Friends of Melaleuca WILDCARE


Photos and story by Glenn Butterworth

From the moment our light plane circled over the gleaming white gravel runway, I was in awe of the mountainous landscape around us and knew this was going to be a very special experience.

I didn’t know what to expect or what I’d be doing as a first time volunteer at Melaleuca. Any apprehensions I had, melted away when locals Janet and Geoff Fenton greeted us with open arms and even wider smiles.

Later, at a welcome BBQ I would meet other like minded volunteers and hear from Janet (Friends of Melaleuca team leader) and Ian (Southwest National Park ranger) about our work programme for the week.

Melaleuca, for those who are unfamiliar with the location, is in the Southwest National Park, Tasmania, within the World Heritage Area. The only way to reach it is to walk, arrive by a small plane or sail out into the Southern Ocean and along the rugged Tassie coast to Port Davey and beyond.

It really is that remote, and a spectacular natural environment.

A project that impressed me was to add authentic elements to the Claytons’ home, as well as maintenance on the garden and heritage cottage. Win, Deny King’s sister, married fisherman Clyde. They lived here betwen 1962 and 1976 and fished the waters around Port Davey and created a simple home and garden. Today, visitors to Claytons can see how Win and Clyde lived and experience a touch of life in the wild. Although judging by an excellent and well researched book written by Janet Fenton about her aunt and uncle they weren’t short of visitors and friends who sailed to their door to enjoy the Claytons’ renowned hospitality.


The cooperation with Tas. Parks & Wildlife Service employees and the volunteer group really made the week a very productive and enjoyable one. We worked on projects side by side and also engaged over a drink and meal with other volunteers who were monitoring a rare parrot.

I had the joy of taking photos of volunteers and recording short interviews with them in between my maintenance tasks.

I’d like to think that I am able to return to this wonderful part of the world and work alongside some very self sufficient skilful supportive and friendly people. This wonderful experience has spurred me on to seek out other volunteer opportunities – and I’m already underway with this!

Special thanks to Janet and Geoff Fenton who managed our team skilfully, warmly and with great encouragement. To my new mate Ken who took on the oldest boat building apprentice to help him repair a dinghy for a very important task. Thanks shipmate.