‘Morwell’ in the Northern Grampians

Landholders: Catherine & Clive Carlyle

Property: Morwell, Northern Grampians
Size: 145 hectares
Traditional Owners: Dja Deja Wurrang/Djab Wurrang/Jardwadjali
Covenanted in 2020 with Trust for Nature

Catherine and Clive have always had a deep interest in, and passion for, exploring and protecting the natural world.

Catherine was co-founder of Community Action for Sustainability, a group that operated successfully in south-east South Australia (SA). She was also instrumental in establishing the Limestone Coast Protection Alliance, which resulted in a moratorium on unconventional gas development in south-east SA.

In her spare time, Catherine is a rural GP.

Clive has a background in research leadership, culminating as Assistant Chief of CSIRO Forestry and then Sustainable Ecosystems. His discipline expertise is in forest ecology and biogeochemical cycling. Among his many contributions, Clive initiated coordination of CSIRO-wide activity on mitigation of Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Both Catherine and Clive are members of Landcare; Clive is Chair of the Project Platypus Landcare Network and Catherine is Treasure of the Australian Plant Society Grampians Group.

Property purchase

Catherine and Clive always had “a vague notion” about buying a bush property; it became a reality in 2013 when they checked out some “for sales” on a rock-climbing trip to the Grampians.

They purchased the 145-hectare property in 2013 and moved there permanently in 2016. All but 5ha are under a Trust for Nature covenant.

Location and features

The property abuts the Grampians National Park and connects to other areas of significant native vegetation. It has a High Landscape connectivity score.

For a relatively small property, there is a very wide habitat range, including seasonal herbaceous wetland, seasonal riparian wetland, red gum plains grassy woodland, damp sand herb-rich woodland, red gum swamp and plains grassy wetland. This gives rise to extensive habit boundaries with dramatic vegetation changes over distances of a few metres.

Significant trees

There are 65 very large river red gums with circumferences ~4m – 9.5m. In addition, one individual has a circumference of 14m.

This tree is currently listed as the joint largest river red gum in Australia and is on the Victorian National Trust register of significant trees.


The property is being actively managed for biodiversity values. This includes ongoing feral animal control, weed control, enrichment plantings (mainly understory species; 4,000 plants will be put in in July 2022), wetland restoration and wildlife monitoring.

Pest control

Fox control is continuous with 1,080 (canid pest ejectors), cat control is via cage traps deployed when cats are sighted on camera.

Rabbit control was undertaken with RHDV1 K5 in 2018; since then sightings have been rare.

Wetland reconstruction

In conjunction with Nature Glenelg Trust, a weir was constructed in 2018 to restore natural drainage patterns on a seasonal creek resulting in the annual flooding of some 50ha of wetland, some beyond the property boundary into the National Park. This supports a very diverse wetland flora including ~10 EPBC listed plant species, six species of frog, the endangered Western Swamp Cray, and Southern pygmy perch.

The seasonal creek and wetland are zoned as Culturally Significant and there are two culturally modified trees on the property.

Native birds

To date 106 native bird species have been recorded, including Diamond Firetail, Hooded Robin, Barking Owl, Powerful Owl, and Brown Tree Creeper.

A pair of Powerful Owls have roosted continuously on the property since September 2021. This is a good indication that the property and adjoining areas have (or at least had!!) a high density of prey species, predominantly arboreal mammals. Southern Brown Bandicoots have been recorded at 17 locations over ~70ha of dense bracken habitat.

Native animals

Other animals regularly recorded are Sugar Glider, Feathertail glider, Eastern Pygmy Possum, Brush-tailed possum, Ring Tailed Possum, Yellow Footed Antechinus, Rakali (white-tailed water rat), Red-necked Wallaby, Black Wallaby, Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroo, and short-beaked echidna.

Koalas move through but do not appear to reside on the property. Fat-Tailed Dunnarts and Heath Mice have been recorded within 5 km and Squirrel Gliders 10km of the property.

Common reptiles include Stump-tailed skink, eastern blue tongue, eastern brown snake, red-bellied black snake, Lace Monitor, Sand Monitor, eastern snake-necked turtle.



Morwell is situated between Halls Gap and Stawell at the foot of the Mt Difficult Range. Photo: Boroka Lookout, Mt Difficult Range, with thanks to David Clarke via Flickr.

One of the Powerful Owls on Morwell.

The giant river red gum on Morwell, listed with the National Trust’s register of significant trees.

Aumann ‘Bush Paddock’, Wimmera region, Vic

Landholder: David Fletcher

Traditional owners: Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk peoples.
Size: 32 acres
Covenanted: 2019

The land was selected by my Great Grandfather, Henry Aumann, in 1872 and has been in the family ever since. The first two of Henry Aumann’s 15 children were born here and there are records of Mrs Aumann bartering with the local indigenous peoples during the period.

This endangered Buloke Woodland is unique in that the land was never cleared or farmed – the only disturbance being a pair of milking cows, a horse and cart track and a permanent tent residence between the years 1872-1876.

Rare and endangered species

While the 32-acre remnant is embedded within an active broad-acre cereal farm, it may be the only remaining privately-owned block that still retains full understory indicative of what was present at the time of European settlement. Sixty-eight species of native plants have been recorded in the quadrat, of which 10 are rare and endangered.

This vegetation community is largely intact, with excellent ground flora, shrubs and a healthy Buloke canopy. Bulokes themselves are listed, as is the Buloke Woodland Community. This property has both, with notable listings such as Eremophila deserti, Eutaxia diffusa, Ptilotus erubescens, Maireana rohriachi and Austrostipa puberula.

This community also protects a suite of woodland bird species, many of which comprise birds represented in the listed and declining Temperate Woodland Bird Community – notable among the 100+ recorded species is the Grey Crowned Babbler, Hooded Robin, Powerful Owl and Swift Parrot

The endangered Pale Sun Moth and Purple and Yellow Jewell beetle are examples of significant invertebrate species recorded.

Trust for Nature’s Management Plan incorporates a ‘crash grazing’ weed control tool if required to quell invasive annual weeds and there is an argument that this should qualify within the parameters of a whole farm plan.

In setting aside this parcel of land for its environmental value I estimate that I have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of dollars over my lifetime, for what would have been very productive farmland. To be penalised with Land Tax and farm rates on top of this for ‘unproductive’ land is grossly unfair at a time when the conversation is about reducing CO2 emissions.

David Fletcher is a retired Photojournalist with the Wimmera Mail-Times in Horsham. The paper was instrumental in advocating for the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline project that now saves an estimated 90% of water harvested in the Grampians catchment. He was the photographer in a team that won a Walkley Award for a series of articles depicting the plight of the Wimmera River at the height of the Millennial Drought.