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August 2020

We’re finally being forced to recognize that no top-down institution, governmental or otherwise, can fully ensure our safety. That our deepest insurance against disaster is going local—by getting to know our actual neighbors and checking in on one another when we can, participating in our local community and apprenticing with the more-than-human terrain that surrounds and sustains us. Eating more of what grows locally, and learning to grow some of these foods ourselves, reduces the long supply chains that bring not just foods and products from far-flung places into our lives, but also pathogens that would otherwise be way more limited in their circulation.

David Abram, from In the ground of our unknowing https://emergencemagazine.org/story/our-unknowing/

Welcome to the August edition of Localising Leanaganook. In this edition you will find information about:

  1. Community Voice Democratic Renewal in Hepburn Shire
  2. Fundamentals of SoilOnline Masterclass
  3. ACFProtecting our environment award
  4. Climate Smart Agriculture Fellowship
  5. bHive villages in Bendigo 
  6. Repair Cafe’s update-battling chuck-out culture
  7. Wildlife-friendly fencing
  8. The Wombat Post – a new online newspaper for Hepburn Shire
  9. Hepburn Wind 9 year anniversary, Z-net emissions for Hepburn and Mt Alexander shires, & electrical vehicle bulk buy
  10. Cooperatives for a democratic covid recovery
  11. Understanding de-growth
  12. Women’s Co-housing eco-village for Daylesford
  13. Aboriginal land management prior to 1788
  14. Is landscape restoration working?
  15. Hepburn Shire- Local Laws #2 Reference Groups
  16.  Orange movement to support first nations people
  17. Castlemaine Weekly and monthly Farmers Market
  18. Hiroshima day anniversary acknowledged in Castlemaine
  19. Food for Thought – Corona reflections: wandering in strange lands; C’rona virus blues; World Localisation day; an opportunity for disaster solidarity;  New Economy Journal

Community Voice- Democratic Renewal in Hepburn shire

The launch of Community Voice in August marks a new era of community democracy in Hepburn Shire.

Community Voice is a non-political grassroots movement that aims to shift the process of local government in Hepburn Shire towards participatory democracy by encouraging continual community participation.

When the results of the 2020 Local Government Community Satisfaction Survey came out in June 2020, it confirmed what many members of the Hepburn Shire community had been feeling for some time. Council wasn’t listening.

According to the survey (1) ‘Perceptions of Hepburn Shire Council’s overall performance (fell) to an all-time low in 2020. This is reflected in most service areas, where performance ratings have declined significantly over the past year. Performance is significantly lower by the widest margin (in) Community decisions and Consultation & engagement’(1) https://www.hepburn.vic.gov.au/hepburn/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Attachment-3-2020-Hepburn-Shire-Community-Satisfaction-Survey-separate.pdf)

Community Voice was born out of this frustration at the lack of genuine consultation and council’s failure to listen to the concerns and aspirations of local people on matters of public interest. 

‘The overall objective of Community Voice is to be a conduit between the Hepburn Shire community and its Council, to help build a highly valued and collaborative relationship – to be a bridge to democratic renewal in the Shire’.

Community Voice has developed a Charter which sets out the core values, principles and processes necessary to build inclusive and participatory democracy in Hepburn Shire. Those standing for election in October are asked to sign up to the Charter. After the election, Community Voice will monitor each councillor’s commitment to community engagement, push for better models of community participation and hold them to account in their decision making.

Community Voice believes that in the complex and challenging times we now face, participatory democracy is essential to informed and inclusive policies and decisions, to build a healthier, more resilient community in the Hepburn Shire.

Go to the website or facebook page and share your community voice. Read the Living Charter for Participatory Democracy and add your suggestions. https://communityvoice.group/


Fundamentals of Soil- Online masterclass

This online webinar is hosted by Harcourt Organic Farming Coop this coming Sunday, August 23rd at 11am, with Dr Christine Jones. It is a rare opportunity to have access to Christine and her in-depth knowledge about soil.

Christine will talk about what soil needs to make it thrive with a focus on practical tools for regenerative agricultrue farmers, e.g. dairy, cropping, grazing and horticulture. There will also be some in-depth info about quorum sensing etc. (for those that are a bit further down the regen ag path).
(Please note: it will be different content to the fruit tree understory workshop Christine recently gave for Grow Great Fruit).
It costs $35, and Christine will be answering everyone’s questions, either personally during the webinar, or afterwards by PDF (which will then be available to everyone who attends, along with a replay link).

Australian Conservation Foundation award- local people protecting our environment

Nominations for the 2020 Peter Rawlinson Award are open. Nominate a local person who has made an amazing voluntary contribution to protecting our environment.

Photo: courtesy Connecting Country 

You can nominate them by clicking on the following link: https://www.acf.org.au/rawlinson_award

Our lives have changed dramatically in the last few months. But for many local people the work hasn’t stopped. Dedicated individuals and groups are still out there saving wildlife, saying no to development that threatens important habitats, and restoring nature.

The winner will receive $3,000 towards their conservation work. Nominations close at 5pm AEST on Monday 31 August.

Climate Smart Agriculture Fellowship

Applications are now open for the Victorian Climate-Smart Agriculture Fellowship.To learn more about the program and to apply, click here

Funded by the William Buckland Foundation, the fellowship is aimed at current and emerging industry leaders who are committed to the sustainability of the agricultural sector. It is designed to build capacity to manage climate risk, while supporting business and industry resilience and is free of charge to participants.

We’re looking for people with the potential to change the game, shape opinion and policy, and help agriculture and rural communities manage climate risks and prosper in a low-carbon world.

We’ll give over 20 fellows the training, as well as ongoing support and encouragement, to promote climate-smart agriculture. The fellowship is in its third year, having already trained 40 emerging leaders across Victoria.

This year the fellowship will take place via a mix of online and offline meetings between September 2020 and March 2021, including a mentoring program to support the adoption of climate smart practices and a two-day conference in March 2021.

Applications are now open and close 5pm Monday 31 August 2020. Please click here to apply via our website. 

The fellowship is a unique opportunity for you to learn from experts in climate and agriculture, as well as other Victorian farmers who are leading the way on climate resilience. You’ll join a strong and supportive network of leading farmers across Australia, receive extensive training in key skills (including media and advocacy), and develop a platform to create lasting resilience in Victorian agriculture.

For more information: info@farmersforclimateaction.org.au or 1800 491 633. 

bHive Villages in Bendigo

The bHive Villages platform is coming soon! Villages connects groups of neighbours together to build community, run events, communicate with each other and share stuff and skills.  Villages is real sharing. It’s gifting, not consumption. You can share tools, furniture, veggies, fruit, your time and skills and meals. 

Villages aims to create an epidemic of belonging. It is a digital tool that brings us face to face. This is important because our modern society is socially isolated and lonely, which is having a huge impact on our health and wellbeing. The early 2000’s research of Professor Lisa Berkman showed that having strong connections in our local community is better for our health than giving up smoking, alcohol and fat and adds ten years to lifespan. Relationships built over the side fence and up the street can last a lifetime.  We need to be together. 

To create your Village you become a member and an owner of bHive Cooperative.  You have the same ownership share as every other member. With bHive, there will be no advertising, no selling of data and no bots. 

Over the last 18 months bHive Directors have been involved in numerous international and local conversations with developers and platform co-operative specialists to source a reliable and flexible software solution that will support bHive Villages.

Villages is a foundational element of the bHive that once in place can be built upon. Future applications that will plug into Villages will include cooperative sharing enterprises like car sharing, stuff sharing, skills sharing, power sharing and more.

Want to register your interest? https://bhive.coop/current-projects/villages/

Repair Cafe’s Update

Due to Covid restrictions Repair Cafes across the region are not meeting in their usual monthly way. People needing repairs  in Hepburn shire can link with fixers via the facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/daylesfordrepaircafe/ 

Castlemaine Repair Cafe is asking  people to hold onto repair jobs during the covid lockdown period. In the meantime here’s an inspiring article posted by Chris from Castlemaine Repair Cafe about a young boy who has started volunteering at The Bower in Sydney. It’s really shocking what is being thrown out…and by schools too!  But this young boy is so enthusiastic. The article was prepared by Tim Elliot on July 3rd.

The 12-year-old and his mate battling chuck-out culture, one repair at a time

  • Lachlan Watson, 12, volunteers at an inner-Sydney charity repair workshop, where Griffin Pickard, 26, is the electrical manager. The two born tinkerers are generally on the same wavelength, although sometimes their wires cross.

Lachlan Watson and Griffin Pickard: "It’s really nice to be around Lachy, who approaches things in a very uncomplicated way, with pure curiosity," says Griffin.Lachlan Watson and Griffin Pickard: “It’s really nice to be around Lachy, who approaches things in a very uncomplicated way, with pure curiosity,” says Griffin.CREDIT:JOSHUA MORRIS GRIFFIN: I’m the electrical manager at the Bower Reuse and Repair Centre, in inner-city Marrickville. I met Lachy in 2018. He used to come along with his mum and younger brother, mainly to buy second-hand stuff from us, things we’d repaired. Then one day he asked if he could work here. I initially said, “No, you’re too young.” The workshop at that stage was small, and we’re playing with mains electricity, so it can be dangerous. But for a year he kept on coming back and saying, “I want to work here, I want to work here.” He was so dogged that I eventually gave in. The first thing he did, as a kind of goodwill gesture, was donate several Mac computers that he’d repaired on the condition they were given to refugees, with whom we sometimes work through other organisations. It was such a beautiful thing to do; everyone was amazed. These days he comes in one afternoon a week after school. His knowledge outstrips many of the other volunteers here. Most of our people work on more conventional appliances – toasters, kettles – but Lachy specialises in iPhones and computers, because that’s what he was born in to. And he is a total chatterbox; you can’t shut him up. He talks incessantly about technology, anything to do with fixing up phones or stripping them down or hacking them. He loves the tip, too. He’s always telling us what he’s found there. One time he came in with a $4000 computer that was six months old, and all that was wrong with it was a cracked screen. Other times he’s brought in a whole stack of phones that were only slightly damaged. The foolishness of our chuck-out culture astounds him, not in a deeper sense of its impact on the world, but in a childlike way where he wonders, “Why would someone throw away something so valuable?” He bounces around all the time. He’s got 10 projects going at once. That’s where he shows his age, because he doesn’t want to sit and focus, so at the end of the day he’ll have 10 slightly finished jobs rather than one totally fixed one. I’ve tried to teach him to slow down and work on one thing at a time. I’ve given him a job as far away from me as possible! But he’s taught me not to take things so seriously in the workshop. Much of my job is managing people: I’m dealing with their problems. And so it’s really nice to be around Lachy, who approaches things in a very uncomplicated way, with pure curiosity.

For him, fixing stuff up is play more than anything, so he brings that lightness. And the good thing is that he’s now just one of our volunteers – he’s not anyone special. He has an interest and skills, and he wants to share them. People here are really interested in passing on their knowledge and being part of a community, and he is, too.

LACHLAN: I was 10 when I first went to the Bower. I enjoy fixing electronic stuff. I don’t know why, I just find it interesting, so I started volunteering. The first thing Griffin gave me to work on was a Toshiba laptop. All it needed was a new operating system, so I did that. Then I did a 50-inch widescreen Sony TV. One of the cables on the inside was loose. Then he let me do more difficult projects, like the newer phones. They have the components glued on, so you need to use a heat gun or a hair dryer to melt the adhesive, then you use a pry tool to slice through it, which makes this really satisfying sound. Early on, I donated a whole lot of computers to the Bower. Basically what happened was one day I saw my caretaker at school throwing an iMac into the bin. After school I went and got it out, and it was working fine. All I needed to do was reinstall the operating system.“Griffin treats me like an adult, or I think he does: I’m not sure how adults get treated since I’m not an adult.”.So every day I started checking the bin, and over about four months I found two desktop computers, a big touchscreen HP Pavilion, a PowerBook G4, and two fully functional Dell Latitudes, which had the same specs as a computer that you’d buy at JB Hi-Fi for $700. Most of them were perfectly fine. I got really excited, but I was also angry. It’s dangerous to chuck out computers with charged batteries inside them.I talked to the principal about it, and it turned out the school had 30 or 40 more iMacs they were going to get rid of, and I could have them for the Bower. When I took them in, Griffin was shocked, but he was grateful, too.

Griffin is really nice. He’s a big nerd, but then everyone there is. He treats me like an adult, or I think he does: I’m not sure how adults get treated since I’m not an adult. But he is respectful of me. And the volunteers are nice. If I can’t find a charging cable that’s hidden in a drawer, or a certain tool, they’ll help me find it, or if I need someone to hold something they do that. Some of the customers are curious to know why I’m there because I’m so young. They ask if I work there and I say, “Yeah,” and they say, “Wow, that’s pretty amazing!” I always find stuff to repair. Whenever there’s a council clean-up I spend the whole day with my friends going around the streets finding stuff. At other times, when I’m walking somewhere, I’ll check the bins. I don’t dig through them because that’s disgusting; I just open them up and have a look. I probably bring home two computers or laptops a week. I always spot things that no one else sees.

At the moment I work at the Bower for two hours after school on Monday. But during the school holidays I spend the whole day there. I can’t tell the future so I don’t know what will happen, but I want to volunteer there for as long as I can. I just love it. Once you open the phones and stuff up, you see that they’re all interesting on the inside.

Wildlife-friendly fencing

From Penny Roberts for the Newham & District Landcare Group news via Connecting Country

Many of us have had the awful experience of finding a wild animal tangled in a fence. Here is an excellent article from Newham & District Landcare Group, who do outstanding landscape restoration work in the Macedon Ranges region of Victoria.To learn more about their group and read their news in full – click here

In Australia, barbed wire is so ubiquitous that most people are hardly aware of its presence. It forms the boundaries of countless properties, estimated at tens of millions of kilometres, and is the accepted way of keeping sheep and cattle within those boundaries. More than 60% of this fencing has barb wire as the top strand. However, it is a major hazard to our wildlife, with thousands of native animals becoming entangled on its barbs each year. Nobody really knows the extent or how many, as many are removed by the landholder or eaten by foxes, cats and even birds of prey. One of our members recently spotted this Sugar Glider caught on barbed wire on a fence. Fortunately, with four hands available, the Glider was safely released and inspection showed it had suffered minimal damage to its membrane. More than 80% of recorded wildlife entanglement occurs on the top strand of barbed wire fences. We often see kangaroos hung up on wire and mesh fences, legs caught in a twist of wire – a reflection of their numbers in our landscape at present – but more than 70 wildlife species have been identified in Australia as occasional or regular victims of barbed wire fences. Nocturnal animals are at greatest risk, failing to see fencing or cannot clear the height in windy conditions – Bats, Gliders and Owls most commonly. It may be that the fence is over a food tree or the gliding distance between trees is too great. Fences close to wetlands may result in insufficient clearance for take-off and landing safely.

. Jacky Winter perches on a fence (photo by Kerry Jennings)

Any barb wire presents a risk, however higher risks exist where fences are newly constructed, on ridgelines, crossing or surrounding waterways and dams, near feed trees, higher than surrounding vegetation.

Wildlife-friendly fencing:

Remove any old fencing that has fallen into disrepair. Consider whether a fence is really necessary. Although most property owners would be reluctant to change all of their barbed wire fencing to plain wire, there are some steps they can take to minimise the harm to our animals where fences are necessary: Identify the wildlife hotspots- along ridge lines, near feed trees, in wildlife corridors or over waterways. Run a strand of white electric fence tape above the barbed wire. This flickers in the wind and is more visible than the grey wire. Replace the top strand of barbed wire with plain wire or cover it with split polypipe. Attach old CDs which swivel and reflect the light to make hot spot sections of fence more visible.

The Wombat Post

The Wombat Post started in April 2020.  The Post is a community run news organisation that welcomes contributions from anyone living in Daylesford and Hepburn Springs region.

The purpose of the Wombat Post is to:

  • inform the community of news and events that contribute to community building community and community well-being,
  • promote a positive image of the local community,
  • contribute to the historical record, and
  • provide a medium for advertising services and trades offered to the community.

The Editorial Team is composed entirely of volunteers. Our Team is committed to producing a quality news service which will reflect events, activities and interests within our community.

We welcome local news stories, feature articles, poetry and creative writing as well entries for our calendar of events and listings for our Community and Business Directories.

You can submit articles by clicking the link to the relevant area and fill in the form. https://thewombatpost.com.au/

Hepburn Wind 9 year anniversary, zero net emissions for Hepburn and Mt Alexander & electric vehicle bulk buy

After years of community planning and preparation, on June 22 in 2011 Hepburn Wind started delivering renewable energy to the grid.

So much has changed since then, we are now developing solar and partnering in Australia’s first shire-wide zero-net emission transition plan, Hepburn Z-NET. While we face uncertain times, we now have more community commitment and excitement about working towards a zero-net emissions future.

Thank you to all our members and supporters who have made this journey possible.

As part of our work in Hepburn Z-NET, we have seeking solutions for transport emissions, which make up 33% of our shire’s emissions profile. Most of these come from commercial and residential use, with a small portion coming from industrial, municipal and farming sectors. To help reduce these emissions, Hepburn Wind has been working with the Good Car Company to make Electric Vehicles (EV’s) more accessible.

During the next few months, The Good Car Company will be providing short videos like the one below, to explain their vehicles, process and finance models. If you are interested, we recommend you register your interest here.

The Good Car Company shares our commitment to climate action. Their Bulk-Buy offers second-hand Nissan Leafs, imported from Japan and offered below normal rates, ranging from $17,000 to $45,000. Importantly, they meet critical performance measures, such as having no less than 80% of the original battery capacity, having travelled less than 60,000kms and complying with Australian regulation and inspections with EV experts.

The Hepburn Shire Bulk-Buy for EV’s is currently on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the Hepburn Wind Team and Good Car Company are closely monitoring the situation and listening to expert advice. Based on the current information provided by the state government, the Bulk-Buy may begin in September/October.

The EV Bulk-Buy will be limited to Hepburn Shire residents and Hepburn Wind members. If there is some additional capacity neighbouring shires may be able to participate.


Zero Net Emissions – an exciting new plan! Community transition to zero-net emissions – the MAS Z-NET program

Mount Alexander Sustainability Group (MASG) has held a long term ambition to develop a master plan for community-wide zero-net emissions. An in depth, collaborative program to achieve this has now launched! Funding for the first stage of this program has come from Sustainability Victoria’s Zero Carbon Community Transition Program and is matched by council funding and in-kind support from MASG. The project follows on from Mt Alexander Shire’s Climate Change Forum held in December 2019, building on the community’s work over many years to reduce the Shire’s carbon emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The program is being led by Renew in collaboration with the community and Council. Renew led the Hepburn Z-NET program which was developed as an open-source model and all of the developed resources are being shared for the Mount Alexander Shire program. A community steering group has been established to guide the program in this first phase.We need your help! Whilst it is challenging to start such a program during the COVID-19 restrictions, there are ways that the project can start collating important information online so please assist us, in particular, to get the household survey out to as many homes in the shire as possible.Click here to fill in the household survey

The survey will help us understand how you as the community of Mount Alexander Shire currently use energy in your homes, how you travel and use water and waste. By completing this survey you will be providing very valuable bottom-up and localised data into the Z-NET project and helping guide the Mount Alexander Shire’s transition. Please answer the questions in accordance with your ‘typical’ behaviour, rather than your behaviour during COVID-19 restrictions and only one respondee per household. Please share the survey link with everyone you know in the shire and to all of your local groups.  We are hoping to attract over 700 responses from across the shire to get data that is as accurate as possible about our current energy usage and emissions. All data collected is confidential and will be used only for the purposes of this project.

Other ways you can get involved

We want to hear your ideas about how we can transition into a zero net emissions shire. A collaborative platform called OurSay is being set up in order to harvest community climate action ideas and projects. This platform will include existing projects, the ideas submitted to the Council’s Climate Change Forum late last year, and will also be open for all community members to add new ideas and vote on their priorities. We will let you know about it as soon as it is ready to go.

Hear more about it Taryn Lane (Hepburn Znet) and Terry White (MASG) discuss the project in more detail in the latest episode of Saltgrass the podcast. Have a listen as they discuss what zero net emissions really means and how a shire like ours can get there: https://saltgrass.podbean.com/e/s2-e21-what-is-znet/

Talking Cooperatives for a democratic covid recovery

The economic recovery that governments across Australia and the world are mostly planning is all about snapping back to an economy controlled by the few, extracting wealth and value from the many. But that’s not the only way of doing this.We could use this moment to make our economy more democratic, and cooperatives are a brilliant path to doing that. In this inspiring webinar, Dan Musil from Earthworker and Professor Katherine Gibson from Western Sydney University took us through how cooperatives work, what their benefits are for people and the community, and how they can be managed for the long term. We discussed how coops keep wealth circulating in the community instead of being extracted as profit for elsewhere, and how they tend to be more adaptable and resilient than other forms of enterprise.

Have a listen to the full hour’s conversation for a great grounding in the what, why and how of coops. https://www.greeninstitute.org.au/talking-cooperatives-for-a-democratic-covid-recovery/

Understanding Degrowth- housing, food and more

In addition to the book Housing for Degrowth, look out for Food for Degrowth: Principles and Perspectives (edited by Anitra Nelson and Ferne Edwards) coming out in the same series early 2021. For copies go to Routledge publishing house.
Finally, in August Exploring Degrowth: A Critical Guide by Vincent Liegey and Anitra Nelson from Pluto Press, London — pre-order here.
 Listen to Exploring Degrowth– a conversation with the authors

Women’s Co-housing eco-village for Daylesford

A Home for WINC! Women In Cohousing has begun 3-way negotiations with Hygge Property developers and not-for profit social housing provider Women’s Property Initiatives [WPI] to build a cohousing eco-village on a Hygge site at 17 Smith Street in Daylesford. The 1880’s sandstone house will be re-purposed as the WINC Commonhouse, providing the centrepiece for our older women’s community. Hygge are working with Breathe Architecture to build the first Nightingale housing in Ballarat, and this team has now begun work. The project is committed to sustainable, energy efficient buildings that are also affordable, beautiful, accessible and enhance human interaction. If you’d like to be a part of WINC go to: https://winccohousing.org.au/cohousing

Aboriginal land management prior to 1788

Connecting Country posted an article from Nalderun (a local service that supports the Aboriginal Community, lead by Aboriginal people) about Aboriginal land management prior to 1788 and the impact it had on the landscape. It makes a sobering and informative read, and gives us insight into what the landscape might have looked like before the changes that have taken place over the past two centuries:

During his explorations in the 1830’s and 40’s Major Mitchell saw park-like landscapes, sparsely studded with trees, with very little under-storey scrub. Writings, paintings and survey plans by early European explorers and settlers show more open forest and more grassland than in the same places now. What was then grassland has become eucalypt forest, as fires and harsh clearing of land led to denser growth.

Researchers believe that before 1788 people used fire to create and maintain the park-like landscapes, judiciously burning at the right time and the right intensity according to weather and need. Their cool, slow-moving fires produced grass, tubers or foliage matched to the animals (including humans) that thrived on those particular foods. The fires reduced fuel, ensured biodiversity and abundance, regulated plant and animal populations and located vegetation predictably and conveniently. Bush adjacent to grassland provided shelter so animals could retreat if threatened, but it also enabled people to use fire to drive their prey to the waiting hunters.

The mosaic of cleared land patches in between forested areas would have taken centuries of detailed planning to set up. So it was vital that every generation understood how to maintain the pattern. It became enshrined in the Law, a meeting of ecology and religion, which ensured undeviating commitment to this very intricate management of the land. The basic principles were used Australia-wide, whatever the fertility of the soil and natural vegetation of the land. Local conditions such as rain, wind, temperature and aspect influence the timing. There is not one rule for all!

Current burning practices emphasising only hazard reduction mean that many species are not given time to replenish before another threat arrives, whether fire, predator, pest animals spoiling feed, or logging. Catastrophic bushfires such as happened last Spring and Summer were unknown before European settlement. Last December (2019) some properties in the Hunter Valley in NSW were saved, arguably because of previously conducted cultural burning on their land.

Hopefully controlled burns and the methods of land management in use up until less than 250 years ago will one day be used together to make a safe, abundant and sustainable environment for all – humans, plants and animals.

Nalderun is a service that supports the Aboriginal Community, led by Aboriginal people. Many people and organisations in the Mount Alexander Shire contribute to Nalderun; the name is a Dja Dja Wurrung word meaning ‘all together’. More information can be found at www.nalderun.net.au  

Below is a video which highlights the return of the traditional planned burn in Central Victoria, courtesy of the State Government of Victoria.

Is landscape restoration working?

by Geoff Park, Newstead, posted by Connecting Country

Across Australia (and beyond) there are wonderful initiatives, many community led, to restore damaged landscapes. Here in Mount Alexander Shire the work of dedicated landholders and community groups such as Connecting Country is part of a continental effort of landscape restoration – at many different scales from patch to paddock to catchment.

All up it represents a monumental expenditure of time, human resources and money – so how well is it working?

I’d like to tackle this question from three different perspectives.

Firstly, to what extent have we been able to repair the key ecological processes, such as absorbing and filtering water, enabling soil formation and promoting natural regeneration – fundamental things that healthy landscapes do well.

Our local landscapes have been ravaged, especially by mining which began in the 1850’s and continued into the start of the 20th century at a significant scale, only to be followed by large-scale timber extraction during the world wars. At least five waves of vegetation clearance have occurred – each time the landscape has bounced back to some degree through natural regeneration, but it’s not the same and it’s certainly not as good. Much of the bush on public land in district is what I would term a thicket – regenerating eucalypts, often multi-stemmed and originating from an ancient lignotuber, at a density perhaps ten to a hundred times greater than the ‘original’ bush.

Repairing ecological processes is no easy task – with a metre of soil stripped from the land and new soil being formed at perhaps 10 mm in 100 years you can do the maths!

Secondly, how well are we succeeding in restoring the missing components?

Well what have we lost? A number of species of birds have become locally extinct – the Grey-crowned Babbler and Bush Stone-curlew have succumbed to loss of habitat and fox predation, while once common birds such as the Regent Honeyeater and Swift Parrot are on the brink. On the flora side of the equation we have retained most of the diversity of trees and larger shrubs (especially wattles), however smaller shrubs, understorey grasses, and forbs have been decimated. For example, Silver Banksia, was common locally until the advent of extensive grazing from the 1870’s or thereabouts. It is now locally extinct around Newstead. It is encouraging to see landscape restoration becoming more sophisticated, moving from large scale establishment of eucalypts to more nuanced approaches such as targeted plantings of shrubs and grasses to an active exploration of how cultural burning techniques might restore something of the ‘original’ look and feel of the bush. Not only will this restore some of the missing parts of the puzzle it will also enable our landscapes to function more effectively.

And thirdly – what is happening to the structure, or put more simply … how does it look?

It’s ironic, but there are now more trees (in terms of stems/ha) in our landscape than there would have been 200 years ago, the thickening of eucalypts in response to repeated clearing has created a very different landscape. Where once there may have been 3 or 4 massive Grey Box per hectare on the low rises leading away from the Loddon River, there may now be upwards of a 1,000 stems per hectare. The open, ‘park like’ appearance that was often remarked on by landscape chroniclers, starting with Mitchell in 1836, was a scattering of large gums above wildflower filled native grassland – it was a mosaic with lots of open space. Sadly, there are few remaining examples – generally postage stamp remnants on private land.

This of course provokes the question, often hotly contested, of what should we be aiming for. One commonly used reference point is provided by what is known as the pre-1750 benchmark for ecosystems. Vegetation communities across Victoria have been described by botanists and ecologists in terms of what we think they might have looked like prior to European occupation, a descriptive reconstruction of the species composition and the abundance of some of the key species in each community, for example the density of characteristic eucalypts. While this can be a useful starting point and a guide, the onset of rapidly unfolding climate change has led to active questioning of this approach. In my home garden, some years back, I started planting beautiful, hardy Riverina wattles from 150 kilometres north – species such Eumong, Weeping Myall and Willow Wattle will I suspect become a feature of future local landscapes.

So … is landscape restoration working? It’s too early to say, however, there are some positive signs.

It’s instructive to look at time series aerial photography and in more modern times, satellite imagery Close to home, at Newstead, the change along the Loddon River between 1949, when the first aerial surveys were done, and 2002 – not long after Catchment Management Authorities were established to coordinate what is proving to be very successful large-scale river restoration, shows a remarkable and positive transformation. Click here for the details. The simple act of removing grazing along the riparian zone has led to extensive and sustained natural regeneration, augmented in recent times by strategic Landcare plantings.

Natural regeneration is happening on a significant scale across box-ironbark ecosystems in Victoria, but it is concentrated on the more marginal agricultural lands, the stony ridges and eroded hillslopes where topsoil is scant and fertility is low. Increasingly, however, a decline in some agricultural commodity markets and our proximity to large urban centres has driven a shift in land use across much of central Victoria, from a largely farming landscape until the 1980s to one where nature conservation is now a serious, widespread and legitimate land use – increasingly this is seeing once heavily cleared alluvial areas, not just the ‘lizard country’, being actively managed for biodiversity.

In my small patch around Newstead I’ve been tracking the disappearance and return of iconic woodland birds, like the Hooded Robin, Crested Bellbird and Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. My observations are anecdotal and are by no means systematic, but I am seeing some positive signs. The majority of species are doing okay, and while numbers move up and down with the seasons – there was a significant rebound after the Millenium drought broke in 2010-11 – my sense is that the trend is neither decline or resurgence but a fragile stability. How climate change plays out over the coming decade will be critical.

A core feature of Connecting Country’s work when it started over a decade ago was the establishment of a long-term monitoring program. This program, focusing on woodland birds, nest boxes and habitat assessment is a great example of tackling the question … is landscape restoration working? With monitoring results across reference and restoration site in a variety of ecosystems some patterns are starting to emerge to shed light on the question.

I’ll be interested to see what is emerging from a preliminary analysis of this data and while it won’t definitively answer the question … is landscape restoration working? … it will be a very useful start.

Natural Newstead blog (https://geoffpark.wordpress.com/author/geoffpark/

Hepburn Shire- Local Law #2 community reference groups

Hepburn Shire Council has extended the opportunity for community members to register for the Local Law Community Reference groups. Expressions of interest from community members are invited to be involved in these discussions and work with council to develop guidelines around three local laws:

  • Firewood collection on Council land
  • Salvaging at Council managed transfer stations
  • Planting on nature strips.

Applications will be received up to 25 August 2020. For more information,  visit https://www.hepburn.vic.gov.au/local-law-no-2-community-reference-groups/ or contact David George on 5321 6431

Orange movement to support first nations people 

Yandoit resident Kate Roberts has initiated an orange movement to acknowledge honour and support the status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as our first nations people.

Dja Dja Wurrung people lived and cared for this region for thousands of years before white settlement. There are dream time stories that tell of Mt Franklin (Larnebarramel- the nest of the emu) throwing rocks at Mt Tarrengower- a reminder that Dja Dja Wurrung were living here when those volcanoes erupted. Many in Yandoit and Franklinford now live on land that was originally set aside for the Franklinford Aboriginal reserve –  a 5 mile radius from Franklinford.

Orange is the harmony day colour. Kate is asking those interested: to wear something orange when in public- eg wrist band, watch or scarf; tie an orange ribbon to your front gate; send a tiny orange heart to whomever- see website 1,000 hearts on how to make them.

Castlemaine Weekly Farmers Market

This weekly farmers market continues and grows from strength to strength during the covid 19 restrictions. Weekly market basics are available in central Castlemaine on Wednesday afternoons  including fresh, seasonal vegetables, fruit, bread, dairy, honey, eggs, meat and wine.

It is local, it is fresh, it is delicious. You can either shop for what appeals on the day, or pick up online pre-orders (pre-order via each stallholder’s website, facebook page or phone number directly).

The market encourages regenerative farming practices and provide a launch pad for new farmers and producers. All hyper local. All totally awesome.

Weekly farmers market- Wednesdays 2.30-5.30 pm

Monthly market – first Sunday of the month, 9am to 1pm

Location: Frederick St, Castlemaine, rear Visitor information centre/market building

Hiroshima day anniversary acknowledged in Castlemaine

by Trevor Scott

Hiroshima Day, Thursday 6th August 2020, marked the 75th anniversary of the dropping of two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in 1945 by the USA. It was not forgotten in Castlemaine. Two of our citizens, Phil Pengally and Trevor Scott, with some help from Margaret Whittle, met on the steps of  the Castlemaine Market building, in strict accordance with Covid 19 rules. They represented around 10  local residents who normally gather here to remember this day. Banners were hung, placards were placed on the steps, a lone candle was lit, and there were thoughts and prayers offered up for the 70,000 Japanese people who died from the blast, and an estimated 70,000 more, who died later from radiation exposure.

When the USA dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, tens of thousands of people were either burned to death, buried alive by collapsing buildings, or bludgeoned to death by the flying debris. Those closest to the bomb’s detonation point, were instantly erased from existence. That day and night, a hellish firestorm tore through the ruins, and survivors tried to find refuge in the city’s few surviving parks. The Japanese government in Tokyo had a difficult time processing what had happened. Had the city been attacked by a massive force of B-29 bombers? Had a new sort of weapon been used? How else could such devastation be explained? After some research, the Japanese authorities eventually worked out that it was a nuclear or atomic bomb (as it was known  then), the most devastating weapon ever used to destroy human lives and property. The bomb’s heat was so intense, millions of degrees at the detonation point, that it had melted metal objects, including a statue of the Buddha from a temple near ground zero. It reduced the city in an instant to ruined concrete walls and rubble. After the mushroom cloud had cleared, ash-blackened, radioactive rain fell silently on the ruins.

Three days after the horrors of the first bomb were felt in Hiroshima, the USA dropped a second atomic bomb on the city of  Nagasaki. Six days later on the August 15th 1945, the Japanese surrendered to the Allies, ending the second world war.

On a blue sky morning 75 years later, to mark the bombing of Nagasaki, three local cyclists, Margaret Whittle, Emma Dubuc-Timson and Trevor Scott, set out from the Castlemaine Market and rode around the perimeter of Castlemaine. A tree in blossom at the top of Littleton street was symbolic of the cherry blossom trees of  Japan. The ride along the eastern boundary of Castlemaine was a little challenging and on this blue sky day, reminded us of the horrors that the Japanese people must have gone through all those years ago. The ride was 8 Km long, but in the future it will be a longer ride of 14 Km, representing the perimeter of the epicentre of the Hiroshima bomb. Margaret thought it was important to let readers know that these nuclear bombs, used for the first time in 1945, have only a fraction of the power of today’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s).

Many years after the Japanese bombings, when the city of Hiroshima had been rebuilt, its leaders said they want the city to be regarded by the world in two ways: firstly as a precautionary tale warning about the horrors of nuclear warfare; and secondly as a phoenix that survived these horrors and resurrected itself, a triumph of the human spirit.

Food for Thought

Before we had Covid we had climate change

Now we’ve got both an’ its even more strange

It used to be warming of 1.5

That you had to avoid just to stay alive

Now it’s the distance that keeps us apart

Stay away from me or I just might fart!

And just when you want to give someone a hug

Away it goes again that c’ronavirus bug!

The larder was empty so I went to stock up

But the shelves were all empty I was right out of luck

No toilet paper, no flour, no rice

Fighting in the aisle, now that’s not so nice!

So I headed for home feeling a bit down

Thought I’d visit my neighbour, he’s a bit of a clown

Then just when you want to give someone a hug

Away it goes again that c’ronavirus bug!


No shaking hands so please don’t ask

And you can’t share a kiss if you’re wearing a mask

Although not strictly according to rule

You can elbow to elbow they say that it’s cool
Although I don’t like him and don’t even try

The PM he does it and I wonder why

Why he’s so sweet, I don’t understand

All of this help from such a mean man

Suddenly there’s help when there was none before

If you were poor they’d always show you the door

And just when you need someone to hug

Away it goes again that c’ronavirus bug!


They say it started in China sometime last year

From a bat or an animal it’s not very clear

Australia it called for an investigation

China cried “foul” in retaliation

Coronavirus it is such a threat

We’ve searched for a vaccine but nothing as yet

Might as well look on the bright side

The sky is much clearer without those plane rides

The canals in Venice there clear as can be

Planet Earth is happy, it’s easy to see

Then just when you want to give someone a hug

Away it goes again that c’ronavirus bug!


The virus’s so awful and nobody it likes

You have to lie low but still there are spikes

It spreads like a wild fire into aged care

No-one can stop it and nobody dares

If you’re not well then you must take the test

Wait for the result and hope for the best

And if you are positive and the result is true

Health workers are tireless, they’re there to help you

In Melbourne the virus it rose up again

Into home towers, will it never end?

The second spike it was worse than the first

It seems that it has an unquenchable thirst

Then just when you want to give your best friend a hug

Away it goes again that c’ronavirus bug!


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