Find out about wetland plants

wetland plant id course

Local environment experts, Damien Cook and Elaine Bayes, are running two wetland plant ID courses this year:

This course is aimed at anyone interested in wetland plant identification and ecology. The course will run over 3 days and each day will focus on a different wetland habitat (water’s edge, deep marsh and mudflat) and be timed so as to follow the wetting and drying of the stunning Reedy Lagoon at Gunbower Island or nearby wetland.  Participants can elect to do 1, 2 or all 3 days. (from the website)

You can find out more here.

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A winter stroll on ridges and through valleys

A cool winter day provided pleasant walking conditions for 19 participants on FOBIF’s June walk. Jeremy Holland led the group across some interesting isolated hills and ridges south of Italian Hill, before swinging past Sailor’s Gully and the Tubal Cain mine on a return trip to Vaughan Springs.

Walkers were struck by early appearance of Golden Wattle blossom; the damper gullies provided many terrific fungi sightings; and Sailors Gully featured spectacular carpets of moss. The first photo is by Win Jodell and the rest by Bernard Slattery.

The next FOBIF walk on 17 July will be led by Bernard Slattery. Click here for details.

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Last chance

Our highly successful FOBIF exhibition, Trees of the Mount Alexander Region, is finally finishing this weekend after a month at TOGS Cafe in Castlemaine in March and almost a month now at the Newstead Railway Arts Hub. So if you haven’t managed to catch it yet, take a trip to Newstead between 9 am and 4 pm this Saturday or Sunday. All the details are here. You can also download an online catalogue (14 MG) of the show here . This document includes a thumbnail version of every photo with accompanying notes.

Patrick Kavanagh’s photo here is a good example of the terrific quality and fascinating subject matter of photos in this show.

Patrick Kavanagh

Our trees are hosts to an amazing variety of life forms, and the macro lens can reveal sights barely visible (or effectively invisible) to the naked eye: in this case, what could seem to be an anonymous brown crust on a Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) leaf turns out to be a beautifully formed ‘shell’: the Shell Lerp (Spondyliaspis bancrofti). We’re not sure what the smaller scattered objects are.

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Want to put your hand up?

Here’s a reminder: the FOBIF Annual General Meeting will be held at the Ray Bradfield Rooms on Monday July 11 at 7.30 p.m.

Our guest speaker will be Martin Scuffins from the Leigh Valley Hawk and Owl sanctuary.

Do you want to play a role on the FOBIF committee? Or nominate someone else to the committee? All that’s needed is a piece of paper signed by the nominee, a nominator and a seconder–all FOBIF members. There’s no need of an official form, but for convenience, here’s a sample:

I nominate_________________________________

for the position of____________________________



I accept the above nomination


Positions on the committee are President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and two ordinary members.

The FOBIF constitution is the Model Rules of Association provided by Consumer Affairs Victoria. These provide that if the number of nominations received before the AGM equals the number of places, those nominated will be declared elected. If there is an excess of nominees over places, an election will take place at the meeting.

Please note that all FOBIF committee meetings are open to any member to attend and contribute. They are held at the Continuing Education building in Templeton Street Castlemaine on the second Monday of each month from February to December, at 6 pm.

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Shut the gate–if you can

Imagine a jewellery shop left open and unattended by the proprietor, with a notice reading: ‘feel free to appreciate the stock, but try not to trash the joint–and please don’t steal anything’. Possibly a majority of customers might oblige, but it’s a fair bet a few would take the opportunity to make off with a souvenir or two.

That’s what a lot of our public land is like. Understaffing in Parks Victoria means a ranger would be almost the most surprising sighting you could have in a park. We’ve become nearly  used to this, but we would like a modicum of infrastructure to keep the place in order.

A good example is the northern entry to the Ballantinia Track on Mount Alexander. Trail bikes are an increasing problem on the Mount, and it’s easy to see where their entry point is, when you look at the sad gate and its even sadder sign:

Northern gate to the Ballantinia Track, Mount Alexander, June 2016: when does a gate not actually function as a gate? When it never shuts properly.

Northern gate to the Ballantinia Track, Mount Alexander, June 2016: when does a gate not actually function as a gate?


FOBIF has written to Parks Victoria asking for the gate to be given a modicum of credibility in the form of an actual closure. We’re waiting for an answer.

Post script June 20: we’ve been assured that the gate has now been fixed. The mystery remains as to why it was in that state for so long.

A sample of bike damage can  be seen below:

Trail bike scars below the Ballantinia Track: an effective gate might not be the complete solution, but it would be a help.

Trail bike scars below the Ballantinia Track: an effective gate might not be the complete solution, but it would be a help.


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‘Safety first’ isn’t good enough

FOBIF has made a brief submission to the current Parliamentary enquiry on fire preparedness. This is possibly the millionth submission on fire we’ve made over the last 15 years, and is accompanied by a slight feeling of going around in circles: but we live in hope that repeating ourselves over and over might have a beneficial effect.

The submission concentrates on environmental matters and the Parks Victoria budget. The headings in bold quote the enquiry’s terms of reference. The substance of the submission  is below:


This brief submission will concentrate on the two categories under A below, and we will make a brief comment on Parks Victoria’s most recent annual report.

We do not intend to underplay the importance of safety: we merely wish to insist on the importance of integrating safety concerns with a commitment to a healthy environment: we don’t believe we should make ourselves safe by reducing the environment to a dust bowl.

In our view, the common assumptions about fuel management in the past were either, ‘the bush is tough, it will recover’, or ‘too bad, safety comes first.’ We believe management should advance from the trade off position to one where it aims for both safety and environmental health, and resists any notion of trade offs and compromises [most of which, in the recent past, have been on the environmental side.]

c. The impact of preventative burns on threatened species; d.The impact of preventative burns on Ecological Vegetation Classes;’ 

We wish to make the following specific requests:

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FOBIF tree show opens in Newstead

On Saturday 4 June, 50 people came out in the cold winter weather to attend the opening of the FOBIF photo show, Trees of the Mount Alexander Shire, at the Newstead Railway Arts Hub. There were lots of positive comments about the diversity and quality of exhibits and the slide show accompanied by Listening Earth recordings of local birdsong was also well-received.

Andrew Skeoch, president of the Hub’s Committee of Management, welcomed everyone and Bernard Slattery from FOBIF opened the show:

The aim of this exhibition is consistent with the stated intention of our first Mamunya festival in 1999, to ‘honour the native forests of our region’, and to keep faith with the original Mamunya statement, a Jaara incantation meaning ‘wait a while, don’t touch it, growing up.’

 Obviously the photographers exhibited here have a range of different approaches to their subjects, but a common theme is the expression of wonder or surprise at the subjects portrayed. This is a modest exhibition; the ego of the photographer has taken second place to the desire to keep faith with the object in view, to show its place in history or the wider geographical context. The photos here don’t pretend to high art, but they’re not simple snapshots: anyone familiar with the environmental history of this region will recognize that what’s represented here is a drama of destruction and renewal, of life and death. These aren’t trivial themes, but there’s nothing portentous about the way the material is presented: what we have is a careful attentiveness to the trees and the world they reflect and contain—and one which will reward careful attentiveness on the part of visitors to this terrific little gallery. 


Guests chatting at the opening (left) and Bernard Slattery addressing the crowd (right). Photos by John Ellis

 The show is open for two more weekends (18-19 and 25-26 June). Opening hours are 10am – 4 pm. Further details can be found here. Contact Bronwyn Silver (5475 1089) for more information.

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Aboriginal fire for the goldfields

Some intriguing ideas on fire were floated by DELWP fire managers at a briefing to the June Meeting of the Castlemaine field naturalists last Friday.

Most of what the officers said related to DELWP’s change to a risk management fire strategy, and will not be new to readers of this website. Among new matters to be fielded on Friday were:

The Loddon near Vaughan: a precious place, in need of protection from fire.

The Loddon near Vaughan: a precious place, in need of protection from fire.

–Ja Ja Wurrung rangers are conducting ‘cultural burning’ operations in the Murray Goldfields district, using traditional knowledge to achieve a mosaic effect. We don’t have details about this. The Dja Dja Wurrung Country Plan aims to ‘develop and trial a methodology for cultural burning on Dja Dja Wurrung Country that reduces threats to our living resources.’ It will be interesting to see how this practice integrates with other DELWP approaches to fire management.

–DELWP is considering ‘burn exclusion’ zones in this region. As far as we know there hasn’t been such a zone in this part of the state before, though there was one in Mandurang in the 2003 fire protection plan.

–Draft maps were displayed on the night, showing possible zoning under the risk management system. Disturbingly, one of these showed a zone 2 burn area along the Loddon River from Vaughan Springs towards Glenluce. This stretch of the river is potentially the jewel in the crown of the Castlemaine Diggings NHP. Attendees at the VNPA Biodiversity and Climate Change symposium on Tuesday 7th were told that stream flows in Victoria in the coming decades are predicted to decline by 50%, and that protection of riparian zones should be a high priority for managers. Burning river valleys doesn’t seem like a great way of doing this. We were assured last Friday that this draft zoning ‘couldn’t happen’: but if so, how did it get onto a draft map? We’ll see…

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2016 Winter School Holiday Program – Registrations are open!

Friends of the Box Ironbark Forests is excited to announce registrations open for our 2016 Winter School Holiday Program. The program is for primary school age children and will run in the first week of the rapidly approaching mid-year holiday break. The program has three events, all run at the Fryertown School in Fryerstown and will celebrate and provide education about local indigenous culture.
For more information see our poster.
All sessions will be held at: Fryerstown School 5 Camp St Fryerstown
BYO picnic lunch. Children must be accompanied by a supervising adult for the duration of the session.
Cost – $5 per child, per session. FOBIF family members – no cost
FOBIF membership applications forms can be found here.
For all enquiries contact: Naomi Raftery 0422 585 585 or
Places are limited and booking is essential. To book click on the links below:
Join Aunty Julie McHale and Uncle Rick Nelson as they celebrate and share their culture and stories.
Aunty Julie McHale is an Aboriginal, Primary school teacher and adopted elder of the Dja Dja Wurrung community. Together with Uncle Rick Nelson, a descendant of the Jarra people, they run ‘The Meeting Place’, a cultural school in Castlemaine for young Koori children which has now been running for six years.
Monday, 27th June 2016 – 10:00am to 12:00pm
Suitable for kids in Preps and Grade One.
Wednesday, 29th June 2016 – 10:00am to 12:00pm
Suitable for kids in Grade Two and Three.
This session will be run by the Dja Dja Wurrung Corporation with Trent Nelson.
Trent is a proud Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta man. Trent is also the Dja Dja Wurrung team leader at Parks Victoria, where he manages the cultural heritage of six joint-managed national parks in collaboration with two rangers.
Friday, 1st July 2016 – 10:00am to 12:00pm
Suitable for kids in Grade Four, Five and Six.
The FOBIF Winter School Holiday Program is supported by the Mount Alexander Shire Council through its Community Grants Program 2016/17.
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Put this in your diary

The FOBIF Annual General Meeting will be held at the Ray Bradfield Rooms on Monday July 11 at 7.30 p.m.

Our guest speaker will be Martin Scuffins from the Leigh Valley Hawk and Owl Sanctuary. This impressive organisation has a two-part focus:

The Sanctuary offers mobile raptor displays with an elite team of trained birds of prey. Presentations are conducted by highly trained staff with an established track record in environmental science and teaching. Our programs are offered within the Central Highlands and south-western regions of Victoria. We also rehabilitate injured birds of prey under our Department of Environment, Land, Water and  Planning shelter permit.

web site 2016-06-06 at 9.15.30 AM copy

Some images from The Sanctuary website


A motion will be moved to update the FOBIF statement of aims, which is now ten years old. The proposed new statement of aims is set out below. [For comparison, the current statement of aims is in the ‘About us’ section of this site].

More details on the meeting agenda will be published on this site in the coming weeks.


Here’s the proposed new statement of aims:

Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests (Mt Alexander Region) was formed in 1998 by people in the local community interested in working towards highlighting the significance of the Box-Ironbark Forests and Woodlands. There are over 100 members with a committee elected yearly at the Annual General Meeting.

We believe that the health of the land is intimately linked to its vegetation cover and the wildlife it sustains: that forests, soil and water are ‘an inseparable trinity.’ That’s why we work to encourage and support sound land management practices, on private and public land.

The Friends Exist . . .

To promote respect for Indigenous culture and understanding of Indigenous land management practices.

To work towards a common community approach to a healthy, sustainable and productive landscape through conservation of natural vegetation on public and private land in the Mount Alexander Region and in particular to:

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