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On Minnippi Wetlands

Arabella Gardner

Ten minutes from my home is the Minnippi Wetlands, home of one of the few surviving ancient lagoons from pre-settlement days. In the early morning hours, one can walk through the Wetlands and listen to the natural world wake up; the waterbirds swim in the large lake, cleaning their feathers and taking count of their flock. In the trees, the Kookaburra hunts for its next meal, an unsuspecting worm coming up to feast on dew-fresh soil. The air is cold, the sun is warm, and the few people who wander through the landscape feel blessed to have this location close to the city. 

However, to my critical eye, as I wander along, my dog chasing the unsuspecting birds, I notice that this bastion of nature bears scars from humanity’s incessant need for control. Oh! It would be easy to say that the neatly trimmed and vibrant grass, the open plain with symmetrical tree lines, and the worn paths leading to creeks, perfect for leisurely water sports, were all natural occurrences! How simple it would be to merely focus on the aesthetics of my surroundings and ignore humanity’s ever-looming presence in every detail? If I were to continue as such, I would be no better than the romantics, brilliantly beautiful descriptors of nature’s many beauties and yet overwhelmingly anthropocentric. So instead, I will tell the truth – to the best of my abilities – about the reality of Minnippi Wetlands.  

While it’s true that the Wetlands are home to a sizeable pre-settlement lake, it isn’t as untouched as one might assume. It’s located in the middle of a park, with picnic stations, a playground, and a jetty overlooking the lake. Not even a meter away from the park is a model plane runway, making the sharp whizzing of model planes and drones as they fly around the sky a counterpoint to the birdsong of magpies and crows. As one wanders through the environment, there is evidence of afforestation, neat rows of quick-growing eucalypts, and the occasional out-of-place cluster of foreign palm trees. Concrete paths lead the way, with the occasional well-worn dirt road connecting the concrete to the offshoots of Bulimba creek, accommodating both the local duck population and hobbyist kayakers. Metal bridges arch over these creeks connecting equally well-groomed cricket and football fields to the already large park. The result is a beautiful and idyllic space perfectly suited for family lunches and leisurely walks. 

One cannot deny that this location is a beautiful spot to spend a Sunday afternoon or enjoy an early morning walk; it’s a place that elicits a sense of calm and provides a moment to breathe. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel that such emotions aren’t Minnippi’s own. In sad truth, I wondered if these emotions, this peace, was simply another product of purposeful tampering, that the opportunity to hear Minnippi’s actual message was lost the day man discovered and altered it. This thought occurred to me as I watched the lake, which was large and accommodating to many Australian natives. I took note that few birds, like the Hardhead Duck, Black Swan, and Comb-crested Jacana, ventured near to well-kept lawns of the park surrounding them. Instead, they stayed near the centre by a solitary landbank, one of the few reminders of what Brisbane used to be like, muddy banks filled with thick foliage, scrubs, and mangrove trees; it struck a chord of sadness within me for I felt as if nature was quietly saying “This is all I recognise about myself in this new land,” and as such wanted to keep to itself and hide away its stories. 

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