Contributed by Rita Sofea International Volunteers for Peace
Stonequarry Cemetry is 5 km from Taralga and is surrounded by farmland. Next to the area currently in use is a woodland area set aside for future needs. As with many such reserves, it is a repository of relatively undisturbed native plant communities. Although Stonequarry is much loved by locals, volunteers to look after the site have dropped off mainly due to young people moving to town and ageing of the remaining population. International Volunteers for Peace were approached by the cemetery committee to see if we could assist. After several meetings and site visits, we agreed upon four aims: to restore the native vegetation by removing invasive plants; to set up a herbarium and species list which can be used as an educational resource; to research the cultural heritage aspects; to revive local interest and participation.
On Friday evening 21 February seven volunteers gathered at Richlands homestead which was to be our accommodation for the weekend. The participants were two from China, one from Japan, two from Goulburn and two from Canberra. After a communally planned and prepared meal, the evening was spent on orientation, preparing a schedule for the next day and a light hearted game to get to know one another. Saturday was a 7.30am start for breakfast, then we headed for Stonequarry cemetery in a couple of vehicles, laden with a cut a lunch, tools, water, rubbish bags: all prepared to do battle with our targets.
We had decided to concentrate on an area close to the access road and next to the main part of the cemetery so that it would make a visible impression. Some focussed on cutting and daubing an interminable thicket of broom and isolated blackberry canes, while others sawed and daubed larger targets of hawthorn and other exotic deciduous interlopers. We took ‘before’ and ‘after’ pics for monitoring as well as morale-boosting.
We arrived back at Richlands around 4.30pm then enjoyed a long walk down to the creek. A highlight was finding a very large echidna, seeing lots of kangaroos, and hearing a platypus (we think) plunge into the water as we approached. Another delicious communal meal was prepared, followed in the evening with an interesting informal discussion on subjects related to the project.
On Sunday after an early breakfast we once again departed for the worksite. We carried out our weeding tasks during the morning and made significant progress in ‘our plot’ near the cemetery’s northern boundary. We filled four chaff bags with rubbish from the site and piled up the green waste ready for council to take away, leaving our small portion of the site in greatly improved condition.
At mid-morning we had a discussion on the cultural heritage of the site. We looked for graves and took photos of three possible sites. Over both days we photographed native plants that we saw while we worked, but an attempt to walk around the site and compile a systematic species list was unsuccessful, as the site had been recently grazed by cattle and late summer is not the most appropriate time as flowering has finished. However, we were rewarded by finding a black swamp wallaby with baby in pouch who continued their eating while we admired. Lots of birds were sighted including black cockatoos and a brown tree-creeper.
We did two experimental spray plots over the weekend; one with the application of Brushoff onto the first metre or two of a blackberry thicket, and a second when Glyphosate was applied to a discrete area of Vinca which was devoid of any native plants at all. These will be monitored in the future. Our weeding has exposed a carpet of Vinca in some places, and it will be interesting to see if it appreciates all the additional sunlight it will get after our weekend.
After working throughout the morning we drove to the nearby township of Taralga to visit the local museum, where we hoped to discover something about the cemetery’s history and operational layout. We were rewarded by enthusiastic members of Taralga Historical Society showing us maps with ‘our plot’ marked as the Jewish section and also had our photo taken for inclusion in the local newspaper. We heard a little more on reports of earlier usage of the area for ‘unconsecrated’ burials, a subject on which we are in touch with Dr Lambert Tracey, the Shires Heritage consultant.
The improvement to the site after our work encouraged us in our mission. We set tentative dates for follow up in mid-May and early September. We will need to develop strategies to involve locals as those who promised to visit or work with us, all cancelled for one reason or another. The project was made possible by the accommodation at Richlands homestead at nominal cost, the presence of a native grass expert from Friends of Grasslands, and a grant from FaCHSIA which paid for petrol.
Plant Species List, Stonequarry Cemetery, 21-23 Feb 2014
Acacia implexa (Hickory Wattle)
Forbs and woody species
Asperula conferta (?)
Lomandra filiformis subsp. filiformis
C. sp (breviculmis?)
Fauna Species List:
Swamp Wallaby plus baby
Ants, various species
Yellow-tailed black cockatoo
Brown tree creeper
Straw-necked ibis flock feeding on grasshopper