20 years of Great Walking! Hard to believe, yet here we are. I still vividly remember my first Great Walk. The year before, in 1988, Deb had been telling me about this wonderful event that was happening in the southwest – up to 250 people walking, eating and camping in our forests, bringing attention both to the wonders and the degradation that were occurring there. I was invited to go along, but I couldn’t at that time.
She convinced me to go on what I think was the next walk, and I am so glad I did. I was not well prepared for camping and froze for a couple of nights, and my first impression – as is often the case – was that I did not belong in this obviously tight knit group. But their camaraderie certainly attracted me, and I stayed.
With two children, Gemma four and Kyran two, I didn’t do much walking. But I loved the country we passed through. I loved the windflowers, and the trees. I loved the food! A vegetarian since I was thirteen, most camping trips had been a bit of a gastronomical nightmare for me. Chops, sausages and steak – and being made to feel like some sort of freak when I explained why I didn’t want to eat them. On that Walk we had vegetarian food that was delicious, healthy and plentiful, and we even had wonderful deserts. I kind of take this for granted now, but at that time it was a wonderful revelation.
Then there were the campfires at night, and then there was the singing! Feeling tired and out of it the first night I went to bed – only to be regaled with the most amazing music and songs. And when we climbed Mt Franklin on the last day we were walking, a long line of us in silence up the mountain, when Kyran, my adventurous two year old took off ahead of me and disappeared from sight. I took off after him but could not find him, and as you can imagine I was in quite a state . Then, back down the line came the word that he was OK. Everyone was watching him, and he was safe. Not quite trusting it all yet I was still worried, but sure enough, there he was at the top, happy and well taken care of. On the way back home in the car my small children sang many of the newly learned songs with me, and when I got home I was in such a changed frame of mind that my husband Bryce said to me ‘Whatever you did, do it again.’
Since then I have had many of the best times of my life on Great Walks. Walking through areas that I would never have seen otherwise – forests of ancient, towering trees; fragrant carpets of rare plants and wildflowers in kaleidoscopic shapes and colours; clear, and cool, rejuvenating streams and pools of water that we seemed to find everywhere. Swimming in white sand fringed blue-green ocean with whales and dolphins frolicking in it and travelling into the deep heat of the red centre with its’ giant monoliths and purple hazed, dragon backed mountain ranges. Enjoying hilarious and brilliant variety nights that not only entertain but bring out surprising and unexpected talents in us all. Spending time with my children who also loved the Great Walk – most of the time – and would love to come back.
I have experienced a great tumult of emotions; from tear inducing rage and frustration to tear inducing laughter; from being ridiculously silly right up to being indescribably high. No drugs or alcohol needed. It has been an amazing learning curve for me, both about myself and about dealing with others, and I feel I am a much better person for my involvement with the Walk. And of course there are all the wonderful people I have met; our ‘family’, our Great Walk Tribe.
Many, many people have contributed to the journeys and achievements of the Great Walk over the years, and I would like to thank them all on behalf of our members, past and present. And we have lost a few of those wonderful Great Walkers along the way. We can only hope that they watch over us now.
I am looking forward to this next walk, our 20th, and I am hoping to see lots and lots of faces there. I hope to see the usual, dear familiar faces; faces I haven’t seen for a while that will bring back forgotten memories; and new faces that will be part of our future. See you there!
PS. In consideration of the trees and global warming could I ask again that people consider getting this newsletter online, and not as a paper if it is possible for you.
Adele Foote April 2008
I was at the last committee meeting if I would write an article for the next newsletter about my experiences of being involved in the Great Walk since the conception. I was at the forest gathering in 1987 at Cambray Pool near Nannup when the decision was made to walk from Denmark to Perth as a celebration of our environment and as a protest to the devastation that was happening in our forests. I was amazed at the number of caring & generous people who became involved in this walk who gave freely of their time & travelled all over the South West for meetings to organise this huge event. I was approached by Linda Walmann to coordinate the food for the last week from Nanga to Perth. I also liaised with Richard Chandler who was the route & camp site coordinator & Debra Simpson who took on media for the whole event. We became great friends & still are.
I had never cooked for more than 10 people before but being young & thought I could do anything I jumped at the opportunity to being involved. We borrowed, hired & begged equipment from whoever we spoke to & somehow got enough to be able to feed the multitudes. I had to really scrub those saucepans that we hired from Port Hire to remove all evidence that we had used them to cook over open fires for 4 weeks.
Such a momentous occasion when the walk left Denmark on the 20th March, 1988 with the blessing of Aboriginal people. We carried their message sticks to protect us on our journey & they were then buried in Kings Park after The Great Walk met with Peter Dowding & presented the Government of the day with a Tree Charter. Through word of mouth the word got out that there was a huge tribe of people walking the land on their way to Perth. The group swelled & when I met up with them at Nanga there were 250 people there. My first thought was how am I going to feed all these people. I had met Laurie Earl who was a chef & he took up the challenge of organising the menu. Meeting him there the look he gave me when he seen the numbers is one I will never forget. He soon forgot about making lentil patties & changed the menu to lentil stew & other dishes that could be made in huge pots.
I also had my 3 & 5 years old daughters with me with my mother supporting & helping me look after them. When she realised what a huge job I had ahead of me for the next week she took the first lift back to Fremantle where she had my husband Charlie help her look after the kids. I spent most of my time going to the shops buying food & there were not that many big shops in that area. The smaller shops would grin from ear to ear when I walked in & would order 20 kilos of cheese. I think we charged $5 a day for the privilege of being on the walk. Everyone loved it as songs & instruments were played & rainbow scarves painted to create a colourful group. I don’t think Perth knew what hit it when we walked up St George’s Terrace to Parliament House a colourful group of happy singing people walking out of the forest into the city. Most people wanted this lifestyle to continue – some permanently with a bus & others getting together in the bush at weekends.
Forest Gatherings were organised & a magazine called Bamboroo emerged with information about living & treading on the earth gently. The Great Walk Networking became incorporated & the group started to get structure & the first walk was organised the next year walking from Mt. Lindsay to Mt. Frankland. I remember fondly so many people came that were on the first walk & I loved the Great Walk right from the start. Lumari (Shanti then), Cilla , Liz & Adele became my Great Walk friends that I loved seeing & spending time with that was so precious. I have made so many more friends on every walk that I could add so many more names to that list. I enjoy seeing people unwind from their everyday life as they connect to each other and to the environment while on our walks.
We were generously given a block of land which we called our Tribal Grounds in Chalwell Road 10 klms outside of Nannup by a man called John Thompson. He was a retired forester/conservationist who was so concerned by the clear felling of old growth forest and was so impressed by us as a group that he donated his land to us to be custodians to look after & care for it. We were then given a house by a group in Margaret River which was dismantled and erected on site by mainly 6 very willing workers – Victor Flanganen, Cilla Sherrif, Giz Watson, June Lowe, Dave Swanston and Claire Johnston. They put in loads of work especially on weekends & they were then supported by others for working bees over the next year. We have spent such great times there over the years with many walks either starting or finishing there. Ancestors Hill was created as some of our members passed away & has plaques honouring the lives of Victor, Cilla, Brian Utley, John & Andrew Thompson, Sue Tynan and Sharlene Evans.
I have loved being involved in the Great Walk organising walks and being on the committee as I feel experiencing our environment is one of the most spiritual things you can do for your soul. Being in the bush walking the land, hearing the sound of the wind in the trees, living communally with like minded people, eating delicious vegetarian food prepared with love and sitting around the camp fire singing and swapping yarns are some of my favourite things to do.
The first 10 years seemed to slip by really quickly & before we knew it Lumari & I were starting to organise the 10th anniversary walk with a dedicated group of people. The first walk took 4 weeks to walk from Denmark to Perth with only one rest day. We decided to take 6 weeks to walk from Perth to Denmark and to have a celebration with a theme of the elements of air, water, fire and earth with appropriate colours of yellow, red , blue and green. What stands out for me on that walk was the amount of water from dams, rivers, creeks and the ocean that we could swim & cleanse our bodies nearly every day. Om to the camp site coordinators.
I feel like I would be repeating myself if I started talking about individual walks as I usually do an article for each newsletter. All I can say is how proud I am that a volunteer group such as ours is still going strong & that you & everyone of you have made The Great Walk what it is today. A thriving group that loves to experience the bush & each other. Every meeting that I have been to & I have been to a lot, being on the committee nearly every year since we started, I feel grateful for the people who fill all the positions so that we can represent our loving members to our utmost ability.
With the 20th anniversary walk happening next month I would love to see as many people as possible come on this walk & make it a wonderful celebration. Please pass the word around to past members.
Love & light to you all,
On this very special occasion of the 20th Anniversary I would like to express my gratitude for having the Great Walk and all the Great Walkers in my life. I feel that it is such a wonderful enrichment on so many different levels both for me and my children. We really came to be part of the group at a challenging time in our lives when we had lost our husband/father and to be part of the loving group helped our process to heal and to be happy. There are so many things I am grateful for: the friendships that we have made, the appreciation of nature expressed by the group, the amazing organisation and logistics during the walk and the preparation
of the walks themselves, and of course meeting my gorgeous man and so much more. Thank you to all the Coordinators of the Great Walk and the individual walks, all of the office bearers, the drivers, especially the truck drivers as this is a real labour of love. And a very special thank you to Debbie, who has been the ‘mother’ of the Great Walk and has done an amazing job! Being on the committee, which I enjoy and which is a great learning experience for me both as far as the organisational side and the way people interact is concerned, has given me an insight into the huge amount of work carried out by some people with so much love.
With so many people being together so closely on the walks there is so much to be learned about how we interact, what makes us laugh, happy and what pushes those buttons. It is an amazing opportunity to learn about ourselves, to connect with the land and nature and to have a lot of fun!
Dearest Great Walkers
Wow! 20 years have flown by, really. it seems like it’s with a blink of an eye that I was organising the tenth anniversary walk.
When I look back over 20 years some of the most profound and beautiful memories that come to my heart are the amazing gifts the GW has brought into my life s well as many others’ lives.
Firstly I would have to say the children, my own and all the other kids that are now adults, the connection of family that was created for them, all of us and still those connections remain close today with most of the people we’ve met along the way. The huge difference this had made in our lives due to the ongoing walks, the talking stick circles, the supportive love relationships that have developed. Both Joel and Kai (my 2 sons) still speak of it today. We are all so grateful for these connections. The connections to the ancestors of the land we’ve walked over these years and the Earth itself that has supported the people on each and every walk, with very few problems.
Thanks to our Aboriginal brothers and sisters who in different ways, through special ceremonies, protected us from the elements etc; the Bambooroo stick, the Carbonara women’s shield from Broome and the Irigilies for the men of our tribe, their talks and information about the lands when we’ve walked upon them, Burnum Burnum the elder form the Eastern states, who blessed the Tribal Grounds with ceremony and stories for the kids and all of us. Yet mostly their presence either of spirit or form.John Thompson the incredible and delightful gentleman who spent his life in the forests and then fought for them, blessing the GW with the gift of the Tribal Grounds.
The Great Walk’s Ancestors who have all contributed in their own unique ways, I would like to briefly honour.
Sue Tynan, First GW co-ordinator, loved nature and worked tirelessly to help the first walk be a success.
Victor Flanagan. A gentle man who walked this earth with love and care for the environment around him. He walked barefoot from Perth to Papua New Guinea, becoming known as the Naked Nomad, making the news in his plight to share his truth with the outside world.
John Thompson, mentioned above. Worked and lived for the trees and earth.
Bryan Utley. An unusual man who loved the GW tribe with his heart and, through the lens of his camera, was dedicated to sharing himself with us through his Beautiful photos, creating a part of our history that could be kept and cherished.
Cilla Sherrif. Loved the GW and nature with a strong passion, was always a hard working, wise and loving presence on every walk, devoted to the spiritual aspects of life, her children and GW family.
Sharlene Evans. A strong and lovable
woman who was connected to Mother Earth all her life and devoted her life to her dreams of making the whole world a garden.
All of these people are still part of the GW in our hearts and memories through the Trees planted on Ancestors Hill at the tribal grounds. Always remembered for the gifts they bestowed upon us by their presence and involvement in the GW and our lives.
Over the last 20 years many hundreds and maybe thousands of people’s lives have been touched and changed profoundly. And the earth upon which we have set our feet upon during the many walks, ceremonies, rituals, circles, dance laughter and song has been given love and healing by the loving nature of GW people’s love, integrity and commitment to helping make the world a better place by living in community in the natural environment. Giving all the children and adults of the future a message of peace and harmony by showing how this can be done.
Though the presence of my physical body has not been with you all for some time now, you are all very deeply embedded in my heart for ever, in the most beautiful way possible. I am eternally grateful to My Great Walk family for the last 20 years and for all of the wonderful experiences that have helped to enhance my life. For all of those who still are keeping the Great Walk Tribe alive for the future generations, for the time when or if they are ready to take it on, Thank you from the depths of my heart.With some deep regret I won’t be able to make this 20Th anniversary celebrations, but will definitely tune in with the heart.
I would like to say to you all that you haven’t seen the last of me.
There will be a time again in my life where I will be able to walk these beautiful lands with you and share in the exquisite closeness of community fires, sing and dance and love with you all.
Until then please keep the home fires burning with all of your passions and beautiful caring loving hearts. Blessings of love and light to all.
Twenty years ago the new of the Great walk and its energy reverberated around the Southwest (I was living on Deep River community near Walpole at the time). ‘Greenies’ was a dirty word and us ‘environmentalists’ had little sympathy for the ‘rednecks’ – the farmers who lived in the area and often held more conservative views about land use – or so we thought. At that time, Denmark and Walpole were mill towns – peoples’ lives were dependent on the logging of our forests.
Twenty-four years old at the time, I had just left polluted Germany and thought I had found my paradise in the Karri forest. It soon became apparent that the Southwest was being rapidly changed by milling and mining companies. We protested against sandmining, against the stockpiling of radioactive material polluting the Bunbury estuary and so on. In many ways the Great Walk focussed our attention in a beautiful way on how strong we were and how many of us shared our views. Farmers joined us, and brought their experience and knowledge to our meetings. Loggers joined, too – often woodsmen who loved the forest, were saddened at the wholesale rape and destruction and would have preferred more selective logging. They realised that exporting woodchips to Japan did not create jobs for their children.
Many were concerned (and still are) about the unique ecosystems of the Southwest. Red Tingle only grows in a few areas around Walpole (have you ever been to the ‘forest of arms?!). One of the local farmers instigated a long-term study and set out to prove how these systems were forever changed by ‘prescribed burning’. Our views did not divide our small communities, as many feared. We all benefited from much useful dialogue, and slowly our towns changed: mills closed and tourists moved in. The ‘tree top walk’ now highlights the beauty of the Tingle forest, and the Bibbulmun Track brings international walkers who can appreciate the beauty of our woods and beaches ‘close to the earth’. The Denmark environment centre and other ‘green’ organisations have worked hard (and continue to do so) to promote the fact that nature does not need to be destroyed in order to maintain and build a healthy economy. Living in the city, ‘nature’ can seem to become an abstraction, and it is sad that today, many Australian children will play on their computer rather than building cubbies.
I am thrilled that we have been walking now for 20 years, spending time in the bush to get dirty, uncomfortable, hungry, wet and close to each other. And to get to know our land! For the last three years I have also been backpacking and camping in Peru, Chile and Argentina – always seeking out remote rural areas of scenic beauty (often National Parks). I understand how fortunate we are in Australia to have a relatively strong conservation ethos. The realisation that ‘global warming’ is not a Marxist invention, has finally turned sustainability and conservation into mainstream ideas and goals. We knew of this necessity many years ago and our work has contributed to this changing awareness. It is with great pride and satisfaction that I will return to where part of my heart will always be – the Southwest – to celebrate our 20th anniversary. Love to you all,
Lisa (Elisabeth Bucher, former Crosthwaite)
20th Anniversary Great Walk – Denmark
12-22 April 2008
Day One: Saturday 12th April
Meet at 7.15am in Fremantle at Car Park #12B on Beach Street (behind Captain Munchies, not far from the train station). Bus departs at 7.45am. Bring your lunch and snacks for the trip. Please no large swags!
Travel to Denmark Centre for Sustainable Living (CSL)
Note; people need to bring linen/sheets for staying at CSL. Accomodation in bunk beds: 2-8 per room.
The BIG Celebration and Reunion!
Reunion Activities commence at 5.00pm for Welcome followed by Celebration Dinner and Evening. Welcome to Country, Great Walk movie, stories, exhibition, networking. People can stay at CSL.
Day Two: Sunday 13th April 2008
Meet 9.30am at Sanctuary, near CSL for special departure ceremony.
17km walk from camp along the Denmark River to pick up the Denmark-to-Nornalup Heritage Rail Trail, walking out to Karrilup (Albert Adams and Andrea Jones’) property beside the Denmark Rail Trail near McLeod Road, west of Denmark. This is an attractive campsite, with a nice dam and a historic railway tunnel.
Bus pickups at 2km, 4km and 10km points.
Camp: at Karrilup near McLeod Road
Day Three: Monday 14th April
17km walk on Rail Trail to Parker Road and then to the Old Kent craft shop on the South Coast Highway. Pickups to suit. Walkers will be bussed back to the Adam’s campsite for a second night.
Camp: at Karrilup near McLeod Road
Day Four Tuesday 15th April
Break camp. Main camp will move to Parrys Beach camping ground (with showers and toilets!). If sufficient interest, overnight walkers will be dropped off at Kent River to walk to Quarram Beach for overnight camp. Alternative will be for walkers to be dropped off near Boat Harbour for 6 hour walk to Parrys. Parrys is a delightful spot, shaded with peppermints, and delightful beach and rocky coastline.
Camp: Parry Beach Camping Ground
Day Five: Wednesday 16th April
Overnight walkers walk from Quarram Beach to Parrys. All others have short walks/rest day around Parrys. A beautiful spot !
Camp: Parrys Beach Camping Ground
Day Six: Thursday 17th April 2008
Break camp, which moves to the Wetlands Education Centre, Atkinson Road in Denmark. This features an amazing Goblin swamp!
13 km shore walk along William Bay, past Greens Pool, to Lights Beach. Bus pickups and taking walkers to camp
Camp: Wetlands Education Centre, Atkinson Road, 2km east of Denmark
Day Seven: Friday 18th April 2008
Walkers bussed to Lights for 16 km walk along the Bibbulmun track into Denmark and to the Wetlands Centre, along the Bib track.
Camp: Wetlands Education Centre, Atkinson Road, Denmark
Day Eight: Saturday, 19th April 2008
Break Camp. Travel to camp on Ree Johnson’s property, Knapp Head Road, Lowlands, near Youngs Siding. This is a beaut campsite, 20 minutes walk from the beach.
Walkers dropped off at Eden Road for 10km walk into camp along the Bib track. No pickups available. Alternative short walk available.
Variety Night – after dinner we celebrate with performances, sketches, songs and plenty of laughter. Bring your musical instruments, and get together to put on a show.
Camp: Ree Johnson Property, Lowlands Beach
Day Nine: Sunday 20th April
Approximately 15km walk to West Cape Howe’s amazing cliffs following the Bib track.
Final Pickup at a lookout over Shelley beach and return to camp. No intermediate pickups available. Alternative shorter walk available.
Full moon celebration
Camp: Ree Johnson Property, Lowlands Beach
Day Ten: Monday 21st April
A walk to Koirchecup, a special place amongst large granite rocks and trees near Young Siding.
Camp: Ree Johnson Property, Lowlands Beach
Day Eleven: Tuesday 22nd April
Clean up, Farewell Circle. Return home.
There are several speakers and events planned, but we are unable to specify days or times right now. More information will be made available at http://greatwalk.org.au/info/info.html
For Further Information; Contact Basil Schur 98481815h or 98481019w or 0429481019 (mob)