegetation is native rainforest, but there has been a huge influx of landholders into the area who have embraced the idea of revegetation” said Ian McMaster, Barung’s president. 

“These landholders put tremendous effort into clearing weeds and planting local species.” 

Sunshine Coast Council through the Land for Wildlife program and environmental levy grants also plays an important part in the revegetation process, and as many readers will know, Land for Wildlife grants for tubestock may be redeemed through Barung’s nursery.

Barung of course does not only do your massive 40-metre buttressed rainforest giants (which might not be popular with neighbours in an urban garden), but also more modest plants in its Gardens for Wildlife program, designed specifically for people who don’t have acreage, but who still want to share their garden with wildlife.

If you would like to participate in more Barung events or keep tabs on how the garden and the new nursery are progressing, please check their website, barunglandcare.org.au (where you can take a virtual tour of their future premises), their facebook page, or contact the office on 5494 3151.  

Or simply take a stroll up from the Obi boardwalk and see how beautiful it looks already!