1701 Waratah Park
Waratah Park is a magnificent 13-hectare site strategically located at the top of Cowan Creek catchment and adjoining Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park .
It was the home to the TV series “Skippy The Bush Kangaroo” through which the site became recognised nationally and internationally for its iconic embodiment of Australia’s unique wildlife and landscape.
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From 1967 to 1969, 91 episodes of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo were produced during which time the star Skippy, was played by between nine and fifteen different Eastern Grey Kangaroos.
The show went to air in Australia from 1968 to 1970 and had since been repeated several times by the Nine Network over the subsequent decade, becoming one of the most well-known series in Australian television history. The Skippy theme song is one of the most recognisable television tunes in Australia.
Skippy was also successful overseas, breaking through to become Australia’s first international television series export to countries including in the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway & the United States. There was even a French Canadian version titled “Skippy le Kangourou”.
Following the filming of Skippy, the fictional Waratah National Park was developed into a wildlife tourist park, retaining much of the original film set including the ‘Ranger Headquarters’, helipad as well as a BBQ and picnic area, the gatehouse and display area.
The sanctuary featured steam train rides various animal enclosures for Kangaroos, Koalas, Emus, Wombats, Tasmanian Devils, Wallabies, Tree Kangaroos, Reptiles, Australian birds, and some farm animals.
The ownership of Waratah Park passed through several hands over the decades, each unsuccessful in attempting to turn the sanctuary fortunes around.
Over time, patronage dwindled, and the viability of the attraction became unsustainable, and in April 2007, Waratah Park was forced to closed.
As a consequence of the land being commercially occupied for decades, by some whose interests did not include the preservation of fauna and flora or heritage, the buildings and surrounding land fell into an increasing state of disrepair.
Approximately 25% of the Park became infested by weeds as well as other threatening processes including landfill, rubbish dumping and vegetation clearing.
Today, with the on-going assistance of the Duffys Forest Residents Association (DFRA), the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) is working to restore the bushland, raise funding to restore the iconic Rangers Headquarters building, and ultimately reopen the TV film set to the public.
The Park holds significant environmental, heritage and cultural values, not only to Australians but also to overseas visitors.
MLALC and DFRA share the community vision for the park that would see the restoration of the Park as a nature reserve, offering educational opportunities for children from all backgrounds.
A place where Aboriginal people can reconnect with country and non-indigenous people can learn about the culture of Australia’s first people.
The establishment of an Aboriginal Heritage Centre and the Skippy film set back on display provides a perfect backdrop for the public to pay their respect to Australias First people while remembering Skippy as an iconic part of Australian history.
Some funding grants have been successful including recent funding for the preparation of a Conservation Management Strategy (CMS) on the Rangers Headquarters building.
A CMS lays the foundations and an opportunity to apply for additional funding to undertake works highlighted in a completed report, however, future heritage funding grants for capital works must be matched dollar for dollar.
The objective is to gain broad community support for the restoration project and help raise funds to be able to match funding when applications reopen later in 2017.
Hopefully, these photos will help raise public awareness of the dire state of the iconic Rangers Building and Skippy set, and by doing so, assist in raising funds and human resources to help restore both the buildings and the bushland at Waratah Park.
DFRA aims to encourage widespread involvement and ownership of the project and to raise public awareness of the need to protect, restore and enhance the local environment.
The task is huge with much left to do, so anything that anyone can do to help will always be appreciated.
2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the filming of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo at Waratah Park, so what better time to get involved?
If you are interested in contributing to the preservation of the site or learning more about how you may be able to help, you can contact Duffys Forest Residents Association .
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