Patricia Schwartz - Part 2


The Environment

Interviewee: Patricia Schwartz, born 1950

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for The Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 21 Nov, 2009

Transcription: Glenys Murray, Nov 2009

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee

There was a huge fire in Maroota wasn’t there in 2002?

In the whole area.

What was the effect of that fire on the ecology?

Oh, just devastating it was a terrible fire it was extremely hot and some parts of the forest are still recovering. A lot of homes were lost. It was just appallingly hot and intense, that fire.

What are the effects now even seven years later?

The areas of the forest that face the west that were hit very hard by the heat their vegetation still hasn’t recovered. There are still areas that are fairly bare. In most of the forest the vegetation is very good. You can see that there was this devastating event that a fire went through the forest seven years ago. A lot of the vegetation is a certain height. A lot of species started growing after the fire and there’s not the variety of vegetation that you had before the fires. I think the main thing that I notice is the invertebrates haven’t recovered. They’re not as numerous as they were prior to the fire. I don’t know what will happen there. Whether species have been lost but we’ll just have to wait and see. Because we really didn’t know, no one could know the full number of the invertebrate population before the fire. We’ll never know whether we lost species. Koalas haven’t been seen in the forest but just in the last few weeks a Koala population has been discovered down near Broadwater, so that’s really, really exciting.

So what is the greatest threat to the environment of your area?

I couldn’t really say that, I don’t know I’d be speculating. As I said the environment is extremely complex. We can probably talk about various threatening forces or threats that are around. I suppose just time will tell. I think that the things people are working on now… I think fire is something that’s really important. We really need to solve the problem of how to manage our bushland better. So that it’s not devastated by these out of control fires. We do need to do that because I think that they’re extremely damaging long term. I think we must have come very close to losing our Koala population from Maroota forest. It looks like we have got some left. How viable this population is we don’t know, no studies have been done on it. There are other things like development, where we have increased our nutrients in the creeks which will totally change the vegetation of the creek.

Devastated bush after Glenorie 2002 bushfire

Now you’re a member of the Glenorie Progress Association?


What does that involve you in, Patricia?

Monthly meetings and community involvement such as Australia Day morning teas, although that’s the hall committee that does that too. Just providing for social occasions trying to think about Glenorie and to try hard to work out how we can contribute to a better Glenorie. It might be street scaping like tree planting. The Progress Association has been planting summer reds (flowering gums) which are very colourful when they’re in flower along the sides of the roads. We sometimes comment on development applications not necessarily being against them. Trying to make comments that can help the development perhaps be a bit better for the community. We’ve just had a Woolworths go into Glenorie and I know the Progress Association has been very worried about the shopkeepers and how this will affect them. We have been trying to encourage the development in such a way that there is connectivity between the new development and the old existing development. So that people can flow from one to the other. That’s of course ongoing. We’re still looking at how to help the shopkeepers. The Progress Association wasn’t against Woolworths because of course having Woolworths in Glenorie is of great value to people. I mean who live further out as well. They don’t have to drive as far. People in Glenorie don’t have to use the roads to go down to Dural now. They’ve got that facility in Glenorie. There are benefits but there are also negatives. I suppose the Progress Association tries to get involved to try and make sure that we have more benefits than negatives.

It’s very difficult an issue isn’t it when you’ve got a giant company like Woolworths that of course sell their individual items at lower cost than the little shopkeeper who still pays more for the same thing. So what’s the ultimate outlook? Are they going to survive, those smaller shopkeepers?

Well I think that it’s difficult for the small supermarket that was already in the village. They may not choose to continue operating. It’s interesting that there are alot of goods that you can buy that are just the same price as Woolworths. Woolworths are not necessarily cheaper. I think that if people shop wisely they’ll find that there are a lot of things that they can still keep buying from the local shops where they’re not paying any more money. Sometimes Woolworths specials are attractive but the goods that aren’t on special aren’t necessarily always cheaper. Still having a lot of farming in the area around Glenorie a lot of the farmers have the opportunity to sell their produce through the local shops. I think that Glenorie people like the idea that they’re buying things fresh from the farm. A lot of people will choose to support the local green grocer for instance rather than Woolworths. I don’t think they’ve noticed a downturn in business at all. People like the local butcher Col Schwebel he has been operating as a butcher longer than a lot of people can remember. We all know Col he knows us, he knows our families so there is a great deal of loyalty. It’s really nice to go into shops where you feel at home and you know the shopkeepers. It gives you a sense of wellbeing in the community, a sense of place. So I think for these reasons a lot of the shops that are there will be able to continue on.

Glenorie shops c1980

So when you look at the Glenorie and the Glenorie of when you came, what twenty years ago?

Twenty odd years ago, nearly thirty I guess.

What have been the big changes in that time?

More people, many more of the big houses. Many more of the rural residential type people who I guess might work in the city or in other areas. They come to their properties but really aren’t part of the community because they’re not spending their life in the community, shopping in the local community. When you’ve got a farming community the farming people just are on their land, they don’t go out of their community. They use the local facilities. So there’s much more of that, people in the area who aren’t really part of the community, not because they don’t want to be, but because their lifestyle is a bit different. The other thing I’ve noticed in the appearance of some security gates. Where gates are locked and you’ve got a code to get in. Things like that didn’t exist when I first moved there.

When you first came could you walk out of the house and leave the front door wide open?

Oh I think everybody did, yeah.

Would you still do it today?

Oh yes I think there’s still a lot of people who still live like that. However there have been a lot of robberies in the district too which really frighten people. It’s not like it was, People are much more security conscious now.

Italian migrant from 1950s on his Fiat tractor north of Glenorie 2004

Have the kind of people changed as well, the ethnic makeup perhaps? Have you had a lot of people from other countries coming is?

No I don’t think so. There’ve been a lot of Italian farmers that came to Glenorie and farmed. They’ve always been in the community they were there when I moved in. Not really no. I think that as Glenorie is becoming closer and closer to Sydney and the land becomes more valuable. You get farmers thinking “well what am I doing working so hard every day with my livelihood being dependant on markets and weather”? ”Why am I doing this when I could sell my land for a million dollars”? I think that causes the nature of the population to change too. People go out of farming and sell their land. Then we get rural, residential development where you have a very big house and maybe horse paddocks, but otherwise manicured lawns.

Are there any heritage issues apparent in Glenorie or Maroota?

There are, there are some very interesting heritage areas, particularly of course Aboriginal heritage. There is some wonderful examples of rock art and rock carving. There’s an Aboriginal presence very definitely throughout the area. We’re very lucky to have that. There’s European heritage, there’s a convict built stone drain down by the river. There’s The Great North Road. There are the remains of the area where the convicts used to live, the convict stockade, where they used to live while the road was being built. All these things are in the bush. So there’s heritage. The community hall is probably a heritage item though I don’t know if it is listed. Everybody loves the Glenorie Hall.

Old track in Maroota 1994

Are you still involved with the school at Glenorie?

Only as far as Streamwatch goes.

What’s your start(?) programme? What’s your role in that?

Oh well that’s just an art project that runs through the Rural North Network. I belong to the Rural North Network. Well it’s just a network. This network exists to try to I guess work with young people, teenagers in particular, to make them less vulnerable to the sort of things that have bad endings for teenagers. Like too much alcohol, fast driving, irresponsible driving, drugs. To try and work with parent and teenagers so teenagers don’t fall victim to a lot of the threats that are around them. It’s an education programme and a working with parents programme.

Do you have a particular role in that programme?

As a network we just work together without a hierarchy of any sort. I have been involved with other people in organising parent teen nights. I have been involved to a degree with the art programme. But not on the ground, there are coordinators who have been employed to do that.

You’re really involved with a lot of different things I keep getting impressed by all the range of things that you’re a member of or you’re doing. Something else that you do is that you write and edit a newspaper called The Living Heritage.

No, I don’t write and edit it the editor is Carole Sweeney an extremely hard working and capable person and she bears the brunt of all that work on that paper. I contribute to it. I guess I might be listed as a sub editor. I contribute and I help but Carole Sweeney is definitely very much the main person of that.

How often does that get published?

That’s published once a month and it involves quite a few hours work each month.

Do you write any of the stories for them?

Yes I do I write some of the stories.

What sort of stories have you been writing about? Give me an idea?

It can vary from travel stories. There’s a group of us who go on trips to other towns. We bring back to the paper a history of those towns. We try to encourage I guess our fellow Australians to enjoy Australia and to know what’s out there on the other side of the mountains. We do a lot of one day and two day trips. We publish these in the paper so people can get an idea of where they can go that’s not very far from where we are. We also write on local heritage items. We talk about environment issues or just local happenings, local events. So there is a lot of different things.

Is it information for the community as well?

Yes there’s information. The schools contribute, the Councils contribute, the fire brigades contribute.

So it’s like a lifeline for the community is it?

Well not exactly a lifeline. These days there are a lot of lifelines I think. I think the community enjoy it and it is a tool for communication. People can write letters that are published they can comment on various things that they feel that they want to comment on. It really is the only paper that covers the Maroota area. The other papers like The Hills News, The Hills Times and The Hawkesbury Gazette. You can get the Hawkesbury Gazette in the Windsor area and Glenorie The Hills News is available. Once you get right into Maroota is really only The Living Heritage that is available.

So what spurred you and Carole to start this off?

Well it was started off before me. I think it was the brainchild of a number of people. Ruby Ramm, an old lady who is very well known in the area who recently passed away, she was the inspiration behind it. There was an artist who lives in the area called Geoff Buchan. He had the vision to have a paper like The Living Heritage and he with other people started the first issues. It was taken over by Carole later. Taken over in the sense that there were a lot of people involved and it becomes a matter of when other people drop out somebody else takes over to keep it going. I couldn’t tell you the number of people on The Living Heritage but it is probably at least thirty or forty people in various ways.

Involved in the publication?

All aspects of it from actually publishing it to delivering it, to putting it physically together, to collating it, it’s a real labour of love, The Living Heritage.

Forest at Maroota 2009 by Peter Ridgeway

So if you had to sum up your life in the Shire what would you say were the positives about living there?

Well the thing that I absolutely fell in love with at first and thought “well here I am, I’m where I want to be” is the wonderful biodiversity, the wildlife. It’s just like the fulfilment of a dream to know Maroota forest and be part of it. As well as that is the wonderful community. The people that I’ve grown to know through being involved in the school. My neighbours and people I met through school, other parents, working with various community groups. It’s just very rewarding and very fulfilling.

What are the negatives about living in the Shire?

I think when you’re really interested in wildlife and forests it’s very, very hard to come to terms with the damaging of these areas. I mean the bushfire was absolutely devastating. That was very, very hard for me to come to terms with. I was really, really saddened and upset by that fire. Still am. Other impacts due to developments, it’s really, really difficult because I suppose that involves humans and forest maybe pitted against each other. Like economic needs and people wanting to subdivide land. Of course they want to get the money for the subdivision to support their families. To give to their kids, you can understand why they want to do it. But it is always very, very hard to see areas of bushland subdivided and sold off and more houses going there. We all know people have to live somewhere too. It’s incredibly complex but it is really saddening to see beautiful, pristine bushland being threatened. So that’s probably a hard thing.

How do you see the future of the Shire the way it looks now?

I don’t know. Being involved in a number of groups I’m involved in the Maroota Conservation Committee as well. This is a group that’s really dedicated to work out the best outcomes we possibly can for Maroota forest from a conservation point of view. What my hope is that people can live a very good life in Glenorie without having to affect the environment negatively. So that we can all learn to live better in the future. I’m very involved in the Shire at the moment. It’s very, very hard to predict the future.