From 2003 I was heavily involved in the community campaign to protect the N.E.peninsula of Recherche Bay from being logged for profit. This landscape is the touchstone to some of the most remarkable natural and cultural history in first contact Australia. Living some 10 km north, in Lune River, I was working on collecting and drawing/printing many of the type specimens and other plants that the Naturalist – Labillardiere and Gardener – Felix Lahaye, were also collecting in 1792/3.
In 1792 two scientific research ships under the command of Rear-Admiral Bruni d’Entrecasteaux sailed from Brest in France in search of the great maritime hero La Perouse. They did not find him. Their friendly encounter with the Aboriginal people of Recherche Bay – the Lyluequonny, and the many collections of botany, zoology and language that came from this visit form a remarkable story. It is one of a brief groundbreaking trust and friendliness between the two cultures before the ensuing colonialism wreaked havoc on aboriginal culture. It is also a story of the amassing of an important scientific collection that helped to inform a groundswell of popular support to protect this landscape that has informed our history and helps inform our present.
The site where the French planted a garden was on private land and under threat to be logged. This French Garden became the touchstone to galvanise a community to ask the world, to respect this significant cultural landscape and to protect it forever.
The ‘Recherche Baybes’ was part of my contribution to raise awareness of this threatened landscape and the science and stories enmeshed in it. The ‘Recherche Baybe’s’ are a 3 piece group (occasionally more) who use original song, satire and a big dose of history to reach over 10,000 people at political rally’s, music festivals, radio and in concert. We sang songs of some of the characters on board the ships, songs about the French Garden, bawdy yarns…..and in between we spoke about the threat and disrespect to this area and why it matters.
The Tasmanian Land Conservancy were finally able to purchase the land for $2.2 million with the generous philanthropy of Dick Smith, The TLC now manage this landscape for us all and protect its cultural and natural values.
Admiral Bruny d’Entrecasteaux wrote in the official log book ; “I shall attempt the vain task of conveying the feeling I experienced at the very sight of this solitary harbour….Everything reflects the rustic state of raw nature….here one meets at every step, combined with the beauties of nature left to itself, trees of enormous height and corresponding width… some appear as old as the world.”