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Fatima Island at high tide - August 2013.

Fatima Island at high tide – August 2013.  Three Cormorants & one Egret are visible.

Fatima Island in 1984.  You can see that the island has been neglected as there is only a fraction remaining.  Photo by Chrys Meader, supplied by Marrickville Heritage Society& Cooks River Vallay Association with thanks.

Fatima Island in 1984. You can see that the island has been neglected as there is only a fraction remaining & the heritage retaining wall almost gone.  Photo by Chrys Meader, supplied by Marrickville Heritage Society & Cooks River Vallay Association with thanks.

Fatima Island is an extremely urgent issue currently facing Marrickville Council.

Fatima Island is the last remaining island in the Cooks River of a few that existed prior to white settlement.  It is located opposite Kendrick Park at Tempe & the local Aboriginal community are thought to have used this & the other islands as a means to cross the river to what is now Wolli Creek.

Not only important to the traditional owners, Fatima Island is important to the Muslim community as Fatima was the wife of the Prophet Mohammed.  It was named ‘Fatima Island’ after Catholic rosary pilgrimage to the island in 1951 & a Portuguese statue called ‘Our Lady of Fatima.’

Unfortunately, Fatima Island has been eroding.  The convict-hewn rock retaining walls installed in 1901 have fallen in recent years allowing the tidal water to erode the island & has resulted in the loss of some trees.  Each tree lost has resulted in more erosion of the island.  People too have impacted the island by the wash from speedboats, tying up motorboats or exploring the delicate island.

It’s obvious that Fatima Island has important cultural & heritage significance to not only Marrickville municipality, but also the Greater Sydney.  These factors alone are enough to warrant saving it from disappearing, but also important is that it is the only real sanctuary for waterbirds on the river.  If work is not done to repair the retaining walls, we will lose the island forever.  That would be a dreadfully sad outcome for many in the community.

The issue of Fatima Island last went to the Marrickville Council Meeting on 15th October 2013.  Council staff recommended an Erosion Assessment & Remediation Feasibility Study be done.   This coming Tuesday 3rd December, Fatima Island will again be debated in the Marrickville Council Meeting.  It is here that Councillors can decide to approve an allocation of $25,000 required to do the study.  If they decide to apply for funding from other sources, it is quite feasible that the time this will take will make it too late for Fatima Island.

Marrickville Heritage Society, The Cooks River Valley Association & Saving Our Trees are asking the community to write to the Marrickville Councillors by Tuesday 3rd December requesting that they support the $25,000 allocation as a first step to saving Fatima Island.  It does not matter whether you live in Marrickville municipality, as this is an issue of interest to more than just local residents.  A strong response from the community will certainly help let the Councillors know that the community cares about Fatima Island.

A draft email & Councillor contact details is available here –  Draft-Fatima-Island

You can watch a short video of Fatima Island here –

Thank you in advance.  Jacqueline

Another photo taken in 1984.  Photo by Chrys Meader, supplied by Marrickville Heritage Society& Cooks River Vallay Association with thanks.

Another photo taken in 1984. Photo by Chrys Meader, supplied by Marrickville Heritage Society & Cooks River Vallay Association with thanks.

Close up of convict marking on steps at Fatima Island in 1984.  Photo by Chrys Meader, supplied by Marrickville Heritage Society& Cooks River Vallay Association with thanks.

Close up of convict marking on steps at Fatima Island in 1984. Photo by Chrys Meader, supplied by Marrickville Heritage Society & Cooks River Vallay Association with thanks.

Five Ibis, one Royal Spoonbill & one Grey-faced Heron taking a midday break on what is left of Fatima Island, opposite Kendrick Park in Tempe.  October 2013.

Five Ibis, one Royal Spoonbill & one Grey-faced Heron taking a midday break on what is left of Fatima Island.  October 2013.




Stunning flower of a Eucalyptus caesia growing in Sydney Park.  There is such a large variety of trees growing in this park.

Stunning Eucalyptus caesia flower in Sydney Park. The flower is very large.  There is such a large variety of trees growing in this park.

1. Not about trees, but about dumping that affects us all – Last week Shoalhaven City Council Rangers showed what being a Ranger is all about when they knocked on a resident’s door to give them a $750 fine as well as a directive to pick up all the rubbish they dumped near Narrawallee Beach.  The resident would have been issued with a further $440 fine if they had refused to clean up their rubbish.

2.  Very sad news.  The Vincent Tree, a 65-metre Flooded gum that lives beside Bruxner Park Road in the Orara East State Forest at Coffs Harbour lost its top half in a recent storm.  The tree is thought to be between 400 – 500 years old. “The Vincent Tree would have been a large tree when Captain Cook sailed up the coast,” the Forestry Corporation’s Community Partnership Forester David Wilson said.”  Being full of hollows it was a major habitat tree.  Let’s hope they leave what is left standing, even if they need to brace it to make it safe.  I think it is still very special, even if half has gone.  Let’s be like the UK & keep our very old trees.

3.  An exhibition called City of Trees by Jyll Bradley is showing at the National Library until October 7th 2013 as part of Canberra’s Centenary celebrations.  ”I think trees create different spaces in life. They create a practical space in terms of architecture & how we move around the city. They also create an emotional space, they create a spiritual space … & imaginative spaces as well, & in that regard I’m trying to echo that sentiment, if you like, within the exhibition.”

The article spoke about trees so beautifully. Here is yet another example.

“… every tree has a human story to tell, & this is particularly the case in Canberra. The city grew up out of one million trees planted in what was once compared to a sheep paddock, & which now, 100 years later, is more like a forest with a city emerging through it.  And whether they know it or not, every resident of Canberra has a favourite treescape, even if they associate it more with the quality of the light that shines through the naked boughs of an inner-northern suburb in winter, the shade cast by an apple tree in the garden, or a strand of pines glimpsed on the parkway between Tuggeranong & Civic.”  Isn’t it wonderful to be able to write about the urban forest in this way.

4.  This is a lovely article about Fatima Island, the little island visible from the bridge over the Cooks River on the Princes Highway & from Kendrick Park.  It was written by the Cooks River Valley Association, with an excerpt from another article written by the Marrickville Heritage Society (both in the Blogroll).  It is an interesting read covering the history of the island.  Fatima Island has been getting smaller.  A Casuarina tree at the western edge of the island has most of its roots exposed through erosion & is in danger of falling.  “Currently under threat from flooding, erosion & visits of thoughtless people, this precious bird sanctuary & heritage site is in urgent need of support at both community & official level.”  So who is responsible for the upkeep of Fatima Island?  Marrickville Council? Canterbury Council? Both or some other authority entirely?  If so, surely the Councils would be responsible for notifying that authority?  The island is very important.  It is the only place where birds can sit in natural habitat on the river as is their normal behaviour.  Fatima Island is the last remaining island of several on the Cooks River.  It is a bird sanctuary, the only one on the whole length of the river.  It’s time for something to be done before this lovely piece of environmental history is lost forever.  I made a short video of Fatima Island & its birds here –

5.  It’s been over 2-years since a halt was put to building the Greenway, a bush corridor along the Light Rail line offering a safe off-road route for walkers & cyclists from the Cooks River to Iron Cove.  This article covers the history of obstacles. “…despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on reports & analysis, & opportunities to get developers to contribute.”  Ms Gladys Berejiklian, Minister for Transport for NSW says plans for a cheaper ‘holistic strategy’ Greenway will be finished this year.

6. Prime koala habitat in an undeveloped section of Henderson Park Estate in Tinana near Maryborough Queensland was cleared this week without warning & apparently without a native fauna spotter-catcher on-site.  A Koala Rescue volunteer said the bushland was home to 40 threatened, endangered or vulnerable species, including Koalas.  The Deputy Mayor of Fraser Coast George Seymour said, “… the developer of Henderson Park had a clearing permit that met with council & state government legislation. However, the council was looking into allegations that it had breached its permit, including a claim that a native fauna spotter-catcher was not on-site during the clearing.”  Also investigating the clearing are the Department of Environment & Heritage Protection.

7.  American-based company Hancock Farms in Dunoon near Lismore Northern NSW removed a row of Tallowwood trees known to be Koala trees. A Koala was killed in 2011 after removing other windbreak trees on Hancock Farms.  The President of Friends of the Koala said, “It’s devastating for koalas because they rely on those windbreaks. There is nothing else for them.”  Koalas can’t eat the leaves of Macadamia trees.

The Koala Research Collaboration Project website Koala Land says –

  • “more than 80% of original koala habitat has been cleared.
  • the remaining koala habitat is under threat from urban development, agriculture & forestry.
  • Around 80% of present day koala habitat is privately owned land, so… it is very difficult to protect koala habitat.
  • A number of koala specialists have said that the Koala Coast of South East Queensland will have no koalas left in the next five years.
  • With some koala population estimates suggesting that there are as little as 43,000 koalas left Australia wide, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise how grave the situation has become.”

8.  A study by researchers from the Centre for Excellence in Climate System Science at the University of NSW has found that the urban heat island effect from “ever more asphalt & concrete will amplify climate change, particularly in the suburban fringes,” with parts of Australian cities up to 3.7 degree hotter by 2050.  That is a big increase in temperature. ”The changes are noticeable all through the year, but they are especially marked during winter & spring, when minimum temperature increases over these areas could actually double the increase due to global warming alone by 2050.”  Hard surfaces like concrete footpaths, buildings & roads absorb heat during the day & release this heat during the night.  The urban heat island effect is one of the reasons why we need to rethink installing concrete footpaths & driveways & ask are they necessary in this location?  Their effects are cumulative, so each new area of concrete does add to the overall load.   The researchers recommended planting more trees, creating more parks & ponds to try & lessen the impact.

9. Marrickville Council have agreed with a recommendation by the Cooks River Committee to have Kendrick Park in Tempe as a future swimming site.  I think this is wonderful as it means Council are prepared to put some serious work, money & collaboration into cleaning up the river. Not only will this be good for people, but it will be great for wildlife who deserve better living conditions.

10.  Bradbury & Colonial Avenues & George & Dumaresq Streets Campbelltown are looking worse for wear after a visit from power company Endeavour Energy.  Campbelltown’s streets once lined with healthy green trees are yet again home to sparse, spindly trunks with branches that jut around power lines at bizarre angles.”  The power company’s pruning techniques were described as “gruesome mass hacking & gut-wrenching, like seeing a mutilated animal.” The power company said the pruning was for safety reasons & “the majority of pruning was in accordance with our standards.”  The majority?  The comments to this article are very interesting.

Wattle is flowering now.

Wattle is flowering now.

Here is the Darter when first spotted with her beak literally tied to her neck. This would have been a slow & awful death. Photo by Gavin Gatenby.

You have probably read the story of Spike, the Darter that was rescued from the Cooks River recently. Well I have my own version.  My apologies for the delay in posting this.

On 19th April 2011 I received a broadcast email from WIRES & Marrickville Mudcrabs – Be on the lookout for a Darter that seems to have something tied around its neck last seen between the Illawarra Road Bridge at Undercliffe & the Wardell Road bridge.

I’m thinking, how is anyone going to catch a Darter?  I imagined people stalking it & as they got near, the bird taking off into the air.  If you have ever come across a Darter on the banks of the Cooks River, you will know that they are big birds when their wings are open & they are super alert.  If you go closer than what they deem appropriate, off they go, usually to the other side of the river.  So how were people going to catch one?  I imagined ongoing reports of a dying Darter, unable to eat & unable to be caught.  I’m sure I was not alone in my concern as to how it was to be rescued.

My worry was a waste of time. Within 24 hours another email arrived saying that the Darter, a female, had been caught & was on its way to the Central Coast for some medical treatment & rehab.  I was so impressed.  It’s not easy to find a wild bird along the long stretches of the Cooks River & then successfully catch it.  It was Good Friday.

The Darter was given a name – Spike.

Locals Gavin Gatenby & his partner Lee had gone out in a kayak after spotting Spike.  Gavin jumped into the Cooks River (frankly this is amazing) while Lee herded Spike into a patch of mangroves.  Gavin then threw a sheet over Spike & the two of them brought Spike to the shore & into the waiting care of WIRES.  This all sounds easy-peasy, but I bet it wasn’t.

Spike had the red plastic snipped from around her beak & neck & promptly put into a carry box.  She was then driven to the home of an experienced sea bird rescuer on the Central Coast for some treatment & to fatten up after an unknown period of not being able to eat & perhaps drink.

Exactly, 9 days after Spike after the first email broadcast, Spike was assessed as well enough after rehabilitation to be released. On 28th April, she was driven back to Kendrick Park on the Cooks River to be released to Fatima Island opposite. A small crowd of locals came on a soggy morning to watch & cheer Spike on for hopefully what will be a long, trouble-free  & happy life.

What was great was that the story was well covered by the Inner West Courier, The Cooks River Valley Times & the Telegraph.  The Telegraph had the most amazing & beautiful photo of Spike, her massive wings spread whilst sitting on the edge of the bath while in rehab on the Central Coast.  I’ve never seen anything like this photo.

It’s always nice to have a good story & this one worked out well because of the vigilance & the caring by local people.  Plenty of people were on the look out for Spike once the call for help was broadcasted.  Within less than 24 hours WIRES had been organized & agreed to come to pick up Spike even though there was no guarantee she could or would be caught the next day.  The WIRES person had agreed to drive to the Central Coast & a volunteer had agreed to take Spike into their home for rehabilitation. Most of these things were unknowns; could be bird be caught today or tomorrow or… How sick would she be? How long would she need to be living in my bathroom?

It is my understanding that many people who work for WIRES do so as volunteers.  They are unheralded volunteers in my opinion.  I doubt the bathroom could be used for the week that a living wild bird was sitting & bathing there. It still makes me chuckle.

As for Lee & Gavin – I can just imagine the adrenaline & the hope they had as they set off in their kayaks.  It was only quick thinking to herd Spike into the mangroves to prevent her from taking off into the air that made her able to be caught. Then Gavin did the unthinkable & very altruistic act of jumping into the Cooks River.  The water would have been shallower near the mangroves so maybe he was walking on decades of dumped rubbish or maybe he didn’t notice.  My deepest respect goes to him for this.  All of those involved in the rescue of Spike are heroes in my opinion & I thank them.

The message in all of this is that balloons, bottles, rings from the top of milk bottles, fishing line, plastic, ribbons, plastic netting & anything else made of plastic, string or material that finds its way into our water ways or the ocean can result in so much suffering & ultimately death as the bird, fish, turtle or other creature that lives in rivers, lakes & oceans slowly starves to death.  The stormwater traps along Marrickville’s side of the Cooks River are always full of plastic rubbish.  The mangroves along the Cooks River are deep in plastic bottles.  Bottles float up & down the river with the tide.  It’s sad, it’s unnecessary & Spike’s story has shown how dangerous it is to wildlife.

It takes up to 450 years for plastic bottles to decompose & up to 600 years for fishing nets & lines to decompose, though who really knows? It may actually take longer.

If you want to join Mudcrabs & help them in their endeavor to clean up the Cooks River, you can find their contact details in the Blogroll on the left of this page.

Here is Gavin Gatenby’s own story of the rescue of Spike & about the plastic garbage in the Cooks River –’s-distress-highlights-government-inaction-on-plastic-bags-and-bottles/35138

I have made a short video of a Grey-faced Heron picking for food amongst stormwater garbage in a stormwater trap down at Mackey Park –

This is a short video of Fatima Island with a female Darter running about. Perhaps it is Spike? –

And if you want to see a male Darter drying off its massive wings, this is the video that still makes me feel like I found gold –

Thanks to Marrickville Mudcrabs for permission to publish these photos



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