November blog

My routine blog is now about to be replaced by the CfES Facebook page – I have finally got the hang of how that technology works and this technology seems almost old hat by comparison.

The CfES Facebook page is up and running and we have been ‘populating’ it with the public consultation work of the office for a while now so it will be business as usual.  We also use the CfES Facebook page to provide up dates on the work of other organisations including CSIRO, NCCARF, VCCAR etc, so if you haven’t checked it out please do…

So, here is the news for November….

Our usual array of meetings and discussions took place. 

You will have probably already seen the photos and observations from the Victorian and Australian Environmental Educators’ Associations annual conference on the CfES Facebook page

The conference was a resounding success. It was paperless and it ran multiple parallel sessions, the dinner was a great place to relax and many people were celebrated for their commitment to environmental education over decades.  Newer members were also welcomed and congratulated on their work.

A panel which I chaired provided great scope for people to talk about the national curriculum, the work being done across states, the local work of particular schools who know how community development works, and, finally, the floor came alive with responses and observations which continued well after the panel session finished.  Well done VAEE and AAEE

Earlier this month I presented on the work of this Office to the EPA Chairman’s executive forum, handing over some of the last of the Many Publics reports and talking about how we worked to draw people into a continuing discussion with this Office about the State of the Environment Report

NetBalance and ARUP spent time talking to us about the work we all do in the environmental arena, about auditing, community and engineering and the considerable benefits of multidisciplinary approaches.  During this month I was also fortunate to meet with the architect who has been project manager of some of the housing which has been designed to meet community needs in the Northern territory which provided an opportunity to discuss evaluation of projects and cross cultural engagement issues about housing and design.   

Earlier conversations had with the Port Phillip and Westernport CMA continued when we talked about their report and reporting ethos.  Like a number of CMAs across the state the PPWPCMA is really actively working on ways to involve a broad and highly diverse public in water conservation.  We talked about the ways in which we can use technology to greater effect in the work we all do and about how paper reports are almost already artefacts save for those which should be circulated to people who still have poor access to internet services.

I have been pleased to continue to work on the development of the charter in the National Rural Law and Justice Alliance which is building a broad spectrum constituency across the country – website under development. 

It has been good to build on some of the other relationships we have been cultivating for the Office and our work over time, including with the Green Sages of the Council on the Ageing here in Victoria.  This relationship prompted an invitation to close the Evergreen Photographic Exhibition for Seniors’ Week, and the winning photo is currently on our facebook site.  It wasn’t just for seniors though, and one of the finalists was a young school girl whose photo showed the work being done by Landcare along the coast, work in which she and her family are involved.

I was delighted to be invited to the Local Sustainability Accord’s meeting, also attended by the parliamentary secretary Donna Petrovich even though it was the last meeting of some of the members whose friendship, guidance and simple collegiality I have enjoyed in my time as the Commissioner. Thanks Janet Bolitho and Mike Hill Stalwarts of environmental sustainability efforts!

As these meeting rounds continued the team here worked on the foundation papers, the audit and the state of the environment report all of which are coming together as I write.

And then I took a week’s leave. 

I wouldn’t usually involve you in my holidays – like the child returning to school after the holiday break being asked to write the essay about “my holidays” - but here is the travelogue, simply because when you travel and consider the environment, its ecosystem services are everywhere…..

It is difficult to actually appreciate the great depth of environmental services until you simply take the time to do so.  Clean air, clear water, recreation, cultural appreciation, even some native bees returning to their hive – ecosystem services…everywhere….

So, we started in Gippsland at the Strzeleckis and moved east, north and then south. 

Strezelecki Ranges

We were really fortunate to be invited to visit Dave Sutton at his revegetation plot in the Strzelecki Ranges.


This block of land was a bare patch of earth complete with landslips when Dave bought it and started to return it to its local EVC.



Dave has planted local species across the whole steep sloping area and now has swamp wallabies



and at least 2 koalas in residence.  He has worked with his neighbour to completely revegetate a land slip site which they share.



Over two hours we walked and talked.  As we tramped back up the hill from the creek we stopped to listen to the giant earthworms underfoot as they slurped up and down their holes.  They never come to the surface… the sound they make is like a wet-socked foot in a gumboot, it is clearly noticeable and pretty amusing.  Wombats are not taking a lot of notice of Dave’s fences. 


What he has done in a few short years is truly remarkable, a testament to a person’s commitment and the support of friends, and local others in organisations, including local seed prevenancers and Landcare.


Due to the work we did last year in the Gippsland region in consulting with people and the Monash University Churchill campus we have been able to link Dave with a researcher about the Strzelecki koala population.


At least as interesting as all this is, Dave is also working with CSIRO to determine the carbon sequestration value of his wet forest plot and it seems to be excellent – tests are being done and records being kept.  Dave’s work will be cited in the years to come as the first trial of carbon in the region for this EVC…


We also got to examine the Strezlecki eucalypt which (surprisingly given its name) is only found in the Strezlecki Ranges!


After leaving Dave’s place we toured down the Gippsland coast.  We stopped at the Rhyll Ramsar wetlands, observing bird populations for whom that wetlands is a powerful draw, naturally.  The mangroves on the north side of the town are being augmented by plantings up the slopes and the interpretation boards tell the story of the site’s importance. The sun was shining on us on this occasion, birds were flocking in droves out on the sand bar and it was interesting to take in the narrative about the old fort precinct.


From there we visited Fish Creek (the route to Wilson’s Promontory National Park) noted the yellow tailed black cockatoos and photographed at least one waratah photo before driving away from Waratah Beach and up to Corner Inlet (where some great work is being done to involve the public in the management of that most interesting ecosystem) and Port Franklin.


There, those unpretentious ecosystems, the mangroves, provide the ecosystem service of habitat to a fishery which thousands of Victorians enjoy both socially and from the point of view of their diet. 

Heading out of Port Franklin you can drive into the small town of Toora and note the wind turbines on the hill behind the town as people go about their business, undisturbed, in the town, producing wind energy all day long. 

The wind turbines are still visible at the Agnes Falls which is just back in the hinterland.  There, in a catchment which provides the drinking water for locals, a hollow in a eucalypt provided a home for native bees, intent on providing us with the ecosystem service of pollination…

From there we headed down to Robertsons beach and Manns beach and the Tarraville Landcare site which Kayla Groombridge (formerly Young Landcarer of the Year) showed us when we visited the Gippsland region in 2011.  Kayla’s efforts in generating enthusiasm for the plantings at this site are reflected in the Many Publics report on the day she took us there when the rain and wind nearly blew us off our feet.  This time the weather was fine and the plantings are at least a metre higher than when she and her Landcare group put them in. (Sorry Kayla my photo this time didn’t come out but what a great effort – people had stopped to eat their lunches there and there was no rubbish – your goal has been met).



We then turned back onto and then off the highway again and headed down to Woodside beach and the Seaspray beach.  A large caravan park is being built at Seaspray back on the flat behind the primary dune which will require a good deal of Landcare before it is as inviting as some of the other caravan parks along that stretch of the coast.

A banksia forest runs along the back of the primary dune from there to Honeysuckle and Golden Beach.


Back on the highway and off to Sale the wetlands park is a retreat which people appear to really value.  The pavement contains mosaics of poetry about bugs and bees reflecting the voices of local people, and some of them are really entertaining. 


Maffra has a great second hand book shop with lots of local history and a reasonable environment section.  The town itself has a terrific gem display which tells the mineralogy story of a good deal of the country and which was a collection donated by a local resident. A wide main street provides shade and shelter for those going about their business, an ecosystem service which we will come to value all the more as we confront climate change and the heat island effect.


Driving out of Maffra through Lakes Entrance we headed down to Cape Conran Coastal Park and got there too late in the evening to find a cabin or put out the swag so went back to stay at Marlo where we had been in 2011 with Jeanette White and the Rural Women Leading Change.  The back reaches of the Marlo beach are a wonderful place for pelicans and other waders and water birds.  The next morning fishing people were already out early enjoying the day, the beach, the fish, the recreational ecosystem services.


We came back from Marlo to Orbost along the Snowy River photo which is being revegetated by local Landcare and the Moogji Aboriginal Corporation (again this group appears in the Many Publics report).


Orbost is a place I know from my time as a young lawyer with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, the river flat remains the same (of course) but the town now has a commitment to an interesting timber appreciation exhibition which wasn’t open on the day we were there.


Driving out of Orbost west to Croagingalong National Park we turned into the Cabbage Tree Creek to have a look at the cabbage trees which have been conserved since a decision of the Shire in 1886.  These are the most southerly stand of this odd ‘tree’ and their preservation is a testament to early non-Indigenous commitment to the oddness and interest of our environment. 


Bemm River and Cann River were passed en route to Malacoota and Bastion Point (about which there continues to be community and developer conflict about the boat ramp/jetty) photos before we headed out to Towamba. This road brings you to a place called “New Buildings” and the New Buildings bridge is under reconstruction.  Variability in engineering techniques can be found along the road at another, quite small bridge at a clear creek crossing. 


The Big Jack Mountain Road takes you past an old single roofed cottage and an old coach house, both in varying states of disrepair, built in days when we used our resources to build our shelters.  Shingles roofed buildings are now increasingly rare, and the skill used to cut the shingles is probably next to lost? 

Before entering the Kosciuszko National Park we stopped at Cooma and observed the way in which the Cooma Monero Secondary College represented the park.

Finally we traveled through the Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales, stopped to look at the Old Kiandra goldfields and court and chalet building photos and headed past the Paddy’s River falls photo and home to Euroa.  Again the ecosystem services of nature were impressed upon us: the water fall was in full flourish, we stayed and built a small fire and barbequed some food. A currawong hung about the campsite hoping for the chop bones….


Back at work.

September 2012: Exploring Landcare, revisiting Kinglake and expanding connections

Ovens, King, Blackdog Landcare Group held its AGM at the Amulet Vineyard 11kms short of Beechworth in early September.  I was invited to speak about our work.  About 45 people came out on a bitterly cold evening to talk about the achievements of the year, and to discuss and ask questions about rural planning issues, funding and riparian zone licences. Local people continue to seek the assumption of licences to facilitate their Landcare work along creeks as they recognise the importance of this work to biodiversity and erosion control work.  I was pleased to share my table with Phillipa Noble who I first met years ago when she was coordinating the farm forestry program.

I also got the chance to catch up with Anthony Griffiths who was the mayor of Wangaratta when we toured through the region for the Many Publics report. I was reminded of the interest in the community about rural conservation zone issues and the important role of coordination of landcare.  Indicative of the commitment of people in the regions to their Landcare groups the meeting ran well into the evening.  The Ovens King Blackdog group incorporates a number of Landcare efforts and it derives its presence and impact from diverse groups which understand landscape issues.

State of the Hume Region

Reflecting the wide interests of those who form groups like Landcare in regional settings I also met a number of people from this evening at a subsequent forum in Wangaratta where the State of the Hume Region 2010-2012 A progress report on the Hume Strategy for sustainable communities was launched. 

This second Wangaratta meeting, which was convened on the 10th September saw the leaders from all over the region come together to talk about a wide range of issues including the environment, the economy, land use and planning, transport and community issues. The list of speakers included Justin Hanney the deputy secretary of DBI (formerly the CEO of the Rural City of Wangaratta), Trevor Budge from La Trobe University, Peter Templar from GHD consultants, IDEAS chair Peter Kenyon, futurist Peter Ellyard, Mark Byatt and Angela Connors the Chairs of the Hume RDA Committee and Hume Regional Management Forum, Doug Sharp the chair of the Hume Alliance, Councillor Roberto Paino and myself.  The day was most ably chaired by Liz long.  Beyond that list of speakers the final panel, chaired by Peter Couchman, made way for community views, observations and questions. This all occurred under the banner of the Regional Leadership Gathering 2012.

Posters and information tables provided yet another example of the range of activities being undertaken in regional Victoria around sustainability and other concerns.  The Goulburn Broken Greenhouse Alliance has been offering training in sustainability.

The Indigo Shire has produced some great better building toolkits for renovators and new home builders.  These can be found at

I also took away the report on the work being done on Backbone to Biolinks   a Sustainability Accord local government initiative and partnership.

On the first Sunday of the month we joined the Friends of the Sevens Creek at Euroa to walk the creek with about 30 other locals to discuss the work planned for the restoration of Sevens Creek.  Kate Strothers (DPI), Jenny Wilson (GBCMA) and Shirly Saywell (Euroa Environment group) all gave up their Sunday and attended to inform and engage the members of the local community in the discussion. As we walked the creek we talked weeds, trees, the role of the Euroa Arboretum, design, floods, climate change, changing demographics, Landcare, funding and about other local sustainability organisations.

Wonthaggi mini-tour

Some time ago I had agreed to speak at the Wonthaggi Rotary club, and Neville Goodwin, the chair of the Westernport and Port Phillip CMA arranged this for this month.  He book-ended this evening discussion with some interesting conversations about the work of the WPPCMA and the West Gippsland CMA, the Wonthaggi desalination plant, the Phillip Island Nature Park scientists, CEO, board.

It is simply staggering to see the amount of work being done on the ground in the region.  The Bass Coast Shire provided a venue for one of our conversations and made it possible for me to hear from the Shire environment team, the Bass Coast Landcare Network, the South Gippsland Conservation Society and the Phillip Island Conservations Society.  People in the area have been working on biodiversity and environment issues for decades.  They are very interested in the possibilities which Eco Tender offers and I heard quite a bit about the work which Mark Eigenraam and his DSE team are doing about valuing environmental services. Our tour of some of the recent landslips in the area presented a concerning picture of the down side of the wet year we have been having.

Revisited:  Kinglake Middle Primary School

Our visit to Kinglake Middle Primary School last year was one of the highlights of the Many Publics report (or as some like to refer to it - the “Pink report” or “Participation report”).

Chris Balfour, Manager Environmental Reporting and Development from our office revisited the school last week (with cameraman Josh and Grade 1 special consultant James) to see how things have been going. They received a wonderful welcome by the Principal Janette Cook and teacher Karen with the school sustainability leaders. 

Chooks (one named Tandoori), composting, worm farms, vegetables grown in the  gardens and sold from each class are just some of the very tactile and tangible things that you see as soon as you arrive at the school. Saving water and energy saving are clearly just second nature to everyone.

Biodiversity is a focus, with activities such as trips to local creeks to check water quality, construction of a “frog bog” in the school grounds and work with community groups both during and after school hours. 

There is still lots to do at the school with tree-planting and plans for the garden to include some of the plants that have been transplanted from the old school site.   A new addition is a cubby-house witch is a replica of the old school as well as fifty solar panels that have recently been installed on the new building.

The footage from our visit, along with other interviews and trips we have taken as part of our “Participation Revisited” - a follow up to our Many Publics report will soon be available on the CfES YouTube channel.

Photo - Middle Kinglake Primary School Sustainability Leaders with Chris and James Balfour

The art of natural collaboration

Two of our staff attended ‘The art of natural collaboration masterclass’ seminar hosted by the Victorian Child & Nature Connection (VCNC) network on Friday 14 September 2012.

Jason Clarke (VCNC facilitator) led the seminar. Volunteers and staff at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne also assisted to make this event possible. An enjoyable and engaging seminar reflected on the role nature/ environment plays in our childhoods and how nature can bring people together. This was a great chance to meet a wide range of people. Photos from the day are available on the VCNC Facebook page.

This was also an opportunity for our staff to experience The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Definitely worth a look next time you are in the area!

See the CfES Facebook page for more photos.

E-waste update

Last month - 15 August - we posted photos of e-waste on the CfES Facebook page which attracted some interest and a couple of Facebook likes.

Sustainability Victoria has kindly provided a clear explanation below on e-waste for those of you who might be asking ‘What is e-waste?’.

E-Waste is a term used to describe all electrical and electronic waste. The products listed under e-waste can be broadly put into two categories; white goods and non-white goods. All of which contain valuable resources; ferrous metal (steel) and non-ferrous (all other) metals, plastics and glass can be recovered successfully.

The National TV & Computer Scheme Recycling Scheme will focus purely on end-of-life TV’s, computers and computer peripheral equipment. This is a free scheme which began in July 2012 being rolled out across Australia over the next 2 years. Once established the annual collection target will rise to 80% by 2020.

Please see Sustainability Victoria’s
webpage for current Victoria collection locations under the scheme.

Wrapping up September

World Parks Day was held on 17 September 2012 - check out Parks Victoria’s Facebook page for some great photos and responses to their posts 'What's your favourite park?' and Love the Grampians? Download the Explore Grampians app before your next visit’.

Our office attended the Institute of Public Administration Australia’s 2012 International Congress held in Melbourne on 18-20 September. The gathering connects more than 1000 administrators in one of the largest gatherings of public administrators held in Australia. Some great sessions were held at the Convention Centre including an engaging session on Public administration and the urban world live video link to Professor Ed Glaeser in Boston, United States. Ed is the Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. His work has focused on the determinants of city growth and the role of cities as centers of idea transmission. His most recent book is: Triumph of the City – How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Healthier, and Happier.

On 20 September the City of Wyndham, hosted the Commissioner and Vincent Riscica where we talked about local issues and aspirations and heard about the IPPA site tour conducted by Bill Forrest, Acting CEO.

Photo: Wyndham coast to the You Yangs Regional Park

From 17-21 September 2012, sustainable development leaders across the world celebrate World Green Building Week. This event showcases the role that sustainable buildings play in creating greener and more profitable, prosperous, productive, healthy, and empowered communities for our future. The Green Building Australia Council has more information on their website.

Finally, this month our office continued our research and met with a range of groups about the state of the environment report and the foundation papers. The end of the month to October sees the office continue this work.