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Refugees helping to save unique native grassland

27 November 20190 comments

Refugee volunteers are helping to secure the future of an important and unique native grassland west of Melbourne.

Members of the Karen community in Wyndham are helping Parks Victoria to clean seeds needed to revegetate newly declared native grassland reserves in Wyndham, Mt Cotterell and Rockbank.

The Victorian Government recently acquired around 20,000 square hectares of land that has been designated the ‘Western Grasslands Reserve’ on Victoria’s unique volcanic plain.

But the native grass on the land has been degraded over time by livestock and cropping.

Hundreds of kilos of native kangaroo grass has been trucked in from western Victoria to help revegetate the land.

Parks Victoria Grassland Ranger Emma Parker said the kangaroo grass seeds needed to be extracted from the grass clippings by hand.

“A groups of local Karen refugees have volunteered to clean and collect the thousands of seeds needed to revegetate the reserves,” Ms Parker said.

“It is an unbelievable contribution because seed cleaning is laborious manual work. It is work that can only really be done by hand and the Karen group has stepped up to help,” she said.

The seed is collected by hand threshing grass clippings and then sifting the grass to remove the seed.

The seed collecting volunteer group was organised by Werribee Park Ranger and Karen community member Hsar Thein Ju.

“We are happy to help. It’s important that we preserve some of the native grassland. It is a unique and sensitive ecosystem that is habitat for many native animals,” Mr Ju said.

“It’s important that we keep some of it for future generations,” he said.

Werribee Park Chief Ranger James Brincat said the reserves will connect the You Yangs to the Werribee River across the volcanic plain.


“The reserves will protect the largest remaining concentration of volcanic plains grasslands in Australia and a range of other habitat types, including ephemeral wetlands, waterways, Red Gum swamps, rocky knolls and open grassy woodlands,” Mr Brincat said.

“This will increase the extent of protection of the critically endangered Natural Temperate Grasslands of the Victorian Volcanic Plain from two per cent to 20 per cent.

“The reserves also provide habitat for many State and Commonwealth listed threatened and rare species, in particular the Golden Sun Moth and Spiny Rice-flower, as well as the Striped Legless Lizard and the Plains Wanderer,” he said.

Refugee volunteer Nyee Lay said he was pleased to be able to help.

“Karen people have a natural connection to the landscape and we like the idea we are doing something to preserve it,” Mr Lay said.

“It also nice to get the community together to share the work and talk and have lunch together,” said Mr Lay, a Year 11 student at Wyndham Central College.