Giving way to wombats


By Danielle Kutchel

Some of our favourite foragers are getting safe passage through the local area thanks to the efforts of the Akoonah Park Men’s Shed.

Members of the Shed have joined forces with the Wombat Protection Society (WPS) to create special wombat gates, which, when installed, allow wombats free access to land on

their travels while not allowing other animals to enter or escape the area.

Victorian representative of the WPS and Beaconsfield resident, Jen Mattingley, approached the Shed earlier this year with the idea.

Jim Grills, a member of the Shed, met with Jen and her husband Reg and told them that the Shed’s metalworking group could design and manufacture a gate as a community service project, with the costs of materials and ancillaries covered by the WPS.

A mechanical engineer by trade, Jim submitted a design to Jen and soon received approval plus an order for an initial batch of six gates.

But Melbourne’s sixth Covid lockdown proved a fly in the ointment as the Shed closed in compliance with restrictions.

Jen asked Jim if there was any way that a single gate could be made as a sample for the Society to inspect.

Jim said he was fortunate to be able to access all of the required materials within the City of Casey, and he set about making the first wombat gate.

“Knowing that the intention was to eventually make a number of gates, rather than just cutting materials and welding the gate as a one-off unit, I designed and constructed some welding alignment jigs and a tool for bending 10mm steel rod,” he explained.

This foresight will ensure the future gates are all the same and of good quality.

The gate components are made of galvanised steel with stainless steel bolts to resist corrosion.

And with the sample produced, the official wombat gate trial is set to get underway in the next couple of weeks, Jen said.

“The project is to run for 12 months and is open to anyone in the hills area where they are having problems with wombats damaging fences,” she said.

“Initially, gates will be available at no cost to eligible landowners on the prerequisite that they are prepared to give feedback on the success of the gates.”

The landowner will be responsible for installing the gates, which have been designed to fit into most existing ring lock or exclusion-type fences.

It’s expected that as the trial continues and is improved, it will be expanded further into Eastern Victoria where culling is often the preferred method of dealing with wombats.

“There is an element of ‘love or loathe’ wombats and wombats are still indiscriminately culled,” Jen explained.

Wombats are our ‘ecosystem engineers’; their digging impacts soil turnover, assisting with nutrient cycling and water infiltration, and creating habitat for other species.

“We need to allow them to move freely through their home territory.”

While wombats can eat some pasture grasses, Jen said they do little if any economic damage to crops and are often blamed for the damage done by other animals.

The free-swinging wombat gates will allow access in both directions and include a mange treatment container for use if needed.

“Now more than ever we need to learn to share and co-exist with our wildlife and the Wombat Protection Society believe swinging gates can make a difference,” Jen said.

To report a wombat with mange, email or 

If you collide with a wombat on the road, report it to the nearest wildlife shelter or Wildlife Victoria on 8400 7300.