There’s a saying that ‘you don’t have  to be mad, but it helps’—but at 9.30 on Sunday morning it seemed that you really did have to be mad to embark on FOBIF’s June walk into the Tarilta valley. Six degrees, a fine rain and forecast of possible hail: none of this was encouraging. All the same, eleven heroes rocked up, and were rewarded with a great experience in the remote valley, one of the region’s jewels. The weather turned out to be bluffing, too, obligingly moderating for morning tea and lunch breaks, with the suggestion of sunshine at regular intervals.

Our thanks to walk leader Jeremy Holland for guiding the group along a terrifically interesting route into the valley from the north; and of course the advantage of rain is that it gave a trickle of water over the area’s two very picturesque waterfalls. Fungi and mosses were in abundance, and the grand Candlebarks along the valley floor seemed even more spectacular in the misty weather.

The focus of next month’s walk, in the Gowar Forest, will be ‘walking with birds’. Check the program for details.

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Yellow Gums stand out

Yellow Gums Eucalyptus leucoxylon change more from season to season and are more colourful than all other local eucalypts. Their copious shedding of bark in summer is commonly accompanied by a dramatic colouring of trunks for months. After the rain is the best time to view these bright displays. Even now in winter their trunks can evoke abstract art.

Yellow Gum bark, Mia Mia Track. Photo by Frances Cincotta, June 2018

The striking smooth cream bark can now been seen more commonly across the bush.

Yellow Gum, Walmer South Nature Conservation Reserve. Photo by Bronwyn Silver, June 2018

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Curtain raiser

The always reliable Spreading Wattle has been flowering for months now, but the real wattle season is yet to come. A sign that it’s on the way: Woolly Wattle (Acacia lanigera) is well and truly in flower in the south end of the Diggings Park. Since we’ve had a modicum of rain, we might yet see a great wattle season in the next month or so…

Woolly Wattle, Wewak Track June 2018. Wattle blossom is one of the highlights of a bush winter.

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Indigenous joint management 1: have your say

A drop in session in Castlemaine on Sunday 20 May was a chance for interested residents to check out plans for indigenous co management of parks in north central Victoria.

None of the parks in question are in the Mount Alexander region, but the environmental and management problems faced by all of them are very similar to what we are dealing with, so the management approach being proposed is of great interest to us.

The draft joint management plan for the parks is open for public comment now. You can find it here. It’s a fascinating document, definitely worth a read [see a few details below].

The draft proposal is open for public comment till June 19. Submissions can be emailed to: ; Posted to: DDLMB Senior Project Manager, C/- DELWP Level 3, 8 Nicholson Street East Melbourne 3002; or made online here.   the procedure for submissions is simple:

  1. How strongly do you support the vision of the draft plan?
  2. How strongly do you support the proposals of the draft plan overall?
  3. What do you like about the draft plan?
  4. What would you like to see changed in the draft plan?
  5. Do you have any other comments?

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Indigenous joint management 2: here are some interesting ideas

The draft plan is a challenging, even exhilarating document. Its objectives are ambitious:

‘Healing Land (Country) goes beyond ridding the environment of pest plant and animals, managing fire and visitor impacts. The Draft Plan is as much about Dja Dja Wurrung People as it is about the land – we are a part of it. Dja Dja Wurrung People are part of the land and cannot be separated from it now and into the future.’

‘Sustainable management of the Dja Dja Wurrung Parks generating social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits for Dja Dja Wurrung People and the wider community.’

Mount Franklin from Muckleford: the distinctive dark cap is a pine plantation, a quite unnatural imposition on the volcanic cone. One of several proposals for land restoration in the plan is to gradually restore native vegetation to the mountain.

It’s fair to say that conservation reserves are currently regarded as places to visit, refuges from the ordinary run of daily life. The idea that they could actually be a central part of a community’s culture is still a radical one.

The draft plan is too complex to summarise in detail, but here are a few challenging ideas:

— ‘The use of Dja Dja Wurrung language names for places and features of cultural significance is a key priority for DDW People.’

— ‘the reintroduction of Gal Gal [dingo] and other culturally important animals within the landscape is identified as an action in [the Country Plan]’

–‘ Gradually restore native vegetation to the Lalgambuk (Mt Franklin) section of Hepburn Regional Park in order to recognise and restore the outstanding cultural significance of this place to DDW People.’

— ‘Dams fragment the watercourse they’re built on, preventing movement of aquatic animals between parts of the stream on either side of the dam. Dams and channels can decrease gatjin [water] flows downstream, particularly in low rainfall periods, reducing streams to disconnected pools, or causing problems associated with low flows, such as algal outbreaks.’

— ‘Manage road, track and trail maintenance to protect natural and cultural values All and maintain (and where possible reduce) the extent of road verges.

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Indigenous joint management 3: cultural fire

The return of cultural fire in this region is a potentially dramatic event.  As yet the implications of this practice are not widely known, but it clearly plays a major role in the co management strategy:

– ‘Delivery of Wi [cultural fire in the landscape] by Dja Dja Wurrung People, provides significant opportunities to restore the health of Country, and for DDW People, including youth, to strengthen knowledge transmission.’

There is implied criticism of current DELWP planned burning practice in comments like these in the draft plan:

‘Planned burning is largely centred on fuel reduction—the cultural outcomes, impacts on DDW food and fibre plants and animals, cultural connections and obligations have been little considered. While controlled burning is beginning to integrate DDW cultural practices, fire regimes continue to damage Country. Cultural heritage in the Parks can also be damaged by the use of fire retardants, mineral earth fire breaks, control lines and in some cases the intensity of controlled burns.’ Page 33

Elsewhere in the document we read, ‘When we burn, we start with dead leaves and place them in a circle and make it go outwards … Once the burn gets up a tree, to the yellow leaves it’s no good then.’

These comments are similar to the criticisms groups like FOBIF have made of DELWP practices over the years: they offer hope that indigenous participation may significantly improve management in this area.

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Indigenous joint management 4: a sobering context

In view of all of the very positive ideas fielded in the draft document, there’s one observation in it which gives pause for thought. It’s on page 46:

‘High quality planning is critical in a time when visitor numbers and expectations are growing faster than budgets; assets are ageing and climate change is increasing the frequency of fire, floods and storms.’

As we’ve pointed out before, Victoria’s population has grown by over a million in the last ten years, and in that time Parks Victoria’s staffing has stayed about the same. After ruthless cuts made during the recent period of the state coalition government, budgets have still not really been restored. And any visitor to our local parks can confirm from the sight of rotting and out of date signage that ‘assets are ageing.’

Co management is a great idea, a proven winner elsewhere in Australia . Let’s hope it’s given a fair chance to succeed.

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‘Creatures’ update

Here are two beautiful photos that have been submitted to FOBIF for our November ‘Creatures’ show at TOGS. Keep them coming! You can now view our ‘Creatures’ Flickr photo album.

I believe the butterfly is an ‘Orchard Swallowtail’. The picture was taken on our lemon tree just a few minutes after it emerged from its cocoon. Its wings are still folded and it hasn’t taken its first flight as a butterfly yet. (Max Schlachter)

Mudeye (Dragonfly larvae) Castlemaine (Vivienne Hamilton)

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Grey skies, perfect walking conditions

A cloudy day provided perfect conditions for FOBIF’s May walk on Sunday. A group of 17 negotiated obscure tracks in the back country of the Poverty Gully race under the leadership of Richard Piesse and Elaine Bayes. The nooks and crannies of this area have many fascinations, cultural and natural, and there were frequent pauses to explore them. The tunnel of the Crocodile Reservoir water race in its deep cutting proved particularly interesting: fortunately none of those who peered over the edge needed to be rescued.

What are they looking at? Walkers check out the northern entry to the Croc Res water race tunnel.

Our thanks to Richard and Elaine for a stroll in air fresh enough to be invigorating without being uncomfortable!

Next month’s walk will be led by Jeremy Holland into the Tarilta Valley. Check the program for details.

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Moths of the Box-Ironbark Forests

Steve Williams has been studying local moths for over a decade and will be sharing some of his fascinating findings at Newstead Community Centre this Thursday 17th May at 8pm. Everyone is welcome to attend the one-hour talk which will be followed by a cuppa, hosted by Newstead Landcare Group. A gold coin donation will help cover costs.

Plume Moth on Shiny Everlasting at Strangways by Patrick Kavanagh

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