Sun shines on Melaleuca
‘Huey’ was very kind to Friends of Melaleuca during the March working bee this year. It was exceptionally fine during the week until weather delayed some flights on the last day.
The working bee was enabled by funding from an internal grant from Wildcare. An enthusiastic and competent team of 13 volunteers was chosen for specific skills matched to the tasks on the (long) job list. Volunteers flew to Melaleuca to begin work on 8 March. The main jobs were external work on the museum, installing displays inside the museum, finishing a cladding job from last year, roof work, much general maintenance and the chronic jobs of brush-cutting, draining and fish-oiling.

Ian on the museum roof Photo Greg Hodge

Early birds Andrew and Rik arrived by sea and spent a few days before the working bee tackling the electrics at the PWS quarters. Andrew had made a detailed report on the 12-volt remote-area power system during last year’s working bee, and now was able to carry out the work: upgrading the system and adding extra solar panels. At Willsons’, Andrew and Rik did some 240-volt wiring improvements, and testing and measuring . They also safety tested and tagged power tools, appliances and cables at both locations.
It was great to have PWS staff Ian Marmion and Ben Storer working with us for part of the week. We welcomed two new faces at this working bee. Bruce and Mel participated in Melaleuca life and work with enthusiasm and enjoyed the unexpected, like Mel’s discovery of a bat sleeping in a tin of coach-screws in the workshop. Bruce the fish enjoyed swimming in the river at every opportunity.

Chris and David reparing windmill tower at Willsons Photo Rob Banfield

After our safety briefing and orientation, Ian and Greg set up harnesses and gear and got stuck into replacing the rusted roof-screws on the museum. Ably assisted by Bruce, Ken resumed work on the 1930s miners hut where he’d left off last year. That involved rebuilding a window frame, and fitting a new corner post and new weatherboards.
OBP volunteers Craig and Rob swung into building a tank-stand and installing a small water-tank at the museum. This will be great for OBP volunteers cleaning the bird feed table as well as for volunteers cleaning in the museum.

Fishy business Mel Jack oiling a trommel  Photo Rob Banfield

Rob and Craig beavered away re-building the path from the tank to the feed table, making a prep bench and extending the walkway into the museum. That made a huge difference to the amount of sand and gravel being trodden into the museum. Bruce sanded and re-painted the inside of the museum porch for a fresher look. There was quite a transformation once all the building materials were cleaned away at the end of the week.

Melissa and Janet spent the week in the museum filling all those empty cabinets. This was quite detailed work, selecting objects, reviewing selection, drafting and reviewing labels many times, and documenting each object (measurements, description, provenance) for a catalogue. So good to have Melissa’s museum expertise on the job! Shelves in the cabinets were covered with calico, and objects arranged and rearranged until we achieved the desired result. Greg roguishly recalled the quote “History – its just one damn thing after another”!

Janet and Melissa working in the Museum.  Photo Rob Banfield

More heritage received attention outside: Chris sorted Peter Willson’s hand-made pump-impellers from the Rallinga Mine scrap depot and Bruce documented and oiled them. One went in the museum display. Ken repaired a little huon pine bed, crafting a beautiful locked scarf joint repair on a leg. Mel touched up paint on the Stevenson screen and Mel and Bruce spent many hours with wire brush and fish oil treating heritage machinery. Mel also sorted and enclosed historic documents in silverfish-proof bags.
Meanwhile maintenance work was going apace – roofing sheets changed; slipway repaired; drains dug (David has a reputation after last year’s ‘Butlers Gorge’); roof-guttering installed and – a major job for Chris and David – repairs to the windmill tower at Willsons’. David cleared the Rallinga dam outflow to ensure that excess water does not overflow into the smelter. Greg and Mark wielded the brush-cutter around the bushwalkers huts, tracks and firebreaks. Chris, Rob and Craig went to Claytons to assess condition of cladding and scratch their heads over the mystery of the empty water-tank.

Greg hard at work brush-cutting Photo Mel Jack

Geoff needed to rendezvous with the sail-training vessel Windeward Bound in Bathurst Harbour on Monday to collect freight they had brought in, so this was a great excuse for a thankyou outing for volunteers. While out they checked The Narrows crossing, and were able to collect Helen and Cathie, the next OBP volunteers who had walked in and fortuitously just arrived at the crossing. The expedition returned to Melaleuca in time for celebrations – the unofficial opening of the museum with wine and nibbles.
Convivial evenings were spent at Kings or Willsons and volunteers took turns to produce hearty meals. We were even treated to enough fresh stripey trumpeter to feed our big group for a dinner, thanks to fisherman Morrie Wolf who called in for a cuppa one day.
We achieved a great deal during the week, thanks to the expertise and hard work of all the volunteers. Weather delayed return flights and three volunteers had to spend an extra night at Melaleuca. Instead of returning home as planned at the end of the day, they just had to put up with a sunset cruise in Blue Boat on Melaleuca Lagoon! C’est la vie – we love Melaleuca’s unpredictability.

Janet Fenton