In early 2003 I bought my first home. The day of the move was a scorcher, climbing to 40 degrees. By 2 am I sat alone on the back step gazing up at the brilliant night sky, so different from the sky of the city I had just left. Hot and thoughtful, I wondered about the people who had been here before me and the ones that came before them. This plot once part of the Swan Coastal Plain Wetlands was now surrounded by colour bond, dominated by a modest red brick house. Over the back fence, the river floor was parched and dry, full of rubbish such as bricks and tyres. Its name, New River, suggested that in some way it was created. A child of the Vasse River and a floodplain that remained dry for 5 to 7 months of the year, when flowing the water was at most two feet deep. The Vasse River once flowed to meet the sea but was now ‘protected’ by floodgates that restrict the purging tides ebb and flow. I struggled to imagine the landscape suburbia had replaced. My home had come at a price.

I wasn’t musing long before I heard a rustle and froze, imagining a fat tiger snake slithering towards me. Then chortled in delight as first one, then another frog hopped towards me. We pondered one another and there in the simmering heat of the night I made a promise.

The next morning I asked my neighbour, a Noongar woman, about making ponds in my yard for the frogs. She grinned: “The frog that crosses your path is bad luck”. My neighbours on the other side provided eradication tips. We compromised and they started to pop their frogs over the fence.

I made the first pond too deep and clear of plants and debris, and in this heartbreaking way discovered Chocolate Burrowing frogs cannot swim, then learnt to create varied water levels for different frog types to breed in. I placed solar lights to attract insects and created rock crevices and planted overhanging plants for the frogs to hide in. I learnt to be careful as I dug as there were many Chocolate Burrowing frogs hiding within the soil. Once dug up they would hold completely still, denying existence with all their might. The most common was the Western Green Tree frog. These loved the vegetable patch and the ponds. Unfortunately, they also appeared to love the taste of the Slender Tree frog.

Unexpected things happened as a result of my promise that first hot night. Over time the frogs became welcome at my neighbours on both sides, who also created spaces for them. They became the focus of our friendship for the years to come. In restoring their landscape we also discovered a place where time slowed, the beauty that comes from a healthy landscape and a sanctuary for ourselves.

Contribute your Rescue story