The Great Walk started as a celebration of Western Australia’s unique and beautiful environment in the little coastal town Denmark on March 20th 1988.
Twenty six days and six hundred and fifty kilometers later, the Great Walk culminated in 1,000 people standing on the steps of Perth Parliament house, to present the premier Peter Dowding with a message, ‘The Great Walk Tree Charter’.
People on that walk enjoyed it so much, that since then, Great Walkers have organised walks a few times a year. Most walks are still organised with an awareness of raising focus about the land we walk, and the way we live.
The Great Walk Tree Charter 1988
The Great Walk from Denmark to Perth has been initiated by people from the south-west of Western Australia, to express in a simple and direct way our appreciation of the land that sustains us.
The event in Australia’s bicentennial year is a fitting celebration of our unique and beautiful environment.
The Great Walk is also an expression of deep concern about the detrimental impact that we have made on our environment over the past 200 years. This continuing impact is contrary to our commitment to sustainability, made under the National and State Conservation Strategies.
The Aboriginal people, who lived in Australia for more than 40 000 years have an innate reverence, love and connection with the land.
In 200 years of European habitation, the wealth of the natural environment has been exploited for the building of our society. The land has given us everything, and we have taken of it freely.
The Great Walk is a symbolic step towards the next 2oo years which can be a period of healing, replenishment and achieving a sustainable use of our environment.
Our natural environment is a treasure beyond value, found nowhere else on Earth. But it is a fragile environment whose capacity is not unlimited.
Today what remains of our environmental wealth balances on a knife edge, even without the added pressures of global change.
Less than one percent of Western Australia now remains under native forest cover. Up to 50 percent of the original jarrah, marri and karri forests has been lost.
The quality of water resources has been severely degraded. Most major river systems in the southwest now saline and unfit for human consumption
Of the 17 million hectares of land cleared for agriculture, only 35 percent is now regarded as stable.
In Western Australia there are over 1,000 plant species listed as rare or threatened, and 853 of these are from the south west. 52 plant species are classified as extinct, 42 from the south west. Only 32percent of our rare or threatened plants are represented on existing reserves.
The states fauna is in a similarly precarious position with at least 160 known vertebrates listed as endangered.
Our local environmental problems must also be seen in a global context: Western Australia is a very dry state, in the world’ driest inhabited continent. Climatic changes being bought about by the Greenhouse Effect may already be evident in the fragile southwestern environment, where annual average rainfall in recent years is well below average.
With natural ecological processes already beginning to fail, deferring action will only compound the problems. We are at a point where fresh directions are essential, and where our only choice is to foster a common spirit, dedicated to achieving solutions through long term policies
We recognise that this is not just the responsibility not just of Governments, but of every individual to restore environmental health and stability.
Direction for the Future
It is in this spirit that the following recommendations are put forward to the government and the people of Western Australia.
* To introduce positive measures for reducing the consumption of key resources ,such as water, energy ( electricity, petrol, etc.) timber and some rare minerals.
* To reduce pollution of our environment, including the discharge of waste gases affecting climate and the ozone shield.
* To ensure that recycling becomes a mandatory requirement for all waste disposal.
For our Forests
* The little remaining old growth forest should be left intact while the consequences of its felling are more fully investigated.
* The current intensive management practices for timber production should be moderated until it is known how good health can be restored to the forest and land.
* Greater sensitivity should be exercised in determining the season and frequency of prescribed burning.
* We urge that the managers of our forests investigate urgent expansion of all aspects of research into forest ecology.
* Our future timber requirements should be centered on supplies from plantations grown on presently cleared land.
* In the selection of species for plantations, due consideration must be given to climatic changes expected before the seedlings reach harvestable age
For our Water
* Water catchments should be rehabilitated so that rivers and streams can once again supply water fit for human consumption.
* A moratorium should be placed on land clearing in all water catchments.
For our Soil
* The instigation through all agencies, of a massive program of replanting of appropriate trees and shrubs on degraded lands, especially farmland.
* Vigorous research should be made into the use of agricultural chemicals and artificial fertilizers.
* Economic mechanisms should be put in place to encourage the viability of sustainable farming practices.
* Farming practice throughout the south-west should be urgently reviewed, in anticipation of the warmer, dryer climate now intensifying
For the protection of Flora and Fauna
It is essential that more viable reserves are created, linked where possible by natural corridors.
* More informed and caring attitudes should be engendered towards the indigenous flora and fauna outside reserves.
* Clear policies should be developed as a matter of urgency, for the retention of native vegetation remaining on privately owned land.
* A statewide program should be initiated to restore healthy native vegetation to all rural road verges.