President’s Report for 2022 AGM

Helen McKernan

At the previous AGM, fire was the dominant concern, at this 2022 AGM it is floods! Next year is challenging to even think about! As we reflect on the changes to our lives and environment we find almost every aspect of life has been affected by climate change. While mitigation is the dominant discourse, adaptation to the already changed climate is the less explored challenge. The adaptive capacity of whole countries was on the agenda at COP27 where 84% of countries claimed to have one adaptive instrument in place although not necessarily practical strategies. This pattern of mitigation over adaptation is repeated across all levels of governance. At a regional workshop implemented by Strathbogie Ranges Conservation this year in collaboration with Monash and the University of Melbourne, it was found that Federal and State institutions in Australia are inadequately funded or prepared for adaptation monitoring and implementation.

The Victorian State Government’s Natural Environment Climate Change Action Plan 2022-2026 acknowledges that uncertainty prevails − which ecosystems will be affected, when and how is not known. It suggests that a place to start is a monitoring framework that includes distribution, composition, dominant species structure and function such as habitat provision. A lack of biological information about the current status of species and complexity of interrelationships between species is another impediment to predicting adaptive capacities to a changing environment.

Locally the Strathbogie Ranges Conservation has committed to contribute to monitoring the effects of climate change on our ecosystems and where possible propose adaptive strategies to increase ecosystem resilience. By working with Euroa Arboretum and Longwood Plains CMN, our partners in the Goulburn to Granite alliance, we will pool our expertise to address some of these climate challenges and help to achieve our vision of healthy ecosystems, landscapes and communities.

Of great importance to the committee is to continue to engage respectfully, to build trust and learn from and alongside the Taungurung, the traditional custodians of the Strathbogie Ranges and forest.

A significant achievement for us this year was a name change and improved branding. After many weeks mulling over possible names and inviting suggestions from our networks, we agreed to simply shorten our name to Strathbogie Ranges Conservation. Aligned with this our logo was altered and banners and posters printed for functions and all social media updated.

The newsletter prepared, designed and edited by Alastair Tame reaches a wide audience and this year increased circulation by 30% to 440 subscribers. Our Facebook page has 600 followers. These social media play an invaluable role in promoting the conservation projects to a wider audience and brings new people to our events.

Our Awe and Wonder project again funded by our submission writer Janet Hagen this year made a significant contribution to healthy communities and landscapes. Crowe a local environmentalist facilitated the project whereby seven community painting sessions were led by artists and conducted en plein air. The sites were in iconic local environments – amidst huge forest trees, on rocky outcrops, riparian land and grasslands. From Acknowledgement of Country to the morning teas and ending, Crowe invited participants to observe, interpret and just be part of nature. The Wearable Art project led by Robyn Thompson and Suzie Bates targeted year 10 and 11 school students from Euroa Secondary School and provided four stimulating screen printing opportunities for them to interpret and then wear their printed tshirts or other products.

The highly successful Walks Program led by Alastair Tame and Justus Hagen has involved hundreds of people over many years and attracts people from Melbourne to Wodonga to Nagambie. All of the walks emphasized the unique aspects of the surroundings and gave access to areas rarely encountered. The walks are graded and make a definite contribution to the physical and mental health of the walkers.

Other projects this year focused on ecological literacy, in particular increasing understanding of the Fungi Kingdom. A fungal adventure workshop and forest foray with Alison Pouliot and soil hydrology field day on Phil Siem’s property with Walter Jehne emphasized the complex interdependency of species and non-living factors. Simon Curtain ecological film maker captured this on a short documentary film that can be viewed on our website.

Using new technologies for monitoring were demonstrated through a drone workshop in Strathbogie Forest at night. It demonstrated some of the possibilities for using drones to monitor forest arboreal and terrestrial forest species and pest animals. Photographing Trees with Alison Pouliot was another skill development workshop relevant to monitoring tree health and also to promote appreciation of the magnificence and importance of ancient trees. Koala monitoring with researcher Dave Mitchell from the Australian Koala Foundation showed volunteers a method for monitoring koalas and produced important data on the koala species in the Strathbogie Ranges. The ongoing citizen science project on Bores over a number of years has raised community expertise on groundwater and soaks.

A key project in the pipeline for 2023 is Janet Hagen’s Finger on the Pulse, following her successful submission to GBCMA’s seeding grants. The project will monitor how some ecosystems respond to climate change and will be linked to a dashboard. The project will identify cascading impacts and work to predict when  eosystems approach tipping points. Also the third biennial Festival of Fungi is back, again organised by Penny Algar with an exciting new program offered over three days from 26 to 28 May 2023.

All of these projects are initiated and implemented through the outstanding initiative and commitment of the committee members. I thank each and every one of the committee members and project officers. I make special mention of those leaving the committee or roles. Michael Spencer a founding member and past President has chosen to leave from the committee after 10 years, Penny Algar has stepped down as Secretary and Shirley Saywell who has been Vice-President for many years.  I welcome Heather Bradbury as the new Secretary and Carole as the new Vice –President and also welcome the three new members: Grant Caelli, Trent Howard and Leyal Aksu.

Strathbogie Ranges Conservation Committee 2023

Alastair TameProject
Janet HagenProject
Bert LobertProject
Penny AlgarCommittee
Shirley SaywellCommittee
Leyal AksuCommittee
Trent HowardCommittee
Grant CaelliCommittee