Vote for art

You can help promote the artists and art of Kangaroo Island by voting for the ‘Welcome to Kangaroo Island’ art fence at the ferry entrance to Kangaroo Island, Penneshaw. Please vote before 5pm on Monday 20 November.

The project will also employ two of our fine local artists, Deb Sleeman and Dave Clarke.

Artist concept by Deb Sleeman

Please vote at It’s a little bit complicated but not too difficult.

  • At the website, you need to register, so click on Register in top RH corner and follow the prompts including verifying.
  • Once that’s done, set your location which gives you an area you can vote in. Set Penneshaw South Australia and save the location (doesn’t matter where you actually are). You’ll then see the projects in the area (under Ideas on LH side). You have to vote for at least 3 and up to 5 projects (to even out voting so projects in low population areas (like ours) and with a small support base have a chance).
  • Please vote for ‘Welcome to Kangaroo Island’ and, if I may suggest, other worthwhile projects are Our Kitchen Sux for Kangaroo Island Gallery, Enviroshed (the local school – so we can recycle soft plastic), and Revitalising Community Radio.
  • You’ll have to verify who you are with a code they send as a text (so you can vote only once).
  • Vote before 5pm, Monday 20 November.
  • And please pass on to friends who you think would also support this art initiative.



Spikey survivors

Bursaria spinosa in Penneshaw

Sweet bursaria (Bursaria spinosa) is part of the coastal landscape in my town. Some long-term residents have described to me how they played among the large bushes on the sand dunes behind Hog Bay beach, when they were young.

In South Australia and Tasmania it’s sometimes called Christmas bush, because of the time of its flowering, but that seems to be a very variable feast and many bushes are still flowering now in early February.

The wide distribution of the species, from southern Queensland to Tasmania to Eyre Peninsula in South Australia may be the reason why it has so many common names. Here are a few more: mock orange, native box, native olive, prickly box, prickly pine, spiny box, spiny bursaria, Australian blackthorn, blackthorn, native blackthorn, thorn box and whitethorn.

Around these parts it’s blackthorn and few seem to like it – the chosen name is a bit of a giveaway. In fact it was pulled out of a planting a few years ago because ‘it would be dangerous for the children’. I’ve noticed a few more beauties near pathways have disappeared just recently.

I don’t subscribe to the common view around town and rejoice in the gorgeous white-flowering beauties at the back of the dunes and out of the way.

When my father died in 2008, my friends at the Kangaroo Island Natural Resources Management Board, where I worked at the time, gave me a Bursaria seedling from the KI Native Plant Nursery. It’s now thriving beside the path to my front door (and no children have been harmed).

Spikes and spines are very much part of the Australian landscape and with good reason. Leaves and shoots reduced to spines help a plant to conserve water and survive in our dry habitats. They keep the herbivores at bay.

And now that we have so many introduced predators, the protection the spines afford small birds and marsupials is even more important.

Bursaria attracts invertebrate animal life such as butterflies and moths, beetles, which are its main pollinators, and ants. The interactions are complex and fascinating – they would make a post of their own.


Art in nature

The natural world of Kangaroo Island seems to attract and inspire artists and they are complementing nature with outdoor art on display from west to east across the island.

The Platypus Holes Walk at Flinders Chase is a work of art in many ways. Head out from the visitor centre and café, cruise past the megafauna and venture into the lush vegetation regenerating from the fires of December 2007. The information panels are informative and interesting, and complemented by photographs and by intricate illustrations by local artist Nicholas Burness Pike.

Entry to a toilet at Stokes Bay
Entry to a toilet at Stokes Bay

Not quite outdoors is the coastal birdlife mural in the Stokes Bay toilets (men’s and women’s). This project by local artists Lara Tilbrook and Gay De Mather was funded by a Caring for our Country grant in a project designed to draw attention to the plight of beach nesting birds and the threats to them.

At Parndana, the ‘Heartland’ of the island, the entrance statements to the town, are works of art, in the stonework of Thomas Appleby and in the flora and fauna illustrations.

The Town Centres project that helped erect those structures has also left its mark at Kingscote, American River and Penneshaw. Deb Sleeman’s strong statements in wood and metal, with stonework by Thomas Appleby, mark the outer and inner entrances to the island’s main town, Kingscote.

Once in Kingscote, the brightest point is Deb Sleeman’s sculpture for 175th anniversary of South Australian settlement on the corner of Dauncey and Commercial streets.

Dave Clarke's Pelican at American River Wharf
Dave Clarke’s Pelican at American River Wharf

The entry statements and wharf seat with sentinel pelican at American River are the work of sculptor Dave Clarke. At Penneshaw, Dave’s limestone walls feature from the school near the entrance to the walls at the caravan park. His Glossy Black-cockatoos at the school and bronze eagle at the oval add life and colour

On the way to Penneshaw call in to Pennington Bay, where the signs on the vegetation, animal life and geology of the area were brought into being by Eco-action, and local artists and school students.

Artists Jenny Clapson, Nicholas Burness Pike and Maggie Welz with a Pennington Bay sign
Artists Jenny Clapson, Nicholas Burness Pike and Maggie Welz with a Pennington Bay sign
Deb Sleeman's Mary Beckwith memorial with Dave Clarke's Nicholas Baudin memorial in the background
Deb Sleeman’s Mary Beckwith memorial with Dave Clarke’s Nicholas Baudin memorial in the background

Next stop is Baudin Beach where Deb Sleeman (Mary Beckwith memorial) and Dave Clarke (Nicholas Baudin memorial) have been working at their creative best down near the wharf. And the octopus’s garden outside the Artwork Gallery is also Dave’s work.

The journey along Cape Willoughby Road is softened by places for rest and refreshment, which also hold vibrant art, and at Chapman River Cellar Door you are greeted by a Deb Sleeman dress opposite the carpark, which complements the indoor décor.

Wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying nature and art, and having a restful holiday season. See you in the new year.

Your Home

The looming end of the year reminds me that its almost the first anniversary of publication of the biggest editing project I’ve ever managed. And a good idea for an environmentally friendly, and very useful, Christmas present.

Your Home: Australia’s guide to environmentally sustainable homes, an Australian Government publication, was substantially revised for this 5th edition, and the editing was a Kangaroo Island project.

Kathie presents a copy of Your Home to Richard Trethewey (l), Presiding Member, Kangaroo Island NRM Board which sits in the library at Natural Resources KI, whoe former manager Bill Haddrill is in the right of the photo
Kathie presents a copy of Your Home to Richard Trethewey (l), Presiding Member, Kangaroo Island NRM Board. The book is in the library at Natural Resources KI, whose former manager Bill Haddrill is in the right of the photo.

I didn’t do it alone. My neighbour and fellow IPEd Distinguished Editor, Karen Disney, helped with the 14 month-long project. We each took sections to edit and then swapped for the second edit.

The 574-page book has six main sections – Before you begin, Passive design, Materials, Energy, Water, and Housing of the Future.

Each section comprises many articles, and case studies feature recently built or renovated homes in different climatic zones across Australia. The appendices give background information on safely and security, streetscape, landscape and garden design, noise control, soil control, and the healthy home.

The job of an editor is to ensure consistency, clarity and correctness in a publication. In this book, with almost 50 authors and an assortment of government departments as publisher at different times, a consistent and clear voice throughout is quite a challenge.

The sheer volume of material makes the editing complex. It’s all about keeping track of where you are and the editing decisions you have made and applied. And communicating with each other in the editing team.

Our scope of work included ensuring that permissions and high resolution images were obtained for all illustrations – a much bigger job than we had appreciated when we began. Many images were available only in low resolution, or the owner would not give permission or could not be found. Dale Arnott, also a Dudley Peninsula resident, took on this often fruitless task.

Often, it was easier to take the photo myself. So, the book has a Penneshaw flavour – our own houses are on show as are Bev and Hartley Willson’s pelmets and Prue and Graham Trethewey’s log cabin walls.

The focus is on environmentally sustainable housing but it also features the types of decisions that save money in the medium to long term, and the order in which decisions need to be made and tasks completed. And it has invaluable advice on energy and water saving.

Having read it from cover to cover several times, I can recommend it for anyone who is building, buying or renovating a home. Following its suggestions can only benefit the conservation of nature that Kangaroo Island is famous for.

The book is available in print, for only $35 plus postage, and online. A copy is housed at Natural Resources Kangaroo Island.

All glossied up

I live with a group of teenagers who come and go, and make plenty of noise and fuss in the morning and evening. They never come in the house though they often fly over and around.

They start the day with a good dose of hooning in a nearby gully, then hanging out on the wire before they park themselves to eat all day until they are ready for more hooning in the evening.

Glossies on the powerline above drooping sheoak trees
Glossies on the powerline above drooping sheoak trees

They are Glossy Black-Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus lathami halmaturinus)endangered under the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

It’s no wonder they are in danger. The seeds of the drooping sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata) are the full extent of their diet.

They pick off the sheoak cone with one claw, almost always the left. Then they pull it apart with their massive beak and whip the seeds out with their dexterous tongue. The ‘chewings’ or chewed up remains of the cone, they drop wherever they feed are an indicator of their feeding places.

The group that moves around Penneshaw are mostly sub-adult males, though there’ll be the occasional female and adult male.

Glossy Black-Cockatoo sculpture at Penneshaw School by Dave Clarke
Glossy Black-Cockatoo sculpture at Penneshaw School by Dave Clarke

They have been fostered out from the breeding colony at American River, about 18 kilometres away as the glossy flies. American River still has large gums with hollows as nesting places for the breeding colony; Penneshaw doesn’t. But at American River there’s not enough food for everyone and if you can’t make it in the breeding stakes, you can make yourself scarce.

Another contributor to the endangered status is the bird’s low breeding rate. At best, one young is fledged a year per pair and about half of those survive their first year. The glossy lifespan isn’t yet known.

And as if the species hadn’t boxed itself into enough of an ecological corner, possums were gobbling up eggs and young chicks, large areas of drooping sheoak land were cleared for farming, and feral honeybees were filling hollows with hives.

When the Kangaroo Island Glossy Black-Cockatoo Recovery program began in 1995 the population was estimated at 200 individuals and declining.

Now nesting hollows, including about 100 artificial nest boxes installed across the island, are protected from possums by corrugated iron chastity belts around the trunks of big old trees with nests. And the honeybees are being kept out.

In the latest annual census, helped by 47 volunteers in September this year, many from the Friend of the Glossies group, the number sighted was 356, and there may well be more. It’s the highest number yet.

At least 26 of them hang out around my place, much of the time. They seem to have the odd habit of going back home to American River at Christmas time.

They are a big, lumping, stupid (cf diet regime) bird; as inelegant a flier as you can see. But they are remarkably endearing and it’s a pleasure to have them around.