action-story | 17th Feb, 2012

Athol Davis: Woodcutter for 40 years in forests around Koondrook and Barham

ActionStory_Athol story“I was born in Balranald up around the Murrumbidgee and moved to Koondrook when I was six or seven. Dad was with the Post Master General. We were right on the river in Koondrook and spent most of our childhood in the river at the time – fishing, boating, rabbiting.

We used to drive the old man’s ute in to the Gunbower [forest]. When I left school I went droving for six months around Boort and Charlton and got a job on a sheep station in NSW. Then I got a job on the PMG with the old man for 19 years. Then I went cutting firewood in the Gunbower and Perricoota forests.

We didn’t know we had aboriginal in us until my grandmother died and my mum was 76. She went on the internet then and found she had two older sisters she didn’t know existed – one was in England and one was in Wales. A month and a half later she was on a plane and met up with them. They were in their 80s. They were stolen generation and then mum got involved in the Wadi Wadi nation. I got involved a few years later. I would have been around 45, I suppose.

The Murray does a special dreamtime story for the Wadi people but I haven’t been told that yet because the people that do know that story, one of them lives up in South Australia and one lives in Shepparton, but that’s got to be told after your manhood stuff and I’ve never been through that. But it’s not just the river.

The river’s like the veins through your body. The forest is a living eco system. When I was a kid we used to ride our horses out to what they called the rookery, almost on the Deniliquin Road, and it used to hold water and millions of ibis used to nest there.

My word environmental flows would help. If you get another 12 or 14 year drought the amount of dead wood would be phenomenal. You wouldn’t know it now but I can take you to places in the forest where’s there’s just dead standing timber, young, 20 year old trees. But the forests are thicker now than they were at the turn of the 20th Century. With the weirs and that they have been able to water the forest. The last two years they haven’t been able to hold the water back so it’s got to go in the wetlands. Since the rain, look out there – that’s green. It was brown before and the ground was just dirt colour. The forest has just alive. Trees we thought were dead have just sprouted.”

By Ian Kenins, Environment Victoria, February 2012