Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve

Mulligans Flat
Australian Capital Territory
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
Drone capture of the woolshed in Mulligans Flat.jpg
Drone capture of Mulligans Flat by Alex Humphreys
Mulligans Flat is located in Australian Capital Territory
Mulligans Flat
Mulligans Flat
Coordinates35°10′S 149°10′E / 35.16°S 149.16°E / -35.16; 149.16Coordinates: 35°10′S 149°10′E / 35.16°S 149.16°E / -35.16; 149.16
Area12.53 km²[1]
Managing authoritiesWoodlands and Wetlands Trust, ACT Government
WebsiteMulligans Flat
See alsoAustralian Capital Territory
protected areas

Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary (previously Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve) is a protected area situated in the Gungahlin district in north Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. It has several trails for walking, running and cycling. The sanctuary functions as a fieldwork site for researchers studying native ecology.[2]


The area consists of woodland, open grassland and a large dam surrounded by a fox-proof fence. Despite being freehold and then leasehold grazing land prior to becoming a reserve, Mulligans Flat has been subjected to less overall farming pressure than other areas at similar proximity to human activity.[3]

As a result, the uniquely intact habitat was given protected status as crucial habitat for threatened wildlife including the golden sun moth, the striped legless lizard[4] and numerous other plant and animal species.[5]

Approximately 150 species of wild flowers are found in the sanctuary under stands of 6 different species of gum tree, including threatened Blakely's Red and Yellow Box, which are valuable nest trees for the vulnerable Superb Parrot.[6]

Mulligans Flat is a sister sanctuary of Zealandia Wildlife Sanctuary.[7] Its chief managing authority is the ACT Government with support from the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust[8] with parallel arrangements for Jerrabomberra Wetlands.


Aboriginal heritage[]

Mulligans Flat is situated on Ngunnawal land. There has been disagreement in the past over traditional ownership in the Canberra region, including the tablelands where Mulligans Flat is located.[9]

Old Coach Road, situated in the valley where Mulligans Flat meets Goorooyarroo, is the site of a Ngunnawal Songline. Stone artefacts and tree scarring have been found throughout the reserve and nearby Throsby Offsets.[10][5]

Prior to the heavy clearing and farming practices of the nineteenth century, the area had a permanent water supply which is thought to have existed in the form of ponds connected by inconsistent channels.[11] This landscape would have provided food and other resources in the form of a diverse biome of flora and fauna sufficient to support a local community. A volcanic ridge exists along the east of the sanctuary, and to the west, a geological fault line caused a quartz ridge to develop which can be observed via satellite imagery. These quarry sites provided materials for making tools which were used and traded by locals and travelers.

Some contemporary methods used by Aboriginal peoples in caring for country on Mulligans Flat include land management, advocacy and working with groups such as the ACT Parks and Conservation Service's Aboriginal Ranger Program.[12]

The Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (TOAC) occasionally runs educational sessions using Mulligans Flat as a teaching location.[13] A welcome to county is included in a self-guided walking tour App.

Sanctuary history[]

In 1992, seven environmental groups submitted a proposal[14] to the Minister for the Environment for a nature reserve to protect Mulligans Flat from urban development. The area had already been observed as providing habitat for threatened plant and animal species, including six out of seven rare woodland bird species recorded by the community-based Canberra Ornithologist's Group. Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve was subsequently established as part of the Canberra Nature Park in 1994. Protection was extended to include Goorooyarroo Nature Reserve following its establishment in 2004, and to the Throsby Offsets in 2014.[15][5] Further community participation was encouraged through the establishing of the Friends of Mulligans Flat in 2011 which allows members to take part in ongoing conservation activities such as weed control.

The Mulligans Flat-Goorooyarroo Woodland Experiment[2] was established through a partnership between the ACT Government, CSIRO, and the Australian National University (ANU). Ongoing collaboration between these and the sanctuary's management board has enabled restoration projects to take place. Some examples are the reintroduction of several species, habitat recovery, and the monitoring of impacts of a range of management practices.[15][3]


The sanctuary is described in promotional material as an 'outdoor laboratory',[16] and seeks to achieve ecosystem recovery and restoration through increasing species diversity and available habitat.

It is estimated that 30% remains of the site's original eucalyptus woodland. Despite this, Mulligans Flat and Goorooyarroo together provide the country's largest remaining contiguous area of White Box-Yellow Box-Blakely's Red Gum grassy woodland and derived native grassland,[15] which is listed as critically endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and as endangered in the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1990.[17][18]

In 2011, Mulligans Flat received classification as an IUCN Category IV protected area.[19][20]

Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve

Fox-proof fence[]

Construction began in 2008 and was completed in 2009 on an 11.5 kilometre fox-proof fence to protect 485 hectares. This was followed by the removal of introduced competitors and predators including rabbits, cats and red foxes, in preparation for reintroducing native species. Mulligans Flat was the first Australian woodland reserve to successfully eradicate foxes and then rabbits.[21]

In 2018, the fence was expanded and the protected area nearly tripled to 1253 hectares.[22]

Other fences assisting with species management include the kangaroo[3] and bettong[23] exclosures, which provide information to researchers studying restoration processes in the sanctuary.

Reintroduced species[]

Reintroductions at Mulligans Flat have taken place primarily through partnership with the ANU Fenner School.[24][2]

The first species to be successfully reintroduced in Mulligans Flat was the eastern bettong (bettongia giamardi) in 2012. Thirty-five individuals were released into the sanctuary following the translocation of Tasmanian bettongs into nearby Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.[25] This species had been locally extinct on the Australian mainland for 80 years, and its return allowed researchers from the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society, who led the project, to study the results of re-establishing an ecosystem engineer in an environment concurrent with other restoration practices.[26] This research resulted in a transformational paper in reintroduction biology on 'Translocation Tactics[27]' which informed all subsequent reintroductions.

Bush-stone curlews (burhinus grallarius) were reintroduced in 2014 after being absent from the ACT for 40 years.[28] Twelve individuals were placed in a soft-release aviary within Mulligans Flat before being released into the wider sanctuary. This initial release faced some setbacks as several of the birds flew over the fence and were predated by foxes. Over the following two years, 21 more individuals were released using a similar soft-release method, although their flight feathers were clipped before being allowed out of the aviary. As a result, the birds had more time to adjust to their surroundings, and by the time their flight feathers grew back in they had settled in to Mulligans Flat as their permanent home.[29]

In 2016, eastern quolls (dasyurus viverrinus), another locally extinct species, were reintroduced to Mulligans Flat. Half of the 16 individuals were sourced from Tasmania and the other half from a captive breeding program in Mt Rothwell, Victoria. This initial reintroduction was successful despite several individuals climbing over the fox-proof fence and being promptly eaten by foxes.[30] The remaining female quoll population all produced pouch young, resulting in as estimated 25 to 30 additions to the population. This marked the first breeding of the species in Canberra in an estimated 80 years.[31]

A second translocation was carried out in 2017 and had a higher rate of survival at 92%.[32] These individuals settled immediately into their new territory. They benefited from other restoration processes taking place in the sanctuary, in particular the addition of wood debris which increased the invertebrate population, and by extension the quoll's food source.[33] The presence of quolls from the previous translocation was considered a contributing factor in the lower number of attempted escapes, as the area was proven suitable habitat.

Other species that have re-introduced or re-established within Mulligans Flat include the New Holland Mouse[34] and the vulnerable Brown Tree-creeper.[35] The New Holland mouse, like the eastern bettong, was locally extinct and has an insurance population located at Tidbinbilla.[36]

See also[]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c "About Mulligans Flat - Goorooyarroo Woodland Experiment". Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Shorthouse D, 2012, The 'making of' the Mulligans Flat - Goorooyarroo restoration project, Ecological Management and Restoration Vol 13 No 1, Ecological Society of Australia
  4. ^ "Sanctuary Springtime Action – Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b c July 2015, Extension to the Mulligans Flat and Goorooyarroo Nature Reserves: Offset Management Plan, Territory Municipal Services Directorate
  6. ^ "Australian Heritage Database". Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  7. ^ "Meet our New Zealand Sister Sanctuary – Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary". Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  8. ^ "Woodlands and Wetlands". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  9. ^ August 2012, Our Kin, Our Country: Australian Government Genealogy Report, ACT Government Report
  10. ^ Kelly C, 2013, Reconstructing the Australian story: learning and teaching for reconciliation, thesis, RMIT University
  11. ^ SF Landscape Consultants (1993). Mulligans Flat Pond hydrology study. ACT Planning Authority.
  12. ^ Directorate, ACT Government; PositionTitle=Manager; SectionName=Coordination and Revenue; Corporate=Environment and Planning (10 September 2019). "Healthy Country". Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate - Environment. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  13. ^ "[POSTPONED from 1 May] Cultural Awareness on Country Tour with Richie Allan - 16 Oct 2020". Eventbrite. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  14. ^ Lindenmeyer, B.D (1992). The Natural and cultural significance of Mulligan's Flat. Conservation Council of South-east Region and Canberra. ISBN 0949515035.
  15. ^ a b c Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary Concept Plan, September 2016
  16. ^ ACT Government & ACT Parks and Conservation, Mulligans Flat and Goorooyarroo Nature Reserves brochure,
  17. ^ "Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment". Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  18. ^ "White Box Yellow Box Blakely's Red Gum Woodland - profile | NSW Environment, Energy and Science". Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  19. ^ "Terrestrial Protected Areas in ACT (2014) (see 'DETAIL' tab)". CAPAD 2014. Australian Government - Department of the Environment. 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2015.
  20. ^ TRC Tourism, Proposed West Belconnen Conservation Area June 2014 [1]
  21. ^ "Figure 2-The feral animal exclusion fence in Mulligans Flat Nature..." ResearchGate. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  22. ^ Treasury, ACT Gov, Chief Minister and Director; Corporate Management (8 July 2017). "Mulligans Flat to Triple in Size". Our Canberra. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  23. ^ ACT Government, Access Canberra. "Bettong-proof fence at Mulligans Flat". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  24. ^ Portas, Timothy & Evans, Maldwyn & Spratt, David & Vaz, Paola & Devlin, Joanne & Barbosa, Amanda & Wilson, Belinda & Rypalski, Annette & Wimpenny, Claire & Fletcher, Don & Gordon, Iain & Newport, Jenny & Manning, Adrian. (2020). Baseline health and disease assessment of founder eastern quolls (Dasyurus viverrinus) during a conservation translocation to mainland Australia. Journal of wildlife diseases. 10.7589/2019-05-120.
  25. ^ Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate. "Endangered Species Breeding Programs". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  26. ^ Ross, Catherine; Munro, Nicola; Barton, Philip; Evans, Maldwyn; Gillen, John; Macdonald, Ben; McIntyre, Sue; Cunningham, Saul; Manning, Adrian (20 August 2019). "Effects of digging by a native and introduced ecosystem engineer on soil physical and chemical properties in temperate grassy woodland". PeerJ. 7. doi:10.7717/peerj.7506.
  27. ^ Batson, William G.; Gordon, Iain J.; Fletcher, Donald B.; Manning, Adrian D. (2015). "REVIEW: Translocation tactics: a framework to support the IUCN Guidelines for wildlife translocations and improve the quality of applied methods". Journal of Applied Ecology. 52 (6): 1598–1607. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12498. ISSN 1365-2664.
  28. ^ "Bush stone-curlew reintroduced in ACT after being considered locally extinct for 40 years - ABC News". 24 October 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  29. ^ "Mulligans Flat Woodlands Sanctuary - Reintroducing Endangered Bush Stone-curlews | Project | Field Capture". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  30. ^ "Mulligans Flat quolls killed by foxes after climbing predator-proof fence in Canberra's north - ABC News". 24 March 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  31. ^ Burgess, Katie (7 July 2016). "Eastern quolls breeding in Canberra for first time in 80 years". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  32. ^ Doherty, Megan (8 March 2018). "Rare photos of baby Eastern Quolls at play in Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  33. ^ Manning, A. D.; Lindenmeyer, D. B.; Cunningham, R. B. (2007). "A study of coarse woody debris volumes in two box‐gum grassy woodland reserves in the Australian Capital Territory". Ecological Management & Restoration. 8: 221–224.
  34. ^ Directorate, ACT Government; PositionTitle=Manager; SectionName=Coordination and Revenue; Corporate=Environment and Planning (10 September 2019). "New Holland Mouse - returning to the ACT". Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate - Environment. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  35. ^ "Brown Treecreeper Reintroduction". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  36. ^ O'Mallon, Finbar (8 June 2019). "Building a house for an 'extinct' mouse". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 29 April 2020.

External links[]