News of April 2023

“Mercy is compassion in regard to someone else’s suffering.”

Thomas Aquinas

Dear Friends and Critics,


During the night of Sunday 16th April, it was as if somebody had flicked a switch: we experienced exceptionally strong winds, and by dawn it felt like the wet season was over. After a beautiful clear day, by 20:00 the temperature had dropped to 18.5 degrees centigrade; the next morning at 05:00 it was already down to 14 degrees. It does feel like the wet season is over and winter is on its way in, but of course, another 20 mm of rain before the end of May would be perfect. However, we will not count on it, because as Karl observes: “Only newcomers and those who have already been here too long, predict the weather.”


April had also been the month where the focus of ten days was to have been the Cockatoo Creek Sponge Rebuild; the challenge remained unattended, therefore for all those people wishing to walk their environmental talk, this particular regenerative learning opportunity remains open.


We hope that May is a good month for you all. Greetings from Kachana!

Photos of the Month

News & Views

Please note that Chris’ views below are flavoured by what he calls “the bullying, the incompetence and the overreach” that he has experienced in line with the ongoing donkey-fiasco.  


Musings below were triggered by a recent conversation. I found the whole discussion interesting. Even though content concentrates mainly on happenings in the USA, we can readily observe similar patterns of events occurring in other countries.

In his discussion with Dr. Scott Jensen, Jordan B Peterson offers advice: “ … for all of you professionals, who are listening in, …. If I was advising a young professional now …”

Peterson concludes: “The right outcome here is for the weaponized boards of regulatory practice to be scuttled.”


Attention: future land-doctors and innovators


Let us not become weary in doing good, 

for at the proper time,

we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9


With 100% certainty, all life ends in death. As with so many things in life, aviation too, is not a zero-risk endeavour. Risk-management therefore seeks to assess, and to optimally minimize risks, within changing contexts, in order to get on with life.


For a pilot, the rules in the cockpit are simple: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.

(The rest is ongoing risk-management and working at improving skills.)

  • Aviating is what should keep us alive (i.e. whatever we do, to not drop out of the sky)
  • Navigating is what should get us to our defined destination
  • Communication promises to avoid conflict along the way


Yes, future land-doctors and innovators, but also all land-managers, please be aware of the importance of monitoring and keeping records.  – The practice not only helps us better navigate, but to also have established facts to fall back on, should at some stage some well-meaning bureaucrat decide to throw the book at us!


On a journey and navigating uncharted territory, even if we know where we wish to end up, if we do not become sensitised to patterns and changes in the landscape, it does not take much to become disorientated. 

On Kachana we began keeping records, long before we even had a lease. In what was supposed to become a multigenerational journey, how else (thirty years later) would one be able to explain to new passengers about what we saw through the windscreen, through the side windows and in rear-view mirrors? Further, who is to say that we’ll even be here to explain things, when questions arise?


Our relationship to this bit of country began in 1985. Soon we realised, that things were not right!

We could see it then; at the rate that satellite technology was advancing, people even in Perth would one day be able to see it too. But our challenge was here, and now. Former wetlands were being carved up and were rapidly disappearing. Left behind were what soon resembled rocky moonscapes.


Might this be something cyclical?

What could be the cause? 

What could be done about it?


Feral cattle and donkeys appeared to contribute to the problem, but more was happening that (at the time) we did not understand. We created access and in 1991 moved out as a family. Danny and his family remained in Kununurra and provided logistic backup and support. The time had arrived to commence on-site management. Would we succeed? If so, how and how long for?


We observed processes that we did not feel responsible for.

Unbelievably disastrous trends were making themselves manifest in the very landscapes and wetland-systems that had attracted us to the area in the first place.

Yet, basic ingredients (sun-shine, water and dirt) were still there. We were happy to give it our best shot.


It was to this backdrop in 1992, that we invited the Ag Department to conduct an ecological stock-take on Kachana.


What were we to do? Nobody volunteered any feasible answers. The Department collaborated with the installation of fifteen photo-monitor sites. Jokingly I would say that many years from now, when some overzealous regulator in Perth uses satellite technology to spot an erosion gulley on Kachana that he/she wants us to do something about, we can at least say “Fair go, mate! Look at what we started off with. Give us a break, back off and let us prioritise our efforts to heal the land.”


Before the donkey fiasco erupted, not in my wildest dreams did I expect that, already during my life-time, we’d to have to justify our efforts to provide ecological first aid to dying land. How else were we supposed to begin building a business in line with our pastoral lease?


Despite sleepless nights since, and the fact that so much of our environmental work has now been stalled, listening to the story of Dr Scott Jensen makes the ‘Kachana donkey fiasco’ look like a ‘walk in the park’.


Today our planet has over eight times as many human mouths to feed than back in 1800. “Global problems” did not just suddenly appear out of nowhere. They grew in plain sight. Without wishing to depreciate the social challenges that came in tow, let us at least keep in mind the heartening fact that most global problems can be broken down to local challenges and that we have a spectrum of natural solutions to choose from if we wished to address them.

Our challenge is to build greater productivity and resilience back into the landscapes. Foxes in charge of hen-houses, make life as dangerous for free-range individuals as for those hiding in their regulated (city-)cages. As custodians of our natural heritage, we are all in this together, and regardless of differences, a proactive pursuit of water-security might allow us (foxes, chickens and others) to unite around this common need.


Implications and importance of Peterson’s statement notwithstanding, there is of course another important outcome that we could aim at: a common good. I.e., a conspiracy [so to speak] to do whatever is within our reach, and with the least amount of harm, to rebuild resilience into our landscapes and to devise production-systems that might support vibrant communities.


If therefore [as the local bush-telegraph informed me] this whole donkey-fiasco was initiated with the intent to make an example for alleged “breach of compliance”, then how could we [collectively] collaborate to change this debacle into a more valuable “example”? E.g., one that demonstrates that despite egos, cross-communication, past erroneous assumptions and misjudgement, a wider long-term perspective, one that includes community and landscape visions, allows conflict to be converted into a learning-experience that provides a path forward for positive community-backed action.


I have had the good fortune to experience three times the working-life expectancy of fellow countrymen from the land that I was born in. I have already clocked up more years than a quite a few of my parental ancestors, and have already outlived a younger sister. I live on borrowed time, and every day granted to me, I consider to be a present from a higher power.


The challenge that Kachana allowed me to table for the public, will remain a formidable challenge, and outlast anybody alive today. It is my hope that with a constructive resolution to the managed wild donkey debacle, a way forward will be paved for young energetic innovators to step up to meeting this exciting challenge with open support from community and regulatory bodies.


Life is simply too short to be doing things that we do not believe in!

This is especially so, in times when already the average member of the community can recognise that “more of the same” is failing us.

Unintended consequences of replacing of herbivorous activity with fire, in country that does not support commercially viable pastoralism continue to be a national disaster

Link of the Month

Foot note:

Jordan B Peterson points out that a unique feature of humans is the “ability to bargain with the future”.

‘Delayed gratification’ allows us to have positive impacts on how the future will be.

When a family or community embrace this idea (or even unknowingly act it out in the form of a tradition) cultures evolve and grow.

In a world where many of the landscapes lack the resilience to sustain modern human activity, it may be important to consciously incorporate ‘delayed gratification’ into holistic decisionmaking.