What happens when you bring a bunch of bush lovers together on former grazing land and empower them to restore the bush and become a community? 

Story Bron Willis  Photos Annette Ruzicka

There’s a big granite rock at the summit of a small hill near Kate Lee’s central Victorian bush home that draws her, even when she hasn’t set out to go there. “There’s just something about granite country that gets me,” Kate says. “From that rock I have pretty much a 360-degree view of the surrounding country.”

Kate’s granite-dotted property is nestled in the foothills of Mt Korong, near the north-west Victorian goldfields town of Wedderburn. From the lookout she can see the mountain and – when she lets her eye wander far – the surrounding farming country where generations of families have grown cereal and wheat crops, and raised cattle and sheep.

But when Kate draws her eye closer to home, she sees something different, too: young, healthy native trees and land that breathes with an absence of fences. “Straight away, you get the impression that something different is going on here,” she says.

And she’s right. Something different is going on here. It’s not just the hundreds of thousands of young plants sending their roots deep into the ground, which is also recovering with the help of understorey plants. It’s not just the robust greenhood orchid, found here in 2010 after being presumed extinct for over 70 years. Nor is it just the birdsong, which is returning here after years of grazing. It’s all of these things, but more than that, a community of bush lovers has sprouted here.

Kate is one of nine landholders on the 10,000-hectare Korong Ridge Conservation Estate, a parcel of land purchased 10 years ago by private conservationist Paul Dettman. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #125

Outback Magazine: June/July 2019