FOGG started life as Friends of Grampians in 1984, the year, and in fact the day, the Grampians National Park was declared. The addition of the word Gariwerd was made in 1997 when we became incorporated and wanted to more formally recognise the importance of the Park to the indigenous peoples.
So we have been going for more than 25 years. And so has the newsletter, published quarterly. First by cut and paste and photocopied, then on computer, now supplemented with a web page.
What have we done over those years? We’ve worked on weed removal – pine seedlings, scotch thistles, arum lilies, South African weed orchid in different areas in the Park, we’ve held campouts like the one in 1994 in the Victoria Valley stargazing at constellations and Halley’s Comet, dancing by firelight. I could go on and on. Bat nights, small mammal trapping, fungi frolics, counting of rare plants, seed collection, rubbish collection.
These days we regularly assist with the Threatened Species Group plant surveys, and the project to reintroduce Brush Tail Rock Wallabies back into the Park.
One of our major ongoing projects has been the Red Gum Walks in the Victoria Valley. It started back in 1985 with us removing old fencing wire from an abandoned cattle run.
We followed old tracks and pushed through stands of tea tree to collect yards of wire. It was during that working bee that the idea was born for the Red Gum Walks so the valley vegetation could be showcased and interpreted. We also saw that there were very few level walks in the Grampians NP, and so we applied for a grant for a walk for the less abled. Many working bees later, in October 1993 the walking tracks were officially opened. All the interpretive work was done by FOGG members. In 1999 we applied for a centenary grant and one of our members built the magnificent table suitable also for wheelchair users. This was the first wheelchair accessible track for the Park, now there are enough to fill a small booklet. We have assisted Access for All Abilities with the production of this booklet, both in the maps and ideas and financially.
There have been good times, there have been difficult times. Sometimes we have needed to be political. There was the fight to stop the re-opening of Heatherlie Quarries and the campaign to stop the privatising of the Visitor Centre.
In 2005 we celebrated our 21st birthday. We decided that we wanted to encourage the young who live within and around the edges of the park. We have presented each of the seven schools in the villages of Halls Gap, Dunkeld, Moyston, Willaura, Pomonal, Cavendish and Laharum with three publications about the park. By this we hope to enhance the students enjoyment of the outdoors and increase their awareness of our special plants and animals . The excellent “A People of Gariwerd” was included in order for the school to have this as a resource in their teaching about the history of the indigenous culture of our area. Making the presentation gave the committee the opportunity to raise awareness about the Friends of the Grampians Gariwerd group.
The extensive fires of January 2006 have affected our activities. We helped with some track restoration work to help open some areas, we helped with looking at history revealed, and we put a lot of work into community recovery through the Beyond the Smoke festival and book. We have had more lectures and workshops as we hear about and support science programmes in the Park. Our Red Gum walk was badly damaged and we will be assessing its future carefully soon.
What does the future hold? It seems we are entering a transition period. Some of our founding members have died, some are unable for various reasons to contribute as they used to, all of us oldies are realising that we need to hand over to new blood. There will be inevitable changes in emphasis; different personalities, different challenges, different social environment. My hope is that we make that transition smoothly, with appropriate support from park management. I am confident that for many more years there will be a thriving, purposeful Friends of Grampians – Gariwerd.