In the beginning God made the land and he made the rain. Putting them together the trees grew tall and the animals and birds all thrived, and then he made man. Man cut down the forests and slowed the rain, damming the rivers and streams and altering the balance of life. The birds and animals started to suffer and many species were lost completely and then he made the Hindmarsh Landcare Network, who he challenged to come together and turn things around.

John Oldfield and the West Wimmera Tree Group obtained a grant to survey the roadsides of the Hindmarsh Shire to find out the quantity and quality of the remnants. They hired a Biologist “ hippy” called Rob Scalzo who drove is Volxwagon Combi Van and road his push bike over the old 2 & 3 Chain roads in the shire , mapping and recording all he found. He discovered many rare and endangered species still surviving on the roadsides and found that if 100k’ms of gaps were rejoined a total 2000k’m long bio link would be formed between the Big and Little Deserts from the Wimmera river to the South Australian Border re linking the big and little deserts for the first time in 100 years. A mammoth task that only took 4 years to complete.

Enter the formation of the Hindmarsh Landcare Network. All the stars were aligned. The bringing together of fourteen individual landcare groups , the Hindmarsh Shire which had just been formed with newly elected councillors, The Wimmera Catchment Management Authority and some hundreds of thousands of Federal dollars, Project Hindmarsh was born. What we now needed was some project management skills and some volunteers to plant out the trees and shrubs.

Enter Greening Australia under the leadership of Ron Dodds to do the project management and the Victorian Natural Parks Association Members ably led by John Stirling and Rob Youl.

We had the Plan , we had the funding and we had the volunteers, all we had to do was get started. The third weekend in August 1998 saw over 300 volunteers converge on the Yanac Road , they planted over 20,000 trees , the City joined the country and as they say in the classics “ The Rest Is History”.

Here we are 20 years on, 2017 ,whilst not as big and vibrant as in the beginning but Project Hindmarsh is still going, planting some 12,000 plants , with 150 or so volunteers involved each year, still supporting what I believe is Australia’s longest running revegetation project . Over the 20 years, millions of trees and shrubs have been established , either by Direct seeding or planting plants . Many skills have been learned, many groups have formed partnerships along the way. Monies have been spent on fencing Remnants, Seed Collection , Plant growing , chemicals, ripping , all dollars spent locally, supporting local businesses,  helping them survive.

What I believe to be the major benefit after the environmental enhancing, is the benefit to our local farmers and supporters and the city volunteers , who now have a vivid understanding of rural life and the demands put on it. What an experience , watching Doctors and Nurses , accountants and lawyers , students  and people from all walks of life , starting new friendships , all with a common goal, replanting the lost for the benefit of the future.

Ace Radio 3WM Through the Generous sponsorship of Geoff and Helen Handbury and their families  have sponsored this weekend continuously over the 20 years. Their generousity and support has been the major contributor to the Success of this magnificent Project. Congratulations to all that have been involved, there are too many to mention, but feel proud and satisfied of your achievments .

Darryl L Argall AM .