For 30 years, students have come through the doors of the SFS Centre for Rainforest Studies to learn their bit about the Australian rainforest.
However, students from the early years of SFS Australia may not recognize the Warrawee field station as it is today. The forest has changed around it as students have planted countless trees. Openings in the landscape are now filled in, lending a new texture to the horizon around you. Time has seen the field station itself unfold further into the forest — a new classroom, staff accommodations, and a laboratory have all been added within the past few years.
Even though the structure of the field station and the core curriculum have changed over those decades, the heart and soul of a semester spent in the Australian rainforest have remained the same. Thirty years of students have all toiled away on the veranda for countless hours, either frantically writing up their field exercise assignments, playing a relaxing game of chess, or excitedly planning mid-semester breaks. Thirty years of students have all sat besides campfires under the southern hemisphere’s starry night, singing and speaking to one another of times beyond their semester. They have all trekked through the forest, staring suspiciously at stinging trees and avoiding wait-a-while tendrils as they chase tree kangaroos and bowerbirds through the undergrowth.
For 30 years, the Atherton Tablelands community has become familiar with the biannual cycle of students coming and going from their area. They have graciously taken students into their homes for weekend homestays and shared their lives with our students. They have toiled besides students as they care for and then plant thousands upon thousands of trees together.
For the past 30 years, this little nest in the Australian rainforest has been known as “Warrawee,” an Aboriginal word of origins in southern Australia meaning “You are Welcome Here.” However, after spending 30 years in the Atherton community, the School for Field Studies wanted the name of their field station to reflect the community they, and all those previous students, have been a part of.
After consideration by members of the local Dulgubarra Yidinji community, the Centre for Rainforest Studies is now known as “Wawun,” meaning “Australian brush turkey” in the local aboriginal language. This bird has no doubt been around since the first days of the CRS, and will likely outlive all humans. The brush turkey, affectionately known as “Charles” by all those who live at the field station, holds a particularly special place in our hearts as it is a constant feature of the field station. We are all honored to have our field station named after such an iconic feature of our little slice of home in the Australian rainforest.
King Charles. All photos courtesy of Bridget Gilmore
The old Warrawee sign
The new Wawun sign at the Centre for Rainforest Studies