Another terrific photo for our TOGS show

Mitchell Parker sent us this atmospheric photo of a Cherry Ballart Exocarpos cupressiformis on Mount Alexander on a misty morning.

Cherry Ballart, Mount Alexander, 14 July 2019.

You can find out how to contribute photos to the TOGS show here

And don’t forget that entries to the Eucalypt photo competition run by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub close on 22 July 2019.

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Vale Uncle Brien Nelson


A large crowd gathered at the Campbell’s Creek community centre last Friday to mark the funeral of one of this community’s most distinguished leaders: Dja Dja Wurrung elder Uncle Brien Nelson, who died on June 28.

There is a good account of Uncle Brien’s life and achievements in the Bendigo Advertiser. It can be found here

Uncle Brien played an important part in the advisory panel setting up the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park. He was a Park Ranger for many years, and had a profound understanding of the links between cultural and natural heritage.

At a ceremony to mark his appointment as honorary associate of Latrobe University in 2009, historian Gerry Gill described him as a ‘pre-eminent Aboriginal leader, who has made an extraordinary lifelong contribution to the recognition of indigenous culture and reconciliation.’ Uncle Brien’s response then was a characteristic mixture of eloquence and self effacement, including his summing up: ‘I never thought I’d be honoured by anything or anyone. I was happy just to be there.’  In 2017 he was too ill to attend a ceremony to mark his inclusion on the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll, but his daughter played a video in which he said, in the same spirit: ‘Thank you for taking the time to listen to a person’s dreams.’

Vale  Uncle Brien.

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First photo for our TOGS show collection

As mentioned in a previous post this year’s TOGS show will run from 19 September till 24 October and the theme is a general one about our local Box-Ironbark Forests. The closing date for the submission of photos is 19th August.

Frances Cincotta has sent us this beautiful one of the bark of Red Gum saplings in the rain near the Loddon River in Newstead.

Red Gum Saplings, Newstead. Photo by Frances Cincotta, 20 May 2019

So send us one or more of your old favourite photos or get into the bush and take some new ones to help us make this an impressive 10th FOBIF exhibition.

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FOBIF vs Suzuki: ho hum, what’s ‘self regulation worth’?

Here’s a brief follow up to our very modest victory over moronic TV advertising last week.

The Ad Standards community panel found that that the Suzuki ad depicted unsafe driving in a positive light: ‘the Panel considered that the depiction of the vehicle going over the large bump at a speed which caused its’ wheels to leave the road was a depiction which would constitute unsafe driving if it were to take place or a road or road related area.’

The company protested its innocence, but undertook to change its ad,  as follows: ‘While it was never our intention to portray any unsafe driving at any point during production of this TVC, we acknowledge the Panel’s findings and propose to edit both the 30 and 15 second TVCs to remove the scenes highlighted as depicting unsafe driving.’

Viewers of the telecast of the North Melbourne St Kilda AFL game yesterday afternoon will have seen the Suzuki ad. It had not been edited, and depicted the same qualities criticised by the panel. 

We’ve written to Ad standards asking them what the value of self regulation is, if it brings zero results.

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A small victory: FOBIF 1 Suzuki 1

FOBIF’s complaint to Ad standards, the body supervising the voluntary code of practice of the car industry, about Suzuki’s ridiculous ‘for fun’s sake’ TV commercial, has been upheld.

Suzuki went to great lengths to defend its commercial. Among other things the company noted that the commercial had no sex or violence or nudity. We weren’t sure of the relevance of these things. Maybe the company thinks that if it avoids them it can be as irresponsible as it likes.

‘For fun’s sake’: this embankment near the Railway Dam has been gouged out by drivers ‘playing’ at challenging the slope. A third track is not far away. Few 4W drivers behave like this, but advertising encourages those who do. The Ad Standards panel found that the Suzuki ad showed reckless driving, but apparently believes that driving off road in this manner is not environmentally damaging.

Suzuki has agreed to edit the commercial to remove the unacceptable elements. We haven’t seen the result, but since the thing has been running for weeks on TV and the internet, this is a very small victory for common sense.

And it’s a partial victory: the Ad Standards panel found that the ad showed ‘reckless driving’, but it refused to accept that driving like this along dirt tracks was ‘necessarily’ damaging to the environment. We wonder if the panel has seen many of these ads. It seems that we are not the first to complain on these grounds, but the panel believes that off road vehicles, driven correctly, can negotiate offroad terrain without damage. Perhaps: but in our view the vast majority of TV ads of this type show the cars plunging recklessly through creeks, beaches and bushland in a way guaranteed to cause damage.

We hope to pursue this theme later in the year. In the mean time, we recommend that readers have a go at lodging a complaint against the more offensive of the ads. It might alter the community panel’s view of what ‘community standards’ are on this matter.

A letter accompanying the judgment reads, among other things: ‘The Advertising Standards Community Panel reviewed this advertisement and considered your complaint at its recent meeting.

‘The Panel upheld your complaint, determining that the advertisement breached one or more of the advertiser codes administered by Ad Standards.’

The detailed case report of the panel follows:

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Good times for the Bot Gardens flora and fauna reserve?

Mount Alexander Shire hosted a consultation with interested citizens last week to consider a management plan for the Botanical Gardens flora and fauna reserve. The plan would be implemented in tandem with the gardens conservation management plan, which was open for comments earlier this year.

Weed clearance works along the caravan park border, Castlemaine Botanical Gardens: works on the western side of the creek have significantly improved this area of the gardens.

The meeting revealed a wide area of agreement about the reserve: that is, that the work which has been proceeding steadily over recent years–clearing of weeds and restoration of riparian vegetation– is strongly supported in the community.

For many years enthusiasts have put in work on the west side of Barkers Creek in the gardens, removing Broom, staking out the sinister weeds which have appeared in recent times (Needlegrass being the most threatening)  and conducting surveys for the Eltham Copper Butterfly. The systematic approach by Council staff in this area in recent times has resulted in a significant boost in walker numbers; but the potential for this side of the gardens is high, and it’s to be hoped that the new plan will go a long way to realising that potential.

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Gold 1: What do you want to remember? What would you rather forget?

What does the phrase ‘extensive vegetation modification’ mean?

Answer: in Heritage speak, it’s a reference to what happened to our landscape during the gold rush. It’s code for: trashed landscapes, ruined waterways, denuded forest lands.

Why do heritage documents use such gormless terminology when talking about the history of the goldfields?

Answer: because in general ‘heritage’ is the nice side of history, the parts we want to remember: evocative buildings, romantic stories, heroic deeds. The dark side of history can be wrapped up in phrases like the one above, which mean practically nothing, and therefore can be skated over in a blink.

The late Doug Ralph in Dirdy Dick’s Gully, 2013. Anyone who pays even minimal attention will notice the shocking erosion of our creeks, and the fact that our forests are struggling to recover from the rampant exploitation of the past. But heritage guides turn our attention away from these things, disguise them under bland phrases like ‘extensive vegetation modification.’

The phrase ‘extensive vegetation modification’ is quoted on page 36 of the latest heritage management document for the Castlemaine Diggings NHP. To its credit, this latest document doesn’t fall for such a misrepresentation of environmental history, though for our liking it’s still a bit subdued when talking about the destruction wrought in the gold rushes. In this, it’s right in the tradition of heritage talk generally: one of the worst examples being the National Heritage declaration for the park, which observed, solemnly, that ‘The degree of alteration of, and intervention in, the natural landscape makes a strong impression on visitors.’ Really? We would suggest, ‘Visitors will be appalled at the way the country was torn to pieces in the desperate rush for gold.’

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Three major transformations happened with the discovery of gold in Central Victoria. They’re interlinked, and can’t be separated:

  1. Massive immigration largely caused by the gold rush created a completely new society, with all its virtues and defects.
  2. The natural environment was almost completely trashed, with every waterway degraded, and natural vegetation stripped from the landscape.
  3. The destruction of indigenous culture and society was dramatically advanced: already weakened by disease and violent dispossession, Aborigines now saw their country almost eradicated

Any serious effort to appreciate what happened in the 19th century should deal honestly with all these questions.

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Gold 2: preservation or repair?

The new plan does make some advances on the old on the twin questions of environmental damage and Aboriginal dispossession.

For a start, it explicitly tries to incorporate a role for indigenous questions in park interpretation:

‘In 2013 settlement of a native title claim acknowledged the legal recognition of the Traditional Owners. In 2012 -14 development of the Dja Dja Wurrung’s first Country Plan was undertaken. This plan acknowledges the importance of preservation and revival of cultural heritage as one of its key goals’

Equally CDNHP is an Aboriginal landscape of cultural sites and areas, natural resources and totemic species, creation stories and personal memories. The mined landscapes are referred to as ‘upside down country’ by Dja Dja Wurrung people. As custodians of the land that has been severely impacted by mining they feel a responsibility to heal the wounds that it has sustained’ [FOBIF emphasis]

This last point presents an interesting challenge to heritage managers: it suggests that respect for Indigenous culture would involve repair of the landscape, not preservation of the cause of its wreckage. The ‘equally’ in that paragraph is very important…

The Framework document does tend, like most documents to do with goldfields heritage, to pussyfoot around the environment question: it uses words like ‘dramatic transformation of the landscape’ when ‘rampant destruction of waterways and hillsides’ might be more accurate. In fact, we have to get to page 36 before the word ‘destructive’ appears….

Similarly, on the Aboriginal question the Framework seems to discreetly handpass the responsibility for dealing with this aspect of heritage to the Dja Dja Wurrung people. In one way this is fine: in another it has the effect of making this a separate issue. It therefore tends to enable the appreciation of our mining/digger heritage without seeing its darker side…

These are not easy questions for park managers to deal with: but any presentation or promotion of  the park which underplays any of the three points made above is a betrayal of our real history.

The 2017 Heritage Management Framework is an important document, both for its own value and for the fact that it may be the guiding document for Park managers in the coming years. It contains much interesting and informative information, and its proposals for managers need to be widely known.

There is one important underlying principle in the document about which we should be cautious, however. That is, that it’s partly designed to facilitate visitation to the park. Visitation rates are now practically an obsession for Parks Victoria. Up to a point, of course, increased visitor numbers would be good for the local economy. But tourism is a tricky matter. Castlemaine Diggings is possibly unique in that its appeal is specifically related to the quiet neglect of some of its most interesting sites. Its intriguing landscapes are, for those prepared to look, wonderfully evocative of another age: but they’re probably best viewed without the hassle of crowds…

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Wetland Plant Identification course

Registrations are now open for the Wetland Plant Identification Course 2019 run byDamien Cook and Elaine Bayes. The course starts on 31 October 2019.

To find out more click on the image above.  

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Central West forests report is out.

VEAC has released its final recommendations on the Central West forest. The full report with the executive summary and related documents can be found here.

The final recommendations take account of responses to the draft, issued last year: but the changes made in this document do not alter the main thrust of the draft. A significant increase in protected areas is recommended by VEAC, including a new national park in the Wombat, and inclusion of part of the Wellsford forest in the Greater Bendigo National Park.

This summary of the recommendations is taken from the VNPA:

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