Once a degenerated sheep farm, the property was first noticed by Keith Bradby in 2004 in the inception days of the Gondwana Link. Shortly after, brokered arrangements whereby the National Trust’s Bush Bank purchased Nowanup. Using funds from a major philanthropic donation to the Gondwana Link program, ownership was then transferred to Greening Australia in March 2006.
The property was initially purchased for its ecological and connectivity values, and binding conservation covenants were placed by the National Trust on the native habitat areas and proposed revegetation areas. During this time, Greening Australia commenced replanting of the property, and used Nowanup as the centerpiece of a sponsorship deal with industry partners (Shell) for the Reconnections program involving regeneration of the degraded farmland to native bush.
In addition to ecological values, it soon became clear to Gondwana Link and Greening Australia that the place had important cultural significance. Uncle Eugene Eades and Noongar Elders were first taken to Nowanup in September 2005 and other visits by Elders were underway by May 2006. The property was already well known to many of the Elders, who identified values from both pre-settlement times and prior to the 1960’s survey and allocation of the land to agriculture. Eugene recalls that Keith Bradby said to him at this time, “this is Noongar Boodja, the gates are open, use it in a way that will make a difference to your people”.
This is a pivotal time of rapid change, where the Elders who not only led the community through difficult times, but also retain considerable cultural and ecological knowledge, are still available to teach and re-build Noongar culture. This ecological knowledge in particular has been lying dormant in the land, but needs the Elders to enliven and pass on to the next generations Noongar ways of custodianship of healthy Country. There is also a new generation emerging, who need the support of the remaining Elders.
Considerable increase in capacity in Nowanup enterprise comes with inclusion of Rocky Eades onto the team. This provides critical business skills from within the Noongar community and Eades family.
While successful, maintaining continuity in Nowanup’s leading-edge programs at Nowanup has been difficult for a variety of reasons and have depended on Gondwana Link and Friends of Nowanup for volunteer organisational, financial and administrative resources.
A plan is underway for transition of the Nowanup program and land into Noongar hands and hearts as a self-sustaining business. In 2021, Gondwana Link secured State Natural Resource Management (NRM) funding to support the transition to a sustainable Noongar owned and managed Nowanup. In 2022 Nowanup was the successful recipient of a substantial Lotterywest grant with a focus on consistent wages for key Nowanup staff.
In December 2022, a not for profit entity (Nowanup Noongar Boodja Ltd) and offspring social enterprise entity (Nowanup Enterprises Pty Ltd) were incorporated, and the Nowanup team is currently developing a Strategy and Business Plan with a focus on the cultural connection camps to generate consistent and ongoing income. As directors of these newly formed entities, Aunty Eliza Woods, Keith Bradby and Jasper Trendall (long term friend of Eugene) are providing support to Rocky and Euy to break the welfare cycle at Nowanup and enable genuine transformation into long term sustainable and self-governed Noongar enterprises.