Knowledge sharing on Tebrakunna country

30th April 2024 | 

On Monday 22nd April, we ventured out to Tebrakunna country for a day of knowledge-sharing on native seed collection and propagation with Tebrakunna Rangers Andrew Vocke and Tully and Dustin O'Neil. 

In the heart of a Tebrakunna country (Cape Portland), the threatened shining dogwood (Pomaderris paniculosa subsp. paralia), among other native plant species, is making a return.

The area, which is rich with cultural, spiritual and historical significance for the Aboriginal community, has suffered the impacts of colonisation.  This includes cattle roaming unchecked which has added pressure to the local plant life and biodiversity. Now, under the stewardship of the Tebrakunna Rangers, native vegetation is making a comeback, with patches of threatened plant life returning to the coastal fringes.

Image: Tebrakunna Country, Mussleroe wind farm

The Tebrakunna Ranger program is a part of the Melythina Tiakana Warana (Heart of Country) Aboriginal Corporation (MTWAC) and includes 14 trainee rangers undertaking an on-country training program based on Tebrakunna Country (Cape Portland).  The core responsibilities of the rangers include Cultural Land and Heritage Management.  The trainees are studying with TasTAFE over 2 years and will gain a Certificate III in Conservation and Ecosystem Management.

With just four full-time staff members, the Rangers wear many hats: from managing land and running educational programs to handling administrative tasks. It's a labor of love that demands endless dedication.

The Rangers have also undertaken traditional burning on the pastoral lands which, timed just right, has sparked a resurgence of kangaroo grass while taming the invasive European grasses.

While there has been successful natural regeneration in the area, challenges persist. Invasive species like boxthorn and spear thistle have stubbornly remained, while sea spurge is invading the coastline, including sacred sites of cultural significance.

The Tebrakunna Rangers are taking action and have begun revegetating some small sites in the area. However, their efforts have been hindered by persistent grazers—wombats and rabbits—who have been targeting saplings and cardboard tree guards...

The purpose of this workshop was to connect with the Rangers for a knowledge-exchange session on collecting and growing native seed. We were joined by expert horticulturalist Kirrili Kent who shared her extensive knowledge on the most effective ways to collect, clean, store and propagate native seeds. 

This forms part of the Tebrakunna Ranger's mission to start a local nursery to grow and revegetate the local provenance species in order to heal and restore Country. 

Image: Tully labelling plant species 

The workshop began with Kirri showing us a variety of seeds that she had collected from around the state. Rangers Dusty, Tully and Andrew practiced cleaning and identifying the seed samples using seed sieves. 

Kirri explained some of the delicate methods needed to coax a seed to germinate. Banksias, for instance, can be helped to grow either by warmth - from the sun or even an oven. Lomandras have both male and female variants, with the latter distinguished by their conspicuous round seeds. The elusive Lepidosperma proves a formidable challenge to grow from seed, and the Epacridaceae family can be even tougher.

The importance of recording collection dates and locations to ensure seeds find their optimum place and time in the soil was also highlighted. 

Image: Dusty sows some very small seeds

Outside, we put plants to soil by sowing and pricking out - tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium), salt bush (Atriplex cinerea), pickly box (Bursaria spinosa), hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa), kangaroo grass (Leptospermum scoparium), Dolly Bush (Cassinia aculeata) and Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata)

Kirri also demonstrated the art of 'potting up', and the Rangers re-potted (Acacia verticillata), (Poa sp.) and (Banksia marginata). 

The next important step - regular watering! Kirrili showcased a simple, cost-effective nursery irrigation system that could be used to maintain moisture levels for the young plants. 

We were lucky to close out the day with a walk on Country, exploring the local plant life, cultural landscapes and stunning coastline.  Andrew explained that the sheoaks are known as 'whispering trees' - a sacred tree that you could safely leave your baby under because critters disliked the crunch of the needles underfoot.  We plucked and tasted some of the local saltbush.  Andrew explained that gathering salt bush, and many other coastal activities such as crafting with shells is traditionally women's business. 

It was great to have both Kirrili and Landcare's Project Officer Luke Cooper with their sharp plant identification skills to help answer questions about plant species, invasive status and Latin names. 

Overall, it was an excellent day of two-way knowledge sharing on the path to restoring landscapes, healing Country and honouring the rich cultural and spiritual significance of the area. 

Image: The threatened shining dogwood (Pomaderris paniculosa subsp. paralia)

A big thanks to Andrew Vocke, Tully O'Neil and Dustin O'Neil for participating and sharing, to Kirrili Kent for presenting her wealth of horticulture knowledge, and to Luke Cooper for coordinating this event.  This workshop was made possible thanks to the State Government's Landcare Action Grants. 

Image: (L-R) Kirrili Kent (Melaleuca Horticulture), Luke Cooper (Landcare Tasmania), Andrew Vocke (MTWAC), Tully O'Neil (MTWAC), Dustin O'Neil (MTWAC)


More Information

Find out more about Tebrakunna Country and read/listen to interviews with Aunty Patsy Cameron (MTWAC Elder) and Rob Anders (MTWAC Director): 


Current members of the MTWAC Circle of Elders:
Aunty Patsy Cameron AO
Aunty Fay Ralph
Aunty Betty Grace
Aunty Netty Shaw
Aunty Brenda Hodge
Uncle Malcolm Wells
Uncle Sammy Howard
Aunty Dyan Summers
Aunty Vicki-Laine Green