By Kath Gannaway
A 20 hectare piece of prime bushland in Macclesfield has been dedicated to the life’s work, and the memory, of Healesville wildlife champion, the late Jeanne Wilcox.
The land, purchased with funds raised by the Judith Eardley Save Wildlife Association (JESWA) where Jeanne had volunteered for 15 years, will provide additional habitat for the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater.
Members of Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater (FoHHE), Parks Victoria and DELWP, joined JESWA volunteers and members of Jeanne’s family on 7 December, 2017, to celebrate the purchase of the land and to formally dedicate the land as the Jeanne Wilcox Reserve.
In what was described by FoHHE president Bob Anderson as one of the quickest land sales in conservation history – “no governments involved” he quipped, he thanked the family of the late Willy Veit who had owned and cared for ‘Bilagal’ for the past 20 years.
The rare piece of bushland came up for sale as part of Mr Veit’s estate and the family were thrilled to be able to keep its conservation status.
Mr Veit’s daughter Tania Kirby said her father was a passionate farmer and conservationist.
“He was heavily involved in landcare and spent quite a bit of time here keeping weeds out and keeping it in pristine condition.
“He was always just happy to keep it for conservation and to have this kept as a reserve … well, he would be as pleased as punch,” she said.
“The whole family is very happy with this outcome.”
JESWA chair and friend and colleague of Jeanne, Peter Hannaford, said everyone at the Wildlife Centre was grateful that the land to be known as the Jeanne Wilcox Reserve was to be part of the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve.
“The reserve will commemorate Jeanne’s wonderful work for the environment and wildlife,” he said.
It was a particularly poignant dedication following Jeanne’s death in June 2017, and the imminent closure after 17 years of the Wildlife Centre.
“We are a small number of volunteers who have grown older – not old – together,” he said, adding that the volunteers were links in the chain that had seen a business supporting wildlife flourish.
He paid tribute to Jeanne saying she was the ‘heart and soul’ of the centre who made it a special place.
She was also an astute business woman and tireless worker.
“Throughout her 15 years and 40-hour weeks at the shop Jeanne made more than enough money to single-handedly pay for the reserve that appropriately bears her name,” he said.
Jeanne’s son Danny, on behalf of the family, said his mother would be honoured – if a little miffed at all the fuss!
“Really, mum would love it,” he said.
“She always wanted to live in the bush, and that’s where she is now – we’ll always have a place where we can come and see her.”