What does LightFoot mean?
LightFoot is Wangat's practical commitment to sustainable living. We bring awareness of our interdependence with nature alive through how we live at the Lodge. Everyone who lives at Wangat, for a day, a week, or a year, contributes to the Lightfoot way of thinking and being. We are aiming to live in a way that gifts a healthy, beautiful earth to future generations.
What is Lightfoot living?
Wangat Lodge has been set up to align with principles of treading lightly on our planet's precious resources.
- The buildings are constructed of locally-hewn timber and hand-made mud-bricks made on-site. The areas where the mud was dug are now healthy frog-ponds.
- Garbage is minimised, recycled, composted or fed to the chooks wherever possible.
- We are on 100% Greenpower throughout the Lodge. Shower water is solar-heated and verandah lights are solar-powered.
- We collect rainwater for drinking and recycle our own sewage naturally in treatment ponds.
- Timber for seats and firewood is grown onsite and over 6,000 native trees have been planted to reforest the land surrounding the Lodge.
- Purchases for the Lodge are of second-hand goods and materials and sourced locally from natural materials wherever possible.
- We use small fuel-efficient vehicles, car-pool, cycle, or hop on the school bus to get to town!
- There are many other ways we respect nature and minimise our impacts at Wangat.....see if you can spot 100 or so!
What happens on a Primary LightFoot Camp?
Our school camps are just plain fun on the surface. (Even the teachers are allowed to enjoy themselves!) But there's another layer or two underneath, in overcoming fears in the Australian wilderness, and in learning the power we have to live less damagingly on our planet. When exploring the bush, most young people are taken a little beyond their comfort zone and find that they are more than they thought they were.
Our camps involve young people in activities they probably haven't done before. We don't do archery or ropes courses. But we do have to cross rivers and clamber up or down some steep slopes in the forest where a rope helps us get where we need to go: to a giant strangling fig tree (have you climbed up inside one of those before?); or down to a wild stretch of the Chichester River (how about some face painting with the ochres the Gringai people used?).
LightFoot programs happen mostly out in the bush. It's a fabulously unpredictable classroom. You think you're running a role play about an island and people living on it as Aborigines or peasant farmers or modern society - and a goanna pokes its head around a tree, or an echidna shuffles its way into the scene or a flock of yellow-tailed black cockatoos screeches the show to a halt. We love devising ways to turn the intrusions into part of the game. Wildlife is always around somewhere at Wangat.
LightFoot Camps have lots of physical stuff. We do a bit of lantana wrestling, some vine climbing, a rain dance or a sun dance depending on the local farmers' needs.... But the brain gets a turn too (you'll be amazed how a bin full of garbage can get you thinking, or a mime session can turn into a development debate). We even have times of complete silence, just wrapped up in nature (teachers always want us to keep it going longer). Most children have never done that before and most are surprised at how good it feels.
We like to put all the senses to work in our programs. Feel. Sniff. Listen. Look. A taste of bush tucker here and there. It's all pretty full on. We have a room where teachers can go to recover. We find that the smell of freshly ground coffee beans and the flavour of home-cooked slices and the comfort of an armchair out of earshot of screaming children is strangely soothing for them. We like it too!
What happens on a Secondary LightFoot Camp? The wildness of Wangat's surroundings makes an unforgettable adventure for secondary students, and it's sheer beauty makes a lasting impression. Alongside the ecology, geography, survival or teamwork skills, students are learning to appreciate the way nature works through a subtle immersion in the wonders of the Australian bush. And the chance encounters with a marauding possum in the dining hall or a frog in your sleeping-bag just add to the special memories!
Living for a day or three on Wangat Wildlife Refuge offers a different perspective on life that students and teachers find refreshing and creative. The simplicity and wholesomeness of life in the bush seeps in once the umbilical cord of i-pods and mobile phones are lessened.
The Lightfoot philosophy which infuses our programs and the set-up of the Lodge encourages older students to consider integrating sustainable living into their own lifestyle, school and community. At Wangat we aim to offer a positive vision for people and planet in harmony to inspire these leaders of tomorrow.
We are a small but very dedicated team here at Wangat. We work with just
one school at a time, maybe just one class, so we get to know everyone.
When you love the bush and you feel a pang of concern for the way the
world is going it's natural to want to share the feeling. That's what we
do. We don't earn a fortune but it's wonderfully rewarding work!
Who We Are
KEN RUBELI has worked as a forester, a teacher, and in National Parks and nature conservation. Immediately before coming to Wangat in 1990 he spent eight years as a freelance writer and nature photographer, promoting a wider appreciation of nature and wilderness. He has a detailed knowledge of the Australian bush, a strong personal commitment to environmental protection, and a contagious enthusiasm for nature! Ken masterminded the Lightfoot philosophy which underpins all of Wangat's educational programs.
NIKKI BROWN gives young people a refreshing way of seeing the natural world around them. She is a bush survival expert having spent a year living in a bush shelter she made, surviving off the land and practising primitive skills near Coffs Harbour. She cycled around Australia and wrote a book about her adventures. She has worked on school camps including overnight treks for teenagers in the Barrington Tops and enjoys sports, rock-climbing, canoeing and sharing her passion for green living.
HELEN RUBELI is a qualified primary teacher and has a degree in Environmental Sciences. She has been working on environmental education camps for schools since 1996 in the UK and Australia and
was a Discovery Ranger for National Parks at Taree for 4 years. Helen developed the Lightfoot Biology Fieldwork
camps, Creativity programs, tends the veggie garden and runs Nature Healing Retreats at Wangat.
ROBERT POLLOCK has escaped an urban background in commerce, administration and staff training to pursue a higher calling at Wangat. He is a long time bushwalker and touring cyclist, and supporter of "think-globally-act-locally" causes. Robert's gregarious personality is a great asset to Wangat. Furthermore he understands about GST, BAS, MYOB, which keep the Wangat ship sailing along ....and he has a marvellous sense of humour!
JANE RICHENS is a talented artist/teacher with a passion for green living. She has a sound "hands on" knowledge of forest plants honed through managing her own rainforest. Her background is in Art and Design including digital media and adult education, with experience both in Australia and Asia. Jane makes her own delux chocolates, has dabbled thoroughly in basketry, botanical illustration, running art galleries and producing magazines. She is currently a vibrant co-ordinator of the Dungog Community College and is doing a wonderful job!
The History of Wangat
Wangat Lodge was set up by Geoff and Isabel Armstrong as a purpose-built environmental recreation centre. Constructed in 1985 it was officially opened on 16th November that year.
Wangat's earlier history began tens of thousands of years before the arrival of European settlement. Aboriginal names were recorded for many local places (Cooreei, Tillegra, Munni, Bendolba, Dusodie...) but the last of the original inhabitants and custodians of the upper Williams valleys died in 1901. His name is recorded only as Brandy. Pathetically little has been recorded about the last years of the Gringai people, perhaps through shame, certainly through apathy toards their fate. As time slips by new information will be virtually impossible to unearth and document.
In the local Gringai dialect Wangat means "A Place Where Whisperings Are Heard".
The first site of a Wangat village was at the gold diggings six miles above the junction of the Little (Wangat) River with the Chichester. In 1881 there were four claims being worked at Wangat itself. One hundred and twenty six miners' rights were issued during that year; and shafts up to 200 feet deep were dug.
Wangat grew into a village, which was somewhat belatedly surveyed in 1884 and proclaimed on 20th March 1885. The map published in 1887 under the grandiose title of Village of Wangat and Suburban Lands, made provision for one hundred and sixty individual lots, a school site of two acres, several reserves for public buildings or public purposes, and other reserves for water, mining matters and recreation. A cemetery ground which made provision for seven individual religions, plus a General Cemetery for other denominations, was set aside in 1886.
Although a few families remained at Wangat for some years after that, activity in the area gradually fell away. The school was closed in 1907, and in 1916 the village gazettal and all leases were cancelled when the whole valley was proclaimed a catchment area for the proposed Chichester Dam.
There were in fact two Wangat schools, on different locations, which were given the name. The first - Wangat (1) - was established on the gold diggings in 1881 and survived until 1907. The second, built in 1883 on the site which is now part of Wangat Wildlife Refuge, was known as Glenoak until 1887, Dusodie until 1917, and finally Wangat (2) until it closed in 1954.
The area between the Chichester Dam Road and the Chichester River has been occupied by Wangat Wildlife Refuge and Wangat Lodge Recreation and Study Centre since 1985. Most of this land was cleared during the last century, and grazing and agriculture continued there until recent years; but it is now reforested. Immediately to the right of the entrance to the Wangat property is the site that between 1883 and 1954 was used for Wangat Public School. A grove of exotic trees (English Oak - Quercus robur, Live Oak - Quercus virginiana, Coral trees - Erythrina) plus some Australian trees (Kurrajong - Brachychiton populneum) which were planted to shade the school yard, mark its location. Near the entrance itself there was once a red cedar sawpit. And on the hillside beyond the entrance on the eastern side of the Chichester Dam Road was the site of Wangat Village which, with up to 1000 residents, occupied the area between 1917 and 1932 while Chichester Dam was being constructed and later follow-up work completed. Little evidence now remains of any of its temporary dwellings.
If you really want the definitive history of Wangat Geoff Armstrong has prepared 47 pages of such history. One day we will get this published or maybe even downloading it as a file from here.