News Archives 29th March 2011 - 25th April 2011

"And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" Eric Bogle - Monday 25th April 2011

Happy Easter Everybody!!!!!

This a day when we are left alone in our Wilderness Mt Hart, where time allows us to reflect on the fact that we thought our battle with DEC would be over by Xmas 2010; a reflection which has turned out to be so far from the realities of our life.

It is now Easter and we are still yet to receive a completed fair deed to sign from The Department of Environment and Conservation of Western Australia (DEC). One that is neither unconscionable, unjust, nor harsh. Fortunately, in the wash up of all this negotiation between "David and Goliath", there are laws and Acts that exist within this country which protect people, such as ourselves, from Unfair Contracts and Unconscionable Conduct.

Like our Kimberley wilderness peers, over this Easter break, we should be able to relax and enjoy the festivities of life. Sadly still we continue to fight for some sort of just conclusion to the nightmare we have been living following the meeting in May 2010. It is nearly a year (12 months) since we first started dealing with DEC over this issue and after 20 years servitude and dedication to the state of Western Australia I never expected to be treated this way.

So to sum it all up we have no new news to give you...our myriad of so loyal supporters. We dearly wanted our Easter message to be one of conclusion and future hopes; However this is not to be and so to give all of you an inspiring and uplifting message this long weekend of celebration, we have written about another character of The Kimberley, and especially this Mt Hart Country - Peggy Lawrence...

Please Click here to read more

"Copperhead Road" Steve Earle - Wednesday 20th April 2011

The history of the Kimberley is not just written on the rocks of caves, the shape of mountains and gorges...The history of this country is all of that and so much more. Over the ensuing years Kim and I intend to tell as much of it, as accurately as we possibly can because modern day contemporary history and certainly tomorrows history of this land needs documenting.

Many characters have ridden into the Kimberley and many have yet to have their story told.

Well I want you all to hear about this man, because this man, has earned his place in this northern dreaming. This man is called colloquially - Mr Honest Jeff Ryall.

Click Here to Read More

"American Pie" Don McClean - Sunday April 17th 2011

Survival right now has become all about a deep sighing breath, a stiff drink and a mind airing stroll through the encompassing solitude of Mt Hart’s wilderness country we so love. Each step we have taken, and all those we still have to take, just seems like constant skirmishes to a huge battle - some we win, some we lose, but this will never be over for us until final settlement is achieved.

Until that day, nothing seems certain and nothing is over, with nothing appearing either lost or won.

Since DEC’s fly in “visit” on Monday, we have been trying to compile all the information required, in a way which ensures everything is documented clearly and concisely in writing. Yes…finally, it does look like there is light at the end of the tunnel, even though at times that light pulses from dim to dark…

Last time we checked…our traffic statistics show hundreds of people daily have been visiting this website since we went public with our story, and the Kimberley Grapevine is one of the dominant reasons, as this webpage’s traffic statistics reveal. So thank-you to all of you who are out there, monitoring how this progresses and checking our site regularly.

Thank-you to all those of you who sent us presents and wonderful letters of support in the mail this past week… On Friday, care of the weekly mail plane we received some DVD’s, a guardian angel pendant, lots of letters, and even this great magnet…This picture depicts exactly how we feel right now!

Throughout this whole campaign it has always been all of you supporters out there, who have kept us going. You have helped lift our spirits as we have copped a bashing in more ways than one this wet season. I expected that after 20 years dedication to the State, the transition would have been amicable and smooth. Perhaps eventually it will be, but the road towards this, is one of the roughest I have ever travelled in a life time of tackling this nation’s roughest trails.

Hopefully the incredible effort and strain we have survived through up until now, which all of you out there have been a salve for, is about to come to an end shortly…fingers crossed this can be resolved soon.

So today dear people, as a gift to you all we are going to post some photos of some of my collection of documents we have stumbled across whilst sorting through the office. A collection of not to be lost paraphernalia which shows Mt Hart’s heritage, culture and history since 1967…

Please Click Here To

"Every which way but Loose" Eddie Rabbit - Tuesday April 12th 2011

Alan Byrnes the West Kimberley District Manager of The Department and Environment of Conservation of Western Australia contacted us 7 days ago to ask us if he could bring a potential manager out who may be running Mt Hart this year, for us to teach her the ropes and all the idiosyncrasies of the place.

For those of you who don't know what I am talking about right now Please Click Here to read the full story...

As we had over 300mm of rain in that last downpour of rain (which did not end until around 5 days ago) the two of us have spent the last week working like crazy ants trying to clean up all the flood and weather damage from this year’s wet season. Normally we would get a team of 4-6 people out here to help us clean up the facilities after the rains and floods have ended. In order to get the place ready for their visit we have done in one week what it would normally take 4 people to do in 2 weeks.

When DEC flew into Mt Hart yesterday they were supposed to bring out the final deed of settlement with them for me to sign, but they did not have it with them. When they arrived there were 3 DEC conservation and land management officers in total, as well as the new manager they have lined up and a specialist to work on the hybrid solar power system that was installed on a federal government grant (which has been malfunctioning severely over the past 12 months).

It is the first time we have seen anyone from DEC out here at Mt Hart since the meeting we had with them in May 2010.

We took them around and showed them how the facilities operate and where all the equipment, switches, circuit breakers, irrigation system and household water supply devices are located…

We tried to be as thorough as possible whilst relaying 20 years worth of knowledge to them, in a few hours. They photographed EVERYTHING and took copious amounts of notes…But they did listen to us and seemed interested in what we had to say to them.

Prior to their visit the DEC reps advised us that their visit was "not an inspection as such”, but in so many ways it felt like more than an inspection, and it was totally unnerving… By the end of the day we would like to believe, and hope that we all came to some sort of general understanding. It was pleasing though, despite everything, that we were able to share our knowledge and stories about Mt Hart first hand with the representatives from district office.

Our only hope is that the information that is compiled as part of the report DEC are putting together will be used by them reasonably, with the best of intentions, and not in some fraudulent manner against us.

You have no idea how many things you feel the need to think of when teaching someone how to run a place such as Mt Hart. To us so many of these things have become second nature. We truly hope by showing them around we have helped the DEC representatives realise how much work goes into maintaining a facility such as Mt Hart. We hope we have given them a deeper appreciation, understanding and respect for what we do out here. We hope it helped them learn more about the heritage, history and infrastructure The Department is beholding in its charter to the citizens of WA to manage.

We now continue to wait for head office in Perth to meet their side of the deal by providing us with a fair, reasonable and just final deed to sign. They have been saying this deed will be provided to us for well over 10 days now. All we want is for the settlement agreement to finally be reached, and sealed in writing, so that both parties can move forward.

"People" Barbara Streisand - Wednesday April 6th 2011

The Gods are speaking to us both as we listen to a crescendo of wet season rains splatter on the tin roof – a monsoonal downpour that has amounted to a phenomenal 304mm in the last 3 days. The wet is still in the Kimberley and the rivers are aflood like only this country can run. Yes, the skies are a deep misty grey as we try our best to meet goals and designs. Looking out across the rising Barker river that is now at the door step, my vision hardly makes it beyond the wall of rain outside. My mind wanders to other great people who came into this Mt Hart wilderness country so many years ago and endured so much of what Kim and I are facing today.

For some strange reason a family came to mind, then I realized, it was not strange at all, but in many ways a story and legacy that mirrors what I feel is happening to Kim and myself. So to shake this memory of history free from my mind to you all, consider this story as I sit in an old chair and gaze at the flooded river...

Four generations ago, Sir John Forrest had the qualities and skills of a true leader of men, and the vision to become Western Australia’s most famous explorer and statesman. With the aid of his brothers, Sir John established a dynasty of legendary prosperity and renowned esteem. Yet in the years which followed, this pioneering family, experienced harder and harder times. In 1998, The Forrest’s mighty half a million acre Pilbara sheep station “Minderoo”- an outback realm which had been in the Forrest Family for some 120 years, had to be sold, and hence was disposed of to a syndicate of four people.

For a family built of tradition, closeness and generational effort, losing “Minderoo”, was both the loss of tradition and a sabre slice to the Forrest Family’s heritage. The knowledge of everything their father had built, of everything their grandfather had started and kept vibrant for so many years, had all somehow been siphoned away from the family name. Because now others owned the station who did not have the same understanding, the same appreciation nor connection with the history and the heritage of this - Their Country.

So came a need, a desire and a strong will to reclaim “Minderoo”. In 2009, 11 years after the Forrest’s mighty sheep station was sold, the youngest member of The Forrest family, Andrew (Twiggy) Forrest and his wife Nicola, bought back “Minderoo Station” for $12 million. They bid for their heritage at an auction that had everything - a big crowd and strong punters.

The Forrests have since been able to restore something of Minderoo. They have even had their great-grandfather's old buggy repaired, but most importantly The Forrests have started to regain Their Heritage. Alexander and Matthew Forrest (pictured below center) were the first explorer’s to travel through this Mt Hart country.

Mt Matthew - that incredible mountain, which towers above Mt Hart homesteads and the surrounding wilderness country, is named after Matthew Forrest.

Over the years I have been privileged to collect a lot of maps, old diaries and journals and books about the history of Mt Hart from Kimberley locals, including documents, maps and artifacts from Andrew and Matthew Forrest’s epic journey. Some time back when I was sorting through some of my personal items, I found Sir John Forrest’s office chair which was passed to me some years ago by a Kimberley local from Broome, as a contribution towards my collection of heritage items.

Then late last year after talking to Andrew Forrest about this, I sent Sir John Forrest’s office chair down to him with Tim Roberts via helicopter. This chair was destined to return home, be refurbished and take pride of place back where it belonged and first came from in the homestead at “Minderoo.”

Yesterday, I was pleased to receive news from Nicola and Andrew Forrest that Sir John Forrest’s office chair is now in the process of being restored to it’s original condition, and will indeed have pride of place at “Minderoo” homestead. They have thanked me for my thoughtfulness and have invited me down to The Pilbara to see the chair in situ at Minderoo, which is a future plan for me to look forward to.

Yet as the rains come tumbling down, the river roars, the mud runs, and the humidity becomes oppressive, I peer from my chair through the grey and see the future in my mind and wonder;

Mt Hart was a ruin and I rescued her, Kim has preserved the dreaming in her art, what piece of us will a Kimberley local hand to someone in the future and say;

“Look after that will Ya’…That was Taffy Abbotts…That was Mt Hart”

And one day, someone will place that inherited gift back here in the Hart, right where it should always be...

Will a State Government Department recognize today the history of tomorrow?

Or will all that was before be swept to dust by bulldozers, progress and the desire for dollars?

For me the legacy and heritage of “Minderoo”, epitomizes what I now see before me in the rain, in the scent of the air and in the spirit of the land, as I sit here at “Mt Hart”...

Both “Minderoo” Station...

...And “Mt Hart” Station...

...have been rebuilt, maintained, restored, preserved and protected by people like Nicola and Andrew, Kim and myself – people who have grown with the wilderness, who respect their heritage’s source, who realize that the history of the country should be kept alive for perpetuity.

These may be my last Kimberley rains, but “Taffy Abbotts” will sit here at Mt Hart overlooking this river for all time, through the legacy, the stories and the memories I have shared and passed onto others…No matter what The Department of Environment and Conservation of Western Australia do with me, or to me. ~Taffy~

"To know her is to love her" Steeleye Span - Monday 4th April 2011

Well…we promised you all we would let you know what was happening…

There is a lot we would love to share with you all but owing to the fact that we are trying to negotiate in ”good faith”, there is a need at this point to maintain a respectable level of “confidentiality”, which I am sure you all understand.

At the moment we feel it all comes down to the fact that we require The Department of Environment And Western Australia (DEC) to compromise with us, meet us fairly and honestly as they have eluded from behind the scenes they wish to do and lower the odds we see as stacked way too high in their favour.

The response we sent to DEC requests exactly that - It is an asking of DEC to meet just and fair terms and realise they are not dealing with a city business, but a very remote and distant wilderness Station, that like all such ventures, requires very unique and lateral responses to reach such settlements. DEC are getting there, but it is like dragging a raging scrub bull by the horns through a herd of milking cows.

But on a much more positive note, because we received that inspiring correspondence from the state library of Western Australia last week, there has been an invigorating re-ignition for our real reason for running this website - A new belief in ourselves for having devoted so much of our time, energy and effort, into creating Mt Hart.

As the State Library of Western Australia has indicated to us they wish to preserve the information we are publishing on this website which they state is of “National Significance”, for “perpetuity”. We are so proud to have our little piece of the world, our words and understanding, added to all the others that go to making this State’s past and present, valuable history…

So this story my friends, is about Kim who has stood with me when the chips were flying and the sweat was and still is never ending. This is what good outback women do – they stand shoulder to shoulder with their mate and do so with love through bruises, blisters and the odd moment to relax enjoying a sun downer together.

What Kim wishes, more than anything, is to tell you lovely supporting folk about her artwork. Because something that really matters to her is the story and history of her artwork. Artwork she has produced over the past 6 years, since she has been out here with me at Mt Hart, which will hopefully be preserved for “perpetuity” care of the State Library of Western Australia.

Kim’s story starts where it really began…some 18 years ago…

Please click here to read more…

"Comes a time" Neil Young - Friday 1st April 2011

Well!!!! Kim and I are just stunned and overwhelmed. I’ll tell you why in a sec, but first I have to say, we have been really busy out here at Mt Hart sorting and packing up, doing necessary maintenance along with dealing with the legals.

As a sideline issue to our negotiations with The Department of Environment and Conservation of Western Australia (DEC), which we promise we will provide you with further information about in the next day or two, the mail plane came today and we received some really unexpected and wonderful news.

The State Library of Western Australia has contacted us. They are building a comprehensive collection of Australian Publications to ensure that Australians have access to their documentary heritage now and in the future. The library has traditionally collected items in print but it is now also committed to preserving the electronic publications of "lasting cultural value".

PANDORA, Australia’s web archive, was set up by the library in 1996 to enable the archiving and provision of long-term access to online Australian Publications. Since then they have been identifying online publications and archiving those that they consider to be of "national significance".

The have contacted us requesting our permission, which we have granted them, to copy this very website into the PANDORA archive.

This means that we have granted the State library "permission to retain our website in the PANDORA archive, and to provide public access to it for perpetuity".

Now how great is that!?! We have spent a lot of time and effort over the past 2 years developing this website into a comprehensive educational community database to help preserve the history, stories and culture of the country in The Kimberley and the Gibb River Road.

So we are really chuffed about this because it means our knowledge of the country up here won't be lost after all! The State library has also indicated to us that they want to "re-archive the publication of our website in PANDORA periodically to reflect significant additions and changes". Absolutely brilliant! It's so great to get some good news for a change...A big Thank-you to people like Sam and Rosita Lovell, Anne Koeyers, Hugh Brown, Mike Wallwork, Jiri Lochman, Peter Walton, Chris Brown, and of course Brumbyy who have donated heritage material, information and photos to us over the last couple of years. These people have all helped make this community website, comprehensive, informative & educational to all. ~Taffy and Kim~

"Like A Bridge Over Troubled Waters" Simon and Garfunkle - Tuesday 29th March 2011

At last the signs of settlement arise in a show of good faith. I asked The Department Of Environment And Conservation of Western Australia (DEC) in our last letter to please send me a draft deed of settlement within 7 working days. Jim Sharp - the deputy director general of DEC, sent me that draft deed yesterday, within 5 working days. Which to me is the sign of good faith I have so desperately been looking and waiting for.

It is so easy when despair, concern and anxiety all rolled into one are the emotive forces surrounding one when their life is at a crossroads, to think the worst and act irrationally. Patience, sometimes is really hard to hold as a virtue as the mind reels under the stress.

Not only has Jim Sharp seen to getting the response through before time, but he has seen to it, that the draft deed acknowledges some of the terms I asked DEC to amend.

I am of course as any prudent businessman would be expected to, running this draft deed of settlement past our wonderful pro bono lawyers in Sydney to see what they recommend, and if any changes are required, in order to ensure the deed is legally fair and just for both parties. Yes…both parties, because I really want Mt Hart to continue to grow and remain a revered place to visit in the Kimberley after I have gone.

In the meantime, there is an issue we wish to address...

Some of our loyal supporters have been writing to us recently asking;

“Where is this Jon Ford?…Why isn’t he helping you out like he said he would?”

I want to let you all know that The Honourable Jon Ford is still there in the background helping, working diligently for us. He has been and is, the most approachable and honest politician I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and he has been and still remains this very day, a constant source of morale and political support.

Jon has done a lot of behind the scenes work for us these past couple of months, including meeting with the Environment Minister – Bill Marmion, and lobbying his fellow politicians ‘in the corridors’ and where-ever.

I am most grateful to him for his constant advice, support and the dedication he has shown, not just as a politician, but as the man he is, to our plight via e-mails and telephone calls.

If anyone has earned the title of “The Honourable”…Honourable Jon Ford has because he realises this isn't just about business, there are people's lives and future at stake here.

I am proud to be able to call him an ally, and a friend.

Thank-you Jon.