By Raquel Stevens

Gib Wettenhall ,OAM and his partner Gayl Morrow moved to Mollongghip in 1996.  Both are keen bushwalkers, and after 20 or so years of living in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne they decided on a tree change. They have never looked back.

They have walked extensively across Australia, and Gib is currently the President of the Great Dividing Trail Association.

He is also a local author, editor and publisher with interests in the environment, natural history and Indigenous heritage.

Taking in the delightful views at Gib’s property in Mollongghip we discuss everything from his dislike of studying law to how not to get lost in the bush.

What brought you to the Daylesford region?

We found ourselves getting more and more out of Melbourne.  We had a friend that we would visit.  However, when we moved here we didn’t realise just how horrendous the weather was.  It has a nickname, it’s called “Mollongghip Mizzl”, as it never gets over 10 degrees here in July.

We were only going to come for a year. Our daughter, Meg, was 7 at the time and we put her into the school at Dean. It only had 13 kids in the entire school.  She loved it so much we didn’t go back.  Really, the rest is history.

What is your secret spot in Daylesford?

If you have secret spots, then you don’t tell them. (laugh) For me it will always be about the bush.  So, it would be Wombat Station, which opened in the 1880’s.  It’s where the Great Dividing Trail Association was launched in 1992.  We just had our 30 year anniversary there, which was at the end of this amazing 1km railway cutting.  The sides of the cutting are huge, they were actually carved by hand. It’s a pretty awesome site.

Best tip if you get lost on a bushwalk.

 Always walk in a straight line, as there will always be a road.  Also, don’t walk down into gullies, as that’s where vegetation is densest.  Try and walk on a ridge, up high so you can see.  That’s the way you escape, you climb a ridge.

Sentenced to Wombat State Forest and you could only take 3 items, what would they be?

 I do love camping and bush walking, so I would take a flint, an axe, and a waterproof tent.

If you could lead a parade down Vincent Street, what type would it be?

It’s taken me a long time to arrive at this, but essentially, I am an animist. So, for my parade everyone would have to be dressed native.  Native Fauna.  Or they could be a plant, a rock, or even a stream.

Basically, at its simplest, humans are part of the world.  We don’t own the world, we belong to the world. We need to care for nature.  That’s what true sustainability is in the end.   All our actions have consequences.

In your varied works as a writer tell me something I may not know?

 We actually have six seasons not four.  We live by the Northern Hemisphere system which is traditionally four seasons.  However, the Indigenous calendar is based on six seasons.  It’s based on indicators.  For example: The indicators are when a certain wattle blooms, you know that is when a certain bird lays its eggs.

What favourite hat have you worn in life so far?

Life is full of paradoxes.  My dad wanted me to study law, I hated it. I failed three out of my four subjects in first year at Monash University.

Working with people collaboratively has been the most difficult, but it’s also where I have learnt the most.  I felt I was a bit on the cutting edge. Particularly with aboriginal affairs, they just had very dry books, full of lists. I tried to work with them and make it into something more meaningful. As human beings, we are storytelling animals, it’s the best way.

What advice would you give your 18 year old self?

I think be less fearful, don’t think about what your peer group thinks of you. Find your passion and pursue it.

My three favourite dinner guests would be:

 American environmental writer, John McPhee, still teaching creative writing at Princeton Uni at 96yo.

Germaine Greer, what a polymath, who wrote a wonderful book White Beech on restoring rainforest on her property in northern NSW

Billi Bellary, one of the eight Kulin Nation signatories to John Batman’s infamous treaty and kin to William Barak, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung leader post-contact

What’s next for Gib?

Gayl and I are going to the Poetry Slam.  It’s at the local hall.  The theme this year is “Gone with The Wind.”  You have to write a two minute poem and embed the words, ‘Gone with the Wind.” People love it, we get farmers, locals, we can expect up to 100 people. We’re not interested in professionals, only amateurs.

Details: 7pm

Saturday November 12th

Mollongghip Hall

Raquel Stevens is a former Network Ten News Journalist. She has been a part time local for more than 25 years, and one day hopes to be a full time local.

 Gib will speak at the Wombat Post AGM on the ups and downs of self publishing next Wednesday the 16th of November at the Senior Citizen’s Centre behind the Daylesford Town Hall on Vincent Street starting at 6pm. Go here to register.