"From little things - big things grow"
"From Little Things Big Things Grow" is a song written by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody about the Guringji's withdrawal of their labour from Wave Hill Station in the 1960's. This action led to the Aboriginal Land Rights' movement. I first heard this song at the Glen Innes Folk Festival in the early 1990's and the chorus has become a fixture in my thinking.
My first efforts in card making, using pressed flowers, were for my Year 3 class of Macquarie Fields Public School in 1992. Each card carried a message about the special qualities of each child and some encouraging words of inspiration. This Christmas card making continued until 1994, when my teaching was directed away from whole classes to individual and small groups.
While I have always prepared the numerous public displays for Friends of Smiths Creek, a local bush regeneration group, which we helped found 9 years ago, it was an unexpected Christmas card which led to my photography being used on special cards for a few close friends for Christmas 1999. No appropriate card was available in the shops, so I searched my photo collection.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, my love of the natural environment had come to the fore. While the photographs are certainly not of the highest professional standard, complementary colours for the cards brought out the best in the photos and the mounting made all the difference.
Shortly afterwards, Campbelltown City Council recommenced work on the Campbelltown North Stormwater Dam. What a Christmas present for the local residents from their Council!.
Worst of all, the residents had been effectively denied access to our so called participatory democracy. Only a small number of residents, those whose properties actually adjoined the "development" were notified by letter prior to the development application being approved. While Council had stuck to the letter of the law in the planning process, the spirit of the law had been denied. Council had let the tender for over $1 million but did not see the need to notify the close knit community.
The people of Fitzroy Crescent, Leumeah were devastated. During the pre-construction phrase, massive eucalypts were bulldozed into the dust and the residents' prize winning community gardens were damaged. My friend, of eastern European descent, remarked "The authorities don't shoot people in this country. However by destroying the land they are destroying the spirit of the people." From bitter experience, I could only agree.
Something had to be done but what? Eventually, the idea of New Year cards crept into my mind. Why not present each Councillor with a card featuring a photo of a local Reserve? It was a positive move to highlight the natural beauty of the area.
However, I knew this alone was not enough. Conversations kept intruding into my meditations. "When people bag Campbelltown, I get cranky." "People only ever think of the bad things when they think of Campbeltown". "There's so much to offer here. We're glad we came. It's given us so much." "Apart from the natural environment, there are enormous untapped resources in the people who've come from all over the world to settle in Campbelltown."
So, the Creative Environment Series 2000 came into being. It was a collaborative effort, idealistic in intent but nevertheless, achievable in the long term while ever goodwill remains. It's a recognition that Councillors are humans who sometimes lose their way, no matter the fine ideals which saw them elected in the first place.
This is our thanks to them, with the encouragement to see the woods for the trees and to let their actions speak louder than words. Surely, this is an appropriate New Year's Greeting for a new century.
My friends in the Macarthur Greens, Coral Sewell and Julie Bourke, were co-opted to write the message in the cards and the accompanying letter. Newly elected Greens Councillor, David Hawkins volunteered to present the cards at Council's recent planning day.
From this came the idea of placing these photographs on the internet for all to see. My husband, Terry Collins, carried out this work and thus was born the Campbelltown Natural Environment Pages. These photographs are the foundation for those pages, but will be joined by others in the future. After all, Campbelltown has more to offer than just Koshigaya or Pembroke Park.
Information on these pages came from various sources. Councillor Verlie Fowler provided the historical aspects, while ex-Alderman Peter Primrose enthusiastically told me of how a Port Jackson Figtree was saved. Another ex-Alderman, Arthur Jones, generously gave of his time to recall how Pembroke Park was "saved" and how he feared for its future.
Every card has a purpose. Each has been carefully matched to an individual Councillor. However, there is a dedication which, while unwriten, needs to be made. These cards arise from the hurt, humiliation and anger experienced by many brave souls in Council's chambers and in its decision making process over the years.
I only know some of them - the brave women of Kentlyn, the Barff Rd fighters, the many Friends of Smiths Creek, the GREAT group from Wedderburn and the as yet silent Fitzroy Crescent/Brudenell Ave community. To all the others, know that we share your pain.
"From little things, big things grow" is a song about standing up for fairness, acting with dignity and feeling a real sense of belonging. I hope that, by using the vehicle of "Creative Environment", the seeds have been sown for reconciliation and healing in Campbelltown.
This has been exhausting, enjoyable and I hope, ultimately worthwhile. Stay tuned for my next project, "From Balaclava to Bitch and Beyond".