It is dry here, very dry. When it rains the locals turn a wary eye to the sky hoping it continues. But it doesn’t. Severe drought throughout most of the country is causing hardship at every level – from the farmer to entire towns. In Coles Bay, Tasmania, the water storage sign is posted as empty. Water restrictions are in place in nearly every city and town. Farmers are reducing the size of their cattle herds at minimal prices to help offset costs because it takes hundreds of gallons of water to raise them. Citrus growers are cutting down trees as a means of saving the rest of the crop. Hanging clothes on the line to dry is common (yes, we are doing the same). Individuals, cities, and states are all taking measures to offset the strain.
Sustainability and environmental concerns are very much a part of living in Australia. The Great Ocean Ecolodge at the Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology leads the way. The Centre is “off the grid” for all utilities except telephone. Solar panels provide power for all their electrical needs, including hot water. Rain water is collected in containers that hold up to 250,000 liters (65,789 gallons) of water that is gravity fed to the Centre. Everything that can be recycled is recycled either as food for certain animals, composting, and the local recycling center for everything else. They have virtually no garbage.
The Cape Otway Centre is the work of its owners, Lizzie and Shayne. Two twenty-somethings that had a dream come true in a very short amount of time. They are recognized experts in their fields, true conservationists, and have a passion for the land and its animals. They built the lodge themselves beam by beam, brick by brick. They are strong supporters of land management and work with LandCare Victoria, a land rehabilitation organization, in helping to return the vegetation on privately-owned properties to its original state.
The Centre is a luxury eco lodge, a learning center with classroom, and a sanctuary for injured or orphaned marsupials (koalas, kangaroos, and wallabies) that are released back into the wild when healthy. A baby incubator, now used for marsupials, takes up library space in the Centre’s sitting room/library. Human contact with the injured animals is kept to a minimum. Profits from the eco lodge and learning center are used to sustain animal and land rehabilitation projects.
The native land surrounding the Centre is home to koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, and other birds and animals too numerous to name. Taking a tour at dusk with Lizzie through their property can only be described as “priceless!” We were not only overwhelmed with her graciousness for taking the time with us, but at her passion and knowledge of each plant and animal that we happened upon. Many of the rehabilitated animals remain in the area after they are released. It is heartwarming to have wallabies or kangaroos pointed out by name and to hear their story. Our visit with Lizzie and Shayne and their mobs of kangaroo and parliaments of koala will remain a memory to last a lifetime.
Australia can be a harsh place. Evidence of this is provided in the unique adaptations of its flora and fauna. Australians are concerned about the impact of global warming on an already harsh environment. Through the efforts of Lizzie and Shayne, and many others, positive steps are being taken.