Tombarra Accommodation and Events' living learning experience

CONNECTED: Field day participants check soil for compactness using a penetrometer at Jillamatong.
CONNECTED: Field day participants check soil for compactness using a penetrometer at Jillamatong.

Tombarra Accommodation and Events is far from your ordinary bed and breakfast. When you stay at Tombarra, you get more than just lodging – you get a living learning experience. Managers Tom and Helen Blacka have brought the centre a long way from its origins – sometime in the distant 1970s – into the 21st century, while maintaining the property’s rustic charm.

Tombarra was purchased a few years ago by local farmer Martin Royds of Jillamatong Beef in Braidwood, who has an active and passionate vision for the place. Tom and Helen have caught that vision and since taking on management two years ago, have been integral in seeing that practically played out at Tombarra. While the rooms are clean, neat and tidy, recent and ongoing renovations are starting to give Tombarra the face-lift it needs without destroying its rustic charm. “Tombarra was fairly run down when Martin bought it, and together we are working towards his vision for it,” Tom said.

Their hope is to teach people about regenerating the land, using holistic farming practices, the need for nutritious food and healthy water and soil. It’s a big vision, but it’s all connected. To achieve that vision, Tombarra is moving more strongly into training and education. “Currently our main course is holistic farm management and is conducted by Brian Wehlburg, which is based on the Allan Savory Institute,” Tom said.

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They also work with the Mulloon Institute, a research, education and advocacy organisation near Bungendore. Mulloon Institute was recently featured on Australian Story called ‘Hope Springs’, which featured the Legacy of Tony Coote and Peter Andrews. Mulloon in turn supports Tombarra. “After people get hands-on experience at Mulloon Creek, they come back here of an evening, have a meal, network together and share their experiences, sitting around a fire on cooler nights or on the deck over the river,” Tom said.

Plans for the future look bright. Tom and Helen hope to run more weddings, reunions and large functions at Tombarra and they also have ideas about a new educational event. “Part of our ongoing plan is to set up a network, where people can stay at Tombarra, have an evening meal and listen to a keynote speaker on a topic,” Tom said. “The next day, they go out into the field on a farm tour. So we are trying to incorporate some of our local growers and farmers in this.” The couple would love to hear from anyone interested in getting involved. 

FAMILY-FRIENDLY: The peaceful setting at Tombarra Accommodation and Events.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY: The peaceful setting at Tombarra Accommodation and Events.

As well as a training and learning centre, Tombarra is also the ideal family getaway. There are plenty of activities for children and parents to enjoy, including bush walking, swimming, gold fossicking, tennis and more.

If you’d like to experience what Tombarra has to offer, they will be running a gala feast of traditional Indigenous and Australian feral animal food (such as venison and goat) on Saturday, November 24. “The cooking is based on traditional Indigenous methods – they would light a fire on a granite shelf, which would burn for a few days while they collected food and could empty dilly bags straight onto it,” Tom said. A chef from the Aboriginal embassy in Canberra will prepare side dishes for the event.

On the evening prior, November 23, Tombarra will demonstrate how to cook using hot rocks with samples of Indigenous food. This can be booked through Tombarra, and packages for the entire weekend including accommodation can be arranged.

“We are very passionate about what we do here,” Tom said. “Martin’s enthusiasm has certainly opened my eyes to looking at things from a different perspective. We enjoy meeting new people all the time and over last two years have developed a bit of a motto – we welcome people as guests and they leave as friends.”​ For more information see tombarra.com.aujillamatong.com.au and themullooninstitute.org.