JULY 5 2018 – 1:52PM (article reproduced from the Batemans Bay Post and shared on the Coastwatchers Facebook page)
Life’s dream blossomed
RECOGNITION: Helen Rees and then President of Friends of ERBG Harry Phillips receive the award in the Environmental Science category, Seniors Week 2011.
Helen Rees, 1921-2018
The dream began “with the passion, commitment and perseverance of a small group of people and ends with a Botanic Garden of which we are all extremely proud.”
This quote comes from an interview with the late Helen Rees, recorded by then secretary of Friends of Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden, Jean Pengilly, in July 2009 shortly before Helen left her home at Long Beach to move to Sydney.
Helen and her husband David retired to Long Beach in 1983 from Leeton, and joined Coastwatchers. Inspired by a fellow committee member, Pat Speirs, Helen became involved in what they believed was a “rescue mission” to preserve the beautiful under-storey shrubs and trees on our coast from rapid development. When Coastwatchers decided to establish a flora reserve to preserve local plants, the hunt was on for suitable land.
In Helen’s words: “Pat and I got out our local maps and began looking at Crown land in the district. None of it pleased us at all – it either included too much dry ridge land or was full of rubbish and infested with weeds. Then a young man, Rob Corby, from the Town Planning Department of Eurobodalla Council and a member of Coastwatchers, told us about the land below Deep Creek Dam. When we saw it, we knew we had found our reserve. The land belonged to the then Forestry Commission, but because it was in the vicinity of the dam (part of the Shire’s water supply system), it could no longer be logged. The fact that it had not been logged for about seventy years was a big plus for us.”
In September 1986 the interim Committee of The Friends of the Eurobodalla Native Botanic Gardens was formed. David was treasurer and Helen a committee member. Helen was part of the garden’s story for many years. After fire raged through the garden in 1994, she must have nearly despaired when there was some doubt about its future re-establishment. She experienced the highs and lows of the garden’s development, witnessed the steady growth of sales of indigenous plants, observed staff and apprentices come and go, and delighted in the growth of volunteers from about six to 120 plus. Helen was a plant propagator, volunteer guide and assistant with the Year 4 education program. In recognition of her work, she received an award from the Shire in 2005 and was Guest of Honour at the Botanic Gardens Australia & New Zealand conference in 2008. Rees Creek at the garden is named for Helen and David.
Helen died on June 29, and is survived by four daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As a founding mother of the garden, her legacy lives on.
– Heather Haughton and Jean Pengilly
Following are captions from further pictures available from the Batemans Bay Post (if you are a subscriber)