So we come to my first president’s report. It seems like only yesterday that as a youngster I attended the declaration of the Grampians National Park. After the official event, a dedicated group of people moved off to one side and formed a friends group, under the auspices of the VNPA, to support the new park and help to get the community involved. I was only a young fella, but I am proud I was there. So began the next chapter of my life in the Grampians.
The group has been supported by some truly great advocates of conservation and education within the region, Val Hastings, Sue McInnes, Sam and Jettie Spyer, Ben Gunn, Stan Parfett, Kees and Margo Sietsma, Dave Munro and my father, David Thompson, among them. I am honoured that the group that has been a part of my life for nearly 30 years has now seen fit to elect me as an office bearer, president no less. I hope I can live up to the needs and expectations of the group.
Many thanks to our outgoing president Margo Sietsma. She has been a stalwart for many years and done an inspirational job as president. I am pleased she is to continue with her newsletter duties, and as an advisor to a green president finding his feet. I have a head swirling with thoughts and ideas for the future. We had a good year last year, with some great gatherings and activities. It is a joy to be involved with a group that socialises with one another so well, and enjoys working together.
Our wild flower walk before the AGM suffered a bit from the dry season, and it was a struggle to find much, but we all enjoyed ourselves, as did 3 new members attending their first FOGG activity. (Thanks to Janbert’s promotional work) The meeting itself was a truly inspirational gathering, in the shade of a magnificent old Eucalyptus camaldulensis in the Dunkeld arboretum. What other group could vote on office bearers in the shelter of a tree that predates white settlement. Our office bearers were voted on, and a supporting committee selected.
Our final activity was purely a social event, but the location was one of the natural wonders of our favourite national park. The top of Mount William is a special place, although the wind cuts through you like ice. We broke bread together, shared many delicacies, chatted and enjoyed the magnificent views, as well as the wonderful alpine vegetation. The clouds prevented us from seeing the sun as it set, but the colours were magnificent as we made our final descent in the gathering dusk.
I am pleased to say we have managed to retain Wendy as our secretary, she is brilliant, dedicated, and the best in the business. We would be lost without her. We have already done some behind the scenes work setting up photo points for the FOGG’s Sallow Wattle monitoring program. Once we had our routine sorted out the work of installing the posts was easy, but selecting the points took a bit of focus, and we had to haggle a bit over the choices. This is a program that will be vital in providing information used to apply for grant money to aid in weed control programs, and as such I am pleased we can help with this. I feel frustrated that we can’t just remove them, but the monitoring needs to take place, in order to plan future control programs. And apply for funding grants.
The plans for the next year are shaping up well, with the early program looking very good. One of my aims as a president will be to try and bring in some new/younger members to ensure the group outlasts us all. This might mean a few different activities, it might mean we need to step up our promotion work. It might mean some new ideas from our current members are required.
Janbert’s promotion work at the end of the year has done a great job, and will be continued next year. I am hoping to see a raft of new attendees, and hopefully members due to a wider promotion of the group. Due to the efforts of Caity, the Parks/CVA volunteer coordinator, we now have a Facebook page. This will become another promotion point for the group. I am negotiating my way through the process of uploading photos, and posting on the page, with only a few mistakes so far. If you are on Facebook, have a look, and maybe even add a photo or two.
I am looking forward to 2016 as a great year for FOGGs, with some exiting activities involving some great people. We will be also drawing on our expertise within the group to run a few different activities (thanks Ben), and drawing on some experts from within and without the region to deliver a great program new members will be clamouring to attend.