Marina Lewis splits her time on her forested Gellibrand property watching platypus forage in the river, blue cranes feeding on the pond and echidnas shuffling through the bush. The social worker sees herself as a caretaker of the biologically diverse land, rather than an owner.
“My husband and I don’t use the property to make money,’’ Marina says. “We’re just here because we love living in this environment and protecting it in its natural state. The Gellibrand River is such a presence because it’s an ever-changing organic wonder. I always wanted to build my own house and I was lucky enough to move into somebody else’s mud brick house. I love living in the bush in a simple home’’.
The seven-acre property is embedded in a larger block of 200 acres, which Marina, 51, and husband Neil Longmore co-own with two other people.
“It’s mostly forest and the Gellibrand River runs for about 1km on the property. I was thrilled to bits when I first saw a platypus and I still get thrilled because they are very elusive. I always think it’s a lucky day when I see a platypus and it’s a real privilege to have them nearby’’.
Marina, who moved to the property from Canberra 12 years ago, says she has witnessed first-hand how pollution from corporate mistakes can lead to massive stress along the Gellibrand River.
“Barwon Water recently let a three to four day sludge down the river that was creamy and mud-like. We had great sightings of platypus on the river during that period because they couldn’t forage as usual under the surface. They must have been quite stressed sitting on the top of the water because they wouldn’t have been able to feed.
Marina says she feels the need to speak up for places like hers and help educate people who don’t have a connection to the land. “We need to stop thinking about ourselves as the centre of the universe and start to prevent damage. We need to put the ecosystem as the priority and create better protection for these native animals in their environments.
“I guess people like Neil and I have a responsibility to tell and show people the magic of these places and it would be nice to start a program where we could invite people out here to witness it first-hand’’.
She says her family in Canberra love coming to her property to make contact with the natural environment. “Everybody likes having access to somewhere that’s a little bit wild and on the edge,’’ she says.
“I don’t ever want to go back to the city. You can spread your mind here and there’s some way that you relax your spirit into a place like this. We need to hold these special places in our consciousness and fight for them’’.
By Daniel Clarke, Environment Victoria, October 2008