Woolah-Wah fight against salinity

Aboriginal Elder Denis Hayward is proud of the work his family is doing on their Coobabla Farm at Bakers Hill, about an hour east of Perth.
The family is like many other landholders throughout WA’s Wheatbelt, trying to stem the tide of salinity that affects more than one million hectares of land in the region.
While the problem may seem overwhelming, hundreds of landholders are doing their bit by the simple but effective technique of planting trees.
With the help of the nearby Northam Senior High School Bushranger Cadets, the Hayward family has fenced off more than four hectares of land and planted 9000 saltbush seedlings by hand.
The Indigenous Land Corporation divested the picturesque property to the Woolah-Wah Land Aboriginal Corporation and the Hayward family nearly ten years ago.
Since that time the group has worked to improve the viability and sustainability of the Bakers Hill property.
Lending a helping hand has been natural resource management group Wheatbelt NRM, which has helped to fund and coordinate the work.
While most of the farm is leased out for hay production and grazing, Shirley, Denis and his five children are working towards managing the farm independently.
“Already we have built sheds and fenced areas to improve the operation of the farm,” Denis Hayward said.
Salt is starting to creep up from a local creek, causing waterlogging problems, which prompted the group to seek the assistance of Wheatbelt NRM.
The group’s Regional Landcare facilitator Jo Wheeler said it was a valuable project, funded through the Australian government’s Caring for our Country program.
“The area that’s been fenced off was susceptible to water logging, but by planting these trees it should reduce the problem,” Jo Wheeler said.
“It will also mean the area could be used productively for grazing as well as improving the biodiversity along the creek line.”
Denis Hayward said he first started noticing the salinity problem when trees started dying in the area.
“The water logging was such a problem we were even getting the ute bogged in summer,” he said.
“We’re hoping the trees will stop the salt from creeping back up the hill and will also give us productive grazing opportunities.
“We eventually want to run sheep in the area, which is why we’ve fenced it as well.”

Photo caption: Denis Hayward surveying part of the fence line built by his family, including his grandson Shadley, and sons Hedley and Leon.