Volunteers from the Wirraminna Environmental Education Center in Burrumbuttock honored with a new book

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Wirraminna, the book, celebrates the story of how a group of community-minded volunteers from a small rural New South Wales town turned a neglected dam into an award-winning bush reserve.

The book celebrates the history of the Wirraminna Environmental Educational Center on Wiradjuri land in Burrumbuttock in southern New South Wales.

In 2019, author Megan Graham was asked by the Wirraminna Committee to write a book to coincide with the center’s 25th anniversary in 2020.

Ms Graham, who is now based in Melbourne, grew up in Wagga in the NSW Riverina.

The book’s release date was delayed by a few years due to COVID 19 restrictions, but it was finally launched on the Burrumbuttock site this week by Albury NSW member Justin Clancy, with Ms Graham and of Wirraminna volunteers.

Author Megan Graham says the world needs more Wirraminna.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Allison Jess)

Ms Graham, who conducted around 100 hours of volunteer interviews for the book, said the book pays tribute to members of the Burrumbuttock community who have developed an environmental center from unused land.

The book tells the stories of volunteers and celebrates what is possible when good people come together and create something special for their community.

Ms Graham said the book was also part of a memoir.

“I grew up in Wagga and have since moved to town, and my own story is woven into the book of returning to my rural roots and experience,” she said.

Ms Graham said the book recognized the traditional owners of the land and their knowledge.

She also hoped the book would remind people how important it was to get off screens and reconnect with nature.

When the right people come together

Petaurus Education Group president Adrian Wells is a longtime supporter of Wirraminna.

The group provides free education programs to schools and community groups in South East Australia.

He said Wirraminna as an environmental education site began in 1983 when a small group of locals got together and discussed the idea of ​​turning a neglected area of ​​Burrumbuttock into a community facility.

Mr Wells said the dam on the existing site was dug in 1902 by a group of Chinese laborers and became a watering hole for cattle passing through the area on their way to market.

“When that need died out with the advent of rail and better transport, then it became a watering hole for the township of Burrumbuttock,” he said.

“So people would bring their water buckets here and fill them with water, so it became a community place where many people met and stories were shared,” he said.

A sign at the entrance to the Wirraminna Environmental Education Center with a vine with leaves drawn on it saying look, listen.
The Wirraminna Environmental Education Center has won several awards over the years, including two National Landcare Awards.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Allison Jess)

Mr Wells said volunteers had today made the four-hectare public site – which included a dam, wetlands and natural woodlands – a place of attraction for visitors from all over.

He said the visit included school and community groups, government agencies, nature lovers and tourists.

He said Wirraminna was home to vulnerable and critically endangered species including the southern corroborated frog and squirrel glider.

He said the Petaurus Education Group was formed from Wirraminna in 2014 to develop the center’s environmental education values.

As good as your volunteers

Wirraminna Environmental Education Center President Darryl Jacob said he was proud of how the center had grown since he and a small group of locals first discussed possible ideas for the neglected bush in 1993.

An older man with graying hair, green cap, glasses, blue shirt, stands in a bush reserve, with a dam behind him.  It looks serious.
Wirraminna chairman Darryl Jacob is among the original group that wanted to turn the neglected dam into a bush reserve.(ABC Goulburn Murray: Allison Jess)

Mr. Jacob estimated that members of the community have contributed approximately one million volunteer hours to the center over the years.

“Success relies on volunteers,” he said.

Mr Jacob said many groups across Australia had emulated what had been done by volunteers at Wirraminna to create their own public spaces.

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