There are some experiences that shape who we will become, and which become foundations of who we are.
For Annette Dean her time as a child at Oura Oura, a bush property near Liffey, shaped her life.
“It was the thing that made the biggest impact on me was that time at Liffey and learning to really love being in nature,” she said.
“Just being totally at peace in the bush and ... playing down in the river, I just can't emphasise how special and magical it was for me.”
Despite her family selling Oura Oura when she was seven, Annette Dean never really left the property behind – it was always in her heart and mind.
And now she has once again taken on the role of custodian of the property, which has come under the stewardship of conservation organisation Bush Heritage Australia, as the regional reserve manager, Tasmania.
Conservationist Bob Brown bought Oura Oura from Ms Dean’s parents in 1973, and it was home to him for many years.
In 2011 Mr Brown, founder of Bush Heritage Australia, donated the property to the expanding reserves held by the organisation – ensuring its conservation into the future.
Sitting beneath the striking rock outcrop of Dry’s Bluff, Oura Oura epitomises the unique beauty of Tasmanian bush.
For Ms Dean as a child it was a perfect playground, and instilled in her a commitment to protecting the natural world.
Every weekend and holiday Ms Dean and her family would be found at the property, a small, simple cottage sitting amidst the bush.
“Every morning my two brothers and I would basically disappear off and either play down in the [Liffey] river or go off into the bush and play out there,” Ms Dean said.
“We wouldnt go back to the cottage until lunchtime when we were hungry, that’s when Mum would see us again.
The opportunity to just explore the bush and feel so totally comfortable and happy in a bush environment, I just think it’s so, so crucial for every child.Annette Dean
“The opportunity to just explore the bush and feel so totally comfortable and happy in a bush environment, I just think it’s so, so crucial for every child.”
Ms Dean is passionate that every person, child and adult, should have the opportunity to experience the natural environment – a chance to experience what she did as a child.
“I was just so lucky. Of course, you never realise how unique that opportunity is until you’re an adult and you see how many kids miss out on that,” she said.
Although only seven when the family sold the property, Ms Dean has many memories from her time at Oura Oura – many from before she was five years old.
She recalls as a two-and-a-half year old watching her oldest brother and father through binoculars as they cut a track up Dry’s Bluff, which is now the walking trail up the mountain.
And she remembers the first time she camped out on top of the mountain, as a three year old.
“I think that might have been my first experience of camping and carrying packs and everything, not that I had a pack to carry,” Ms Dean said.
They camped out in a basic canvas tent, with a separate clear plastic groundsheet beneath them.
“What I really remember about that is this see-through plastic groundsheet and you could see all these leeches crawling around underneath,” she recalls.
“I knew that there was a gap between the side of the tent and where the ground sheet was.
“I’m not quite sure how it was that none of them ended up getting in and biting me on the face during the night, that was pretty funny.”
Ms Dean is now determined to ensure her son has the same opportunities to connect to nature and have the natural environment as part of his development.
Ms Dean has travelled across Australia and the world, working for parks in New South Wales, finding her way to Papua New Guinea, but Tasmania was always home.
A lot of other people who have grown up in Tasmania sort of say the same thing as I do, Tassie just gets in your blood.Annette Dean
“A lot of other people who have grown up in Tasmania sort of say the same thing as I do, Tassie just gets in your blood,” she said.
“I really enjoyed being in other places but I always just felt that I had to get back to Tasmania, and particularly the Western Tiers.
“I don’t know what it is about the Western Tiers, but whenever I see the tiers I just think, ‘I’m home’.”
- Bush Heritage Australia will hold working bees at Liffey on September 2-3 and October 14-15. For more information visit www.bushheritage.org.au