Making a difference at Melaleuca

by Cate Macpherson

A team of highly skilled and enthusiastic volunteers assembled at Melaleuca in March to tackle an ambitious program of building works, coordinated by the Friends of Melaleuca (FOM).

The crew of 13 had been specially recruited for their diverse skills in areas that included building, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, working at heights, brushcutting, chainsawing, painting and labouring.

After a site orientation and safety briefing, the working bee team wasted no time in getting stuck into several key building projects, which had been made possible by funding from Wildcare and the Craig Saunders Memorial Grant program.

Deny King Heritage Museum


Museum ceiling before work. Photo Chris Smith


Work on the museum ceiling. Photo Geoff Fenton

Insulating and lining the ceiling of the proposed Deny King Heritage Museum was a priority task, ably undertaken by volunte
ers Chris, Phil and Rob. The new ceiling not only looks fantastic, but will make the museum more comfortable for visitors and Orange Bellied Parrot (OBP) volunteers.

Finishing touches included varnishing the completed ceiling and installing a welcoming bench seat in the new covered foyer at the entrance to the museum. The foyer had been recently


Varnishing the museum ceiling. Photo Geoff Fenton

constructed by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. The planned addition of new water tank at the site will complete the building stage of the works.


Finished museum ceiling. Phot Chris Smith

The focus can now turn to the curation of the museum’s contents and interpretive displays, which will enhance visitors’ experience, and help to preserve the social, cultural and environmental heritage of Melaleuca.



First Camp Hut and Surrounds


Restitution work on First Camp, Melaleuca. Photo Janet Fenton

One of the huts in the row of original cottages which housed the first settlers in the Melaleuca area also received a significant makeover. The hut, known as ‘First Camp’, was erected by the New Harbour Tin Development Company in 1935. It was later used by members of the King family, and afterwards provided shelter to weary bushwalkers until the current Nissen bushwalker hut was built.

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First Camp-Nearly done! Photo Geoff Fenton

Volunteers Ken and Scott started from the ground up at First Camp, digging trenches around the hut to divert water from the structure, with help from Philippa and Cate. David also cleared an extensive water diversion channel, originally built to reroute water away from the cottages.

The stumps and bearers were augmented and leveled under First Camp, the joists and studs augmented, and finally, new weatherboard cladding was fixed to parts of the external walls, replacing the most rotten boards.

The work was carried out thanks to the generosity of a grant from Wildcare’s Craig Saunders Memorial program. Craig himself had worked on the piers at First Camp hut at a previous FOM working bee.

Claytons’ House

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Claytons. Before the Working bee. Photo Chris Smith

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Stumping in progress

The former home of Win and Clyde Clayton, perched on edge of Bathurst Harbour several kilometres downstream of the Melaleuca precinct, was also given a boost – literally. Re-stumping to prop up the structure and prevent further subsidence was carried out by a volunteer team including Mark, Chris, Rob and Phil, with support from Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger Ian Marmion.  The guttering was also realigned to provide adequate fall.

Willsons’ Lease

Work was also undertaken at the home of Barbara Wilson, who with her late husband Peter, mined cassiterite and smelted it onsite to produce tin from the mid 1970’s until 2007. Volunteers Chris, Andrew and Mark tackled plumbing repairs, brushcutting, chainsawing and stacking firewood.

Barbara Wilson, a sprightly 80 year-old, played an active part in the working bee, digging trenches, cooking meals and hosting volunteers in her home.

Mine sites

David led a team who worked on improving the fencing around the Rallinga Mine separating plant to improve public safety, and Chris and Andrew stabilised the control room. Many of the disused implements and mining equipment were treated with fish oil by Philippa and Cate at numerous sites across the Melaleuca precinct to prevent further degradation from rust. Caretakers Steve and Heidi pitched in clearing yet more overgrown drains.

PWS Quarters

Mark put his heights training to the test, clearing the high gutter and awkward gutter-guard on the PWS Quarters, with caretaker Tony Barber as ground crew. This was a challenging and much overdue job. He then moved on to some sweaty brushcutting for light relief! Andrew and Mark rationalised the spaghetti-like tangle of wiring of the DC power supply and tested the batteries at the Quarters.

The Melaleuca Volunteer Experience


The Gang at the Narrows. Photo Ian Marmion

First time Melaleuca volunteer David Butler said that working at Melaleuca was a very special experience, in part because of the unique combination of isolation and natural beauty that characterises Melaleuca.


Off for a working picnic. Photo Janet Fenton

For Ken, who was returning to Melaleuca for a second stint, working together with a group of like-minded people to restore and preserve the cultural heritage of this unique part of Tasmania made it a highly rewarding experience.

With return flights delayed by bad weather, the volunteers were lucky enough to spend an extra night in Melaleuca. The evening was passed by rowing Blue Boat out to Melaleuca Lagoon for a sunset cruise in

Sea Eagle, Celerytop Island. Photo Rob Banfield

honour of Janet and Geoff Fenton’s 42nd wedding anniversary.

There is no doubt that the extraordinary passion and dedication of Geoff and Janet (nee King) underpinned the entire working bee and made it such a unique and memorable experience for all the volunteers.

Mt Rugby from Celerytop Island. Photo Rob Banfield







PS from Janet – And thanks to all those enthusiastic volunteers. Without you it would never happen!