Wildlife Matters

Supporter story

06 Nov. 2023

AWC’s work is only made possible by the generosity of our wonderful supporters. It is a pleasure to be able to share their experiences and the varied reasons they stand with us.

Long-time supporter Mike Hawker AM considers himself privileged to have visited AWC’s Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary in South Australia during flood. Every so often, floodwaters from Queensland’s Channel Country make a 1,000-kilometre journey into South Australia, travelling through Kalamurina – a vast 679,000-hectare remote desert wilderness – to Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre.  In 2010, this coincided with rainfall four times the annual average.

Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary during flood Mike Hawker
Surreal views of the desert in flood.

What was it like seeing the desert in flood?

It was a surreal flight by light aircraft to Kalamurina. On one side there was water everywhere and on the other, not a speck.

We camped on the high bank of the Warburton River. Under normal circumstances you can walk across the dry riverbed, in doing so crossing from the Tirari to the Simpson Desert. We swam across; an unusual feat swimming between two deserts in this country.

The birdlife was unbelievable. I saw Bustards for the first time (the heaviest flying birds in Australia and a bird I’d never heard of), Wedge-tailed Eagles, Red-backed Kingfishers, Purple-backed Fairywrens nesting on the trees overhanging the waterways and thousands of Pelicans.

The dunefields were covered in wildflowers and the sunsets were extraordinary. I felt incredibly lucky to be in such an isolated and wild landscape, one you wouldn’t normally see.

Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary. South Australia. Mike Hawker
Water transforming the landscape at Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary in South Australia.

How long have you been an AWC supporter?

I’ve been supporting AWC for almost 20 years now. My philanthropic efforts are focused on education, conservation and health, and they’re all interlaced. My friend [and former AWC Board Director] Ross Grant introduced me to AWC and after the first sanctuary visit, I was hooked. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done and there’s truly nothing like it. You learn so much about our native wildlife and the science AWC is undertaking. More importantly, you learn why it’s being done. The work is extraordinary and at a scale which is just huge.

Apart from Kalamurina, I’ve now been to Charnley River–Artesian Range, Mornington–Marion Downs, Newhaven, Pungalina–Seven Emu, Piccaninny Plains and Mount Zero–Taravale wildlife sanctuaries and Bullo River Station, and seen parts of Australia that you would otherwise never see.

Why do you support AWC?

Sitting on the escarpment above the camp at Mornington in the Kimberley, overlooking a huge valley, it feels like there should be huge animals there (it’s easy to imagine dinosaurs roaming the plains). We have tiny animals in this massive landscape and our biodiversity is diminishing. The loss of Australia’s animals over the last 50 years has been unacceptable.

Visiting AWC’s sanctuaries lets you see the scale and beauty of the Australian landscape. Seeing the science and land management in action gives you the information needed to understand why conservation is so important and to understand that it’s only going to get more important. There’s a huge amount of value in what AWC is doing for the future… they just get stuff done.

Read or download this full issue of Wildlife Matters here.

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