Reviving Mount Elephant


Mount Elephant

The communities of Derrinallum and Lismore demonstrate what people who have a vision can achieve. The much abused and neglected Mount Elephant has been and will continue to be the beneficiary of their energy and resources.

Mount Elephant is a classified as a dormant rather than an extinct volcano despite its last eruption taking place 10,000 years or more ago. It certainly has been active since Australia’s first settlers.

The Mount has had chequered career from its active to its dormant state. Even before it was taken over and renamed Mount Elephant because of its shape by European settlers, the local Aboriginal people used the stones from the lava flow to construct channels that linked wetlands, weirs and fish traps as well as for building stone huts. Since European settlement it has been quarried by the original farming family who used its scoria on the property. The scoria was also quarried for rail and road works by various public authorities. In droving days, it was an important landmark and was known as “swagman’s lighthouse” rising 240 meters above the flat surrounding area.

At the invitation of the original farming family Mount Elephant was purchased by the communities of Derrinallum and Lismore in partnership with the Trust for Nature in 2000. The vision of the two communities and the Trust is to restore the Mount after the ravages of quarrying, overgrazing and bushfires. To this end revegetation with native trees, grasses and bushes has become a priority. Originally there would have been a rich wooded area of manna gums, drooping sheoak, blackwood, banksias, sweet bursaria and tree violet together with common tussock and wallaby grass. The restoration of what is essentially a bald pate will encourage the return of the mountain grey kangaroo, black wallaby and birds such as eagles and hawks as well as insect life such as the wanderer butterfly.

Aboriginal mythology tells of the dreamtime battle between two men, Gerinyelam and Buninyong. Buningyong coveted Gerinyelam’s axe. They negotiated and agreed on a price but once Buningyong possessed the axe, he no longer wanted it and demanded his gold back. Gerinyelam refused. Enraged Buningyong challenged him to a fight. They fought long and hard, the clash of weapons and the heavy breathing of the men heard for miles around. The battle ended when both were mortally wounded: Buningyong by Gerinyelam’s spear and Gerinyelam by the disputed axe. They retreated and died, each becoming the respective mounts. Even if Gerinyelam is not quite dead, but rather in some coma, hopefully he will not reawaken to send up plumes of gas and lava and declare a late victory over his enemy, Buninyong.

In future the restored Mount will offer an education centre that will inform visitors of the tracks that lead to the 90 meter deep crater. The walks around Mount Elephant will be a nature-filled joy where people can enjoy a day out. The Mount is currently open on Sundays between 1 and 4 p.m. and on a clear, windless day is worth a visit even in its still early stage of rehabilitation. Enthusiastic volunteers will be only too happy to share their vision with you and fill you in on the fascinating history.

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