Tomato Lake Revisited and the Launch of the Club Centenary Year

The Club launched its Centenary celebrations with a Free Family Discovery Morning at Tomato Lake, Kewdale on Sunday 7 April. Tomato Lake was chosen as the venue because it had also played a significant role in the club’s Jubilee year in 1974. At this site 50 years ago that the club achieved a huge win for the environment when it undertook a “Weedathon”, the massive job of clearing Salvinia from the lake, then known as Tomato Swamp, as its Jubilee conservation project.

The shade of some large, flooded gums (Eucalyptus rudis) proved to be an ideal location for marquees, chairs and displays as the morning temperature rose quite quickly. Fortunately, the peak of 36.5°  was not reached until after we had left. How this contrasted to the corresponding day 50 years before!

On the last organized day, Sunday 7 April, it became evident that it would be too cold for any further attempts at wading in the water …

The Naturalist News, May 1974

Wading would not have been necessary in 2024 as the lake’s water level was very low due to the driest six months on record.

Club Vice President, Arlene Quinn, hosted the formal session, which after acknowledgement of the country, began with a short address from Penny Hussey (Secretary, 1972-74, President 1979-81) before Penny was joined by the current President, Steve Lofthouse and four former presidents, Kevin Kenneally AM(1977-79), Kevin Coate(1999-2001), Margaret Larke(2007-08) and Jolanda Keeble(2018-20), who were invited to collectively declare the 100th year of the Naturalists’ Club launched.

Presidents: Margaret Larke, Kevin Kenneally, Penny Hussey, Steve Lofthouse, Jolanda Keeble and Kevin Coate.
Note Otto Mueller was also present.

Kevin Kenneally recalled his participation in the Weedathon and how the Club worked closely with the Shire of Belmont to clear away 1200 tons of weed. He then read extracts from the report of the project which appeared in the May 1974 issue of The Naturalist News, including,

We have not only restored a natural asset to a state where wildlife can use it – individual members have the satisfaction of knowing they helped to bring this about but, more than that, it has been a unifying force in the club.

May 1974 issue of The Naturalist News

Kevin concluded by paying tribute to Gerri Gregory (now de Burgh-Day) for the work she did to acquire funding from the Schools Commission for a Field Study Centre which was installed on the site the following year in 1975.

The Mayor of Belmont, Mr Robert Rossi JP then thanked the club and particularly the members in the audience who had participated in the work undertaken in 1974 and for procuring Australia’s first Field Study Centre for students and the public.

Robert Rossi, Mayor of Belmont,

To conclude the proceedings, Sylvia Tetlow, one of the original weeders, presented the mayor with an engraved USB stick containing films of the Weedathon made by the Committee for the Understanding of the Environment (CUE)and herself. The films will become part of the City’s archives housed in its new museum.

During the morning, club members Diana Papenfus and Mike Gregson led walks around part of the lake and through bushland, part of which was revegetated with the help of the club in the 1980s.

Guided Walk

The morning not only provided an opportunity for the club to launch its centenary but also allowed members, particularly those who participated in the Weedathon, to view the CUE film and reminisce.

Sylvia Tetlow, Lynne Hunt, Marion Hercock, participants in the 1974 Weedathon

We were delighted to have some of the older members of the club who cannot attend the meetings and excursion, join us in the morning. Among past stalwarts were Otto Mueller (Secretary 1975-70, President 1981-83), Gane Doyle Sr (Jubilee Committee), and Joy and Eddie Dell.

Kevin Kenneally with two generations of the Doyles

Other notable members who played a role in reviving Tomato Swamp, Alma de Rebeira OAM, Geraldine de Burgh-Day, John Dell and Dr Neville Marchant AM, who provided plans for the revegetation of an island after the Weedathon, sent their apologies.

The event was partly funded by a City of Belmont Community Contribution Fund grant, which allowed the club to invite Catherine Baudains from Save Our Snake-necked Turtles and Angela Rossen, a Marine and Wetland biodiversity educator, to set up displays and talk to both club members and the passing public.

The event was a great success and enjoyed by everyone.

Sylvia Tetlow and Don Poynton
Event organisers

All Photographs by Pam Ghirardi