Cultural burning returns to the region

This week the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio joined Aboriginal Elders from the Dja Dja Wurrung community to hold a ceremony celebrating the return of traditional burning to their lands.

Cultural burns were conducted in two zones, one in the Greater Bendigo National Park, and the other in the Timor forest, near Maryborough. Both were patch burns, each in areas of 20 hectares; the places were chosen by Jaara elders for their cultural significance, and will be revisited with fire as necessary.

In advance of the two traditional burns, Dja Dja Wurrung Elders had visited both sites and granted their approval — Wednesday’s ceremony marked their return to the site to perform a ceremony of celebration.

The return of Aboriginal cultural burning to this region after a break of 170 years is a historic event, and fulfils part of the objectives of the Dja Dja Wurrung Country Plan: ‘Develop and trial a methodology for cultural burning on Dja Dja Wurrung Country that reduced threats to our living resources’ and ‘Increase the number of Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owners employed as project fire-fighters.’

The CEO of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation Rodney Carter said this week that “Our Elders are, rightfully, proud of the work our young leaders have done in their roles here with Forest Fire Management Victoria to return traditional burning to our lands.”

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FOBIF AGM: Blue Banded Bees, and other stuff

A healthy crowd of 35 people turned up to the FOBIF AGM on a bitter winter night last week to hear Brian Bainbridge talk on revegetation of Melbourne’s Merri Creek. Brian’s presentation was a model ecological narrative, focusing on efforts to reestablish local populations of Matted Flax Lily and Plains Yam Daisy. A feature of his talk was the account of increased community involvement connected to the revegetation efforts; and the audience was greatly intrigued and entertained by details of the involvement of the Blue Banded Bee in the process, and the construction of bee hotels to enhance this involvement.

The FOBIF committee was reelected, as follows:

President: Marie Jones; Vice President: Neville Cooper; Secretary: Naomi Raftery [on leave]; Treasurer: Lynette Amaterstein; Committee members: Frank Panter, Jeremy Holland, Bronwyn Silver, Bernard Slattery

Acting secretary Bernard Slattery reminded members that committee meetings are open to all members, and that FOBIF is pretty keen to see new participants in meetings. All meetings will from now on be advertised on this site a week in advance.


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Against the wind

Fourteen heroic walkers braved bitter winds to do a 7 kilometre circuit in Faraday for FOBIF’s July walk on Sunday. The walk covered a section of the Coliban water race and adjacent lanes. Features included some magnificent Candlebarks and a large population of Narrow-leaved Peppermints, as well as cultural heritage in the form of interesting granite structures from the 19th century race.

Candlebarks along Burgoyne’s Lane, Faraday: vegetation corridors like this offer a sometimes provocative contrast to the surrounding paddocks.

Noel Young took the photos above. Click on each to enlarge.

August’s walk will be led by Richard Piesse through the Poverty Gully area. Check the walks section of this site for details.

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No, we’re not going into film criticism–but…

…But we think it’s worth drawing attention to the upcoming Castlemaine Documentary film festival. The program can be found here.

In particular, The salt of the earth, Wim Wenders’ film about Brazilian photographer Sebastiano Salgado, is worth anyone’s attention. It’s on this coming Saturday afternoon. Salgado isn’t just a great photographer: he has serious environmental credentials. The trailer for the film can be found here.

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Air pollution problem? Here’s an interesting answer

What is four metres square, alive, and can reduce as much air pollution as 275 trees?

Answer: a Citytree,  ‘a vertical structure filled with moss cultures and other vascular plants that clean pollution from the air. The structure also contains sensors that are able to control all the moss cultures in real time, to let operators know if they have enough of water, nutrients and salt.’ Citytrees are being installed in Berlin and other places as part of a range of solutions to air pollution.

We don’t have them in Castlemaine, but we do have plenty of moss on our streets, at least in the cooler part of the year.

Street Moss is the subject of an exhibition about to open at Falkner Gallery, 35 Templeton Street, Castlemaine this week. The exhibition opening is on this Saturday (22 July) between 2 and 4 pm and the show runs from 20 July to 3 September 2017. The gallery is open each week between 11 am and 4 pm, Thursday to Sunday.

Moss Grid, Castlemaine. Bernard Slattery, 2017

Templeton Street gutter, Castlemaine. Photo by Bronwyn Silver, 2016

Parker Street footpath, Castlemaine. Photo by Bronwyn Silver 2016

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Want to have a say about central west forests?

As we’ve previously reported, Vicforests is keen to open some forests on the margins of our area to renewed logging, including the Wellsford, a magnificent Ironbark forest north of Bendigo, and the Wombat, to our south.

An analysis of Vicforests’ proposal can be found here.

For a comment about logging the Wombat, see Gayle Osborne’s article in the latest Wombat Forestcare newsletter.

At first sight, plans to extend logging in the Wellsford seem to lack sense. A campaign to give this bush National Park status has been going on for some years, and has wide community support, including from the City of Greater Bendigo.

In the Wellsford forest: it’s too good to be open to low grade logging. Photo: Geoff Lacey

Written submissions will be accepted until 21 August 2017.

Community drop-in sessions are being held in regional locations during the submission period. Come and find out about the investigation and talk to VEAC about public land in and around the Wellsford forest, Wombat forest-Macedon Ranges, Hepburn area, Cobaw forest, and Mount Cole and the Pyrenees Range.

You are welcome to arrive and leave at any stage during the listed times.  Prior registration is not required. The nearest drop-in sessions to our region are:

Bendigo Library
Tuesday 18 July 2017, 3pm – 7pm
251-259 Hargreaves Street, Bendigo

Woodend Community Centre
Thursday 27 July 2017, 3pm – 7pm
High Street and Forest Street, Woodend

Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre
Tuesday 1 August 2017, 3pm – 7pm
13 Camp Road, Daylesford

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FOBIF AGM coming up

The 2017 FOBIF AGM is on at 7.30, 10 July 2017 in the Ray Bradfield Rooms. Guest speaker will be Brian Bainbridge from the Merri Creek Management Committee. All are welcome and you can find out all about it here

If you would like to join our committee, forms are available here.

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Still time to be part of FOBIF TOGS exhibition

The selection criteria are very broad for this year’s TOGS Cafe exhibition, Mountains and Waterways. All photos submitted that are taken around water and mountains in our region will be included on our Flickr site and considered for the exhibition. The closing date for photos is 1 August 2017. To find out more, see our earlier post or contact Bronwyn on 54751089.

We have included some sample photos below.

Black-fronted Dotterel. Cairn Curran. Photo by Geoff Park, 29 October 2014

Picnic Point, Cairn Curran. Photo by Geoff Park, 28 Feb 2017

Columbine Creek. Photo by Bronwyn Silver, 21 January 2017

Mount Alexander. Photo by Bernard Slattery, 26 July 2012

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Winter–and a backward look

So it’s been the driest June on record around much of Victoria. Castlemaine weather station recorded 7 mls of rain for the month, compared to long term average of 56 mls. The previous lowest June rainfall was 13 mls in 1969. And it’s been pretty bleak into the bargain—rather too many grey but unproductive days.

There are interesting bright spots, however. For a few weeks now, large areas along Porcupine Ridge have been blooming with extensive stands of Woolly Wattle [Acacia lanigera]: quite a spectacular sight from the Ridge road:

The wattle season is on: dense Acacia lanigera regrowth along the Loop Track, July 3. It’s very beautiful, but casts doubt over the effectiveness of severe ‘fuel reduction’ burns.

Wattle stands in this area are dense and up to nearly two metres high—impossible to negotiate with any ease. Interestingly, this area was the recipient of a very severe DSE fuel reduction exercise in 2011–supposedly a ‘mosaic burn’– in which large areas of the fire zone were reduced to ash, and numerous big trees killed. Recovery has been patchy, with some areas showing good species regeneration. On the whole, however, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that this ‘reduction’ exercise has actually increased the fuel load. Dense shrub and tree regrowth has replaced tussock woodland, and the area is definitely harder to negotiate on foot than the adjacent unburnt areas.

Loop Track, November 2010: DSE’s fuel reduction exercise looked like a bushfire, and its long term effectiveness is doubtful.


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Not all fuel ‘reductions’ are the same

What conclusions are to be drawn from the Loop Track fire? In the absence of careful and detailed pre and post burn monitoring, caution is needed. We’ve found it impossible to get from DELWP a considered opinion on the effectiveness of this burn, from the point of view of ecology and fire prevention.

One conclusion can be made with certainty, however: not all fuel reduction burns are the same. It is lazy thinking to declare that ‘there’s a fuel load, we need to burn the bush’. It’s important to bear this in mind because there are still persistent calls for more ‘preventative’ burning of our public bushlands. One such is in the recently released Parliamentary inquiry into fire season preparedness. This inquiry, after fielding a number of submissions on the subject of fuel management, opts for a risk reduction policy, but with a minimum 5% hectare target. Apparently the MPs on the committee couldn’t see the contradictions in this approach, although they’ve been pretty obvious for quite a while.

Apart from a lengthy consideration of the political dispute over the CFA and the United Firefighters Union, the Parliamentary enquiry largely rehashed opinions on various matters to do with fuel reduction, ecology, and public safety, and it’s depressing to see that no advance seems to have been made on these matters in recent years. The report is worth reading, however, for its discussion of indigenous burning practices.

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