Meredith’s story

Meredith said: “The mountain had only recently emerged from its pioneering phase (“clearing the scrub”) when I was born, I now realise. Great ringbarked trees still stood in the paddocks here and there, but the top of the mountain was virtually cleared of all forest trees and given over to dairy and other agriculture, while the forest lay just over the edge all around us. Gardens were full of European plants (no native gardens back then), and only the most intrepid forest birds came to them, though they continued to bring seeds from the rainforest that kept trying to re-establish themselves.

“When we left the mountain in the mid 1970s, the population was beginning to swell rapidly, and the place was filling with raw new houses where once the open paddocks had been. The changes were picking up speed, and it seemed time to go. I didn’t feel any urge to go back and see what had happened once we’d left, knowing how saddened I’d be. The one comfort was the presence of the national parks all around, which I trusted would preserve the natural world that was such an important part of my memory of Tamborine. (And it’s true, walking those forest paths takes me straight back to childhood still.)

“When I went back to the mountain after decades of absence in the 1990s I was initially astonished that the top of the mountain was, if anything, more covered in trees than when I knew it, since the paddocks had now been subdivided into house blocks each with their own garden, and native gardens had encouraged the birds back in with their forest trees.

“The core area for survival of the mountain’s natural world must remain the protected areas, and the key to their survival is learning and teaching others respect for the natural world, rather than the potential for its exploitation. If the inhabitants of the mountain were all individual home-owners with native gardens full of endemic species, I really do think there would be the possibility for viable coexistence between the human and the natural worlds. With every new “development” that threatens what remains, however, we’re putting all that more and more in jeopardy. There’s a wonderful chance to do it right on Tamborine, and it’s truly dismaying to see how we continue to do it wrong, given all we know.”

About: Meredith McKinney is a celebrated translator of contemporary and classical Japanese literature. Meredith lived on Tamborine Mountain as a child with her mother, renowned poet and environmentalist Judith Wright.