Jenny Look remembers her brother and his legacy to nature.
John Kachel eschewed all things material. He longed for a peaceful, united world and was often flabbergasted by the needless destruction of natural environments he witnessed both in Australia and on his travels in Southeast Asia.
He lived a simple life, and over many years created his own rainforest sanctuary on an acre of land he gradually acquired adjacent to his home.
My earliest recollection of my older brother was of him caring for an injured parrot he had found by the side of the road. And in his later years, becoming a relentless critic of land clearing and destruction of natural habitats – home to native animals.
John was an enthusiastic contributor to the ‘letters’ pages of the local press, never missing an opportunity to comment on environmental issues in the Gold Coast area, specifically the Hinterland rainforests and water catchment areas of the Hinze Dam. His missive to the Gold Coast Bulletin regarding the slashing of his property by the local council without his permission while he was overseas, made the front page on June 9, 2005, and led to his appearance on A Current Affair not long after. The action by the council was a result of a neighbour’s complaint of vermin sighted on John’s property. The vermin were, in fact, small native marsupials which lived in his rainforest garden.
John’s connection to nature was ever apparent when in his company.
John lived in an area of the Gold Coast Hinterland adjacent to the rainforests of Springbrook and Beechmont, home to ancient white beech trees and other significant vegetation. A stroll through the bush with John was always an education as he pointed out a bush tucker plant or exotic tree. The importance of the local environment and what he experienced overseas was not lost on John; these habitats were home to countless species of vulnerable wildlife.
And so John began to formulate how best he could provide a legacy for the protection of this precious wildlife and their habitat, not only in his backyard but overseas as well.
In 2014, John was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND).
Undaunted by this news, John proved he would allow nothing to stop him going about his day-to-day life, be it travelling or gardening, or indeed providing yet another opinion piece to the local press. As his mobility gradually decreased, he constantly found new ways of getting around, from fashioning himself a metal foot brace to taking a foldup bicycle with him on his travels in Asia when he could no longer walk any distance. When even cycling became difficult, he attached training wheels to the bike to help him stay upright. Eventually, he succumbed to using an electric wheelchair, but he never saw it as a handicap or expressed any self-pity. His rainforest garden was accessible by 75 steep concrete steps at the rear of his home. He traversed those stairs on his backside and moved around the garden on his knees.
While his means of mobility were constantly evolving, so too, were his plans for his Will.
John had no dependents. Given his attitude to materialism, he didn’t want to think the proceeds of his estate would be spent on flash cars, fancy holidays or designer clothes by those who felt they had some entitlement to his Estate.
He wasn’t afraid of dying, but the thought of leaving his rainforest haven affected him deeply.
The many conversations I had with him to help him come to terms with what he had to do included ”You can’t take it with you” and “It’s up to you to decide what to do with your money, not what some relatives think you should do with it” and “Someone will come along who will love your home as much as you do and take care of it”. And so he made the decision to leave the bulk of his Estate to charities aiding wildlife, a cause which had been dear to him all his life.
It is now a year since his passing. I am eternally grateful to WWF for the caring and gracious manner in which they have accepted John’s bequest. This isn’t just a donation to them. They have been interested to learn more about their benefactor, what led him to include their organisation in his Will, and to let me know how much they appreciate the gift and how they will use it. I am sure he knows he made the right decision.
If John’s legacy has inspired you, please consider becoming a supporter and including a gift to nature in your Will.