From the Editor

Welcome to our summer newsletter, again a little late. First the Christmas rush, then the January hibernation. Please note that our first activity for the year is on Friday 19th February 5.30 pm in the Mural room Brambuk, where we will hear some really interesting results from research in the park, followed by the opportunity to have a meal together.

The report on our AGM is well buried in this newsletter, so I will break the news here: we have a new president! Welcome to Rodney, who has been on our committee for the past year. FOGGS, like quite a few similar groups, needs to look at its role into the future and it is good to have the next generation leading us.

Prez Sez

So we come to my first president’s report. It seems like only yesterday that as a youngster I attended the declaration of the Grampians National Park. After the official event, a dedicated group of people moved off to one side and formed a friends group, under the auspices of the VNPA, to support the new park and help to get the community involved. I was only a young fella, but I am  proud  I was there. So began the next chapter of my life in the Grampians.

The group has been supported by some truly great advocates of conservation and education within the region, Val Hastings, Sue McInnes, Sam and Jettie Spyer, Ben Gunn, Stan Parfett, Kees and Margo Sietsma,  Dave Munro and my father, David Thompson, among them. I am honoured that the group that has been a part of my life for nearly 30 years has now seen fit to elect me as an office bearer, president no less. I hope I can live up to the needs and expectations of the group.

Many thanks to our outgoing president Margo Sietsma. She has been a stalwart for many years and done an inspirational job as president. I am pleased she is to continue with her newsletter duties, and as an advisor to a green president finding his feet. I have a head swirling with thoughts and ideas for the future. We had a good year last year, with some great gatherings and activities. It is a joy to be involved with a group that socialises with one another so well, and enjoys working together.

Our wild flower walk before the AGM suffered a bit from the dry season, and it was a struggle to find much, but we all enjoyed ourselves, as did 3 new members attending their first FOGG activity. (Thanks to Janbert’s promotional work) The meeting itself was a truly inspirational gathering, in the shade of a magnificent old Eucalyptus camaldulensis in the Dunkeld arboretum. What other group could vote on office bearers in the shelter of a tree that predates white settlement. Our office bearers were voted on, and a supporting committee selected.

Our final activity was purely a social event, but the location was one of the natural wonders of our favourite national park. The top of Mount William is a special place, although the wind cuts through you like ice. We broke bread together, shared many delicacies, chatted and enjoyed the magnificent views, as well as the wonderful alpine vegetation. The clouds prevented us from seeing the sun as it set, but the colours were magnificent as we made our final descent in the gathering dusk.

I am pleased to say we have managed to retain Wendy as our secretary, she is brilliant, dedicated, and the best in the business. We would be lost without her. We have already done some behind the scenes work setting up photo points for the FOGG’s Sallow Wattle monitoring program. Once we had our routine sorted out the work of installing the posts was easy, but selecting the points took a bit of focus, and we had to haggle a bit over the choices. This is a program that will be vital in providing information used to apply for grant money to aid in weed control programs, and as such I am pleased we can help with this. I feel frustrated that we can’t just remove them, but the monitoring needs to take place, in order to plan future control programs. And apply for funding grants.

The plans for the next year are shaping up well, with the early program looking very good. One of my aims as a president will be to try and bring in some new/younger members to ensure the group outlasts us all. This might mean a few different activities, it might mean we need to step up our promotion work. It might mean some new ideas from our current members are required.

Janbert’s promotion work at the end of the year has done a great job, and will be continued next year. I am hoping to see a raft of new attendees, and hopefully members due to a wider promotion of the group. Due to the efforts of Caity, the Parks/CVA volunteer coordinator, we now have a Facebook page. This will become another promotion point for the group. I am negotiating my way through the process of uploading photos, and posting on the page, with only a few mistakes so far. If you are on Facebook, have a look, and maybe even add a photo or two.

I am looking forward to 2016 as a great year for FOGGs, with some exiting activities involving some great people. We will be also drawing on our expertise within the group to run a few different activities (thanks Ben), and drawing on some experts from within and without the region to deliver a great program new members will be clamouring to attend.


From the Park Desk

Rainfal DeficienciesUndoubtedly the main talking point around the National Park Office has been how dry the Landscape is, and the implications for us all. Immediately our minds and energies focus on the fire risks to our park and communities which we have had such vivid experiences of over the past 10 years. The dryness is isn’t just a here and now phenomena. We have experienced incredibly dry conditions for the past 3 years which is well illustrated by the diagram.

These conditions not only heighten the Fire risk but also place significant stress on the entire ecological system. Over the past few years, our partners at Deakin University have seen a decline in small mammals across the Grampians landscape as part of their ongoing monitoring into the effects of Fire and now climate has on small mammal populations. It is becoming more and more apparent that rainfall is a key driver for populations, and that when things are wet, we have a response in the positive. However when things are dry, and repeatedly dry, our population numbers decline and become further vulnerable to major changes in the landscape like Fire.  It is during these high stress periods that we believe our Fox baiting programs become even more important to assist small mammal populations in persisting while the climate is dry and the environmental resources are limited. One species which we are pleasantly surprised to report is persisting above our own expectations is the Smoky Mouse(Pseudomys fumeus). Recent work by Melbourne Museum(MV) and Parks Victoria in the Victoria Range has confirmed that this critically endangered Federally Listed species is persisting in isolated gullies despite the big dry and recent severe fire history. Prior to the 2013 Victoria Range fire, the Park and MV undertook the Bioscan which yielded a population of Smoky Mice in the Vic Range of 28 animals. Immediately Post fire that number reduced to 9 and then in 2014 just 3 individuals.

The survey effort in 2015 was expected to result in a challenging data set with Ranger Ben Holmes anticipating “This year [in 2015] we were going back with bated breath – we thought this would be the year that we would not catch any mice”. However 7 animals were trapped including the same 3 from the previous year which tells us that this species is able to persist despite the challenging conditions. PV believe our Grampians Ark Fox baiting program has been instrumental in providing this buffer against predation, allowing the remaining population to stabilise and survive. There’s more information and photos in an article in the Guardian.

It is both PV & MV intention to continue to monitor these populations where we can, however a recent funding application to assist in the project was denied which is a knockback for the program. Other options are now being investigated.

To all Friends of Grampians Gariwerd members, we hope you had a happy and rewarding 2015 and have great plans for 2016. For the Park, we have a massive year ahead with big initiatives like the Grampians Peaks Trail and the continuation of the Fire Recovery Program to keep us interested. I’ll continue to keep you informed about these projects at key milestones across the course of the Year.


David Roberts

Area Chief Ranger, Grampians Gariwerd

FOGG’s Annual General Meeting – 17 Oct 2015

Thirteen of us met at Mirranatwa carpark where we had a hunt for wildflowers. Unfortunately the hot dry conditions of September and early October meant most things had finished flowering. We did manage to find a Musky Caladenia orchid and a skink sunning himself.

Our next stop was Henham track there we found Bearded orchids and some Grevilleas flowering. We headed off to Freshwater Lake on the Victoria Valley road, but it too was dry and the water had receded to a puddle in the middle. Next we stopped at the Dunkeld rifle range where there was a sprinkling of flowers but in a better year it would be a spot well worth a visit.

Next we went to Dunkeld to the Arboretum, we couldn’t find the picnic tables so set up under a huge old beautiful Red Gum where we ate our lunch and had our AGM meeting. After the meeting we stopped at Griffin Picnic Area to look at the mosaic burns Parks have done over the last couple of winters to try to create an area which will provide refuge for some of the small creatures that live in that area should a wildfire come through. (note from Ed.: I’ve lost the photos of the Red Gum someone sent me, sorry).

AGM report: your new committee is

  • President – Rodney Thompson
  • Vice President – Leigh Gunn
  • Secretary – Wendy Bedggood
  • Treasurer – Mabel Brouwer
  • Committee – David Steane, Margo Sietsma, Prue Pyke, Ben Gunn and JanBert Brouwer.

Margo agreed to continue as Newsletter editor, Frank van der Peet has agreed to continue looking after our website and JanBert has offered to publicise our activities in an effort to grow our membership. The treasurer presented the financial report which was for the 12 months to the 30 June 2015, the income was $12,963.77 and expenditure was $847.95, $10.000 of our income was a Communities for Nature Grant which at the time of our AGM had not been spent.

Our membership fees have not changed since 2006 and as insurance and postage have increased it was proposed we should have an increase, this will be discussed thoroughly at a committee meeting early in the new year and in time for 2016/17 membership renewals.

Picnic at Mt William


On Saturday 21st of November, the FOGGs started gathering at the Mt William car park at 6.00 pm. Over the next half an hour we transferred picnic chairs and tables, Eskys and picnic baskets into the back of the ute (it was well filled). Those who felt unable to walk the last 2km to the summit climbed into a couple of cars. The young and enthusiastic, the active and the determined set off up the hill on the balls of their feet. The cars waited for stragglers, and then after finding out Margo was on her way, Ranger Tammy Schoo opened the gate and the vehicles (enjoying a very rare privilege) set off up the hill. The walkers were strung out depending on their physical abilities. It might be a sealed road, but it is steep. It has to be to reach the highest peak in the park. The first turn shows why the road to the summit is not open to the public. Almost too tight to turn on full lock, narrow and steep. Not a corner to meet a driver enjoying the view coming down!

On arrival at the summit, those transported by vehicle found a sheltered corner out of the wind, and set up for our smorgasbord of shared delights, and looked around to study the vegetation and find treats not seen at our last wildflower walk. Orchids, boronias, alpine species and the ubiquitous tourist rubbish (collected to remove to an appropriate bin) were all spied by our eagle eyed members. Once the final pedestrians, and vehicle, arrived we all partook of blue vein cheese, fruit cheeses, asparagus rolls, zucchini slice, quiche, finger foods, cakes, biscuits slices and fresh fruits. Mostly home made or grown with love. The array was impressive, not at all lacking for the loss of a zucchini slice that I lost off top of the toolbox while driving through the park.

A short speech, more food and drink and a bit of a wander to look at more plants, and enjoy the magnificent view. If you haven’t seen it you should! The view eastward over the plains is a joy to behold. By this stage the sun was starting to sink and the wind was cold and very lazy (it went through instead of around you). It is easy to understand why the Major Mitchell Plateau can be a dangerous place to be in the depths of winter, or during a storm. We were all replete with food, tired and COLD! As we descended the mountain the sun peaked from behind the clouds as it set. Those enjoying the view basked in a golden glow, and the view of the peaks was amazing. There is no better time to see the view at the top than sunset. The serried ranks of jagged sawtooth peaks, backlit by the glowing clouds and the other worldly golden disc of the sun. I wish I had the ability to photograph it properly or the poetry to describe it better.

As we arrived at the car park and closed the gate and the darkness closed in. I found it a fitting end to another great year for the Friends Of Grampians Gariwerd.

I look forward to seeing you all for an even better year in 2016!

Rodney Thompson.

PS Thanks to Parks for allowing us to take a few cars up, and to Tammy Schoo for joining us with her daughter Bonnie.

Advisory Group Report (s)



The AG has met twice since our last newsletter.

In October we looked in some detail at some of the challenges to  the environmental values of the Park.

The Brushtail Rock Wallaby Recovery Team gave us a depressing summary of the programme since it started in 2008. Although 39 animals have been released at the site, there are currently only 4 adults. Of the 9 births on site, none have survived to reproductive age. The causes of the deaths are not clearly understood; some probably predation, genetic weaknesses in the animals have been identified and new genetics introduced in more recent releases, and it is suspected that introducing new individuals to the group each time may have resulted in stress. The upshot is that no new releases will be made at the Moora site. For the next 10 years the team will concentrate on the wild population in east Gippsland, and on maintaining a captive population of genetic value. If all goes well they may establish a second release site well away from the Moora site.

In the meantime monitoring of the remaining animals will continue, along with fox control. Maybe coincidentally, now that reintroductions have ceased there are more young around than ever before, but whether they will make it to adulthood remains to be seen. I know that Ryan and his team have been active in their fox patrols over summer. They shot 3 quite recently, but there’s one wily one appearing on camera that they haven’t managed to deal with yet.

That was followed by Ryan updating us on his areas. There’s been some good news on new findings of squirrel glider and sugar glider sites, there’s the daunting task of dealing with the sallow wattle invasion, there’s the need for an increased focus on grazer management (deer, goat, rabbit) , with thought needed on whether macropod grazing is a problem as well. Unfortunately although there is work being done on a specific cat poison, it is not ready for trials.

Ryan is also responsible for cultural programmes and there has been quite a bit of work done on recording and examining new sites as well as conserving existing ones, with graffiti being a problem at some sites.

Claire Evans gave us an update on Fire Recovery activities, what’s complete, what’s in progress, what has yet to be started. The Northern Grampians fire was so severe, and the weather has been so dry, that some areas are still to fragile for visitation. MacKenzie Falls is quite a dilemma; it is open, but what buildings, parking areas, paths etc are needed all need careful planning.

Mike Stevens took us back to considering how best to plan for our parks into the future. For a couple of years already, Mike – although sitting in the Halls Gap office – has had a wider role across the state. He is working on developing a decision making process based on defining a landscape’s attributes and the needs arising from those attributes. The Greater Grampians is the first landscape (out of 16 across the state) to be studied in this way. Five key attributes have been identified: our floristic diversity, small mammals, habitat structure, aquatic values, arboreal mammals. During the process the big impact of grazing on the parks became clear and the need for more resources to deal with this. (I found this really interesting, I had forgotten how important things we don’t often see, like the crayfish and other aquatic plants and animals are.)

We finished off the meeting with brief discussions on: changes in the landscape – increased tree coverage, burning regimes; increased rubbish in the Park; campfires; how the AG (and individuals) can advocate and influence public discussions on things like chairlifts, helicopter flights; thanks to the Dunkeld community for the volunteer work to rebuild Strachan hut.


Our December meeting in contrast had just one main theme – education.

Grampians Education Strategy

  • Recent changes to the Brambuk Agreement have resulted in Education services not being exclusively delivered through Brambuk.
  • PV Education team(Melb) have offered some funds and capacity to undertake a rapid Ed Strategy.
  • Agreed the importance of reviewing the current content on offer and make it contemporary to curriculum needs
  • Each youth education sector has been identified, categorised and objectives for engagement set. The sectors are: school camps (mostly yrs7-9 focusing on team building and activities), visiting school groups (some VCE subjects related), local primary schools and local preschools.

We then drove down to Dunkeld to hear about the Bush Kinder and to look at the site they use. Deb Millard (preschool teacher and AG member) described the bush kinder concept and invited us out on site for a discussion.

General comments: simple, effective, investment in the future.

A very short General Business followed:

The Management Plan Review is overdue and emerging as the next on the corporate list. Challenge around resourcing it to the required level to get the outcomes needed.

Note: 2016-17 priority with input from the Advisory Gp

Future topics for AG meetings in 2016: Peaks trail, Fire and burn planning, Management Planning, Interpretation, Cultural Heritage, Heritage Day, Marketing.

Finally, Barry Clugstone and I were invited as part of the Advisory Group to meet the new PV CEO Bradley Fauteux in December and to accompany him on a whirlwind visit to the Park. We walked into the Grand Canyon part of the Peaks Trail to show him what has been done there, then the Bugiga hiker camp, then on to Reid’s Lookout to discuss natural values and cultural heritage, and at McKenzie Falls to look at fire and rebuilding issues. Barry and I were the only civilians around, and as we travelled in the same car as Bradley and Dave had a good opportunity to promote our views.

Grampians Peak Trail


Those of you who read the VNPA’s magazine “Park Watch” will have seen that the trail’s first campground features on the front cover and will have read a lukewarm review of it. The criticisms of the campground are similar to those FOGG had (except that we liked the concept of a shared communal area, but thought it should incorporate a table) and are being taken on board for future campsites. People registering for the walk are being invited to give  their feedback. So far the main improvement people would like to see is drinking water, which is quite a challenge with almost no roof area to catch water. The PW article talks about the campsites on the higher areas, maybe having more permanent structures. So far I haven’t heard anything, but at the next AG meeting we will be having a detailed update and I’ll report on it next issue.

When PV’s CEO was here on his visit, we were also taken to look at the newly opened Grand Canyon path, still closed when PW visited. I found it most impressive. Large boulders have been moved sideways, new stepping stones put in place. The number of bridges and hand rails has been heavily reduced, making it all look very natural.

Round Table Report – 8 Dec 2015

Wendy Bedggood

At the final Roundtable meeting for the year we were presented with the government’s response to the Inspector General for Emergency Management (IGEM) recommendations on the report into the ‘Performance Targets for the Bushfire Fuel Management Program on Public Land’ which was carried out early in 2015.

It is difficult to summarise all that was presented at the meeting but for those who want more information documents are at the website Several of our local identities star in this document.

The Main points are:

  • The focus is changing from hectare based targets to fire risk reduction targets these are more subjective and a lot harder to measure.
  • As part of the new approach, fire and land managers will work with communities to involve them in decision making about bushfire management all year round.
  • Bushfire risk levels will be different across Victoria, and will be looked at at a local level and will involve local communities to understand what this risk means for local people, property and the environment, and what actions can be taken to reduce this risk.
  • Fuel management will be one of a mix of strategies used to keep communities safer and more resilient to bushfire events.
  • The planned burns will not mean less or more burning, but will identify smarter and more strategic burns.
  • There will be a transition period and until June 2016 the planned burn programs will continue as scheduled for the next 6 months.
  • 2016/2017 the government will use a risk reduction target to guide fuel management on public land, maintaining bushfire risk at or below 70%
  • 2017/2018 Land and fire agencies will combine their efforts to manage fuel loads on private and public land, based on where and how risk can most effectively be reduced.
  • 2020 Ultimately it is seen there will be one fire management sector which will measure all bushfire management strategies against risk reduction in order to invest in the most effective ways to reduce risk.

The Phoenix modelling system is going to be heavily relied on for predicting risk reduction and as with many government things the devil will be in the detail. It was not clear to me how or who the local community engagement would take place.

There has also been a change to the personnel driving the Round table meetings and I am unsure  how and if it will continue into the future.

Parks Victoria Staffing


Did you see the article in the Age on January 5? “State’s parks suffer after budget cuts”. The numbers are most distressing. “ direct funding from the state government has collapsed by37% over the past 3 years, from $122 million in 2011-12to $76.8 million in 2014-15. “ The Age report then discusses the effects of this, not only on the services and infrastructure, but on the morale of staff. It is so depressing for them.

Locally, although the money the new Peaks Trail brings in is helping with improving some of the existing tracks, the lack of funding for other important tasks, such as monitoring, rubbish collection and more is a real problem. It is something groups like ours must speak up about.

Sallow Wattle


At one of our meetings with parks staff last year Ryan suggested a possible project for FOGGs would be to photo monitor some areas of Sallow wattle. In the northern Grampians there has been an explotion of Sallow wattle since the January 2014 bushfires. There had been a survey for Sallow wattle in this area back in 2013 before the fires. From this survey we had photos and GPS points that had had been taken during the survey. It was hoped we could use some of these spots to continue monitoring. However the knowledge and technology to find these spots again proved beyond my capabilities so we decided to find new points in the same areas, Rodney and Wendy went out in early December and hammered in star pickets and took photos to get the project started. People who indicated last year they wanted to be part of this project will be contacted with instructions on how to continue the photo monitoring part of the project.