Connecting Community, Reconnecting Rainforest

An intergenerational project to restore the rainforest

Bronwen Scott
2 min readApr 21, 2022


Detail from the Early Settlers mosaic in Malanda, FNQ. © Bronwen Scott.

Next to the old Eacham shire council chambers, on Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands, is a mosaic on a shop wall. One of nine made to commemorate the centenary of federation, the mosaic depicts a tropical rainforest.

The centrepiece is a giant red cedar, a tree with timber once considered so valuable it was called ‘red gold’. Two men swing axes into the trunk, exposing pale wood. Nearby, a tree kangaroo watches a felled cedar being dragged away by a bullock team.

From ‘In the living mosaic of the Atherton Tablelands, mabi forest is being restored’, The Guardian 3 April 2022.

Mabi rainforest is one of Australia’s most endangered ecosystems. Almost entirely restricted to the Atherton Tablelands of Far North Queensland, clearing has reduced it to less than 5% of its former range. It is fragmented — apart from two protected blocks, most mabi forest remnants are less than 5 hectares (about 12 acres) in area — and susceptible to weeds and fire. The forest is in a bad way.

But this is a good news story. It is about community organisations, landholders, local businesses, and state and federal governments working together to restore mabi forest. At least, to give it the support it needs to restore itself, because nature works on scales so much longer than our own.

TREAT (Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands) is the oldest and largest community conservation organisation in Queensland’s Wet Tropics. Working closely with the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife nursery near Lake Eacham, it is dedicated to raising and replanting native vegetation on the Tablelands. Even the pandemic did not stop TREAT volunteers.

I wrote about the organisation’s activities in The Guardian.

A few weeks ago, TREAT volunteers took part in a big planting day at Wongabel State Forest, near Atherton. Wongabel SF is one of those two protected blocks of mabi rainforest. (The other is Curtain Fig National Park.) Replanting at Wongabel was a huge collaborative effort between Barron Catchment Care, NQ Land Management, Wet Tropics Management Authority, Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, and TREAT. It was partly funded by Terrain Natural Resource Management. By lunchtime, more than 3,000 young trees were in the ground.

It will take decades — centuries — for the replanted areas to establish the complexity of the natural forest. This is an intergenerational project. But what better legacy?

You can read the full story in The Guardian. (No paywall).