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Trish Hewson - Urban bushland warrior

When Karrakatta Cemetery decided to build a crematorium on the bushland at Hollywood Reserve, Trish Hewson sprung into action.

With the community up in arms about the possible loss of the 6.41 hectare site, bounded by Karrakatta Cemetery, Smyth Rd, Karella St and Dalkeith Rd in Nedlands, Trish Hewson and her husband David mobilised the community, enlisting children of all ages to write letters and draw pictures to send to the state government, organising protests, and arranged to show the minister of the day around the bushland.

The group managed to persuade the cemetery and the government that the bushland was important to the community and worth preserving.

In the mid-90s, Trish, along with Eddie Knott, Claire Welsh and a group of dedicated conservationists, started the Friends of Hollywood Reserve to preserve the bushland. The area is now a Class A reserve, vested in the City of Nedlands but maintained by the group.

Twenty years on, Trish goes to the reserve everyday – to walk the dog, to pick up rubbish, or on very hot days, to water. She still enlists local primary school children to plant seedlings every year – in what is quite the military operation in terms of troops and organisation.

“We have about 250 children coming in over three hours, and we’ve got to plant about 500 plants,” she said.

“We try to find a [safe] area where the littlies are not going to get lost or disappear down a hole, then we tape off the area and dig the holes. The kids come in and plant and then we water them.”

The bushland is a place of refuge and reflection for many – part of the reason Trish and the friends group are so dedicated to maintaining it. People have their lunch breaks in the bush, couples have had their wedding photos taken there, children’s parties are held on the lawn area, there’s a pitch for petanque, and occasionally the University of Western Australia sends students down to track and chart insects, plants, birds and lizards.

“One time there was an old man at the hospital and he was dying – his family wanted a photo of him. He was from the country, and they wanted a photo of him in natural bushland so asked to use the reserve.

“And another time I had a letter from a lady from Albany I think – she had been at Crawford Lodge [the Cancer Council accommodation]. She had been up here for treatment and she said it sort of balmed her soul by going into a piece of bushland and just sitting there,” said Trish.

For her efforts at Hollywood Reserve, Trish won a Premier’s Australia Day Active Citizenship Award in 2015. She has written leaflets on the history of the reserve, what’s flowering, bird lists, fungi lists.

What’s she’s really after for the bushland now is new faces to join the group and help out. Everyone in the group has been involved as long as she has – for about 20 years. She feels they might be running out of energy and ideas, though given many of the group go out on the hottest of days to water, and meet every second Sunday to plant, weed and pick up rubbish, it doesn’t seem so.

If you are interested in helping the Friends of Hollywood Reserve, please contact Trish on 9386 4476. Morning tea is provided and it’s a great way to meet local people, get involved in the community and help to maintain a wild piece of bushland nestled amidst the urban landscape.