We are very sad to learn of the death of Lyn Munro in early July. Judith will be writing about Lyn, in this or the next newsletter. She will be greatly missed, as a loved friend and fellow champion of the bush, plus for all her knowledge and input to FOGG and the Hamilton Field Nats; our deepest sympathy goes to Dave and their family.
As the short dark cold days of Winter start to give way to the (slightly) longer, (at times) sunnier, and equally cold days of late-winter, Spring is showing its presence all through the bush: Acacias and Eucalypts flowering, orchid leaves pushing up through the ground, brilliant red correa bells, fantastic fungi, and birds chasing each other and pairing up ready for nesting. It’s one of the most exciting times to be out in the bush, full of promise, especially after the plentiful rains we’ve been having. I hope you’ve all been enjoying the wet, and able to be out in nature somehow, even during this 5th lockdown.
Thanks to Covid it’s been harder to plan activities, but none-the-less, May saw us having a good Clean up Australia morning at McKenzie Falls, and we have enjoyed 3 great outings this Winter so far; see reports later on the Red Gum Walk working bee, Fungi with Win Pietsch, and exploring the edge of Moora Moora Reservoir with Ross Simpson. We recorded 21 species of birds at the latter, though there were very few of each species.
Plans and dates are more liable to be changed at short notice, so it’s a good idea to keep checking Parkconnect to confirm, or with a committee member by email or phone. So far, the only month in which we have missed an activity due to Covid was February, as there wasn’t one planned for January.
Following the FOGG fossil outing at Mt Bepcha last year, Bill Gardner has circulated Chris Gouramanis’s paper writing up the fossil arthropod tunnels found in the Grampians. This has been circulated to members.
Now for the business side of things, which affect us all as well as the Grampians-Gariwerd.
On 31 May, with the support of the Committee, I sent a letter to the Premier, Lily D’Ambrosio (Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change), Matthew Jackson (CEO PV) and the Premier re some of the concerns FOGGs and other Friends groups have with the management of the Grampians (and other National Parks) in Victoria. A copy of the letter was also sent to Phil Ingamells at VNPA.
In summary, we questioned the following issues:
- Lack of sufficient Park staff, leading to a severe restriction on patrolling, particularly at peak visitor periods; keen staff having to work many (voluntary) hours over and beyond what they are paid for, leading to their burn-out; and, a reduction in essential monitoring programmes.
- Lack of resources to Park staff leading to a lack of basic maintenance such as track clearing and repair, cultural site interpretation upgrades, and the continued use of the savage flash-burns in full-filling their ‘controlled burn’ requirements rather than undertaking small-scale cool-burns.
- The need for ALL park rangers to be Authorised Officers, as is the case in other less field-oriented Government agencies (such as Aboriginal Victoria). The current lack of power for PV rangers is clearly unacceptable and not in the best interest of preserving the Parks values.
- The exceptional attention given to the Peaks Trail. These extensive and costly works continue to draw resources away from daily Park management.
- We are also concerned about PVs current focus on economic benefits of the Park. The Park was established to protect the environmental and cultural values of the Grampians, not as a resource to be exploited for economic gain, particularly when the exploitation destroys many of the values of the resource they are promoting. There is a clear conflict of interest in these two aims, and we stress that the environment cannot be allowed to be held second to any short-term economic gains.
We quickly received a very positive response from VNPA, but responses from Parks Vic and Minister D’Ambrosio were received as this was being prepared.
Matthew Jackson’s (PV CEO) reply was short and summarised in this paragraph:
- Parks Victoria has determined that all staff and volunteers that operate in parks will be required to hold a Working With Children Check.
- If you have already applied for, or are in the process of obtaining a WWCC, I want to personally thank you for your commitment to child safety. If you have not yet applied to obtain a WWCC, the deadline for obtaining one has been extended to 31 December 2021, which will allow you time to apply and work through any practical implementation issues, recognising the challenges of recent COVID-19 restrictions.
No comment was given on our other concerns.
The response from Lily D’Ambrosio was a page of platitudes congratulating us on our past work and to say the budget allows for the 57 ranger positions to be retained and that Parkconnect has been “introduced to enable staff and volunteer groups to collaboratively plan and manage volunteer activities”. A very disappointing reply. A response to both parties will be considered by the FOGG Committee.
We are also looking into the request by PV that all our members need to have a ‘Working with Children’ ticket. The first reply simply consisted of a web address of where to find their brochures.
We sent a return email requesting that they answer the specific question we initially sent:
As a community group, Friends undertake works and educational excursions within their respective Park or Reserve. Why is a WWC card required by its members? We do not do specific educational activities with children, and any children that do attend are in the company of their parents or grandparents.
If taken logically this would imply that all parents with children who go to a playground where other families gather will also have to have a WWC card?
Can you please clarify the situation and give reasons, if we have to have WWC cards, why this is so.
So far we have not had a response.
Additionally, from their brochures, it is clear that FOGGs do have to develop a ‘Child Safe Policy’ and a ‘Reportable Conduct’ strategy. These will be developed by the Committee in the near future.
WORKING WITH CHILDREN CHECK
Following our querying to Dept Justice and Community Safety regarding the need for FOGG members to have a Working-With-Children check it appears that legally we do NOT have to have a WWC check. Their email advised that:
The Worker Screening Act 2020 (the WS Act) establishes a framework for those people engaged in ‘child-related work’. Under the WS Act, a person needs a WWC check if they meet ALL of the following five conditions of ‘child-related work’:
- they are an adult who ‘works’ with children aged under 18 years of age. The term ‘work’ includes engaging in voluntary work and providing practical training as well as paid employment
- they are working with children at or for one of the services, places or bodies, or in one of the activities listed in the WS Act (see https://www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au/do-i-need-a-check)
- their work usually involves direct contact with children
- the contact they have with children is not occasional direct contact that is incidental to their work, and
- they are not exempt from having a WWC check.
- A person does not require a WWC check under the WS Act if their work involves only occasional direct contact with a child and that contact is incidental to their work.
- Also an adult is not engaged in child-related work merely because they are participating in an activity with a child on the same basis, for example, playing on the same cricket team.
However, despite this, PV are still requiring every volunteer working on Parks Estates to not only have a WWC check, but also to lodge a copy of your certificate with them.
Margo forwarded the committee a section of the Field Naturalist Club of Victoria newsletter that details PV requirements for volunteers:
As part of Parks Victoria’s commitment to maintaining a child safe environment, and to ensure it aligns with the Child Safe Standards a Working with Children Check is now compulsory for all volunteers over the age of 18.
The new rule applies to individuals and volunteers within groups, and it applies to everyone who volunteers regularly and even if the volunteering only occurs on a one-off occasion. Importantly the rules apply even if you do not have direct contact or engagement with children during the activities!
What this means for [read FOGG] is that everyone who wishes to participate in club activities on Park Victoria estate (National Parks, Flora and Fauna Reserves, Game Reserves, etc) will need to get a Volunteer Working with Children Check. They will also need to lodge their Working with Children Check number with Parks Victoria via the ParkConnect system.
With the new requirements on Working with Children Checks signing up to an activity via ParkConnect will become the mandatory norm for all Parks Victoria volunteer activities.
The next key steps are:
Apply for a Working with Children Check (no charge for Volunteers):
Nominate the [read FOGG] as well as Parks Victoria as an organisation that you volunteer with. The information to be used for Parks Victoria is as follows:
Parks Victoria, Level 10, 535 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 300. 131 963
In the next section that asks for occupation fields and type, please use the exact information below to complete your application. If you have an existing check then you must update it to include Parks Victoria and the FOGG.
Register yourself with ParkConnect: https://www.parkconnect.vic.gov.au/secure-volunteer-home/
After successfully gaining a WWC Check and registering for ParkConnect you must upload an image of it to your ParkConnect account.
For more information visit: https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/get-into-nature/volunteering
PARKS VICTORIA VOLUNTEERING MANUAL
The new Parks Victoria Volunteering Manual is setting the terms for the FOGG’s relationship with Parks Victoria. It is likely that more actions will be required of us as we work through the implications of the new Manual. This will particularly be the case for trip leaders. You can find the manual on this page: https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/get-into-nature/volunteering.
Given our recent lack of communication from PV, it is worth noting that in the Volunteering Manual it states:
Parks Victoria has the responsibility to:
- Commit to working with volunteers
- Maintain regular, effective dialogue and build constructive relationships with volunteers
- Collaborate with volunteers in activity planning and implementation, paying due respect to management objectives, capacity and responsibilities
- Develop and work with volunteers to create and support meaningful activities
- Enable volunteer activities and experiences that support land, waterway and marine management objectives and priorities
- Ensure volunteers are covered by appropriate insurance (subject to insurance terms and conditions)
- Provide and maintain a safe and healthy working environment, free from discrimination
- Provide proper induction to Parks Victoria and orientation to the volunteer activity
- Provide the level of support, resources and instructions required to effectively perform activities
- Monitor and evaluate volunteer contributions and activities and incorporate changes as necessary
- Recognise and reward the contribution of volunteers
- Genuinely listen to issues raised by volunteers and treat them appropriately
- Respect and utilise the knowledge of volunteers
- Protect personal information of the volunteers
- Provide a child safe environment aligned with Child Safety Standards
- Consult with volunteers in relation to OHS and communicate OHS Risks