Burrumbuttock’s Wirraminna Environmental Education Center volunteers honored with new book

Wirraminna, the book, celebrates the story of how a group of community-minded volunteers from a small town in rural NSW turned a neglected dam into an award-winning bush.

The book celebrates the history of the Wirraminna Environmental Educational Center at Wiradjuri land in Burrumbuttock in southern NSW.

In 2019, author Megan Graham was asked by the Wirraminna committee to write a book to coincide with the center’s 25th anniversary in 2020.

Ms Graham, who is now based in Melbourne, grew up in Wagga in the NSW Riverina.

The book’s release date was delayed by a couple of years due to COVID 19-related restrictions, but it was finally launched at the Burrumbuttock site this week by NSW Member for Albury Justin Clancy, with Ms Graham and Wirraminna volunteers in attendance.

Author Megan Graham says the world needs more Wirraminna’s.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Allison Jess)

Ms Graham, who did about 100 hours of interviews with volunteers for the book, said the book pays tribes to members of the Burrumbuttock community who developed an environmental center out of unused land.

The book tells the stories of volunteers and celebrates what is possible when good people come together and create something special for their community.

Ms Graham said the book was also a part memoir.

“I grew up in Wagga and have since moved to the city, and my own story is we have returned to the book to return to my rural roots and my experience,” she said.

Ms Graham said the book acknowledges the traditional owners of the land and their knowledge.

She also hoped the book would remind people how important it was to get off screens and reconnect with nature.

When good people come together

Petaurus Education Group chair Adrian Wells is a long-time supporter of Wirraminna.

The group delivers free education programs to schools and community groups in south-east Australia.

He said Wirraminna as an environmental education site had its beginnings in 1983 when a small group of locals came together and discussed the idea of ​​turning a neglected area into a community facility in Burrumbuttock.

Mr Wells said the dam on the existing site was dug out in 1902 by a group of Chinese laborers and became a watering point for stock passing through the area on their way to the market.

“When that need disappears with the advent of the rail and better transportation, then it becomes a waterhole for the township of Burrumbuttock,” he said.

“So people used to bring their water buckets here and fill them with water, so it became a community place where many people met and stories were shared,” he said.

Look at a sign at the entrance of the Wirraminna Environmental Education Center with a vine with leaves drawn.
The Wirraminna Environmental Education Center has won various awards over the years, including two National Landcare awards.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Allison Jess)

Mr Wells said volunteers had built a four-hectare public site today – that included a dam, wetlands and natural woodland, for visitors to visit far and wide.

He said paying visits included school and community groups, government agencies, nature lovers and tourists.

He said Wirraminna was home to critically endangered and vulnerable species, including the southern corroboree frog and the squirrel glider.

He said the Petaurus Education Group was formed in Wirraminna in 2014 to expand the center’s environmental education values.

As good as your volunteers

Wirraminna Environmental Education Center chair Darryl Jacob said he was proud of how the center was developed since he and a small group of locals first discussed possible ideas for the neglected bushland in 1993.

An older man with greying hair, green cap, glasses, blue shirt, stands in a bush reserve, with dam behind him.  Looks serious.
Wirraminna chair Darryl Jacob is part of the starting group who was keen to turn the neglected dam into a bush reserve.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Allison Jess)

Mr Jacob estimated community members had put in a million volunteer hours at the center over the years.

“Success rests on volunteers,” he said.

Mr Jacob said many groups across Australia had emulated what was done by volunteers at Wirraminna to create their own pubic spaces.

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