Nilgiri

In the mid-1980s a young couple, Ros and Andrew Bradey were desperate to buy a farm anywhere in SE Australia. They bought 300 hectares at Ullswater in the South-west Wimmera region of Victoria and called it Nilgiri. They bought it because it was cheap. They had very few dollars and were probably low on cents too! 

HAVING bought a farm, and sheep, and a few tools their previously unimpressive financial situation was reduced to abject poverty. Owning a farm, but not being able to afford to do anything with it was less than satisfying. 

One thing they could afford to do was use their newly acquired wheelbarrow and shovel to dig up a few dozen Red-Gum seedlings (which had regenerated next to a swamp) and move them to make three clumps of trees in one of their paddocks. 

Their idea was that these trees would provide shelter to the old ewes they had recently acquired. What they hadn’t realised was that because there were significant areas of forest, woodlands and wetlands nearby, these areas would be quickly colonised by numerous native bird and animal species too. 

Planting trees became something of a passion. Though after a while, planting for wild-life habitat became the prime objective, with agricultural productivity improvements being the spin-off. The question of how many native trees were too many was always up for debate. The farm’s income came from wool, sheep and cattle, not trees or native wildlife. Some tree planting could improve the farm’s bottom line, but too much would start to reduce it. About 20% of the farm’s area seemed to be a prudent maximum. 

Now, thirty years later, the not so young Ros and Andrew have raised a family and increased the farm to 1,100 hectares. 170 hectares of the farm are managed purely for conservation. Within this conservation area are two Conservation Covenants, including the first wetland in Victoria to receive a covenant. As well as producing wool and meat, the farm routinely fledges Brolga chicks and 

occasionally Red-tailed Black Cockatoo chicks. It is also host to scores of other slightly less charismatic native species. 

Throughout the past 30 years the farm’s productivity (and profitability) has increased in tandem with improving conservation values. Very occasionally there have been conflicts between conservation and agricultural productivity, but for the most part the two activities have been complementary. 

Words and photos by Andrew Bradey

The Indigenous Flora and Fauna Association will be visiting the Bradey farm on the first weekend of May 2017. Additional details will follow. Register your interest via vicepres@iffa.org.au