trawtha makuminya is 6,878 ha of near-pristine land owned by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre. It connects the Tasmanian Land Conservancy reserves at Skullbone Plains and Five Rivers and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage, and is managed for conservation. trawtha makuminya plays a vital role in reconnecting the Aboriginal community with Country.

trawtha (pron: trow-dtha) (Big River Country) makuminya (pron:mah-ku-mi-nya) (Tracks) comprises 6,878 ha of land situated in the Central Highlands region of Tasmania. The property contains a range of significant conservation values including several rare and threatened flora and fauna species, threatened vegetation communities, sites of important geo-heritage significance and areas of Aboriginal historical and ancient value. In a landscape context, the property adjoins the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, reserved forested land and Tasmanian Land Conservancy reserves protected under conservation covenants.

The journey to protect the property previously known as Gowan Brae began when the TLC found out it was for sale on the open market. Keenly aware of its incredible natural values, we quickly went to contract on the property, subject to being able to raise the funds to acquire it. The Australian Government, through the National Reserve System, agreed to provide two-thirds of the purchase price (around $2 million). It was during the process of further inquiry into the property that it became clear to the TLC (through stories and some documented evidence) that trawtha makuminya and the surrounding landscape has significant Aboriginal cultural values.

After contacting the Indigenous Land Corporation to measure their interest in funding the balance of the project (around $1 million) we were on the path to an extraordinary and innovative partnership to acquire the property for the Aboriginal people of Tasmania. The rest, as they say, is history.

TLC’s ongoing role in the protection of trawtha makuminya

One of the requirements of the Australian Government’s funding of the acquisition is that a conservation covenant should be registered against the title of the land to protect its conservation values into the future. A steering group comprised of Australian Government representatives, the TLC, the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania (ALCT) and the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) work together to maintain the natural values of this incredible landscape. The Tasmanian Aboriginal community, through ALCT and TAC, have expressed their deep commitment to protect trawtha makuminya for its cultural and conservation values and we are equally committed to the ongoing role TLC will play in achieving that goal.

This historic purchase has ensured that a largely pristine, intact and culturally significant property now rests with the traditional custodians of the land. It has been described as a model for reconciliation and the partnership was hailed by the leaders of the Aboriginal community in Tasmania as one never before attempted in this state.

Clyde Mansell, Chairman of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, describes the project as a milestone for reconciliation in Tasmania.

“The Tasmanian Aboriginal community have never before witnessed collaboration of this nature in Tasmania. This property carries a virtually uninterrupted cultural landscape, which provides evidence of the past tracks used by our ancestors. It holds an abundance of traditional resources, some of which provide for ongoing cultural activities like basket making and also grants access for the contemporary Aboriginal community to traditional foods and medicines and an ochre site. The grassy plains that surround the property are a direct result of the ‘fire-stick’ burning of landscape carried out by our ancestors. The property will also offer greater opportunity for community visits, cultural participation and expression. The traditions and practices which can be continued on this landscape will help to achieve ongoing cultural well-being for Tasmanian Aborigines.”

Natural values

Pristine grassy woodland areas and the extensive, completely untouched old growth forests of the north-eastern third of the property provide shelter to many of Tasmania’s favourite animals, like owls, pigmy possums, parrots and black cockatoos. These undisturbed old trees with grass understorey are quite unusual in this area and probably indicate richer soils. Of particular note is the presence of the nationally endangered ‘alpine sphagnum bogs and associated fens’, nestled in pristine wetlands and grassland glades.

Over 93% of trawtha makuminya is intact native vegetation and a little over 5% in the south of the property has been cleared in the past, but is slowly regenerating.

The property is known to have at least five nationally endangered species, such as the iconic Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax fleayi), Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii), the enigmatic native fish Clarence galaxias (Galaxias johnstoni), the grassland paperdaisy (Leucochrysum albicans) and the miena cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii divaricata).

Another 12 threatened species have been recorded at trawtha makuminya including: the spotted-tail quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), eastern barred bandicoot (Perameles gunnii), grey goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae) and masked owl (Tyto novaehollandiae castanops). Threatened plants such as a lovely, little, endemic, perennial herb called Curtis’ colobanth (Colobanthus curtisiae), the mountain hovea (Hovea Montana), the shiny cheeseberry (Planocarpa nitida) and the small alpine leek orchid (Prasophyllum tadgellianum) all survive there.