2021 May Newsletter

The Autumn season Gwangal morann (late March to mid June) incorporates the following:
Cool mornings and warm, still days. Red sunrises and golden evenings. Honeyeaters and wrens searching for moths and insects. Birds forming flocks and migrating north. Skinks and tortoises hibernating. Eels heading to sea for breeding. Possums beginning to breed. Flowering of Manna gums and candlebarks. Red and white “fly agaric” fungi. Flowering of Banksias and Heath.
(Thanks to Brambuk )

UPCOMING EVENT: Working bee on Redgum Walking Track
Activity Leader: Rodney Thompson Date: Saturday 8th May 2021, Time: 10-1pm
BYO: hat, sunscreen etc and your lunch.
Please note this should be up on Park Connect in the next couple of days.
Note that we do hope to have further activities in the next few months, but are having difficulties due to COVID rules, staff shortages etc. Please be patient.
FROM THE EDITOR
Welcome to our Autumn issue. Apologies that it is a bit late and has very short notice of our event
next week, and it has no timetable of future activities. We may be doing so well against Covid compared to the rest of the world, but that certainly doesn’t mean smooth progress. Rules, rules. Plus, the pressures on staff with the management plan being due out soon, some illness in our committee and here we are! In addition to group meetings, we are hoping to help Parks with some individual projects. Some of us have committed to updating some of the visitor information sheets, and we hope to assist in digitising the herbarium samples that were mostly collected by Ian McCann and the Stawell Field Naturalists. If you are one of those who volunteered to do these, how are you going? Do let
Hannah know. We would love to have more of your voices in our newsletter.
Margo Sietsma

PRESIDENT’S REPORT or, as Rodney dubbed it, PREZ SEZ
Welcome to FOGG’s 1st newsletter for 2021, and to an action-packed year of activities …. except the action has been very slow to start with; post-Covid, health problems within the committee, computer glitches – and as Margo said, time pressure on Parks staff. We apologise for the lateness of notification of events so far, but I am providing a provisional calendar for the rest of the year
(see below); although none of these activities have yet been approved by Parks. As soon as this happens, you will all be notified.
We have had two outings so far this year, with our third coming up on Saturday 8th May. After all the Restrictions last year, it has been wonderful to gather together again, see each other, welcome new members, and share our interests and knowledge.

Our February event, finding and looking at reptiles, led by David Steane (who has a fascinating amount of knowledge about them) had to be abandoned due to Covid restrictions.

Hannah (our Parks rep) organised our annual Clean-up-Australia Day on 13th March. Six of us braved the Covid to pick up lots of rubbish at McKenzie Falls, mostly small bits and stuff, with a few of the proverbial but unwelcome nappies around the car park. Thanks to Margo, our numbers were swelled by an enthusiastic visiting school group: we stayed around the tracks at the top,
while the youngsters descended & ascended the many steps to the bottom of the Falls. A group of very conservation-aware students who did a very great job. See Geoff’s report later in newsletter.

April 10th saw a gathering of the Clan for an intriguing look/think about some local land  formations, led by Graham Parkes and Ben Gunn. There was much discussion among members about the possible causes of these (see Graham’s report). This is one of the things I love about FOGG, when members, with their varied fields of interest and expertise, come together and share information. Underlying this is the shared love and treasuring of ‘the bush’, and its conservation.

Six of our members were among the 20 volunteers who took part in the Great Gariwerd Bird Survey around the central Grampians, with another 20 participants from the Dunkeld end doing the southern end. This was a highlight of the year, ten weeks of much learning and excitement,
culminating in the Survey on 17/18 April. Many hours of preparation but rewarding ++; we hope it has been just as rewarding for the survey results! Hannah enthusiastically threw herself into the organisation and preparation of it all, helped by other Parks staff at the dinner, and did an amazing job. Greg Kerr’s teaching was amazing too. See Hannah’s and John’s reports.

Our friend this past year has been La Nina; as a result of excellent rains in Spring, the bush in the mountains is bursting with green bushiness, and beautiful to be amongst (as long as you’re not trying to walk through it, paths are so valuable!) Our gardens and native planting are likewise thriving.
We are researching the procurement of the herbicide Phytoclean, for use by members in the Grampians, to help prevent the spread of Phytopthora, which is still killing some of our beloved plants.

Proposed FOGG calendar for the rest of 2021
Details of these are yet to be finalised, with leaders and Parks.
Activities are on 2nd Saturday of each month.
June: Fungi: Leigh, Win.
July: Talk at Brambuk – update on pest management from Parks; may open to public too.
Aug: Walk along part of Peaks trail with Neil Marriott & Andrew Cunningham. Peaks Trail, meeting near Roses Gap.
Sept: Orchid walk: Win, Leigh
October: Working Bee: Removal of African Weed Orchid within Park. Hannah will suggest good locations for this.
November: Bats: Margo is organising
December: Christmas Break-up: Zumsteins with walk to Fish Falls, or, Lake Wartook.
Yours in anticipation of many more exciting adventures in Grampians-Gariwerd,
Leigh Douglas.

OUR VERY BUSY PARK STAFF HAVE MUCH TO REPORT:
FROM RHONDA, OUR CHIEF RANGER, UPDATE from the Grampians Team
What a different Easter from last year back to full capacity so a busy time for all our team. One of our growing issues is waste management and this has unfortunately increased we believe over Covid due to the feeling of safety that comes with disposable items. But where to dispose of them.
This Easter we placed a skip bin at Plantation Campground as in past years this is the campground where we have had the most rubbish left in bags at trees. Well, it certainly worked as the photo shows with the entire skip bin full and three large tandem trailer loads all around it. What to do is our next question as this is not sustainable with our budget.
Last week saw the departure of Derek Sandow. Derek was acting in the Team Leader Environment position and prior to this was our Grampians Ark Coordinator. Derek will be greatly missed by the team and the park as his work over the last two years to reinvigorate the Grampians Ark program by bringing the resources inhouse rather than contractor delivery and his work on the Brushtailed Rock Wallabies was amazing. Derek and his family are moving to the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia where he will take up a role rewilding the Yorke Peninsula. We are working hard on getting this team leader position filled as it is so vital to many aspects of our work here but there are many pressures on us at the moment regarding resources.
Hope you are all enjoying the crisper mornings
Rhonda McNeil

FROM HANNAH, OUR COMMUNITY RANGER
This week concludes the first ever Great Grampians Bird Survey – The GGBS! It has been an almighty 10 weeks delivering the Bird Ecology Course with Greg Kerr and a hugely successful weekend with Volunteers coming home with many beautiful bird stories. Volunteers completed 144 bird surveys this weekend at 36 remote sites across Gariwerd, the same sites from which
Deakin University collect mammal data from each year. The data collected from Volunteers was entered into Birddata which is now accessible to the public. The aim of this project is to determine how effective the Grampians Ark project has been at controlling foxes and feral cats. Cat baiting began last year, however before this occurred, we contacted Dr Greg Kerr to collect base line bird data at the 36 mammal sites – which we can now call the mammal and bird sites. Greg returned to the same sites after the baiting had occurred and will be writing a report on his findings. This will be an ongoing project for the park, much like the mammal surveying that occurs each year.
Personally, it has been a great learning opportunity to deliver such a program for Gariwerd. I have been astounded by the passion and commitment each of the 40 Volunteers brought to class each week and their willingness to support an important project for the park. Creating an opportunity like this for the community to connect to this landscape has been the highlight. Volunteers are
invaluable at assisting us as land managers to protect, manage and advocate for Gariwerd, I would like to thank each of them for their passion and dedication in assisting us to collect bird data that will contribute to the bigger picture of conservation. Below are a few details about the program
Facts & Figures
Volunteer hours for 10 week bird ecology program 1,520
Volunteer hours for Autumn survey weekend 608
Total Volunteer Hours 2,128
TOTAL GNP Volunteer hours for 2019-2020 (All volunteer programs contribution) 3,159
Work Days Contributed (7.6 hours per day) 266
Bird Species Surveyed by Greg 93
Bird Species Surveyed by Volunteers 40+
Total Bird Surveys entered into Birdata at the 36 sites
(Not including Greg’s 2020 and 2021 data) 171
Total Species surveyed (Not including Greg’s 2020 and 2021 data) 84
Grants: This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the Australian Heritage Grants Program – Nature Glenelg Trust were fortunate to receive $88,000 for this project which allowed us to deliver the 10 week bird ecology course to the 40 volunteers.
Gariwerd was in the same bucket of money as Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage property, Kakadu National Park – just to name a few. This project was funded with the support of the Victorian Governments Weeds and Pests on Public Land program and is helping to ensure that Victoria’s natural environment is healthy, valued and actively cared for.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Han Auld, Community Engagement Ranger – Visitors and Community, Grampians National Park
E: P: 8427 2787 M: 0498 777 615

And here is a report from one of our members:
FOGG first informed members back in March 2020 that Parks Vic were inviting up to 40 volunteers to partake in “The Great Gariwerd Bird Survey”, the beginning of systematic bird surveying in the national park. The survey was to be preceded by a 10-week course conducted by Glenelg Nature Trust’s senior ecologist Dr Greg Kerr.
Covid forced a delayed start, and it was not until early February 2021 that 20 volunteers met in Halls Gap and 20 in Dunkeld. The general format of each weekly course session was: meet at 5pm at various field locations for a spot of bird-watching, then back to the classroom for 2 hours of Greg presenting on various aspects of bird ecology (evolution, plumage, moulting, calls, migration
etc.); in the final hour he presented photos of bird species for attendees to identify. Not all species occurred in Gariwerd.
There were many interesting details presented during Greg’s ecology talks. For instance, genetic based colour pigmentation in plumage is generally confined to black and white and the earthy tones; red, green, yellow and blue are obtained from the bird’s diet. Thus, when you see a male scarlet or flame robin in all their brilliant breeding magnificence, they are indicating to potential
mates that they are very good at sourcing food!
The ten weeks were soon over and the survey weekend loomed. It was not immediately apparent why it had to be on a given weekend, and not spread over a month or so to suit volunteers and when conditions were most suited to maximum bird abundance; but then it became clear as the Parks co-ordinator Han Auld doled out walkie-talkies and spot-trackers, which volunteers used to
sign-off after each surveying session, and in case of mishap and insurance claims. Being held under Parks Vic auspices made it only practical to hold on a predetermined weekend. A special mention should be made here of the endless enthusiasm and effort Han devoted to the project – she was a
very positive force. The methodology was 20-minute surveys over 2 hectare sites. Volunteers were divided into pairs and assigned two sites per pair. The sites had been previously adopted for mammal surveys by Mike Stevens and now there was a bird overlay on the same locations. Hopefully this will be
extended in the future to include other environments, especially Northern Gariwerd. Forty volunteers surveyed 36 sites Sat & Sun the 17th & 18th of April, once each morning and evening. 69 species were recorded in the Birdlife BirdData app, amongst them Stubble Quail (covey of 5 birds), a Wedge-tailed Eagle landing on a site and a Peregrine Falcon on another, a flock of 92
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos passing overhead in dribs and drabs, a Swift Parrot, 2 separate sightings of Southern Emu-wrens, a Speckled Warbler, Striated Fieldwrens, Gilbert’s Whistlers, a Crested Shrike-tit, Forest Raven, a Restless Flycatcher, a Flame Robin and a Hooded Robin.
Sunday evening Parks Vic treated the group to an Indian meal in the Halls Gap Hall. Speeches & presentations were made and there was a general feeling of camaraderie and of a job well done.
Some had travelled far to be a part of it (Melbourne & Ocean Grove for example, back and forth over 11 weeks!) and the majority will be looking forward to the Spring survey mid-October.
John King.

Just in is another message from Nature Glenelg Trust.
An exciting citizen science opportunity in the Grampians awaits You!
NGT is in the early stages of developing a volunteer-based wetland monitoring program to learn more about the ecological responses of two restored wetland systems in the southern Grampians. The Walker, Gooseneck, and Brady Swamp wetland complex, and Green Swamp, have undergone
significant hydrological changes over the past few years, with support and involvement from the community playing a key role. These works, which straddle Parks Victoria reserves and NGT’s wetland restoration reserves, have supported the recovery and conservation of a range of wetland dependent species such as fish, frog and birds, many of which are threatened. Equally, the
transformation of these systems has provided new opportunities for the community to enjoy the local flora and fauna.
This citizen science monitoring program will allow community members to connect to these wetlands in a new way, and collectively learn more about their rich ecology. The data collected will complement and build on existing knowledge gained through conventional monitoring methods of fish, frogs and birds. Remote technologies will be used to record data on key fauna groups: acoustic loggers called AudioMoths will be aimed at recording frogs and birds, while field cameras will focus on recording wading birds. Equipment will be deployed in early May, with data retrieval and downloads occurring each month. This monitoring program will provide new opportunities for people to
volunteer, as many activities can be completed from home on a desktop (e.g. sorting through images, identifying birds and frogs). There will however, still be opportunities for people to get out in the field, and assist with the monthly data downloads. Interested volunteers will be invited to join us in a tour of the wetland sites in mid-May. This will be a chance to see the equipment deployed, learn more about the history of the sites and the monitoring program. For more information and to register, please see flyer below.
We look forward to working with the volunteers and seeing these incredible wetland systems from another lens (literally)!
To register your interest contact .
Email | Postal | PO Box 354, Warrnambool, VIC
FROM ANDREW MCKINNON, AREA CHIEF RANGER
This is to inform you of a conservation program in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park and Black Range State Park between March and October 2021.
Heritage listed for its biodiversity and cultural values, the Grampians landscape is home to more than 800 indigenous plant species, a wide range of wildlife and the majority of Aboriginal rock art sites in south-east Australia.
To help protect this unique landscape, Parks Victoria regularly undertakes conservation programs to control invasive animals, including feral goats.
On a few days each month from 29 March until late October, a crew of qualified and experienced volunteer shooters will target these pest animals in remote sections of the parks. During the operation, access to some sections of the parks will be temporarily restricted and people may be able to hear gunshots. Key visitor areas will not be affected.

TWO INTERESTING PIECES FROM THE STAWELL NEWSPAPER
1. Sightings of the endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot have provided further encouragement for Park Rangers about the health of native animal habitat in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park.
The small species of bandicoot, listed as Endangered in Victoria, was detected on surveillance cameras that were placed in the national park following reports from a member of the public. It’s the first recorded sighting by Park Rangers in two years and follows recent camera footage that confirmed an increase in the park’s small population of Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies, which are listed as Critically Endangered. As with other animals in the area, it appears that bandicoots may be benefiting from a combination of recent factors including rainfall levels, a lack of large-scale bushfires and Parks Victoria’s conservation work, such as the Grampians Ark program. Parks Victoria’s Grampians ark coordinator Derek Sandow said these sightings are really encouraging news for this native animal that faces threats from cleared habitat and introduced
predator species. “Reports of koalas and goannas and other animals not seen for some time in the Grampians give us encouragement about the health of the national park and our conservation efforts,” he said.
The Grampians Ark program targets foxes and feral cats, which can have a devastating impact on birds and small mammals, such as bandicoots.
The program is being funded by the Victorian Government’s $33.67 million Biodiversity Response Planning and Weeds and Pests on Public Land initiative.
The Southern Brown Bandicoot is a ground-dwelling marsupial with a grey-brown coat and a long tapering snout. Mostly active after dusk, they play an important role in the ecosystem by turning over soil which helps increase the rate of leaf litter decomposition and nutrient cycling. Excepting the Grampians region, the bandicoot is typically found in southern and lower lying parts
of Victoria.
2. SISTERS ROCKS
One of Stawell’s natural landmarks is set to change hands after the Northern Grampians Shire Council moved to return the Sisters Rock site to traditional owners at their April meeting on Monday. The council voted to move and accept the recommendation to transfer the Sisters Rocks site to the
Victorian Government, who will then decide the appropriate public body to determine the management arrangements and associated funding for the land. As part of the process the council also had the assurance that the transfer of ownership will not affect the Western Highway Duplication (Ararat to Stawell) project. “From the Council’s perspective it would be a powerful act of reconciliation that we can perform on behalf of the community in recognising indigenous culture”.
The land will be returned to the WJJWJ Peoples as part of the Traditional Owners Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) (TOS Act). Sisters Rocks are a culturally significant site to the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and
Jupagulk Peoples (WJJWJ Peoples), who have been seeking changes to the land’s ownership for some time. The Barengi Gadjin Land Council (BGLC) is the entity that represents the WJJWJ Peoples and they have expressed their aspiration for the Sisters Rocks site to be returned to the WJJWJ Peoples.
The Sisters Rocks, along the Western Highway are a grouping of granite tors which form a dramatic landmark on the eastern approach to Stawell. The area has been a picnic and tourist destination since settlement in the area. The rocks facing the public access are now heavily covered in graffiti which dates back over most of the 20th century. It is an area of debate whether this is an historical record or ugly disfigurement of the natural beauty of the rocks.
The Victorian Heritage Database lists Sisters Rocks as socially and aesthetically significant at a local level and an important landmark in the area with a level of significance as ‘recommended for Heritage Overlay’ since 2004. The site, comprising of approximately four hectares, is reported to be one of the first successful attempts at nature conservation in Australia. An application for the land was applied for by a local body member under the then Land Act to protect the site from being demolished for building stone. The title was issued and in 1887 transferred to the Borough of Stawell.
The Barengi Gadjin Land Council have expressed their thanks for this decision.
“This is a positive demonstration from council to recognise and encourage the healing of country for our people and the broader community. This decision means a lot to our families. This isn’t about the past, it’s about the future, and it’s important we take the necessary steps to develop a strong relationship and increase the visual presence of our culture across the region.” Dylan Clarke, BGLC Chairperson.
FOGG ACTIVITY REPORTS
Clean Up Australia Day
For the Grampians Gariwerd our Clean Up Australia Day occurred six days after the national event but the delay was a sensible choice to avoid crowds of tourists who flood the national park on the Labour Day long weekend.
FOGG members totaling half a dozen plus one community member gathered at Halls Gap with our Parks Vic leader Joy to be briefed on the task for the day. McKenzie Falls was to be our destination and we were most grateful for the youth of Waverly Christian College who also joined the Working Bee. Clearly the youthful legs of year 11 and 12 students were more appropriate to descend and ascend the steps to the bottom of the falls. After an acknowledgment to the traditional owners of the land of our national park and an OH&S briefing, the short convoy set off for the Falls car park. On arrival there was some discussion of the, weather and a predicted band of rainfall but for the time it was warm and overcast, good. As expected, division of labour saw the enthusiastic students head off with Joy to deal with the track to the bottom of the falls while FOGGs members scoured the car park and picnic areas before the first drops of rain began to fall. Some members opted for the wet weather gear although the rainfall could only be considered light. In small groups/pairs we traversed the pathways to the falls viewing platform at the Bluff, the
Broken Falls and other pathways meandering around the top of the falls.
As expected, the groups collected a selection of aluminium cans, stubbies and plastic water bottles but the general consensus was not the volume of rubbish collected but the number of smaller items left behind. Tissues, lolly wrappers, band aids, cigarette butts etc. were prevalent but it would take a long time to fill a garbage bag with these items. Sadly, we also came across quite a
few disposable nappies. The tongs were very welcome as we loaded them into our bags. With good timing rainfall became a little more intense as we all returned with our loot to the car park and it was agreed we had done well without moving to work on other locations. Perhaps the most satisfying vibe from the day was to hear that the students expressed dismay that people
would discard their rubbish in such an environment. For the future it is gratifying to know that there is a generation who may have a stronger ethos to respect our environment. On the return journey to Halls Gap our ‘pull the pin’ decision became a better one as heavier rainfall spread across the Grampians/Gariwerd. As I pen these notes (later the evening of our working bee) the web tells me that 15mm or more than half inch of rain has fallen at Mt William. Let’s hope this first substantial rain event of the Autumn heralds a good season for the park and its surrounds.
Strum
MYSTERY MOUNDS IN THE MUD
One of our favourite areas in the region is the open forests east of Gariwerd. Over the years Di and I became increasingly intrigued by numerous round earth mounds we were seeing in these magnificent Red Gum forests. Our son, Tom and partner Matilda regularly join us on our walks and have helped us to map and record our observations. Over the last year we have drawn on the insights of our local archaeologist Ben Gunn, and Jake Goodes from Parks Victoria who have been assisting us to better understand the mounds.
Apparently, the “donut” shaped mounds are similar to the remains of Aboriginal dwellings found elsewhere in Victoria. An invitation from Ben and Leigh provided us with the opportunity to take a stroll in one area of Red Gum forest between Halls Gap and Stawell, with 22 FOGGS members, to talk about the earth structures. On 10 April our hardy walkers braved the drizzly conditions and looked at a number of mounds that are representative of about sixty in this area. Most of the mounds are about 14 to 18 meters in diameter, consisting of an outer, excavated, round depression ring, an inner raised ring and a central depression. On the edge of each mound there are the remains of a tree or stump. Within some mounds charcoal and timber remains can be seen poking through the soil. A rough calculation indicates that over 7 cubic meters of soil was excavated from the outer depression to form the inner mound. Although the hydrology of the area has been changed by the construction of the Wimmera-Mallee channel system, we have noted an old braided stream system nearby. Ben then gave us a briefing on Aboriginal mounds in the Western District, the Murray and the odd ones near Bendigo, including their locations and variety of uses. Often mounds such as these are
located where different ecosystems meet, such as around Gariwerd where the open forests meet the base of the ranges.
Some very interesting discussion followed. In particular, one of the members who is into soils (from Agricultural research) suggested we need to be able to dismiss the mounds as NOT being gilgai formations (naturally occurring mounds developed by soil expansion and contraction), particularly as the mounds appear to be largely confined to one soil type. Gilgai formation may
also be responsible for the surrounding trench. He is in discussion with a soil specialist.
Another member thought we had yet to adequately dismiss soil-uprise from very large red gum roots, while another suggested we do soil density probing (a very narrow probe) – something that might be more use than ground penetrating radar and should be investigated further.
Since our walk another suggestion is that the mounds may be the remains of charcoal kilns used for the production of fuel during and following the Second World War and this also warrants further investigation. Representatives of the three Traditional Groups, the Gunditj Mirring, Barengi
Gadjin and Eastern Maar, have carried out a field inspection of the area we walked with the FOGGS. All our observations have been provided to Aboriginal Victoria for the State records. My son Tom has done a magnificent mapping job in a form that can be used by Aboriginal Victoria. We hope that soil and archaeological surveys will provide us with insights into these fascinating
mounds. Regardless, we believe that the area requires careful management and protection.
Graham Parkes
GOLTON GORGE
The Walking Track Support Group have now finished their work on the Golton Gorge track. It was to have had an official opening, but it was cancelled due to it being a total fire ban that day. Another opening was planned, but then the virus restrictions came in. The walk is now open to the public but there is still no word on an official opening. Several FOGG members have worked with
the Walking Track Support Group.
ADVISORY GROUP MEETINGS, JANUARY 15 and MARCH 2, 2021.
After our acknowledgement of country, the January meeting was totally spent on discussions on the draft management plan. Several of us had already circulated our comments to the group and others commented and gave their thoughts. We had hoped to hear comments from the traditional owner groups but found they were completely snowed under, with many requests and quite
under- staffed.

Assorted comments: the language in the plan could end up being divisive . How does GG management set the joint management up so it has the most chance of success? It appears to be Melbourne driven. Disappointed that the AG was not consulted Far too short a time for feedback What will be done with the feedback? Will reasons be given for accepting or rejecting comments?
Rhonda told us that PV will publish a discussion paper on the web, with a table to help the community see how PV gets the balance right. There will be a workshop with traditional owners in February. The management plan will go to the minister in June. Kevin was given the task of collating our thoughts and producing a group response, but we were encouraged to also send in our individual comments, (which several of us did.) We were encouraged to look at the PV website and Facebook pages when drafting our submissions, also to
make it clear at the beginning whether it was an individual response or on behalf of a group (eg FOGG, rock climbers) and how many in the group.
Kevin sent us a copy of the group response in good timing for our next meeting.

March 2 Meeting: All present, no apologies. Acknowledgement of country.
Kevin thanked Cecilia Myers for her help in finalising the group submission on the draft management plan. We agreed that it was well done.
We had hoped that some traditional owners would be present, but that has not been possible. They continue to have problems with Covid restrictions, only zoom meetings, the time pressure for them to get their responses in. Barry reminded us that there were a number of different groups and that informal conversations over a cuppa were often very helpful. Rhonda then took us on a tour of the precinct. $5.8 million dollars has been allotted to upgrading
the precinct. However, this money is not going to GNP but to Parks Vic Commercial unit. Rhonda showed how run down much of the front site is, toilets, education room, display areas. She mentioned there is some discussion of adding showers to the toilet area. The education room may be able to give FOGGS a more suitable area to store records, books etc. We then moved to the shop area which has re-opened but the cafe remains closed. Then down the path to the cultural centre. The garden needs attention. The cultural centre will remain closed for the time being, except with permission from Rhonda. It too needs maintenance to the roof and more. The collection of cultural items is stored safely. We returned to the Mural Room for discussion on the staff situation and Rhonda drew us a diagram of it. Also a diagram of how PV is organised. See below for both. It was clear to me then, but should have been before, just how much is expected of our local staff. The revamp of the cultural area, the GPT, and legal issues such as deaths within the Park are all outside their control, yet much time needs to be spent advising these teams who often have little experience of being in a national park like this. And this time has to come out of their existing responsibilities.
GRAMPIANS NATIONAL PARK STAFF STRUCTURE (as at March 2021)
Under Rhonda as Chief Ranger are three teams.
Tammy leads Visitors & Communities, which has Seasonal Rangers, Volunteers & Schools (Hannah), Walking Tracks, Information, Education, Interpretation. Derek leads Environment & Heritage, which covers Grampians Ark, Biological responsibilities, Rangers, Aboriginal issues.
Johnno leads Park Operations, which includes Peaks Trail, Facilities, Roads.
There are currently several empty positions, due to illness, and some awaiting new staff.
PARKS VICTORIA’S MANAGEMENT (as at March 2021)
Under the Parks Vic CEO are seven areas:
People & Culture, Fire & Emergency, Legal, Construction, Commercial, Marketing, Operations. The Grampians Team sits under “Operation”. HR, Finance and IT sit under “People & Culture”
The next AG meeting will be on May 11, with the major topic being Fire.
Margo Sietsma

ARTICLE FROM PARKWATCH MARCH EDITION (SHORTENED)
Who is Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park there for? Parks Protection Campaigner Phil Ingamells takes a look at the Greater Gariwerd Landscape draft management plan. After a bizarre group of bare-chested neo-Nazis stormed Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park in January, burning a cross and waving supremacist symbols atop the landscape, it might be time to take a deep breath and consider, coolly, whose park it actually is – and why we manage it. Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park is public land, but that requires a bit of clarification. There are many categories of public land established under various old or new laws, and though the “public” might own these areas, activities on that land are commonly restricted. With a management plan for Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park well overdue, Parks Victoria faced a bit of a dilemma: Traditional Owner status has not been legally established, but almost certainly will be during the life of the new plan.  Parks Victoria has (consistent with government policy to work with Aboriginal communities
regardless of legal status) engaged strongly with three local Aboriginal organisations in the process of drawing up a draft plan for Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park, nearby Black Range State Park, and a number of smaller reserves they manage: the “Greater Gariwerd Landscape”.
Those communities have put forward strong views on a number of issues, including increased protection for flora and fauna, more traditional fire management, avoiding light pollution of the night sky, and the restitution of Aboriginal place names. But the most contentious issue is a re-assessment of the impacts of rock climbing and bouldering on the extensive rock art sites and other culturally significant places. Largely through a lack of activity management by Parks Victoria in recent times, rock climbing has
expanded beyond control. And, a bit like the claims of the cattlemen of the high country, some climbers have asserted an imagined right to traditional access.
Our National Parks Act has created a vehicle for resolving conflict: comprehensive park plans that ensure the objectives of the Act are met.
The draft Greater Gariwerd Landscape management plan Parks Victoria has produced is promising; it’s thoughtful, thorough, and based on good research and wide public consultation. However, VNPA has asked Parks Victoria to strengthen some aspects of the plan, especially where issues of ‘balance’ or ‘compromise’ turn up. The National Parks Act doesn’t allow compromise; it
asks for visitor access that is supportive of and consistent with long-term protection of all native species in the park. As with any other law in Victoria, the Act must be respected and followed. In Parks Victoria’s own words, the proposal for the now half-constructed Grampians Peaks Trail just “emerged” during the life of the previous plan. Proposals contrary to a legally required
management plan should never just “emerge”; if they are to proceed at all, they should go through an additional transparent planning process including full public consultation. We might all have to do a bit of listening and learning. And those of us who aren’t Aboriginal might have to admit that, for all of the remarkable work ecologists, conservation activists and land managers have done over the years, we still don’t have all the answers. There is a task ahead of us. And a strong partnership with people who can lay claim to a virtually
timeless association with these wonderful hills might just be a good way to steer management on the right path.  But we must have a plan that will serve the park well – and a plan that we stick to!

BOOK NEWS
There’s quite a bit happening with new books. We still have copies of our reprint of Ian McCann’s wildflower book available to members at $10 plus postage if needed. Also available at various local stores is an excellent new fold-out leaflet by Joy O’Brien, “Wildflowers of the Grampians: A Guide to Common and Notable Species” which has photos of 111 local flowers with a great deal of information on flower and leaf characteristics, flowering time and more. And FOGG member Judy has sent in a review of the book I have recently written and published with Anthea Nicholls of Pomonal Publishing.
Book Review: “Grampians to Gariwerd” written by Margo Sietsma, publ. 2020. (Available through the author, and at Halls Gap News Agency and Pomonal store) “This is an interesting collation of diary entries from early trips to a family holiday house in Halls Gap in 1986. The author has added comments 30 years later when it was her permanent home. I found the anecdotes charming and also they brought back memories of our own walks and adventures in the Grampians, comparing the experiences we had when our children were small, to the ones we have now as senior walkers! I can recommend this book as an absorbing read.
Judy Gardner
BITS AND PIECES
The Easter weekend saw a huge number of visitors enjoying our Park in perfect weather. Among them was a group of Junior Field Naturalists to whom a couple of us were able to show bits of our natural environment: Catherine and Clive their bush property, Anthea and I, the Botanic Garden and a walk to Venus Baths. Courtesy of FOGGS, each family was given a copy of the geology
brochure, and we fielded many enquiries about edible plants, insects (especially ants) and more. It was a joy to see their enthusiasm and it is so important to engage the next generation. We had many visitors walking through the Botanic garden in Halls Gap, which is all Grampians Flora. There’s a poster about FOGGS on the noticeboard and membership forms can be taken. Last year we got a sizable grant from DELWP which we are busy spending. I’ll let you know as things progress.
HG Wildflower show cancelled
The HG Wildflower show, which has been held almost every year since 1938, has had to be cancelled, as have so many other local ecological events (Lake Bolac Eel Festival, Cavendish Red Gum Festival etc). FOGGS have often had a display there, and in 2005 we used the Wildflower Show to celebrate our 21st birthday.

HISTORY BITS
Tidying up my photo albums I came across a copy of the Halls Gap monthly newsletter “Fill the Gap” from November 1994.There’s an article headed “F.O.G.’S NEWS”. (1994 was before we added Gariwerd to our title). The article reports that our next activity was to meet at the Giant Koala at Dadswell’s Bridge to look for small milkworts with the Department of Conservation and
Environment. It also has details of our application for a grant to research the impact of foxes on the small mammal populations of the Grampians Heathlands. Unfortunately, we didn’t receive the grant but some FOGGIES assisted Ed Muelman in his PhD research into small mammal populations. I find it interesting that even though Halls Gap was already a cat-free town, we concentrated on foxes and had no thought as to the impact of cats.
FOGG COMMITTEE
President: Leigh Douglas Ph: 53564282 .
Vice President: Rodney Thompson
Secretary: Alison Bainbridge 0417 883 445 secretary@friendsofgrampiansgariwerd
Treasurer: Judith Thompson 53836247
Newsletter editor: Margo Sietsma 0429 201 139
FOGGS Mailing address: C/- PO Halls Gap 3381
Website: friendsofgrampiansgariwerd.org.au
Facebook: Friends of Grampians
PARK STAFF
Our community liaison w PV: E: M: 0498 777 6
General Inquiries: 5361 4000 or 131963.
Rhonda McNeil is Ranger in Charge

From the Editor

Welcome to this Winter issue of the FOGG newsletter. An unusual one in unusual times. The Covid rules plus the pressure to complete the GPT means that  local park staff are under a lot of pressure, our FOGG committee needs to communicate at a distance, and as Leigh reports in Prez Sez we are having problems with Park Connect and the need for us all to have working with children certificates. But we have managed to put together an interesting newsletter I hope. My thanks to member Neil Marriott for contributing an interesting article on burning. Do remember that we welcome articles from members. So don’t be shy!

It is always a dilemma how many photos to put in. We realise that some members’ internet is limited so we don’t want to make the document too big. But what to leave out. I’m hoping to revive the FOGG facebook page and use it to show the photos that didn’t make it here. Volunteer help very welcome.

Here are our hoped for activities for the rest of the year, but note that Covid may cause problems. (The official opening of the new track the Walking Track support Group group constructed at Golton Gorge was cancelled four times!). So please contact the person organising an activity closer to the event for more information, and check for it on Park Connect.

There will be a newsletter coming out before the November meeting, maybe even before the October one.

Prez Sez

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 beeFungi 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.

https://ccyp.vic.gov.au/child-safety/resources/guides-and-information-sheets/#TOC-1

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.

and

  • 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:

From FNCP:

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):
https://www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au/individuals/applicants/how-to-apply
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

Parks News from the Chief Ranger

From Rhonda McNeil M 0498 441 433   E

It is with great sadness that last week saw the passing of Graeme  “Shonky”  Sherger.  Shonky was a long standing member of the Halls Gap team as was his father before him. He was involved in many aspects of park management but in particular he was involved in machinery use in the park, whether building campgrounds, grading roads or incredible work on the fireline.  Our thoughts are with Danielle and family at this time.

Work on the Grampians Peaks Trail is continuing as we get closer to a Spring opening and it was great to have the Grampians Advisory Group out on site at one of the new day walks and to a campground to share what really was part of their vision for this park.

The management plan is in finally stages of reviewing all the feedback and providing a final version for the Project Control Group which includes our traditional owner partners before it is presented to the Parks Victoria Board. We do not have a launch date as yet due to so many other things happening in the government and parks worlds but hopefully by the end of this year we will have a new plan to guide us for the next 15 years. Thank you to everyone who has provided comments and discussions and I am hopefully we have developed a plan for the future that will protect this amazing place for generations to enjoy well into the future.

More bits from Rhonda:

Some great news to share with you all during these challenging times. We had an amazing capture on site 28 . A southern brown bandicoo.t.   This is the first one we have caught since 2013 on any of our sites.  So over 56,000 trap nights since the last one we have caught.  Also, due to fires etc, this is the first time we have ever caught one  on site 28. The resilience of our small mammal population never ceases to amaze me.  This highlights once again the importance of these long term research programs which are coordinated and support at the local level.

More good news Marlenne Rodriguez Malagon has accepted the Team Leader Environment position until end of August 2021 which is great as she brings a large amount of environmental work experience from across the world and a great personality as well. Hopefully during this time we can advertise the position ongoing as we absolutely need it as the success of the research below is due to having this position in the park.

Grampians Ark position: we hope to advertise this shortly as an ongoing position after so many years of short term contracts so very exciting, Dylan Sortino will continue to act in the position until we have this position filled.

Biodiversity Response Program Coordinator we hope to advertise shortly to back fill for Marlenne, Kailee Savoia is currently acting in this role.

Feral cat program: unfortunately we were unable to get a permit to undertake this years aerial baiting program so we are working on our permit application for next year based on the feedback from DELWP. We were hoping to have two of our staff down on French Island this week to offside their aerial baiting program ( first in the state) but unfortunately due to covid they will be monitoring remotely. This will also help us deliver our own program  next year.

Sallow Wattle program: we are lucky enough to have three staff with us Dianna, Kristina and Tom who will be with us until September this year which is a great help to truly determine a program for ongoing sallow wattle removal.

We have been told we will get further funding for the Biodiversity Response Programs and the Grampians Ark so Marlenne and I will be busy just making sure we have all the paperwork in order so we can focus on getting the great work on the ground undertaken.

As always the whole team are doing an incredible job across the park , grading roads, cleaning facilities, signage , maps and onground works to be ready for the Grampians Peaks Trail opening later this year and working with our amazing volunteers. We couldn’t believe it but in  we had the Golton Gorge opening all planned for the fourth time and had to postpone once again. We hope we will soon get to recognise and thank the amazing volunteers for this work.

Gariwerd Black Range News

From Hannah, Community Engagement Ranger

Parks Victoria has shortlisted the Black Range Conservation Survey, led by the Black Range Land Management Group and NGT, for the funding through the Volunteer Innovation Fund.  The votes of the Victorian public will decide which projects are successful, so read on for more info!

The Black Range is a granite uprising east of Gariwerd/The Grampians near Ararat that formed 400 million years ago. The Range is of cultural significance to its Traditional Owners, and includes Bunjil’s Shelter. Following recent poor land management and significantly reduced annual rainfall, the Black Range Land Management Group is working to increase habitat and biodiversity, control invasive species and erosion, and to conserve more areas of the dry and rocky Range. We have partnered with the Land Management Group to support this project which aims to engage our local community in actions that learn about and address climate change, including re-establishing habitat for southern brown bandicoots and more. If successful, the funding will allow the Black Range Land Management Group to:

  • Develop and deliver a free BIRD, FLORA AND FAUNA ECOLOGY COURSE (10 weeks x 4 hrs p/w) within the Black Range Scenic Reserves, in partnership with Nature Glenelg Trust. The course will develop 20 volunteers’ capabilities in identification and conducting surveys, whilst developing understanding for and love of the Black Range ecology.
  • Convene a half-day CONSERVATION DIGITAL TOOLS WORKSHOP that establishes how survey data will be contributed and used by volunteers via existing mobile apps, identifies gaps in available tools, and plans integration with data management systems preferred by other land management & conservation agencies.
  • Convene an autumn and spring WEEKEND BIRD, FLORA AND FAUNA SURVEY, conducted by volunteers who completed the 10-week course, across designated sites in Black Range.
  • Commission a Black Range CONSERVATION REPORT to be compiled by ecologists from Nature Glenelg Trust, to develop strategic priorities and coordinated land management in Black Range.

Funding for this project has been sought from the Volunteer Innovation Fund and we could use your help! Projects will be awarded funding based on community members voting for their favourite ideas.
Voting is now open. To have your say, visit www.engage.vic.gov.au/volunteeringinnovationfund

Online voting closes at 5pm on Thursday 12 August 2021 so be quick!

Two local groups were successful in the last round.

Nature Glenelg Trust New Tech Volunteering: Novel citizen science for Grampians wetlands $19,997.00
Friends of Lake Modewarre Planting the seeds of environmental passion in young school children $2,100.00

RED GUM WALK (8/5/2021)

As it happened it was only a small group of us who were able to join in our working bee at this FOGG created walk. This was the first walk established for the less-abled in the Grampians  but since then several new ones have been created by PV.

The area was badly burned in the fires of 2006 and recovery has been slow. Interestingly the post-fire growth is now at the stage where it is thinning itself out, resulting in quite a lot of death of 1.5 m tall shrubs and many of these dead plants falling across the path. So there was quite a bit of clearing work to be done. Plus some weeding.

We had quite a bit of discussion as to what needs to be done to improve the walk, and what FOGGS could fund and what we would ask PV to fund. Although currently the track is not that attractive, this will change over the years as the young gums grow, so we mustn’t let it get forgotten. It also makes a useful record of how a forest recovers from fire. Some of the ideas that we will bring to the next FOGG committee meeting are:

Signage: There is no signage from the major road south. The large sign at the carpark is deteriorating and needs replacement. There should be an arrow close to the end of the current track pointing to the big fallen tree. The  smaller signs burnt in 2006 could be re-instated with perspex covers and thus add to the interest of the walk.

The track itself: Most of it is in quite good condition but the end of it definitely needs new gravel. The track used to be circular but only the first half was re opened. Should we seek restoration of the return track? (Not cheap  to make it suitable for disabled folk with a large number of fallen trees). Or should a new piece be constructed leading to the major road?

Later I looked at the online version of the walks for the disabled booklet, which FOGG were sponsors of when it was first created. It was last updated in  21 August 2019 and does include this walk and still acknowledges FOGGS. You can find it on   https://www.ideas.org.au › Books but I am not sure when the last printed version was updated. Mine is 2009.

FOGGS FUNGAL FORAY (13th June 2021)

By Leigh Douglas.

At our last meeting, we were privileged to have Win Pietsch teach us about the problems and fun of fungi identification, and to learn that many do not have common names and have yet to be identified   – what a privilege, to learn from such a scientific, experienced and enthusiastic teacher.

12 of us met at the Halls Gap Botanic Gardens, and Win had us all inspired; she gave us a brief overview of Australian fungi and their properties, bringing along a whole library of fungi books that she spread over the table, plus some exceptional specimens of fungi unlikely to be found in the Gardens.

Fungi are different from other plants; most of the ‘non-plant’ is underground, we only see the fruiting bodies, very useful for our identification and their procreation! Preferred habitats, seasons, classification, ecology and habitat, edibility, the importance (and beauty) of spore prints – and even SLIMINESS in identification were covered. Despite telling us that microscopic investigations have to be used for species identification (at which point some of us were ready to flee), Win reassured us that field characteristics are enough to distinguish major groups. Fungi are undergoing a lot of study and re-classification, so identifying them definitively, even with references, is difficult. Below are listed useful fungi field guides for you to check out.

One of the most beautiful fungi (Cortinarius sp.) has a delicate, cobweb-like veil weaving the cap with the stem; others have intricate gill patterns, a variety of cap patterns, and a big range of shapes and colours, among other differences. Unlike previous years, no ‘Dog Vomit’ (slime mould) was sighted, but a favourite with the younger crew were the minute yellow ‘pin-head’ colonies growing on fallen tree trunks, with Puff Balls coming a close second.

The children in our group were very good fungi scouts in the Gardens, and continued to find different fungi in home gardens and the bush for the next couple of days, excitedly asking us questions about them … which we were mostly unable to answer! However, the more you learn about fungi, the more fascinating they become, and our guide books are invaluable…

Fungi Map.   

For years Win has been involved with submitting sightings of fungi to Fungimap, along with Ian McCann and Dave Munro; Fungimap is a Victorian volunteer group advocating for conservation of fungi, and their important role in biodiversity. Sightings are reported from all over the state, and collated in Melbourne (much like Birdata).

Now Win is urgently asking for a volunteer (s) to take over this valuable work, as she can no longer cover the sites adequately. It’s a great excuse for getting out into the Grampians, and the sightings can be submitted quite easily I believe, with identification of species not necessary; photos are a great help, with locations and GPS coordinates. Finding the fungi can be shared with fellow nature lovers.

More information about Fungimap is available on the web, and Win has given us one of the paper forms to be submitted, if anyone would like to see it.

 

References:

Bruce Fuhrer: A field Companion to Australian Fungi. Bloomings Books, 2001.
I.R. McCann: Australian Fungi Illustrated. Macdown Productions 2003.
Pat Grey and Ed Grey: The Fungimap Guide to Australian Fungi (available through website).

FOGG excursion to Moora Moora Reservoir (Saturday 10/7/2021)

By Andrew Cunningham

A special day was had by 11 of us ably led by Ross Simpson, whom we met at Moora Moora Reservoir at 10 am last Saturday. The weather was amazing, and probably Ross could take no credit for that! Those of us from Stawell took off in thick fog to be greeted a few kms from Halls Gap by gorgeous sun and clarity. On the descent down onto the Victoria Valley from Mt Victory, there was still heavy frost on the shady south side. It was quite an amazing entry to Moora Moora where we met in the sunshine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When we did the short stroll up onto the reservoir wall, which I am thinking was built in the early 1900s as part of the Wimmera Mallee channel system, we had a superb vista. The mist had lifted from the south side of Moora Moora so the Serra range was mirrored in the water of the old swamp- turned reservoir. The north side still had glorious mist which disappeared over the next few minutes.

The stroll southwards on the reservoir wall with the warming sun on our backs was magnificent. There was a lot of small bird life in the interface between the bush to our right (west) and the water to our left (east). Because we were high up on the reservoir wall, we looked down into the bush with the sun illuminating the bush.

It was a warming experience for the body and soul as we wandered away from the sun with Neil McCumber and Neil Marriott informing us regarding the flora and fauna. We eventually “toddled off” the reservoir wall and went along a lovely sandy track through the bush. It was memorable and lots of wonderful photographs were taken. We eventually were directed by Ross onto the Glenelg River Road and back to our cars for a well-earned rest after our 11km walk, and enjoyed lunch together in the sun. It was a wonderful day that you would not expect in mid-winter! Thank you again Ross, and to Judith for the good idea.

ADVISORY GROUP MEETING 13 MAY 2021

The meeting started with Rhonda’s acknowledgement of country.

Next Derek Sandow spoke about his experiences working on the Yorke peninsular and about cats.

We then discussed the challenges facing the park; both short term – especially politics – but also long term eg climate change, the fact that DELWP funding is only 1 year at a time which makes research projects etc difficult. Should we contact PV Board? How?

GPT update: They are still airlifting materials into the campgrounds. The trail from the North to Hg is nearly finished, needs more work on Bugiga campground (about 1 month’s work). 4 new staff have been appointed. Several day walks now open: Cascades, Lake Wartook LO to HG. Stony Ck campground nearly finished. Lots of work being done at Mt Sturgeon; some bits being re-aligned to save money.

Opening date is set for Spring 2021. Still working on signage for the trail. One problem is that this work is not being done by the local staff but in Melbourne. Next task is to get it up on the website which local staff are doing and then the marketing department have to approve. The website is planned to be up by end May, and bookings will be available via the website. How to manage relationships with licensed tour operators? Eg use of huts. Problems with funding for carparking spots. Happy with quality of track.

Lessons learnt: would have been good to have someone qualified in project management, not enough opportunity for public comment, local shire participation.

Fire update: DELWP have got quite a bit of burning done, though the Serra range area is hard. Rhonda gave us a diagram of how the different teams work together. It is good that rangers are gaining more understanding of fire. When and how often to burn is a DELWP decision, and they are now also using cultural burns.

Management Plan. Work is continuing on how to implement it. How many staff are needed? Cost?

Topics that received the most public comments were dingoes, camping and rock climbing  and PV will offer some options. This needs to be done by the end of May, then more discussion with traditional owners, then to the PV Board by late July, then the final draft plan in August.

Some issues are: camping, hiking, really popular sites, rock climbing & scrambling, rewilding.

Camping, hiking: Fire rules, hiking and camping off tracks – should this be forbidden in some areas, with fines? eg areas listed as remote& natural, areas close to rock wallaby sites. Use group size as limit? Eg 4 OK , 16 not? Dispersed camping: vehicle based will be done slowly, walk in: Jimmy’s Ck stays as is.

Really popular sites (McKenzie falls, Balconies, Boroka ): parking, rubbish, selfies outside fences, illegal swimming.

Rock climbing & scrambling: A big problem. All rocks close to the Venus Baths track have all undergrowth close by badly damaged. What can be done about it?

Staffing: So many vacancies and difficulties advertising positions where staff are on longterm health leave. Rhonda gave us a diagram.

Stimulus Projects: Brambuk repairs and  re-opening will be done by the Commercial team. McKenzie Falls we’ll discuss at next meeting. GPT trail heads in progress. Ararat mountain bike trails.

Environment: The planned poisoning of cats is slow. Hope to send some staff to French island to watch them (but couldn’t after all). Will explore using a helicopter to drop a fake poison to see how cats react. Deer shooting is happening at the moment. Attacking Sallow wattle difficult with less visiting school etc groups due to Covid. Deakin Uni continuing monitoring with both Elliott traps and camera monitoring.

Traditional owners: A few weeks ago 25 members were here and also met with the PV CEO and some board members. Talked re challenges particularly w Management plan. Time pressures, funding for their staff to respond to so many questions and meetings. All local PV staff are going to do a Cultural awareness course here, and another may be held at Budja Budja.

Possible FOGG actions: write to our local state member re staff shortages, particularly indigenous staff, that the PV and DELWP contracts are far too short (eg only 3 months for indigenous).

ADVISORY GROUP MEETING – JUNE 29, 2021 Peaks Trail and McKenzie Falls

Present: Eight AG members plus quite a few park staff in addition to the GPT staff. We went in mixed groups of AG members and staff in each car.

The morning was very cold, heavy mist. First stop was the group camp site on Stony Ck Rd which is still under construction but close to finished. We first looked at the platforms erected for the tent sites. Rather different to the ones I had seen at the Bugiga camp site. They have a new arrangement to assist in tying the tents down. Also a metal plate so a fuel stove is not on the wooden base. Next the outdoor sitting are with a long table and seats, designed to make removing them very difficult. Then we went on to the large group meeting spot. It has large perspex windows (we were told there is a good view from the end one but all we could see was grey cloud), tables, seats, a food preparation area, a solar powered battery so people can recharge their phones and 4 plug in spots. It is not intended as a place to sleep but it is inevitable that it will be used in wet weather. They talked about lessons they had learnt from mistakes with the first one at the Bugiga camp site (not far from the Mt Rosea car park), also how to make repairs and changes easier. Eg the perspex is in a few pieces rather than just one big sheet so that if initials get carved just that sheet can be replaced. There’s a pin up board for messages etc.

Next stop was Mckenzie Falls. We saw the new tower to enable Telstra connectivity. But it will only work close to the toilets, but a great improvement nevertheless. We discussed the pros and cons of having a cafe plus information kiosk. Pros: such a popular spot and can get info to users who won’t go into Brambuk; cons: people will stay longer and that means more parking spaces needed – how much forest should be cleared just so people can have a coffee? There is money available to spend here, but what on? We will have another meeting to discuss this.

Next stop was Troopers Ck campground where we ate lunch, inspected the toilets, discussed that although the tank is just rainwater it’s labelled “non-potable”. To be able to call it potable requires regular checks and tests which are just not worth it. From where we were we could see the next camp site way up above us and the helicopter going back and forth bringing in construction materials. Then we set off on the Gar waterfall walk, 2 ½ km each way. Beautiful waterfalls at the moment, and although there won’t be much water much of the year the wildflowers will be great. The GPT staff were noting our feedback and taking notes of where they have to improve the track to minimise damage, and which signs need work. They plan to use indigenous names for each camp site and feature.

Back where the cars were parked we continued the GPT discussion. The AG members from Laharum and Horsham commented that as the day walks on the GPT get better known there will be an increase to visitors to their end of the Park. We all agreed that is very likely. (Personally I find myself rather confused about the whole GPT thing. Conflicting opinions. This walk was so beautiful that I took my daughter on it the very next day, and I know there are other sections of the GPT I will explore. I do want people to appreciate what a beautiful park this is. At the same time I worry about too many visitors and the damage that may do to the environment, I worry about creeping commercialism of the GPT, I worry about the rest of the park suffering neglect and low budgets.) I asked about what was happening with the plan to have indigenous ranger tours of parts of the trail. Rhonda replied that the plan had changed somewhat, that rather than PV employing indigenous guides, a contract would be drawn up with an indigenous company. That way the money would go to locals rather than PV consolidated funds. The GPT is planned to open in Spring.  So they are frantically busy.

Finally I also asked about the non GPT track in Wonderland. What was the situation with the closed section in Grand Canyon? The answer was that the ladder needs extensive and expensive repairs, in fact a completely new ladder. And when that will happen is unknown.